Player grades: No joy in Mudville as Edmonton Oilers whitewashed 4-0 by Toronto

Toronto Maple Leafs' Zach Hyman (11) battles the Edmonton Oilers' Darnell Nurse (25) in front of goalie Mike Smith (41) at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021.Toronto Maple Leafs’ Zach Hyman (11) battles the Edmonton Oilers’ Darnell Nurse (25) in front of goalie Mike Smith (41) at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

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Maple Leafs 4, Oilers 0

Objects in first place may be further than they appear.

When Edmonton Oilers took to the ice on Saturday night for the opening game of a three-game set against Toronto, they had designs on overtaking Toronto’s four-point lead in the standings in the days to come. But the first step in that journey was a giant step backwards, as the homestanding Oilers were dominated 4-0 by a Toronto club missing its marquee player and its #1 goaltender. Minus captain Auston Matthews, the rest of the Leafs checked like demons, giving Edmonton’s star players little room to weave their magic, while taking advantage of some wide open spaces at the other end of the net and a couple of holes in a shaky Mike Smith.

In a game that featured just one powerplay for the two teams combined (and quickly resulted in the game winning goal for the visitors), the Oilers weren’t good enough at even strength. While they did generate a significant plurality in shot attempts (58-39), many of those shots were from the outside, and some of their best looks missed the target. Actual shots on goal were 30-29 Edmonton, but that included 14 shots by Oilers defencemen vs. just 6 by their counterparts in white and blue.  By the Cult of Hockey‘s count of Grade A scoring chances, the visitors held a 10-8 advantage (running count).


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Perhaps the shift that exemplified this game was when Dave Tippett sent out his “In Case Of Emergency, Break Glass” Line of McDavid, Draisaitl and Yamamoto for a late second period push that saw the Oilers threesome pinned below their own hashmarks for the entire shift by the Pierre Engvall trio. You know it’s not your night when…

Player grades

#4 Kris Russell, 4. Accomplished something no other player on either team was able to do when he took a penalty 14 minutes into the first period, the game still scoreless. 24 seconds later he took the “skate of shame” back to the bench and Toronto had the lead for good. Otherwise a quiet, solid game.

#6 Adam Larsson, 5. His night was epitomized by one play where he twice swung and missed at a slow pass across the slot, then deflected the subsequent shot on his own net.

#13 Jesse Puljujarvi, 5. One of the few Oilers who created some traffic in the low slot. 5 shot attempts, but just 1 on net when he was set up by Draisaitl.

#15 Josh Archibald, 5. Played with edge all night, landing a season-high 10 hits in the process. Was among the culprits on the Toronto powerplay goal. first losing a puck battle in the corner, then getting pushed by Joe Thornton into his own crease. He of all people was left to defend a wide-open 2-on-1 and did cut out Jason Spezza’s passing option; even as the Leafs veteran was able to convert all on his own with a nifty move it wasn’t on Archibald.

#16 Jujhar Khaira, 6. His line did its job, sawing off in 11 minutes and change. Played a solid 2-way game, landing 5 hits in the process. 1 decent shot from the edge of the crease, and a team best 63% on the dot (5/8).


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#21 Dominik Kahun, 4. Oilers controlled territorial play during his 14 minutes but created precious little of actual danger. 0 shots, and 0 involvement in Grade A scoring chances.

#22 Tyson Barrie, 3. Lost a battle on Toronto’s second goal, then had a bad read on the third when he jumped on the ice on a line change but with his partner already trapped up-ice on the rush he didn’t recognize the danger of an imminent counter attack and got caught in no man’s land.

#25 Darnell Nurse, 3. Very active in the offensive end with 13 shot attempts, 7 of them on goal, both of which led the team by a mile. But most of those shots were from outside, and were in need of a deflection which never seemed to happen. Had a tough night in his own end, as he was on the ice for all 4 Toronto goals and was among the defensive culprits on 3 of them. Twice he dropped to a knee trying to stop Mitch Marner, and both times the shifty Leaf beat him to the outside, once to set up a goal, the other time to score himself. Lost a battle in the corner on the game’s final tally.

#29 Leon Draisaitl, 4. Is reportedly banged up and it showed at times. Was repeatedly double-teamed by Leafs defenders along the wall and lost the majority of those battles. Had precious little support from his regular wingers; 2 of the 3 Grade A chances he was involved with came on a shift with Archibald, and the third when he set up Puljujarvi in the slot late in the game after Tippett switched out the lines. 2 giveaways but 3 takeaways. 5/12=42% on the dot in just 17:19 in ice time.  No issues defensively. Absorbed a heavy hit that almost dislodged his helmet, though no call was forthcoming on See No Evil Night at Rogers Place.


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#39 Alex Chiasson, 6. His line with Haas and P.Russell was Oilers’ best, holding a significant edge in play (shot attempts were 14-3 Oilers during his 13 minutes). Twice set up Haas for excellent chances. Played a hard physical game with 4 hits.

#41 Mike Smith, 3. After being at the very top of his game in Thursday’s shutout win in Vancouver, he was off his form on this night. He struggled to track the puck, to stay square to the shooter, and to control or even find rebounds. Got lucky more than once with quick whistles or uncontrolled rebounds that dribbled past the post. First two goals went right through him, while he was completely fooled by Spezza’s fake slapshot and move to the outside. Made a couple of decent stops along the way but rarely looked comfortable doing so. 29 shots, 25 saves, .862 save percentage.

#52 Patrick Russell, 5. 12 solid minutes on an effective depth line. 1 shot, 3 hits, plenty of grinding.

#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 4. Quiet, too quiet. 1 shot on net, a decent chance off a McDavid feed after the lines were shuffled.

#63 Tyler Ennis, 6. Very involved in this game. His 5 shot attempts were the most of any Oilers forward, even as he missed the target with his best opportunity, a clear slap shot from the slot after a Leafs turnover in the early going. Shortly after he was pushed into Toronto netminder Jack Campbell while driving the net, resulting in the one scrum of the game. Had a couple of issues on the defensive side of the puck, including a pair of giveaways.


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#74 Ethan Bear, 4. Still finding his game after a lengthy stint on IR. Among the defensive culprits on the first and last Toronto goals. Not much sign of his trademark outlet passing game.

#82 Caleb Jones, 5. Played 16:27, about 10 minutes of it with Bear before spending time with his early-season partner Larsson down the stretch. Had some issues defensively, but nothing costly. Did fire 3 shots on net, 1 of which produced a dangerous rebound.

#91 Gaetan Haas, 5. His line buzzed around at even strength and created a couple of decent chances. Continued to struggle on the faceoff dot (2/9=22%) to drop to below 40% on the season. One of those lost draws came at the beginning of the Toronto powerplay, leading directly to 24 seconds of pressure ending in a goal.

#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 4. A very quiet night, with 2 harmless shots and 0 contributions to scoring chances. Unlucky on the third Toronto goal when he was driving the middle but McDavid’s pass to Nurse on the far wing caught his skate, creating a turnover and a quick counterattack. Oilers didn’t get enough from their stars in this game.

#97 Connor McDavid, 3. Speaking of which… Edmonton’s captain had a rare off night, beyond a solid 12/20=60% on the dot. Under heavy Leaf checking he generated precious little offensively (just 1 early shot and 1 other contribution to a Grade A chance) while also having a poor time of it at the defensive end. Was burned on all 3 of Toronto’s even-strength goals. Unlucky on the one detailed in the previous comment on RNH, but had no such excuse with weak backchecks on the second and fourth Toronto tallies. Not his night, nor his team’s.

Recently at the Cult of Hockey

McCURDY: Oilers first three-game set a showdown vs first-place Leafs

STAPLES: Everybody loves Jesse Puljujarvi, even his coach

STAPLES: Player grades — Brilliant goaltending at both ends as Oilers beat Canucks

McCURDY: Oilers have depth scoring! Oilers have depth scoring!

STAPLES: How to ramp up Yamamoto’s even-strength scoring

LEAVINS: Player grades in comeback win over the Canucks

McCURDY: Caleb Jones finally gets his chance

Follow me on Twitter @BruceMcCurdy


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