The good news is, they’re not the Vancouver Canucks. The Edmonton Oilers are no longer a team that plays hard for 40 minutes, blows a lead, and issues quote after post-game quote about how they competed hard, played well, and will take the lesson home and be better for it.
Finally, the Oilers expect to win. And blowing a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes does not have a bunch of guys telling us how well they played, or how close they were.
“You can say you played a good second (period), whatever you want,” said defenceman Tyson Barrie, who was dynamic Saturday with a goal and an assist. “At the end of the day that’s not the team you want to be, where you have a two-goal lead and you give it up with seven minutes to play. That’s a game we have to learn how to close out.”
Toronto turned a 3-1 deficit after 40 minutes into a puncher’s chance in overtime, and Auston Matthews banked a shot off of Leon Draisaitl, then Darnell Nurse, and then behind goalie Mike Smith, who was stellar in the OT loss. It was pinball perfection, after which Matthews submitted, “I’ll take it…”
It was the perfect example of a team that failed to close it down, let the opponent have a chance to have a really lucky break win them the game, then saw it all unfold.
This happens, even to good teams. But true contenders don’t let it happen in a first-place showdown like this one.
Sure, Toronto scored two goals on ridiculous bounces, and a third on a fortunate carom right onto William Nylander’s tape. That’s not an excuse for losing.
“You’ve got to create your bounces a little bit, too,” Draisaitl said. “Two bad bounces, but it shouldn’t lead to that, in overtime.”
Four straight losses to Toronto leaves the Oilers stirred, but not shaken.
“Of course we can beat that team. There’s no question about it,” Draisaitl said defiantly. “It’s a good team — we’re a really good team. It’s always tight games, but there no questioning in our heads if we can beat them.”
After losing three times to the Leafs in Edmonton, then holding a 3-1 lead with seven minutes to play, you hit another level of maturation. Not the Canucks’ level, where they’re trying to figure out how to contend in a game like this. But a contender level, where you want to be the team that others look at and say, “Man, we’re down 3-1 with seven minutes to play? This is over…”
“We didn’t play well enough to win the game. We gave up too many chances, didn’t execute well enough,” head coach Dave Tippett said, his standards not having been encroached upon by this performance. “We expect to play well every night. We have an expectation within our group that we can play with anybody. To come in and not play as well as we’d like, nobody is happy about that.
“It was a winnable game, even though we didn’t play very well, and we didn’t win it. We’ll re-rack and get back at it again Monday.”
In a rare twist, the improbable news broke Saturday morning that this would be Connor McDavid’s first-ever Saturday night game against the Leafs in Toronto. “The league usually runs us through here on a Monday or Tuesday,” he said.
After compiling but a single assist between them in that three-game debacle at Edmonton, Draisaitl and McDavid were the two most dangerous players on the ice Saturday. They combined for five points and were magical, while Barrie and Nurse gave Edmonton two goals from the blue line, a stat that is accompanied by the proverbial ‘W’ likely 90 per cent of the time.
Alas, the other three forward lines dropped the ball.
Dominik Kahun provided his nightly costly turnover on one goal, while second-line centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins went minus-2 without a shot on goal.
The level at which Edmonton’s two superstars play is sometimes unfathomable, and it won’t take much support to make this Oilers team into a Stanley Cup contender. But there isn’t enough below them at the moment, and we would expect Tippett to deploy them on separate lines in the rematch Monday night, after the Leafs’ second line scored twice to forge their comeback.
Edmonton has a good team, one that has played five games against Toronto this season that were basically coin flips.
But they’ve lost too many of them to say ‘they’re ready.’
Close, but not there yet.
UEFA threaten to ban breakaway clubs from all competitions
By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – European soccer‘s governing body UEFA has warned clubs linked to a breakaway Super League that they face being banned from domestic and international competitions if they set up a rival to the Champions League.
In a joint statement https://www.uefa.com/insideuefa/mediaservices/mediareleases/news/0268-12121411400e-7897186e699a-1000–statement-by-uefa-english-fa-rfef-figc-premier-league-laliga-le with Spanish, English and Italian leagues and federations, UEFA said it will consider “all measures”, including the courts and bans from domestic leagues, in opposition to plans for a breakaway competition.
UEFA said it had learnt that clubs from those countries “may be planning to announce their creation of a closed, so-called Super League”.
“If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we….(and) also FIFA and all our member associations – will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever,” UEFA said.
“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening. Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way,” the statement added.
In January, FIFA had said that a breakaway league would not be recognised and that “any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by FIFA or their respective confederation” – meaning players would be banned from the World Cup.
Sunday’s UEFA statement said: “The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.
“We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond and Christian Radnedge)
Netherlands and Poland seal narrow Billie Jean King Cup playoff wins
In Den Bosch, the Dutch were without world number 11 Kiki Bertens for the second day because of injury and found themselves trailing China 2-1 after Wang Xiyu beat Lesley Kerkhove in Saturday’s opening singles.
But Aranxta Rus beat Wang Xinyu to level the tie and then teamed up with Demi Schuurs to defeat Zhang Shuai and Zu Yifan to send the hosts through.
It was equally tight in Poland where the hosts were pushed to the brink by Brazil.
Brazil’s Carolina Meligeni Alves took the tie into a deciding doubles with a win over Katarzyna Kawa but the Poles prevailed 3-2 as Kawa and Magdalena Frech came back from a set down to beat Meligeni Alves and Luisa Stefani.
Kazakhstan also won a deciding rubber to see off Argentina.
Britain led 2-0 overnight against Mexico in London but Marcela Zacarias beat Heather Watson to keep alive the tie.
Katie Boulter proved too strong for Giuliana Olmos though to clinch the tie for the hosts.
Italy beat Romania 3-1 while Canada‘s teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez sealed her country’s path as she gave her side an unassailable 3-0 lead over Serbia thanks to a three-set win over Nina Stojanovic.
Ukraine eased past Japan 4-0 while Anastasija Sevastova secured Latvia’s 3-1 victory over India.
The eight winners move forward to next year’s qualifying round where they will hope to reach the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Finals.
The old Fed Cup was re-branded last year and named after the American great and 12-times Grand Slam singles champion who won the inaugural tournament nearly 60 years ago.
This year’s 12-team Finals were postponed because of the pandemic and a new date has yet to be finalised.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon)
Motor racing-Canadian Grand Prix cancelled for second year
(Reuters) -The Canadian Grand Prix scheduled for June 13 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal has been cancelled for the second year in a row, CBC Radio reported on Thursday although Formula One said discussions remained ongoing.
With the spread of new COVID-19 variants and Canada battling to contain a third wave of the virus, Montreal public health authorities concluded that even if run behind closed doors without spectators the risks were too high, reported the CBC.
F1 officials, according to the CBC, wanted to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine for the hundreds of staff, crew members and drivers and rely on private medical staff and have the entire operation run in a bubble.
The race is scheduled to follow on immediately from Azerbaijan, whose grand prix is scheduled for June 6 in Baku and is due to go ahead after also being cancelled last year.
“We are continuing our discussions with the promoter in Canada and have no further comment,” an F1 spokesperson told Reuters.
The Autosport website quoted a spokesperson for the Canadian promoter as saying the radio report referred to “a document of recommendations from public health.
“We as an organisation have not had confirmation from our public health officials and won’t comment until we get an official confirmation.”
Canada, with some of the world’s toughest travel rules, obliges its citizens and residents arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days.
International arrivals are required to quarantine for up to three days in a hotel.
One of Canada‘s biggest sporting events, it would mark the second consecutive year the grand prix has been removed from the F1 schedule due to the spread of COVID-19.
Media reports have suggested Turkey is on standby to be slotted in as Canada‘s replacement.
The Istanbul circuit is logistically convenient for freight coming from Baku and was brought in last year also at short notice to bolster a calendar ravaged by the pandemic.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto/Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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