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Player grades: Mike Smith, penalty killers hang tough as Oilers scratch out point vs. Bruins – Edmonton Journal

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Bruins 2, Oilers 1 (OT)

Give the Edmonton Oilers credit, they stood up to be counted against the NHL’s best on Wednesday night. Missing no fewer than six regulars, they hung around long enough to earn an important standings point before ultimately falling 2-1 in overtime to the powerful, and healthy, Boston Bruins.

It was a hard-fought game on both sides of the puck, that saw the league-leading Bruins hold an overall advantage in play, outshooting the Oilers 34-29 with a 14-9 edge in Grade A scoring chances. Both teams beat a steady path to the penalty box, with the home team killing 7 of 7 minors while connecting on 1 of their 6 powerplays. No fewer than 3 times did an Oilers powerplay come to an early end with an Edmonton penalty.

It was a baptism by fire for young Oilers defenders Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones, and William Lagesson, promoted to the first, second and third pairings respectively in the absence of workhorse Oscar Klefbom. All answered the bell with strong efforts. Same can be said for Edmonton’s oldest veteran, Mike Smith, who stood tall between the pipes to milk a standings point from a measly one goal of support.

Without Klefbom or Connor McDavid at his disposal, Dave Tippett leaned heavily on his remaining core players Darnell Nurse, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, each of whom played over 28 minutes in this intense affair.

Player grades

#6 Adam Larsson, 7. Played a massive 25:41 in a game-high 32 shifts, including 5:21 on the penalty kill. Adapted well to his new partner Jones. Didn’t see a lot of Boston’s “Perfection Line” at evens, but did get a bellyful of David Krejci’s second unit and held his own.

#12 Colby Cave, 5. Played just 4:23 as Tippett shortened his bench early. In a game with over 20 minutes of powerplay time and several more of 4v4, there wasn’t much left for the fourth line, even as only one Bruin (Joakim Nordstrom, 9:33) was under 10 minutes.

#15 Josh Archibald, 7. His role was entirely defensive on this night, notably 6:12 on the penalty kill. 0 shots on net but 1 takeaway, 2 blocked shots, and 3 hits.

#16 Jujhar Khaira, 6. He played more on the PK (5:21) than he did at even strength (4:19). 1 shot, 1 block, 1 hit, and 0 damage done.

#23 Riley Sheahan, 7. Even more of a monster on the penalty kill than his partner Archibald, logging a massive 6:45 and escaping unscathed. Mustered not so much as a shot attempt, but had 2 takeaways, blocked a shot, and sawed off 6/12=50% on the dot, including 5/10 in the d-zone and 0/0 in the offensive end. It was that kind of a night for Sheahan.

#25 Darnell Nurse, 5. Delivered a mammoth 29:58 in the absence of Klefbom and played his heart out, with mixed results. Logged a ridiculous 14:56 on special teams, including 6:00 on the PK (good) and just under 9:00 on the powerplay (not so good).  Among those beaten on the first goal, a fine cross-seam pass from Brad Marchand to Patrice Bergeon. Mashed Jake DeBrusk with a heavy hit. Had his pocket picked by Sean Kuraly on a late game PP that resulted in a great chance for Boston and a penalty to Nurse. Caught deep on the OT winner when he crashed the net trying to score and went down , which enabled his check David Pastrnak to jump unmolested into open ice for the game-winning breakaway. Posted crooked numbers all across the event summary with 7 shot attempts, 5 shot blocks, and 5 hits, leading the Oilers in each category. Made his presence felt upon arrival in the game’s biggest scrum.

#29 Leon Draisaitl, 6. Played a gigantic 29:22, the most of any NHL forward all season, topping his own mark of 29:00 in an OT game at Arizona in late November. Had an inauspicious start when he crashed heavily into his own end boards seconds into his first shift, but after a so-so first period he began to impose himself on the game. Had the best individual effort of the night when he came back hard to pick off a dangerous pass in his own end, turned it up ice, exposed a Bruins defender with a great outside-in move and tested Tuukka Rask with a wicked backhand shot. At even strength his line largely controlled play, outshooting the Bruins 11-7 but unable to solve Rask. Was beaten by David Krejci along the side wall in overtime as the Bruin was able to direct a saucer pass to the streaking Pastrnak, and that was all she wrote. Was involved in 32 of the game’s 55 faceoffs, winning 20 of them for a 63% success rate.

#39 Alex Chiasson, 6. Solid showing on an effective depth line with Haas and Gagner. Effective in the net-front role on the powerplay, generating 1 scoring chance on a jam play and chipping in on 2 more with effective screening of Rask, including on Gagner’s tying goal. Drew a penalty when he crunched the much-smaller Matt Grzelcyk with a heavy hit, drawing the ire of a couple of nearby Bruins.

#41 Mike Smith, 8. Brought his A game and needed it, delivering key saves at even strength, on the many Boston powerplays, and even on a crucial shorthanded opportunity. Was beaten one-on-one by a nifty Patrice Bergeron deke that opened the scoring, and by a nifty David Pastrnak deke that closed things out. In between times he stuffed 12 Grade A scoring chances, including a remarkable reaction save of a Danton Heinen deflection with his glove hand that I number among the best stops of the season to date. Took a hard shot from Grzelcyk high in an unpadded area that stung. Stopped 11 of 11 on the penalty kill and helped the cause by clearing the zone himself on more than one occasion. 34 shots, 32 saves, .941 save percentage, and the single biggest reason Edmonton garnered a point.

#49 Tyler Benson, 5. Another of the young Oilers who was severely tested by the high-pressure tactics of the Bruins. After a difficult couple of shifts in the early going he responded well and held his own. Was involved in the build-up to Gagner’s powerplay goal as the second unit finally delivered a critical tally.

#52 Patrick Russell, 5. Played just 3:31. 1 shot, 1 hit.

#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 5. Lost a battle in the build-up to the first Boston goal. Took a high-sticking double minor that put an end to an Edmonton powerplay and his team on the penalty kill for the last 3 minutes of the first. Had a couple of great looks from in tight but couldn’t solve Rask. Had a 2-on-1 with Draisaitl in overtime but was unable to pull the trigger on the pass. Played 21 minutes on the night.

#74 Ethan Bear, 7. Stopped Pastrnak 1-on-1 on no fewer than three occasions in the first period alone, but while I was still singing his praises for the third such stop he was burned on the follow-up attack that sprang Bergeron for the 1-0. But he was a huge part of the tying goal, walking the blue line and firing a shot into traffic that Gagner tipped home. Was effective in his 1:38 on the PP, and made a case to be considered for more powerplay time going forward. Also chipped in 5:00 on the PK. His pairing with Nurse didn’t generate a lot offensively at even strength. He did take a penalty, but a good one that prevented Marchand from cashing a dangerous scoring chance. Later drew a penalty himself. Played 20:14 in all situations, which included the first shift of overtime, a strong vote of confidence from his coach.

#82 Caleb Jones, 6. Stepped into the second pairing with Larsson and played 16:09, which was fourth with a bullet. Skated well and made good decisions with and without the puck. Made a beautiful pass to Gagner which the veteran promptly rang off the post. Delivered a fine stretch pass that led to another Oilers chance in the second. Also jumped deep into the slot himself for a backdoor play that nearly connected. Made a fine defensive play to break up a Marchand thrust. Drew the penalty that led to the tying goal.

#83 Matt Benning, 6. Played just 10:28, the least of the d-corps, in large part because he didn’t have a large role on either special team in a penalty-filled encounter (“just” 2:12 on the PK, the usual 0:00 on the PP). Had excellent possession stats (6 shots for, just 2 against) with an inexperienced partner. Made an important play to tip a dangerous Pastrnak drive out of play. Fired 2 shots, blocked 2, had 2 hits including a heavy dart of Nordstrom that raised the temperature for a while.

#84 William Lagesson, 6. …and for those keeping score at home, make it four grades in a row for d-men wearing “training camp numbers”, with a fifth (#75 Evan Bouchard) being the only available spare player in the press box. This was a young, young blue that faced the first-place-overall Bruins. Lagesson had his best game to date, playing 12½ minutes including a solid 4:46 on the penalty kill. He got two shifts on the first PK of the night and performed well, so Tippett kept rolling him out there. His best sequence came when he broke up a dangerous pass in front, then won possession and cleared the zone. Drew a late penalty himself that gave Edmonton’s PP a great chance to win it with just 2:30 to play in regualtion. Overall solid with no misadventures.

#89 Sam Gagner, 7. Led the Oilers with 5 shots on goal, including the critical game-tying goal on a nifty mid-air deflection. Had beaten Rask cleanly on an earlier drive, a wicked backhand that caught iron right at the joint between crossbar and post.

#91 Gaetan Haas, 6. Quick, competitive pivot played 8 minutes on a depth line and acquitted himself well. Got no time on special teams, but played a role all the same by drawing 2 penalties. 4/5=80% on the dot.

#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 6. Played a monstrous 28:05, firing 5 shots on net. Not his greatest night handling the puck, charged with 3 official giveaways, but had 2 takeaways and 2 blocked shots. His effectiveness on the powerplay was curtailed somewhat by the absence of Klefbom, with whom Nuge and other forwards have established consistent play patterns. Strong on the PK where he contributed 4 flawless minutes, though his ill-advised holding the stick penalty put extra stress on the unit.

___

Recently at the Cult of Hockey

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LEAVINS: Adversity bringing out the best in Oilers

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Hockey Canada's strategy of deflecting serves no one but its disgraced leadership – The Globe and Mail

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Witnesses Scott Smith, Hockey Canada President and Chief Operating Officer, left, and Hockey Canada Chief Financial Officer Brian Cairo, appear at the standing committee on Canadian Heritage in Ottawa on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

A while back, I had a job in a movie theatre. The theatre at the foot of an atrium in an open-plan tower. We plebs could look up at the offices and hallways above, where the corporation’s big wigs worked.

The biggest wig in our world would often lean over a balcony and stare down at us, like a gargoyle in pinstripes. If you were caught loafing, a call would be made and you’d hear about it.

One day, there was a commotion from several floors above – a lot of screaming and banging. The biggest wig had been fired. His reaction was to go back to his office and barricade himself inside it.

The banging was security kicking in the door. The screaming was him being dragged to the elevators. It was a different time.

But the lesson therein is timeless. Nobody likes being canned. But people in charge take it particularly hard.

Right now, 2½ months into Hockey Canada’s sex-abuse scandal, we’re at the barricade stage.

In any other country, this would be over now. Through a combination of popular outrage and political panic, the Hockey Canada edifice would have been burned to the ground.

But in this country we continue to believe shame will do the job for us. That the people in charge of this world-class gong show will get the message and slink off home.

But Hockey Canada’s leadership is not operating on Canadian rules. They’re pulling from the American handbook on how to survive a scandal. Shamelessness is a prerequisite.

Their first job was deflecting.

In terms of an absolute defence, the deflecting’s gone about as well as a guy trying to push off bullets by waving his hands around. But it bought time. The men in charge knew they could count on Ottawa to a) quickly promise to take decisive action and b) take absolutely forever to decide what that decisive action looks like.

Deflecting has another virtue – it dilutes outrage. No matter how awful, people can only read about a story for so long without becoming bored. And there’s always a fresh outrage to divert us.

This week, Hockey Canada hired someone to head an investigation into the workings of Hockey Canada. You could’ve written out this person’s CV long before the name was made public – retired judge, history of public service, member of the new Family Compact, etc.

Finding people is not hard. There are a whole bunch of them out there twiddling their thumbs, itching for someone to stick a microphone in front of them.

But after two months of withering pressure, Hockey Canada is just now figuring out who will set up the Slack group to discuss how to begin discussing their problems. Let me guess that if they’d been bleeding cash instead, organizing some sort of working committee would have taken two hours.

But this is how you do it, American-style. Pretend it’s a live broadcast with screen time to fill before commercials – stretch. Continue talking about nothing. Don’t stop speaking. It’s the silence that kills.

While you’re stretching, keep your eye on the horizon. That’s where the sports are. If you can make it to sports, you might be okay. The same people who wanted your head paraded in the town square yesterday might be distracted by a waving flag.

On Tuesday, the world junior hockey championship begins in Edmonton. Over the weekend, there will be a barrage of publicity about the tournament that launched a thousand official denials. We’ll rehash the particulars of this ugly affair and assess where we’re at. This column is part of that.

By Tuesday, the usual outlets will be talking about hockey. How’s Canada’s top line measuring up? Where’s the United States at? Whither the Olympic team?

This is how you erect a modern, media barricade.

Having seen a million of these things go down in recent years, you know you’re not going to talk your way out of your problem.

Bottom-line: You were in positions of authority at a public institution when something abhorrent happened. The integrity of that institution cannot be maintained if you continue to lead it.

This is obvious. But in our rush to definitively nail someone, anyone, we have skidded past the obvious. Now we’re all deep in the weeds, hacking away.

Uncovering the minutiae about who said what to whom at what board meeting may absorb reporters and politicians, but it only serves Hockey Canada’s current leadership.

While we’re Inspector Clouseau-ing this thing, we’re also avoiding the clear end point. The longer we spend doing that, the more likely it is that these fish all get off the hook.

This was the goal all along. Deflect, get to the world juniors, hope that Team Canada wins and that everyone is too exhausted by the end of it to keep taking pops at you. By the time your judge wraps up his report – let me guess ‘Mistakes were made but there is a clear plan forward’ – maybe you’ll have successfully run your gauntlet.

It’s not a plan, as such. As with Hockey Canada’s in-camera board meetings, nobody’s written it down. It’s instinctive process based on observation. In scandals as in sports, the mission is getting through today.

It’s not going to work. That’s also obvious. No matter what the eventual report says, it will reignite outrage.

The names of the players involved in the two alleged assaults will come out, probably during the NHL season. That will reignite outrage.

At any moment, the alleged victims could make fulsome public declarations. That will reignite outrage.

Any way you go, the outrage is going to leak out again. The only way to contain it is to blow this down to the foundations. Eventually, everyone’s going to realize that.

Really, all that’s being decided now is how you want to get to the elevators – walking under your own power, or being dragged there screaming by the rest of Canada.

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Rafael Nadal announces he will not be playing at the Canadian Open

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Montreal, Canada- 22 Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal, has announced that he will not be playing at the Canadian Open which kicks off this weekend.

Nadal cited that the reason to abandon the Canadian Open was a result of an abundance of caution regarding injury concerns.

“From the vacation days and my subsequent return to training, everything has gone well these weeks. Four days ago, I also started training my serve and yesterday, after training, I had a little discomfort that was still there today.

We have decided not to travel to Montreal and continue with the training sessions without forcing ourselves. I sincerely thank the tournament director, Eugene, and his entire team for the understanding and support they have always shown me, and today was no exception.

I hope to play again in Montreal, a tournament that I love and that I have won five times in front of an audience that has always welcomed me with great affection. I have no choice but to be prudent at this point and think about health,” said the Spaniard.

Last month, Nadal was forced to withdraw from his Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has also withdrawn from the Canadian Open as his status as unvaccinated against COVID-19 means he cannot enter the country.

Djokovic is also unlikely to play at the US Open after organizers said they would respect the American government rules over travel for unvaccinated players as the United States (US) requires non-citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter.

“Per the Grand Slam Rule Book, all eligible players are automatically entered into the men’s and women’s singles main draw fields based on ranking 42 days prior to the first Monday of the event.

The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the US government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-US citizens,” read a statement from the US Open which is set to take place in New York from the 29th of August to the 11th of September, 2022.

Nevertheless, Novak Djokovic will be joining Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to play for Team Europe in the Laver Cup.

The event, which pits six European players against six from Team World over three days, will take place in London between 23 and 25 September 2022.

“It’s the only (event) where you play in a team with guys you are normally competing against. To be joining Rafa, Roger and Andy, three of my biggest all-time rivals, it’s going to be a truly unique moment in the history of our sport,” said Djokovic.

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Canada beats Sweden to claim gold in Hlinka Gretzky Cup – Sportsnet.ca

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RED DEER, Alta. — Canada scored early and often and also stayed out of the penalty box en route to a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal final of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Tanner Howe, Ethan Gauthier, Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager scored for the Canadians, who held period leads of 2-1 and 3-1 at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday. Riley Heidt also chipped in with two assists for the champions.

Hugo Pettersson scored for Sweden, who were outshot 36-26. Each team received eight minutes in penalties.

Canada had beaten Sweden 3-0 on Aug. 3.

“Three weeks ago, we put this roster together and I felt right away this was a tight group,” said head coach Stephane Julien. “It’s not easy when you have this much talent, but everyone accepted their role and I’m so happy for them.”

The win is Canada’s first gold medal since 2018, the last time this tournament was held in Canada.

“I’m so happy for this group,” added Julien. “They haven’t had it easy in their careers the last two years with the pandemic, but now they have this, a gold medal and something they are going to remember for the rest of their career.”

Canada advanced to the final with a 4-1 win over Finland, while Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2. Finland beat Czechia 3-1 in Saturday’s bronze-medal final.

The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will shift to Europe in 2023, returning to Breclav and Piestany, Czechia for the first time since 2021. 

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