The Edmonton Oilers understand that every game and every series they play this season is extremely important. Tonight, the Oilers will start a three-game series that is a little more important than any other series played so far this season. The Oilers welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs to town to kick off a three game set.
Currently, the teams are separated by just four points. If Edmonton can sweep this series, they’ll come away all alone in first place. If they take two out of three? They’ll be feeling good and just two points out of the top spot.
For captain Connor McDavid, these are the types of games and series that keep the engine going. These are the games he and his teammates live for. Quite frankly, these are the moments he has been waiting for since the Oilers lost Game 7 to the Ducks in May of 2017.
The importance of this series, and by extension first place, is not lost on the captain. He’d never let you know that, though.
“You obviously want to win as many games as you possibly can. This division is so tight from top to bottom,” McDavid said on Friday. “You look at what Ottawa is doing, they’re getting themselves back into it too. It’s tight from top to bottom and you need to continue to win games. Winning the division is nice but I think we need to focus on ourselves and continue to grow.”
Part of continuing to grow is winning in different ways. The Oilers have won high scoring games over the years, but this year they have added an ability to win low scoring, tightly checked games. McDavid is expecting that to be the recipe here.
“Every time we play Toronto, the games have been pretty low scoring,” McDavid continued. “People expect these big offensive nights and I think both teams have that respect for each other where neither of them want to open it up and let the other offensive guys get going. I think you can expect a tight-checking little series.”
That kind of game has allowed the Oilers to go .500 against the Leafs so far this season. The Oilers won the first and fourth meetings with Toronto in January, holding a 2-2-0 record heading into tonight’s matchup. In fact, their last win against the Maple Leafs kicked off this recent hot stretch.
“We’re obviously playing better,” McDavid said of the run. “Special teams have helped. Goaltending has helped. Everyone’s buying in and starting to really believe. I think that’s the main thing. When everyone believes in what we’re doing, that’s when it gets real dangerous.”