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Oilers pile on Senators as Tippett’s bet on McDavid-Draisaitl reunion pays off – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — The polite way to say it would be that the Ottawa Senators don’t match up really well against the Edmonton Oilers.

That Ottawa’s young, mistake-prone roster — outscored 5-2 on average over seven consecutive losses to Edmonton — is the wounded wildebeest to Edmonton’s pride of hungry lions. Or that the Senators’ creaky goaltending is the hanging curveball to the Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid’s green light on three-and-oh.

In reality, a season that has given us many unique visuals has given us one more: One team manhandling another seven times inside of 30 NHL games, beating them by an aggregate score of 34-15 while leaving a dent in the Senators’ pride the size of Marcus Hogberg’s 5.28 goals-against average versus Edmonton.

Even in the playoffs, they stop after four straight wins.

“I thought we played, for the most part a pretty good game,” said Brady Tkachuk after the latest massacre, a 6-2 thrashing Friday night in Edmonton. “There are always stretches where momentum shifts, but it definitely wasn’t a 6-2 game.”

It wasn’t?

“I don’t see a 6-2 game tonight,” echoed head coach D.J. Smith. “We can’t take that many penalties, against this power play, and they got some timely, lucky goals, I guess.

“We didn’t manage the puck the way we have to, but our effort was there.”

Look, I’ve covered the Oilers since about 1991. I’ve seen teams that own another team — specifically, the old Oilers — but the schedule never put the Sedins’ Vancouver Canucks, Nicklas Lidstrom’s Detroit Red Wings or Mike Modano’s Dallas Stars up against Edmonton seven times in a half-season of hockey.

Seven times in 29 games this year for Edmonton — nearly one-quarter of their 2021 campaign has been played against Ottawa, the sad-sack club that is responsible for 14 of Edmonton’s 36 points.

Yet, somehow, 6-2 on a Friday felt a whole lot better than 7-1 on Wednesday for the Senators.

“We learned a big lesson in the last game. We got out-worked, out-competed, and that should never happen,” said Tkachuk. “It was a big moment for us to step up and make sure we’re the team that worked the hardest.”

There is a fine line here, with due respect to a roster full of inexperienced young talents in Ottawa. An improved effort and competitive level in loss No. 7 is, we guess, in the parameters of a rebuild, a sign of progress.

But losing 6-2 two days after losing 7-1 can’t be something you clap yourself on the back over, though we understand how Smith is trying to build up his team’s confidence, not verbally dismantle it.

“Say whatever you want, those kids worked out there tonight. They competed hard,” he demanded, post-game. “We didn’t get the result we wanted, we just didn’t take care of the puck. But the effort and will to win was there.

“I think we deserved better tonight,” he said, before adding, “Their big guys — again — continue to give us major issues.”

Ya think?

Oilers head coach Dave Tippett would never admit it, but he was conducting a bit of an experiment this week. After more than a season of proving how effective they can be on separate lines, Tippett wanted to see what it would do to the overall balance, or the “rhythm” as he says, of his lineup if he put McDavid and Draisaitl back together.

Would he have done that if the week-long opponent was the Winnipeg Jets or Toronto Maple Leafs? We doubt it, and we won’t be surprised if they are back centering their own lines as soon as Monday in Calgary vs. the Flames. Or tonight in Vancouver.

But against Ottawa, Tippett gambled that his two superstars would bury the Senators all on their own, while the rest of his lines figured things out.

He was right: In seven games Draisaitl (seven goals, 10 assists) and McDavid (three goals, 13 assists) piled up 33 points.

A giveaway-prone Senators club just kept putting the ball on the tee for the NHL’s two leading scorers, and they kept striping it 300-plus down the middle of the fairway.

“In Edmonton, we’ve had our struggles (against them), but I thought we played right with them at home, where we could get a hard matchup,” Smith said. That’s fair — the scores were 3-2 and 3-1 in Ottawa, where the matchup was not nearly as lopsided as in Alberta.

“You also can’t take four penalties against that power play, and allow them free ice and feel the puck and feel good about themselves,” said Smith, considering the question about the bad matchup again. “That’s a fair assessment, but as our young guys continue to get better we’re going to be the guys that people are going to have a tough time checking.”

They will, to be sure.

That’s what they used to say in Edmonton, back in about 2010.

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?

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It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

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Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills

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North Division

It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.

The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.

Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.

Passers

Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.

Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.

Shooting

A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.

Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.

Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.

Stick Handling

Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.

If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.

Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.

When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.

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