The Toronto Maple Leafs continued their west coast swing on Saturday with another game against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. They did so in retro style – with both teams sporting their new retro reverse jerseys for this one.
Unlike their last meeting, the Maple Leafs took the overtime loss dropping Saturday’s affair 4-3 with McDavid putting the nail in the coffin just 42 seconds into the extra frame.
While the Maple Leafs did take the loss, there was a number of positive things that could be taken from their effort – all of which land in our takeaways from the Oilers big win.
Lehtonen’s Game, Short and Sweet
He’s still fighting for ice-time on the Maple Leafs back end, but Saturday night’s game might’ve been the best one yet for newcomer Mikko Lehtonen. Sure, he took a minor penalty and – quite literally – handed the Oilers a penalty shot, but the one play saved a goal for the Maple Leafs and the other the Maple Leafs were able to kill off unscathed.
Lehtonen got on the ice for just over nine minutes in the game, that included 1:21 of power play action which earned the Finnish defenceman his first NHL point assisting on Zach Hyman’s second period power play goal to tie the game.
Still, the first-year Maple Leaf was limited in his playing time and while the numbers might not have been there to support more ice-time, the Maple Leafs will need to look at relying on him a little heavier going forward – both with four defensemen having played over 22:30 in this one and with the condensed schedule moving forward.
Matthews’ Scoring Streak
One guy that got his fair share of ice-time against the Oilers was Auston Matthews, who played nearly 23 minutes and over a minute of power play time. On top of adding the intangibles to his game this season, Matthews has been a force offensively and didn’t slow down on Saturday.
The Maple Leafs’ superstar tallied his sixth goal of the season, giving him six goals and 10 points in nine games to start the year. But more importantly, it extended his goal-scoring streak to five games – tallying five goals over that span.
Matthews isn’t strictly a goal scorer for the Maple Leafs this season, however. As mentioned, he’s added some of the intangibles to his game and on top of his goal on Saturday, Matthews added a hit and two blocked shots – contributing to the team’s 16 blocked shots in the game.
Andersen Numbers Still Mediocre
Even with the 16 blocked shots, the Maple Leafs couldn’t stop the Oilers from getting four pucks past Frederik Andersen. Andersen, who was playing in his eighth game of the season, stopped 27 of 31 shots he faced on Saturday as his numbers to start the year continued to push the boundaries of average.
In his eight games, he’s given up 24 goals with a 3.01 goals against average (GAA) and .892 save percentage (SV%). Those numbers are far from his career numbers of a 2.63 GAA and .916 SV%.
Still, Andersen is known for being a perennial slow starter and with Jack Campbell on the shelf for some time, the Maple Leafs will be looking to Andersen to shut down opponents with more consistency moving forward during this 56-game schedule.
As for what the Maple Leafs weren’t able to do on Saturday, containing McDavid was a major piece in why they lost the game. With the way that he skates, it’s not hard to lose McDavid on the ice – especially at that speed.
In his team’s victory, McDavid cashed in twice, including a highlight-reel power play goal and the overtime winner along with adding an assist for a three-point night. If that wasn’t enough, the NHL star finished with a face-off winning percentage of 72 percent and on his second period goal, he skated through the entire Maple Leafs’ penalty killing squad.
In their previous meetings this year, the Maple Leafs – and specifically Justin Holl – have done a fairly good job of keeping McDavid at bay. Still, McDavid has six points in their past three meetings and with more to come, don’t count him out from being a pain in the side of the Maple Leafs for the remainder of the season.
Also Worth Noting…
The Maple Leafs added two more assistant captains to the roster – handing both Jake Muzzin and Zach Hyman the ‘A’ during their reverse retro and St. Patrick’s Day games. It’s a compliment to both players and what they mean to the leadership group in Toronto.
The loss was the first time in his career that Andersen has lost in Edmonton. In fact, he’s 14-1-2 all-time against the Oilers in 18 games with a 2.36 GAA and a .923 SV%.
The Maple Leafs aren’t back in action now until Thursday, when they will start a three-game set against the Vancouver Canucks in Toronto.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.