The Wraparound: Maple Leafs, Oilers try to rewrite their story

oilers maple leafs game 7
Andy Devlin, Getty Images

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television information.

• Check in with all of Friday’s NHL Stanley Cup playoff action with the NHL Rink Wrap right here

• The Rangers and Stars both forced Game 7s on Sunday with wins Friday night.

• It’s been 26 years but the Panthers are finally heading to the Second Round of the playoffs. 

Every Game 7 is a big game no matter the teams and no matter the round. But two of these Game 7s on Saturday night seem especially big for what they will mean to two franchises that have mostly been punchlines, and two of the NHL’s biggest megastars in Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews.

They are two of the most dynamic players in the league.

McDavid is the league’s most dominant overall offensive force. Matthews is currently the league’s top goal-scorer. Collectively they have won one playoff series in their careers. That lack of playoff success is not necessarily about them, but more so the teams and organizations around them. This current Maple Leafs core has lost five consecutive opening round series (including a qualifying round in the bubble against Columbus), including two where they had chances to close out the series. After dropping Thursday’s Game 6 against Tampa Bay they have now lost eight consecutive games in which they could close out a series, while the organization has still not won a playoff series since the 2004 playoffs. This team cannot go through a sixth consecutive First Round exit with this core and not expect to avoid major changes. If nothing else, the jokes, criticism, and skepticism about how good they actually are will continue.

Toronto did everything they possibly could on Thursday in terms of playing the right way but still managed to lose in unbelievable fashion. They have to change their narrative. If they can overcome Thursday’s loss and beat the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champions in a Game 7 it would go a long way toward doing that. It might actually be the breakthrough this core needs to actually become a serious Stanley Cup contender.

But for all of Toronto’s flaws and playoff shortcomings, they at least consistently get there.

That is not always the case for McDavid and the Oilers. In seven years of the McDavid-Leon Draisaitl era this is only the fourth time they have actually qualified for the playoffs, and that includes the 2020 bubble in which they made the expanded field (and then lost to a bad Chicago team in the qualifying round). Given that the Oilers have had two of the games best offensive players, each of them an MVP, and have failed to even consistently put a playoff team around them is a massive disappointment. The depth scoring has been consistently bad, the defense has been lacking, and they have struggled to find goaltending, while not showing much urgency in fixing any of those flaws while McDavid and Draisaitl are still in their prime years.

What makes the Oilers’ lack of success so frustrating is that when they do get to the playoffs they are not really losing to powerhouse teams or struggling to compete with Stanley Cup contenders. In 2020 they lost three out of four games in the qualifying round to a Chicago Blackhawks team that ranked 23rd in the league standings and only made it to the postseason due to the expanded playoffs. That Chicago team has been one of the league’s absolute worst teams the past four years. A year ago they got swept in four games against a mediocre Winnipeg Jets team that ended up missing the playoffs entirely this season. Now they find themselves in a Game 7 against a rebuilding Los Angeles Kings team that few people expected to even have a chance of making the playoffs. That Kings team also happens to be playing without its top defenseman (Drew Doughty) and one of its top wingers (Viktor Arvidsson). Losing this series, against that team, after losing the previous two series with McDavid and Draisaitl would be brutal for the front office.

These two teams have a chance to change their narratives on the same night. A win at least gives them something to cling onto and build on, both this season and the future. But a loss is just more of the same that is simply not good enough.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

NHL PLAYOFF GAMES TODAY

Game 7: Boston Bruins at Carolina Hurricanes, 4:30 p.m. ET — ESPN, SN360, SNE, SNW, SNP, TVAS (Series tied 3-3): It is kind of shocking this series is even at this point given the way it started and the way the regular season series went. Through their first five head-to-head meetings this season the Hurricanes were 5-0 against the Bruins and had outscored them by a 26-4 margin. In the four games since? The Bruins are 3-1 with a 15-11 goals advantage and are coming off of a dominant, spectacular Game 6 performance on Thursday. Carolina has the home ice, but all bets are off in a Game 7 situation. Carolina is supposed to be one of the top Cup contenders in the NHL while Boston is the team on the downswing (in theory), so you have to assume all of the pressure is on Carolina here.

Game 7: Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m. ET — TNT, CBC, SN, TVAS (Series tied 3-3): The Lightning are looking to keep their quest for back-to-back-to-back championships going with a Game 7 on the road in Toronto. The Maple Leafs are looking to advance to the Second Round for the first time in 18 years and snap an eight-game losing streak with chance to win a series. If Toronto wins this game the narrative around the franchise and this core group of players starts to change. If it does not, it is just more of the same.

Game 7: Los Angeles Kings at Edmonton Oilers, 10 p.m. ET — ESPN, CBC, SN, TVAS (Series tied 3-3): Win or lose this has been a fantastic season for the Kings because this was supposed to be another year in their rebuild. Instead it has been a massive step forward and they are just one win away from making another leap into the Second Round, a situation nobody expected them to be in this season. Especially playing the First Round without Doughty and Arvidsson. All of the pressure, as noted above, is on Edmonton here who desperately needs to take a step of its own here. They are long overdue for progress.

SUNDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 7: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers (Series tied 3-3), 7 p.m. ET — TBS, SNE, SNO, SNP, SN360
Game 7: Dallas Stars at Calgary Flames (Series tied 3-3), 9:30 p.m. ET — ESPN2, SN, TVAS

PHT’s 2022 Stanley Cup previews
Maple Leafs vs. Lightning

Hurricanes vs. Bruins
• Penguins vs. Rangers
Oilers vs. Kings
Flames vs. Stars

First Round, Stanley Cup predictions
Why your team will (and will not) win the Stanley Cup

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