The Edmonton Oilers travel to Toronto for a date with the Maple Leafs tonight at the Air Canada Centre. The Oilers are looking for another win, and another opportunity to show the rest of the NHL that they are for real. At the moment I’m not sure too many people are believing in them. Being successful over a few weeks is one thing, now go and do it for a few months. I will wait until the end of December to make a decision on them one way or the other. Even then, a lot of young teams have a tendency to fly off the map in the second-half of the season. I suspect that the Oilers will be fighting for the playoffs come spring time and this hot start will be nothing but a distant memory. However, their start now could go a long way in deciding what happens later in the season. In other words, the Oilers better not lay up now just because of a 7-2-0 start to the season.
Connor McDavid has shown no signs of slowing up in his sophomore year in Edmonton. McDavid has notched 5 goals with 7 assists for 12 points this season. There is no denying that the sky is the limit for McDavid in the NHL. The Leafs of a young phenom of their own in Auston Matthews. Just like how Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin were compared at the start of their careers, and continue to be, McDavid and Matthews are already being examined juxtaposed for the duration of their careers. This will be the first round in the McDavid and Matthews’ saga.
The Maple Leafs return home after a couple of appearances on the road against the Canadiens and Islanders. Neither went according to plan, with the Canadiens dumping them 2-1 on Saturday night, and the Isles pulling away for a 5-1 win in the 3rd period. The Leafs watched a 2-1 deficit balloon into a 5-1 loss, which drew the ire of head coach Mike Babcock. Babcock blasted his team, notably the defensive effort and veterans Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk for their slop on the ice against the Islanders. Both teams will be looking to bounce back, as the Oilers dropped a 2-0 decision to the Ottawa Senators in their last contest. It’s a battle of the youngsters in downtown Toronto tonight.
The Leafs know what they have to do, they just haven’t been able to do it. Defensively the Leafs have been a mess and have been unable to get timely goaltending from Frederik Andersen. Leafs’ goaltending hasn’t been getting any help from the defence, so it’s a bit outlandish to simply blame Andersen in Toronto right now. Vesa Toskala and Jonathan Bernier came from Californian team to play for the Leafs, Andersen doesn’t want to be the next in line of goalies who lost their career in Toronto. After Babcock laid into his team after the Isles game, I expect them to bring a little more to the ice tonight against the Oilers.
The Maple Leafs earned both of their wins at home, a win against the Bruins and Panthers. Edmonton does not seem to like the long flight to Ontario, as they have a poor track record playing in Toronto. The Leafs have gone 4-0 over the Oilers in their last four meetings at the ACC. They are also 7-2 against the Oilers in their last nine clashes. Toronto has to respond tonight, and I think they will after their head coach was furious after their effort against the Isles. This will be really bad form for the Leafs if they can’t take a piece of the Oilers at home tonight. If you thought Babcock was frustrated after the loss to the Isles, I can only imagine what would happen here. I don’t think we’ll see it, though, as the Leafs get a much needed win in this spot.
PICK: MAPLE LEAFS TO WIN -106