Welcome to the seventh edition of "Looking North," our weekly Friday dive into the all-Canadian division. This installment dates back to Feb. 26.
The Maple Leafs took complete command of the division with a convincing three-game sweep over the Oilers. Toronto outscored Edmonton 13-1 while keeping Connor McDavid off the scoresheet and holding Leon Draisaitl to just one assist. What's more impressive is the fact that the Maple Leafs were without Auston Matthews - the league's top goalscorer - and starting netminder Frederik Andersen for the first two contests.
Things are also looking up for the Winnipeg Jets, who've won six of their last seven games and sit second in the division. However, the other five teams in the group continue to search for consistency in their games.
The Flames fired head coach Geoff Ward and replaced him with a familiar voice. Former Calgary bench boss Darryl Sutter is back with the club, and his no-nonsense approach should serve the Flames well after what's been an underwhelming campaign two months in.
Neither the Canucks nor Canadiens have won consecutive games for over a month, and the Senators continue to search for positives amid their rebuilding campaign.
|Team||Points over last week|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||6 (3-1-0)|
|Winnipeg Jets||6 (3-1-0)|
|Vancouver Canucks||4 (2-1-0)|
|Calgary Flames||4 (2-1-0)|
|Montreal Canadiens||4 (1-0-2)|
|Ottawa Senators||2 (1-3-0)|
|Edmonton Oilers||0 (0-3-0)|
Forward: William Nylander was outstanding for the Maple Leafs last week, finding twine in all three wins over the Oilers while also adding one assist. The Swedish winger - who's been criticized at times this season - has 10 goals and 20 points through 25 games this year.
Defenseman: Shutting down the world's top player takes a dual effort, so Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl share this week's honor as top defensemen. The Leafs' shutdown pairing caused headaches for McDavid for three straight games. With Muzzin and Holl matched up against McDavid at five-on-five, Toronto outshot the Oilers 10-9 and didn't allow a goal through 20:05 of ice time, according to The Athletic's Thomas Drance.
Goalie: Thatcher Demko has officially emerged as the Canucks' No. 1 option between the pipes. The 25-year-old has seized control after a shaky start to the season and has allowed the club to pick up a couple of massive wins. Demko won starts against both the Leafs and Jets last week - the top two teams in the division - and allowed just one goal. His 27-save shutout against the Jets was the first of his career.
Paul Stastny's big week played a major role in the Jets' success. The veteran pivot led the club with four goals and was dynamite in the faceoff circle as well, winning 65% of his draws. Stastny's production came at opportune times for the Jets, too. The 35-year-old notched the overtime winner against the Canadiens last Friday, a third-period insurance marker against the Canucks on Tuesday, and again scored in the final frame against Montreal on Thursday.
Spezza goes vintage
The veteran pivot's productive week was highlighted by his beautiful top-shelf tally in the opener of a three-game set with the Oilers. Spezza tallied four points in as many games and is playing at his highest points-per-game rate (0.65) since 2016-17.
Batherson can't stop scoring
The Senators have themselves a gem in Drake Batherson. The 22-year-old scored in his sixth consecutive game with an absolute laser against the Flames last week. He paces Ottawa in both goals (9) and points (18) through 25 games this season.
Dubois sinks Habs in thrilling OT
It's no secret that the Canadiens had an interest in Pierre-Luc Dubois when the budding pivot asked to be traded out of Columbus. But the Quebec native landed in Winnipeg, and on Thursday he made Habs fans wish he donned their colors after a perfect shot in overtime.
Will the real Oilers please stand up? They started the season 3-6-0 before winning 11 of their next 13 games. The Oilers then dropped three straight lifeless games against the Leafs in which they mustered just one goal. Edmonton also followed up a strong campaign in 2019-20 with a four-game series loss to the underdog Chicago Blackhawks in the bubble. It's hard to measure exactly how much the team has grown recently. Hopefully, the coming months will provide Oilers fans with an answer.
Draisaitl didn't hold back when asked about his and McDavid's lack of production as of late. The German star sarcastically answered what he clearly perceived to be a silly question.
"No, we love that," Draisaitl said when asked if he was frustrated by his lack of production. "We love going without a point in three games, for sure."
The Leafs will face their toughest test in recent weeks when they clash with the red-hot Jets in a three-game set that begins Tuesday. These sides have met just once all season, with Toronto winning 3-1. The Leafs have a chance to pad their division lead against their top threat in the north and run away with the group.
It's tough to recall a player haunting their former team the way Tyler Toffoli has tortured the Canucks. The Canadiens winger has eight goals in five games against Vancouver and will look to continue his dominant play in the matchup when the teams meet for a pair of games Monday and Wednesday.