NHL hockey has been going through one giant makeover over the last 10 years. From lockouts to realignments, from rule changes to taking inches and inches off of goalie pads, that old-fashioned brand of hockey that once was seems to have been forgotten.
That is of course until two teams that still enjoy that bump-and-grind style of hockey suddenly find themselves on each other’s schedule and look forward to the day where they can have some real fun on the ice.
When the 1-3 Edmonton Oilers visit the 4-1 Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada tonight, don’t expect it to be one for the faint-hearted. These two teams are going to go at each other immediately in a good old-fashioned barn burner. Ryan Smyth will bring his gritty style of play for the Oilers, while one has to wonder if Maple Leafs tough guy Colton Orr is going to scrap it out with former teammate Mike Brown.
Both Orr and Brown rank amongst the league’s highest when it comes down to penalty minutes. I’d say they are good to drop their gloves at least once tomorrow night. There’s nothing like saying hello to an old friend.
While the tough guys will have their time to shine, we should also expect the young guns to show off their talent in a game that boasts two of hockey’s youngest and perhaps most talented franchises heading towards the future.
Expect big games from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov for the Oilers. These are players that have yet to break out like everyone thought they would after being premier draft picks over recent years. For the Maple Leafs, expect with what looks to be the usual with Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak having an all-around solid effort and putting a couple pucks in the net between the few of them.
Saturday night could also mark the first time in a while that the Maple Leafs may have a no. 1 goaltender. After years of going with the goalie by committee motto in Toronto, Jonathan Bernier would seem as though he has solidified himself as the team’s no. 1 guy between the pipes.
Whenever two Canadian teams clash in the NHL, you have to expect it to be a lot more eventful than most games play out to be. These two teams don’t meet often, which only means they have to make it interesting when they have the opportunity to do so. Expect a wild one in downtown Toronto on Saturday night.