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It could have been worse.
It could have been another shutout.
It could have been the first time in NHL history that a team recorded three consecutive shutout wins over the same team using three different goalies.
It was one thing to become the first team the Toronto Maple Leafs shutout in consecutive games dating back to when Harry Lumley was their goaltender in 1954 with the 4-0 and 3-0 wins Saturday and Monday.
It was with 6:14 remaining in the second period with the score 4-0 — that was 11-0 overall in the series — when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins backhanded a Leon Draisaitl to take care of that storyline.
The celebration, you had to figure, would have been minimal.
Could you imagine what the mental health of the local population, already under semi-lockdown due to COVID-19 and coming out of a month of minus 30-degree temperatures, might have been like if Nugent-Hopkins hadn’t scored?
O.K. Maybe it’s still pretty much the same gutted town either way.
It’s a classic case of riding high in April, shot down in May, except the riding high was a 11-2 run in February and this is March.
The Oilers had earned a comfortable spot in the Canadian Division standings.
But three totally outclassed losses to the division standings and the Oilers are back in the pack having totally lost their special status.
This week has been humbling and humiliating for Dave Tippett’s team that ended up losing it 6-1 and 13-1 combined over the three games, has dropped back to having a 6-8 home record compared to an 8-3 road record.
And it most certainly ended any thought that the now 14-11 Oilers should be rated up there with Toronto’s now 18-4-2 team.
For the third straight game the Leafs won the first period but this time it was only one goal not the first two shots on goal. And nobody was pointing fingers at Mike Smith in goal. But the goaltender who last week declared: “I don’t want that slide away because of goaltending — it’s a mission I’m on right now.”
Smith fished four pucks out of his net in the second period, three of them that got behind him in a span of 3:05.
It was the only game of the series where the Auston Matthews vs Connor McDavid marquee match up was available to witness with Matthews returning to the lineup. But for only the third time in his career McDavid went three straight games without a point. And for his third straight game Matthews did the same.
This game and this series, to a large extent, was won by Toronto’s bottom six forwards.
In all three games, the Oilers started well enough only to watch everything come spectacularly unraveled in a very short span.
After 4-0 and 3-0 wins in the first two games, the Leafs took a 1-0 lead to the first intermission then came out and scored three in a span of two minutes and eight seconds to go up 4-0.
So what do you do next if you’re Dave Tippett?
In a similar situation with the Brooklyn Dodgers back in the day, manager Leo Durocher took them all out and got them drunk.
But the bars are all closed and that was be a massive violation of NHL and health officials protocol.
So what can you do?
Well, first of all compliment the heck out of the Maple Leafs because they definitely deserve it.
Toronto won the season series 5-2 Wednesday. Two games remain in Toronto.
Next up for the Oilers are the struggling Calgary Flames Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada and while the three against the Leafs had the attention of the nation, as was the case with the two games the Oilers won in Vancouver to precede the Toronto series, the Calgary game will be more important.
Keeping Edmonton ahead of Calgary and Vancouver insures a playoff position.
Win the season series against both those teams and there will be a best-of-seven Canadian Division Stanley Cup playoff series to find out just how close or far away this team may be.
The Oilers are 4-0 against the recently competitive Ottawa Senators that come to town for a three-game series next week. Edmonton goes into the Flames game with a 2-1 record against Calgary, a 3-1 record against Vancouver and have a 2-2 record versus Winnipeg and 1-2 slate against Montreal.
You should also know that the Oilers hit the midway mark of the compact 56-game coronavirus pandemic schedule with the second game of the Ottawa series Wednesday.
Losing all three to Toronto, at this point, isn’t the end of the world. Losing all three to Ottawa might be.
So what do you do now? Take out your frustrations on Calgary and Ottawa.
E-mail: [email protected]
On Twitter: @byterryjones
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