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Goaltending not Edmonton's big issue, it's lack of hitting, desperation and hunger, NHL commentator argues – Edmonton Journal

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Game Day 37: Oilers vs Flames

Update: Today’s line-up as per Jack Michaels of the Oilers:

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Expected lineup vs CGY:

Perlini-McDavid-Yamamoto
Foegele-Draisaitl-Puljujarvi
Benson-McLeod-Turris
Shore-Ryan-Sceviour

Nurse-Bouchard
Keith-Ceci
Russell-Koekkoek

Koskinen

—Kassian not on ice

My take

1. That means Kassian and Tyson Barrie are likely out, with Mike Smith, Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins already out. That’s a lot of core players out.

2. This in from former NHL grinder Alan May, now a commentator on the Washington Capitals, speaking to Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now in regards to the Oilers: “”I’m seeing a team that doesn’t play with any physicality. I look last night at the players who got the hits up top, Tyler Benson and I think Devin Shore. You need to have more beef out there. Right now they look smallish. They look like a team that is sweep checking, poke checking, only checking the puck. It’s like they’re playing now to lose and therefore they are losing.

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“I just think you’ve got to add some grit. … I’m not biased against small guys, but small guys to me have to the most noticeable, dominate players on the ice… I just think that those players have to be hungrier, faster, and I just don’t see enough right now out of the supporting cast.”

May had a kinder word for the Oilers goalie situation than you’ll hear in Edmonton, noting that when you don’t have a team playing hard in front of you, that puts immense pressure on the goalie. “If they let in one iffy goal, they’re done. That’s what is happening right now there. It doesn’t matter who is in net. If you got (ace Tampa goalie Andrei) Vasilevskiy, eventually he will lose his confidence.”

There are simply too many two-on-ones and high danger chances against Edmonton, May said.

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“The depth guys have to be more desperate. Right now they look small, they look fragile, they’re not physical, they’re not checking the puck well.”

My take

1. Hmmm. I think May has identified a major issue here but I don’t think he hit the nail on the head, especially with his comment on Edmonton’s goaltending. If Mike Smith this year was the Mike Smith of last year, Edmonton would be winning now.

2. It strikes me — and this is strictly from observation here, not from knowing anything about team dynamics — that Smith is the straw that stirs Edmonton’s drink. When he’s healthy and in the line-up, he dominates the game with his fiery mood, brilliant puckhandling and strong goaltending. The Oilers simply look like a different team when he’s playing, each guy growing a few inches and gaining ten pounds of muscle, each guy ready to hit harder, hustle harder and try to match Smith’s unmatchable intensity. Smith’s presence on the ice — at least if he can bring something close to his “A” game — helps immediately to solve the problem May references, the lack of physicality and forceful play. He can’t get back in the line-up soon enough, but it’s starting to look like his health really isn’t going to allow that this season. Hate to say it, but that’s how I size things.

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3. As for the lack of hard-hitting and intense forwards, especially some with some size, yes, that’s a hole on the team, one of a number of holes, especially with big, tough Zach Hyman out of the line-up right now. When it comes to Oilers forwards who play a hard game, he’s at the top of that list, with Leon Draisaitl, Jesse Puljujarvi and Warren Foegele having their moments, and Tyler Benson, Colton Sceviour and Kailer Yamamoto doing OK for smaller players. But Devin Shore, Brendan Perlini, and Zack Kassian need to bring more. Ryan McLeod needs to mix it up more. Kyle Turris has already played his way out of the line-up in large part through lack of physical play and defensive intensity, but Shore, Kassian, Perlini, Derek Ryan and McLeod have got to bring more fire. If not, they’re on their way out too.

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4. On defence, Duncan Keith has been playing better, but this is not a hard-hitting group. Tyson Barrie and Evan Bouchard aren’t hitters, nor is Slater Koekkoek. Darnell Nurse is, but hitting too much will wear him out. William Lagesson needed to play a more physical game, but failed to do so. Kris Russell brings grit but keeps getting hurt and in too many games isn’t the player he used to be. This group can move the puck OK, but it’s short on Big Bobby Clobbers.

5. The Oilers now rank seventh out of eight teams in the Pacific Division, ahead of only woeful Seattle. But due to Edmonton’s blistering start, the team is still at real .500, 18 wins and 18 losses in all situations. It hasn’t dipped into hopeless territory. It’s still got a chance to sort out this season and at least make the playoffs. It’s hard to imagine how that happens just now, but it’s almost impossible to fathom how a team that was the best in the NHL for the first 21 games has been the worst for the next 15. Who knows where this goes net?

Staples on politics

Why hasn’t impolitic Kaycee Madu been fired? A few important reasons

Kaycee Madu, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General of Alberta, speaks in the Rotunda of the Alberta Legislature at a ceremony marking Black History Month in Alberta.
Kaycee Madu, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General of Alberta, speaks in the Rotunda of the Alberta Legislature at a ceremony marking Black History Month in Alberta. jpg

At the Cult

McCURDY: Turris waived, Griffith recalled

McCURDY: Reported Brad Malone signing quashed by COVID

LEAVINS: Post mortem of a 6-0 beatdown on home ice

McCURDY: Slumping Oilers in deep vs. high-flying Panthers

STAPLES: Savvy media men Ferraro, Messier offer tips to Oilers stars

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Scouting takeaways from the Memorial Cup: Mason McTavish is NHL ready – Sportsnet.ca

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The host Saint John Sea Dogs defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs 6-3 on Wednesday night to claim the 102nd the Memorial Cup. Although the tournament was played much later than usual due to the pandemic, it was fantastic to see the event being hosted in one of the most enjoyable CHL cities in Canada.

If you haven’t traveled to the east coast of Canada, I recommend adding Saint John, Moncton, Halifax, Charlottetown, and Cape Breton to your bucket list of CHL cities to visit in the future. If you enjoy seafood, great music, and the occasional adult beverage, Maritimers know how to throw a party!

With the Memorial Cup behind us, there are no more major events between now and the NHL Draft next week. With summer upon us, here are some players who caught my eye over the course of the tournament:

WILLIAM DUFOUR
Drafted by NY Islanders, fifth round (152nd overall) in 2020.

Dufour had a breakout year in the regular season scoring 56 goals and 116 points in 66 games and then was named MVP of the QMJHL. He was also named MVP of the Memorial Cup after scoring seven goals and eight points in four games played.

Not every prospect develops the same way. Some are pro ready earlier than others. Dufour is an example of a player who has been polarizing over the years. He’s been traded several times in the Q and never seemed entirely comfortable with his surroundings until this year.

The 6-foot-3, 204-pound winger has a pro release. There is no question he knows how to score goals. He has a heavy, accurate shot that beats goalies from range. His size is also a plus in the hard areas when extending plays and distributing in traffic. His skating needs to improve another 20 per cent for the NHL game, though. Will he be Arthur Kaliyev or Matthew Strome at the next level?

Dufour’s development path has been a winding road, but he deserves credit for a great season. Hopefully this is the start of great things in the future.

ARBER XHEKAJ
Undrafted free agent signing by Montreal in 2021.

Full disclosure: I have a scout’s crush on Arber. How can you not? This is a player who was a free agent when he made the Kitchener Rangers. He wasn’t drafted by an NHL team, but earned a contract from Montreal after a strong showing at their training camp in 2021. He is the poster player for perseverance and character.

Arber is a big, strong, two-way defenceman. He’s 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, mobile, tough, and he moves the puck efficiently to chip in with some secondary offence.

At the Memorial Cup Xhekaj’s game reminded me a lot of Ben Chiarot (when he was with the Habs and playing at his best). He was used in all situations, contributed five assists in five games, and played with an intimidating presence.

Montreal has found a potential NHL defenceman for free. I’m looking forward to monitoring Arber’s development at the pro level. We already know he’s going to put in the work to reach his goal.


JAKE NEIGHBOURS
Drafted by the St. Louis Blues, first round (26th overall) in 2020.

The kind of player scouts describe as a “swiss army knife.” Jake does a bit of everything and can play up and down the lineup.

He only scored one goal in three games at the Memorial Cup. The group looked like it ran out of gas as a team. However, my takeaway on Neighbours is still positive. He emptied the tank every time he hit the ice and gave the Oil Kings all he had. He played fast and was involved physically. Neighbours is a tenacious forward who projects to be a second- or third-line NHL player on a good team. The Oil Kings could have used more offence off his stick last week, but there is no question he played with passion and compete.

MASON McTAVISH
Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks, first round (third overall) in 2021.

For those who expected even more from McTavish at the Memorial Cup, consider his hockey journey in 2021-22: McTavish played games for Anaheim (NHL), San Diego (AHL), Team Canada (Olympic Games), Peterborough (OHL) and Hamilton (OHL).

I’m not sure if the kid is collecting air miles or hotel points, but he should have earned some free nights and flights with all of his travel this past season.

He emptied the tank at the Memorial Cup. After a bit of a slow start, he went to another level in the semis and final. He gave opponents all they could handle in the hard areas and showed off his quick stick and puck skill. McTavish ended the tournament with six goals and eight points. He’s pro ready and should get full time NHL minutes with the Ducks next season.

MAVRIK BOURQUE
Drafted by the Dallas Stars, first round (30th overall) in 2020.

When I was the Director of Scouting with the Florida Panthers I travelled to Shawinigan to see Mavrik play in the fall of 2019. Our regional scout, Dillon Donnelly, had taken a shine to Bourque early that season and believed in his compete and skill. Bourque suffered an injury that night and ended up in the stands halfway through the game. Between the second and third period we spoke with Bourque. I can’t recall the specifics relating to his injury so I’m going to describe it as an “upper body” injury. The kid stated to me he needed to get stronger so these kinds of setbacks don’t occur as he matures as a player. He told me he plays a skilled game, but doesn’t back down from traffic and competing.

Fast forward to this Memorial Cup, and Bourque plays the game the exact way he described to me in the fall of 2019. He left it all on the ice in the tournament, scoring two goals and seven points. He seemed to have the puck on his stick every shift. On the power play he was equal parts shooter and distributor from the flank. I love the way Bourque plays. He’s the kind of player who is willing to carry a team on his back.

SEBASTIAN COSSA
Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings, first round (15th overall) in 2021.

Cossa is a big human. An athletic 6-foot-6 goalie who has the potential to develop into an NHL No. 1.

His Memorial Cup, for me, was uneven. Cossa came up with some big saves, but also allowed some goals he would admit were weak.

Goalies tend to take longer to develop. Cossa needs time to clean up some of his unnecessary habits. At his size there is no reason for him to play outside the blue paint of his crease. When he does, his size becomes less of an advantage when pucks spill to the side of the net and he has to travel further to make a save. His rebound control was off in this tournament as well. Lastly, when he went paddle down on wrap arounds or “stuff” plays he failed to get his stick in position or his pads tight to the ice.

Cossa is a Grade A goalie prospect who, it appears, ran out of gas at the Memorial Cup. When he is on his game, he’s plenty quick for his stature, keeps pucks closer to his body, and moves laterally with more precision. He needs time.


JAN MYSAK
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, second round (48th overall) in 2020.

There was a time I was concerned about Mysak’s willingness to get to pucks along the boards and extend or make plays. He has always displayed solid skill. He’s not an intimidating player, but he’s not small either (6-feet, 180 pounds). He only produced two goals in five Memorial Cup gamesm but it wasn’t for lack of effort and involvement.

XAVIER BOURGAULT
Drafted by the Edmonton Oilers, first round (22nd overall) in 2021.

Bourgault and Bourque fed off each other for Shawinigan. They have similar attributes.

Bourgault ended the Memorial Cup with two goald and seven points and was a threat off the rush and on the PP. I appreciate his skill. He’s quick off the mark and has the kind of skill to beat opponents one-on-one in open ice and tight quarters.

JAKUB DEMEK
Drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights, fourth round (128th overall) in 2021.

Demek will have to work on his foot speed to have a chance at becoming a pro in North America. He does, however, have an understanding of how to play on the defensive side of the puck and he’s fantastic in the face-off circle. He won 47 draws in three games at the Memorial Cup. Teams want to start with the puck off face-offs, so he has some attractive elements that can contribute to team success.

KAIDEN GUHLE
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, first round (16th overall) in 2020.

It seemed like Guhle never left the ice in the tournament. He logged big minutes in all situations and contributed three assists in three games.

I did feel like Guhle was trying to do too much at times and his detail suffered overall. He found himself above the puck occasionally in his zone and forced some plays in the offensive zone. Having said that he is an elite skater who is highly competitive and can be deployed in a variety of roles. He’s a Grade A prospect who could end up being a top pairing NHL defenceman in time.

WILLIAM VILLENEUVE
Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs, fourth round (122nd overall) in 2020.

I felt William played a low risk and efficient game at the Memorial Cup. His outlets were clean and he skated some pucks at times as well. He seems to be rounding into a two-way defence prospect who won’t jump out with an elite element in any one category, but could provide a responsible game defensively.

JEREMIE POIRIER
Drafted by the Calgary Flames, third round (72nd overall) in 2020.

There was a time I was very concerned about the high risk game that Poirier played. Defending and detail seemed to be an afterthought dating back a few years. Fast forward to today and I see a player who has scaled back some of his risk and plays with more detail, but still has the ability to create offence. He produced one goal and three points at the Memorial Cup. Poirier could end up being a nice find for the Flames.

The CHL season has finally come to an end. The last couple years have been difficult on the players, organizations, and the scouting fraternity. I could have written reports on many more deserving players from this tournament. Congratulations to the CHL and Saint John, New Brunswick for getting the Memorial Cup back on schedule.


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Andreescu, Shapovalov losses end Canadian Wimbledon singles hopes in 2nd round – CBC Sports

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Canadians Bianca Andreescu and Denis Shapovalov were both eliminated from Wimbledon after suffering second -round losses at the All England Tennis Club on Thursday.

Andreescu, of Missisauga, Ont., dropped a 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) decision to Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, while Shapovalov, of Richmond Hill, Ont., fell 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) to American Brandon Nakashima on Thursday.

Rybakina fired four aces to Andreescu’s two, and converted on three of four break points.

Rybakina also won 80 per cent of her first-serve points, while Andreescu won 65 per cent of hers.

“I didn’t expect for her serve to be that good. She did play well, and she was getting to a bunch of balls. She was pretty solid, both sides. She played a really great match,” said Andreescu.

WATCH | Andreescu eliminated from Wimbledon:

Andreescu bounced in Wimbledon 2nd round

14 hours ago

Duration 2:04

No. 17 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan beat Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., 6-4, 7-6(5) to advance to the third round of Wimbledon.

The 23-year-old Rybakina, seeded 17th in the women’s draw, will next meet China’s Qinwen Zheng, 19, in the tournament’s third round.

Andreescu, 22, advanced to the second round at the All England Tennis Club for the first time in her career after breezing past American Emina Bektas 6-1, 6-3 in Tuesday’s opener.

Shapovalov, seeded 17th in the men’s draw, committed eight double faults in his loss to Nakashima.

WATCH | Shapovalov falls to Nakashima in 2nd round:

Shapovalov upset in Wimbledon 2nd round

11 hours ago

Duration 2:11

56th-ranked American Brandon Nakashima upset 13 seed Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(6) to advance to the third round at Wimbledon.

Nakashima will face Daniel Galan of Colombia in the next round.

In women’s doubles, Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and Mexican partner Giuliana Olmos, seeded third, advanced to the second round with a 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-2 win over Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer and Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva.

Dabrowski and Olmos will next face off against Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine and Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic.

Kvitova battles nerves in win

Meanwhile, two-time champion Petra Kvitova has plenty of experience on the grass courts of Wimbledon.

But that doesn’t mean everything is easy for her in southwest London.

She has spoken about being nervous when she comes to Wimbledon, and she showed some of those nerves on Thursday when she beat Ana Bogdan 6-1, 7-6 (5).

It was a straight-set victory, but the second set wasn’t straightforward.

Kvitova was leading 5-1 when Bogdan started to reel off game after game. Then Kvitova had a match point while serving at 5-4, but failed to convert that chance and then the game itself, eventually leading to the tiebreaker.

“Especially a few games on my serve, it was really long games, and mentally very tough,” the 25th-seeded Kvitova said. “I think maybe even this took some energy from my serve and I just couldn’t make it.”

She still pulled it out in the end, like she has done so many times in the past at Wimbledon. She won her first title in 2011, and added the second in 2014. But she was attacked in her home in 2016 and suffered knife injuries to her playing left hand. She later had surgery and needed more than five months to recover.

Last week, she won the fifth grass-court title of her career at a tournament in Eastbourne, England.

That should have given her plenty of confidence heading into this tournament, and this match.

“Somehow I made it,” Kvitova said on court. “I don’t know how, but I did it.”

Kvitova will next face Paula Badosa. The fourth-seeded Spaniard defeated Irina Bara 6-3, 6-2.

Sixth-seeded Karolina Pliskova, who reached the Wimbledon final last year, was eliminated on Centre Court. The Czech player lost to British wild-card entry Katie Boulter 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4.

The 25-year-old Boulter also beat Pliskova last week at a warmup tournament in Eastbourne for her first win against a top-10 player. She broke for a 5-4 lead in the final set and converted her first match point with a volley winner.

Boulter will face Harmony Tan in the next round. Tan eliminated seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams in the first round and then beat 32nd-seeded Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-3, 6-4 on Thursday.

Top-ranked Iga Swiatek also advanced — and won her 37th straight match.

Swiatek defeated Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 on No. 1 Court to improve her winning streak, the longest since Martina Hingis also won 37 matches in a row in 1997.

She will next face Alize Cornet, who defeated American player Claire Liu 6-3, 6-3.

Kyrgios, Tsitsipas set for battle

In the men’s draw, Nick Kyrgios advanced to the third round for the sixth time in eight Wimbledon appearances. The unseeded Australian, who reached the quarterfinals at the All England Club in his debut in 2014, beat 26th-seeded Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.

It was a much easier match than the first round, when Kyrgios was taken to five sets by British wild-card entry Paul Jubb.

“Getting over the line in that first round was massive,” Kyrgios said. “Today I was kind of in my zone. I just wanted to remind everyone that I’m pretty good.”

Kyrgios will next face Stefanos Tsitsipas. The fourth-seeded Greek beat Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 on No. 1 Court.

Tsitsipas will be playing in the third round at the All England Club for the first time since 2018. He lost in the first round last year and 2019. His best Wimbledon result was reaching the fourth round in 2018.

Rafael Nadal also advanced, along with No. 11 Taylor Fritz of the United States. Nadal, a two-time Wimbledon champion seeded second this year, beat Ricardas Berankis 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

No. 17 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain withdrew from the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19. He had been scheduled to play Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia.

No. 12 Diego Schwartzman was also eliminated.

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Chris Boucher back with Toronto Raptors for 3 years, $35.25 million, agent says – ESPN

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Chris Boucher is returning to the Toronto Raptors on a three-year, $35.25 million deal, his agent Sam Permut of Roc Nation Sports told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Thursday.

Boucher enjoyed the healthiest season of his career last year, playing in 80 games after failing to clear more than 62 in each of the last two seasons. However, he saw his production decline slightly from a career year in 2020-21, shooting under 30% from 3 while playing just over 20 minutes per game.

Still, Boucher boasts a valuable skillset for a modern big, combining elite shot-blocking and rebounding to go along with an ability to stretch the floor. In 2020-21, he averaged 13.6 points while shooting 51.4% from the field and 38.3% from 3 on nearly 4 attempts per game.

Boucher had a brief stint on the Warriors to start his NBA career before Toronto signed him to a two-way contract in 2018. He’s been with the Raptors ever since, completing the second leg of a 2-year, $13.5 million deal last season.

Boucher got a late start in basketball and then tore his ACL late in his senior season at Oregon, so while entering just his sixth NBA season, he will be turning 30 in January.

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