Toronto Maple Leafs @ Edmonton Oilers
09:00 PM at Rogers Place
Watch on: TVAS, SNW, TSN4
The Leafs last game was at home on January 14 against the Detroit Red Wings, which Toronto lost by a score of 4-2 in regulation. The Leafs have a record of 21-12-8 for a 0.610 Points %.
The Edmonton Oilers last played an away game on January 13 against the Montréal Canadiens. The Oilers won by a score of 2-1 in overtime, and their current league record is 23-15-1 for a 0.603 Points %.
I realized today that I don't really know anything about the Oilers this season. There's been a lot of talk about the team, every low magnified to a disaster, every success proof of championship status. Sounds familiar... But there's never been much said that's meaningful about the team. Who are these guys?
Just judging by the lineup, I'd say it's a team built by people who think big strapping men should be good defenders, and they are so sure they're right, reality never dents their certainty. If you play Cody Ceci on your top pair, you get all of his flaws and very little of his value. The Oilers use Nurse and Ceci mostly with the top six, and that combination with all that scoring power means Nurse's offensive abilities get to shine.
The truth is that the Oilers are one of the very rare teams that has a defence setup everyone thinks is universal. They have a top four who play almost identical minutes. Ekholm and Bouchard are even more heavily weighted to playing behind the McDavid line. Which is why no one is asking McDavid to be the answer defensively anymore and why they get away with Ceci playing as much as he does.
The Oilers are top heavy, they have one defensively capable pairing and the only question left is what's that third line doing? They account for eight goals at five-on-five between them, so I don't think it's "chipping in from the depth". They are some of the better Oilers at limiting shots and shot quality against though, and they cost a collective $4 million. That's one of the reasons why the Oilers could get Ekholm and keep him. Draisaitl being two years away from UFA is the other.
All that adds up to the fourth best team in Corsi %, the best team in Expected Goals % and a power play almost as good as the Leafs. They have a team Save % in all situations of .893, and the Leafs are at .895.
I'm sorry that's so long, but for all the endless carrying on about how stupid the Oilers are, and how dumb the GM is and all their bad contracts and stupid signings, they are a better team than the Leafs. And it's not because the coach yells at them, it's because they're put together in a way that lets their stars get the job done. All they need is a goalie – which is easier said than done.
Jason Gregor via Daily Faceoff from yesterday's practice
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Connor McDavid - Zach Hyman
Evander Kane - Leon Draisaitl - Warren Foegele
Mattias Janmark - Ryan McLeod - Derek Ryan
Adam Erne - James Hamblin - Connor Brown
Darnell Nurse - Cody Ceci
Mattias Ekholm - Evan Bouchard
Brett Kulak - Vincent Desharnais
Stuart Skinner - confirmed starter
The Leafs can only be successful if they play better at five-on-five. Now's as good a time as any to start.
The lines have been re-blended into something I find more plausible – I thought putting Mitch Marner out with two guys who don't shoot much was really strange.
Pontus Holmberg, who I said in the last recap looks like Zach Hyman as long as you're playing the Red Wings, gets to try it against the real thing.
The quest to find a line where Max Domi can add offensive value even when playing on the road and against a good team continues. Maybe this one will work, but that's a $10.6 million line. Just not sucking is not want you want at that price.
Bobby McMann, who I believe was slightly injured two games ago, comes back in, and Nick Robertson is absolutely the 13th forward, no question.
Pontus Holmberg - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Matthew Knies - John Tavares - William Nylander
Tyler Bertuzzi - Max Domi - Calle Järnkrok
Bobby McMann - David Kämpf - Noah Gregor
Morgan Rielly - T.J. Brodie
Simon Benoit - Jake McCabe
Mark Giordano - Timothy Liljegren
Martin Jones - starter
This is a very interesting game between two fairly similar teams. The differences in their build have the Leafs of this season playing a team with the balance of skills of last year's Leafs
Which team wins?