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Edmonton Oilers at Boston Bruins

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A fine way to start our Saturday. Final Score: 4-1 Oilers

As I wrote in this morning’s GDB, the biggest key to this game, to me, was paying attention to the details in all three zones on the ice to try and limit the Bruins’ ability to attack as much as possible. With the ability to get scoring from throughout their lineup, Boston can be a real handful if you’re playing loose defensively and that made me nervous considering our boys have basically been a colander in the d-zone lately. Needless to say, giving the Bruins more chances than they’ll already manufacture for themselves is a horrible idea and something that the Oilers had to eliminate from their game if they had any chance of pulling two points out of this game.

Over the past couple of games, the Oilers have come out flying and gotten the kind of starts we’ve all been yearning for, but haven’t been able to finish off as strongly. Today, I was hoping that they’d, once again, hit the ground running while also finding a way to maintain the effort for 60 minutes. It was a simple dream but it was a beautiful one. Unfortunately, it was the Bruins that got themselves on the board in the opening minutes despite a strong road period for the Oilers and the boys were forced to chase a team that doesn’t cough up leads very often. Moving into the second period, Edmonton needed to keep chipping away as they had been in the opening frame to try and build upon the foundation they started putting down. Thanks to some hard work and a little bit of luck, they were able to score two unanswered goals, grab the lead, and give themselves a chance for a win with 20 minutes to play.

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Heading into the third period with a one-goal lead, the Oilers had to make sure that they didn’t simply sit back and hope to run out the clock as they did against the Sabres. We all knew that Boston would push hard to try and tie things up, and it was up to the boys to make sure that they couldn’t execute. Much to our collective delight, the Oilers kept chipping away and attacking as they could, even extending their lead to two goals on a beautiful passing play from Kassian to McDavid. While the Bruins were certainly running the show in the third period, the Oilers didn’t look as helpless as they had been in their last two outings. Up by two goals with time running out, Edmonton did a fine job of bending without breaking to the Boston pressure that we all knew was coming and they managed to squeak out a fantastic road win in a very tough building.

The wrap.

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  • Gaetan Haas tied the game up at one after the gift pass he got from Jake DeBrusk and sunk the puck through Halak’s legs for his fourth goal of the season. I just want to take a second to appreciate Haas a little bit. Of all the scratch tickets Holland signed this summer, Haas has been the most effective in his role and I look forward to seeing what he’ll be able to do as he continues to get more at-bats at the NHL level.
  • After going more than 30 games without a goal, Darnell Nurse gave the Oilers a 2-1 lead with a wide-angle snapshot that beat Halak on the short side. Clearly, the Boston goaltender was unhappy about the brutal softie he let in with only six seconds left in the second period, but that doesn’t matter to us since it was just so nice to be on the other end of one of these for once.
  • Connor McDavid put the Oilers up by a pair of goals after he took a beautiful spinning pass from Zack Kassian in full flight and beat Halak with a quick wrister to the blocker side. McDavid was flying all game long and it seemed like only a matter of time before he’d be able to convert on one of his many chances.
  • Leon Draisaitl put the final nail in the coffin with an empty netter in the dying seconds of the third period to seal the deal for the Edmonton Oilers. Drai finished the day with a pair of points as he looks to be getting himself back into form after a very tough December.
  • Mike Smith got a second straight start as Mikko Koskinen continues to battle whatever illness Dave Tippett was talking about the other day, and the Oilers were going to need him to be at the top of his game against the Bruins. To his credit, Smith was rock solid from start to finish and gave the Oilers the kind of goaltending that allowed them to weather any storms they faced and gain the confidence they needed to move the play down up ice. In the third period, Smith really shone as he made some tremendous saves that halted the Bruins attack and allowed his team to bend without breaking, something that hasn’t happened a whole lot over the past few games, and he deserves major credit for the way he stepped up. Smith finished the day with 35 saves and a .972 save%.
  • Kailer Yamamoto continues to impress since being recalled from the Bakersfield Condors last week and I can’t help but wonder if he’s seen his last AHL game of the season. Yeah, I know that’s pretty premature to say after only three games but you have to admit that he adds a different flavour to a top-six group that desperately needed one.
  • Speaking of Yamamoto, I still really like the trio of Nuge-Draisaitl-Yamamoto and I hope that Dave Tippett gives these three a stretch of games together so that they can further develop some chemistry. Could it be that the Oilers finally have a second line?
  • Oscar Klefbom continues to log huge minutes for the Oilers, playing 28:22 in all situations while adding two shots on goal, two blocks, and a +2 beside his name.
  • Gotta love the boys winning 56% of the draws against a veteran team like the Bruins!

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  • David Pastrnak opened the scoring for the Bruins with a power play goal less than four minutes into the game with a blast through traffic that deflected off Kris Russell and beat Smith high to the glove side. Not a great start for the Oilers to say the least.
  • Oilers went 0/2 on the power play today and I felt like they kept getting caught trying to force cross-ice passes that just weren’t there. I know that moving the puck through the slot has been something that has worked for them all season long, but I can’t help but feel like they need to add in a Plan B when it’s not working.
  • I thought the Oilers took their foot off the gas a little bit in the third period, and they were lucky to get some very strong goaltending from Mike Smith. That said, we all knew that Boston was going to be pushing hard for the tying goal and, all things considered, I felt like the boys did a decent job of defending the lead.
  • Why do the Oilers have such a hard time hitting empty nets? I know Yamamoto got one against the Rangers and that Leon finally cashed on in late, but it seems like the boys really struggle to close things out with a wide open cage.
  • Oilers were outshot 36-26 as 21 of those shots for Boston came in the third period. Again, thanks to Mike Smith for this one.
  • It wasn’t a great day for Kris Russell as the vet played only 11:51 which is obviously problematic for a guy they’re paying $4 million. He can be better.

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1ST PERIOD

TIME TEAM DETAILS SCORE
03:10 Boston PPG – David Pastrnak (31) ASST: Torey Krug (23), Brad Marchand (40) 0-1

2ND PERIOD

TIME TEAM DETAILS SCORE
07:41 Edmonton Gaetan Haas (4) 1-1
19:53 Edmonton Darnell Nurse (3) ASST: Leon Draisaitl (41) 2-1

3RD PERIOD

TIME TEAM DETAILS SCORE
01:48 Edmonton Connor McDavid (23) ASST: Zack Kassian (15), Ethan Bear (10) 3-1
19:51 Edmonton EN – Leon Draisaitl (24) 4-1

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Olympics-Small minority of U.S. Olympians oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandate, say officials

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The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said on Monday its decision to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for those competing at next year’s Beijing Olympics has been met with some resistance.

In a bid to create a safe environment and restore some level of consistency in planning, the USOPC announced last month that Team USA athletes hoping to compete in the Beijing Olympics will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The response is as you would expect: Within our general population, there are some people who are extremely happy that we introduced this policy,” Jonathan Finnoff, the USOPC’s chief medical officer, said during the virtual Team USA media summit.

“And there are others that are upset and would like to not have any mandate regarding vaccinations.”

According to Finnoff, it is only a “very small minority” of Team USA athletes who oppose the mandate and the USOPC is having one-on-one conversations with each one to discuss their feelings and explain why the decision was made.

Last month’s announcement by the USOPC came days before the International Olympic Committee said the Beijing Olympics would have tight COVID-19 measures in place to ensure the safety of all participants during the Feb. 4-20 event.

Finnoff said the “more stringent” Beijing measures, which he added unlike the USOPC’s rules will not grant religious exemption, would supersede the  U.S. policy.

Any athlete who is granted a medical exemption will have to go through a 21-day quarantine in Beijing before they can begin training ahead of their event.

“These are challenging times but the vaccine policy that we’ve put in place and that China has put in place is going to make the Games as safe as possible,” said Finnoff.

USOPC Chief Executive Sarah Hirshland said the COVID-19 mandate is all about the safety and health of the team.

“The presence of this virus makes the challenge greater for all of us in a Games environment but we are committed to doing everything we can to mitigate illness and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Hirshland.

 

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Atlantic Division Preview: Nets remain title contender despite Irving drama – Sportsnet.ca

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The NBA is back, and Sportsnet is breaking down everything you need to know about each of the 30 teams in the lead-up to tipoff on Tuesday, Oct. 19.

Today, we look at best- and worst-case scenarios for the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division. (Teams are listed in the order in which we believe they’ll finish in the 2021–22 standings.)

Brooklyn Nets

2020–21 finish: 48-24, second in the Atlantic, lost in the second round.

Major additions: DeAndre’ Bembry, James Johnson, Patty Mills, Paul Millsap.

Major subtractions: Jeff Green, Mike James.

Best-case scenario: Don’t let the Kyrie Irving drama distract you from the fact that the Nets should be an elite title contender. Even if Irving doesn’t play this season – choosing to sit out on his ill-intentioned anti-vaccine stance – the Nets should still be alright because this is a team that still features James Harden and probably the best player in the world today Kevin Durant, along with a star-studded supporting cast including Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, plus sharpshooters Joe Harris and newcomer Patty Mills. So even without Irving, the Nets should be considered a legitimate contender and their goal of a championship shouldn’t change.

Worst-case scenario: The talent is there, and hopefully so will the health to allow this team to make a playoff run proper. But outside bad injury luck, the worst thing that could happen to this Nets team is if Irving proves to be too much of a distraction this season and it begins to impact his teammates on the floor. For as talented as Irving is, he doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being a great locker room presence and there’s bound to be a time when the constant questions about him will grate on his teammates. How the Nets themselves deal with it will be interesting to witness.

2021–22 season prediction: 56-26, first in the East.

Philadelphia 76ers

2020–21 finish: 49-23, first in the Atlantic, lost in the second round.

Major additions: Andre Drummond.

Major subtractions: George Hill.

Best-case scenario: The best thing that the 76ers can do for themselves is to find an amicable end to this saga they’ve had going with Ben Simmons dating back to the off-season. Even if it means that the Sixers will need to get pennies on the dollar for Simmons he can’t be with the team anymore. Philly is a legitimate power in the Eastern Conference with realistic championship expectations that can’t be met if Simmons remains with the team.

Worst-case scenario: It feels like the Sixers are going to try to re-integrate Simmons back into the team, which, on one hand does kind of make sense given his talents, but to do so feels like a major mistake and will result in tempers eventually boiling over later in the season that could de-rail everything for the 76ers.

2021–22 season prediction: 49-33, third in the East.

Boston Celtics

2020–21 finish: 36-36, fourth in the Atlantic, lost in the first round.

Major additions: Al Horford, Enes Kanter, Josh Richardson, Dennis Schroder, new head coach Ime Udoka.

Major subtractions: Evan Fournier, Tristan Thompson, Kemba Walker.

Best-case scenario: The Celtics shook up their front office with Brad Stevens succeeding Danny Ainge as the president of basketball operations and then removing himself as head coach, opting to hire long-time NBA assistant Ime Udoka as the new bench boss. Under Udoka, the Celtics are going to want to play a more modern, ball-movement-focused offence which could prove beneficial for the team’s two stars of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Boston looks like good team, but compared to the likes of Brooklyn and Milwaukee it feels like there’s still some more left to be desired, even given how good Tatum and Brown are.

Worst-case scenario: The Celtics need to keep their house in order. During the pre-season both Brown and Al Horford have been forced into health and safety protocols. Given the fact the season is just getting underway this won’t impact Boston all that much, but it can’t be allowed to happen again.

2021–22 season prediction: 44-38, sixth in the East.

New York Knicks

2020–21 finish: 41-31, third in the Atlantic, lost in the first round.

Major additions: Kemba Walker.

Major subtractions: Reggie Bullock, Frank Ntilikina, Elfrid Payton.

Best-case scenario: The Knicks finally returned to the playoffs last season, and it wasn’t by fluke. The addition of Tom Thibodeau as head coach, the emergence of Julius Randle becoming an all-star and the step forward that R.J. Barrett took, not to mention the steady play of Derrick Rose coming off the bench all played significant factors in a good 2020-21 campaign for New York and now with the addition of Kemba Walker, who has had many memorable moments in Madison Square Garden dating back to his time in college, the Knicks added another dangerous offensive weapon to the mix. They didn’t get much better, but they also didn’t get much worse, either, meaning they should have a very similar season to their last one.

Worst-case scenario: The end of Walker’s tenure in Boston wasn’t the greatest as injuries robbed him of his signature quickness, plus his fit with Tatum and Brown wasn’t the best as all three needed the ball in their hands to be most effective. A similar situation could shape up in New York with Walker sharing the ball with Randle and Barrett. Hopefully, Walker will take a bit of a step back to let the Knicks’ true stars take over, but that’s not a guarantee.

2021–22 season prediction: 43-39, seventh in the East.

Toronto Raptors

2020–21 finish: 27-45, fifth in the Atlantic, didn’t qualify for the post-season.

Major additions: Precious Achiuwa, Dalano Banton (R), Scottie Barnes (R), Goran Dragic.

Major subtractions: Aron Baynes, DeAndre’ Bembry, Kyle Lowry.

Best-case scenario: The Raptors are, perhaps, the hardest team to figure out this season. They appear to be a club that’s trying to thread the needle by simultaneously keeping a small competitive window open while also trying to re-tool and shoot back up to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Given the championship-calibre talent on the roster, it’s feasible to think they’ll be able to do it, and No. 4 overall pick Scottie Barnes looks like the kind of high-ceiling talent who’ll be able to help push the Raptors towards that inevitable goal. For this season, if Toronto can reach the play-in tournament and even the post-season, proper it’ll be a successful season.

Worst-case scenario: Unfortunately, what the Raptors appear to be attempting is incredibly difficult and for all the optimism you can point to in regards to the roster, you can also find some worrying flaws and difficulties, such as how this team will score consistently – particularly with Pascal Siakam not expected to be in the lineup until closer to U.S. Thanksgiving – and whether this experiment of going all-in on “position-less” basketball will actually work. If things go awry it could lead to Toronto stuck in a no-man’s land position where they won’t be good enough to compete for a post-season spot, but not bad enough to get a high draft pick again – that is, unless Lady Luck decides to smile on them once again.

2021–22 season prediction: 38-44, 11th in the East.

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Ex-Bears Star Wanted To Punch Aaron Rodgers' Face Over 'Still Own You' Taunt – TMZ

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