Sunday, February 08, 2015

Preparing For A Rough Ride

After losing their eleventh straight game, the Toronto Maple Leafs had to have been licking their chops at the chance of facing the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre. As bad as the Leafs have been over the last six or so weeks, it was always just a matter of time before they would stumble in to a victory. 

Up until their most recent stretch, Toronto had been one of the league’s highest scoring teams so it would make perfect sense to think they would end their streak in grand fashion. Enter the Edmonton Oilers. 

To suggest the Oilers were the perfect opponent for a Maple Leafs side that were starving for two points, would be putting it nicely and not surprisingly it showed on the scoreboard, While some may have been disappointed with last night’s 5-1 thrashing at the hands of the Blue and White, it was a rather predictable outcome. 

As we saw during their 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night at Rexall Place, this team is simply incapable of competing without Taylor Hall and Benoit Pouliot in their lineup. While Viktor Fasth stood on his head against Sidney Crosby and company to keep Edmonton within striking distance, he was unable to duplicate that performance against Peter Horachek’s struggling side. 

While their goaltender and defence were pretty darn good against the Pens, both were downright dreadful against Toronto. The tandem of Andrew Ference and Jeff Petry were awful from start to finish, as the thirty-five year old captain was by far and away the worst player on the ice on an evening in which one would be hard pressed to find a single individual who played well. 

Unlike his performance against the Penguins, Fasth was unable to come up with the big save when his team needed it and actually made things that much worse by allowing at least two if not three iffy goals on the night. While the final shot clock may have been in favour of the Oilers, 32-28, it was as one-sided a game as you will ever see and again…no one should be surprised. 

With Hall and Pouliot sitting on the sideline, this forward group is beyond horrible. If you don’t think that is the case, please explain to me how the following lines can be expected to compete on a nightly basis: 

Teddy Purcell - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Matt Fraser - Derek Roy - Nail Yakupov
Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Rob Klinkhammer
Luke Gazdic - Anton Lander - Iro Pakarinen 

Even against a team playing as poorly as the Maple Leafs, that lineup doesn’t have a hope in hell and that is fact. While it may seem as though these players have done nothing but “go through the motions” in each of their last two games, in reality, that may not be the case. Again, look at those names and please explain to me what the expectation should be. 

For anyone to suggest that Todd Nelson currently has anything resembling even one scoring line at his disposal would be more than a bit of a stretch and because of it, you get what we have seen over the last two games. It is not only a lineup with a handful of skilled players and plethora of bottom six forwards but also one that is littered with American hockey League talent. 

So again, should we really be surprised by what we saw unfold last night in Toronto? With New Jersey next on the docket, one would think the Oilers “should be” able to at least stay close against an offensively challenged squad. With that said, prior to last night’s 6-2 drubbing at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, the Devils had gone 8-2-2 in their previous twelve and were playing much better hockey. 

Should this team not be able to hold their own against the Devils, expecting them to do so against the New York Islanders and the aforementioned Canadiens would seem to be more than a little unrealistic…especially when one considers both have already lost to Edmonton earlier in the season. In all honesty, outside of next Saturday’s date with the Ottawa Senators, the Oilers could be in real tough to win another game in the month of February. 

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