EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers are, in many ways, the Toronto Maple Leafs West.
They’ve always had the skill guys, the ones who lead the league in jersey sales and look great in a 6-5 shootout. But come February and March, a bunch of guys in a uniform you’d never buy — sorry, Nashville — annually come through town and work them for two points.
Or perhaps more accurately, “outwork” them for two points.
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But while the struggles continued for the Maple Leafs Saturday night in Montreal, the Oilers fought one out in the alley with a Predators team that has mastered games like this over the years.
They ran this race on a muddy track in Edmonton Saturday, and the Oilers managed to turn a 2-0 deficit into a mucky, dirty 3-2 regulation win. This was the opposite of fire wagon hockey: Gritty, limited space, hard-checking, stretch run hockey.
You can win all the track meets you want in November and December.
If you can’t win a game like this in February? You’re not going anywhere, pal.
“No, and we’ve seen that in the past,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the longest-serving Oiler. “We could win those pretty games when things were easy, but when push comes to shove you’ve got to be able to win games like these. Games against Calgary, St. Louis… It’s good we’re battling all the way through and finding ways to win.”
Mike Smith, who was stellar versus the Preds, suddenly hasn’t lost a game in regulation since Dec. 20 (7-0-2). He’s been around long enough to know hockey’s change of seasons, as games turn colour — to black and blue — with the playoffs approaching.
“I think we’ve seen our team when we’ve tried to out-skill teams and outscore teams and it works for maybe a game or two here or there,” Smith said. “But consistently, it doesn’t give yourself a chance to win on any given night. It doesn’t give you a chance to make the playoffs, let alone be a good team in the playoffs. And I think this team is figuring that out slowly.”
Look, Nashville isn’t a great team. We get that.
They don’t score much. Never have, actually. So they’ve perfected the art of the 2-1 or 3-2 win.
The Preds copyrighted the act of coming into your building, scoring one in the first, another in the second, then nursing a game home the way they did in Calgary two days before.
“We expected that coming in,” Nugent-Hopkins said, “and then really understood it once the game got going. It wasn’t going to be fancy or pretty. We had to keep it simple.
“It was a greasy game.”
In Gary Bettman’s National Hockey League, where parity — no, competitive balance — rules the day, March happens in February. We used to get pseudo playoff games like this one for the final three weeks of the regular season. Now we get them starting in about the second week of February.
Kyle Turris hoofed home an own-goal with nine seconds left in the second period to give Edmonton life, trailing 2-1 after 40 minutes. Then Leon Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins, whose mixture of sublime defensive work and high-end offensive skills make him perhaps the perfect linemate for the big German, went to work.
Nugent-Hopkins thwarted a Turris chance with a stellar bit of checking, and moments later sauced a backhand pass across the ice to send Draisaitl wide. He would beat Juuse Saros to draw the Oilers even, then score the winner on a Nugent-Hopkins feed 10 minutes later, on the power play.
It was Draisaitl’s 31st goal and league-leading 85th point.
“He is such a dominant player when he plays a big, strong game,” marvelled head coach Dave Tippett. “He just holds the puck and can dominate the game at times. People don’t give him enough credit for being a fast player. He can beat people out wide as you saw on our second goal.
“And you don’t have to tell him that he had a couple of tough games. He is a smart hockey guy. His dad is a coach — he knows how to evaluate his own game. He knew things weren’t going as well as he liked and he knows he is one of the leaders on our team and he played with a purpose to turn it around tonight.”
McDavid injured his knee when he crashed into the end boards in the second period. He was not made available to the media after the game, but Tippett didn’t sound too stressed about the left knee injury‚ the same knee he rehabbed all summer long.
“He has a little bruise on top of his knee or something like that,” Tippett said. “They looked at it between periods, he iced it and they wanted to ice him right after the game. I asked him how he was doing and he said ‘I’m fine, I’m playing.’ He got out there and played.
“As far as I know it is nothing serious.”
Edmonton will enjoy an off day on Sunday, so the next McDavid update will not come until we see if he skates out for Monday’s 11 a.m. MT practice.
Canada takes on Slovakia as World Juniors continue on TSN – TSN
Team Canada has had its first taste of summer hockey at the World Junior Championship and will continue the quest for gold tonight against Slovakia.
Watch Canada vs. Slovakia at 6 p.m. ET on TSN4, TSN.ca and the TSN App. TSN’s coverage of Thursday’s games at the tournament begins at 2 p.m. ET with Finland facing Czechia.
Connor Bedard, a top prospect for the 2023 NHL draft, opened the scoring for Canada (1-0-0) and added an assist in a 5-2 win over Latvia (0-0-2) on Wednesday.
Sebastian Cossa got the start in net and made 22 saves for a Canadian squad quickly looking to build chemistry in Edmonton.
Canada’s head coach Dave Cameron said prior to the game he wanted to see “disciplined 200-foot hockey” and that the effort against Latvia was pretty much what he expected.
“It’s early, this is really only our second game, so you knew it was going to come in ebbs and flows,” said Cameron. “I like that we stuck with it and found a way to get that fifth goal which was huge and took a little bit of that pressure off towards the end of the game.”
Canada has reached the podium in four of the past five tournaments, including gold medals in 2018 and 2020. Canada last won gold on home soil in 2015.
Cameron was quick to say that getting prepared to play hockey in August is not an issue.
“Not a chance, it’s what I do,” said Cameron. “I’ve done summer tournaments before … hockey’s hockey.
“It doesn’t matter the environment, the city, the number of people in the stands, anything like that. We’re hockey people and when that puck drops – game on.”
Slovakia (0-0-1), which features another top 2023 draft prospect in centre Dalibor Dvorsky, fell 5-4 to Czechia in their first match of the tournament on Tuesday.
TSN’s Mark Masters reports that Dylan Garand is expected to start against Slovakia.
Riley Kidney and Carson Lambos are projected to be scratches, while Brennan Othmann and Ethan Del Mastro will draw in for Canada.
Tom Brady Steps Aside From The Buccaneers: Details – HotNewHipHop
Tom Brady is one of the best players in the entire NFL, and this season, he is looking to win his eighth Super Bowl title. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking good right now, and there is a real sense that they will win the NFC South, once again.
Unfortunately, Brady has had to put a halt to his training camp efforts as he is dealing with a personal matter. According to Ian Rapaport, Brady was not at practice today due to the issue and it seems like he won’t be returning to the field until after the team’s upcoming preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, which is set to take place on August 20th.
Brady is one of the oldest quarterbacks in the history of the league, and it is nothing short of impressive that he is still performing at such a high level. Many pundits believe the Buccaneers are favorites to win it all, yet again, although they will have to prove themselves following a disappointing end to the season in 2022.
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images for The Match
This is a developing story so stay tuned to HNHH for all of the latest news and updates.
Watch Live: Oilers pay tribute to Ben Stelter – Sportsnet.ca
Ben Stelter was an inspiration to many in the sports world and beyond.
Two months before his fifth birthday, Stelter was diagnosed with glioblastoma — a form of brain cancer. After meeting the Edmonton Oilers, he quickly became a motivation for the team during their run to the Western Conference Final.
Stelter died at the age six, his father had announced Wednesday.
The Oilers will speak publicly starting at around 12:30 p.m. ET, and their comments can be seen in their entirety on Sportsnet through the video player atop this page.
Note: This live stream has ended.
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