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Game Recap 37.0: Edmonton Oilers at St. Louis Blues – Oilers Nation

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Some free lessons there to say the least. Final Score: 2-1 Blues

After picking up a big win in Dallas and quieting the nerves of Oilers fans everywhere, the boys were back at it against another tough opponent in the St. Louis Blues. Obviously, going up against the defending champs is never an easy task, something we saw on full display here tonight, but I also felt like the Oilers had a chance to close out a win provided that they played the way they can. When they’re crossing their ‘T’s and dotting their ‘I’s the Oilers are a tough team to handle, but as we all know, the problem comes with doing it consistently. Over the course of their four-game losing streak, Edmonton gave up far too many goals and seemed generally disjointed in their own end, often shooting themselves in the foot and ruining their chances at a win just as we saw with the wasted comebacks against Buffalo, Carolina, and Minnesota, something that simply could not happen again against the Blues. I believed in a win and I believed in our boys!

The last time these two teams played, Jake Allen stole the show for the Blues and I was really hoping for another quick start for the Oilers that could put the netminder back on his heels a little bit. Unfortunately, it was the visitors that were back on their heels early on as defensive lapses gave the Blues all kinds of extra opportunities to maintain the zone and fire pucks on net. Thankfully, Koskinen was rock solid in net, but it would have been nice if his teammates had been smarter with their puck choices as to not lean on him so much. To put it another way, this thing would have been ugly without him. Moving into the second period, things didn’t get much better as the Blues continued to dominate on the shot clock while the Oilers hung on for dear life and hoped for the best, seemingly unable to throw any kind of counterpunch whatsoever. Frankly, the fact that they were only down by a single goal heading into the third period was a testament to Koskinen’s game rather than a tip of the cap to the team in front of him. This game was lopsided as hell, but with their goaltender playing lights out the Oilers still somehow had a chance at points they didn’t deserve.

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Down by a goal with 20 minutes to play, the Oilers were going to need to be either way better than they had been for the first two periods or hope for some kind of miracle because this game was not as close as the score might indicate. And while the Oilers inched their way closer in the dying moments, there was no comeback to be had on this night as the Blues were simply too strong defensively and did an excellent job of capitalizing on their opportunities. From start to finish, the Blues made better choices with the puck, supported each other well in all three zones, and showed the Oilers exactly how a contender looks when they play defence.

The wrap.

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Photo: BlueMan.com
  • James Neal scored late in the third period to bring the Oilers back to within a single goal after finding a loose puck in the scramble and sinking in behind Allen when he slid way out of the net.
  • Mikko Koskinen was back between the pipes for his third straight start and looking to build upon the strong performance he put in against the Stars on Monday night. And while he didn’t get the win that he probably deserved considering the performance he put in, it is very easy and obvious to say that he was the best Edmonton Oiler tonight by a substantial margin. Full stop. Case closed. To put it lightly, had it not been for Koskinen, who knows what the score might have been and the fact that the game ended as close as it did was because he stood on his head and kept the team in it. Koskinen finished the night with 42 saves and a .955 save%.
  • Adam Larsson was easily the Oilers best defenceman in my mind and played tough minutes in all situations. He was even forced to moonlight as a goaltender for a moment in the second period after he made a huge kick save that stopped a sure goal for the Blues.
  • Big ups to Zack Kassian on his 500th game, which is even more incredible to think about when you consider his pre-Oilers history. Congrats on the milestone, sir!
  • The Oilers were great on the PK, killing off all five penalties they took. A lot of the credit can go to Koskinen for those kills, but it’s only fair to admit that the team was very good when down a man.
  • I thought Caleb Jones was steady on the third pairing tonight and he made some nice reads with the puck that should be acknowledged.
Photo: BlueMan.com
  • Brayden Schenn opened the scoring for the Blues with a breakaway goal after sneaking his way behind the Oilers’ defence and snapping a shot past Koskinen after the visitors were unable to gain entry to the offensive zone and gave the puck up at the blue line.
  • All night long, Edmonton had a real knack for giving the puck up at the opposing blue line and that’s exactly what happened on MacKenzie MacEachern’s third period goal. As we saw with the first one, the Oilers simply could not gain entry into the offensive zone and gave the puck away near the line. From there, the Blues were able to turn the play around and bury one at the other end, punishing the Oilers with a pair of avoidable goals.
  • The Oilers were way too loose defensively throughout this game and it gave the Blues all kinds of undeserved offensive opportunities that were completely needless. As has been the trend of late, the boys were flying the zone too early and the defencemen were then forced into plays they shouldn’t have been making.
  • Edmonton desperately needed their power play to come through with a goal tonight but they just couldn’t get one in any of their four chances with the man advantage. That said, I know a few of their power plays were abbreviated but I didn’t necessarily feel like they were getting much done with the time they did have either.
  • For the second game in a row, I have NOT been a fan of the Khaira-Nuge-Chiasson line as they got absolutely dominated at even strength. I don’t know what Tippett sees in that trio but clearly he and I are not on the same page on this one.
  • There were a bunch of free lessons for Ethan Bear tonight as he had a hard time dealing with St. Louis’ relentless pressure in the defensive end. And while that may seem like a negative thing to say, these are the games he’ll have to work through as he continues to build his young NHL resume. He’ll get through them and I feel like going through games like this will only make him better in the long run.
  • I’m going to go ahead and ask that Ken Holland make a move soon because watching the Oilers get caved in at 5-on-5 has been really tough to watch.

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1ST PERIOD

TIME TEAM DETAILS SCORE
No Scoring

2ND PERIOD

TIME TEAM DETAILS SCORE
08:04 St. Louis Brayden Schenn (15) ASST: Vince Dunn (5), Jaden Schwartz (16) 0-1

3RD PERIOD

TIME TEAM DETAILS SCORE
06:23 St. Louis MacKenzie MacEachern (6) ASST: Ryan O’Reilly (26), David Perron (19) 0-2
18:10 Edmonton James Neal (16) ASST: Zack Kassian (12), Leon Draisaitl (37) 1-2

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Maple Leafs’ Tavares, Marner reunite on top line with Matthews out vs. Oilers – Sportsnet.ca

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The showdown between the hockey’s most dangerous goal-scorer and its most prolific point-getter has been put on hold until Monday, at the earliest.

Auston Matthews, who leads the NHL with 18 goals, will be sidelined with a nagging wrist injury Saturday in Edmonton as the Toronto Maple Leafs visit Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.

Matthews aggravated his wrist during Wednesday’s overtime victory over the Calgary Flames when he crashed hands-first into the boards. Matthews completed the game, gathering a pair of assists, but coach Sheldon Keefe shielded his top centre from taking faceoffs.

Listed as day-to-day, Matthews missed the team’s full practice Friday and skated with the reserves Saturday morning at Rogers Arena:

“He’s played through some stuff here all year long, and he’s been a complete stud,” Joe Thornton said.

Toronto (15-4-2) has already missed 55 man-games due to injuries this season, and this will mark Matthews’ second absence against the red-hot Oilers, who carry a five-game win streak into the night.

The Leafs will welcome back a trio of healthy players to their lineup, however.

Shutdown defenceman Jake Muzzin (fractured face bone) will don a full cage, and veteran Joe Thornton (lower body) jumps back into the top six.

Beloved backup goalie Jack Campbell (2-0-0) gets his first start since suffering a leg injury on Jan. 24.

“He’s amazing. He was watching some tape [on the plane], and I was laughing because on every clip he makes the save and he tapped someone that’s closest to him,” Justin Holl said, with a smile. “Like, it doesn’t even matter. It could be me, and I didn’t even do anything on the play.”

Matthews’ injury paves the way for a John Tavares–Mitch Marner reunion on the front line.

“We’ve already played a game this season without Auston against the Oilers. Putting John and Mitch together, they’ve got a long history of playing together, and having Joe available today will give our whole group a boost,” coach Sheldon Keefe said.

Tavares enjoyed his most productive season, 2018-19, with Marner on his wing, and the elite playmaker will try to help the captain out of an offensive funk that has seen Tavares score one goal in his past 10 outings.

Thornton skated alongside that duo Friday, staying on the ice to take extra reps with Tavares.

“He just wants the puck all the time, and I think that’s a good sign,” Thornton said of his fellow No. 1 draft pick.

“He always wants to distribute and handle the puck, and he’s not afraid of the puck coming to him so I like that. And, off the ice, a real good guy, an easy guy to talk to. And when he opens up, he’s a surprising guy. It’s nice.”

The Maple Leafs assigned Kenny Agostino and Timothy Liljegren to their taxi squad for this five-game western road trip, while newly acquired forward Alex Galchenyuk and defenceman Martin Marincin have been loaned to the AHL Marlies.

Liljegren, 21, has impressed early this season, putting up six points through eight games with the Marlies.

“Regardless of his start,” coach Sheldon Keefe notes, “he’s someone we’ve wanted to get some games.”

Saturday’s projected lines:

Thornton-Tavares-Marner
Barabanov-Kerfoot-Nylander
Hyman-Engvall-Mikheyev
Petan-Boyd-Spezza

Rielly-Brodie
Muzzin-Holl
Dermott-Bogosian

Campbell
Hutchinson

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Canadiens changes to watch for under interim coach Dominique Ducharme – Sportsnet.ca

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Will the real Montreal Canadiens please stand up?

The Canadiens’ first 10 games of the season, they were the best team in the NHL. Their last nine games: 29th.

Montreal’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday was a microcosm of their season to date. A solid first half followed by a disastrous second half. The Canadiens led 3-1 halfway through Thursday’s game and then fell apart. Winnipeg scored five unanswered goals en route to a 6-3 win.

“We cracked,” said the Canadiens newly appointed interim head coach Dominique Ducharme. “We cracked mentally. We cracked physically.”

It all started well enough. In the first period the Canadiens looked like the early-season team that torched their opponents with quick puck movement and speed. Joel Armia scored twice on quick-ups that caught the Jets defence off guard.

That’s the Canadiens team we saw in their first 10 games. A team that played on its toes, not its heels.

When Montreal is attacking as they did in the first 30 minutes of Thursday night’s game, they are a tough team to handle. Montreal led the NHL in rush chances and goals through its first 10 games of the season. It’s no coincidence that when the offence dried up, so too did the wins.

While the Canadiens excelled at creating and capitalizing off the rush early in the season, those chances faded away as their opponents adapted. The Canadiens adapted as well and more or less made up the difference in scoring chances/expected goals by creating offence in different ways. In the final eight games of Claude Julien’s tenure, Montreal ranked third in cycle scoring chances and first in chances off the forecheck and off rebounds. In-zone offence as opposed to the high-volume off the rush opportunities.

The plan to score goals once set up in the offensive zone under Julien was fairly straightforward. Move pucks low-to-high and shoot from the point with traffic in front of the net. Deflections, rebound chances, screens and recovering loose pucks was the name of the game.

While this strategy did produce a fair amount of quality shots due to the sheer volume of shots the Canadiens produced, Montreal struggled to score goals once defending teams were set up in the defensive zone. The Canadiens simply could not convert these chance types at even a league-average rate. It was rush or bust and the rush was gone. Entering Thursday’s game, the Canadiens had scored 39 per cent of their goals this season off the rush. No team relied more on rush offence than Montreal.

Ducharme hinted that the Canadiens’ strategy in the offensive zone would be tweaked, emphasizing more puck support to give the puck carrier more options. We saw examples of this Thursday night. Midway through the first period Jonathan Drouin had a chance to move the puck to the point, but instead tried to pass it into the slot. Moments later, he worked a give-and-go with Nick Suzuki that created a scoring chance.

Late in the second period, Joel Armia has the puck behind the net and looks for Drouin in the slot, but he’s covered. So, Armia works the puck to the blue line, but instead of a point shot from Shea Weber, Drouin makes himself available in the middle of the ice where Weber hits him with a pass. After fumbling the puck, Drouin stick-handles himself out of trouble for a scoring chance.

These are the type of plays Canadiens fans can expect to see more of under Ducharme.

Whether this in-zone adjustment will prove more effective than the low-to-high, volume-shooting approach Julien favoured remains to be seen. One game is a small sample but sure enough, all three of Montreal’s goals against Winnipeg came off the rush.

That said, how Montreal creates its offence may not matter much if the Canadiens can’t do a better job of keeping the puck out of their own net. Defensive breakdowns and an inability to get a timely save cost the Canadiens more than anything in their loss to the Jets. While Carey Price wasn’t the reason Montreal lost the game, the goal he allowed to Nate Thompson that proved to be the game-winner was the type of deflating goal that can sink a team.

“I just think maybe I’m overthinking things,” Price said after the loss.

Perhaps taking some time to recapture his game is what will serve Price and the Canadiens best right now. When he’s on his game, there are few goalies better in the world. So far this season, Price’s performance has been below average, though.

GM Marc Bergevin acquired Jake Allen to give Price something he has not had in recent years: A competent back-up capable of easing Price’s workload when needed. This might be the time for that. Allen has not only outperformed Price in the seven games he’s played this season, he’s been one of the best goalies in the goalie graveyard that is the North Division.

The last stat on the graphic above — goals saved above expected — shows that Allen is saving his team approximately one goal every three games beyond expected, based on the shot quality and quantity he faces. Price is costing the Canadiens roughly a goal every two games. Among 47 qualified goalies, Allen ranks ninth overall in that statistic, while Price ranks 43rd.

It will take more than one game for the Canadiens to familiarize themselves with how Ducharme wants them to play. Certainly more than one game for the team to start executing with a high degree of consistency. A few more saves at key times might be the difference between a win or a loss in the coming games, which is significant for a team that looks as fragile as the Canadiens do right now.

The Canadiens get another crack at the Jets Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada. We’ll see which Habs team shows up. The first half team that plays on its toes or the second half version that plays on its heels.

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With six coaches out, Sergio Scariolo steps in to lead Toronto Raptors to win – ESPN

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For Sergio Scariolo, this was just another game.

The Toronto Raptors assistant coach slid over into the head coach’s chair, leading the team to a 122-111 win over the Houston Rockets in Tampa Bay on Friday night. The win came despite Toronto being without star Pascal Siakam, head coach Nick Nurse and five other Raptors assistants because of health and safety protocols.

But even with Toronto down another assistant in Chris Finch, who earlier this week became the head coach in Minnesota, the Raptors still had a pretty experienced man on the bench to handle the job.

Scariolo has 25 years of coaching experience overseas, and since 2009 has been the head coach of the Spanish national team, with which he won the FIBA Eurobasket tournament three times (2009, 2011 and 2015) and the FIBA World Cup (2019). He also coached Spain to a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics and a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics.

So no, this wasn’t his first rodeo.

In fact, Scariolo served as a head coach just last week as he coached Spain for the Eurobasket qualifiers in Poland on Feb. 19 and 21. Spain won both of those games.

“It’s a 3-0 week,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said.

Originally quarantining this week after he returned from Poland, Scariolo became available to rejoin the team on Friday, just as the health and safety protocols took out the coaching staff. Scariolo said he got back from Poland on Monday and spent the rest of the week away from the Raptors. He drove to Miami, where the Raptors played on Wednesday, but still stayed separate from the team; he drove back to Tampa in the same car the day after the game.

Scariolo said the team started to put a plan in action Thursday, with the Raptors having reassigned tasks to the coaches who would still be able to be with the team by Friday morning. The team also had to alter its pregame routine because tests didn’t come back on time, so the Raptors had to have one joint film session before getting on the floor without a walk-through.

“So it was kind of reacting every time to something different, but at the end of the day, we got the W, so who cares,” Scariolo said.

Scariolo said he had a video call with Nurse before the game and credited Nurse’s philosophy and the teamwork he has instilled in the coaching staff for helping to make the transition as smooth as possible. He also credited his own experience as a head coach.

“Honestly, it didn’t feel too much difference with the 1,500 games I’ve coached before,” Scariolo said. “I felt that we were prepared getting into the game because everybody made his contribution and this is what it takes in a team sport like basketball.”

Lowry and guard Fred VanVleet tried to downplay the situation as much as possible, but Lowry made sure to grab the ball after the buzzer and present it to Scariolo after the game. Scariolo said that basketball will go next to other balls players have given to him following medal games or other championships throughout his career.

VanVleet said the team tried to keep things the same as much as possible so as not to try to overcorrect something that didn’t need to be corrected.

“I think I kind of came to grips with that pretty early on once they made a decision that obviously those coaches were going to be out. I didn’t really want to overreact to it,” VanVleet said. “I think it’s one of those things that you probably put a little bit too much stock into, but the game doesn’t change.

“The way we need to play doesn’t change. The way we play doesn’t change. So just having a different voice out there, obviously, that’s why you have a strong coaching staff for situations like this. Obviously, Sergio has been a great head coach for a long time. He’s been doing it at a high level, so plugging him in was pretty simple to do.”

The Raptors didn’t release the names of the coaches who missed the game, but Jim Sann, Jamaal Magloire and Mark Tyndale were spotted along the Raptors’ bench and received shoutouts from VanVleet and Lowry after the game.

Scariolo said he doesn’t know how long he’ll serve as the acting head coach, adding that the team will continue to operate on the fly until it knows more. While he had talked to Nurse before the game, he hadn’t talked to him before meeting with reporters postgame. There were more important matters to take care of first.

“I will make sure I get tested first, this is my first test and I don’t want to make a mistake right now,” he said. “We can’t afford it. Then, for sure, we’ll talk.”

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