G23: Leafs @ Oilers - Mini Series For 1st Place
When we first found out what this shortened season was going to look like, this was exactly what fans were excited about. One season ago the Edmonton Oilers faced off once on December 14th and then again on January 6th. That was the only two meetings of these clubs. This year the Oilers and Leafs have already faced off 4 times and tonight marks the beginning of a three game series. McDavid vs Matthews. First in the division vs second. This should be fun for both clubs.
Comparing the Oilers and Leafs at this stage of the season is fascinating. Through 21 games the Leafs have a 15-4-2 record, good for 32 points. In the four games these two teams have played against one another Edmonton has won two and Toronto has won two. The battle for first place is on the line and if the Oilers play smart they could sit first seven days from now.
Offensively we should be in for a treat as both these teams bring plenty of fire power to the table. Edmonton best two players are Connor McDavid (40 points) and Draisaitl (34 points) while Toronto's are Matthews (31 points) and Marner (30 points). The Oilers have 8 players who have scored at least 4 EV goals this season, the Leafs have 4. The Leafs have 9 players with at least 11 points, the Oilers have 6.
Almost every offense minded category has these two teams neck and neck. Edmonton has 22 PP goals on the season compared to Toronto's 21, the Leafs have made better use of their opportunities with a PP% of 31.34 compared to the Oilers 27.16%. At 5 on 5 the Oilers have scored 55 goals to the Leafs 53.
Defensively right now the Leafs have the edge. They sit 8th in the league with a GA/G of 2.62 compared to the Oilers 2.95, 21st in the league. In total, Edmonton has allowed the 5th most goals while Toronto has allowed the 16th most. Over the past month, Edmonton has tightened things up, allowing the 9th fewest goals against compared to Toronto allowing the 15th most.
A big part of that has been the shockingly impressive play of Mike Smith with a 6-0 record and a 0.944SV%. He has not allowed a goal in 5 periods of play after allowing 3 in the first period against the Canucks on February 23rd.
You can bet the Edmonton Oilers want to prove to themselves and the League they are the best team in the Division while the Leafs won't go down without a fight. Let's get to it.
OILERS LINE COMBINATIONS
- Matthews will not play tonight. Muzzin and Thornton draw back in.
4 GAME THOUGHTS
1.) Put The Pressure On - As I was writing this speculating on the Leafs lineup the news dropped that Matthews would not play tonight. That puts Tavares centering the first line with Kerfoot on the second. Toronto's loss needs to be the Oilers gain as they need to win these matchups, especially on home ice.
2.) Hit Stuff - One stat that surprised me was when I glanced at hits. The Oilers have the third most hits in the league with 527 while the Leafs sit 25th with 351. Edmonton needs to find that sweet spot of playing a physical game against Toronto and then creating chances as opposed to a free style event.
3.) Blue Line Goals - Edmonton has received 13 goals from 5 different defencemen this season while Toronto has 5 from 4 different blueliners. The blue line should be an area Edmonton can definitely have an edge in and need to utilize it correctly.
4.) Smart Puck Decisions - From time to time this Oilers team still makes careless mistakes with the puck; not getting the puck deep enough on a change, making a risky play at the blue line, throwing the puck up the centre of the ice. If Edmonton does that against a Toronto team that is so aggressive on the forecheck than the Oilers will certainly pay.
THE OILERS WIN IF...
The Oilers top six can take advantage of the Kerfoot second line and a goalie who hasn't played much this season.
THE LEAFS WIN IF...
They aggressively attack the Oilers in all areas of the ice and force turnovers for odd man rushes.