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The Oilers hang around long enough to make it interesting in St. Louis but ultimately fall 2-1 – Edmonton Journal

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The Oilers hang around long enough to make it interesting in St. Louis but ultimately fall 2-1 – Edmonton Journal


The Oilers came within a post of a point in St. Louis Wednesday, on a night when the Blues were the better team on-balance.

Both Mikko Koskinen and the Oilers penalty kill were terrific. But the Edmonton power play had the game on it’s collective stick no less than 4 times and came up empty…including a 6-4 man advantage that continued right down to the final buzzer.

The Blues dominated in the 2nd frame in particular. But an 18-8 Oilers advantage in shots down the stretch sure made this one interesting.

Ultimately, make the final 2-1 Blues. Here’s the tale of the tape:

Edmonton Oilers Player Grades

MIKKO KOSKINEN. 8. Mikko Koskinen was nothing short of tremendous versus the Blues, stopping 42 of 44 shots. Stoned former Oiler David Perron on an excellent 1st Period chance and then denied him yet again with a spectacular blocker save in the 2nd. A late save short-side on Schenn in the 3rd kept the game close. Koskinen was not picked as a star by the St. Louis media. Shame on them. We may be seeing him claim the 1st job from between he and Mike Smith.

CONNOR McDAVID. 5. Frustrated all night long up against Ryan O’Reilly (played nearly half of his TOI against 97) and the Blues shutdown pair of Colton Parayko and Jay Boumeester. That’s different than McDavid not playing well offensively. He did manage 3 shots in 22:19. And set up Draisaitl for a good 2nd Period chance. However McDavid was also one of the players principally responsible for the 2-0 goal when he let the late man drift unchecked into the slot.

JOAKIM NYGARD. 4. Often over-matched by the far more physical Blues. Managed 1 shot in 13:24…a lot of that alongside McDavid. Yes, he can skate and forecheck. But he’s miscast in the Top 6.

ZACK KASSIAN. 5. Played a key role in the 2-1 goal as Kassian led the forecheck into the zone and then created a large diversion that took the St. Louis goaltender out of the play. Awarded with an assist for his efforts. Kassian was also guilty of failing to get the puck deep into the offensive zone in what turned out to be the 2-0. Leveled a crushing hit on Oskar Sundquist. His 500th career NHL game deserves a nod as well.

DARNELL NURSE. 6. Failed to shoulder check at the offensive blueline as Ethan Bear was changing behind him on the 1-0. But to be fair, even if he had I’m not sure he would have had a chance to catch Brayden Schenn. 2 shots and a block in 21:21 including 3:31 shorthanded. Probably the Oilers best 2-way D-man tonight.

ETHAN BEAR. 4. Drew a 1st Period PP. A big clear in the slot mid-way through the 2nd. Was he a little slow getting off the ice on the change that handed St. Louis a breakaway? I say yes, although I certainly don’t hang the goal solely on him. Did lose his check below the goal line on the 2-0 though. A dangerous shot on a 2nd Period PP. Played 20:29. Generally played well but a couple of his mistakes were costly.

LEON DRAISAITL. 7. Centered the Oilers best line over the first 2 periods in between Gagner and Neal and was the Oilers best skater. Re-united with McDavid and Kassian for most of the 3rd. Hit the post with 19.3 seconds left. Assisted on the Neal goal to draw within a point of league-leading McDavid in the scoring race. Had 8 shots and fought through a really tough physical battle against the Blues in order to do so. A terrific stick broke up a 2nd Period PP effort by St. Louis and turned into a short-handed chance. Didn’t stop in front on the 2-0 but I thought he was supporting the D-man on the play. Played 23:41. 50% in the faceoff circle.

SAM GAGNER. 6. All 3 players on the 2nd line were well above 50% in CF% on the night, Gagner 14-8, 63%. 2 shots in 11:53 as well as a post. Set up Neal for a very good 1st Period opportunity. Next shift he set up Draaisaitl for another. But he and James Neal also had a malfunction just inside the St. Louis blueline that turned into a breakaway in the other direction for the 1-0. But the puck was headed in the right direction for a majority of his shifts.

JAMES NEAL. 6. His 18th of the season drew the game close at 2-1. It was a terrific shot as most of Neal’s body was behind the goal line but he still found twine with Jake Allen down and out in front. That was one of 4 shots for Neal. But he and Sam Gagner were also partially at fault on the 1-0.

OSCAR KLEFBOM. 6. Good clear on a 1st Period PK. A terrific steal and clear in a 2nd Period PK. His line at the end of the night included 2 shots, 2 blocks, 2 giveaways and a healthy 26:02 TOI. However, he was also part of a power play that came up empty over 4 opportunities and 6:33 of ice-time.

ADAM LARSSON. 7. His best play of the game was a shot block with the net wide open. Larsson managed to get his heel on it and direct it wide. Played a hard-working 19:49 including a close-to-perfect 5:40 shorthanded. Has really found his game of late.

RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS. 5. Had 5 shots on net. Did set up 97 for a chance on a 1st Period deflection-pass. Good clear on a 2nd period PK. The effort was there but not a lot went his way. The best example of that was a 2nd Period back-check that likely saved a goal only to inadvertently tick the puck over the glass to put his club on the PK.

JUJHAR KHAIRA. 5. A good D-zone takeaway in the 1st. A very good block and clear on a 2nd Period PK. Contributed to the penalty kill in a meaningful way overall, logging 2:42 TOI with St. Louis on the man advantage. 2 shots, 3 hits and a block.

ALEX CHIASSON. 4. 2 shots and a hit in 12:14. I didn’t mark him with a single defensive miscue but in a physical game against a big team I thought Chiasson did not make the impact they need him to.

KRIS RUSSELL. 5. A 1st Period giveaway. A good clear on a 2nd Period PK. Over-all played a pretty low-event 12:50.

CALEB JONES. 5. Battled hard, if not always successfully. But the majority of the time the kid bent but did not break. Unfairly nicked with a -1 as he was just coming onto the ice when the 1-0 was going in. A Dangerous shot from the point was 1 of 2 on the night.

RILEY SHEAHAN. 5. This line was hammered in possession at 5×5. Sheahan was 3-11, 21% CF. 5×4 was a different story, though, where Sheahan and crew sparkled in 3:12 worth of shorthanded work. Great clear on a 1st Period PK. Being just 22% on face-offs contributed to the puck chase that too often ensued on his watch.

GAETAN HAAS. 4. Did draw a 1st Period PP. And he and Nygard had a very effective 2nd Period 4×4 shift. But Haas spent too much effort trying to go through that St. Louis D rather than dump & go around. 0 shots in 8:34.

JOSH ARCHIBALD. 4. Very effective on the PK with a clean slate over 2:58 of work. But crushed 5×5 and managed a lone hit in just 9:38. Not the spunky Archibald we’ve seen the past couple.

The Oilers sit 3rd in the Pacific at 19-14-4. They host the Penguins Friday.

Follow me on Twitter @KurtLeavins

Cult of Hockey David Staples

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills

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North Division

It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.

The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.

Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.

Passers

Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.

Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.

Shooting

A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.

Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.

Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.

Stick Handling

Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.

If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.

Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.

When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.

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Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards

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Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards

Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.

Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.

Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.

“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.

“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”

After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.

Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.

Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.

“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.

“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.

“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”

Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.

“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.

“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”

For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.

“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.

“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”

 

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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