Edmonton Oilers emerge as serious Stanley Cup contender
At this point, it is difficult not to see the Oilers as a serious contender to win the Stanley Cup. They had the best record in the NHL in March, boast the league’s top two offensive players and have much-improved goaltending.
They are two points behind Vegas with five games left in the regular season but are on a trajectory to win the Pacific Division and finish as the No. 1 team in the Western Conference.
On Saturday night Edmonton beat up on the Anaheim Ducks and officially clinched a playoff spot in a game in which Leon Draisaitl scored on a power play, short-handed and at even strength to reach 50 goals on the campaign.
It is the second successive year he has scored 50 or more and the third time in his career. Over the past five seasons he has more goals (229) than any other player. In that span Auston Matthews is second with 222 and Connor McDavid is third with 214.
The latter got his 62nd on Saturday and is now just four points shy of 150. The Oilers are the first team to have two 50-goal scorers since 1995-96 when Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr did it for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It is not out of the question that they will have three 100-point scorers: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has 97, a career best, and Draisaitl has 120. If Nugent-Hopkins reaches the milestone, Edmonton will be the first team with three since Jagr, Lemieux and Ron Francis did it, also in 1995-96.
This is the fourth consecutive year the Oilers have reached the postseason. A year ago they lost to the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche in the Western Conference final.
It is hard to compare them but, with the exception of the Boston Bruins, the Pacific is likely just as tough as the Atlantic Division. Edmonton is 13-2-1 in its past 16 and 9-0-1 over its past 10 and has had to be to keep up in the standings. As of Sunday, Vegas was 7-2-1 in its past 10, Los Angeles was 6-2-2 and so was Calgary.
There are lots of iterations but here is an interesting one: The Flames have won three in a row to vie for a wild-card spot and could possibly face the Oilers in the first round if Edmonton wins the conference title.
Only a month ago the two teams that participated in a huge off-season trade – Calgary and Florida – looked as though they had little hope of going anywhere. The Panthers have at least temporarily passed Pittsburgh in the race for the second wild card.
The Oilers went 12-2-1 in March to match a franchise record for wins and points in a calendar month. McDavid was chosen as the NHL’s first star for March with 11 goals and 18 assists. Draisaitl was the second star; all he did was put up 11 goals and 17 assists.
Stuart Skinner, the team’s No. 1 goaltender, was the league’s rookie of the month. He went 10-1-1, winning one more time in 30 days than any netminder in Edmonton history. That’s right. Not even Grant Fuhr won more than nine in a month.
A lot of things seem to have come together at the right time for the Oilers. Nugent-Hopkins (35 goals) and Zach Hyman (34) are providing secondary scoring, Evander Kane has returned to form after a serious injury, Darnell Nurse registered his 42nd point on Saturday and Mattias Ekholm has made the defence much more formidable.
Even Jack Campbell, who has had a terrible first year with the Oilers, contributed with 36 saves and a shutout against the Ducks.
Skinner shut out Los Angeles on Thursday.
“My game hasn’t been at the level I expect it to be at any point this year,” Campbell, who lost the starting job to Skinner, said afterward. “Tonight was a great step for me personally.”
Campbell, who signed with Edmonton after three years in Toronto, is unlikely to see much if any action during the playoffs. But until now he has looked like the team’s weakest link and just pitched a shutout.
“He is such a great guy,” Draisaitl said. “All year he has been one of the best teammates I have ever been around whether things have gone his way or not. Hopefully this will turn a corner for him.
“Sometimes it takes a little longer when you join a new team.”
The Oilers look ready for another postseason run right now.
“You might look at me and shake your head because we just set a record for our organization with 12 wins in the month of March, but I think there is more there,” said Jay Woodcroft, the head coach. “We can develop a level of consistency to our game night in and night out that will prove very difficult starting in Game 83.”
Jubilant Latvians given national holiday after shock ice hockey win over USA
Latvians woke up to go to work Monday morning, only to find they didn’t have to. Their parliament had met at midnight to declare a holiday after the national ice hockey team chalked up its best result at the world championship.
Latvia, where hockey is hugely popular, co-hosted the men’s championship with Finland, and the country’s 4-3 overtime victory over the United States for the bronze medal on Sunday was greeted with jubilation.
A plane bringing the team home from Finland flew at low altitude over central Riga on Monday to greet thousands of fans who had gathered to welcome the squad.
At quarter to midnight on Sunday, members of parliament, sporting red-and-white national team jerseys, convened for a 10-minute session to unanimously declare the holiday.
It was “to strengthen the fact of significant success of Latvian athletes in the social memory of the society,” according to the bill’s sponsors.
The bill was introduced by a smiling member of parliament with her face painted in the colors of the national flag. Another giggled while trying to read out the names of absent parliamentarians, to laughter from many in the hall. There was an ovation from everyone present after the final vote.
But as dawn broke, there was confusion about who was working and who was not. Court hearings were canceled and schools and universities were closed, but national exams for high school students went ahead, with staff paid at holiday rates. Several hospitals chose to stay open to honor doctor appointments.
Businesses found themselves in some disarray, with Aigars Rostovskis, the president of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, telling public broadcaster LSM: “It will be chaos for many.”
Canada won the gold medal, the team’s record 28th world title, by defeating Germany 5-2 on Sunday.
Kamloops Blazers rout Peterborough Petes 10-2 in Memorial Cup – ESPN – ESPN India
KAMLOOPS, British Columbia — Logan Stankoven had a goal and four assists, Connor Levis had a goal and two assists and the Kamloops Blazers routed the Ontario Hockey League champion Peterborough Petes 10-2 in the Memorial Cup on Sunday.
The win came after Kamloops defenseman Kyle Masters was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he was hit and fell backward into the corner boards with less than seven minutes remaining. There was no immediate word on Masters’ condition.
Ryan Michael, Fraser Minten, Ashton Ferster, Matthew Seminoff, Dylan Sydor, Jakub Demek, Matthew Seminoff and Ryan Hofer each scored goals for the Blazers, who bounced back from an 8-3 loss to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Quebec Remparts on Friday night.
Caedan Bankier and Olen Zellweger also added two assists each for the Blazers, who scored four power-play goals and improved to 1-1 in the four-team, 10-day tournament.
Peterborough dropped to 0-2 and must beat Quebec on Tuesday to advance.
IIHF Hockey: Canada downs Germany 5-2
TAMPERE, Finland –
Sammy Blais scored twice as Canada beat Germany 5-2 to capture gold at the men’s world hockey championship today.
Lawson Crouse, captain Tyler Toffoli and Scott Laughton also scored, and Peyton Krebs pitched in two assists for Canada.
“It feels really good,” Blais said. “We’ve been in Europe for a month and we’ve all waited for that moment to play for the gold-medal game. And we’re lucky enough to have won it.”
JJ Peterka and Daniel Fischbuch scored for Germany, which was in the gold-medal game for the first time since 1992 when the playoff format was introduced at the world championship. Moritz Seider added two assists.
Goaltender Samuel Montembeault made 21 saves for Canada, while German netminder Mathias Niederberger turned away 23 shots.
Canada won gold for the second time in three years after losing to Finland in overtime in last year’s world championship gold-medal game. It’s Canada’s 28th title at the event, the most of any country. Canada also has 16 silver and eight bronze medals from the tourney since 1931.
“I could not be more proud of this group. We battled through a lot of adversity and doubt to get to this point, and this win is so special,” Toffoli said. “We have such a close-knit team that came together quickly, and we always believed in each other.
“Everyone bought in and we played a great game today, and I am incredibly happy to be going back to Canada with a gold medal.”
Peterka opened the scoring for Germany at 7:44 of the first period with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle off a breakout that beat Montembeault.
Blais responded three minutes later, scoring in his third consecutive game after finishing off a pass from centre Peyton Krebs on a two-on-one to tie the game at 1-1.
Fischbuch gave Germany the lead again on a one-timer from the slot that trickled into the net 13:47 into the second period.
Canada replied with Crouse deflecting a pass from Krebs on the power play with 2:32 remaining in the second frame.
Blais then buried his second of the game 4:51 into the third period with a backhand off a rebound to put Canada ahead.
Toffoli added an insurance marker with eight minutes left, scoring with a wrist shot on a two-on-one to make it 4-2 in favour of Canada.
Laughton scored into an empty net with two minutes left to put the game out of reach.
“The commitment of everyone on our team was unbelievable. We knew we had to come here and play for each other and commit to a team game. We came here to represent Canada and make our country proud, and I am so blessed to be a part of this group,” said head coach Andre Tourigny.
“Our players wanted to win so bad. They wanted to bring a gold medal back to Canada, and when you have that mindset you can accomplish great things, and we did that tonight.”
Following the gold-medal game, MacKenzie Weegar was named best defenceman of the tournament and was selected to the media all-star team. Crouse, Montembeault and Weegar were also named Team Canada’s three best players of the tournament following the semifinals.
LATVIA 4 UNITED STATES 3 (OT)
Defenceman Kristian Rubins scored his second goal 1:22 into overtime to lead Latvia to victory over the United States and earn a bronze medal earlier Sunday.
It’s the first top-three finish for Latvia at the tournament. Its previous best was a seventh place it managed three times.
The U.S. lost in the bronze-medal game for the second straight year. The U.S. team was cruising through the tournament with eight straight wins until it was defeated by Germany in the semifinal, 4-3 in overtime.
Rubins rallied Latvia with his first with 5:39 to go in the final period to tie the game at -33 to force overtime.
Roberts Bukarts and Janis Jaks also scored for Latvia.
Rocco Grimaldi scored twice for the U.S. in the opening period to negate Latvia’s 1-0 and 2-1 leads.
Matt Coronato had put the U.S. 3-2 ahead 6:19 into the final period.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2023.
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