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It was a big game. But maybe you’ve already noticed six games into this Canadian division season: They’re all big games.
There will be some fans again not happy with the entertainment value as both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers appeared to try win it 0-0, if that makes any sense. To them, I will say everybody in attendance should get their money back. (Think about it.)
There are a lot of losses that deserve a lot of dissecting and heavy-handed commentary. I’m not sure this one, a 4-2 empty-net win by the Maple Leafs, is one of them.
I suspect if you played that game nine times, and maybe they’re trying to do that, the two teams would take turns winning them.
The lesson for the Oilers is if you’re going to play shutdown defensive hockey, you can’t have a lapse or two for a minute or two in the middle, lose a couple battles and turn the puck over a couple of times, regardless of how well the rest of your night went in that area.
Fingers could be pointed at defenceman Adam Larsson, if you need somebody to take it out on. But Mikko Koskinen played well enough in goal and there were signs the offence might be awakening. So, off to Winnipeg they go.
Despite losing Auston Matthews and Joe Thornton to injuries, this was a game the Leafs couldn’t afford to lose after their positive start to the season. They couldn’t afford not to split the series. And to their credit, they didn’t.
If Toronto had lost in regulation, the two teams would have left the building with 3-3 records. Instead, the Leafs head to Alberta for four games at 4-2 and Edmonton heads to Winnipeg for a pair with a 2-4 record, a continued outage on the power play and no puck luck on offence.
Most of these Canadian division games are swing games. The standings so far seem to look significantly different every day. The division is so compelling that every game has seemed to demand big-picture evaluation through the first 10 days of play.
Canada’s on-ice Group of Seven are painting a picture that is a lot more involved than a normal regular season where the teams are sort of just clearing their throats at this point. And it should be noted that due to positive coronavirus tests and game postponements, Edmonton and Toronto were stepping on the ice to play their sixth game of the season before the Dallas Stars skated out last night to play their first.
The trouble is, each game and each new set of standings seem to be screaming for daily deep-dive evaluation. And each game is being examined (at this stage of proceedings, some might suggest over-examined) like Game 6 of a playoff series, not the sixth game of the regular season.
One phenomenon a lot of Canadians are experiencing this exceptional coronavirus-shortened season with the seven franchises on this side of the border playing exclusively against each other, is dramatically reduced interest in the other 24 teams on the other side.
Indeed, a phenomenal percentage of Canadian hockey fans who had never been aware of local blackouts of regional games before are fuming at both Sportsnet and TSN for foisting off a game from the U.S. and preventing Canadians from watching Winnipeg versus Ottawa. Who had ever wanted to watch the Jets versus the Senators before?
When it comes to the demand for daily evaluation of the silver seven from the Great White North, how the heck do you do that?
There’s no precedent for these proceedings.
After the Maple Leafs’ win Friday in Toronto, consider some of the things involved so far.
As predicted and projected in this space, with no fans in the stands, there’s been no home-ice advantage. The home teams have nine wins and the away teams have eight. If you add overtime and shootout loser points into the calculations, away teams have three and home teams one.
But take a closer look at those standings.
Montreal and Calgary have yet to suffer a regular-season loss. The Canadiens have yet to play a home game. Calgary hasn’t played anybody for six days and their three games so far involved an overtime loss in Winnipeg and two wins against Vancouver.
There are times to panic and times to park your last game, take the positives out of it and move on to the next one.
Friday night, I believe, was one of those times.
E-mail: [email protected]
On Twitter: @byterryjones
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