The Edmonton Oilers were rolling. They had won five straight games, 11 of their last 13 and were within striking distance of first place in the North Division. Now? Things couldn’t feel worse for the Oilers and their fans. Edmonton was swept, in a major way, by the Toronto Maple Leafs over the last three games.
Quite frankly, it wasn’t the fact that the Oilers lost that stings. No, it’s the fact that the Oilers had their asses thoroughly and completely kicked. They were shutout in each of the first two games, scored just one goal in three total games and were outscored 13-1. From the top down, it was a complete and utter mess.
Both Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith were poor in goal. They were far from good enough, but they weren’t alone. Connor McDavid had his most ineffective stretch since joining the team in 2015, while the depth scoring completely fell off the roof. Defensively, Edmonton’s key players like Darnell Nurse, Adam Larsson, Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones made mistake after mistake in the series.
“They gave us a bit of a lesson,” a stunned Tyson Barrie said postgame. “I think we thought we were playing pretty good, and they showed us otherwise. They embarrassed us three games in a row. That’s a tough one to swallow.”
Barrie is right. The Oilers, who many were starting to think could compete for the divisional crown with Toronto, were completely embarrassed in this series. Look no further than these results, the Oilers are simply not on the same level as the Maple Leafs. This is Toronto’s division and we are all just living in it.
Does that mean the Oilers suck? Does that mean the season is over? No, of course it doesn’t. At the end of the day, the Oilers are a good team and should be a playoff team come May. The Maple Leafs are just an elite team, and with their defensive improvements they should be competing for a Stanley Cup come June and July.
These teams are not the same. The Oilers are a playoff team, but the Maple Leafs are a Championship level team. There’s a big damn difference there.
The difference isn’t as big as what fans saw over the last three games, but it’s large. If GM Ken Holland was content with his roster last Saturday afternoon, hopefully this series woke him up. It certainly woke up his head coach.
“You win a few games, but that’s a really good dose of reality for us,” Dave Tippett said postgame.
Tippett and Barrie aren’t the only ones who are frustrated. Captain Connor McDavid was held pointless during the course of the entire series. It’s just the third time in his career that he’s gone three straight games without a point.
“For whatever reason, we couldn’t figure those guys out and they had us pretty figured out,” McDavid began. “On to the next one, a big one against Calgary, back to the Battle of Alberta, and then three against an Ottawa team that’s playing very, very well.”
On the face of it, Oiler fans are likely happy to see new teams coming up on the schedule. Edmonton has won two straight against the Flames and four in a row against the Senators. None of that will matter if the Oilers can’t lock in and play a better game than what they turned in against the Leafs.
Edmonton is now 14-11-0 on the season, and sitting in third place in the North Division. They could very well be in fourth place by the time the puck drops on Saturday night. They very well could be hanging on for dear life come Sunday morning.
“This is a big point in our season.” You’re absolutely right it is, Connor. The Oilers need to respond in a big, big way come Saturday night.