Game Preview: Edmonton Oilers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs | 01/16/2024

Games that end 2-1 are usually pretty dull. Maybe it’s because I attended the game and because of the context behind the win, but it wasn’t boring at all. Saturday night was the first time in franchise history that the Oilers won ten straight games. Before the NHL brought overtime and shootouts to the regular season, teams did have streaks without losing because some of those games could’ve ended with a tie. They may not have won a lot or lost a lot; they just were what they were. But seeing official wins in a lengthy consecutive order in a league with a salary cap says quite a bit. With myself being a younger, early 30s hockey fan in 2024 and witnessing live in person something that not even the 80s Oilers pulled off, it is a surreal memory to cherish. Saying every Oilers fan was in the worst frame of mind in the first two months of the season would be an understatement. But by high-fiving and chatting with fellow Oilers fans at the Bell Centre, even laughing off that horrendous start to the year, the fanbase is a much happier community now. You can’t afford to go to every game, but you never know which one you went to might be your favorite. It also wound up being an interesting NHL debut for prospect Phil Kemp, a defenseman who got called up to play as a forward with Ryan McLeod being a late scratch. Imagine if Ben Stelter was still with us during this streak. Think about the recently deceased Oilers journalist Robin Brownlee, box office worker Sheila MacDonald, former Oilers enforcer Dave Semenko, and, of course, Joey Moss. They had the best seats out of anybody to watch it unfold.

Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki opened the scoring early in the first period with their own McDavid-to-Draisaitl impression on the powerplay. You could only see save after save after save for most of the game, mostly from Sam Montembeault, who played outstanding for the Habs in net, stopping 41 of 43 shots. Stuart Skinner wasn’t as busy as his counterpart, but still had big moments himself. Leon Draisaitl tied it within the first minute of the third period. It was challenged for goalie interference but deemed a good goal. Connor McDavid started getting booed in the third period after drawing a penalty that the Montreal faithful were not at all happy with. How many people can say they’ve had a big crowd boo them on their birthday? Then overtime happened, and McDavid silenced the boos by feeding Evan Bouchard for his one-timer on a PP to set that franchise record. When I watch games at home, I’m a lot more reserved. I just raise my fist in the air whenever Edmonton scores a goal. On Saturday, I was loud and crazy. Not only was I there in person, but I also had family in attendance with me. My father, a lifelong Habs fan, and my mother just sat between us, enjoying our fan stress. That makes the historic win more memorable… Sorry, Dad.

But why stop there? Have some more fun with the winning streak. Make a personal game out of it, and make it harder for the future Oilers roster to break. They’ll look to extend it against a team that’s going through a little slump but still has an absurd amount of offensive talent. The keys to the game are…

Auston Powers: If Auston Matthews can keep up the spurts he has of playing consecutive multi-goal games, including three hat-tricks on the year, then he’s pretty much a lock to win his third Rocket Richard trophy in four seasons. His last multi-goal game was just last Thursday in an overtime loss. In the two games after that, all zeroes. Don’t expect that to last long, and don’t make yourselves the team he comes back against.

Free Willy: Having a career year in a contract year, William Nylander is another Leafs forward to contain as much as possible. Having the same number of points as McDavid with just a few more goals being the difference, he has the newest huge contract in Toronto. It’ll be difficult, nearly impossible, for the Maple Leafs to keep all of those big contracts of star players under the salary cap while keeping other positions strong. But whether you love them or hate them, you can’t deny how insanely fun that roster is to watch play offense.

Mr. Jones: With Ilya Samsonov suffering the same goalie crisis as Jack Campbell and rookie goaltender Joseph Woll missing time due to injury after some impressive games, Martin Jones has stepped in and helped the Maple Leafs keep their position in the standings. He recently recorded his 30th NHL shutout. With his struggles the last couple of seasons, you sometimes forget that Jones has had a pretty good career, even if it’s not the same Jones that helped San Jose clinch a Cup Final. He finished his last two games with well below a .900 save percentage, including Saturday night, when the Leafs blew a 3-0 lead. Since Edmonton is finally winning games with 40+ shots on goal, don’t leave Jones untested tonight.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

Stephen Vani

Oilers fan in Toronto. Staying up past my bedtime for Western games since the mid 2000s.

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