Some of the fireworks that were predicted when the Toronto Maple Leafs met the Edmonton Oilers last night just didn’t explode. The Maple Leafs’ big gun Auston Matthews was loaded, but the Oilers’ two weapons Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl simply didn’t fire. The result was a relatively easy – but odd – 5-1 win by the Blue and White on the road in Edmonton.
The Oilers have the top two point-getters in the NHL (McDavid and Draisaitl, who each have 45 points); but, neither came through for their team. Matthews, on the other hand, scored two goals. The Maple Leafs also collected goals from Wayne Simmonds (in the paint, of course), T.J. Brodie (his first goal of the season), and Morgan Rielly (who had two points on the night).
Takeaway One: Jack Campbell Is Still at the Top of the NHL Leaderboard
Although the outcome of the game never seemed in doubt, it wasn’t that the Oilers weren’t pressing or getting pucks on the net. In fact, Maple Leafs’ starting goalie Jack Campbell saw 36 shots during the game. He stopped 35 of them. In fact, Campbell held a shutout until the third period when the Oilers got their first and only goal.
To my eyes, Campbell hasn’t been playing poorly any time this season; but, recently goals have been getting by him. Last night was more back-to-normal with only one goal allowed. During his two previous games, Campbell had given up four goals in each game and 14 goals in his last four games. That’s not the Campbell Maple Leafs’ fans have come to expect.
Still, counting all the numbers, Campbell has been nothing less than outstanding the entire season. He’s won four of his last six games and is 15-5-2 on the season. His goals-against-average is 1.94 and his save percentage is .937 in 23 games. In two of those categories – wins and save percentage – he’s tied for the NHL lead among goalies.
Takeaway Two: Auston Matthews Is Catching Up to the Leaders
Auston Matthews scored twice against the Oilers – once to start the scoring and once to end the scoring. Matthews is on the kind of a roll that can carry an entire offense. He’s been especially potent on the power play; and, of his 33 points (20 goals and 13 assists) on the season, 15 have come with the man advantage.
Matthews is currently adding a point each game to his current 10-game point-scoring streak, during which he’s had six multiple-point games (including three of his last four). After his slow start to the season, there’s a chance he can actually make it a three-way race between himself, the Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl, and the Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin for the Rocket Richard Trophy as the leading goal-scorer in the NHL.
Item Three: Morgan Rielly Is also on a Point-Scoring Streak
Compared to his teammate Matthews, Morgan Rielly’s streak seems modest. Still, during last night’s game, Rielly extended his point-scoring streak to four games with both a goal and an assist. Rielly’s had a great season and is certainly working to earn his salary.
On the season, Rielly’s scored four goals and added 22 assists (for 26 points) in 30 games. He assisted on Wayne Simmonds’ goal during the second period and then scored one of his own in the third. During his last seven games, he’s added almost two points each game with 12 points in those seven.
Item Four: Brett Seney Injured During the Game
Talk about bad luck. It was Brett Seney’s first NHL game since the 2019-20 season, and it might be his last for a while. The report is that he might have suffered a broken finger late in the contest, which was his season’s debut. He played just over seven minutes and had a shot on goal.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
Over the past two seasons, the Maple Leafs have played four games against the Oilers and have dominated. They’ve outscored the Oilers 18-2 during those games. Obviously, the team is doing something right to nulify the offensive force of both McDavid and Draisaitl. The expected meeting between the Oilers’ Zach Hyman and the Maple Leafs just didn’t pan out because Hyman sat with an injury.
In thinking about this game – and others – it’s interesting that the Maple Leafs have been heavily critiqued for a payroll structure that shares salaries so unequally. It’s true that most of the salary cap flows toward a few stars and leaves less for the remainder of the team. Still, on this night, the Maple Leafs showed they had much better depth than the Oilers. That seems to be true all season, actually.
On the season, the Maple Leafs have compiled a road record of 8-4-1 and have slipped into first place in the NHL with 42 points. Other teams have games-in-hand; however, this level of team success couldn’t have been predicted.
For some Maple Leafs’ fans, that success will just invite more calls to trade Mitch Marner. Funny game hockey.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf