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Toronto Maple Leafs Reminiscent of Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers – The Hockey Writers

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During yesterday’s Toronto Maple Leafs 8-6 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, I thought I had been transported 35 years back in time. As a professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton for 40 years, I cut my hockey teeth watching the Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the mid-1980s.

Related: Witnessing the Maple Leafs’ New Puck-Possession Philosophy in Action

That Oilers team was amazing. Wayne Gretzky was an assist-first, goal-scoring machine. Jari Kurri was a sniper who could finish like few others. One season, goalie Grant Fuhr started 75 games. Glen Sather was a creative young coach who structured a youthful team and then let them freewheel their on-ice skills.

The Oilers had bangers, speedy skaters, scorers, offensive defensemen, good coaching, and confidence – oodles and oodles of confidence. Even if they were behind by a couple of goals going into the third period, Oilers’ fans knew to stay tuned to their televisions or to not leave the building. Every so often, there was a low-scoring game; but most games ended something like 6-4, Oilers win. In 1985-86, the team scored 426 goals (5.325 per game) and gave up 310 (3.875 per game).

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe talks to captain John Tavares (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

To show the team’s scoring prowess, in that 1985-86 season – the season rookie defenseman Steve Smith accidentally banked the puck into his own net and allowed the Calgary Flames to beat the Oilers in the conference finals, Gretzky, Kurri, and Glenn Anderson each scored 50 goals. Kurri led the NHL with 68 goals. Paul Coffey set a record for most goals in a season by a defenseman with 48 and came one short of Bobby Orr’s points record with 138 (Orr had 139 points in 1970-71). Gretzky set a record with 163 assists and 215 points.

Related: NHL Rumors: Islanders, Maple Leafs, Rangers, More

The Maple Leafs’ 8-6 win over the Hurricanes was Gretzky-vintage Oilers. Gretzky’s part was played by Mitch Marner. Auston Matthews played the role of Kurri. Zach Hyman played Anderson. Tyson Barrie made a Coffey-like move on the goalie’s doorstep to score. Frederik Andersen became Fuhr. And young Sheldon Keefe became Sather. It was classic Oilers – fast, unpredictable, exciting, and crowd-pleasing. Oh, and the Maple Leafs won.

Andersen Stopped the Hurricanes When He Needed To

Andersen gave up six goals on 40 shots. It wasn’t a
typical Andersen showing; he’s more likely to give up only a couple goals a
game. But he stopped the opponents when he needed to. Although nothing like the
5-foot-10 Fuhr in stature, he played like Fuhr, who was the best goalie ever
for giving up five easier goals and then stopping five breakaways in the last
eight minutes to steal a victory.

Marner Was a Puck Magician

After a horrible second period, the Maple Leafs’ 3-0 lead evaporated and they were down 5-3 starting period three. Suddenly the offense exploded, and Marner’s highlight-reel goal after what looked like a planned faceoff play was lightning in a bottle. It will be shown, again and again, both for fans’ pleasure but also in video reviews by Maple Leafs opponents. Mitch Marner had five points (two goals) in the game.

Barrie Scores at the Net  

Barrie’s goal showed both the freedom Keefe’s been encouraging him to take and the best of Marner’s magic. While the play was whirling around them, both players stopped the action in their minds, saw a possibility, and created a perfect scoring play. It looked exactly like a Coffey-Gretzky hook-up. It was patient. It was considered. And, it worked.

Toronto Maple Leafs Tyson Barrie
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Barrie scored both his points in the third period. He assisted on Marner’s first goal of the game to cut the Hurricanes’ lead to 6-5 and scored the game-tying goal less than a minute later. As I say, it was lightning in a bottle. Barrie now has four goals and 17 points in 38 contests this year. He looks like what fans expected when he came from the Colorado Avalanche.

Matthews Can Be More than a Skilled Sniper

Matthews scored a goal and an assist in the 8-6 victory. It was his 24th goal of the season and pushed his point streak to five games. But two things about Matthews’ play caught my eye. First, his beautiful spin-o-rama assist on Marner’s goal was creative and confident. Second, everywhere Matthews skated, you could see him assessing the play on the ice.

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews
Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

He’s simply seeing the ice better, and as that skill grows he’ll
become more than a skilled shooter. Matthews now has 43 points in 38 games this season.

Hyman Has 3 Assists

Few players in the NHL play like Hyman. He’s a perfect set-up player for Matthews and Marner, and his three assists came on goals by Matthews, Barrie, and Pierre Engvall (an empty-netter to seal the victory). Although his assist on the Barrie goal was a secondary assist, it was a typical Hyman play. He not only got the puck to Marner, but he created the chaos in front of the net that Barrie’s goal snuck through.

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Mikheyev, Engvall, Kerfoot, Barrie, Sandin

Hyman now has scored six points (two goals
and four assists) in his last two games playing with line-partners Matthews and
Marner. It’s a line of Keefe’s creation, and it’s working big time.

The Maple Leafs Were Both Exciting and
Successful

I’m sure many hockey thinkers believe such rollicking hockey can’t be played successfully over a season, and perhaps they’re correct. But, as I recall, the Oilers of the mid-1980s were a dynasty and played this way night after night. It’s a style of play that keeps fans on their feet both at the arena and, I’m sure, in their living rooms in front of the television. In fact, this was a perfect game to see at your local sports bar.

Related: Maple Leafs Rookie Report: Engvall, Mikheyev Earning Trust of Teammates

It’s also a style of play that’s exciting for the players, which Marner summed up well when he talked about his own juices during the game.

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitchell Marner
Toronto Maple Leafs Mitchell Marner (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Derik Hamilton)

“Our adrenaline is pumping, our hearts are pumping, you’re fired up. The first one was a great pass by Matty, the second one a great play by Barrie to find that open spot and make that move. The third one I jumped through and saw their D-man have it, saw their other D-man folding out, and tried to get it. Lucky enough, I picked it off, got down the ice and was able to score.” (from Maple Leafs complete third-period comeback to improbably beat Hurricanes, Terry Koshan, The Toronto Sun, 12/23/19)

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Hyman, Marner, Tavares, Pietrangelo

That’s why the Maple Leafs win over the Hurricanes reminded me so much of the 1980s Oilers dynasty. That was fantastic hockey.

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Canada takes on Slovakia as World Juniors continue on TSN – TSN

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Team Canada has had its first taste of summer hockey at the World Junior Championship and will continue the quest for gold tonight against Slovakia.

Watch Canada vs. Slovakia at 6 p.m. ET on TSN4, TSN.ca and the TSN App. TSN’s coverage of Thursday’s games at the tournament begins at 2 p.m. ET with Finland facing Czechia.

Connor Bedard, a top prospect for the 2023 NHL draft, opened the scoring for Canada (1-0-0) and added an assist in a 5-2 win over Latvia (0-0-2) on Wednesday.

Sebastian Cossa got the start in net and made 22 saves for a Canadian squad quickly looking to build chemistry in Edmonton.

Canada’s head coach Dave Cameron said prior to the game he wanted to see “disciplined 200-foot hockey” and that the effort against Latvia was pretty much what he expected.

“It’s early, this is really only our second game, so you knew it was going to come in ebbs and flows,” said Cameron. “I like that we stuck with it and found a way to get that fifth goal which was huge and took a little bit of that pressure off towards the end of the game.” 

Canada has reached the podium in four of the past five tournaments, including gold medals in 2018 and 2020. Canada last won gold on home soil in 2015.

Cameron was quick to say that getting prepared to play hockey in August is not an issue.

“Not a chance, it’s what I do,” said Cameron. “I’ve done summer tournaments before … hockey’s hockey.

“It doesn’t matter the environment, the city, the number of people in the stands, anything like that. We’re hockey people and when that puck drops – game on.”

Slovakia (0-0-1), which features another top 2023 draft prospect in centre Dalibor Dvorsky, fell 5-4 to Czechia in their first match of the tournament on Tuesday. 

TSN’s Mark Masters reports that Dylan Garand is expected to start against Slovakia. 

Riley Kidney and Carson Lambos are projected to be scratches, while Brennan Othmann and Ethan Del Mastro will draw in for Canada. 

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Tom Brady Steps Aside From The Buccaneers: Details – HotNewHipHop

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Tom Brady is one of the best players in the entire NFL, and this season, he is looking to win his eighth Super Bowl title. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking good right now, and there is a real sense that they will win the NFC South, once again.

Unfortunately, Brady has had to put a halt to his training camp efforts as he is dealing with a personal matter. According to Ian Rapaport, Brady was not at practice today due to the issue and it seems like he won’t be returning to the field until after the team’s upcoming preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, which is set to take place on August 20th.

Brady is one of the oldest quarterbacks in the history of the league, and it is nothing short of impressive that he is still performing at such a high level. Many pundits believe the Buccaneers are favorites to win it all, yet again, although they will have to prove themselves following a disappointing end to the season in 2022.

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images for The Match

This is a developing story so stay tuned to HNHH for all of the latest news and updates. 

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Watch Live: Oilers pay tribute to Ben Stelter – Sportsnet.ca

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Ben Stelter was an inspiration to many in the sports world and beyond.

Two months before his fifth birthday, Stelter was diagnosed with glioblastoma — a form of brain cancer. After meeting the Edmonton Oilers, he quickly became a motivation for the team during their run to the Western Conference Final.

Stelter died at the age six, his father had announced Wednesday.

The Oilers will speak publicly starting at around 12:30 p.m. ET, and their comments can be seen in their entirety on Sportsnet through the video player atop this page.

Note: This live stream has ended.

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