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Saturday FTB: Leafs vs Oilers, take four

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It’s retro jersey night.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs are up 2-1 in their season series against the Edmonton Oilers. They’ve been winning ugly of late, maybe a bit lucky at times too. Then again, they also won their last game in spite of some... questionable penalty calls. They’re 7-2-0, which is good for first in the division in total points, but are two games ahead of Montreal (5-0-2) and Winnipeg (5-2-0) who could tie or pass the Leafs with their games in hand.

Beating Edmonton again would put them 10 points up on them, giving them a very comfortable cushion over the last team outside of the four available playoff spots. So even if the Leafs aren’t playing as well as we’d like, they’re banking points in case they run into a proverbial 18-wheeler.

Which is good, because the Leafs have only played one game against the other ‘best’ team in the division: Montreal. Despite that, they’re 23rd in the league in xGF% at even strength. They’re starting to slip from the fun-corner of graphs like the one below, into the bad section.

From HockeyViz.com

Fulemin had his optimist-pessimist take. I’d like to take a bit of an optimist take here. First, a lot of their star players are producing, which is what we need. But all of them (except Matthews) have been struggling at even strength to drive play, despite their offensive system supposedly being designed to maintain longer possession in the other team’s end. I don’t think they’ll continue to struggle as much as they have been, so even if their powerplay cools down that can be balanced out.

Second, they do have legitimately great special teams. Their powerplay and penalty kill has been so good, I’m starting to think the Leafs should pull a Bruins or Capitals and take more penalties to get more penalties so they win more with special teams.

Anyways let’s look forward to an annoying loss against Edmonton tonight like we all know is coming. Here’s the practice lines from Friday:

ONTO THE LINKS

Wheeler’s 2021 NHL prospect pool rankings: No. 13 Toronto Maple Leafs | by Scott Wheeler

Sheldon Keefe: “When I zero in on Morgan Rielly’s game, there are a lot of things to like there on both sides of the puck” | by MLHS

Leafs Prospect Roundup: Amirov on the board, opportunity for Ovchinnikov, Akhtyamov shuts the door | by Nick Richard at TLN

Simmonds encourages Marner to shoot at his chest on Leafs PP | by TSN.ca

AROUND THE HOCKEY WORLD

‘Mario is stunned’: Behind the scenes of Jim Rutherford’s shocking Penguins exit | by Josh Yohe and Rob Rossi

Flames hold players-only meeting after frustrating start to season | by Sportsnet.ca