Never short on entertainment, the Toronto Maple Leafs look to start a new streak of solid play against the surging Edmonton Oilers. Here are three thoughts heading into the Battle of the Rebuilds.
Leafs Nation Moves the Needle
Ahh, Saturday night with the Leafs on TV. Maybe you’ll grab some wings or pizza, pour a beer or rye, and sit down to watch some HNIC Leafs action. Seven o’clock – right on time.
Nothing is better than making a team play at 5:00 pm local time just because you’re fanbase is bigger and gets a better pull, right? It’s something that is almost exclusive to Leafs Nation, and it infuriates the other, lesser than, Canadian fanbases.
Toronto is the hockey Mecca so it makes sense. The team is arguably the most exciting to watch across the country with Calgary and Winnipeg closely behind. The national media focuses on the team that caters to the sports needs of nearly 2.7 million people.
Don’t get me wrong, Edmonton is fun to watch and a good team too, but, they’re no Maple Leafs
Forget about Matthews vs. McDavid
Matthews vs. McDavid tends to get all of the attention from the media, and rightfully so. They were both #1 draft selections in back-to-back years, both are sensational center’s and franchise players on their teams, and both are recognizable across Canada and the United States for star power.
But before we get too carried away with these dynamic players the better matchup may come between the “secondary” scorers. Yup, I’m talking about Marner vs. Draisaitl.
They probably won’t see much if any of each other on the ice but an end-of-game stat comparison between Mitch Marner and Leon Draisaitl may be more interesting than their first-time compatriots.
In the past week, Marner has ticked over the 80 point mark and Draisaitl surged past 40 goals. Both players are line drivers in their own right and deserve to be the marquee players in this matchup.
Defense the Difference-maker?
In Toronto’s last game, both goals came from defenseman. Sure, Hainsey’s was on an unlikely odd-man short handed rush off of a ridiculous feed from Marner, but the stay at home Dman got the job done.
Toronto would go on to lose the game in overtime on a benign shot from range by opposing defenseman, Alex Edler. With the Leaf’s defense hurting from the Gardiner and Dermott absence, it will need to be a tight-knit effort from a makeshift top-6 core.
Reilly needs to steer the shit, Muzzin needs to stay more compact and gamble less, and the bottom pairing need to go unnoticed for the Buds to escape with all the points in this one.
It’s a good measuring stick game against the Oilers D who are often criticized for their own poor defensive play. Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson are the top dogs in Oil Town and offer some offensive upside from the back end.
The second pairing is the one worth noting however, as Darnell Nurse is the sparkplug on the backend. He is backed up by Kris Russell who lets him play his offense and hitting-first style of gameplay.
If the offence of the Leafs can press this shaky core then Toronto shouldn’t have any problems, but McDavid and Draisaitl offer more than a handful for Toronto’s own unpredicatable back end to deal with