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Player grades: Oilers can't recover from soft early goal, fall 5-2 to short-staffed Penguins – Edmonton Journal

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Penguins 5, Oilers 2

Fourteen NHL seasons have passed since the last time Pittsburgh Penguins lost in regulation to the Edmonton Oilers. Not since Shawn Horcoff’s hat trick, Jussi Markkanen’s stingy netminding and Chris Prongers 27 minutes of ice time powered the Stanley Cup Finals-bound Oilers to a 3-1 win back in January of 2006 have the Oil toppled the Pens within 60 minutes. Since then Pittsburgh has posted a near flawless 15-0-4 mark with Edmonton scraping out a few regulation ties and some points in gimmick time.

Friday night the homestanding Oilers had a big chance, facing a depleted Penguins squad missing superstar Sidney Crosby and four other regulars who among them account for 35% of the salary cap. Yet after a promising start by the home team, the visiting Penguins went ahead to stay just 8 minutes into the game when third-pairing defenceman Chad Ruhwedel lobbed a 56-foot wrist shot through Mike Smith’s six-hole. The Oilers visibly sagged after that, rebounded in a better second period to cut the deficit to one, but sagged again when Kris Letang bombed home a powerplay goal in the opening minute of the final frame to restore the visitors’ two goal lead. The Pens were in cruise control thereafter, holding the Oil to just one Grade A look in the third period before adding the inevitable empty-netter to seal the deal at 5-2.

Overall the game was fairly close — shots were 28-26 Edmonton, Grade A scoring chances 7 for each club. Those low-event outputs favoured the team with the lead, which was Pittsburgh for the game’s last 52 minutes, 37 of them with a multi-goal bulge including almost the entire third period.

Make it a 3-7-3 mark for the Oil in their last 13 home contests, with all 7 of those regulation losses being by at least 3 goals including the last 3 home games in a row. It’s been tough slogging in the “friendly confines” for two months now.

Player grades

#4 Kris Russell, 4. The brand of hockey he provided — low-event with just 5 shots for, 3 against and no major scoring chances let alone goals during his 13 minutes — would be a lot more useful to a team that was tied or leading.  

#6 Adam Larsson, 6. Played another proactive game with 3 shot attempts, 2 hits and 4 blocked shots, but he was unable to get in the way of Kris Letang’s one-timer on the powerplay that ended the suspense in the opening minute of the third. Nailed another post from distance, something he seems to do fairly often especially when considering how rarely he actually scores. His drive to the net-front helped create some “good chaos” on Sheahan’s goal.

#10 Joakim Nygard, 4. His line did some good work on the forecheck and generated a bit of territorial pressure but nothing dangerous. Took a careless penalty late in the second. In the end it was a wash as each team scored once during the penalty. 1 shot on net, which put him ahead of 5 other Oilers forwards.

#15 Josh Archibald, 6. Played a hard physical game with 8 hits. 0 shot attempts on the night, but did make a key play when he intercepted Evgeni Malkin’s pass, fed the puck ahead to Sheahan and jumped in on the 2-on-1 that resulted in Edmonton’s first shorthanded goal of the entire season. Had one strong defensive stand when he covered off for a pinching D, then wound up covering for the other one as well to be isolated in a one-on-one battle, which he won.

#16 Jujhar Khaira, 4. Played just under 10 minutes, generating 0 shot attempts and chipping in on 0 scoring chances, though he allowed nothing at the other end either. See Russell comment on the usefulness of a quiet game when trailing on the scoreboard.

#18 James Neal, 3. His best weapon is his shot, of which he mustered exactly 0 all night long. Wound up a ghastly -4, while his line largely chased the game, being outshot 12-6 during his 15½ even strength minutes. Part of an ineffective Oilers’ powerplay,

#23 Riley Sheahan, 5. Played 9 minutes at evens during which time the shots on goal were 0-0. Yes, you read that right. He did muster a nice shorthanded goal late in the second to briefly give the Oilers hope, wiring a hard wrister from the slot past Tristan Jarry, but was sucked out of position on the continuing penalty kill early in the third and was tabbed as the major culprit on the clinching goal that followed.

#25 Darnell Nurse, 5. Helped bring Edmonton back into the game when he fired a good low shot that was tipped home by Kassian, but minutes later he handcuffed his partner with a grenade that turned into a breakaway, and a goal, the other way. Skated well, fired 4 shot attempts at one end, blocked 4 at the other.

#29 Leon Draisaitl, 4. Rang the iron yet again early in the second, his NHL-leading 12th goal post of the season. But his line was lit up for 2 goals against, his group a third just after the expiry of an Oilers powerplay, and a fourth on the empty netter. Make it dash-4 on the night and a ghastly -21 in his last 17 games despite scoring 17 points in that span. Was not a visible culprit on the GA in this one. 3 shots, 7 attempts, but 3 giveaways and a mediocre 5/11=45% on the dot. Drew a penalty and had some decent moments, but not enough of them.

#39 Alex Chiasson, 5. A couple shots, a couple hits, and decent possession numbers, but 0 contributions on Grade A looks and not a lot that moved the needle.

#41 Mike Smith, 3. Allowed an awful-looking goal to open the scoring, a long floater that somehow squeezed under his stick arm and dribbled over the goal line as he dove back in vain (pictured). He had a good look at the point of release, though when the puck subsequently went through a couple bodies in front he lost track of its trajectory and couldn’t close the hole. Just a killer GA before Pittsburgh had generated so much as a single Grade A look. With the Oilers subsequently pushing from behind, Smith was beaten on a pair of breakaways, the Pittsburgh forward beating him across the net on a deke to make the backhand deposit both times. Tough saves, but his team needed him to stop at least one of those and he couldn’t. The final tally, Kris Letang’s one-time rocket, was not on the goaltender, but by that point he had faced 4 Grade A chances and had allowed 4 goals. He made a few stops down the stretch and physically challenged Malkin after the big Penguin had crashed the crease, but the damage was long since done and the netminder’s frustration on full display. 25 shots, 21 saves, .840 save percentage. Make it 5 straight games and 8 of his last 10 below .870, with the Oil losing all 8 of those games. One wonders how much longer Ken Holland will sit on his hands.

#44 Zack Kassian, 6. Scored the Oilers first goal on a nifty goal mouth deflection, had a couple more shots and dished out 4 hits. Among the more visible Oilers on the night.

#74 Ethan Bear, 5. Logged over 22 minutes at even strength to lead the D-corps in that category. Earned an assist on Kassian’s goal with a routine pass at the blueline. Made one critical error when he was unable to control Nurse’s D-to-D pass at the right point, and then failed to contain his man Jared McCann who won the puck battle and sped away unmolested on a 140-foot breakaway that produced the game-winning goal. It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the rookie defender.

#77 Oscar Klefbom, 4. Led both teams with 25:55 ice time including all 4 minutes on the powerplay. He was among 5 Oilers who played the full 2 minutes of the first PP only to be caught out at the end of it and burned for a breakaway by the man coming out of the sin bin, who made no mistake. Lost a battle on the PK on the 4-2. Had 9 shot attempts, 5 of them on goal, to lead the Oilers in both departments. Generated a couple of dangerous looks deep in the zone, the best of them a backhand shot which forced a tough save by Jarry.

#82 Caleb Jones, 5. Third pairing wasn’t the problem. Jones managed 3 shots on net, none of them especially dangerous, but also limited the damage at the defensive end.

#89 Sam Gagner, 4. His weak coverage was part of the issue on the Ruhwedel floater, even as the point shot that resulted was eminently stoppable. Had nothing going offensively, underscored by 0 shots on net.

#91 Gaetan Haas, 5. His line with Nygard and Chiasson largely carried play (shots 9-4 Oilers during his 9½ minutes) but generated nothing of danger. He did have one mid-air tip that narrowly missed the target.

#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 4. Moved up to LW on the McDavid line where he had very little impact on the game, generating 0 shots on net. A couple of passes to set up chances early in the game, very little thereafter. Missed the net from the slot on his one good look on the powerplay. Lost a puck battle just before the 2-0 goal. Took just 1 faceoff as the hand injury that kept him out of the line-up a while back continues to hamper him. Led the forwards with 23:42 in ice time.

#97 Connor McDavid, 5. A few flashes but a quiet overall game by his high standards. Generated a couple of shots on quick opportunities but very little in the way of sustained pressure from his line. Was peripherally involved on Kassian’s goal, working the puck back to the point from where the danger shot was eventually generated. Appeared to score late in the third to cut the deficit to 4-3, but the ref ruled McDavid himself had contacted the goaltender sufficiently to wave it off. Failed to contain the puck at the point on the empty netter. 9/20=45% on the dot, smack dab on the team average for the night. When he and Draisaitl are both held off the sheet, as they were in this one, the Oilers invariably wind up on the short end of the scoreboard.

___

Recently at the Cult of Hockey

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LEAVINS: Player grades against the Blues

STAPLES: Tippett finally running with the hot hand in Koskinen

McCURDY: Player grades from tight win over Stars 

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Sharks look to extend perfect start vs. Bruins

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It’s been eight years since the San Jose Sharks opened a season with five consecutive victories. And, nearly as long since they beat the Boston Bruins.

 

The Sharks look to continue their undefeated start when they visit the Bruins on Sunday.

 

San Jose has been one of the surprise teams through the early days of the 2021-22 campaign. Logan Couture had two goals with an assist and Adin Hill made 30 saves as the Sharks won a third straight game on the road, 5-3 at Toronto on Friday.

 

Outscoring opponents 16-7, San Jose is trying to go 5-0-0 for the first time since the 2013-14 season. It’s a pleasant beginning for a club that felt good about itself entering this season, despite not having made the playoffs since 2018-19.

 

“It’s huge to start like this,” Couture, who’s recorded all three of his goals in the last two games, told the official NHL website. “That was the main focus in training camp, to get off to a good start this year.

 

“We really had a good camp, a really good preseason and we’ve carried into the regular season.”

 

In addition to Couture’s strong play, veteran defenseman Erik Karlsson has notched two goals with four assists. Hill, meanwhile, has stopped 71 of the 77 shots he’s faced to win his first three starts. Backup James Reimer made 30 saves in a 2-1 victory at Ottawa on Thursday.

 

San Jose’s hot start, however, will truly be put to the test in this contest. Though these teams haven’t met since Oct. 29, 2019, the Sharks are 0-5-2 against the Bruins since a 3-2 home victory on March 15, 2016. Their most recent victory at Boston came on Nov. 15, 2016.

 

The Bruins have won two of their first three games of the season, and halted Buffalo’s 3-0-0 start with Friday’s 4-1 road victory. Members of Boston’s famed “Perfection Line,” David Pastrnak tallied his first goal of the season Friday while Patrice Bergeron assisted on the first-period score for his first points of 2021-22.

 

Boston also got a goal and two assists at Buffalo from center Charlie Coyle, his first points of the campaign. Coyle scored in the team’s most recent meeting with San Jose.

 

“Happy for him,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of Coyle. “(He found) a little offensive rhythm.”

 

Boston star Brad Marchand is already feeling it with three goals and two assists. He’s totaled four goals with four assists in his last six home games vs. San Jose.

 

After Linus Ullmark made 35 saves against his former Buffalo team Friday in his Boston debut, it’s possible starter Jeremy Swayman will be back in net for this contest. Swayman stopped 27 of 28 shots in a 3-1 season-opening home victory, but then allowed five goals during Wednesday’s 6-3 defeat at Philadelphia.

 

Couture has two goals with an assist in his last three games against the Bruins.

 

Boston could again be minus veteran forward Nick Foligno, who is in his first season with the team, but missed Friday’s game with an upper-body injury.

 

“We should know by Sunday,” Cassidy told the Bruins’ official website of Foligno’s availability. “I suspect he’ll miss Sunday, as well.”

 

–Field Level Media

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Raptors outmuscle, out-hustle, and outplay Boston Celtics in dominant victory – Raptors Republic

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Reaction Podcast | Rap Up | Quick Reaction | Nothin’ But Positives

Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson famously said, “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Last night, the Toronto Raptors threw haymakers at the Boston Celtics in a runaway 115-83 win.

The Raptors had carte blanche in their season opener. After a year in Tampa Bay, they were finally back home, and the fans and players were just happy to be in Scotiabank Arena.

This game painted a picture of what Toronto hopes to be this season: a physical team that uses its size and length to control games defensively and on the glass. The Raptors forced 25 turnovers and outrebounded Boston 60-42.

21 of those 60 boards came on the offensive end, resulting in 18 extra shot attempts for the Raptors. On a night where the team shot worst from the floor than in their opening game (42 percent versus 44.4 percent on Wednesday), their ability to set the tone with their physicality went a long way toward securing their first win of the season.

Five Raptors recorded five or more rebounds. The attack on the glass was spearheaded by two newcomers: Precious Achiuwa (15 rebounds) and Scottie Barnes (13 rebounds).

When asked after the game how a team without a traditional center can outrebound their opponent, specifically on the offensive glass, Raptors head coach, Nick Nurse, said it was because his team was able to “miss a lot of shots.”

Nurse has allowed Achiuwa to operate similarly to how he played during his lone season at Memphis. Then, after James Wiseman was suspended, the Nigerian was used as a small-ball center who was allowed to make plays with the ball in his hands and attack in transition.

Celtics center, Robert Williams III (nine points and six rebounds in 28 minutes), had a lot of preseason buzz about potentially making a leap this year; Achiuwa (15 points and 15 rebounds in 25 minutes) thoroughly outplayed him tonight.

However, the biggest takeaway from this game has to be the play of Barnes. After Dalano Banton stole the show in the first game, it was Barnes’ turn to be the rookie in the spotlight.

There was no hiding on defense as he was routinely matched up against one of Boston’s all-star wings. Between him, OG Anunoby, and timely help from others, the Raptors forced Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to shoot 11-25 combined.

On paper, Tatum’s 8-14 shooting numbers look fine, but Tatum did most of his damage in the second quarter. Speaking to the media postgame, Barnes said of the team limiting Tatum in the second half, specifically the third quarter, “he’s a really good player, so we just want to keep showing our length in gaps to try and influence him not to get in [the lane]. And when he gets real low, we just bring a bunch of guys and try to swarm him and don’t let him get easy looks.”

While the Raptors’ defense and rebounding were present throughout the game, Barnes’ play led the way for the team in the first half. Toronto only held a four-point advantage at halftime, and the fourth overall pick powered the team with 15 points and seven rebounds.

Offensively, he did a little bit of everything. He made an off-the-dribble three, he connected on catch-and-shoot midrange jumpers, he pushed the pace, he finished at the rim, and he made plays for his teammates.

After the game, Barnes attributed his performance to “playing hard throughout the game.” Barnes said, “it just matters about time and the situation. If we miss a couple, we’ve got to get the ball moving, then try to find the right shot, what’s best for us,” and he finished off with “If they leave me open, I’m gonna shoot it, no hesitation.”

It’s only game two, but this game showed a glimpse of what this franchise hopes peak Barnes will look like and why Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster were elated when he was still on the board when Toronto was on the clock in the 2021 NBA Draft.

“What I liked the most was he was at the front of the rim a lot tonight. Putbacks and cuts and drives, and that’s what we like to see–be able to use some of that size and length,” said Nurse after the game.

The Gary Trent Jr. rollercoaster was ascending upward tonight as he pitched in 20 points and helped Toronto extend their lead in the third quarter where they outscored Boston 34-17.

Trent Jr. got the start tonight and it seems like he will remain in the starting lineup going forward. Nurse said starting, “made Gary more comfortable” and that he was able to “feed off the other [starters].”

The big takeaway from yesterday’s performance is that this group is not a pushover. Their shots weren’t falling once again, but they dug deeper defensively and used their effort to create extra opportunities that ultimately led to them producing a double-digit victory.

The shooting struggles remain a concern–particularly from Anunoby who had looked on the way to taking his game to another level during the preseason–and the half-court offense leaves a lot to be desired. Nurse mentioned after the game that the team needs to “clean up spacing issues,” however, the NBA doesn’t award style points, so a win is a win.

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Astros shut out Red Sox, advance to World Series for third time in five years – Sportsnet.ca

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HOUSTON — Rookie Luis Garcia showed the poise of an October ace, Yordan Alvarez stayed hot at the plate and the Houston Astros earned yet another trip to the World Series, beating the Boston Red Sox 5-0 Friday night in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series.

The Astros advanced to the World Series for the fourth time overall and the second time in three seasons. They won the championship in 2017, a crown tainted by the team’s sign-stealing scandal, before losing to the Washington Nationals in seven games in 2019.

Manager Dusty Baker’s team will open the World Series on Tuesday night, either at Dodger Stadium or home against Atlanta. The Braves lead Los Angeles 3-2 in the NL Championship Series going into Game 6 Saturday night.

Garcia pitched no-hit ball into the sixth inning, leaving to a huge ovation with two outs after a triple by Kike Hernandez. It was an impressive bounce-back performance for the 24-year-old, who started Game 2 and gave up a grand slam in the first inning before leaving with no outs in the second because of discomfort in his right knee.

Alvarez continued his scorching streak, a year after watching at home after surgery to both knees as the Astros came one game shy of reaching the World Series. The slugging designated hitter had four hits, including a triple and two doubles. He led a Game 5 win with three hits and three RBIs.

Catcher Martin Maldonado made the defensive play of the game on a strikeout-throwout double play to end the seventh with Houston ahead 2-0.

It will be the 72-year-old Baker’s second trip to the Fall Classic as a manager and first since leading the San Francisco Giants to the NL pennant in 2002. As a player, he made three trips with the Dodgers, winning it all in 1981.

Boston’s best shot to score came in the seventh. They had runners at first and third with one out in after a single by Alex Verdugo. But Kendall Graveman struck out pinch-hitter Travis Shaw and Maldonado made a perfect throw to Carlos Correa, who was covering second, to beat Verdugo there and end the inning.

Maldonado beat his chest with glee as Graveman and Correa both pumped their fists in celebration to roars from the crowd of 42,718.

Kyle Tucker broke it open with a three-run homer with two outs in the eighth. Television cameras flashed to Houston’s Hall of Fame duo of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, who stood together and cheered as Tucker rounded the bases.

Ryan Pressly closed it out in the ninth. The Red Sox, who looked so formidable at the plate at the start of the season, were held to two hits in their final game.

Alex Bregman singled with two outs in the first before the double by Alvarez put the Astros up 1-0. Hernandez was in position to make the catch, but it hit off his arm below his glove and dropped in for the hit.

Consecutive romps by Boston and its bashers made it appear that the Red Sox were in complete control of the series after Game 3, but as the long fly by Alvarez proved, they didn’t have a firm grip on things.

The Astros, buoyed by their young pitchers and rediscovered offense, won the next two games by a combined 18-3 to return home a win away from a World Series. Then their rising 24-year-old stars, Garcia and Alvarez, did the rest.

Houston had a chance to add to the lead in the fourth when Bregman singled and another double by Alvarez left him at third with no outs. But they came up empty after Nathan Eovaldi worked out of the jam.

Alvarez tripled with no outs in the sixth to chase Josh Taylor and Tanner Houck plunked Correa. Tucker then smacked a grounder right at first baseman Kyle Schwarber who tagged Correa for the unassisted double play as Alvarez slid safely into home to make it 2-0.

Eovaldi got the win in a solid Game 2 start but was charged with the loss in Game 4 after giving up the go-ahead runs after coming in with the game tied in the ninth.

On Friday, he permitted five hits and one run as the Red Sox lost a playoff game where he started for the first time after entering the game 5-0 in his starts.

Garcia is the first pitcher to take a no-hitter into sixth of a potential playoff clincher since the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard got two outs in sixth against the Giants in 2016 NL wild-card game.

Garcia allowed Schwarber to reach on a wild pitch after a strikeout to open the game and walked Verdugo with one out in the second. He settled in after that, sitting down the next 13 with five strikeouts, before Hernandez got Boston’s first hit on a triple with two outs in the sixth. Garcia finished with seven strikeouts.

Phil Maton took over and retired Rafael Devers to end the inning.

SIGN OF THE TIMES

Boston manager Alex Cora has heard the speculation that the Astros are relaying signs from the bases and said the Red Sox protect themselves against that.

“It’s not about technology or other stuff,” Cora said. “There’s stuff that happens on the field that you have to be guarded. The same way that teams play defense against us, we play defense against other teams. Not only them we did it against the Yankees, we did it against the Rays. It’s the nature of the game. We’re prepared for that.”

Cora knows better than most about Houston’s sign-stealing history having been the team’s bench coach during the 2017 season when they were found to have violated rules by using a television camera to steal catchers’ signs.

UP NEXT

Game 1 of the World Series is Tuesday night where the Astros will host if the Braves advance or Houston will travel to LA if the Dodgers win the NL pennant.

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