It might seem odd for a Toronto Maple Leafs’ writer to have Maple Leafs takeaways from another team’s victory over a third team. But, honestly, the Edmonton Oilers’ 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames to tie the round-two series one game each (and wrest away home-ice advantage from the Flames) has – I think – much to say about the Maple Leafs.
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ takeaways, I’ll take a look at what I think those takeaways are.
Takeaway One: Auston Matthews Is Not Connor McDavid – Yet
During this second-round series against the Flames, Connor McDavid has been the best player on the ice (and the planet) – bar none. It was obvious even before Kelly Hrudy crowned McDavid as the best player on the planet during the intermissions of last night’s game that he was in Calgary (his home) covering the two teams.
Hrudy is right. McDavid does things that no one else in the NHL can do. It’s not just that he scores, which he does. It’s that he decides to score and he decides that his team will win. During Game 1 he collected four points (a goal and three assists) and in last night’s Game 2 he had a goal and an assist.
McDavid has registered multi-point performances in seven of his eight games during this postseason, which includes the last four games in a row. On Wednesday night, he led the Oilers’ rally from four goals behind (6-2) to tie it 6-6 (They eventually lost). Last night it was a 2-0 deficit, but there was McDavid leading his team.
He absolutely sweats desire, and it’s obvious to see that he won’t quit – ever. He also does things with the puck no one else can do; and, he can do them at a variety of speeds that no one else can alter as quickly.
I love Auston Matthews as a player, and I’d applaud him if he won the Hart Trophy as the MVP of the NHL. But McDavid can do things Matthews can’t do – as I say, yet! Watching the Oilers-Flames game became obvious that McDavid has a gear – both on the ice and in his head – that Matthews does not yet have. We’re seeing it as Maple Leafs’ fans; and, I trust it will come (I’m pretty sure that Matthews watched the game tonight).
But Matthews is not yet McDavid.
Takeaway Two: Zach Hyman Is Having a Season in Edmonton
Watching the Oilers/Flames tonight, I was happy for Zach Hyman. I’ve always been a fan, but I could see why he went to Edmonton to play for the Oilers. He has a much bigger piece of the action and he’s much more part of the core in Edmonton than he ever was (or probably would have been) in Toronto.
Hyman’s game hasn’t changed much since he was in Toronto. He digs and digs for pucks; he utilizes his speed to make plays; and, he’s a huge part of the mix with the Oilers. He’s arguably in the top four players on the Oilers team – after McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse, and then Hyman. (Evander Kane is playing well for the Oilers, too; and, I can see why he’s a big part of the group.)
But Hyman is having a special season with Edmonton and I, for one, hope it continues. As I say, I can see why he moved to the prairies.
Takeaway Three: Defensemen Cody Ceci and Tyson Barrie Are Different Players with the Oilers than They Were with the Maple Leafs
Two defensemen who didn’t have good seasons with the Maple Leafs are playing well with the Oilers. Those two are Cody Ceci and Tyson Barrie. Ceci is a completely different player in that he’s showing more skills than I imagined he had and is suddenly (if only because I hadn’t watched him this season much at all) become responsible as a player. He’s really playing well.
Barrie is different, too. Last night he was dusting it up with opponents around his goalie’s crease. He still has the ability to quarterback a power play, but he was also physical. Where did this “attitude” come from?
They all played well and with much more desire than I had ever seen while they were in Toronto. I have no idea why, but I can see it with my own eyes. Different team and different skills show up.
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