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Photo Credit: © Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Maple Leafs Pregame #44: 5 things to watch for against the Oilers

It seems like only yesterday the Oilers were one of the hottest teams in the NHL and Leafs fans were looking up whether the 1st round pick from the Marleau trade was lottery pick protected. It was a dark time in Toronto and to make matters worse, it was good times in Edmonton.

Thankfully the Leafs realized that their path to salvation didn’t include Mike Babcock, and shockingly the Oilers goaltending tandem of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith continue at a Vezina/Jennings pace, and we’re back to the reality we’re all comfortable with, the Leafs 2nd in the Atlantic, and the Oilers likely to miss the playoffs, wasting another year of Connor McDavid’s prime.

Lineups

LW C RW Forwards
Zach Hyman
ZACH HYMAN

Rating: 74.2#39 LW

Auston Matthews
AUSTON MATTHEWS

Rating: 81.9#3 C

Mitch Marner
MITCH MARNER

Rating: 78.8#7 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 78.31#5 FL1
Alexander Kerfoot
ALEXANDER KERFOOT

Rating: 72.9#70 LW

John Tavares
JOHN TAVARES

Rating: 80.4#9 C

William Nylander
WILLIAM NYLANDER

Rating: 78.2#8 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 77.16#2 FL2
Pierre Engvall
PIERRE ENGVALL

Rating: 73.5#49 LW

Jason Spezza
JASON SPEZZA

Rating: 70.9#126 C

Kasperi Kapanen
KASPERI KAPANEN

Rating: 72.9#63 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 72.43#9 FL3
Dmytro Timashov
DMYTRO TIMASHOV

Rating: 71.3#102 LW

Frederik Gauthier
FREDERIK GAUTHIER

Rating: 69.2#175 C

Mason Marchment
MASON MARCHMENT

Rating: 73.6#45 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 71.33#10 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Morgan Rielly
MORGAN RIELLY

Rating: 75.7#9 LD

Tyson Barrie
TYSON BARRIE

Rating: 76.4#13 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 76.07#5 DL1
Martin Marincin
MARTIN MARINCIN

Rating: 71.8#91 LD

Justin Holl
JUSTIN HOLL

Rating: 73.0#52 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 72.38#26 DL2
Travis Dermott
TRAVIS DERMOTT

Rating: 73.1#61 LD

Cody Ceci
CODY CECI

Rating: 71.7#78 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 72.36#14 DL3
LW C RW Forwards
James Neal
JAMES NEAL

Rating: 73.0#60 LW

Connor McDavid
CONNOR MCDAVID

Rating: 82.0#2 C

Zack Kassian
ZACK KASSIAN

Rating: 71.6#92 RW

FL1 Rating
Rating: 75.52#15 FL1
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS

Rating: 74.1#55 LW

Leon Draisaitl
LEON DRAISAITL

Rating: 81.7#4 C

Kailer Yamamoto
KAILER YAMAMOTO

Rating: 72.4#72 RW

FL2 Rating
Rating: 76.05#4 FL2
Joakim Nygard
JOAKIM NYGARD

Rating: 72.0#85 LW

Gaetan Haas
GAETAN HAAS

Rating: 70.5#148 C

Alex Chiasson
ALEX CHIASSON

Rating: 71.3#97 RW

FL3 Rating
Rating: 71.27#23 FL3
Jujhar Khaira
JUJHAR KHAIRA

Rating: 69.4#128 LW

Riley Sheahan
RILEY SHEAHAN

Rating: 70.1#156 C

Josh Archibald
JOSH ARCHIBALD

Rating: 71.2#99 RW

FL4 Rating
Rating: 70.25#23 FL4
DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS Defense
Oscar Klefbom
OSCAR KLEFBOM

Rating: 74.3#30 LD

Adam Larsson
ADAM LARSSON

Rating: 69.9#101 RD

DL1 Rating
Rating: 72.10#30 DL1
Darnell Nurse
DARNELL NURSE

Rating: 73.0#63 LD

Ethan Bear
ETHAN BEAR

Rating: 72.0#67 RD

DL2 Rating
Rating: 72.49#25 DL2
Caleb Jones
CALEB JONES

Rating: 71.5#95 LD

Kris Russell
KRIS RUSSELL

Rating: 70.4#98 RD

DL3 Rating
Rating: 70.95#27 DL3

Thanks to Kris Russell and Adam Larsson, Cody Ceci might only be the third worst defensemen playing in this game. 

Here are 5 things to watch for…

1. Mike Smith is starting so expect goals early and often

So Mike Smith has managed to be the more tolerable Oilers starter of late, and has strung together a couple of decent games. The thing about that is the bubble bursts pretty frequently and spectacularly, and with the Oilers defense struggling, and the Leafs having a very aggressive offensive attack, it would be a shame to not completely light up Smith.

2. Keefe is really feeling Marincin & Holl

As good as things are going for the Leafs there is still something about Martin Marincin that will always rub people the wrong way and a 9-0-1 record isn’t buying much more confidence in him.

Holl on the other hand seems to be universally loved, and being paired with Marincin seems like a real test for him, especially now that he’s going to be held to the higher standard of his new contract.

With Muzzin gone, this is the shutdown pairing, but when he returns it will be interesting to see if the emergence of this pairing gives Keefe a bit more flexibility about where he puts Muzzin when he returns.

3. Mason Marchment Y/N?

It’s hard to remember who is on the Leafs at any given moment, and since I’ve been away for the past three weeks, I feel like I’ve missed a handful of interesting callups and debuts.

That said, Marchment, despite bringing the physicality that has been absent from the Leafs roster, hasn’t really done much to show he’s a NHL player in his first two games, and with Moore and Johnsson practicing again, he’s quite possibly the odd man out sooner or later.

It will be interesting to see how Marchment lines up against some of the more physical Oilers tonight and to see if he can be a difference maker even if he’s not going to show up on the score sheet.

4. Is Freddie Andersen gonna look like Freddie Andersen?

Andersen might have a bit of relief coming in the form of Michael Hutchinson looking like he’s ready to play. Andersen needs this, and frankly despite the honour attached to it, the naming of Andersen to the All-Star game was probably the worst thing that could happen to him.

With his numbers slipping in the past few games, it would be nice to see if a bit more rest could be worked in the schedule for Andersen in the coming weeks, but tonight it would be nice to see him ready to play.

5. Shutting down McDavid

Since this is the entirety of the key to success against the Oilers it will be interesting to see how the Leafs do it.

Presumably Tavares will be out against him a ton, but defensively it may be a bit more interesting. Will the Leafs attempt to match his speed at all or will the concede that no one can catch McDavid and save their best weapons for when Connor isn’t on the ice?

I lean towards the latter as the Oilers will find ways to defeat themselves, as you can see by McDavid’s linemates.

Game time is 7PM ET, and it can be seen on TSN 4 in Ontario and Sportsnet West in Alberta.