Ramblings: McElhinney Shines; Staal Paces Wild; Tarasenko Does Tarasenko Things – December 11

Michael Clifford

2017-12-11

The big news from Sunday night was that Auston Matthews would miss Toronto’s home game against Edmonton with an “upper-body injury.” He took some friendly fire on Saturday night, colliding hard with Morgan Rielly, leading to some speculation that was when the injury occurred. What the injury actually is I doubt will be revealed by the team, so Matthews owners will just have to kind of play it day by day.

No major lineup moves were made with Matthews out, as Josh Leivo drew into the fourth line and William Nylander was moved up to centre Zach Hyman and Connor Brown. Leivo, by the way, took AM34’s spot on the power play. If there is any significant time missed, he could be a beneficiary, but if he’s locked into a fourth-line role, it’ll be hard to trust him.

*

Curtis McElhinney stopped all 41 shots he faced to help Toronto blank the Oilers 1-0 in their Hometown Hockey matchup. Goalies don’t get 40-plus save shutouts without a bit of luck – Edmonton hit a few posts – but made a few big saves, especially on a full two-minute five-on-three and a Connor McDavid breakaway. He earned this shutout every minute of the game.

The lone goal was a deflection from Zach Hyman 34 seconds into the game.

After the game, Mike Babcock didn’t go further into Matthews’ injury, only saying he hoped he could play Tuesday. Time to play the waiting game. 

*

Most of the talk around the Oilers this year has been the complete mismanagement of the roster and disastrous results this has entailed. All that is fair. However, a shout out to a breakout year (so far) to Darnell Nurse.

Going into Sunday night’s action, Nurse was one of four d-men with at least 10 points, 2.6 shots per game, and 20 penalty minutes (he has 32). For those in leagues with extra peripheral stats, he’s a plus-9 with 100 combined hits and blocked shots. He could be an absolute stats monster even if he only puts up around 25 points this year.

His real-life results are pretty stellar, too. He leads Edmonton blue liners in on-ice five-on-five adjusted shot-share  and expected goals percentage. He’s