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BLOG: Smith ready to bounce back in Game 2

The netminder looks to put Game 1 behind him and showcase his ability to bounce back from a tough start as Edmonton's confirmed starter in Game 2 on Friday night

by Tony Brar @TonyBrarOTV /

CALGARY, AB - It goes without saying, it was a tough start for Mike Smith and his Oilers teammates in Game 1 on Wednesday night.

Calgary's two goals in the opening 51 seconds marked the fastest two markers to begin a playoff game in Flames franchise history, with Elias Lindholm and Andrew Mangiapane quickly igniting the 'C of Red' and rekindling a post-season rivalry 31 years in the making. 

Smith would make six more saves (seven total) before Brett Ritchie's first of the playoffs ended his night early with three goals allowed on 10 shots just 6:05 into the contest.

"It's not a great perspective obviously to be on the bench [six] minutes into the hockey game in the playoffs," Smith shared. 

"It wasn't an ideal start for our group. We all feel like we let each other down there and we'll be better because of it."

Video: RAW | Mike Smith 05.19.22

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FEATURE: Facing Adversity

"Mistakes are going to happen. It's just a matter of riding through that and being positive," said Duncan Keith

by Tony Brar /

ST. LOUIS, MO - British philosopher William Hazlitt once said, "prosperity is a great teacher; adversity a greater."

And after a prosperous start to the season, the pairing of Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci experienced the latter during Friday's game in Buffalo, a 3-2 loss to the Sabres. But as good leaders do, they own up to their mistakes, learn from them and want to continue to move forward.

"Mistakes are going to happen. I made one last night that cost us," Keith said bluntly, referring to a turnover in transition that led to a goal against. "Obviously a bit of a letdown last night. There are going to be a lot of ups and downs and some adversity over the course of the year that we're going to have to deal with. I think it should make us stronger. It's just a matter of riding through that and being positive. Bouncing back. There are no easy wins in this league."

Video: RAW | Duncan Keith 11.13.21

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FEATURE: Simply Generational

"That expectation factor of being great every night, the pressure to go out there and do it, is another element that a lot of players don't ever get to," Head Coach Dave Tippett said

by Tony Brar /

EDMONTON, AB - In an era where the talent in hockey is exceptional, we are witnessing a generational one here in Edmonton.

At 24 years old, Connor McDavid has seemingly entered his prime, at least on paper. Yet, when you look at his body of work through his first six seasons, the question becomes, "just how much better can he really get?"

Two Hart Trophies, three Ted Lindsays, three Art Ross titles and likely a Calder Memorial Trophy as a rookie in 2015-16 if not for a broken collarbone against the Philadelphia Flyers. Over 400 games, 574 points and 195 goals coming into 2021-22 and somehow, the signs continue to point skyward in McDavid's progression through five games. 

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BLOG: Don't sleep on Yamamoto

After posting 26 points in 27 games, ranked Yamamoto as the No. 1 'sleeper pick' for fantasy owners heading into the post-season

by Tony Brar /

EDMONTON, AB - Let's face it, we've all been there

You're scrambling through your notes and various playoff pool magazines with time expiring, hoping to get that one pick to push your team to fantasy glory.

Then, you immediately regret your decision, saying to yourself, "I should have gone with the other guy."

Don't be that person. Not this year.

Pro tip: have Kailer Yamamoto circled on your draft board.

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BLOG: Nurse inspired by Michael Jordan upon new challenge

Darnell Nurse is drawing inspiration from 'Air Jordan' to help himself take on a new challenge: playing with no fans in the building

by Tony Brar /


EDMONTON, AB - While Darnell Nurse looks to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks once when the NHL resumes play, ironically, it's a Chicago icon that helps fuel his fire.

Many sports fans see Michael Jordan as one of the greatest competitors of all time. Of course, 'The Last Dance' documentary has recently brought his competitive streak and championship mindset back into the spotlight.

Now 22 years removed from the Bulls' last championship, Nurse is drawing inspiration from 'Air Jordan' to help himself take on a new challenge: playing with no fans in the building.

Make no mistake, 18,500 screaming fans have a tremendous effect on playoff atmosphere. They can help with momentum shifts in a game and even provide a boost prior to puck drop. For example, when asked to reflect on the 2017 postseason, forward Zack Kassian was quick to reference the pre-game energy at Rogers Place in an episode of Oilers In-Depth: The Podcast earlier this season.

"It was insane," Kassian stated. "When we came out for warm-up in game one, everyone was in their seats, everyone was shaking the glass and everyone was cheering. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

"I kept hearing from the '06 run when they made it to the finals, 'this place is crazy, this place is crazy. Just wait.' Once the playoffs started, this place was so loud. It was outrageous. The energy in the building that trickled down to the players was second to none."

Video: RAW | McDavid & Nurse 05.28.20

However, the 2020 Qualifying Round and Stanley Cup Playoffs will see players having to create their own excitement, without the help of their hometown faithful cheering them on.

While he doesn't prefer the scenario, Nurse believes creating excitement within will help he and his teammates overcome the challenge.

"Have you watched 'The Last Dance' with Michael Jordan?" asked the Oilers rearguard when questioned about the challenge of playing in front of no fans. "I think that's a perfect example (of what we can do). 

"His mindset in a lot of those games of creating your own environment, creating your own fire. I think that's a test that everyone that is in this situation is going to have to go through - having the ability to create your own excitement.

"Yeah, there are no fans there and yeah, you might be playing in a HUB city but there's an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. That should be enough motivation to get anyone going."

And like Mike in '91, Nurse eyes his first championship ring this fall. He and his Oilers teammates will need 19 more wins to turn this Stanley Cup opportunity into reality.

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BLOG: Draisaitl staying busy at home in isolation

From binge-watching 'This is Us' to stickhandling against 'ruff' opponents, Draisaitl has kept busy in isolation

by Tony Brar /

EDMONTON, AB - Like many of us, Leon Draisaitl has a little more time on his hands than he's used to.

"One show that I've been watching a lot of is 'This Is Us.' God, I got a lot of time to watch movies and shows right now, I feel like I've watched pretty much everything," said the league's leading scorer with a smile.

As for other hobbies he's picked up: "Puzzles. Lots of puzzles. Just trying to do whatever we can at home to stay entertained."

Just 25 days ago, Draisaitl received a pass below the Blackhawks' goal line and as quick as you can say 'Netflix,' he proceeded to set up Kailer Yamamoto to pull the Oilers within one. It would be his second assist of the night and the last point he's registered to date.

But now, instead of finding himself battling against NHL defenceman on the ice, he's going head-to-head with ruff-er opponents at home.

"I try to dangle around my dog once in a while with my stick," laughed Draisaitl. "I have a stick in my basement."

Instagram from @drat_29: Lots of time with this litl bugger 🐾

From stickhandling in the basement with Bowie to working out in his home gym, Draisaitl has done his best to stay in shape during isolation. The centre has changed up his fitness activities regularly to keep things dynamic - just like his play on the ice, where he truly feels at home.

"That might be the hardest part about it," said Draisaitl. "I think we all miss it. That's the hard part. We're all sitting here patiently waiting to start playing again. Stay positive, (Oilers fans). Stick with it. Just like we are. But right now, there are more important things going on in the world and we have to accept that.

"Hopefully, we can all get back to playing soon and bring this into the playoffs."

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BLOG: Smith providing Oilers with 'swagger'

"He's a real solid veteran, he's a vocal leader in that room and his play is backing up those vocals right now," said Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett

by Tony Brar /

EDMONTON, AB - Spoiler alert -- when you look up the word swagger in the dictionary, you won't see a photo of Mike Smith. His name isn't mentioned in the provided examples either.

According to the Meriam-Webster Dictionary, the first known use of swagger was circa 1596. And 424 years later, there may not be a better embodiment of the word than Oilers netminder Mike Smith.

Since the calendar flipped to 2020, Smith has been a force in the Edmonton goal. He's helped the Oilers pick up points in 14 of his last 15 starts (10-1-4) while carrying a .915 SV% and a 2.63 GAA. Those numbers are even better on home ice (4-0-2, .923 SV% & 2.37GAA), which is great news for Head Coach Dave Tippett, considering Smith is expected to get the start on Saturday at Rogers Place.

"When your goaltender plays well, and both guys have played well, it gives your team a swagger," said Tippett following Friday morning's practice. "Your goalie goes in there and you know you're going to get good goaltending every night. With Mike, his game was a down in December but he's turned the page and has played really well since. Whenever a goaltender plays well, it gives your team confidence and that's what Mike does.

"He's a real solid veteran, he's a vocal leader in that room and his play is backing up those vocals right now."

Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 02.28.20

As Tippett mentioned, December was less than ideal for Smith and the Oilers. In the five games the 37-year-old appeared in, the Oilers failed to record a win and Smith's numbers indicated that he was battling confidence (0-2-1, .828SV% & 4.17 GAA).

"I have a long history with him and the times that I think he struggles a little bit are when he wants to do well that he tries too hard," said Tippett. "He wants to be the best of the best, sometimes you get trying too hard and sometimes you just have to relax and let your talents take over and let the game come to you a little bit. That's what he's done.

"He's got back in there and he's playing calm and doing things right."

And he will continue needing to - out of necessity. Both he and Mikko Koskinen will.

It's been well documented that Tippett prefers balancing out starts between his two netminders, especially with the travel associated in playing in the Western Conference.

When looking at the Oilers schedule in March, there are 16 games on tap - 10 home, six on the road - with two back-to-back sets. Playing every second night will require both goalies to step up and earn Edmonton crucial points in the standings during this ultra-tight playoff race.

Both need to continue providing this team with swagger.

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BLOG: Holland outlines trade conditions, comments on Green

"His strengths are his ability to skate and his ability to move the puck. We're excited to make the deal," said Oilers General Manager and President of Hockey Operations Ken Holland.

by Tony Brar /

ANAHEIM, CA - The Edmonton Oilers announced the acquisition of defenceman Mike Green from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Kyle Brodziak and a conditional 2020 fourth-round draft pick during Sunday evening's game. 

"Detroit is retaining 50% (of Green's salary and cap hit)," said General Manager and President of Hockey Operations Ken Holland post-game. "It's a fourth-round draft pick in 2020 and it goes to a third in 2021 if we advance to the final four (2020 Western Conference Finals) and if Mike plays 50% of the playoff games in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

"I think for a fourth-round draft pick, we have good protection on the back end."

Video: RAW | Ken Holland re: Mike Green 02.23.20

Green was in his fifth campaign with Detroit, posting three goals and eight assists in 48 games this season. The 34-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

"I talked to (Red Wings General Manager) Steve Yzerman a few times over the last week," added Holland. "Over the last 24 hours, things heated up and we got the deal that we announced.

"You can never have enough defenceman. Obviously, I know Mike Green from my days in Detroit. His strengths are his ability to skate and his ability to move the puck. He can play on the power play if he has to. He's a good guy, a good team player - fits in good in the locker room. We're excited to make the deal."

Green will join his new club in Anaheim on Monday and it is not confirmed if he will draw into the lineup on Tuesday against the Ducks.

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BLOG: Yamamoto delivering alongside Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins

"He reads situations well and makes good plays with the puck. That's why you see a guy like Draisaitl likes to play with him," said Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett

by Tony Brar /

MONTREAL, QC - Instant impact.

Since being recalled on December 29th, Kailer Yamamoto has done it all for the Oilers.

Not only has the winger hit the scoresheet three times (2G, 1A) in his first four games but his play - both with and without the puck - is earning the respect of his fellow teammates.

"He came up with a lot of energy," said Connor McDavid following an afternoon practice in Montreal on Wednesday. "He's hitting guys, creating plays, opening up ice for his linemates and even finding ways to score a couple.

"He's been great."

And when asked about the most underrated aspect of his game:

"I would say his physicality," said the captain. "I think the first thing people think about with Yamo is his size - he's a little bit of a smaller guy but he brings a lot of energy and hits guys that are maybe twice his size.

"We definitely admire that."

Video: OILERS TODAY | Yamamotivated 01.08.20

Head Coach Dave Tippett has tasked Yamamoto with 14:46 TOI per game while playing in a top-six role alongside Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The 21-year-old has shown signs of growth and maturity following off-season rehab for a wrist surgery late last season.

"He's a smart player," said Tippett. "He reads situations well and makes good plays with the puck. That's why you see a guy like Draisaitl likes to play with him because he can play a give-and-go game and makes intelligent plays. Along with tenacity, he gets to the front of the net, he finds loose pucks.

"He's willing to work."

Yamamoto also had to work his way up.

The 5-foot-8, 158-pound forward tallied 16 points (8G, 8A) in 23 games with the Bakersfield Condors before getting the call-up. He began the season with a four-game goal-scoring streak (4G, 1A) and used a solid start to build momentum throughout the season, eventually leading to a ticket to Edmonton.

"I didn't play the end of last season," said Yamamoto on his wrist injury. "So, going down there (to the AHL), getting my confidence back up and getting my game back to where it needs to be was huge. I give a lot of credit to all of the guys down there (in Bakersfield). The coaching staff helped me out a lot. I'm very thankful for them.

"Now, I'm feeling more comfortable every day with (Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins). It's a really good opportunity. Hopefully, I can run with it."

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FEATURE: Nuge deserving of huge honour

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continues to build off of a career-year in 2018-19 and looks to make his second NHL All-Star Game appearance.

by Tony Brar /

TORONTO, ON - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been there before.

But the question is will he be there again this season?

The former first-overall pick at the 2011 NHL Draft eyes his second All-Star Game appearance later this month. He is one of eight players in the Pacific Division fans can vote for as part of the 'Last Men In' ballot.

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