Ekholm’s strong defensive presence noticeable in debut as Oilers take down Maple Leafs
EDMONTON — Mattias Ekholm has seen the circus before.
But he’s never been allowed to enjoy it like he did on Wednesday, as the Edmonton Oilers‘ newest addition watched Connor McDavid notch his fifth consecutive two-goal game in a 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
What was he thinking while McDavid was doing his thing? A thing that hasn’t been accomplished since Alex Mogilny some 30 years ago?
“It’s kind of nice to see that he doesn’t just do it to you,” the big Swede said with a smile. “Just to see him do it in person, it’s pretty cool. I mean, it’s like nobody else.”
With Ekholm eating up almost 21 minutes on the blue line, Edmonton’s D-corps looked unlike anything we’ve seen in this building this season. They were a calm, stout and defensively sound unit, never in doubt of dropping a point in a game they dominated for most of 60 minutes — and all the minutes that mattered.
“He showed exactly what he is going to bring to this team tonight,” McDavid said of Ekholm. “Just stable. A really, really good, solid defender back there.”
If it was Edmonton’s defensive posture that Ekholm was brought in to help straighten it out, then for one night at least, the Oilers stood up tall against one of the NHL’s best offensive clubs. Toronto had just 22 shots and one goal at five-on-five, as Edmonton led 5-1 after two and gave up only a power-play goal in the third.
“Our team has been hitting its stride post-Christmas,” said Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft. “We had to make some hard decisions that drive culture, and we’ve seen some strong results. We’ve lost three of the last 20 in regulation.”
Since Christmas, the Oilers have gone 15-6-6, best in the Western Conference. Most importantly, in those 27 games, they’ve allowed two goals or less 13 times.
“They defended hard, played us hard,” said Toronto captain John Tavares, the exact quote Woodcroft would want to read coming out of the opposition’s locker room. “We weren’t at the level that we needed to be.”
The team with the NHL’s most powerful offence, Edmonton is going to win 80 per cent of games in which it allows two goals or fewer.
Which is where Ekholm comes in.
“I take a lot of pride in the defensive side of the game. I think that’s where I’m at my best,” he said. “So, knowing that if I do my job to 100 per cent, there’s a high probability that the outcome of the game is going to be really good.”
The 32-year-old got to town at 1:30 p.m., and logged 20:50 of ice time — just 30 seconds on the power play. Playing mostly with Evan Bouchard — the pair was plus-2 — Ekholm’s presence simply eases the role of every other defenceman, making the group of seven look better as a whole and individually.
“When the batting order is set a certain way,” explained Woodcroft, “everybody looks good. I thought we got good minutes from everybody who played tonight — on the back end and up front. But it was nice to add someone of Ekholm’s quality to the lineup.”
In front of a full house split equally among Oilers and Leafs fans, Edmonton actually deposited seven pucks past Leafs goalie Ilya Samsonov. One was called back on a minor penalty, and another on an early whistle — and clear referee’s error — that cost Warren Foegele his 12th of the season.
And it was Samsonov, not Stuart Skinner, who was tasked with stopping three others that had fans with their arms in the air, expecting the red light to go on. Skinner was as good as he had to be, and you can’t sneeze at allowing only two to a team with the weapons that Toronto has.
But this game was Edmonton’s from the anthems to the post-game beers — a 5-2 game that easily could have been 7-2 or 8-2.
Of course, McDavid drove the bus. It’s not often he won’t come up large on the big stage — a nationally televised game against the mighty Maple Leafs. And on this night, he simply logged goals 51 and 52 on the season, then added an assist for point No. 118 in game No. 62.
Another two-goal night — his fifth in a row. Ho hum.
“Sometimes it just goes in,” he shrugged. “I felt like I was playing good hockey before and it just wasn’t going in for me. You kind of get a bounce and it seems to go in for you. It is a funny game that way.”
Meanwhile, this marked the 100th game behind the bench for Woodcroft. His record after the century milestone: 59-30-11, for a .645 points percentage that is fifth best in NHL over that span of time.
Edmonton Oilers deliver a statement performance in a 2-0 shutout of L.A.: Cult of Hockey Player Grade
Here is the tale of the tape…
Cult of Hockey Player Grades
STUART SKINNER. 10. The biggest game in Stuart Skinner’s young career and he nailed it. 43 stops for the club’s 1st shutout of the season. Skinner made a point-blank stop on Kaliyev early in the 1st. A fine right pad stuff on Byfield. A terrific glove save on Kempe who had split the D in the 2nd and darted in with a dangerous deke. Confidently managed a Byfield back-hand. Erased a turnover with a great save off Kupari. He finished off the 2nd by stoning Lizotte with his glove on a breakaway. Big 3rd period stop off Kempe’s stick on the PP. Needed to be sharp on a Byfield deflection in front. Slammed the door shut down the stretch including a terrific toe save on Gavrikov late. His 10 wins in March sets a franchise record. Named the game’s 1st Star. We do not hand out “transcendent” grades lightly at The Cult of Hockey. But the quality of Skinner’s work multiplied by the significance of the game in the standings adds up to a “10”. And if you remember back to the circumstances of last year…one assumes Skinner will not get farmed out to Bakersfield after this shutout.
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS. 7. Tough play at his own blueline to clear the zone on the 1st period PK. Sweet pass to Draisaitl for a PP one timer. Just missed cashing in on a rebound of a Bouchard shot in the 3rd. One-timer off a McDavid behind-the-net pass in the 3rd. Led the team in 5v5 CF at 22-13, 63%.
DARNELL NURSE. 8. Darnell Nurse’s finest defensive effort of the season. Repeatedly used his speed to win races and his size to win battles. Nurse stood up Kempe in the neutral zone early on. An excellent defensive play on a driving Kopitar in the 1st. Another fine effort against Arvidsson in the 2nd. And expertly headed off a Moore net drive a few shifts later. Ended the night with 3 shots, 2 hits, 2 blocks in 23:32. Flat out excellent, shift-in and shift-out, and the Kings’ best.
CODY CECI. 7. Nice setup for a dangerous Foegele chance in the 1st. Solid play on Byfield who was driving the Oilers net in the 2nd. Failed to get a puck deep at the O-line, allowing the Kings to run it back and get a shot against. A 3rd Period wraparound attempt. Solid. His game has improved noticeably over the last half dozen outings.
EVANDER KANE. 8. Came out aggressive from the first shift, landing 7 (!) hits just in the first 20 minutes. His thump on Roy along the wall was particularly memorable. Took a slick back-hand feed from Draisaitl in the high slot and 1-timed it home high for the 1-0. Stopped on an Oilers 2-man break in the 2nd. Finished with 8 hits, 5 shots. Looked like he was on a mission. His goal proved to be the game winner. Played 20:25 and I thought he was the Oilers best Forward. That two excellent games back-to-back, now.
MATTIAS EKHOLM. 8. Blocked shot on a 1st Period PK. A 2nd Period stretch pass sprung Ryan and Kane on a clear break. Did not give an inch to Moore who would have had a chance in front. 2 hits, 3 blocks, 2 takeaways. Cleared the slot while flat on the ice, late. Just rock solid.
EVAN BOUCHARD. 7. An icing led to 3 Kings shots against after the ensuing D-zone faceoff. But it was one of very few off-moments for the young man tonight. Fired one off the post late in the 2nd on the PP. Could not cash in on an excellent 3rd Period shot. As physical as I have seen him play…ever. Credited with 4 hits.
WARREN FOEGELE. 5. A good chance in the 1st off a Ceci pass. Ticked the post off a nice pass from Janmark. 2 shots.
MATTIAS JANMARK. 6. A wraparound attempt in the opening frame. Set up Foegele for a 2nd Period chance. His aggressive forecheck on the PK helped create the McDavid breakaway opportunity. No assist but the goa does not get scored without him.
BRETT KULAK. 6. Drew a 2nd Period PP. Took an interference call in the 2nd. High Dangers 4-1 with him on 5v5.
VINCENT DESHARNAIS. 6. Pretty iffy cross-check call in the 2nd. 2 hits, 2 blocks. High dangers 5v5 4-1.
KLIM KOSTIN. 5. Wraparound attempt in the 2nd, then buried Doughty with a heavy check.
PHILIP BROBERG. 5. Played just 4:05. Took shifts on both sides. 2 shots and a block.
Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane are only the 2nd trio of teammates to score their 300th career goals in the same season. Last time, it was Clarke, Barber and MacLeish for the Flyers in 1981.
The Oilers are now 44-23-9, 97 points. They host Anaheim Saturday.
How to Get Started with Sports Betting in Ontario
Sports betting is a popular pastime in Ontario, and luckily it’s also easy to get started with. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced bettor, the process of placing bets can be done quickly and easily.
The best sportsbooks in Ontario
Ontario has a wide variety of options for sports betting, ranging from online bookmakers to land-based casinos. Some of the most popular sportsbooks in Ontario include BetMGM, BetRivers and Unibet. All three offer a great selection of markets and competitive odds on all major sporting events. For those looking for an even more immersive experience, there are also several land-based casinos that offer sports betting services. These include Casino Niagara, Fallsview Casino Resort, and Caesars Windsor. Each casino offers its own unique atmosphere and range of betting options for customers to choose from.
Overview of sports betting regulations in Ontario
Sports betting regulations in Ontario are governed by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). The AGCO is responsible for regulating all gaming activities, including sports betting, in the province. According to the AGCO, sports betting can only be conducted through a licensed operator or at an authorized racetrack. All operators must obtain a license from the AGCO before they can offer any type of sports betting services. In addition, all operators must comply with certain rules and regulations set out by the AGCO. These include ensuring that all bets are placed in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, as well as providing customers with accurate information about their bets. Furthermore, operators must ensure that they have adequate security measures in place to protect customer funds and personal information. They must also adhere to strict advertising guidelines set out by the AGCO to ensure that their promotions do not encourage irresponsible gambling behaviour.
Understanding odds and different types of bets
When it comes to understanding odds and different types of bets, the most important thing to remember is that the higher the odds, the greater the potential payout. Odds are expressed in a variety of ways, such as fractions (e.g. 3/1), decimals (e.g. 4.00) or American style (e.g +300). The type of bet you make will also determine your potential payout; for example, a single bet on one outcome will have lower odds than an accumulator bet on multiple outcomes but with a higher potential return if all selections win. There are many different types of bets available including straight bets, parlays, teasers and futures which can be used to increase your chances of winning or reduce your risk depending on how you choose to place them.
Sports you can bet on in Ontario
In Ontario, you can bet on a variety of sports, including hockey, baseball, basketball, football, soccer, golf and tennis. You can also bet on horse racing and harness racing at the racetracks in the province. You can place bets on international sports such as cricket and rugby. There are also several online betting sites that offer betting options for all major sports leagues around the world. These sites allow you to place bets from anywhere in Ontario with an internet connection. The only thing you need to do is create an account and fund it with money. In same cases, you will be able to recieve a no-deposit bonus so you can start betting right away. Other bonuses and promotions you can use to your advantage include welcome bonuses, loyalty programs and other rewards.
To get started with sports betting in Ontario, you’ll need to find a reputable online sportsbook that offers the best odds and lines. Once you have chosen one, sign up for an account and make sure to read the terms and conditions carefully before making any deposits or placing any bets.
PRE-GAME REPORT: Oilers vs. Kings – Edmonton
EDMONTON, AB – Their history against one another sets the stage, while their potential for another post-season series fuels the animosity.
“There are no surprises here,” Connor McDavid said. “Obviously it’s a big one for us tonight.”
Following their first-round matchup in last season’s playoffs and two regular-season meetings this season, both going the way of the Black & White, the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings conclude their regular-season series with an all-important Pacific Division matchup on Thursday at Rogers Place that could be a preview of another first-round matchup in the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the two rivals.
“We’re quite aware of what we’re up against and they have a clear understanding of what they’re up against,” Head Coach Jay Woodcroft said. “Both teams are different than they were in last year’s playoffs. We have different personnel. Both teams have evolved in certain ways, so tonight should be a good matchup.”
The Oilers were pushed to the brink by the Kings in their first-round seven-game series last season, staving off elimination in Games 6 and 7 before winning the Battle of Alberta in the second round and advancing all the way to the Western Conference Final.
The Kings re-tooled in the summer, adding elite winger Kevin Fiala on a seven-year contract from the Minnesota Wild while extending some important pieces to their future in Sean Durzi (two years, $1.7 million), Carl Grundstrom ( two years, $1.3 million), Adrian Kempe (four years, $5.5 million) and Brendan Lemieux (one year, $1.35 million) for another season of growth in the City of Angels.
Los Angeles earned a 3-1 win at Rogers Place in Edmonton earlier this campaign on Nov. 16 before a spirited but sobering 6-3 defeat for the Oilers at Crypto.com Arena on Jan. 9 marked a turning point for the Blue & Orange early in the new year after they fell to the second Wild Card spot with the loss and nine points back of the Kings 42 games into the regular season.
The Oilers struggled on the penalty kill, with the Kings scoring four power-play goals on seven opportunities with the man advantage, while the physicality between the two teams ramped up in the latter stages of the game with a trio of fights.
Video: PRE-RAW | Connor McDavid 03.30.23
“I thought I saw a lot of teammates stick up for each other. I’ve saw a lot of teammates answer the bell and up their physical ante, and I thought it brought us together,” Woodcroft said.
“I think our record since that point speaks for itself.”
Since their January defeat to the Kings, the Oilers own the best points percentage (.758) in the NHL with a 22-5-6 record while LA has been the toast of the League since the All-Star break with a 15-3-3 record despite their franchise-best point streak of 12 games coming to an end on Tuesday with a 2-1 defeat to Calgary.
“I think since post-Christmas our team is really going in the right direction, but that game certainly provided us with an opportunity to come together and I thought we did. We’ll see tonight where we’re at.”
Video: PRE-RAW | Connor McDavid 03.30.23
Thursday will offer a glimpse at what both these two teams at full strength can bring to a potential first-round playoff series.
“Certainly they’re different. They’re healthier,” McDavid said. “They added some pieces, a new goalie and they’re definitely different. As for us, I think we’re just a little bit older, a little more experienced and I think we’re better too.”
The Oilers will have Mattias Ekholm, Evander Kane, Vincent Desharnais and Nick Bjugstad in the lineup to contribute to the lineup this time around, while the Kings bolstered their ranks at the Trade Deadline with Vladislav Gavrikov on the back end and Joonas Korpisalo in between the pipes.
“I thought up until about the Trade Deadline, LA was one of the highest-scoring teams in the League and gave up a lot of goals,” Woodcroft said. “So what they’ve done here over since the All-Star break is they’ve tightened the screws defensively.”
With a victory, Edmonton can jump over the Kings into second place in the Pacific Division while pulling themselves within a point of the lead held by the Golden Knights.
“Certainly more at stake here tonight than any other regular season game, so certainly easy to get up for.”
NO KANE, NO GAIN
The 300th goal of Evander Kane’s career on Tuesday night provided the cushion the Oilers needed in a tight one-goal game against the Vegas Golden Knights with six-and-a-half minutes remaining in the second period.
The forward finished Leon Draisaitl’s feed off a zone entry emphatically, shaking the twine in an eventual 7-4 victory for the Oilers with his first goal in five games since recording a hat-trick on Mar. 18 in Seattle. Kane has five goals and an assist in the 10 games since he returned from a nine-game injury absence on Mar. 9 against the Bruins.
The Oilers can feel like more of a complete team with Kane in the lineup after the 31-year-old wasn’t an option for Edmonton during their last meeting with Los Angeles at the turn of the new year.
Video: PRE-RAW | Mattias Ekholm 03.30.23
“Probably just more physical, bigger, faster — all the things that his game is all about,” McDavid said. “He plays with a lot of pace. He’s a big, strong guy. He gets on the forecheck hard and I wouldn’t want to be a D going back to retrieve pucks with him out there.”
Kane’s tally against the Golden Knights was one of four even-strength goals for the Oilers as they continue to get healthy and grow their game in advance of the playoffs with well-rounded scoring at five-on-five and on the power play.
“We’ve gotten healthier, so you’re starting to see the full complement of what we have,” Woodcroft said. “We’re still not yet at full health, but when you return someone like Evander Kane… I think you’re seeing people slotted into the proper batting order up front and it gives the coaching staff more options, allows for easier accountability when it comes to performance and those types of things.”
Netminder Stuart Skinner occupied the starter’s net at the morning skate and is the Oilers projected starter to face the Kings for Thursday’s important Pacific Division tilt.
Skinner matched Mike Smith (April ’22), Tommy Salo (March ’03), Grant Fuhr (Dec. ’87) and Andy Moog (Jan. ’83) for the most wins in a calendar month by an Oilers goaltender with his ninth win in March on Tuesday against the Golden Knights. The 24-year-old already surpassed Fuhr’s record for most wins by an Oilers rookie netminder rookie season (28) and is working towards beating the Hall of Famer’s single-season rookie record of 28 wins, already 24-14-5 this campaign.
“Coming in as a young guy and then becoming an All-Star, that’s the progression, right?” Zach Hyman said of Skinner. “I don’t know how many people had Stu as an All-Star on their ballot when the season started, but I think that’s credit to him and just working at his craft and just getting better every day. He deserves it.”
“He’s been playing amazing, and we’re lucky to have him.”
Video: PRE-RAW | Zach Hyman 03.30.23
— Jamie Umbach, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS vs. KINGS
STREAM: 7:00 p.m. MT; televised on Sportsnet West
Oilers Team Scope
The Oilers enter Thursday night’s contest fresh off one of their most impressive performances of the season against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday.
Edmonton picked up the 7-4 win over the Pacific Division rivals, dominating the division leaders for large stretches of the contest. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored a goal and added four assists to extend his point streak to nine games and bring his season total to 96 (35G, 61A) on the year.
The teams traded offence in the first period, with goals from Nugent-Hopkins, Evan Bouchard, and Leon Draisaitl negating a pair of Vegas goals from Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson. It was the second period where the Oilers turned up the heat on the Nevada side, outshooting the Golden Knights 21-6 and outscoring them 3-1 in the middle frame. Darnell Nurse notched his 10th of the year, giving the Oilers 12 double-digit goalscorers this season. Evander Kane finished off an incredible feed by Draisaitl, who undressed the Vegas defender before sliding the puck over to the Oilers sniper for goal 14 of Kane’s season.
Hyman notched the final goal of the frame, finishing off a Nugent-Hopkins feed for his 33rd of the year. The Oilers chased Golden Knights starter Jonathan Quick from the crease after two period, scoring six times on 34 shots against the former Kings goaltender.
Brett Kulak added the Oilers lone third period goal, firing a shot off the post and in after coming out of the penalty box to cap off the scoring for the Blue & Orange. Stuart Skinner won his 24th game of the season, making 18 saves on the night, and bringing the Oilers within three points of the Western Conference lead.
“I think a lot of people in this crowd right here might have wrote the Oilers off when it comes to where we’re going to finish,” Head Coach Jay Woodcroft said after the game. “As you hear me say every single day, we try to take it one at a time. We’re going to get on our plane, get back to Edmonton, have a good rest day tomorrow, and make sure we’re ready for a really good Los Angeles Kings team. We know what we’re up against in them. We want to show well against a really good team and the points will take care of themselves. We just want to get our game in order.”
Kings Team Scope
The Los Angeles Kings head up the road to Edmonton after a 2-1 defeat to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night. The loss ended a 12-game point streak for the Kings and allowed the Oilers to draw within a single point of the California club.
Defenceman Sean Durzi scored the Kings only goal of the evening, his eighth goal and 37 point of his so-far career-best campaign.
The Flames saw goals by Andrew Mangiapane and Walker Duehr, while Jacob Markstrom made 32 of 33 saves to pick up the win. In goal for the Kings was Joonas Korpisalo, who was acquired at the trade deadline in the deal that sent Jonathan Quick to Columbus (before being swiftly dealt to Vegas) and has been stellar since the move. The Finn is 4-1-1 as a member of the Kings, with his lone regulation loss coming in his 30-save performancer against the Flames.
“On our behalf there wasn’t a lot of zone time, yet we had some really good scoring chances, long chances that had us looking at Markstrom, and he made some really good saves,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said after the game. “At the other end, we spent too much time in our end, and I thought our game management for the first time in a long time was poor.”
By The Numbers
The Oilers come in to Thursday’s contest with a 7-0-1 record in their last eight, with 40 goals for during that stretch… In the Oilers eight-game point streak, their power play has operated at 42.3 per cent… If the season were to end today, the Oilers would set the NHL’s all-time record for power-play efficiency at 32.7 per cent… Edmonton has earned at least a point in 28 of their last 33 games, with a 22-5-6 record and a .758 points percentage… The Oilers have recorded at least a point in 14 of their last 15 home games… Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Leon Draisaitl all enter Thursday’s contest with a point streak of at least nine games…
The Kings 12-game point streak which was snapped in Calgary was the longest in franchise history, breaking the record of 11 games set on three different occasions… The Oilers and Kings have the two best point percentages in the month of March, with only three regulation losses between the two teams… Los Angeles penalty kill has been a weakness for Todd McLellan’s team lately, allowing a PPG against in their last five games… The Kings have allowed a PPG in 47 of their 74 games this year… Los Angeles has been involved in 36 one-goal games this season, the third most in the NHL….
OILERS – Oscar Klefbom (shoulder) is on IR; Mike Smith (undisclosed) is on IR; Ryan Murray (undisclosed) is on IR; Ryan McLeod (undisclosed) is day-to-day.
KINGS – Akil Thomas (undisclosed) is on IR; Gabriel Vilardi (undisclosed) is day-to-day.
— Michael Arcuri, EdmontonOilers.com
The Thief Collector review – the ordinary married couple behind a massive art heist – The Guardian
Syphilis In Babies Skyrockets In Canada Amid Rising Drug Use – NDTV
Rogers-Shaw deal approved — with ‘unprecedented’ conditions. Here’s what to know – Global News
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Search for life on Mars accelerates as new bodies of water found below planet’s surface
Sports9 hours ago
Edmonton Oilers deliver a statement performance in a 2-0 shutout of L.A.: Cult of Hockey Player Grade
Science20 hours ago
After sunset, see the 5 planets in the sky or via video
Art10 hours ago
The art of picking the perfect colour
Business20 hours ago
Stocks extend rally as Wall Street looks to end of quarter: Stock market news today
News21 hours ago
Six bodies, including one child, recovered from St. Lawrence River
Business19 hours ago
White House proposes tougher U.S. bank rules, new tests after crisis
Sports19 hours ago
Bontis says he’s apologized to Sinclair, doesn’t remember insult
Investment19 hours ago
BRAVO READY Announces Strategic Investment From Magic Eden