Canada’s patience pays off versus Finns, but forwards aren’t scoring

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SOCHI, Russia — Team Canada has now played three games at these Olympics. Two of them have been against tournament minnows Norway and Austria, the other versus injury-ravaged Finland. In total, Canada has scored 10 times in regulation, plus one more in overtime. And of those 11 goals, only five have been scored by forwards.

Now, to be fair, Canada has only surrendered two goals, finishing the preliminary round with a plus-9 goal differential. And that’s good. But for a team that’s overflowing with world-class scorers — Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Patrick Sharp all entered the Games among the top 10 in NHL scoring — suffice to say, five goals in three contests is not what was expected from this talented group of forwards.

Tonight against Finland, the forwards were held scoreless entirely, with defenseman Drew Doughty notching his third and fourth of the tournament to give his team the 2-1 overtime win — a victory that came with a spot in the quarterfinals.

“We had a good test of our patience today, and our game,” said Crosby. “We did a good job of holding onto the puck. We didn’t necessarily generate the goals that we wanted, but our patience was tested and we did a good job of sticking with it.”

VIDEO: Canada needs OT to beat Finns

Can it be hard to stay patient in a game like tonight’s?

“You understand that’s the only way you’re going to have success,” he said. “I think we all believe in the way we play, and every guy there. It’s really not that difficult. You’ve just got to remind yourself to do it. That’s just more of focusing on what you need to do to win than trying to fight it. I think we did a real good job of that tonight.”

Getzlaf did suggest one area for improvement when Canada meets the winner of Switzerland and Latvia.

“Tonight we played a little bit too much on the outside,” he said, “and we’ll adjust that for the next one.”

But like Crosby, he lauded the team for sticking to the system: “You’ve got to stay patient, and we did in the end.”

Tavares, meanwhile, thought the refereeing played a role.

“I thought we controlled most of the play,” he said. “Obviously it seemed like the whistles were put away for the most part. There was not much room, even when you consider how big the rink is. Just trying to get to the middle of the ice, and trying to get some pucks in front of the net wasn’t easy tonight. We did a good job of sticking with it and controlling the play, and it paid off for us.”

Looking ahead, if Switzerland does as expected and dispatches Latvia, Canada will face a team that’s allowed just one goal in the entire tournament. In fact, all three of the Swiss games have ended in a 1-0 score, with victories over Latvia and the Czech Republic and a loss to Sweden.

The way things have gone, Canada may need to stay patient again.

“We had some real good chances, especially in the third [versus Finland],” said Crosby, “still playing the right way, not giving up a whole lot and being able to generate chances.

“I think you’ve got to trust that and trust that they’ll go in, but there wasn’t a lot to be had. I think it was pretty tight. It was a battle to fight for every inch to get to the front of the net. If that’s the game you’re going to have to play, you’re going to have to be pretty opportunistic.”

Sabres goalie prospect Petersen won’t sign, Botterill ‘disappointed’

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Cal Petersen, the Notre Dame standout drafted by Buffalo four years ago, won’t be signing with the Sabres, new GM Jason Botterill said on Friday.

“I’ve spoken to Cal. At this time I think he’s going to probably move to free agency and we’ll go from there,” Botterill said, per the Buffalo News. “Disappointed, but we’ll move on.”

Petersen, 22, is coming off a great junior year for the Fighting Irish. He went 23-12-5 with a .926 save percentage and 2.22 GAA, helping the club advance to the Frozen Four. Petersen was also named a finalist for this year’s Mike Richter Award, given annually to college hockey’s top goalie.

In April, he was named to the U.S. team at the World Hockey Championships in France and Germany. He was one of three goalies on the squad — along with Connor Hellebuyck and Jimmy Howard — but didn’t appear in any games.

In late May, Petersen announced he was forgoing his senior year at Notre Dame to turn pro, but declined to say which club he would be signing with. Buffalo’s rights to Petersen expire on Aug. 15.

This is a blow to the organization. The Sabres have some major question marks in goal, given presumptive No. 1 Robin Lehner is a restricted free agent and it’s unclear what the ceiling is on recently re-signed Linus Ullmark. What’s more, Buffalo has only drafted two goalies in the last four years — Petersen, and Sweden’s Jonas Johansson (third round, ’14).

 

Oilers to sign Russell to reported four-year, $16 million extension

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When the Edmonton Oilers traded Jordan Eberle over the weekend part of the reasoning was so they could clear salary cap space, presumably to help re-sign veteran defenseman Kris Russell.

On Friday, they completed that series of transactions.

According to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, the Oilers will announce a four-year contract for Russell later on Friday that will pay him a total of $16 million.

That comes out to a salary cap hit of $4 million per season. TSN’s Ryan Rishaug adds that the deal could also include a modified no-trade clause.

Russell has become an extremely polarizing player in the NHL over the past few years so this deal is sure to receive equal amounts of praise and criticism depending on what exactly you’re looking for from a defenseman.

He has never been a strong possession player and doesn’t have a lot of offensive ability — two things teams seem to be looking for on their blue lines right now — which leads to criticism from the analytics side of the sport. But because he is one of the NHL’s most fearless shot-blockers and consistently among the league leaders in that category he is loved as an old-school, defensive-defenseman. That ability was a big talking point for much of the 2016-17 season as the Oilers had their best season in more than a decade (Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Cam Talbot played a pretty significant role, too).

Another part of the justification for the Eberle trade was the fact the Oilers needed some additional salary cap space because of the need to re-sign both McDavid and Draisaitl to long-term contract extensions.

Eberle on his own was going to account for $6 million in salary cap space this season.

Ryan Strome (the player acquired for Eberle) and Russell will account for $6.5 million.

Are the Oilers better off with Strome and Russell than they would have been had they simply let Russell walk and kept Eberle? That remains to be seen, but obviously the Oilers think they are.

Flyers want to add veteran goalie this weekend

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It’s pretty obvious what sits atop Philly’s shopping list this weekend at the NHL Draft in Chicago:

Goaltending.

“We’re going to look for the best option, and we’ll act on it,” Flyers GM Ron Hextall said, per CSN Philly. “The option is figuring out the timing and who is available.”

Currently, the Flyers only have two goalies under contract — Michal Neuvirth and Anthony Stolarz. The former will be in Philly’s mix next year, but the latter’s situation is more complex. Stolarz is coming off major knee surgery and, at 23, lacks experience at the NHL level. He looked good in a seven-game cameo last season (4-2-1, 2.07 GAA, .928 save percentage), but that’s still a pretty small sample size.

So not surprising to hear the following, from CSN Philly:

Hextall would prefer to get a jump on free agency this weekend by making a deal to obtain a veteran goaltender that has two years or less on his contract and is not looking to break the bank.

Or obtain a UFA’s rights if a deal can be struck.

It looks as though the Flyers have all but moved on from Steve Mason, so it’ll be interesting to see what direction Hextall takes.

He does have some options.

Dallas needs to move on from either Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi following the Ben Bishop trade and sign. Former Flames netminder Brian Elliott is available as a UFA, as is Vancouver’s Ryan Miller.

Report: Habs offering pending UFA Radulov a three-year deal

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The Montreal Canadiens and pending unrestricted free agent Alexander Radulov are still working toward a new deal, but it sounds like they’re pretty far apart.

Radulov has reportedly asked the Canadiens for a six-year deal worth $7 million per season, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.

On Friday morning, Sportsnet’s Eric Engels reported that the Canadiens aren’t exactly on the same page as Radulov’s camp.

Per Engels, Marc Bergevin’s longest offer to Radulov has been three years, which doesn’t sound like it’s going to get the job done at this point.

The 30-year-old Russian winger (he’ll turn 31 next week) was one of Montreal’s most consistent forwards in 2016-17. He scored 18 goals an 54 points in 76 games in his first season with the Canadiens.

Even though the Habs were able to land Jonathan Drouin in a trade with the Bolts, they could still use Radulov’s offense going into next season.

During a press conference on Thursday, Bergevin mentioned the possibility of trading Radulov’s rights away before he hits the open market on July 1st.

It sounds like this negotiation will come down to the wire.