With the Edmonton Oilers in town, led by best player on earth, teenager, and all around super phenom Connor McDavid, a slew of loaded questions pointed towards the kid were inevitable. After all, a clavicle injury took away his chance at making his Air Canada Centre NHL debut last year. While he’s technically played in the World Juniors for Team Canada and the World Cup for Team North America in the 18,800 seat barn, this will be his first chance to play against the team he grew up loving.
With that in mind, today he was asked about his first game that he went to as a Leafs fan. Out of curiosity, we went back to find it.
Finding The Game
Connor sets the scene to Mark Masters here:
Connor McDavid on 1st game at ACC as Leafs fan: “I was so excited, I barely slept … all day I could hardly wait to get here”
NYR won 4-1 pic.twitter.com/ucH0YuMbOk
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) November 1, 2016
Using the hockey-reference game finder, you’ll see that there’s only been one 4-1 loss to the Rangers at the Air Canada Centre; it came on October 17th, 2009. Connor would have been 12, about to be turning 13 years old. I, coincidentally, was also at that game; my uncle gave my brother and I tickets.
The Actual Game
As he mentioned, the Leafs lost this one 4-1. He didn’t, however, mention that it was 1990’s night; the team did all sorts of themed games throughout the season, where players from certain decades would come out for ceremonial puck drops and the Leafs would wear the names of past players in warmups.
They certainly didn’t look like the good part of the 90’s at this point, though. Far from the 1993/94 club that started the year 10-0-0, these Leafs went 0-7-1. This game was 0-6-1, and it certainly wasn’t a good one. The Leafs never had the lead, Marc Staal scored a goal, and Wade Redden was contributing to a team’s success still.
On the other side of things, the Leafs dressed Joey MacDonald that night in goal, which went about as well as you’d expect it to. Tomas Kaberle led the team in ice time with 25:08 played. Ian white scored Toronto’s lone goal, set up by Niklas Hagman. Phil Kessel was still two weeks away from making his Leafs debut, and Jeff Finger was a -3. Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin, who were expected to be the Leafs’ game changers on defence, were mostly silent on that night.
Toronto’s fourth line consisted of Colton Orr, Wayne Primeau, and Jay Rosehill. So, two enforcers, and a fourth liner that the Leafs traded Anton Stralman for. It was ugly.
Here’s TLN video-making-man Steve Dangle’s LFR from that night. He moves from his undersized bedroom to his parents basement to officially declare the Leafs a gongshow by literally bashing his dad’s gong:
Meanwhile, I went over to the fantastic hockeystats.ca and grabbed the fancy stats for this game. Hockey Analytics were starting to make waves in places like Edmonton at this time but hadn’t picked up much steam here, so this isn’t something we would’ve talked about much. Toronto out-corsi’d the Rangers 70-57 (51-41 at even strength) and outshot the Rangers 35-28. Sounds like a better night than it was, mostly because the team was trailing for so long and surely had score effects helping them out.
Toronto’s best possession player that night was Kaberle, who was still rocking the league and was 77.8% that night despite being paired with Komisarek. Rickard Wallin was somehow a 67.9% player while starting most of his shifts in the defensive zone. Lee Stempniak, John Mitchell, Jason Blake, Viktor Stalberg, Matt Stajan, Francois Beauchemin, and Alexei Ponikarovsky were all above water. Toronto’s worst possession players that night were Luke Schenn and Jeff Finger on the defence (38.5%; why did anyone think that pair made any sense at any point?) and Orr at 33%.
More Fun Stuff
Well, Connor McDavid went to this game, went through this awful start, and still stayed an extremely delusional and devoted Leafs fan. That’s probably the biggest reason that people aren’t too discouraged about a few measly years in Alberta clouding his mind; if Jeff Finger couldn’t, it’s arguable that nothing will.
Or something will. Who knows. I hope he has fun tonight, in any event.