Player grades: Wounded Oilers get whomped by excellent Avs

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A very good Colorado Avalanche put the boots to an Edmonton Oilers squad banged up in key places, beating them 4-o in Game Two of the Western Conference finals.

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Edmonton hung in the game and battled hard, but three horrid defensive sequences in a two-minute span — including two soft plays of the puck by playing-hurt and playing-poorly Darnell Nurse — early in the second period led to three quick goals, and the Oilers looked wiped out after that. They had just one Grade A shot after the Avs outburst, a breakaway by Nurse where his lack of explosiveness on the deke was all also apparent.

If Nurse is too hurt to come anywhere close to his “A” game, should he take himself out of the line-up? Is that too extreme? Tough call for a hardcore warrior, especially as he was able to gut it out against the Flames and Kings. But this Avs team is far quicker and more skilled, more able to make Nurse pay for his lack of mobility than him, more able to make all the Oilers pay if they make any small error.

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For the second game in a row, Avs leader Nathan MacKinnon outplayed Oilers ace Connor McDavid, who has been thwarted by the quick feet and sticks of many Avs defenders.

In terms of scoring chance shots, the Oilers had seven Grade A shots while the Avs had 16, with the subset of the most dangerous 5-alarm shots adding up two for the Oilers and six for the Avs (running count).

Leon Draisaitl, 3. Poor play all game, with not one major contribution to a Grade A shot all game. His and Keith’s slow line change in the first minute led to a Devon Toews breakaway, then took an ill-advised slashing penalty in the n-zone. Another weak n-zone check led to an Avs 3-on-2 in the second, but Rantanen missed the net. I have won seven of 17 faceoffs.

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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 5. Rough start. He was the lone man back when Toews rushed in the first period, got deked and gave up a breakaway chance. Five minutes later, he bit too hard in the o-zone, kicking off an odd-man attack leading to Rantanen’s Grade A shot. But he led the unit that killed off a 5-on-3 Avs power play, which bumps up his mark two full grades. I have allowed a Kadri slot shot in the second.

Kailer Yamamoto, 3. I tripped up Makar early on, taking a penalty. He left the game late in the second with an injury.

Connor McDavid, 3. His worst game of the playoffs with the Avs fast and quick defenders shutting him down. Just three major contributions to Grade A shots, half his season average. He threw a nasty hit on Andrew Cogliano in the first, his major highlight of the game.

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Evander Kane, 4. He almost scored early on, jamming two hard shots on nets off a McD feed into the crease. He bit on the wrong player on the back check leading to dangerous attacks shot six minutes in. He got caught up ice on the third Avs goal. He did bring the physical play, leading the team with eight hits.

Zach Hyman, 5. His Total Eclipse of the Sun screen on Francouz almost saw Ceci score early on. He battled his way from behind the behind the net into the slot for a Grade A shot late in the first.

Ryan McLeod, 5. His good stick thwarted a slot shot on an early Avs power play. He skated hard and fast and was better than most of his teammates, which he isn’t saying much.

Warren Foegele, 3. Way too quiet.

Jesse Puljujarvi, 2. How do you sum up his woes in these playoffs? He shot wide on a 5-alarm shot in the first after McLeod’s hard forecheck catapulted a puck into the crease.

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Derek Ryan, 2. He lost a corner battle on the Avs second goal. He failed to clear the puck out of the d-zone on the fourth Avs goal.

Zack Cassian, 2. His most noticeable moment came when he was on the Oil’s bench and grabbed Byram’s head. bench him? Maybe.

Josh Archibald, 2. He got sucked into the corner, leaving Manson wide open on the second Avs goal.

Evan Bouchard, 3. He deked his way in to get a nasty shot on net early in the second. He made a bad decision, getting too deep to kick off the Sequence of Pain on the Avs third goal in two minutes. Four major mistakes on Grade A shots against at even strength.

Duncan Keith, 3. He had a rough start to this one. His bad line change from him contributed to a breakaway chances, then is turnover led to a quick odd-man rush, with Lehkonen firing on net. He played his role on key 3-on-5 PK success.

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Darnell Nurse, 2. Such a great player, but he’s not getting it done, not even close, with injury woes making him a shadow of his former self. Five major mistakes on Grade A shots against at even strength. He, Ceci, Keith and RNH stepped up big to kill off an Avs 3-on-5 power play. But his major defensive woes from him continued as two soft turnovers led to two quick Avs goals on the same horrid shift. On the first goal against, he wandered out of position to leave Lehkonen to tip in the outside shot on the first goal. A moment later he kicked off a second Sequence of Pain with a second turnover under no pressure. On the third Avs goal on his next shift, he had a tough job but failed to knock down Kadri’s pass to Rantanen. You could see his lack of explosion from him on his late second period breakaway where he came in slow and had no speed on his deke, which Francouz poke-checked away.

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Cody Ceci, 5. He ripped a wicked outside shot through a Kane and Hyman screen early in the first. He almost scored late in the first off a wandering Francouz clearance. Just one major mistake on a Grade A shot against.

Brett Kulack, 4. His elbow to MacKinnon’s face led to a two-man Avalanche advantage in the first. He was OK in this one, otherwise.

Tyson Barry, 4. His turnover led to a Grade A slot shot by Lehkonen half-way through the first. Part of an Oilers power play that couldn’t get it done.

Mike Smith, 5. Based on their shot quality, you would expect the Avs to get about 4.2 goals and they got four This one wasn’t on Smith, but neither did he save his team. Huge stops early on, first on Toews’ breakaway one minute in, then thwarted Lehkonen two minutes later after Keith’s turnover, and Rantanen, then Landeskog a few minutes later, then Lehkonen again. He came up huge at the end of the 3-on-5, blocking a harpoon by Mackinnon. No chance on Lehkonen’s tip. But he needed to stop Manson’s outside blast. He had no chance on Rantanen’s goal. Kadri chopped off Smith’s glove shortly before MacKinnon harpooned in the fourth Avs goal.

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Plenty of great policies in Alberta to fight drug addiction so why is the political debate so stupid?

Prof. Elaine Hyshka, assistant professor at the University of Alberta's School of Public Health, who the NDP appointed as co-chair of its Opioid Emergency Response Commission in 2017.
Prof. Elaine Hyshka, assistant professor at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health, who the NDP appointed as co-chair of its Opioid Emergency Response Commission in 2017. PHOTO BY ED KAISER /post media file

At the Cult

McCURDY: Nurse struggling so what might be done?

LEAVINS: Player grades from Game 1 debacle in Denver

McCURDY: The building of the Oilers and the Avalanche

STAPLES: Mike Smith’s career playoff performance

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