US hockey teams getting vaccinated but COVID hitting hard against Canadian NHL squads

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Positive cases in Canada, vaccination ramp up for US-based teams

Canadians were looking down their noses for a long time at the USA on the battle against COVID-19, but when it comes to the endgame — vaccination — the US is trouncing Canada, and we’re seeing this play out in sporting world as well.

Canada has delivered 15.6 vaccine doses per 100 people so far.

The United States, due to the bipartisan effort of Donald Trump’s Project Ward Speed and also Joe Biden’s effective delivery scheme, has delivered 45.9 per 100.

In the NHL, American teams such as the Boston Bruins are now getting fully vaccinated.

But there’s massive outbreak of COVID-19 on the Vancouver Canucks, which has already caused the cancellation of Saturday night’s game against the Oilers.

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports on the Vancouver situation: “At this point 8 players, total, and 1 staff member have tested positive.”

For most young and healthy people, COVID is no worse than the flu, but just like flu, it can hit hard in rare cases. There are health implications of these outbreaks, but also major financial and logistical ones for the league.

We’ve also seen an outbreak on the Montreal Canadiens that caused games to be cancelled.

I wonder if the OIlers will now be able to get in their full 56-game schedule. I also wonder how long the Oilers can keep dodging the COVID bullet right now.

In Vancouver, Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy reports: “If this outbreak means two-week minimum break, I wonder is league will push Canucks games versus Flames and Senators to end of season. And then cancel if no playoff implications and go by PTS% for lottery.”


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Game Day 38: Oilers vs Flames

The line of Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi  has struggled to mesh and combine on goals so far this season. Will that suddenly change?

Oilers coach Dave Tippett looks like he’s going back to the McDavid, RNH and Puljujarvi line, even as that line has been outscored 13 to 14 in 236 even strength minutes, for a 48.2 Goals For percentage.

I see little chemistry in the unit, which is somewhat unexpected. After all, McDavid is the NHL’s best attacker, RNH is an excellent passer and Puljujarvi is doing well in his role as a glue player, popping pucks on the forecheck and battling in front of the opposition net.

But McDavid and RNH together seem less than the sum of their parts, much less.

McDavid and RNH have played 369 even strength minutes together this year. In that the time, the Oilers have outscored the opposition just 20 to 19, a 51.2 Goals For percentage.

When you’ve got a line with two such talented players, that’s not good enough.

It’s fair to say that they’ve had a wee bit of bad puck luck. McDavid has set up RNH for 16 Grade A scoring chances in those 369 minutes but RNH has scored on just three of those shots.

RNH has set up McDavid for six Grade A chances and he’s scored just once.

Normally on their 22 changes together you’d expect six goals, not just four.

But I’m seeing no real offensive chemistry between between the two players. McDavid dominates the puck — as is only right — but that takes away from the best part of RNH’s game, winning the puck and passing it. He’s a give-and-go specialist, which is why he worked so well last year with Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto, two other give-and-go specialists.


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But RNH has set up McDavid in those 369 minutes for just six grade A chances. McDavid is finding RNH in the slot more often, but RNH isn’t a high volume shooter or a deadly shooter. He’s miscast as a sniper, but that is his role with McDavid.

Of course, two such gifted attackers as McDavid and RNH will score some goals. But I can’t help but wonder if Oilers coach Dave Tippett couldn’t get more out of them if he split them up, and put RNH on a line with two excellent give-and-go players. RNH is also a better defensive winger than he is as a centre, where he can get overpowered in the defensive slot.

Ennis clears waivers

Tyler Ennis cleared waivers, which is no surprise. He’s been solid on the attack this year for the Oilers, but weak defensively, the forward most likely to make a major mistake on a Grade A chances together. He tends to wander a bit in the defensive zone, not cover the point when he’s needed there. But he’s got tremendous wheels and hands. Could he be a fit with McDavid? I’d still like to see Dominik Kahun on McDavid’s wing. It might be a fit. Like RNH, Kahun is no sniper but he’s solid defensively and he can take and make a pass. He’ll likely do as well with McDavid as RNH did, but RNH is far more likely to see his game come alive if he’s back with Draisaitl and Yamamoto on the DYNamite Line.


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