Avalanche nullify McDavid, outclass Oilers in Game 2

Avalanche nullify McDavid, outclass Oilers in Game 2
Harry How/Getty Images

For much of Game 2, the Oilers seemed more comfortable with the pace the Avalanche are capable of. Yet, all too often, the Oilers still were outclassed by a well-oiled Avalanche machine. Ultimately, Colorado won Game 2 by a score of 4-0, taking a 2-0 series lead.

Quick-strike Avalanche overwhelm Oilers in second period to win Game 2

To the Oilers’ credit, they adjusted to some of the Avalanche’s transition mastery from Game 1 to 2. The two teams ended the first period tied 0-0, with shots on goal almost even (14-13 in favor of the Avs).

That was Pavel Francouz‘s time to shine. Sure, he had an adventure or two, including needing to make a save around the faceoff circle area. But Francouz was sharp, eventually pitching a 24-save shutout.

(Maybe Francouz should get a donut for his birthday on Friday, as he got that shutout?)

After the Oilers hung in there admirably with the Avalanche during the first period, things fell apart in the middle frame of Game 2. In just 2:04 of game time, the Avalanche scored three goals.

Nazem Kadri picked up three primary assists on goals by Arturri Lehkonen, Josh Manson, and Mikko Rantanen.

Fairly quiet Game 2 for stars like McDavid

With that Lehkonen – Kadri – Rantanen line sizzling, the Avalanche didn’t ask as much offensively from Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, and others.

That’s not to say that MacKinnon was quiet. Although his eventual power-play goal happened in a Game 2 that was already basically done, MacKinnon ended the night with 10 shots on goal.

Just as importantly for the Avs, MacKinnon and others limited the impact of Connor McDavid.

Clearly, Colorado emphasized a “best-on-best” matchup here. That was especially true with top defensive players. Via Natural Stat Trick, Connor McDavid faced the following players most often at 5-on-5:

  • Devon Toews (9:06 TOI), Cale Makar (8:37), and Valeri Nichushkin (8:22) were out there the most versus McDavid. MacKinnon logged 6:55 against McDavid, and Gabriel Landeskog was deployed similarly (6:31). In those matchups, Connor McDavid generally broke even, with no goals scored for either side (again, at 5-on-5).

Heading into this series, the thought was that Cale Makar ranks as one of the rare defensemen who can skate with Connor McDavid. Would that stifle some of his transition dominance?

My guess is that the answer may be “sometimes,” and that might be good enough for Colorado.

Down three (and then four) goals for much of Game 2, the Oilers still found themselves hemmed in their own zone against an Avalanche offense that showed some cycling acumen.

It had to feel a little deflating. Edmonton slowed down the Avs, at least at times (or at least compared to Game 1). Rarely did it matter.

Could a shift to Edmonton help?

For the Oilers, the hope has to be that a change of scenery may help them level the ice against the Avalanche. There are some reasons to talk yourself into a turnaround:

  • That Avalanche transition game may be less terrifying without that “mile-high” elevation making matters worse for the Oilers. Perhaps? Hopefully?
  • Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft may be able to engineer some better situations for Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and others via the last change.

Right now, it’s fair to wonder if there’s really a setup that works to the Oilers’ advantage, and not just changing the style of Avalanche dominance.

If you slow things down, do you hurt Connor McDavid more than anyone else? Edmonton got pretty rough at times in this one, but they’d be playing with fire if they cross the line and allow a scary Avs power play to take over.

Neither of these losses should be pinned entirely on Mike Smith. That said, there were questions about who start for this one, and people likely aren’t going to stop criticizing the veteran goalie if the Oilers don’t get back in this series.

As great as this run has been for the Oilers, we’ll learn a lot about this team by how they approach Game 3 against the Avalanche at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Sharks goalie James Reimer declines to wear Pride jersey

Getty Images
1 Comment

San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer didn’t take part in pregame warmups, saying the team’s decision to wear Pride-themed jerseys in support of the LGBTQ community runs counter to his religious beliefs.

Reimer said in a statement Saturday that he made the decision based on his Christian beliefs, adding that he “always strived to treat everyone with respect” and that members of the LGBTQ community should be welcome in hockey.

“In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions, which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in life,” Reimer said.

Reimer is the second NHL player this season to refuse to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys, with Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov declining to in January. Reimer was not slated to start in Saturday night’s home game against the New York Islanders, which is Pride night.

Additionally, the New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

The Sharks said in a statement that they are proud to host Pride Night, saying the event reinforces the team’s commitment to inclusiveness.

“As we promote these standards, we also acknowledge and accept the rights of individuals to express themselves, including how or whether they choose to express their beliefs, regardless of the cause or topic,” the team said in a statement. “As an organization, we will not waver in our support of the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to encourage others to engage in active allyship.”

The You Can Play Project, which works to promote inclusiveness in sports, said the organization was disappointed in Reimer’s actions.

“Religion and respect are not in conflict with each other, and we are certainly disappointed when religion is used as a reason to not support our community,” the organization said. “Wearing pride jerseys, like any celebration jersey worn, is not about the personal feelings of an athlete; rather the communication from the team that a community is welcome in the arena and the sport.”

Panarin, Shesterkin lead Rangers to 6-0 rout of Penguins

Getty Images

NEW YORK — Mika Zibanejad had a goal and two assists, Artemi Panarin scored twice and Igor Shesterkin made 33 saves as the New York Rangers routed Pittsburgh 6-0 on Saturday night for their second win over the Penguins in three days.

Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Kreider and Jacob Trouba also scored for the surging Rangers, who have won nine of their last 11 home games and are 12-4-0 in their past 16 at Madison Square Garden.

Shesterkin won his fifth straight and posted his second shutout this season. He nimbly denied Pittsburgh forward Mikael Granland with a sprawling save five minutes into the third period to preserve the shutout, the 10th of his career. His other one this season was a 1-0 home win over Philadelphia on Nov. 1.

“When you put in hard and honest work, miracles happen,” Shesterkin said through a translator. ”We played wonderfully today – scored many, many goals. Honestly, I hope the fans loved it. We’re playing for them.”

The Penguins lost their third straight and trail the Rangers by 12 points for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh, still in wild-card position, is trying to reach the playoffs for the 17th straight time.

“Tonight was a humbling experience for all of us,” coach Mike Sullivan said. ”At this time of year, you have to have a short memory. We still have control of our destiny.”

Patrick Kane and defenseman K’Andre Miller also had two assists apiece as New York improved to 7-1-1 in its last nine home games against Pittsburgh. The Rangers are five points behind the second-place New Jersey Devils, who lost at Florida on Saturday.

“This was a big game for our goalie and our team,” Panarin said. “If you work at playing the right way, you have opportunities for goals.”

Since Dec. 5, when they turned around their season with a 6-4 comeback win at home over St. Louis, the Rangers are 29-9-5.

As he did on Thursday when the Rangers beat the Penguins 4-2, Zibanejad opened the scoring. He got his team-leading 36th goal at 5:10 of the first, beating Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry. Trouba and Miller assisted.

Panarin made it 2-0 at 19:49 on the power play, whipping the puck past Jarry from the left circle off a pass from Adam Fox.

Tarasenko increased the lead at 3:54 of the second with his fifth goal since joining the Rangers in a trade with St. Louis on Feb. 9. Tarasenko has points in 10 of his first 18 games with the Rangers.

Kreider made it 4-0 at 6:43 with his 31st goal and third in two games against the Penguins. Kane and Vincent Trocheck assisted on Kreider’s 260th career goal, which moved the Rangers forward within two of Vic Hadfield for fifth place on the franchise list.

New York won Thursday when Kreider scored the go-ahead goal in the third and added an empty-netter.

After Casey DeSmith replaced Jarry in net following Kreider’s goal, Trouba beat the replacement with a sharp-angle shot at 8:39 for his eighth to increase the margin to 5-0. Trouba has points in six of his last eight games.

Panarin scored again at 16:38 of the second – his 22nd goal of the season – to make it 6-0, with assists to Kane and Filip Chytil.

“We’re building chemistry, building every day and every game,” Kane said.

Panarin has points in eight of his last 10 games and leads the Rangers with 77 points overall, while Kane has seven points in his last six games.

“It’s nice to see that many great players on your team,” added Panarin, whose first two NHL seasons were played alongside Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks. “We’re happy tonight.”

Zibanejad assisted on goals by Tarasenko and Trouba and has 25 points – including 14 goals – over his last 20 games.

“It was just one of those nights when the puck goes in for us,” Zibanejad said. “And obviously Igor gives us a boost making all those saves.”

NOTES: The Penguins were missing defenseman Jeff Petry after he was hit with an unpenalized elbow from Rangers forward Tyler Motte on Thursday. … Pittsburgh also scratched defenseman Jan Rutta and forward Dalton Heinen and played defenseman Mark Friedman for the first time since Feb. 11. … The Rangers were without injured defenseman Ryan Lindgren for the 10th straight game.


Penguins: Host the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

Rangers: Host the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.

Coyotes sign Shane Doan’s son to entry-level contract

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

TEMPE, Ariz. — Josh Doan is following his father’s footsteps into professional hockey.

The Arizona Coyotes signed the 21-year-old forward to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning with the 2023-24 NHL season. He will report to the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL and play his first game against the Calgary Wranglers.

Doan’s father, Shane, played 21 seasons with the franchise, many of those as captain, and followed it from Winnipeg to the desert in 1996. Shane Doan now serves as Arizona’s chief hockey development officer.

The Coyotes drafted Josh Doan in the second round of the 2021, but he opted to play for the hometown Arizona State Sun Devils.

Josh Doan set school records for goals (12) and assists (25) as a freshman last season. He had 16 goals and 22 assists in 39 games with Arizona State this season.

The 6-foot-1, 183-pounder also played two seasons for the Chicago Steel of the USHL.

Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman has shoulder surgery

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO — Chicago Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman had surgery on his right shoulder.

The team said the operation was performed in Los Angeles. Team physician Michael Terry said the 23-year-old Guttman is expected “to be out of hockey activities for approximately four months.”

Guttman had been a pleasant surprise for rebuilding Chicago. He made his NHL debut last month and finished the season with four goals and two assists in 14 games.

Guttman was selected by Tampa Bay in the 2017 draft. He agreed to a two-year contract with Chicago in August 2022 that had a $950,000 salary cap hit.