The Toronto Maple Leafs will face-off against the Edmonton Oilers tonight and it could have been a classic. Instead, there will be no fans in attendance and Connor McDavid will miss the game.
When the Toronto Maple Leafs face the Edmonton Oilers every year, it’s a battle between two similar markets and two of the best players in the world. Auston Matthews is arguably the best goal-scorer, while Connor McDavid is clearly the best point producer.
They’re both still in their prime (or maybe haven’t even hit it yet), so it’s the closest thing we have to Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin in today’s modern game.
However, tonight’s match-up is a lot different because McDavid is unfortunately out of the line-up, after testing positive for Covid. Matthews also had a Covid-scare but he cleared protocols and will now be playing against a McDavid-less Oilers team.
Joining McDavid on the Covid-list is former Leafs defenseman, Tyson Barrie and forward Derek Ryan.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Oilers
By all accounts, all three players are feeling fine and don’t have many symptoms, which is great news. However, based on protocols, they unfortunately can’t play, even if they feel great. It’s an unfortunate situation, but that’s how it goes in the pandemic-world we’re all living in.
Besides missing out on a Matthews vs. McDavid showdown, the biggest storyline within this game is the return of Zach Hyman.
"“It’ll be a little different without fans, so it will feel like a scrimmage with those guys. It would have been a lot more meaningful if we had a full building worth of fans, but it’ll still be something that I’ll remember, playing against these guys,” said Hyman (via: Toronto Sun)"
Hyman was beloved by every Leafs fan, similar to how someone like Darcy Tucker, Gary Roberts or Tie Domi were during the 2000s. He wasn’t the best player on the team during his era, but he did all the dirty-work and played hard during every whistle. Toronto fans love the blue-collar player more than their superstar, so seeing him return in front of a full-building would have been a spectacular feeling.
Instead of seeing that return, Hyman can’t even enjoy the moment with friends and family as Scotiabank Arena is not allowing any fans in the building for tonight’s game.
Since there are no fans, it’ll be interesting to see if the in-arena team will do a “Welcome Zach Hyman Tribute Video,” or if they’ll wait until there are fans in the building, because that’s always a special moment. I’m sure it’ll still be weird for Hyman to return to the building he spent so much time in, even without fans, but it definitely won’t be the same if there were over 19,000 people in attendance.
Expect another high-scoring game as the Oilers have been struggling tremendously, while the Leafs are back to full-strength.
Although my predictions never pan out, we’re going to go with a 5-2 Leafs victory, which includes a goal by the hometown kid Hyman, as well as two (!!) goals scored by Matthews.