The Leafs had a rare opportunity to face a team lower than them in the standings, and they did not disappoint. The Leafs coasted a 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers. More importantly, rookie goaltender Garret Sparks puts up an impressive NHL debut with a shutout victory.
Sparks, given the nod after an injury to James Reimer and poor play by Jonathan Bernier, took the opportunity and ran with it, while the Leafs got enough done offensively to get the win. The shutout should come as no surprise, however, given that Sparks has been dominant against AHL teams.
The game didn't exactly start off as a barnburner. Matt Hunwick almost handed the Oilers a goal on a silver platter, passing a puck to Taylor Hall right in front of the Leafs' net, but Hall was unable to convert.
The Leafs would get on the board on a power play, after Leon Draisaitl was called for hooking. Elite first-liner Leo Komarov would bullet in front of the net, get wide open, and put the puck past a down and out Nilsson for the tap-in. James van Riemsdyk should also credit for getting a very good pass to the open Komarov.
Apart from that, the first was very, very low-event. The Oilers would get a power play later in the first, but bless their hearts, they're still learning how to actually get shots on goal with the man advantage. Shots were 8-3 for the Oilers in the first as the Leafs got on their heels a bit near the end of the period. Even so, Sparks maybe faced about one or two decent scoring chances in the flurry.
The second was fairly boring and uneventful until the Oilers defense (perhaps an oxymoron in and of itself) was kind enough to cook up some free pizzas in their own zone. The Leafs got some decent scoring chances- including a Nick Spaling shot that was wide left- but couldn't pad their lead. Hall had the best chance for the Oilers after Sparks left a loose puck sitting in the crease, but as if the puck were an open-book boating exam, he failed at converting.
The Leafs got a pair of 2-on-1s early in the third, both of which involved their weakest offensive players. In what was a game of stoppable force meeting movable object, the Leafs carved up the Oilers defense, just to watch Byron Froese and Matt Hunwick miss their chances.
The Leafs would get the 2-0 lead on some excellent hand-eye coordination from Nazem Kadri, who batted a Jake Gardiner shot in mid-air into the net. There would be a review to determine if Kadri had a high stick, but the goal stood. Credit to the Oilers on that one for doing what they do best: nothing at all.
The Oilers would put pressure on late in the third, which ultimately led to a Gardiner penalty. Taylor Hall would get a point-blank chance, but Sparks stood tall. On the other end, Michael Grabner failed to convert a breakaway opportunity because he's Michael Grabner. In the end, Leo Komarov got the empty-netter to seal the win.
Good, Bad, and Ugly
Good: How can I not give the nod to Sparks for a shutout debut? Komarov's two goals also put him in my good books for the night.
Bad: Matt Hunwick had a very, very tough night. Tasked with shutting down Taylor Hall, Hunwick's night included a bad giveaway, a bad penalty, and the worst possession numbers of any defenseman on the team.
Also: the Oilers. The Oilers are a bad team and they should feel bad.
Ugly: Connor McDavid was completely invisible tonight. In fact, he's done nothing in about a month. What a bust of a first overall draft pick, IMO.