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IWTG: Canucks douse the Oilers, head into Christmas with first 3-game win streak since October – Vancouver Courier

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Connor McDavid is the best hockey player on earth. He’s having a monstrous season, putting the Oilers on his back and willing them into a playoff position. He leads the league in points, is sixth in goals and is the biggest reason the Oilers have the best power play in the NHL right now.

The Canucks hard-matched 20-year-old Quinn Hughes against him on Monday night. It wasn’t even the first time.

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In the first game of the season, the player that led the Canucks in ice time against McDavid at even-strength was Hughes, who was 19 at the time. Head coach Travis Green and defence coach Nolan Baumgartner placed a tremendous amount of trust in Hughes right from day one. But that was in a game where the Canucks were trying to mount a comeback; this was a game where they were defending a lead late in the third period.

Let’s just take a step back and recognize how remarkable that is. The Canucks’ rookie defenceman, who had played just 41 NHL games — half a season — heading into this game, was tasked with shutting down the best player in the world. More than that, Hughes is undersized by NHL standards and known primarily as an offensive defenceman and power play quarterback.

Old-school hockey men would either jump to the conclusion that he can’t play defence or refuse to put him in a position where he might prove that he could.

Instead, the Canucks threw him into the fire and it turned out Hughes was fireproof, which was a huge relief to everyone. Hughes played over 11 minutes against McDavid at even strength, including 1:32 of the final two minutes of the game, defending a one-goal lead. He and defence partner Chris Tanev — can’t forget about Tanev — played McDavid to a standstill, which is remarkably impressive when you consider how fast McDavid skates.

“I knew he was a great skater coming in, I mean, you can tell that from day one,” said Jay Beagle after the game. “But his play away from the park and his reads…it takes a long time for some guys to get that and he has it right away.”

Perhaps it’s that skating ability itself that made the matchup work. Few players in the league can skate with McDavid, but Hughes might be one of those few.

Then, to top it off, Hughes scored the game-winning goal on the power play. I hope you know how lucky you are to have Quinn Hughes, Vancouver. I took a moment to thank the Arizona Coyotes for drafting Barrett Hayton while I watched this game.

  • Alex Edler was on the ice against Connor McDavid for just over two minutes at even-strength in this game; in that time, the Canucks out-scored the Oilers 3-0. Edler was like John Wick declaring, “Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back.”
  • Okay, so Edler didn’t have much to do with any of those three goals apart from the empty net goal at the end of the game, but it was still nice to see him back in the lineup. He didn’t skip a beat, leading the Canucks in ice time in the first period, though they eased off on the minutes as the game progressed.
  • Troy Stecher, who was paired with Edler, was certainly happy to see Edler back. “I’ve watched him my whole life,” said Stecher after the game, a disconcerting reminder that Stecher was just 12 years old when Edler made his Canucks debut.
  • The Canucks’ fourth line split the shutdown duties with the Horvat line and played several shifts against McDavid entirely in the Oilers zone. In fact, the Oilers didn’t get a single shot attempt when Jay Beagle was on the ice against McDavid, which is pretty much ideal. 
  • “We just enjoy doing what we do,” said Tyler Motte. “Shutting down other teams top lines, playing hard minutes. It’s a little bit of an ugly game at times, but we just enjoy doing it and we enjoy doing it together. We just try to have fun with it.”
  • Better than shutting down McDavid, the fourth line even chipped in a goal. On an ever-rare offensive zone faceoff, Motte came into the circle when Beagle was tossed out. The puck ended up in skates off the faceoff and Motte dug it out and sent a quick shot on goal. Mikko Koskinen, who had drifted back in his crease after puck drop, left room on the glove side for Motte’s Clamato Caesar shot. 
  • “I’m probably going to hear about it now from them that they should get out there [for offensive zone faceoffs] more often,” joked Green after the game, though they were mainly out there in a defensive role: Horvat had just been on the power play and he knew the McDavid line would come out after the penalty was over.
  • Seriously, Motte was fantastic in this game. He had a great forechecking sequence during a 4-on-4 late in the second, creating a turnover with pressure on Oscar Klefbom in the neutral zone, then battling with Adam “1-for-1” Larsson on the end boards and unceremoniously throwing him to the ice.

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  • It didn’t take long for the Oilers to respond to the 1-0 goal, as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins blazed past Brock Boeser in the neutral zone, took advantage of a loose gap from Oscar Fantenberg, then caught Tyler Myers playing too deep in the zone. Nugent-Hopkins cut across the slot and all Myers could do was attempt a pokecheck, but Nugent-Hopkins was unpokeable, keeping the puck and beating Jacob Markstrom past his blocker.
  • You can’t give the Edmonton Oilers any time on the power play. They put on a free power play clinic early in the second period, which was awfully nice of them, except it resulted in the 2-1 goal, which means it wasn’t as “free” as advertised and was actually pretty costly. We should’ve known from the quotes around the word “free” on the poster.
  • The Canucks were confident heading into the third period despite being down 2-1; they felt they were out-playing the Oilers and that a bounce would go their way. When that bounce came, it was for a player that was due a bounce, particularly on home ice: Bo Horvat. He went hard to the net as Tanner Pearson took a shot off the right wing and the rebound just happened to hit Horvat’s skate and go into the net.
  • Was it a kick? “That’s not a kicking motion, absolutely not, I was just stopping,” declared Horvat. “I’m a terrible soccer player, so I wouldn’t have been able to kick that.”
  • That was Horvat’s first goal on home ice all season and it seemed appropriate that it was a deflection. “I knew one was going to go off my ass or off some part of my body,” said Horvat, before joking that his ass would have been better, because then he could have celebrated the goal instead of being stuck waiting to find out if the goal would be overturned.
  • This was my favourite moment of the game. It’s a little hard to see here, but from my vantage point it was clear as day: Hughes put his stick in Tanev’s back and tried to push him to the puck carrier. The sheer chutzpah for a rookie like Hughes to think, “I know where Tanev needs to be defensively and I’m going to literally push him into position,” is incredible.

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  • Tanev was having none of it. He didn’t budge. Heck, he probably thought it was an Oilers player trying to get position on him in front of the net.
  • The Oilers may have the best power play in the league, but the Canucks aren’t far behind, and they showed why midway through the third period. The Oilers’ penalty kill seemed to underrate the threat of Hughes’ shot from the point, which is understandable when Elias Pettersson is lurking around the PetterZone, but Hughes showed why that was a mistake, unleashing a one-timer bomb that ripped past a Horvat screen to give the Canucks the 3-2 lead.
  • The Canucks had a couple good chances to seal the game away late in the third: Jake Virtanen got robbed on a backdoor feed by J.T. Miller, while Jay Beagle lofted a breakaway chance over the net on a rolling puck. Finally, with the net empty, it was an unlikely hero who finished off the Oilers: Loui Eriksson.
  • Edler made a nice play down low to pick up a loose puck and feed Pearson on the boards, then jumped up in the play to take Pearson’s return pass. He could have gone for the empty net himself, but Edler is as unselfish as they come. He instead gave the puck to Eriksson, who gently guided the puck in with a big grin on his face. Merry Christmas, Loui Eriksson. Merry Christmas.
  • Finally, I had to ask Stecher about an odd moment in his stellar mic’d up video from earlier in December. At one point, he said from the bench, ““Nice pencil, Leivs!” which isn’t hockey slang that I’m familiar with. Stecher smirked and all he would say is, “A pencil is more of a chirp than anything, so I’ll keep that one quiet.”
     

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Golf-Olympic gold medallist Schauffele pumped for Zozo Championship in Japan

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AmericanXander Schauffele returns this week for the Zozo Championship in Japan nearly two and half months after winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Games and the 27-year-old said he is looking to grab a “special” victory at the PGA Tour event.

The tournament returns to Japan at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on Thursday after last year’s edition was moved to California due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The $9.95 million event will feature Asia’s first Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, two-time major winner Collin Morikawa and Schauffele, who won gold for the United States at the Tokyo Olympics in August with a one-stroke victory.

Schauffele, whose grandparents reside in Japan, said winning at the Zozo Championship would be a huge honour for his family.

“I’m very excited,” Schauffele, who also won the Ryder Cup with the United States last month, said on Wednesday.

“Winning here would be really cool. It would be really special to sort of win twice in Japan, especially since I don’t live here.

“I think it would be a huge honour for my family if I was able to do that and I’m going to do my best this week.”

American Morikawa, whose father is of Japanese descent, said he is looking forward to playing in front of an energetic crowd with 5,000 spectators allowed each day.

“These are some of the best fans,” Morikawa said. “I remember my first tee shot out here two years ago when there were fans on stools and lined up five, six people deep.

“They would cheer for you walking to tee boxes, hitting every tee shot whether it’s good or bad.

“They bring so much energy. I’ve said it since we returned from COVID, it’s just really good to see people out here again.”

 

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; editing by Kim Coghill)

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NHL suspends Evander Kane for 21 games over COVID-19 vaccination status – Global News

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The NHL has suspended San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane for 21 games for submitting a fake COVID-19 vaccination card.

The league on Monday announced the suspension without pay and said Kane will not be eligible to play until Nov. 30 at New Jersey. Kane will forfeit about US$1.68 million of his US$7 million salary for this season with the money going to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

The league also announced that a concurrent investigation into allegations of sexual and physical abuse made against Kane by his estranged wife, Anna, could not be substantiated.

“I would like to apologize to my teammates, the San Jose Sharks organization, and all Sharks fans for violating the NHL COVID protocols,” Kane said in a statement. “I made a mistake, one I sincerely regret and take responsibility for. During my suspension, I will continue to participate in counseling to help me make better decisions in the future. When my suspension is over, I plan to return to the ice with great effort, determination, and love for the game of hockey.”

Read more:
Sharks’ Kane denies game fixing allegations from wife

The Sharks have not said what Kane’s status will be after the investigations. Kane had not been around the team since the start of training camp while these investigations were ongoing in an agreement between him and the team.

“While we are encouraged by Evander’s commitment to moving forward, we are extremely disappointed by his disregard for the health and safety protocols put in place by the NHL and the NHLPA,” the team said in a statement. “We will not be commenting further on Evander’s status prior to the conclusion of the NHL’s mandated suspension.”

Kane had previously been cleared by the NHL in an investigation into allegations made by Anna Kane that he bet on hockey games, including some against the Sharks.


Click to play video: 'Edmonton Oilers fans enter Rogers Place for 1st time amid new COVID-19 protocols'



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Edmonton Oilers fans enter Rogers Place for 1st time amid new COVID-19 protocols


Edmonton Oilers fans enter Rogers Place for 1st time amid new COVID-19 protocols – Sep 28, 2021

But the league did determine that Kane violated the COVID-19 protocols. A person familiar with the investigation said earlier this month that the league was looking into allegations that Kane submitted a fake vaccination card. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details weren’t made public.

Using a fake vaccination card is illegal in both the United States and Canada, as well as against NHL rules.

Read more:
Winnipeg Jets Captain Blake Wheeler goes into NHL’s COVID-19 Protocols

Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week that only four players on active rosters hadn’t been vaccinated.

Kane, 30, is three seasons into a $49 million, seven-year contract. He’s with his third organization after being drafted by and debuting with Atlanta/Winnipeg and a stint in Buffalo.

Last season, he had 22 goals and 27 assists in 56 games.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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2021–22 NBA Season Predictions: MVP, championship picks and more – Sportsnet.ca

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The 2021-22 NBA season gets going Tuesday night.

Returning to a regular 82-game schedule after last season’s 72-game affair, and many teams who appear poised and ready to chase after a ring, this could be one of the most wide-open seasons in recent memory.

There are, of course, the true powerhouses and bottom-feeders in the league. But heading into this new season, it looks like there could be more teams than usual who make the leap up into true contender status.

In an attempt to make sense of what could come, Sportsnet polled some of its basketball experts to try to predict some of the major award winners and who will win it all.

Sixth Man of the Year

Donnovan Bennett, staff writer and digital host: Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors
Michael Grange, senior basketball insider: Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets
William Lou, Raptors Show host on Sportsnet 590 The FAN: Alex Caruso, Chicago Bulls
Steven Loung, NBA section editor: Patty Mills, Brooklyn Nets
Blake Murphy, co-host of the FAN Morning Show on Sportsnet 590 The FAN: Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz
Eric Smith, Raptors play-by-play announcer on Sportsnet 590 The FAN: Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz

Coach of the Year

Bennett: Ime Udoka, Boston Celtics
Grange: Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat
Lou: Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors
Loung: Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets
Murphy: Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets
Smith: Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets

Most Improved Player

Bennett: Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors
Grange: OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors
Lou: Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
Loung: Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
Murphy: Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Smith: Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets

Defensive Player of the Year

Bennett: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Grange: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Lou: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Loung: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Murphy: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Smith: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Rookie of the Year

Bennett: Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic
Grange: Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
Lou: Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
Loung: Jalen Green, Houston Rockets
Murphy: Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
Smith: Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

MVP

Bennett: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Grange: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Lou: Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Loung: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Murphy: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
Smith: Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Biggest sleeper team

Bennett: Chicago Bulls
Grange: Golden State Warriors
Lou: Toronto Raptors
Loung: Golden State Warriors
Murphy: Cleveland Cavaliers
Smith: Golden State Warriors

Finals matchup

Bennett: Brooklyn Nets vs. Golden State Warriors
Grange: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Golden State Warriors
Lou: Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Loung: Brooklyn Nets vs. Golden State Warriors
Murphy: Brooklyn Nets vs. Denver Nuggets

NBA champion

Bennett: Golden State Warriors
Grange: Milwaukee Bucks
Lou: Brooklyn Nets
Loung: Brooklyn Nets
Murphy: Brooklyn Nets

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