The Young and the Winless

Oilers vs Leafs

Coming in to their meeting tonight, the Leafs and Oilers have several things in common; they’re among the youngest teams in the league (Toronto average age: 25.9, Edmonton: 26.4), and they sit tied for 26th in the league with each having 20 points (though Edmonton has 1 more game played).

Follow me after the jump for more on tonight’s matchup.

They also each find themselves at a fork in the road for their seasons. A win tonight would be Edmonton’s third in a row, and provide much need momentum to right the ship and salvage the season; a loss and get ever closer to the draft lottery yet again. For Toronto a loss tonight would make 4 straight, and all but dash hopes that the playoffs are a possibility even in the weak East.

However, if Toronto can pull out the win, they’ll instill some much needed confidence into the young team as it gets set for a brutal early December schedule: BOS, @WASH, @PITT, PHI, MTL.

YIKES

So who comes out ahead tonight? Going back to Monday, these two plays played in nearly identical games only with different outcomes. Trailing 3-1 to Montreal midway through the third, Edmonton rallied with two late goals to send it to overtime where Dustin Penner potted the game winner.

In the Toronto, it was the Leafs who had a 3-1 lead in the third until Martin St. Louis did his superman impression and scored two, setting up Simon Gagne’s triumphant return from injury in OT. However, don’t expect a comeback to occur tonight as neither team has reliably shown the ability to come back from a deficit nor relinquish a lead: Edmonton is 3-0-2 when leading after the 1st, and 2-9-2 when trailing;

Toronto is 4-0-3 when leading, and 3-9-0 when trailing. As is always the case with young, emotional teams the first goal in crucial and will probably be the deciding factor in determing which team comes away with a W.

 

So who’s going to score that all important first goal? For Toronto, Nikolai Kulemin is on a hotstreak with 8 goals in his last 13 games, including 4 in his last 4. Tonight would be a great night for Phil Kessel to get himself out of his current funk; only 3 goals in his last 15 games.

He was brought in to be a 40 goal scorer, not to be on pace with Ovechkin, and so he needs to turn it up. As porous as the Oilers defence and goaltending have been, tonight just might be his night. On the other bench, Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky make up the Oilers’ 1-2 punch on offense. Penner, a former Brian Burke power foward prodigy, had the game winner against Montreal and will be looking to keep it going. Expect a strong start from him.

Continuing the similarities, both teams are getting back a veteran goaltender from injury tonight, though only one is playing. Nikolai Khabibulin’s return has sent former Leaf Martin ".950" Gerber back to the AHL, and The Bulin Wall will start between the pipes tonight for the Oil. J.S. Giguere is back from his strained groin suffered two weeks ago, but will be the backup tonight behind Gustavsson.

Khabibulin has been pretty terrible this year with a 4-10-1 record, 4.07 GAA, and 0.879 sv% and is exactly the type of goalie the Leafs need to face right now, especially Kessel. The Monster, on the other hand, has been playing fantastic hockey and his stat line of 3-6-2 is extremely misleading as he’s been getting no help in front of him while posting a 2.58 GAA, and 0.914 sv%.

Goals are going to be scored tonight; a lot of them. Edmonton’s offense is powerful and potent, but their defense and goaltending is atrocious. Toronto is the opposite, no offense to speak of in front of solid defence and goaltending. Normally you’d say things would cancel themselves out, but I have a feeling we’ll see quite the opposite in the ACC tonight.

STARTING LINEUPS

EDMONTON

Penner – Cogliano – Brule

Hall – Horcoff – Eberle

Paajarvi – Gagner – Hemsky

Jacques – Fraser – Jones

 

Whitney – Vandermeer

Smid – Foster

Peckham – Gilbert

 

Khabibulin

Dubnyk

 

MAPLE LEAFS

MacArthur – Kadri – Kessel

Kulemin – Grabovski – Crabb

Sjostrom – Bozak – Versteeg

Orr – Brent – Mitchell

 

Kaberle – Schenn

Beauchemin – Komisarek

Lebda – Gunnarsson

 

Gustavsson

Giguere

  • positivebrontefan

    PPP, I wouldn’t read too much into that game, if TO popped in a couple of their chances it could have been a tight game.
    The leafs fans are far and away the best fans in this league, nobody else could tolerate 50 years of losing and still pack out the arena. I just feel bad that you got stuck with Burke throwing away your future for mediocrity now. You deserve better. K-Lowe did that to us for 8 years, we decided to rebuild. I hope you decide to throw away Burke and do the same soon.

  • positivebrontefan

    The Leafs are playing with absolutely ZERO confidence.

    They had golden chances last night and didn’t bury a one.

    Two very different ways of coaching the youngest teams in the league.

    Wilson is an a-hole. He calls rookies out in the media and constantly berates the team publicly. He’s a hard liner. My way or hwy. Task master.

    Renney, has publicly called out the team once. He has very clearly stated that he is going to be there for them, not against them. This is an educational year. He is the teacher.

    Maybe the expectations of the Leafs bench boss need to change. Toronto, while having a solid D and middling goaltending, have NO offensive depth. This should be an educational year. They don’t have the tools to compete with the top teams in the east. Let the kids learn, protect them a little and allow them to build confidence. Burke has put this team in a position to fail by having the weak forward ranks. Instead of expecting a powerhouse, let the kids learn and find their NHL game.

    • Here’s the thing: Not a single Leafs player agrees with that ‘conventional wisdom’. Giguere today said that Wilson’s creating a positive atmosphere in the dressing room.

      I don’t follow the Oilers’ that closely in the MSM but I would be shocked if Renney only once said that one of the kids had to do something better.

      • positivebrontefan

        I don’t know man, you tell me what team and farm team system you would want to have. Tell me that you would honestly rather have the Leafs roster over the Oilers.
        I think not!

        FYI. It does not suck to be an Oilers fan right now. It’s win win for us. Tank, and we get another draft pick Don’t tank, and we have a team that is actually developing in a positive direction that is exciting to watch every night.

        • My first reply was eaten but while the Oilers have offensive prospects they have none in net or on the blueline worth talking about while the Leafs are the opposite ironically.

          It’s funny because things are ‘win/win’ for you guys. You’ll get another high pick if you guys keep at your current pace so that’s a win. Then again, you’ll still have Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini running things who only committed to a rebuild this year. You guys got this bad while they were trying to win so I’m not sure why there’s so much confidence in them going forward.

        • You guys should read Copper And Blue to get an idea of why it’s still depressing to know that abject managerial failures like Lowe and Tambellini are going to be in charge no matter what happens because, as you said, it’s win-win.

          Your young forwards are definitely better but your farm system is absolute garbage [edited] beoynd them.

          For what it’s worth, Hockey’s Future agrees:
          http://www.hockeysfuture.com/nhl_organisation_rankings/

          The potential high-end offensive talent is awesome for sure. But our goaltending prospects are miles better. The defensive ones probably shade it a bit too. It’s funny that between both franchises there’s one great team of kids.

          You’re team’s also been blown out a tonne this year. Maybe it’s exciting I guess but really, you’re suffering through awful hockey (unless getting outshot and outplayed most nights is fun) and hoping that tanking will work. Hemsky and Penner likely won’t be around when the trio of MSP, Hall, and Eberle need to get their big raises and those two are better than all three right now. That’s a big hurdle the management group needs to deal with.

          I guess that’s what a first rounder will do. Wish I could relate to be honest but that’s the lot we’ve got from our own managerial failure.

      • lj

        sucks to not know how to use the word ‘too’.

        oh yeah, and to be a leafs fan – how’s Kessel working out for you? Seguin obviously couldn’t have cracked the top 15, and any of the following Nugent-Hopkins/Couturier/Larsson/Landeskog would probably look horrible wearing blew and white.

        • Jesus buddy. Are you serious? Read my sentence again and point out the error. If you’re going to comment here at least learn to use the English language.

          You’ll notice, if you can read, that I never said it didn’t suck to be a Leafs fan. Then again, with your sloping brow it might have been hard to make out.

          And ‘Blew and White’ is about as clever as ‘Coilers’ but we don’t expect much from our Western friends.

  • Yes, many a similarity between these two teams. One is beginning an actual proper rebuild, starting with young highly drafted players with no attitude problems who will soon be superstars for years to come. The other, well, the other is Toronto, lets not beat around the bush here, hahahahahahahahahahaha I like your defence more than ours though. Leafs will probably win now, curse me.