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Secrets revealed by coach about excellent Edmonton Oilers penalty kill in 2019-20 – Edmonton Journal

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“I look at all of our guys and I see to a man they all block shots. It’s funny, I wouldn’t know who blocks more than the next guy on the penalty kill … I could send you clips of (Ethan) Bear and (Matt) Benning and Doc (Nurse) and every one of those guys are committed to blocking shots. I would say this: they recognize where they are trying to take away lanes with high pressure, but once the pass is made to a certain area of the ice, that’s where they commit to blocking the shot.”

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) carries the puck past Edmonton Oilers forward Riley Sheahan (23) John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports

A team effort with player ownership

Playfair said he wanted to establish a certain rhythm and confidence in the penalty kill unit.

“Every time you get a kill, you can find two or three things that you want to improve upon, right? … I would say the thing that we tried to instil in our penalty kill is to develop a pace and a pressure. The players got really comfortable doing each individual job. They know what they’re trying to accomplish. The players had a lot of input into it. Players would come to me and say, ‘Hey ,why don’t we do this? We should try this.’ And it was like, ‘Yes, absolutely. You’re the ones in the line of fire. If you think we should have one of them drop off, or you think we should clear pucks this way,  we should do it this way. Let’s dig in and do it that way.’ So I think the players took on a lot of ownership and that was really good, too.”

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Oilers' McDavid, Nurse size up new playoff format ahead of potential Hawks clash – CBC.ca

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During his downtime in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Darnell Nurse tuned into the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance for a dose of inspiration.

The Edmonton Oilers rearguard plans to draw on motivational lessons from Air Jordan in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks.

“I think that’s the perfect example — to see his mindset in a lot of those games – of creating your own environment, creating your own fire,” Nurse said Thursday on a virtual news conference conducted via Zoom.

“That’s a test that everyone in this situation is going to have to go through, having the ability to create your own excitement.”

WATCH | Nurse remains motivated by opportunity to win Stanley Cup:

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse says even though they will be competing in an empty arena, the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup should be enough to motivate players. 1:08

There will be no crowd due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The seats, empty. The energy in the building, absent.

“Yeah, there’s no fans there,” Nurse said. “And yeah, you might be in a hub city. But there’s an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. I think that should be enough motivation to get anyone going.

“There’s a lot of challenges. There are a lot of things that aren’t ideal that come along with this situation. But that’s the world. The world is in that position right now. So the Stanley Cup is all the fire you should need.”

On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league and NHLPA agreed to a return-to-play format, which concludes the remainder of the regular season and begins a 24-team playoff plan.

The new plan would see the top-4 clubs in the Eastern and Western Conference play two abbreviated round-robin tournaments to determine playoff seeding.

The other eight teams in each conference would play a best-of-five ‘play-in’ series — No. 5 versus No. 12, No. 6 versus No. 11, No. 7 versus No. 10, and No. 8 versus No. 9 — to determine the 16 clubs left standing for the playoffs.

WATCH | 2-minute recap of Bettman’s press conference:

Commissioner Bettman outlined the NHL’s 24-team playoff format, and the draft lottery. 2:11

If fans were allowed in the building in Edmonton, Chicago forward Patrick Kane would have no doubt experienced the wrath of the Oiler faithful given the carnage inflicted over the years.

Through 43 career games against the Oilers, Kane has 56 points. And in the post-season against any club, Kane is a certified gamer with 123 points in 127 career appearances and a Conn Smythe Trophy to boot.

The Chicago faithful have reason to hope for an upset — if Kane can keep up the torrid scoring pace and the rest of the Blackhawks can somehow limit the damage inflicted by Leon Draisaitl and captain Connor McDavid.

Holland approves of format

“I’m happy it’s a best-of-five,” Oilers general manager Ken Holland said. “There might be a little bit of rust in the first game or two, but over the course of a five-game series it’s an opportunity to — if you get off to a sluggish start — get back in the series.

“If you have a bad first game, you’ve still got to lose two more versus how quickly a best-of-three can go.”

In spite of the Kane factor, the Oilers (37-25-9) will enter the series — whenever it happens — as the undeniable favourites against the Blackhawks (32-30-8).

On Thursday, McDavid, who was part of the NHL/NHLPA’s Return to Play Committee, and Nurse addressed the merit of the 24-team format and whether a hub city approach would provide an advantage for the hometown franchise among other topics.

WATCH | McDavid, Nurse discuss polarizing return-to-play format:

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who was part of the NHL/NHLPA’s Return to Play Committee, and his teammate Darnell Nurse discuss the creation of the NHL’s 24-team playoff plan. 1:57

The Oilers led the league in power-play efficiency at a whopping 29.5 per cent, and now they have the services of a healthy Mike Green as the quarterback on the point.

As for the penalty kill, they ranked second behind only San Jose at 84.4 per cent.

“We’ve had that same power play for probably two years now, and that helps a lot,” McDavid said. “We’ve had a lot of success on specialty teams, and we’ll probably need to be a little bit better five-on-five.”

Draisaitl a driving force

The difference maker could well be Draisaitl, the 2019/20 Art Ross Trophy winner with 43 goals and 67 assists for 110 points in 71 appearances. The 6-foot-2, 208-pounder is a beast to move off the puck and one of the best pure passers in the league.

During Thursday’s conference, a reporter from Germany asked McDavid how he benefits from playing with Draisaitl.

“He gives me nice passes, so that definitely helps me out,” McDavid said. “A lot was made of us playing together or not playing together, and that gives our team a different look.”

After Christmas, head coach Dave Tippett assigned McDavid and Draisaitl their own lines, and the Oilers became way more challenging to defend with the scoring spread around.

“As a general manager, and if you’re a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, we’re very fortunate to have two great players who are 23 and 24 years of age and, really, probably just coming into their prime years as athletes,” Holland said. “They’ve been versatile. Obviously, Leon can move to the left wing and we can play them together as a line.”

And when that happens — even minus fans in the building — the atmosphere will no doubt be electric.

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Bruins win Presidents' Trophy for 2019-20 season – NHL.com

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The Boston Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy, awarded to the team with the best record in the regular season.

The Bruins were 44-14-12 and led the NHL with 100 points when the 2019-20 season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

The NHL in its Return to Play Plan announcement May 26 said there would be no more regular-season games, instead restarting with eight teams in each conference playing a Qualifying Round for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with a Seeding Round Robin featuring the top four teams in each conference.

The Bruins had five winning streaks of at least four games, including three of at least six games. They had a 13-game point streak (9-0-4) from Nov. 10-Dec. 5 and ended the season with at least one point in 30 of their final 37 games (24-7-6).

It’s the third time the Bruins have won the Presidents’ Trophy since it was first awarded in 1985-86. They did so in 2013-14, when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Second Round, and in 1989-90, when they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Final.

Boston was led by forward David Pastrnak, who tied Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals for the NHL lead with 48 goals and was tied with Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers for third in the League with 95 points.

Goalies Tuukka Rask (26-8-6, 2.12 goals-against average, .929 save percentage) and Jaroslav Halak (18-6-6, 2.39 GAA, .919 save percentage) combined for eight shutouts and helped the Bruins allow the fewest goals in the NHL (167, 2.39 per game), earning Boston goalies the William M. Jennings Trophy for the third time (Andy Moog and Rejean Lemelin, 1989-90; Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez, 2008-09).

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Ovechkin of Capitals, Pastrnak of Bruins win Richard Trophy – NHL.com

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Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins won the Rocket Richard Trophy, awarded to the top goal scorer in the NHL, for the 2019-20 season.

Each forward scored 48 goals (Ovechkin in 68 games, Pastrnak in 70) before the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

The League, in its Return to Play Plan announcement Tuesday, said there would be no more regular-season games, and instead would restart with eight teams in each conference playing a Qualifying Round for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and a Seeding Round Robin featuring the top four teams in each conference.

It’s the ninth time Ovechkin has led the League in goals, including each of the past three seasons; he scored 51 goals in 2018-19 and 49 in 2017-18. Ovechkin also led the League in 2007-08 (65), 2008-09 (56), 2012-13 (32), 2013-14 (51), 2014-15 (53) and 2015-16 (50).

The No. 1 pick in the 2004 NHL Draft, Ovechkin (34 years and 178 days old at time of season pause) is the third-oldest player to lead the NHL in goals, behind Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings in 1962-63 (34 years, 358 days) and Bill Cook of the New York Rangers in 1932-33 (36 years, 165 days).

Ovechkin, who became the eighth player in NHL history to reach 700 goals when he scored against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 22, began the season in 13th place on the NHL all-time goals list with 658 and finished it eighth with 706, passing Luc Robitaille (668 goals), Teemu Selanne (684), Mario Lemieux (690), Steve Yzerman (692) and Mark Messier (694). Ovechkin is two goals behind Mike Gartner (708) for seventh.

Ovechkin has 11 seasons of at least 45 goals and was two from reaching 50 for the ninth time in his 15-season NHL career.

Named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players presented by Molson Canadian in 2017, Ovechkin has won the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) three times, the Art Ross Trophy (NHL scoring champion) once, and was the Calder Trophy winner as NHL rookie of the year in 2005-06. He is the only player in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP), Calder Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy, the Ted Lindsay Award (voted best player) and the Rocket Richard Trophy.

It is the first time Pastrnak, who turned 24 on May 25, has won the Rocket Richard Trophy. He set an NHL career high in goals this season and has increased his total in each of his past five seasons. He has scored at least 34 goals in each of the past four seasons, and his 155 since 2016-17 are third in the NHL behind Ovechkin (181) and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (158).

Pastrnak led the League with 20 power-play goals and tied for third in points (95) for the Bruins, who won the Presidents’ Trophy with the best record in the regular season.

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