Wayne Gretzky used to put the boots to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
That was then. This is now.
Connor McDavid just did the same. He had a Gretzky of a game in Edmonton’s 6-4 win over the Leafs.
McDavid was a two-way tower of power all game, continuing on his recent run of solid play on defence and brilliant play on the attack.
The Oilers dominated the first period with superior skating and hustle, getting nine Grade A chances to just two for the Leafs. Toronto was lucky to be down just 1-0 at that point. Edmonton continued to push, though, in the second and got two quick goals.
A slow Jujhar Khaira backcheck gave Toronto a goal and some life in the second but in the end McDavid’s game was too much for Toronto to handle.
It should be said that McDavid had a lot of help from his teammates in an excellent third period where the Oilers generally thwarted the Leafs with solid checking.
But this was a night for McDavid and Oilers fans to savour and remember, when 97 stuck it to the Leafs of Toronto and did so in Toronto itself.
In total, Edmonton had 20 Grade A chances to eleven for the Leafs (running count), a decisive thrashing.
Connor McDavid, 10. He skated into Toronto and owned the Leafs. His goal, the Oil’s sixth of the game, where he faked Morgan Reilly out of Toronto and onto Baffin Island, then the Toronto goalie Michael Hutchinson to the North Pole, was one for his all-time high-light reel, which is saying a lot. McDavid made major contributions to 12 Grade A chances on the attack and made not one major mistake on a Grade A chance against. He had eight shots on net, six of them Grade A scoring chance shots. That is the definition of hockey perfection in a single game. McD came out flying and got Edmonton’s first Grade A chance on a hard cut into the slot. On that same looooong 1:39 shift, he kept the cycle going and going and going before Oscar Klefbom’s shot finally went in. On his next shift, he used his quick feet and hands to turn a nothing play into another Grade A slot shot. Late in the first, he came oh-so-close to scoring off a great Leon Draisaitl stretch pass and breakaway deke. Early in the second, he got his second assist, setting up Nurse for a goal. In the third, he and Bear both came close to scoring on the same sequence. The Grade A moments kept coming all night for McD, who ended up with a goal and three assists.
James Neal, 7. Threw a hard hit on Martin Marincin early n the game, then ripped a hard one-timer on net from a McDavid pass later that same period. Looking good on this line with McD and Kassian. He had ten hits on the night. Ten! When Neal is physical, he looks like a $5.5 million per year player.
Leon Draisaitl, 8. He was mainly Very Good Leon this game, but we saw a wee bit of Bad Leon too. He came out strong and fired a nasty shot off the crossbar on Edmonton’s first power play, then set up McD on a breakaway and almost scored on a one-timer shot on Edmonton’s second man advantage. But his weak fly-by and weaker back check led to a dangerous Toronto chance late in the first. His defensive woes continued in the second when he got caught on the run and allowed a point shot, with Zach Hyman almost scoring on the rebound and then Mitch Marner almost scoring on the rebound of the rebound. Of course, just a moment later he made things all good in the world with a brilliant cross-seam pass to Caleb Jones, who fed Yamamoto for a Triple A chance and goal. And then he showed what he’s capable of on defence, leading a unit with Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom to kill off a lengthy five-on-three Toronto power play. In the third, he scored on a typically fierce and accurate snipe. In the end, he had two points and was +1.
Kailer Yamamoto, 7. He showed off one of his many skills, drawing the game’s first penalty. Then we saw a bit of what’s shaked in Bakersfield this past year, with Draisaitl and Caleb Jones setting up Yamamoto for a glorious one-timer goal.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 6. Was puckwatching as his check Auston Matthews cruised into the slot for Toronto’s first Grade A chance of the game. He had a solid enough game otherwise. He made a swell stop and nice pass on McDavid’s monumental goal.
Joakim Nygard, 7. His excellent screen in the first period capped off the virtuous cycle leading to Oscar Klefbom’s point shot goal. He then made a key defensive stop as the Leafs threatened to score after Mike Smith lost his stick and the Oilers were drained of energy.
Gaetan Haas, 7. He and Nygard had the speed, hustle and drive to cause the Leafs some trouble. Led his line in an effective, hustling and checking first shift, and kept up the high energy play all game. He’s earning a job right about now, just when his NHL future was in question. Can he keep it up?
Alex Chiasson, 7. Nice outside snipe on his goal, showing the kind of shooting and puck luck that led to his high goal scoring last year. Took a stick in the face to draw a penalty in the third, then set up Draisaitl’s goal with a fine pass.
Jujhar Khaira, 3. Oh man, that was not a good game for Khaira. Weak and slow backcheck on Toronto’s first goal where he allowed Toronto’s Pierre Engvall time and space to make a play in the slot. If he’s simply on his man, there’s no shot there, let alone a goal, and the whipped Leafs might never have fought back into this game period, down as they were three-to-zilch. Next Khaira went for the big hit but allowed a dangerous stretch pass leading to Frederik Gauthier’s goal.
Riley Sheahan, 4. His line fell apart in the second period. Sheahan himself took a tough, tough penalty in the second, inadvertently tripping a player leading to a five-on-three power play.
Josh Archibald, 5. He hit the post in the second after Sheahan dug out the puck for him. Not such a bad game for the hard-checking winger.
Oscar Klefbom, 7. Scored the first goal on a seeing-eye shot through a strong Nygard screen. He made a bad pinch, though, that was the worst moment in the sequence of pain on Gauthier’s goal. In the third, he set a blinding screen on Draisaitl’s goal.
Adam Larsson, 6. Solid but unspectacular game.
Darnell Nurse, 8. He contributes to more Grade A chances at even strength than any other Oilers d-man (Bear and Klefbom are close) and showed his stuff early in the second, powering in a shot off a McDavid feed. Toronto’s third goal went in off him in unlucky fashion. But a good game overall. I’m going to bump up his mark a full grade for his sound play killing that 3-on-5 situation.
Ethan Bear, 7. He had had his usual good game, playing sound defence and moving the puck adroitly. He made a veteran play drawing a penalty from a stickless Justin Holl in the first. But he lost a battle in the corner, then allowed a slot tip to Engvall on Toronto’s third goal.
Caleb Jones, 7. He and Russell got beat early on a point shot but Leafs rebounder Zach Hyman put the shot over the net. Jones finally showed more of his stuff on the attack when he attacked deep and set up Yamamoto’s goal. He was +1 in limited time, just nine minutes of ice.
Kris Russell, 7. He played his hard, tough and savvy defensive game, making not one major mistake on a Grade A chance against.
Mike Smith, 7. Started fine with a solid early save off a tricky shot from Mitch Marner, then made a tremendous save on John Tavares late in the first. He wasn’t at fault on the goals against and made the necessary saves after his team got the lead. He might have had the Matthews’ goal, just maybe, but it was Matthews doing the sniping. To end the game, Smith made a nice save off another Matthews power play snipe.