The Edmonton Oilers came out cold in the first, but goalie Mike Smith held them in, making numerous huge saves. He was Edmonton’s ace for more than two periods, but gave up two flukey ones in the third, an outside shot tipped in by his own teammate and another outside shot that Smith simply missed, as he leaned in the wrong direction.
But big Smith redeemed himself, making monster saves in overtime and the shoot-out, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kyle Turris scoring shoot-out goals for the win.
The scoring chances were Edmonton with 10 and Vancouver with 15 ( running count ).
Connor McDavid, 7. His line never got it going much at even strength and allowed too many Grade A chances against. Not good. But McDavid had his brilliant moments, being the main man on Edmonton’s two goals. The first thing he put in the net this year was Quinn Hughes, when the Canucks d-man obstructed him on a rush and was knocked over. Next McD almost deflected in an own goal, booting a rebound on a screened Oliver Ekman-Larsson shot onto Smith. His o-zone turnover led to Bo Horvat’s first period breakaway. He got his first point of the year wheeling in the o-zone, slicing a pass across to Nurse, who shot with Puljujarvi jamming in the rebound. Late in the second, he sliced a pass across to Draisaitl, who knifed it low to Hyman for a gimme putt of a power play goal. Bonus: eight face off wins and just two losses.
Leon Draisaitl, 3. Not his game. Not even close. He even missed the net on a wide open slot shot in OT. Slept walked through the first with a number of turnovers, one of them leading a 4-on-2 Vancouver rush and a Grade B slapper from the high slot. He was slow on the back check again, allowing a Grade 2-on-1 shot by former Oilers winger Alex Chiasson. He got walked by Hoglander in the slot in the second, leading to a 5-alarmer by Burroughs and dangerous Hoglander wrap shot on the continuation. Could not drain his shoot-out blast.
Jesse Puljujarvi, 7. Looked sharp. He popped a puck on the forecheck late in the first, setting up a Grade A shot for Draisaitl. He scored on Nurse’s rebound a moment later. He tied with Nurse for a team lead six shots on net.
Zach Hyman, 8. Seven more years of games just like this one, pretty, pretty please . Impressed with his hustle and skill. Protected the puck well in the corner and put it into the slot for a dangerous shot in the first. He won a hard battle on the PK early in the second and iced it. Strong board play in his own zone had him kick off a 5-alarm sequence culminating in Yamamoto’s breakaway. Rewarded for all his hard work with super easy goal off great Drai and McD passes. He had several strong rushes up-ice. Even had five face-off wins and just one loss.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 7. He led the Oil’s best line, maybe because he had his best wingers since he centered Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. The Nuge line outshot Vancouver 9-4, Natural Stat Trick reports. Almost scored after some great line play early in the first. He inadvertently deflected in Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s outside third period shot, a downer cow moment, but simply bad luck. A bit slow in OT on the Tanner Pearson back check. But he scored in OT, going top shelf where momma keeps the cookies, as legendary skills coach Jim Fleming likes to say.
Kailer Yamamoto, 7. Combined well with his linemates early on. Broke in on a second period breakaway but failed to score. Buzzed around all game. Some good work on the PK.
Warren Foegele, 6. Some good crash and bang early in the game around the Vancouver net. He won a puck battle and set Ryan for a slotter in tight. Almost scored on a pile-driver of a wrap-around attempt.
Derek Ryan, 5. Solid start, quiet game. Eight wins, five losses on the dot.
Colton Sceviour, 6. Almost scored on the rebound off Ryan’s slotter. His turnover led to a nasty sharp-angle chance by Hoglander in the first. He came to Duncan Keith’s defence, challenging Tyler Myers to a fight, which I absolutely loved.
Brendan Perlini, 4. Barely played, just 5:37 of ice time.
Ryan McLeod, 4. Also barely played, 6:21 of ice.
Kyle Turris, 6. His slow pass and turnover kicked off a Grade A sequence for the Canucks in the second. Quiet game, but he scored in the shoot-out for victory, which gives him a bonus point in game grades, just like it gave the Oilers another point in the standings. Reid Wilkins of CHED reported: “Kyle Turris is now 29/78 (37.2%) in shootouts in his career.”
Darnell Nurse, 7 . He played 32:24, super hero minutes, and he played them well. He made a few major miscues but even more strong defensive plays. Led the team with eight hits. Made a stinker turnover on his first shift leading to a Grade A shot by Elias Pettersson. He broke up a long Vancouver cycle late in the first with a few hard hits. He broke up a Vancouver power play slot pass-and-shoot with a sliding block.
Tyson Barrie, 2. Iffy, iffy performance. Six major mistakes on Grade A chances against at even strength. Little wonder the coaches had Bouchard out at the end of the third period, not Barrie. Barrie got deked on his first shift, as shifty Pettersson made his way to the net. He and Sceviour got beat to a bouncing puck when Hoglander lashed a hard shot on net. He was way out-of-position on Pettersson’s 5-alarm slot shot in the second. Took out Connor Garland’s feet for a poorly-timed third period penalty. Allowed an OT pass into the slot to Tanner Pearson. Then he got walked by Pettersson on another 5-alarmer. Lost the puck on his shoot-out shot to cap off a pretty dismal opening night.
Duncan Keith, 7. A memorable debut and a very good one. Excellent pinch and dump-in led to RNH’s great chance early in the first. A bit later made a strong n-zone takeaway to kick off a McDavid rush on net. He allowed Bo Horvat to get behind him on a breakaway opportunity. He got bloodied by a nasty Tyler Myers hit in the second, but got back in the game and played well.
Cody Ceci, 7. Solid debut game. Did not notice him much, save for when he made a few notable defensive stops and passes. Fine pass to send Yamamoto in on breakaway in the second. He screened Smith on Vancouver’s first goal.
Kris Russell, 4. Hmm. Not his best game. Allowed a slot pass on his first shift that led to 5-alarm shot. He cross-checked Tanner Pearson into Mike Smith, leading to a third-period power play. He played just 12:46.
Evan Bouchard, 7. He showed his class, making nifty pass after pass. Coach liked him evidently this game, as the kid played 22:07. But on his first shift, he failed to cover Jason Dickinson in the slot on a dangerous shot. Came back strong, though, with his smart passing game. He was sent out with Nurse on the Oil’s first PK unit. He got off a Bouch Bomb in the third, which RNH almost jammed home. He also lofted an outside lob off the cross-bar.
Mike Smith, 8. Vancouver deserved better in this one, but Smith slammed the door. He kept the Oilers in early, making huge saves off of Pettersson, Dickinson and a rebound off McDavid. In the second he came up big as a damn mountain again on Chiasson’s driving shot, Horvat’s redirection play, Burrough’s slotter, Hoglander’s wrap-around on the scramble and two power play one-timers, first by Chiasson, then by Pettersson. He let in a late super weak one on an outside shot, where he appeared to get caught guessing late in the third. Perhaps he was screened by Pettersson a bit on that one, but that’s not how I saw it. Redeemed himself with brilliant stops on Tanner Pearson and Pettersson in OT, then the shoot-out saves.
Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Bossy has been diagnosed with lung cancer.
Bossy, 64, announced his illness on Tuesday in an open letter in French on TVA Sports’ website. He is stepping away from his analyst job at TVA Sports, with whom he has worked since 2015.
“Today it is with sadness that I must retire from your screens for a mandatory break,” Bossy wrote in French. “A necessary break during which I will have to receive treatment for lung cancer.
“I can tell you that I intend to fight with the determination and the enthusiasm that you have seen me display on the ice and in my game. That same determination that helped me achieve my dreams and my goals, the one that propelled me to the top of my sport, when I still put on my skates.”
The NHL acknowledged Bossy’s battle on its publc relations account on Twitter: “The @NHL family is with you, Mike Bossy.”
A four-time Stanley Cup winner with the New York Islanders (1980-83), Bossy recorded 1,126 points (573 goals, 553 assists) in 752 career games. The eight-time All-Star spent his entire 10-season NHL career with the Islanders.
Bossy won the 1978 Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year, and the 1982 Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs. He also was a three-time Lady Byng Memorial Trophy recipient (1982-83, 1983-84, 1985-86).
A chronic back injury forced Bossy to retire following the 1986-87 season. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.
“The battle I am about to wage will not be easy,” Bossy wrote. “Know that I will give my 100 percent, nothing less, with the objective of meeting you again soon, after a very eventful hockey game. You will never be very far in my thoughts. On the contrary, you will occupy a privileged place and you will be one of my motivations to get better.”
After missing the entire preseason due to a dislocated finger, Raptors big man Chris Boucher has been cleared to return for the team’s regular season opener, writes Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press (link via The Toronto Star).
Boucher had a breakout year in 2020/21, averaging 13.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 1.9 BPG in 60 games (24.2 MPG). He’s expected to once again play a regular role in the Raptors’ frontcourt this season before becoming eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2022.
“My whole career, my whole time in Toronto, nothing has been promised … I had to work for everything, I see it the same way this year,” Boucher said of his mindset in a contract year, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link). “… At the end of the day I gotta be consistent, that’s the one remaining thing I gotta focus on.”
Here’s more on the Raptors:
Toronto’s roster, which is heavy on long, versatile forwards, is unlikely any group the franchise has put together in its 27 years of existence, opines Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. As Smith observes, 11 of the Raptors’ 15 players on standard contracts have listed heights of at least 6’7″, but none are taller than 6’9″.
Having lost veteran leaders like Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, and Marc Gasol in recent years, head coach Nick Nurse will be tasked with leading a less experienced group this season, Smith writes for The Toronto Star. While Nurse adjusts his style to accommodate the new-look roster, Fred VanVleet says he’s helping the newcomers adapt to Nurse’s outside-the-box approach to coaching. “He’s a little weird at times, but he won us a championship, so he knows what he’s doing,” VanVleet said.
Following the Raptors’ roster cuts on the weekend, Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca took an in-depth look at the team’s cap and tax situation and which recently-waived players are – or aren’t – expected to play in the G League with the Raptors 905. Toronto’s team salary is currently above the luxury tax line, but the club still has the flexibility to duck below that line after pushing back the salary guarantee dates for Sam Dekker and Isaac Bonga.
After weeks of speculation, we finally know who Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse is using in his starting lineup — at least to start the season.
The Raptors announced Fred VanVleet, Goran Dragic, Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa as their starting five for Wednesday’s season-opening game against the Washington Wizards at Scotiabank Arena. It’s not the most surprising lineup, with Dragic beating out Gary Trent Jr. and Achiuwa earning the nod over fellow big men Khem Birch and Chris Boucher.
The frontcourt doesn’t possess much size, but Barnes, Anunoby and Achiuwa are all long players with plenty of athleticism to boot. That should make for a strong defensive unit, even without a traditional centre.
In VanVleet and Dragic, the Raptors feature a veteran backcourt that can facilitate for teammates and knock down the three-point shot with consistency.
Whether this five-man unit will be the norm going forward or if Toronto will adapt game-to-game based on matchups remains to be seen.
Nurse said he plans to use nine or 10 players in his rotation on opening night, meaning Birch, Trent, Boucher, and Svi Mykhailiuk should all see minutes off the bench.
Boucher was questionable after missing the entire preseason with a dislocated finger, but Nurse confirmed he was available against the Wizards.
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