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’87 Oilers, ’77 Habs among greatest NHL teams of all time

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The “Great One” thinks the 1986-87 Edmonton Oilers are the greatest team he played on, but there’s no shortage of debate over whether that’s the best team of all-time.

Four of Wayne Gretzky’s 1980s Oilers dynasty teams are among the 20 “Greatest NHL teams” as voted by fans during the league’s 100th anniversary. Also among the top 20 are three teams from the Montreal Canadiens’ 1970s run and three from the New York Islanders’ 1980s stretch when each dynasty captured four Stanley Cup titles in a row before passing the torch to Edmonton.

Six-time Cup-winning defenseman Kevin Lowe said he and Gretzky agreed the 1987 Oilers were the best of the bunch of teams that filled the rafters in Edmonton with blue, white and orange banners during one of the finest eras of hockey dominance, even though it took seven games to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in the final.

“When (Kent) Nilsson got here, I think we went 10-1 in the regular season,” Lowe said. “There was just so much offense. I don’t know if that was statistically our best Stanley Cup run as a team. It probably wasn’t because we went to seven with the Flyers. But Wayne and I both thought that that seemed like the best overall team.”

The 1983-84, ’84-85, ’86-87 and ’87-88 Oilers, ’75-76, ’76-77 and ’77-78 Canadiens, ’79-89, ’81-82 and ’82-83 Islanders, ’90-91, ’91-92 and 2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins, ’97-98 and ’01-02 Detroit Red Wings, ’69-70 Boston Bruins, ’88-89 Calgary Flames, ’93-94 New York Rangers, ’00-01 Colorado Avalanche and ’09-10 Chicago Blackhawks were voted the top 20 teams of all-time.

Some of that is thanks to Lowe.

“I’ve played it lots out of curiosity and trying to run up the votes for us,” said Lowe, who won the Cup five times with the Oilers and again with the ’94 Rangers.

Some of the older teams from the Original Six era like the 1952 Red Wings and 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs – that franchise’s most recent Stanley Cup winner – fell victim to younger voters skewing toward more-recent teams. As hard as it is to compare eras, the 1976-77 Canadiens, 1986-87 Oilers and 2001-02 Red Wings could easily duke it out for the greatest in the league’s first 100 years.

“It’s hard to pick one or the other,” said the legendary Scotty Bowman, who coached the Canadiens’ `70s dynasty, the ’91-92 Penguins and the Red Wings to give him a hand in seven of the top 20 teams. “I guess you could make a (case) for Hall of Fame players, wins, losses, points, goal spread.”

Montreal’s ’76-77 team won 39 of its final 40 regular-season games, still holds the record for most points with 132, outscored opponents by 216 goals and went 12-2 in the playoffs on the way to the second of four consecutive championships.

“I would stack our `76 team up against anybody in any era,” Hall of Fame defenseman Larry Robinson said. “We had everything. If you wanted to play tough, we could play tough. If you wanted to play fast, we could play fast. If you wanted to play tight, we were pretty good.”

Those Canadiens stack up in Hall of Famers against the ’01-02 Red Wings, who have nine with Pavel Datsyuk not yet eligible. The `70s Canadiens and `80s Oilers and Islanders teams were also star-studded with the goaltenders to keep up in an era of high-scoring hockey.

“Grant Fuhr was unbelievable, Billy Smith was unbelievable, obviously Kenny Dryden unbelievable,” former Flyers forward Bob Kelley said. “It starts in the pipes and you work your way out from there.”

That’s true in any era.

WATCH LIVE: Canucks vs. Kings from Shanghai, China

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The Vancouver Canucks and L.A. Kings will make history on Thursday.

The two teams will face each other in an exhibition series in China, marking the first time NHL teams will play preseason games in that country. The two-game set gets underway with Thursday’s contest from the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.

Set your alarms, wake up early (especially if you’re on the west coast!), put on a pot of coffee and catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 a.m. ET) or online with the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for today’s game:

NHL hopes to make inroads in China with exhibition games

It was a little on the foggy side for Canucks practice in Shanghai

Canucks-Kings exhibition series in China highlights preseason schedule

NHL preseason games in China are ‘the biggest deal’ for local fans

NHL looks to China to ‘expand the sport’

 

Video: Flames goalie makes incredible behind-the-back glove save

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A save of the year candidate in September? It’s possible.

Jon Gillies of the Calgary Flames made an incredible stop during Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks.

The camera angle from directly above the net is the best, as it clearly shows how Gillies appeared to bump the puck back toward the goal line, then suddenly reach back with a no-look, behind-the-back glove save to prevent a Canucks goal and stop play.

That is one incredible save.

Drouin shows ‘commitment’ to community with donation to Montreal hospital

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Jonathan Drouin has yet to play a regular season game for his new team, the Montreal Canadiens.

But after getting traded to the Habs in the summer, Drouin has already made a sizable contribution in the community, donating $500,000 over 10 years to the University of Montreal Hospital Centre and planning to help in the fundraising activities to raise an additional $5 million, according to The Canadian Press.

From Sportsnet:

“I think all of that had some impact on his overall decision making,” Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh told Sportsnet. “One day when he’s retired and 50 years old, that hospital [which will begin serving patients for the first time this coming October] will still be here and he’ll have played a role in its development. That means something to him.

“But I think more than anything else he wants to help people. If he can help people—the hospital is going to be the largest hospital in North America and there’s a tremendous need for it in the city—and if he can use the fact that he plays for the Montreal Canadiens to do that, I wish more players felt that kind of responsibility to their communities.”

As noted in the Sportsnet piece above, Drouin is following in the footsteps of Saku Koivu and P.K. Subban, who made generous donations in the community during their time in Montreal.

The Habs acquired Drouin from the Lightning in June, sending prospect defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay. They then signed the 22-year-old forward — who was born in nearby Ste-Agathe, Que. — to a six-year, $33 million contract.

It won’t be long before the pressure falls on Drouin’s on-ice ability, especially playing as a potential No. 1 center in Montreal and essentially being a hometown player for the Habs. But without even playing a meaningful game for his new team, he’s already giving back to an important cause in the city.

“And when you look at that, if you make $6 million and you give $50,000 a year, it’s not a big deal and you get tax receipts,” he said, per the Montreal Gazette. “But it’s a commitment, and being involved in the community and doing something for your community I think it’s something that you have to do.”

Lupul apologizes, takes ‘full responsibility’ after calling out Maple Leafs on Instagram

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Joffrey Lupul made headlines earlier this week after appearing to make accusations against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Instagram.

The comments — which have since been deleted but caught on a screen grab — came after the Maple Leafs announced Lupul failed his physical prior to training camp for the second year in a row.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per the screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

On Wednesday, the 33-year-old forward, who hasn’t played since the 2015-16 season, posted a statement on his verified Twitter account, saying his Instagram comments were an “inappropriate response.”

Here is his entire statement:

What’s also significant is that he stated he will not seek a second medical opinion regarding this failed physical. As previously noted, that option was available to him, although, per reports, the deadline for this was 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Lupul is in the final year of his five-year, $26.25 million contract.