For a team that was missing its #1 defenceman and, oh yeah, its #1 goalie, Edmonton Oilers were more than up to the challenge on Saturday night. After a bit of a shaky start, the Oilers exploded for four goals in the back half of the first period and cruised from there to a 5-2 win over Chicago Blackhawks.
Once again it was Edmonton’s elite special teams units that led the charge. The powerplay made it look easy in converting a 5-on-3, but it was the penalty kill unit that stole the show. Not only did they kill off all three Chicago powerplays, the Oilers connected for a pair of shorthanded goals in the same game for the first time since 2010.
Through 17 games, the powerplay is now a collective 21 for, 0 against, while the penalty kill is 3 for, 6 against. That’s a net +24/-6 = +18 which is off the charts good.
The home team held a 33-30 edge on the shot clock but a more convincing 18-10 bulge in Grade A shots as tabulated by David Staples and myself here at the Cult of Hockey.
#2 Duncan Keith, 7. Wily veteran found himself in a feature role just as his old friends from Chicago came calling. He led all players on both sides with 25:06 in ice time, within a few ticks of his career average during his 16 years in the Windy City but about 5 minutes more than he’s been getting in his new home. He and his new partner Bouchard got burned for one ten-bell look in the opening seconds of the game but settled down nicely thereafter. 3 shots on net, 2 blocks, 2 takeaways.
#5 Cody Ceci, 7. Was assigned to a partnership with the NHL debutant Broberg and delivered 22 minutes of reliable two-way hockey. Was particularly solid behind his own blueline. 1 shot, 3 blocks, 1 hit.
#6 Kris Russell, 6. Got the job done on a third pairing that sawed off 0-0 on the night. Had one tough sequence in which he was beaten for 2 good shots in rapid succession but Skinner had the answers. 2 shots, 2 blocks, 2 hits, and 2 good minutes on the penalty kill.
#8 Kyle Turris, 5. Delivered 6 quiet minutes on a little-used but fairly effective fourth line.
#13 Jesse Puljujarvi, 5. A little snakebitten this last while, and was again on Saturday when he was flat out robbed by Kevin Lankinen after a great McDavid feed on a 3-on-1 rush. Did have a couple of defensive hiccups but the puck was generally moving north on his watch. 3 shots, 2 blocks, 2 hits. Took a penalty and celebrated an Oilers goal from the sin bin.
#16 Tyler Benson, 5. With a team-low 5:14 of ice time didn’t play enough to really move the needle, but he had his moments all the same. Made a fine play just inside his own line to recover a loose puck after Russell’s shot block, then headman it to Kassian for a partial breakaway. Also stirred things up himself a couple of times. Drew three opponents including the goalie into a scrum after banging away at a loose puck in the blue paint and continuing to bang away even after it wasn’t loose. Has recognized the necessity to play with some edge in his current NHL role and is doing just that.
#18 Zach Hyman, 6. Did some effective work in Chicago territory, and keyed the first goal when his deflection of a point shot created an uncontrolled rebound which McDavid cashed. Did take 2 of Edmonton’s 3 penalties so spent relatively little time on the PK unit, fortunately his teammates had his back and not only killed them off but even got one themselves.
#22 Tyson Barrie, 6. Pounded home his third goal of the season on the 5-on-3, sneaking into the high slot and converting Draisaitl’s feed with a hard one-timer. Handled the puck well and took care of business in his own end of the ice, most notably when he boxed out giant Kirby Dach.
#25 Darnell Nurse, no grade. His name is embedded in the boiler plate, such a constant he has been on the Edmonton blueline. His consecutive games streak that dated back to 2016-17 ended at 326 when he was unable to go due to a busted finger, quite a feat for a defender who plays such an active game for so many minutes.
#29 Leon Draisaitl, 7. Came out hard and steamrolled Connor Murphy on his first shift of the night. His line was chasing the game a little at even strength but he more than made up for it on special teams. Earned a primary assist on the powerplay when he sold Lankinen on his patented one-timer but crossed up the aggressive keeper by instead teeing up Barrie for a blast into the wide open net. Then scored himself on the penalty kill, speeding on to Bouchard’s long area pass and wiring a perfect shot past Lankinen, off the post and in to finally salt the game away in the 57th minute. Made a superb pass to Kassian which forced another great stop by Lankinen. In on 5 Grade A shots for, 0 against. A team high 6 shot attempts and a respectable 10/18=56% on the dot.
#37 Warren Foegele, 8. One of the more noticeably Oilers on a highly effective third line. In his 11 minutes at even strength Edmonton otushot Chicago 9-3 and dominated the scoring chance metrics as well. Foegele himself was directly involved in 4 Grade A shots by the Oilers, 0 against. Made a very nice pass to McLeod for the 4-0 goal and deservedly received the primary assist on the play. Hammered 4 shots on goal himself including a couple from very close range. Skated miles and provided a strong physical presence as well. Likely his best game as an Oiler to this early point.
#44 Zack Kassian, 7. An excellent bookend for Foegele, he too fired 4 shots on net and landed 4 hits to lead the Oilers in both departments. Couldn’t find the scoresheet but not for want of trying, pounding 3 Grade A shots on net. Now 9 games without a point but that won’t last much longer based on this fine showing. Made a good defensive play to break up a Chicago cycle and clear the Oilers zone.
#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 7. Did his best work on the penalty kill, where he delivered 3 solid minutes. Scored his first career shorthanded goal when he jumped on a loose puck in the middle of the Chicago zone and quickly ripped a high shot that found the top corner. Made a couple of fine steals, a couple of nice dangles and handled the puck with confidence. A couple of coverage issues on the defensive side, but nothing that proved costly.
#70 Colton Sceviour, 7. His second game as an emergency fill-in at the centre position and once again he delivered the goods, including on the faceoff dot where he was a perfect 3/3=100%. Held his own for 5+ even-strength minutes on a line between Benson and Turris, but like a few of his teammates his best work came on the penalty kill, where he led all forwards with 3:04 of ice time. After previously seeing his first point as an Oiler taken off the board due to an official scoring change, he finally broke the ice on a play in which he was initially uncredited, then correctly added in after it was determined his dogged shadowing of Seth Jones resulted in a deflection off his skate and directly to Yamamoto.
#71 Ryan McLeod, 6. Scored his second NHL goal with a pretty deke and finish off a fine Foegele feed. Skated well on an effective third line which largely controlled play. Docked a full point, however, for his ill-advised pass back to the point at the end of an Oilers powerplay which got tipped enroute to its destination, leading to a fast break 2-on-0 the other way and the goal that cut Edmonton’s lead to 4-2 with 11 minutes left. Call it a rookie mistake, not unexpected given McLeod is in fact a rookie. But one who is showing excellent progress these past couple of weeks. 5/10=50% on the dot.
#74 Stuart Skinner, 8. Set the tone in the opening seconds when he robbed Kane from close range, then made a second outstanding stop of the same Chicago star from the slot just 4 minutes later. Those huge early stops enabled the Oilers to open the scoring for the first time in 8 long games, and ultimately to stretch it out to a 4-0 lead. Otherwise rock solid, with zero chance on either goal — an aerial deflection just inside the post, and a perfectly-executed 2-on-0 breakaway that was finished by sniper Alex DeBrincat. 30 shots, 28 saves, .933 save percentage.
#75 Evan Bouchard, 6. High-event night that saw him involved in 9 Grade A shots, 5 at the good end of the ice. 4 of those resulted in goals: Bouchard earned assists on McDavid’s tally with a good low shot that Hyman was able to tip on its way in, and on Draisaitl’s when he backed a superb pass off the wall and into the lane of the fast-charging German. In between times, however, he was victimized on both Chicago tallies, failing to prevent Dach’s tip on the first and turning the puck over at the offensive blueline on the second. In fairness he was left on an island on the latter after McLeod sent a grenade his way. Also rang a rocket off the crossbar. Led all Oilers with 6 shot attempts and 3 giveaways, which kind of encapsulates his night’s work.
#86 Philip Broberg, 7. The standard +1 simply for playing his first NHL game, a fantastic accomplishment especially at the tender age of 20. Comported himself well throughout his 14:24 of action. Drew an early penalty that led to a powerplay goal. Then earned his first NHL point by making a quick, smart pass down the wall to Foegele, setting the stage for McLeod’s goal. Burned once at the defensive end by the crafty Kane but was saved by the bell when Kane rang the post. One of the things he seems to have learned in the AHL is to be less of a hit magnet than he was in preseason, and he demonstrated that on a third period sortie when a Hawk seemingly had him in the trolley tracks.
#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 5. Quiet game at even strength. Struggled to contain Blackhawk shots from the point, allowing no fewer than 4 that would result in dangerous chances, including the one that Dach tipped home late in the first. Did however make a fine defensive stop on Jonathan Toews to bust up an odd-man rush. His best moments came on the penalty kill, where he contributed 2 effective minutes to the cause. 2 shots, 2 blocks.
#97 Connor McDavid, 8. Another splendid game from the captain, who chipped in a goal and an assist early to provide his team a multi-goal lead that they never did relinquish. Made 1 early mistake on a Chicago scoring chance, otherwise was only involved at the good end where he contributed to 7 Grade A looks, the most of any Oiler. Broke his stick on a d-zone faceoff but responded by blocking a pass with his body, then decking the nearest Chicagoan before heading to the bench for a new twig. 2 shots, 1 hit, 3 giveaways, 2 takeaways, and 8/14=57% in the faceoff circle. The biggest surprise? He drew not 1, not 2, but 3 (THREE!!) penalties.
Medina Spirit, the horse that won the Kentucky Derby and became embroiled in a controversy over a failed post-race drug test, collapsed and died Monday after a workout at Santa Anita racetrack in California.
The three-year-old colt trained by Bob Baffert had just completed five furlongs in his second workout since finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic a month ago at Del Mar, Calif., according to Craig Robertson, Baffert’s attorney. Baffert said in a statement that the horse suffered a heart attack.
“My entire barn is devastated by this news,” Baffert said. “Medina Spirit was a great champion, a member of our family who was loved by all, and we are deeply mourning his loss. I will always cherish the proud and personal memories of Medina Spirit and his tremendous spirit.”
The colt will undergo a full necropsy, which is required by the California Horse Racing Board.
Medina Spirit tested positive for betamethasone after the May 1 Kentucky Derby. The drug is a legal medication that is not allowed on race day. It was Baffert’s record seventh win in the Derby.
Last Friday, Robertson released a statement saying that tests done by a New York lab have “definitely confirmed” Medina Spirit tested positive for the steroid — not through an injection but due to an ointment used to treat a skin rash.
Baffert gets the record Run for the Roses win while jockey John Velazquez picked up his fourth Kentucky Derby top finish. 1:41
Commission could still strip Medina Spirit of Derby win
The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has been investigating the case, and has yet to hold a hearing that could possibly disqualify Medina Spirit.
In the $6 million US Breeders’ Cup Classic, Medina Spirit couldn’t muster the necessary late kick to threaten winner Knicks Go.
“I’m very proud of him. He ran a great race,” Baffert said last month. “To me, he’s the best three-year-old. He showed it today. That’s what racing is all about, proving it on the racetrack. And he proved it today that he’s the real deal.”
Baffert was allowed to enter horses in the season-ending world championships, but the event’s money-leading trainer had to meet certain conditions, including stricter out-of-competition testing of his horses and greater security at his barn. He agreed to the extra scrutiny and was required to pay for it out of his own pocket.
Medina Spirit had five wins in 10 career starts and earnings of $3,545,200, according to Equibase. The colt was owned by Amr Zedan, who competes as Zedan Racing Stables.
“Our most sincere condolences go out to Mr. Amr Zedan and the entire Zedan Racing Stables family,” Baffert said in his statement. “They are in our thoughts and prayers as we go through this difficult time.”
Everton eased some of the pressure on manager Rafa Benitez as they ground out a comeback 2-1 home win over Arsenal in the Premier League on Monday, with Demarai Gray netting a stunning stoppage-time winner after setting up the equaliser.
Brazilian forward Richarlison, who had two goals scrapped for marginal offsides after VAR checks, had levelled in the 79th minute after Gray hit the crossbar, cancelling out Martin Odegaard’s first-half opener for the visitors.
The outcome left Arsenal seventh on 23 points from 15 games, four points outside the top four, while Everton, who announced on Sunday that director of football Marcel Brands https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/struggling-everton-part-ways-with-director-football-brands-2021-12-06 had left his position, climbed to 12th on 18 points.
Everton captain Seamus Coleman praised the home fans who lifted the Toffees in the face of adversity after they fell behind, having also singled out Gray’s fine performance.
“We knew whatever goes on behind the scenes, the fans always come here to support us,” Coleman told Sky Sports. “They got behind us from minute one to minute 90 and got us over the line.
“I tell him (Gray) every day. Sometimes these players don’t realise how good they can be. He has bundles of ability. He needs to work hard every day as that is what the top players do. He has done that this week.”
Everton dominated the first half and created several half-chances before Richarlison headed in a 44th-minute free kick from Andros Townsend, only for his effort to be chalked off.
Norwegian Odegaard then scored on the stroke of halftime from Arsenal’s first purposeful move, steering the ball superbly past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford as he got on the end of Kieran Tierney’s cross from the left.
Richarlison thought he had equalised in the 57th minute when he drove the ball inside the near post from close range, but Everton were again denied by VAR leaving the Brazilian shaking his head in disbelief.
But it was third time lucky for Richarlison as he beat Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale with a looping header from a rebound after Gray’s long-range shot cannoned off the woodwork, setting up a frantic climax.
With a share of the spoils looming, Gray sent the home fans into raptures when he cut inside two players and beat Ramsdale with a thunderbolt from 25 metres which went in off the post, giving Everton their first league win in nine games.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Ken Ferris)
Canada‘s Bianca Andreescu will not play in the Australian Open next month following a challenging spell brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, the former U.S. Open champion said on Monday.
Andreescu, 21, said time isolating in quarantined hotels took a toll on her mentally and physically and that she did not feel like herself while training and playing matches.
“I felt like I was carrying the world on my shoulders,” Andreescu, who also said her grandmother spent weeks in ICU due to a COVID-19 infection, wrote on Twitter.
“I could not detach myself from everything that was going on off the court; was feeling the collective sadness and turmoil around and it took it’s toll on me.”
Andreescu became Canada‘s first Grand Slam singles champion with her 2019 U.S. Open triumph, when she beat Serena Williams in the final, but endured a run of injuries starting with a knee problem at that year’s WTA Finals in Shenzhen.
The hard-hitting Canadian withdrew from this year’s Tokyo Olympics, a decision she put down to all the challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andreescu, who last competed on the WTA Tour in October at Indian Wells where her title defence ended in the third round against Anett Kontaveit, did not say when she would return.
“I want to give myself extra time to re-set, recover, and grow from this … and continue to inspire by doing charity work, giving back and working on myself because I know by doing this I will come back stronger than ever,” said Andreescu.
“I will therefore not start my season in Australia this year but will take some additional time to reflect, train and be ready for the upcoming 2022 tennis season.”
The Australian Open is set to begin on Jan. 17.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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