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Flames need to be 'way better' if they want to survive Pacific Division logjam – Calgary Sun

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The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers provided must-see entertainment on a snowy Saturday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.

The game even had the Hockey Night in Canada panel of David Amber, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Kelly Hrudey and Elliotte Friedman giddy with excitement, waiting to see what would happen next and warning viewers to stay in their seats the entire night. They wouldn’t want to miss what happens next — and they weren’t wrong.

But between the past, the lead-up, the goalie fights, and the shade thrown through the media after Saturday’s game, the end result was clear for Flames head coach Geoff Ward.

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His team wasn’t good enough.

His team gave up two valuable points on the table.

And his team squandered a chance to pull ahead of their provincial rivals, win their fourth straight game against the Oilers and, instead, were embarrassed 8-3 on home ice.

It was the most goals they’ve allowed all season.

“I mean, everybody saw the same thing,” Ward said, fuming. “They were good and we weren’t. So, what can we control? It’s how we prepare to play. The lessons we take from this? We have to be way more competitive. I thought some of our guys were. I thought as a team, overall, we could have been more competitive. So, yeah.”

This isn’t over, of course. Far from it.

But with six of their next eight games slated against Pacific Division opponents, they have zero time to dwell on what could have been — or who said what about what in which post-game scrum.

Speaking of which, Leon Draisaitl finally broke his silence on what he thought of David Rittich’s bat-flip in Wednesday’s 4-3 shootout win, saying that it was disrespectful: “We hit two posts and he’s celebrating like they just won the Stanley Cup. I get it, they’re excited, and good for them, they won the game in the shootout, but show some respect, I think. That’s my opinion.”

Also weighing is was Mike Smith who is Rittich’s former counterpart-turned Oilers goalie who made headlines by dropping the gloves with Flames netminder and former Edmonton netminder Cam Talbot.

“He’s a fiery guy, but sometimes it goes a little too far,” Smith said. “Sometimes what goes around comes around.”


The Calgary Flames’ goalie David Rittich (33) flips his goal stick in celebration after stopping the Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl (29) during the shootout at Rogers Place, in Edmonton Wednesday Jan. 29, 2020. Photo by David Bloom

All of which are interesting story angles, which the Flames refused to entertain leading into Saturday’s rematch. Resident you-know-what-disturber Matthew Tkachuk downplayed it, telling Scott Oake in the pre-game interview that: “It was just another game. Honestly.” That couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Saturday was the biggest game to date for both teams and what went down stoked feelings of nostalgia as people of a certain generation remembered heated versions of the Battle of Alberta from the past.

Nothing will ever top the first-ever BOA goalie fight, although expect some fireworks and scores to be settled in the final meeting of the season on April 4 at Calgary and, if we’re lucky, playoffs.


Calgary Flames goalie Cam Talbot and Edmonton Oilers goalie Mike Smith fight during NHL action in Calgary on Saturday, February 1, 2020.

Gavin Young /

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But if the Flames are focused on all of that at the start of this week — beginning with Tuesday’s game against the visiting San Jose Sharks (7 p.m., Sportsnet West, Sportsnet 960 the Fan) — they’re missing the point.

“Collectively, we needed to be way better,” Ward said. “At this time of the year, defence gives you a chance to win. (Saturday) our defensive game was exposed a little bit and put us behind the eight ball early.”

The Flames are 27-20-6 and, heading into Sunday’s action and, after Saturday’s game, woke up sitting fourth in the Pacific Division. Five points separated fifth place (Arizona) from first place (Vancouver) and every game they squander from now until April matters.

Ward hoped that desperation starts to sink in.

“I want (this) feeling to stick with us for a while, for sure,” he said. “If you’re not a little bit angry in your stomach about what happened tonight and it’s not bothering you, you’ve probably got an issue. So, we need to harness that a little bit … we have to make sure our minds get there, that we take what we need to out of this game. Then, we start Monday (at practice) and we’ve gotta be way better.”

kanderson@postmedia.com

Twitter: @KDotAnderson

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Edmonton Oilers turn it on against a wounded opponent in an 8-2 win: Cult of Hockey Player Grades – Edmonton Journal

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The Edmonton Oilers earned only their 2nd 2-0 lead of the season against the Arizona Coyotes Wednesday. Then did not look back, en route to an 8-2 no-doubter at Rogers Place.

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And while Edmonton deserves fair marks for the victory…

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Arizona came into this one with just 1 win in their last 10 games and at the tail end of a withering 14-game road trip.

Bad team. Bad schedule. Bad result.

Aside from the 2 points, Jay Woodcroft was able to ease off the gas on McDavid, Draisaitl and Hyman’s ice time.

Here is the tale of the tape…

Cult of Hockey Player Grades

STUART SKINNER. 7. As good as they needed him to be. Stuart Skinner’s best save early was a point-blank stuff on Crouse. Excellent kick save on Keller in the 2nd. Left to his own devices on an Oilers defensive zone breakdown on the 3-1. Handled a breakaway shot in the 3rd thanks in part to a hard back-check by Bouchard. Stopped 16-18.

CONNOR McDAVID. 9. Second assist on the 1-0. Drew a Power Play with a dogged play in the high slot and then fed Draisaitl net side for the 3-0. Just missed an opportunity short side. Received a stretch pass from Draisaitl and then sifted a nice pass to Hyman who took it hard to the net. A lightening fast wraparound on a circus-like pass from Draisaitl made it 7-1. A 1-timer from the bottom of the circle off a Hyman pass made it 8-1. His 18:32 was the least so far this season.

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LEON DRAISAITL. 7. Could not bat home a rebound off a pass from McDavid in the 1st. Contributed to 3 chances on a 2nd Period PP. The next man advantage, he made short work of a tidy McDavid pass net side for the 3-0. Fired a stretch pass in the 2nd that ended with a Hyman chance in tight. Who did not marvel at the spin-o-rama at the attacking blueline followed by the sublime cross-ice backhand pass to McDavid for the 7-1. A relatively light night at 17:40. 57% on draws.

ZACH HYMAN. 6. Drew a 1st Period Power Play and then was net front on the resulting 1-0. Took a McDavid set up hard to the net in the 2nd. Another net drive in the 3rd, followed by a terrific pass that McDavid turned into the 8-1. 4 shots. Good to see him healthy.

DARNELL NURSE. 7. A fine defensive play thwarted a would-be Arizona 2-on-1 in the 1st. An assist on McDavid’s 1st. Quiet, confident game.

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CODY CECI. 5. 1st Period hooking minor. 2 hits, 2 blocks.

RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS. 9. He was excellent. Wristed home his 12th of the season on a Power Play in the 1st. Another hard wrister after an Arizona turnover delivered career NHL goal 209 to make it 4-1. That tied him with the great Paul Coffey for 8th on the all-time franchise list. A helper on the Draisaitl goal. Late to his man on the 8-2. 4 shots in 17:59. 50% on draws. A clean sheet in 1:16 of PK time.

MATTIAS JANMARK. 6. Dangerous wrap-around attempt in the 1st. Next shift won an important battle to help clear his own zone. 3 shots.

KAILER YAMAMOTO. 7. His hustle drew an interference call on a pic to negate an Arizona Power Play. Good positioning on the forecheck and then intercepted a clumsy pass and funneled it up to Nugent-Hopkins for the 4-1. Earned the primary assist on the Kulak goal. 3rd Period breakaway but his back-hand deke was stopped. Has been since he has been back.

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BRETT KULAK. 6. His elite skating skills were on full display to erase a would-be Arizona breakaway by Maccelli in the 2nd. Corralled his man but got no puck support from his forwards on the 3-1. Walked in and fired a laser off a hard-working flurry by Holloway and Yamamoto for the 5-1. His man deflected home the 8-2.

TYSON BARRIE. 8. Primary assist on the 1-0. Threw a lovely cross-seam pass to Nugent-Hopkins on a 1st period PP. Wrist shot off a 2-on-1 feed from Ryan. On the ice but not at fault on the 3-1. Diving block broke up an Arizona 2-on-1. Zone entry on the 8-1. 3 shots, +2. High Dangers 6-2. Led the club in TOI at 22:40. The Oilers best D-man tonight.

JAMES HAMBLIN. 5. Good defensive stick at his own blueline in the 1st. Hustled. A shot.

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DYLAN HOLLOWAY. 7. Drew a penalty in the 1st by tucking his shoulder into Nemeth on a hard net drive. Tremendous shift late in the 2nd where he created a chance, just missed one of his own, and then finally drew the 2nd assist on Kulak’s 5-1 goal. Hard 3rd Period net drive but the puck wobbled wide. Led the Oilers in 5v5 CF at 14-3, 82%.A very noticeable 15:05 of TOI.

JESSE PULJUJARVI. 5. 3 shots credited although none particularly dangerous.

EVAN BOUCHARD. 6. Looked much better tonight after the benching last game. Walked in from the point and ripped a hard wrist shot early in the 2nd. 3 shots 3 hits. 22:0q in a boucne-back effort.

PHILIP BROBERG. 6. Second assist on the 2-0. Inadvisable reverse in own zone led to a long Arizona shift in the Edmonton zone. But over-all a solid effort.

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DEVIN SHORE. 5. 80% on faceoffs. Worked hard, fought the puck a fair bit. 3rd Period minor.

KLIM KOSTIN. 8. The Gordie Howe hat trick for the big forward. Rattled the boards with a hit on Nemeth. Later, calmly cleared the zone and then putted a smart pass up the middle which Derek Ryan deposited for the 2-0. Could not clear the zone up the wall on the 3-1 against, although the bounce did him no favors. Laser wrist shot glove side high on the 6-1. Finally, took on and bloodied the nose of Zack Kassian in a late scrap. 3 hits. Opening some eyes…

DEREK RYAN. 7. Had a very good night. Scored an industrious goal for the 2-0 by grabbing a Kostin area pass, battling past 2 defenders, and then depositing a skillful for-back-for-back deke. Fed Barrie on a 2nd Period 2-on-1. Lost his check on the 3-1. Forced a 3rd Period turnover which Kostin deposited for the 6-1. 1:19 short handed.

The Oilers are now 15-12 for 30 points in 27 games. That is good for 4th in the Pacific, and in the 1st Wild Card spot. Minnesota is up next.

Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins, on Instagram at LeavinsOnHockey, and now on Mastodon at KurtLeavins@mstdn.social

Recently, at The Cult…

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Seattle Kraken to release Shane Wright for World Juniors – TSN

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The Seattle Kraken have loaned forward Shane Wright to play for Team Canada at the upcoming World Junior Championship in Halifax and Moncton.

Wright, 18, is expected to report to Team Canada in Moncton on Thursday, according to TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger.

The 6-foot centre is fresh off scoring his first NHL goal on Tuesday night against the Montreal Canadiens in a 4-2 loss for the Kraken. He has a goal and an assist in eight NHL games this season. He had four goals in five games during a conditioning stint with the AHL’s Coachella Valley Firebirds. 

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Drafted fourth overall by Seattle in June, Wright is the sixth player in Canadian Hockey League history to be granted exceptional status to join the OHL a year early. He won CHL Rookie of the Year in 2020. The Burlington, Ont., product had 32 goals and 62 assists in 63 games with the Kingston Frontenacs in 2021-22. 

Internationally, he captained Canada to gold at the 2021 IIHF U18s, where he was second in tournament scoring with nine goals and 14 points in five games. Wright was named to the 2022 World Juniors team but only played in two games before it was cancelled. He did not participate in the rescheduled tournament in August where Canada won gold. 

The tournament is set to run from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. Canada kicks off its tournament on Boxing Day against Czechia on TSN at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT.

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Palestinian flag waved on pitch as Morocco celebrates historic World Cup win

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Several players of Morocco’s national team unfurled a Palestinian flag on the pitch while celebrating their historic World Cup win over Spain in Qatar on Tuesday.

World Cup quarterfinals: Qualifying teams, fixtures and schedule

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Following a dramatic penalty shootout, Morocco became the first Arab side to make it to the World Cup quarterfinals.

This is the second time Moroccan players have raised the Palestinian flag after winning a match. Morocco’s player Jawad El Yamiq raised the Palestinian flag while celebrating his country’s 2-1 victory over Canada last week.

Moroccan football fans were also seen waving a “Free Palestine” banner during the North African country’s 2-0 victory over Belgium in Group E earlier in the tournament.

Morocco's team makes a group photo on the pitch, holding the Palestinian flag after beating Spain.

Regulations from FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, prohibit the use of banners, flags and fliers that are deemed to be political, offensive and/or discriminatory in nature.

“The promotion or announcement of political or religious messages or any other political or religious actions, inside or in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, by any means, is strictly prohibited before, during and after matches,” FIFA regulations state.

Israeli journalists experience chilly reception at Qatar World Cup

 

Football authorities have occasionally issued fines for displays of the Palestinian flag inside grounds.

The flag bearing move was hailed by Arabs on social media, as users from Libya, Morroco, Egypt and Saudi Arabia celebrated the Moroccan win.

Videos on social media also show Palestinians celebrating Morocco’s win in the streets of several cities in the West Bank and in Gaza.

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