Edmontonians were guzzling champagne, lighting fireworks and blasting noise makers all over town Tuesday night.
Plus, it was also New Year’s Eve.
With all due respect to the turn of the decade, the 60 minutes of chaos at Rogers Place stole the celebration spotlight for hockey fans in Edmonton.
First, they were dancing in the aisles as the Oilers crawled out of their month-long funk to take a 6-0 lead on the visiting New York Rangers, then they were falling to their knees and giving thanks after they survived what would have been a catastrophic and historic third period collapse.
Somehow, in a stunning turn of events the Oilers still can’t fully explain, and don’t really want to, they let a 6-0 lead after 39 minutes deteriorate into 6-5 with 3:45 to play.
“We came out hard and strong in the first two periods and then we kind of sat back,” said Josh Archibald, whose goal to make it 6-0 at 15:04 of the second period somehow turned out to be the winner in a 7-5 thriller.
“We didn’t play our game, we were sitting back in our own zone waiting for them to pass the puck instead of going at them and playing our game.”
And the result was as mind-numbing as anything we’ve seen from this team in years. Maybe ever, considering that no club in the 102-year history of the NHL has ever come back to win after trailing 6-0.
“When I scored (to make it 6-0), I never would have thought that would have been the game winning goal,” said Archibald.
No kidding. It wasn’t until Kailer Yamamoto slide one into an empty net at 18:53 that anyone could exhale.
“At the end of the day we won the game,” said James Neal, who had a hat-trick in the win. “We’ll never turn down two points. You just move on and take the positives out of the game.
“The first two periods were really good, our special teams were good, I really liked our start. Obviously our mind wandered in the third and we kind of got ahead of ourselves in the third. It’s a fast league and that’s what happens sometimes. It’s a good win.”
They started out exactly how the Oilers wanted. It was as if all the things that have been ailing them in December were cured in 40 minutes.
Slow starts? Neal makes it 1-0 at 11 seconds.
Over passing? Oscar Klefbom floats a harmless looking point shot that Neal deflects in to make it 2-0.
Costly lulls? Ryan Nugent-Hopkins deflects another one home to make it 3-0 Oilers at the first intermission.
Leon Draisaitl playing like (bleep)? He scores a back-breaker in the second period.
Power play losing steam? James Neal completes the hat-trick on Edmonton’s third power play goal of the night.
Secondary scoring? Josh Archibald makes it 6-0 with Edmonton’s third goal in less than four minutes.
It was over. The Rangers were dead and buried.
Right up until they weren’t.
Chris Kreider scored in the final minute of the second period. No big deal.
Ryan Strome scored at 4:48 of the third. Oh well.
Then Marc Stall at 11:29 and Artemi Panarin at 11:29 and 12:07 struck fear in the hearts of everyone in the building.
When Mike Zibanejad made it 6-5, you could have heard a pin drop.
“You try to stay calm,” said Nugent-Hopkins, who had a four-point night. “We played so well in the first couple of periods. When it’s going like that, you just have to stay calm and remain confident in what we can do.
“We got a little passive in the third. They have some high end skill that will make you pay if you sit back too much, but at the end of the day we got the two points and we’re happy with the win.”
It got crazy, and it very nearly turned into something they might have never recovered from, but all they’re going to focus on is the final score.
“We weren’t saying the sky was falling in, that’s for sure,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “We were just saying play, make some good plays. When a team is down 6-1 they are just throwing everything at the net.
“We made a couple of mistakes and they got some momentum and it starts running. But there was no panic on the bench. It was just get the job done, and we got the job done.
Follow me on twitter.com/rob_tychkowski
UK Authorities Allege Russian Hackers Targeted the 2020 Olympics – Gizmodo
As if the 2020 Olympics haven’t had enough hurdles to contend with, it looks like we can add cyberattacks to the list. Earlier today, UK officials put out a memo noting that hackers working with the GRU—Russia’s military intelligence agency—had carried out numerous cyberattacks against major sponsors, organizers, and other key players at this year’s Olympic Games, which were scheduled to take place in Tokyo over the summer before they were postponed.
While authorities across the pond didn’t go into detail about what these cyberattacks looked like, there’s a chance the actors involved could be related to the six GRU agents who were just indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for carrying out years of cyberattacks targeting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the 2017 French presidential election, and more.
As part of his statement on the recent string of Olympics hacks originating from Russian soil, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also explained exactly what went down in 2018 as part of his statement. At the time, the GRU deployed a strain of VPNFilter malware against the IT systems running the Winter Games meant to either wipe data from those computers and networks or disable them entirely. While administrators at the time were able to isolate the buggy devices and replace them in time to get the Olympics back on track with minimal disruption, it was still clear to the UK’s cyber authorities that this was a move on Russia’s part to completely “sabotage” the entire process of the Winter Olympics.
The DOJ’s own indictment goes into further detail, noting that hosts, participants, and attendees of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics—not to mention South Korean citizens, officials, and athletes—were attacked with “spearphishing campaigns and malicious mobile applications” meant to hoover sensitive data from their devices.
There’s a good chance that the current cyberattack—like the attack back in 2018—can be tied back to Russian athletes being excluded from the Olympics over longstanding doping violations. In 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency formally banned Russia from competing in the Olympics for the next four years, also barring the country from hosting international events on its home turf. At the time, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev chocked the ban up to “chronic anti-Russian hysteria.”
But the latest round of indictments against the six GRU officers seems to be anything but.
“For more than two years we have worked tirelessly to expose these Russian GRU Officers who engaged in a global campaign of hacking, disruption, and destabilization,” U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady said in a statement, noting that these attacks, stretching back to 2015, tallied up to be “the most destructive and costly cyberattacks in history.”
“The crimes committed by Russian government officials were against real victims who suffered real harm,” he added.
Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Marlies News & Player Signings – The Hockey Writers
The Toronto Marlies are the primary development program for the Toronto Maple Leafs, so it makes sense to stay up-to-date with what’s happening within their AHL affiliate. This is especially true regarding the players the Marlies are signing because they might soon make their way to the Maple Leafs’ roster.
In fact, at the end of the 2019-20 regular season, nine players who “developed” with the Marlies were in Toronto including Travis Dermott, Pierre Engvall, Justin Holl, Zach Hyman, Martin Marincin, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly, Calle Rosen, and Rasmus Sandin. Frederik Gauthier was also included in this group, but he wasn’t qualified by the team.
In addition, because Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas must plan for a 2020-21 season that’s still in the shadows, he’s become even more creative in how he utilizes the Maple Leafs and the Marlies as a way to rest players and take advantage of the organization’s depth by setting up a revolving door between the two clubs.
In some cases, this would allow for greater movement – much of it waiver-exempt – between the NHL and the AHL teams and assigning contracts to the Marlies means they don’t count against the Maple Leafs’ cap.
Item One: Marlies Sign Scott Sabourin to an AHL Contract
Last week, the Marlies signed Scott Sabourin to an AHL contract. Sabourin is not a new name. In fact, he was one of the feel-good stories of last season when, after playing with eight different minor-league teams, he finally made his NHL debut at the age of 27. He played 35 games with the Ottawa Senators during the 2019-20 season, scoring two goals and four assists.
Sabourin has played in 308 AHL regular-season games with five teams (the Manchester Monarchs, Iowa Wild, Ontario Reign, San Diego Gulls, and the Stockton Heat) and scored 77 points (37 goals, 40 assists) He could rise to take a spot on the Maple Leafs’ roster; but, having an AHL contract is limiting. Specifically, his contract does not allow him to be called up unless the Maple Leafs sign him to an NHL contract when he arrives in Toronto.
Item Two: Long-Time Marlie Richard Clune Returns to the Team
Richard Clune signed a one-year AHL contract with the Marlies. Clune scored three goals and four points in 16 AHL contests in 2019-20. Although the 33-year-old has played 139 NHL games during his career, he hasn’t skated for an NHL team since 2015-16.
Clune has been a good soldier for the Marlies and is valuable in an on-ice leadership capacity. During his five Marlies seasons as an alternate captain, he’s scored 43 points (18 goals, 25 assists) in 164 regular-season games. He’s a native of Toronto and helped the Marlies win the 2018 Calder Cup.
Since he was selected by the Dallas Stars in the third round (71st overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Clune has played more than 600 games at the NHL and AHL levels. He’s been a mainstay on the Marlies for several seasons, and it’s good to see him re-signed.
Item Three: Rourke Chartier Signs a One-Year AHL Contract with the Marlies.
Rourke Chartier is another depth forward general manager Dubas has signed. At 24 years old, he has played a lot of hockey; however, injuries didn’t allow him to play at all during the 2019-20 season. By signing Chartier, Dubas is taking a chance the young player can get his career back on track.
During the 2018-19 season, he split time with the San Jose Sharks and their AHL affiliate the San Jose Barracuda. He scored a goal in 13 games with the Sharks and six goals and 18 points in 26 games with the Barracuda. In total, the native of Saskatoon has played 121-career AHL regular-season games, scoring 74 points (30 goals, 44 assists).
Similar to several other Dubas signees, Chartier has a history of on-ice leadership. He played for the Kelowna Rockets when they won the 2014-15 WHL Championship and served as an alternate captain for two seasons.
Item Four: The Marlies Sign forward Tyler Gaudet to a One-Year AHL Contract
The 27-year-old Tyler Gaudet signed a one-year contract. Gaudet is not a new player with the Marlies. He played in 58 games during the 2019-20 season and scored four goals and 17 assists. He’s a long-time AHL player and, during his 356 regular-season AHL games, Gaudet has scored 43 goals and 86 assists (129 points).
Gaudet is a native of southern Ontario (Hamilton) and has NHL experience, playing in 20 career NHL regular-season games with the Arizona Coyotes, where he scored a goal and three assists.
Item Five: The Marlies Sign Defenceman Riley McCourt to a Two-Year AHL Contract
In signing Riley McCourt, Dubas might be looking for an uncut gem. The 20-year-old, left-shot defenseman went undrafted but has slowly risen through the junior ranks. Last season, he began to see success. McCourt played 63 games with the OHL’s Flint Firebirds and recorded a career-high 18 goals and 44 assists (62 points) which ranked fifth among OHL defensemen in scoring.
He, too, is a southern Ontario native (St. Catharines) and, during his five-season OHL career, he’s played 175 games and scored 30 goals and 87 assists with both the Firebirds and the Hamilton Bulldogs. He might be a fun youngster to watch because he’s showing some offensive potential.
What Might Be After the Marlies?
Dubas has inked all of these players to AHL contracts, largely for salary-cap reasons which allows the Maple Leafs to ascribe their contracts to the Marlies and not the Maple Leafs. Should any of them be called up to Toronto, they’d have to sign NHL contracts.
When next season begins to unfold – in whatever shape that might be – it’ll be interesting to see if any of these players or who will rise to the big club’s roster. There are always injuries, and Dubas has a way of stockpiling both younger and experienced talent in his organization as a way to help.
As noted, there are a number of Marlies grads who have made a big impact on the Maple Leafs, not the least of which are two current stars – William Nylander and Morgan Rielly.
John Cusack shares story of MJ duping Kobe in final matchup – Comcast SportsNet Chicago
Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan last faced off in an NBA game on March 28, 2003.
Jordan was 40 years old, churning out the final days of his playing career for a middling Washington Wizards team. Bryant was 24, already a seven-year pro and three-time NBA champ, enjoying the best season of his young career for the dynastic Los Angeles Lakers.
As such, that late regular-season game at Staples Center was a bit lopsided; Bryant’s Lakers won 108-94 behind a double-nickel from Bryant — 55 points on 15-for-29 field-goal shooting (9-for-13 from 3). Jordan poured in 23 points of his own on 10-for-20 from the field in a losing effort.
That game also produced one of the enduring images of Bryant and Jordan’s friendship.
It started rather innocuously. With just over 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter, and the Lakers ahead 20 points, Bryant strolled up the floor with Jerry Stackhouse lined up across from him. Rick Fox, Jordan’s man, stepped up and set a screen for Bryant. But Jordan sniffed out the intent. As Bryant slammed on the accelerator and attempted to dart around Fox’s screen toward open space on the right wing, Jordan popped out from behind Fox and stymied the drive. Stackhouse clawed over the initial screen. Once regrouped, the two backed Bryant off the 3-point line.
The counterpunch: Bryant dumped the ball off to Fox, then hit the gas again in anticipation of a handoff pass. He collected the ball. He put one dribble down. But there Jordan was again — expectant, feet set and ready to absorb the contact of Bryant’s single-minded drive before he could turn the corner.
Bodies tangled, Jordan hit the floor and a whistle blew. Offensive foul on Bryant. For a moment, the Laker guard stared down his one-time idol, a look of utter contempt plastered across his face. But that quickly melted. The two shared a knowing laugh, Bryant playfully punched Jordan three times in the chest and helped him to his feet. The game went on.
You might recognize another familiar face in that photo, just to Bryant’s left. John Cusack, joining in the merriment, along with seemingly every observer in the vicinity of the play.
In a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Cusack shared what was said between Jordan and Bryant that turned annoyance to ebullience.
“At some point in the game, everyone knew Michael and Kobe were going to go 1-on-1,” Cusack said. “So, Kobe got the ball, he cleared everybody out and everybody started to bristle up with anticipation and it was going to be Kobe against Michael. And Kobe started to drive, Michael stepped in front of him — right in front of me — and he took the charge.”
“He (Jordan) went down, and Kobe’s standing above him. And Michael just looked up and said, ‘Well everybody in the f*****g building knew you weren’t going to pass.’” Cusack said. “And then there’s a pause… And Kobe just started laughing and they both started laughing.”
(Story begins at the 04:58 mark)
Indeed, Jordan’s gamble was an informed one. Bryant had scored 50 of his 55 points at the time of this play. In fact, Jordan had already drawn a charge on him on a similar play the previous quarter. Never count out the wily vet.
“You really felt the passing of the torch, one great to the other,” Cusack added. “You felt it was a moment in sports, it was amazing to be at.”
It’s amazing to relive too. Hat tip to Adam Howes, who put this edit of the story interspersed with game footage together on Twitter:
UK Authorities Allege Russian Hackers Targeted the 2020 Olympics – Gizmodo
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