Player grades: Brilliant goaltending at both ends as Edmonton Oilers beat Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat (53) checks Edmonton Oilers forward Dominik Kahun (21) in the first period at Rogers Arena on Feb. 25, 2021.Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat (53) checks Edmonton Oilers forward Dominik Kahun (21) in the first period at Rogers Arena on Feb. 25, 2021. Photo by Bob Frid /USA TODAY Sports

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The game was a hockey cliche in all the best ways, featuring both fire wagon hockey and an old timey goalie’s duel.

Goalies Mike Smith and Thatcher Demko put on a show, but Smith stole it.

In the end, Edmonton was able to score on its power play chances while Vancouver was not, and that was the difference.

Edmonton had 14 Grade A chances, Vancouver 13, many of them of the Five Alarm variety for both teams.

For example, Edmonton had four breakaways on Demko but scored on not one of them.

Here’s the running count for scoring chances and below are the game grades.

Connor McDavid, 6. He got a goal and an assist, fired seven shots on net, made some great attacking plays, but also some serious defensive miscues. Came out flying, charging in on for a partial breakaway early in the first. He came close to jamming in a power play rebound shot in the second, but Demko thwarted him again. He made a defensive miscue in the second, letting Travis Hamonic creep in for a wicked shot, which led to a rebound and two more point blank Grade A chances against. A moment later he made another mistake, allowing a cross-seam on a Jake Virtanen one-timer. Fortunately Smith was there to cover for his errors.


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Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 7. He and Tyson Barrie allowed the breakaway pass early in the first period. He let Virtanen slip by him for a second period one-timer. He chipped in on four Grade A chances on the power play, including Alex Chiasson’s goal. Part of a solid PK effort from the entire crew, which bumps up his mark one notch, and the same for all the other PKers.

Jesse Puljujarvi, 7. Solid shifts at even strength and on the power play all game. He had a good screen on an Adam Larsson point shot that Kris Russell almost scored on. He won a net front battle in the third to score Edmonton’s crucial insurance goal.

Leon Draisaitl, 8. The maestro of Edmonton’s power play, chipping in on seven Grade A chances with the man advantage. Some great passes, including sending in McMVP on a breakaway in the first, and also saucering a pass to RNH to kick off a dangerous power play sequence. Could not drain the puck on a wide open net on the power play early in the first. He made a lazy clearance in the second that led to a Grade A chance for Vancouver’s Adam Gaudette. He made up for the mistake a moment later when he stripped the puck from Quinn Hughes and powered in on a breakaway, but couldn’t beat Demko on a dangerous backhanded shot. In the third, his hard shot on the power play caused the rebound that Puljujarvi cashed in.

Kailer Yamamoto, 6. He fought his way to a breakaway in the first and put it off the crossbar. Combined well with Draisaitl through the game.


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Dominik Kahun, 4. Barely noticed him, not good for a forward. Not one shot on net.

Jujhar Khaira, 8. He’s playing with confidence, moving his feet, hitting, defending and moving the puck. Indeed, he’s never before carried and passed the puck with such assurance. Foiled on a breakaway in the first. Late in the third he ragged the puck on the PK like the Second Coming of Craig MacTavish.

Josh Archibald, 6. The refs handed him an iffy penalty for charging the goalie early in the game. But hustled all game and led the team with four hits.

Tyler Ennis, 7. A key man on the third line with his puck winning and handling. He made a great steal of the puck in the first and send in Nitty Gritty Dirt linemate Khaira on a breakway. He made a swell hustling, diving defensive poke-check late in the second.

Gaetan Haas, 6. He got a solid clearance under pressure on the PK late in the second, then another fine PK clearance early in the third.

Alex Chiasson, 6. If you want to show video to any player on how to position yourself net front on the power play, show them video of the master, Chiasson. He was rewarded for all his strong fundamental play there when he took an RNH pass and jammed home a goal in the second.

Darnell Nurse, 8. Such was his confidence, calm and assured play, he looked like Doug Harvey, the Norris Trophy-owning d-man of the 1950s Montreal Canadiens. He played 27:36, looking very much like a true No. 1 NHL d-man.

Tyson Barrie, 6. After allowing a short-handed breakaway early on, he fired in a power play shot that kicked off a dangerous sequence around the Vancouver net, with Draisaitl launching two Grade A shots and McDavid one at Thatcher Demko, but unable to score. A quiet game otherwise.


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Adam Larsson 7. Quiet game, no major mistakes at even strength, what’s not to like?

Kris Russell, 6. Nothing too good, nothing too bad. Part of that strong PK effort.

Evan Bouchard, 5. He took out Nil Hoglander with a hard hit. Otherwise a quiet game, which is what you want to see from a defenceman, if nothing else.

Caleb Jones, 6. He made a fine defensive stop on the PK late in the second, then blocked one shot and sprawled to take away a Pettersson power play shot early in the third. He fired in a dangerous outside shot a shift later. Is fighting hard to stay in the line-up.

Ethan Bear, 6. After an 11 game absence, he was back in the line-up. By the end, his coach trusted him enough to have him out in the final minute of a close game. He made a deft pass to advance the puck out of the d-zone early in the third, even as he was taking a hit. A moment later he ice the puck in solid fashion on a key PK.

Mike Smith, 9. Brilliant game. Did not let a goal in and made numerous stupendous saves. Looked sharp early on stopping a short-handed breakaway. Followed up with big saves off of Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson on Vancouver’s first power play. Next he came up with likely his best save off the first period, a sprawling block stop off another deadly Pettersson one-timer. He kept it up with a huge save on Gaudette in the second after a Draisaitl turnover, following up with three great stops in a single sequence, starting with a save off Travis Hamonic. Finally, he stoned Virtanen on a one-timer. The Oilers shut things down in the third, allowing not one Grade A chance, leaving Smith one Grade A stop with the game on the line short of a transcendent “10.”


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