After two wins against the Flames in the Saddledome, the Leafs travel north for another two-game series at Rogers Place in Edmonton. The two franchise companies have already prevailed against each other twice in this speed run of a season in which one game is played and will now try to take the lead of the season against each other.
Ice hockey fans everywhere were amazed at how overwhelming the first two games between Toronto and Edmonton were, especially with two teams scrambling for offensive firepower. That trend is likely to break sooner rather than later, however, as each team has not only shown its ability to score goals on command, but has also had growing concerns on the net as injuries put substitute goalkeepers out of the way while their starters looked inconsistent. To rub the wounds with salt, the two franchises each also lost third-string goalkeepers through waivers. This is a particularly troublesome reality as the Leafs and Oilers goalkeepers both have season saving percentages below 0.900.
For Toronto, power play was the driving force behind their preseason success. At a staggering 41.7%, they’ll look to build on that trend against an Edmonton penalty that’s currently ranked 20th in the league. Both teams had their share of even strength fights and in a season that started without proper training camps, each franchise learned along the way and tried to resolve issues as the season progressed.
It’s early days, but we’re already seeing some separation between the teams in the North Division as Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg seem steadily distancing themselves from the pack. Edmonton will be desperate to show that they won’t waste another year on Connor McDavid, and they can be expected to play with near playoff-like intensity as they try to close the bottom and not catch up the season . The question for Toronto will be whether they can keep this hot phase of sitting at the top of the division alive or whether complacency will bring the team back to earth.
Who Should Watch Out For The Leafs? Frederik Andersen
In two starts, Jack Campbell has shown that he has the potential to become the starting goalkeeper if necessary. In Andersen’s recent fights, this has led to some controversy over goalkeepers in Toronto, especially since the Danish netminder is currently in a contract year. Jack Campbell’s recent injury means the team will be relying heavily on Andersen for the next several weeks and he must take this as an opportunity to prove he owns the starting job as a netminder. The next week or so might very well determine if Freddie will be back in blues and white next year, or if he’ll lose his starting position before the season is even over. Expect additional motivation from him to silence the critics.
Who Should Watch Out For The Oilers? Jesse Puljujarvi
The often-criticized winger has pushed himself to the front row to prove he belongs in the NHL. It’s already been a hectic week for the 2016 NHL Draft Class and Puljujarvi is no doubt hoping to prove that Winnipeg and Columbus made a mistake by passing it on. After looking impressive during his time in Finland last year, the former fourth overall winner has yet to score a goal this season. If playing alongside Connor McDavid doesn’t result in him finding the score sheet, it won’t be long before the Edmonton management team give up the young striker as well.
Leafs starting goalkeeper: Frederik Andersen
As mentioned earlier, Andersen is all that stands between the Leafs and the return of Michael Hutchinson. He has to be good as his starter’s job and future earnings depend on it.
Oilers start goalkeeper: Mikko Koskinen
It will be the ninth straight start for Koskinen and one has to wonder if the fatigue is slowly catching up after allowing three or more goals in each of your last three starts. Currently, the Oilers have literally no backup plan, so Koskinen is expected to carry the workload in a way that we have not seen since the Brodeur days.
Puck Drop is set to 10 p.m. EST on TSN4 and Sportsnet West.