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Standing tall in Oilers’ crease, Koskinen dispels stigma of being a bad contract

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EDMONTON — It’s been described as general manager Peter Chiarelli’s fluff in the elevator, the three-year, $13.5 million deal he signed goaltender Mikko Koskinen to that was announced literally a day before he was sent out the door in Edmonton.

Hey — we’ve seen a lot of bad contracts, and plenty of bad GMs in our day. But the mix here was so acute, the timing so ridiculous, you had to wonder how something so inane could be allowed to take place?

Chiarelli was convinced there were other GMs lining up to sign the big Finn with the leaky glove hand, and there likely were — for about a third of the money that Koskinen secured from ol’ Sneaky Pete.

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Alas, that pay check has forever set the focus on the lens through which the hockey world views Koskinen. His performance, his value, his glove hand… Everything is coloured by the fact his salary places him among the Top 20 wage earners playing goal in the NHL today, yet he isn’t even considered to be a No. 1 in a 32-team league.

“Four-point-five million?!?” they ask.

He makes more than Carter Hart? Than Ilya Sorokin? Than Cam Talbot, Jake Allen, or both Maple Leafs tendies?!?

Heck, Koskinen makes more than two times the salary of the guy he backs up, Mike Smith, whose cap hit is $2.2 million.

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But wait a second…

What if Koskinen started playing like a $4.5 million goalie? What if, tasked with finishing a game in which a shaky Smith was removed halfway through and then asked to start the next five games, Koskinen posted the second-best save percentage (.933) in the second-most minutes played by an NHL goalie over that span?

What if, when the No. 1 goalie went down in just the third game of the season, Koskinen rode in and backstopped the team to a 7-1 start, playing like (gulp) a guy who might command a $4 million-plus salary?

“Mental toughness,” began his head coach Dave Tippett. “Last year he was very open about his challenges, without his family, not playing as well as he’d like. He came back with a real purpose, a veteran guy who understands his role on our team. He came back with a chip on his shoulder — he wanted to show people he was still a good player. He’s doing that right now.”

There are, I have found over the years, two prevalent Finnish personalities: Effervescent types like Teemu Selanne, Janne Niinimaa or Ville Nieminen, with sharp senses of humour and a Nordic joie de vivre — elämisen iloa — that made them some of the great personalities in the game.

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Then there are the quiet Finns, like Mikka Kiprusoff, Jere Lehtinen or Koskinen. Soft spoken, with a wry and not overused sense of humour. Short answers, long pauses. As little self-promotion as possible.

Koskinen has overcome the stigma of being a “bad contract” that GM Ken Holland simply has not been able to move. He has persevered through the knowledge that almost every shooter in the NHL would go glove side, given the time to have a preference, and he’s walked into the Edmonton Oilers nets this fall and absolutely carried the load.

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You’ve got to love a story like this, where a man they once called “The Three Metres of Koskinen” gets up off the mat to stand tall again, at his full, six-foot-seven height.

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“Like I said before the season started, I just want to have fun no matter what happens,” the 33-year-old said. “I want it to be fun on the ice, that is my mindset that I have. I am going to try to keep doing that.”

He won’t make the same money in his next contract, and chances are — with Smith on Year 1 of a two-year deal — it probably won’t be here in Edmonton. But if Koskinen’s play continues at this level he’ll end up in an NHL market where the yoke of a big contract will be gone from his shoulders.

The big money? It’s great, we’re sure.

But you’d better stay off of social media, or the sports channels on Canadian TV.

“It’s something I can’t think about,” he said right before the season. “I am here to prove (to) myself, that I can do this. I know that I can do this — that’s all that matters. I can’t control what’s going on outside of me. That’s how life usually goes. You just control and do your best.

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“Of course I wasn’t happy the way I played last year, that’s the No. 1 thing,” he added. “But overall, we’re a team. And we couldn’t go as far as we (wanted) to, so that’s the biggest (thing). But I didn’t play well myself, either.”

That’s changing. So, perhaps, are our perceptions of The Three Metres of Koskinen.



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Three Stars from Day 3 of WJC: Canada’s McTavish joins elite company – Sportsnet.ca

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Canada and the U.S. dominated in their second game of the tournament while Czechia and Finland went toe-to-toe and needed a shootout to determine a winner on Day 3 of the World Junior Hockey Championship.

The Canadian team rebounded from a sluggish performance with an 11-1 win over Slovakia, a game in which captain Mason McTavish added his name to the country’s record books.

Against Switzerland, the United States took their game to another gear that their opponent could not match as they cruised to a 7-1 victory to improve to 2-0 at the tournament.

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Finland dropped a crucial point as they had to overcome a 2-0 deficit but were able to pick up the shootout win over their rival Czechia.

Here is a look at the top performances from Day 3 of the world juniors.

3rd Star: Luke Hughes, USA

Coming from a great hockey family, Luke Hughes is making most of his opportunity as one of the top defencemen for the U.S. 

The younger brother of Quinn and Jack displayed his mobility and vision against Switzerland with a three-point effort. He now has five points in his first two games of the tournament — more than either of his brothers ever achieved at this event in fewer games.

Hughes leads all defenceman in scoring so far in the tournament and is tied for fourth overall.

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The 18-year-old played 21:18 against the Swiss to lead the U.S. in ice time playing on the top pairing with Brock Faber. His play from this point will be a crucial part of his team’s success given the creativity he displayed, especially on Matt Coronato’s goal in the second period.

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He made another top-notch set up on Thomas Bordeleau’s power-play goal in the third period as he delayed enough to get the defenders to pull towards his side of the ice.

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2nd Star: Carter Mazur, USA

Coming into the tournament, Carter Mazur is looking to build off an impressive season at the University of Denver. 

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While he was in a scoring slump in his first NCAA season, the Detroit Red Wings prospect made a call to his NHL team’s assistant director of player development, Daniel Cleary. After that, he would go on to finish with 14 goals and 38 points in 41 games.

Those tips have now turned Mazur into a scoring machine as he accounted for two of the team’s seven goals and was also named the player of the game as the top line of Mazur, Landon Slaggert, and Thomas Bordeleau had an impressive performance against Switzerland

After a scoreless first period, Mazur wasn’t going to make any mistake on a point-blank chance in front of the net with Mackie Samoskevich making a great pass from behind the net.

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With the Americans looking to add to their lead, Mazur was once again the beneficiary of a great pass from Slaggert as he made no mistake from the front of the net.

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He added another assist on Slaggert’s goal later in the period for his third point of the game. Through his first two games at the world juniors, Mazur has four points and is tied for sixth in scoring.

1st Star: Mason McTavish, Canada

On a night where Canada dominated from start to finish, Mason McTavish joined some elite company with a night he’ll certainly remember for a long time.

The 19-year-old joined Mario Lemieux, Simon Gagné, Brayden Schenn, Taylor Raddysh, Maxime Comtois and teammate Connor Bedard as the only players to score four goals in a single world junior game for Canada. The tournament record for goals in a single game is held by Sweden’s Ola Rosander who had six back in 1987.

With his performance against Slovakia in a dominant win for Canada, McTavish now sits atop the scoring lead with eight points in two games after registering six points in this game.

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McTavish scored his first goal of the game on a breakaway — with Canada already leading 5-0 midway through the second — making no mistake to beat Tomas Bolo, who came into the game after starter Simon Latkoczy was pulled going into the second period.

His second goal came off a great play by Joshua Roy who flipped the puck in the air to Brennan Othmann who then set up McTavish as he finished with a backhander to put Canada up 7-1. McTavish would complete the second-period hat trick, a day after Alexander Blank did the same for Germany, after a selfless pass from Roy on a 2-on-0 break.

Canada would capitalize on a turnover on McTavish’s fourth goal as Othmann set him up alone in front of the net and he made no mistake.

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There was some doubt about whether McTavish would suit up for Canada after playing a fair amount of hockey last season. Making his NHL debut with the Anaheim Ducks, the third overall pick from the 2021 NHL Draft played in a total of 72 games between the NHL, AHL, OHL, Memorial Cup and the Olympics.

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Instead, McTavish decided to join the team in Edmonton and take on the role as captain where he has excelled centring Canada’s top line with Bedard and and a rotation of Roy and Othmann.

Canada will now look forward to a matchup against Czechia with a chance to improve to 3-0.

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Field of Dreams Game 2022: A celebration of baseball memories in an Iowa cornfield

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The Field of Dreams is an opportunity for fans and players alike to reflect on the people and places that taught them to love baseball, Jake Mintz writes.



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Ravens extend NFL record for consecutive postseason wins following Thursday’s victory over the Titans

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USA Today

The No. 21 is now synonymous with the longest winning streaks in NFL regular and preseason history. the 2003-04 Patriots won 21 consecutive games, an NFL record. On Thursday night, the Ravens won their 21st consecutive preseason game after securing a 23-10 decision against the Tennessee Titans

Baltimore has not lost a preseason game since 2016. Joe Flacco was their starting quarterback when the streak began, while Steve Smith Jr., who this past year was eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time, was heading into his final NFL season. Baltimore’s roster also included Terrell Suggs, who was entering his second-to-last season with the franchise. 

Along with not losing preseason games, another constant in Baltimore over the past six years has been kicker Justin Tucker, who is entering his 11th season with the Ravens. Tucker’s field goals of 47, 25 and 47 yards on Thursday night helped Baltimore pull out the win after falling behind midway through the second quarter. 

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The Ravens won Thursday’s game by winning the turnover margin while holding the Titans to 1 of 3 red zone efficiency. One of those turnovers was scooped up by Kyle Hamilton, the Ravens’ first-round pick in this past year’s draft. 

Baltimore won despite the efforts of Malik Willis, the Titans’ rookie quarterback who overcame a slow start to score his first NFL touchdown, a 7-yard run early in the second quarter. Speaking of quarterbacks, the Ravens received a strong night from Tyler Huntley, who completed all but two of his 18 pass attempts that included his game-winning touchdown pass to Shemar Bridges



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