On Sunday night, the last of the Canadian teams were eliminated as Edmonton fell to Vegas in six games. It was another disappointing end to the season for the Oilers, who many thought would finally go the distance this year behind the phenomenal play of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Edmonton ended up playing just one more game than the Toronto Maple Leafs, who also suffered a familiar fate, albeit in the second round this year. Now, the questions are certainly coming for Canada’s two most talented teams.
The Oilers and Maple Leafs are in very similar spots right now and have been for a few years. Both teams have multiple superstar forwards that are among the best in the league and have seen great success in the regular season recently. Both teams are under a lot of pressure in a hockey-crazed Canadian market. Most importantly and frustratingly, though, both teams cannot seem to find the keys to success in the postseason. Yes, Edmonton made the Conference Finals last year, but everyone was quickly reminded how far they still had to go to compete at the highest level. The Oilers and Maple Leafs tried to flip the script and made trades for the right guys on paper this season (Mattias Ekholm, Ryan O’Reilly, Luke Schenn), but the result remained the same.
The Issues for Edmonton
For Edmonton, it was the goaltending that let them down. Rookie Stuart Skinner was solid in the regular season, but expecting him to be the guy to lead them to glory showed how dire the goaltending situation was for the Oilers. Skinner ended the playoffs with a GAA of 3.68, an SVP of .883, and was pulled four times. Given his play, it was a little surprising to see Jack Campbell not get an opportunity to start, especially after he made 27 saves on 28 shots in his only action against Los Angeles.
Of course, you cannot put the loss of a series entirely on one guy, but in the playoffs, sometimes getting a few big saves here and there can be the difference in winning or losing a series. As Sergei Bobrovsky has shown us this year, the timely saves in big moments can really impact a team’s success at this time of year, even if the overall stats aren’t breaking any records. With that being said, Edmonton needs to get more out of the back-end players, specifically Darnell Nurse. The defensemen make $9.5M per year and were straight-up bad in a lot of games over the last few weeks.
What Went Wrong for Toronto?
Despite having to start a rookie goaltender halfway through the series, the man in the crease was not Toronto’s issue for a second straight year. They haven’t necessarily found their dominant franchise guy, but Joseph Woll gave the team in front of him every chance to win. Instead, it was once again the inability of their best players to perform on the biggest stage. They were all over the stat sheet in the first round and found ways to win despite being outplayed for most of the series, but the scoring quickly dried up against Florida.
With such a talented roster, having these questions come up every year is growing more and more frustrating for fans. Despite the consistent regular season success and the series win against Tampa Bay, don’t be surprised to see some real changes come to the Maple Leafs this offseason. Whether it’s a member of their core group, Kyle Dubas, or Sheldon Keefe, the general feeling is that somebody of importance will not be with the team to start next season.
Will They Ever Do It?
So, will these two teams ever figure it out in the playoffs? It’s hard to say. For both, you could make the argument that they’re just not built to win postseason hockey. However, you could also say that they’re just one player or hot stretch from going the distance. Success rarely comes right away in the NHL, but the clock is officially ticking in Edmonton and Toronto.
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