More and more, it’s looking like the NHL won’t be participating in the Olympics.
More and more, it’s looking like the NHL won’t be participating in the Olympics.
Last week, commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters at the Board of Governors meetings that he was “concerned” with allowing players to travel to Beijing at the height of a global pandemic. On Monday, that level of concern rose dramatically after the Calgary Flames were forced to postpone at least three of this week’s games after six players and a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
No, the coronavirus is not going away. If anything, with the Omicron variant doubling its cases each day, it’s getting worse.
The deadline for pulling out of the Olympics is still weeks away. But at this point, it appears that the league is one more outbreak away from pulling the chute. After all, the league’s primary concern is preventing the disruption of its own season. And by the looks of it, that might now be in jeopardy.
According to Daily Faceoff reporter Frank Seravalli, 123 players have entered COVID-19 protocols this season, with three outbreaks forcing the postponement of games. That’s approximately 17% of the league. And that’s a league that is 99.9% fully vaccinated.
It’s one thing to test positive in North America. It’s another to do so in China, where the league is still unsure as to where and how long a player would have to quarantine for, and whether he would be allowed to leave the country.
“Our concerns have only been magnified,” Bettman told reporters.
Imagine what those concerns could look like after the holidays.
FORGET ABOUT McDAVID VS. MATTHEWS
When the Edmonton Oilers host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, it will feature a much-anticipated matchup between two of league’s highest goal-scorers. But if we learned anything from last year when both teams were knocked out of the first round of the playoffs, it is really a matchup of depth.
And it’s a matchup that the Oilers, who have lost five straight, are currently losing.
Despite signing Zach Hyman (11 goals) away from Toronto in the summer, the same old problems in Edmonton exist. While Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid have combined for 39 goals, the rest of the team has managed only 49 goals. Worse, only 11 of those goals have come from the bottom-two lines.
In Toronto, where 27 goals have come from the third and fourth lines, it has been far more balanced.
Auston Matthews leads the offence with 18 goals, followed by John Tavares and William Nylander with 13 goals each. But whether it’s Ondrej Kase (8 goals), Michael Bunting (7 goals) or Jason Spezza (7), Toronto is leaning on its depth more than ever before.
BRUCE, THERE IT IS
Bruce Boudreau said he does not like the “stupid song” that fans have been serenading him with since he took over as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks. But with four straight wins, he has to be happy with how the atmosphere has changed in the city.
There is a newfound optimism in Vancouver.
The team is winning. The top players are back to scoring. And the Canucks are slowly moving up the standings.
It’s far too early to tell if this will lead to a playoff spot, but based on Boudreau’s regular season record — he has missed the playoffs only twice as an NHL head coach — and how the team has responded since he took over from Travis Green, don’t bet against it.
Here are four reasons why Vancouver is 4-0-0 so far under Boudreau:
— Goaltender Thatcher Demko has gotten hot, stopping 128 of 133 shots for a .962 save percentage.
— After going 13 games without scoring, Brock Boeser has three goals and one assist in his last four games.
— Elias Pettersson, who has only five goals this year, scored his first even-strength goal of the season on Sunday.
— The penalty kill, which is the worst in the league, has allowed only two goals on the past 10 attempts.
TRAIK IT OR LEAVE IT
Edmonton hockey writer Jim Matheson raised an interesting question when he asked why Oilers prospect Matvey Petrov, who is tearing up the OHL with 19 goals and 44 points in 27 games, was not chosen for Russia’s world junior roster. Is Russia that deep offensively that they have no room for someone who ranks third in OHL scoring? Or could it be because Petrov is playing in North Bay rather than northern Siberia? … Going back to last year, Matthews has scored 59 goals in his past 78 games … As long as Bunting remains on a line with Matthews, I can’t imagine him not winning the Calder Trophy this year. With 19 points in 29 games — he’s five points back of rookie scoring leader Lucas Raymond — the 26-year-old is on pace for 54 points … It appears that Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele, who has five goals and nine points in his past five games, might have caught wind last month that he had played himself off Canada’s Olympic roster … The NHLPA gets a voice in deciding whether their members will go to the 2022 Winter Olympics. And while not everyone in the league is heading to Beijing, don’t discount the votes of those players who have already booked a vacation to the Bahamas to coincide with the two-week tournament … The Rangers add Ryan Reaves to their roster and suddenly Jacob Trouba starts laying guys like he’s Scott Stevens. Funny how that works.
Get your daily dose of Traikos’ takes on NHL news direct to your inbox with his new newsletter, Traik-eotomy. Sign up now.
There are certain games in a hockey team’s season that mean much more than two points. They are watershed moments that tell us who they are and where they are going.
Saturday night against the Calgary Flames was one of those games for the Edmonton Oilers.
On a seven-game losing streak, with their coach on the hot seat, their goalies being roasted at the stake and the season slipping through their fingers, a centre stage Battle of Alberta was the fork in what has been a long and bumpy downhill road.
In the end, the Oilers took the road less travelled — one that actually led to a win.
They came back from down 2-0 and rode two goals from Evan Bouchard, an outstanding night from Mikko Koskinen and a third-period winner and empty-netter from Leon Draisaitl to post a life-preserving 5-3 victory.
“It feels great,” said Draisaitl, who also chipped in two assists for a four-point night. “Losing is awful. It sucks. It is not fun. It feels like there is always a cloud around you. We are not where we want to be yet, but this is a start and you have to start at some point. (Koskinen) was amazing. It was a full team effort, a good game for us.”
For reasons unexplained, the Sportsnet crew only saw fit to name Koskinen the third star, but his 44-save performance was the foundation that made everything else possible.
“He saved the game for us,” said Draisaitl. “He was our best player, not even close tonight. It is great for him. We love him in the dressing room and we love playing for him. He was amazing.”
The Oilers, who came in with six points to show for their previous 15 games (2-11-2), needed this game more than they’ve needed a regular season game in a looong time.
That they might have righted their season at the expense of Calgary makes it sweeter.
“It makes it extra special,” said Draisaitl. “It’s always fun beating our biggest rival in the league. But to be honest, it doesn’t really matter at this point when you are that deep into a slump.
“You are just looking to get that first win out of the way, it doesn’t really matter who it is against. But it does make it a little bit extra special, for sure.”
Not that the Flames were exactly tearing things up. Prior to their 5-1 win over Florida this week they lost nine of their previous 10 games (the only win coming over lowly Seattle) and were outscored 43-22. So they were at a bit of a crossroads themselves.
But when the flag dropped, Calgary hit the gas first.
It was a miserable start for the Oilers, who were losing puck battles and leaving guys wide open around their net en route to a well-deserved 2-0 deficit after 20 minutes. That made it 13 goals against in the last five periods dating back to the five-goal third-period collapse against Ottawa.
Things looked pretty bad at this point.
It turned in the second, though, starting with a pair of point shots on the power play from Bouchard.
“I thought our second period was good,” said Connor McDavid, who ended his three-game drought with a pair of assists. “We really dictated the pace of the period, drew a few penalties and our power play was able to capitalize.
“The power play is big part of the game and we were able to get ourselves back in it, to just scratch and claw to find a way to get a win.”
Brendan Perlini and Noah Hannafin traded goals before the second intermission and it was 3-3 after 40.
All the Oilers had to do was win the final period. That was no gimme after giving up nine goals in the third period of their last two games, but the game was still up for grabs.
The Flames pushed first, outshooting Edmonton 8-2 through the first 11 minutes, but Koskinen kept it 3-3 with a handful of key stops, none better than a diving save for the ages on Dillon Dube.
“I think it is my top save in the NHL,” he said. “When you think about the situation and where we are, we really needed the win and we got it so we have to be happy for that.”
That set the stage for Draisaitl’s winner on a brilliant rush at 14:29.
“We were down 2-0 after the first, but we kept talking that we believed and that we were gong to come back and that is what happened,” said Koskinen. “It was a full team effort. I was really proud of the team.”
In what seems like a never-ending drip of injuries and illnesses, the Oilers were without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (leg), Zach Hyman (protocol) and defenceman Tyson Barrie (upper and lower body injuries, but the middle is said to be OK). Zack Kassian also sat this one out with a non-COVID illness.
Stuart Skinner emerged from COVID protocol in time for the game but they kept him on the bench as a backup given that he hadn’t been on the ice in six days.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Canada’s Denis Shapovalov continued his run at the Australian Open with a dominant straight-sets upset victory over Alexander Zverev in the fourth round Sunday.
Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., defeated the third-ranked Zverev 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinal.
The 22-year-old Canadian, ranked 14th, will face No. 6 Rafael Nadal in the next round. The Spaniard earned his spot in the quarterfinal with a straight-sets victory against Adrian Mannarino.
Shapovalov had never made it past the third round at the Australian Open.
The Canadian was aggressive in the match and constantly challenged the uninspired Zverev. He managed to overcome 11 double faults in the match.
Shapovalov completely dominated the third set, which ended with Zverev sending a return into the net. He fist-bumped in celebration.
Shapovalov needed two hours 21 minutes to defeat Zverev – his quickest match of the Grand Slam tournament so far. His previous three matches lasted more than three hours each, with his second-round victory over South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo going four hours 25 minutes across five sets.
But it was a much more consistent, composed performance that saw Shapovalov make relatively fast work of Zverev.
He put serious doubt in the German’s mind when he broke his opponent on the very first game of the second set. Zverev destroyed his racket in anger, smashing it multiple times against the court.
The Canadian went on to lose serve twice to go down 5-3 in the second set before breaking Zverev right back to eventually force a tiebreak. In that tiebreak, Shapovalov nearly let a 5-1 lead slip away but he held on for the 2-0 set lead.
The upset was brewing early on when Shapovalov broke the German’s serve on the fourth game to go up 3-1. He served out from there for the comfortable 6-3 opening-set win.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2022.
On Friday night, the Vancouver Canucks showed exactly why it is so difficult to predict the outcome of a single hockey game.
On paper, the Florida Panthers should have dominated this game. Sure, they had just played the night before and were missing one of their top forwards, Sam Bennett, to injury. But they’re also the highest-scoring team in the NHL, with a deep bench that should’ve been able to easily absorb the loss of Bennett. They cruised to a 6-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers in their previous game and were able to limit the ice time of some of their best players to lessen the impact of games on back-to-back nights.
Besides, the Canucks’ lineup was a wreck.
With six players in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, the Canucks were missing all three of their top-scoring forwards — J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat, and Conor Garland. More importantly, both Thatcher Demko and Jaroslav Halak were unavailable, forcing the Canucks to go to the farm for the third-string goaltender.
That goaltender was Spencer Martin, who last played in the NHL back in 2017. He played all of three games for the Colorado Avalanche and didn’t win any of them, posting an .865 save percentage.
Martin has been in the AHL ever since and never been particularly good. Even at just 26 years old, it must have seemed difficult to keep the dream of getting back to the NHL alive.
But then the Canucks traded for him. He joined the Abbotsford Canucks in the AHL, where they already had two prospect goaltenders vying for time, Michael DiPietro and Arturs Silovs. But he worked with Canucks goaltending coaches Ian Clark and Curtis Sanford and gradually, as the season progressed, he outplayed both prospects, earning starts ahead of them.
“This organization is rich with goaltending prospects,” said Martin after the game. “To come in and join them and work with them, it was a good experience. I got some time at the beginning of the year where I wasn’t playing much to work with Clarky and Sandman in Abbotsford and that, I think, is a huge reason why I feel comfortable in the game now.”
So, when the Canucks needed a goaltender, they turned to the guy with a .921 save percentage in the AHL instead of one of their prospects with a sub-.900 save percentage.
“I just felt incredibly blessed,” said Martin after the game. “I know how hard it is to get to this level and how many experiences it takes to get opportunities…it felt incredible to get an opportunity.”
Martin came through.
On paper, this game looked like it should’ve been a blowout, but, against the most dangerous offensive team in the NHL, Martin stopped 33 of 34 shots to get the game to overtime and earn his team a point, then to the shootout to give them a chance to earn another one.
“I love when American League players that have played there for a while get opportunities and show what they can do,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau, who spent a great deal of time in the AHL himself as a player. “There’s a lot of good players that get overlooked because of their age or for whatever reason and they’re really good players.
“So, for Spencer to come in and play a game like that against the highest-scoring team in the league, I thought it was really impressive.”
Indeed it was. I, for one, was impressed when I watched this game.
Nova Scotia reports 11 people in ICU Saturday, total of 287 people in hospital with COVID-19 – CTV News Atlantic
Bitcoin value tumbles almost 50 per cent since record November – CTV News
Olympics-Ice hockey rivals take different approaches to same COVID opponent
LeBron James revisits Miami as Lakers take on Heat
Teck Resources announces new contract with union at British Columbia mine
Soccer-Rashford last-gasp winner sees Man United leapfrog West Ham into fourth
Let's all chill for a moment about Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard – MobileSyrup
Want to preorder the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra? Here's how to reserve your spot – Pocket-lint