Why U.S. kept going to T.J. Oshie in shootout vs. Russia

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After seeing the U.S. send T.J. Oshie out for a dizzying six shootout attempts in a 3-2 win against Russia on Saturday, many people probably asked: “Why?”

The 27-year-old has never scored more than 19 goals in his young career and is far, far down the list of the team’s most recognizable players. To some, it was flabbergasting that U.S. head coach Dan Bylsma kept sending him out for big attempts while high-scoring forwards Phil Kessel, Zach Parise and Patrick Kane watched from the bench. Especially since Russia rolled out stars Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk in the same situation.

But it worked, as he nailed four of six, including the deciding tally.

VIDEO: Watch OT and the shootout again

If you want a little more background on Bylsma’s decision-making process, here’s a quick look at how Oshie has fared in shootouts at the NHL level:

  • Oshie is currently tied with Logan Couture and Jonathan Toews for the NHL lead in shootout goals with seven. While those players have connected on a bit more than 50 percent of their attempts, Oshie’s success rate is 70 percent this season.
  • He didn’t receive a ton of chances in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, but he connected on two of his three attempts.
  • Since coming into the league in 2008-09, Oshie has 25 shootout goals.

Does that mean he deserved every chance? That’s debatable … but it’s clear that there was plenty of logic behind what seemed to some like a strange strategy.

Part of the plan

ESPN’s behind-the-scenes look at the U.S. team’s construction hints that Oshie was on the bubble for a final roster spot alongside the likes of Brandon Saad and Bobby Ryan. His shootout prowess may very well have been the tie-breaker, at least to U.S. GM David Poile.

“Oshie’s got that shootout move,” Poile said.

Oshie’s post-game reaction seems fitting, then; he told NBC’s Pierre McGuire that he was “running out of moves” as his attempts kept piling up.

As this great panoramic shot from AP reveals, his teammates seemed OK with him taking shootout shot after shot:

source: AP
Credit: AP

Canadian ice dancers overcome hair-raising wardrobe malfunction

Piper Gilles, Paul Poirier
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Ice dancer Piper Gilles‘ hair got caught in partner Paul Poirier‘s costume during the Canadian Championships rhythm dance, but the couple still posted the top score in Mississauga, Ontario, on Friday.

As they spun together, Gilles’ hair appeared to catch on one of Poirier’s shirt buttons. It stayed that way for about five seconds as the couple nearly came to a stop before Poirier untangled it. What was Gilles thinking?

“Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap,” she said later. “It’s probably more swear words to that, but crap at that moment.

“It was like one of those pure panic moments, like, what do I do? Do we stop? Do we keep going? Paul’s like, just keep moving.”

Gilles and Poirier scored 88.86 points, taking an 11.6-point lead into the free dance.

The couple eyes their first national title after finishing second or third seven times in the last eight years behind Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

Gilles and Poirier rank fifth in the world this season.

The panicky moment Friday was reminiscent of the PyeongChang Olympics, where French ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis‘ dress strap broke, exposing her breast. Papadakis and partner Guillaume Cizeron took silver and have been undefeated since.

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Allison Schmitt opens 2020 in fast form, bidding to join U.S. Olympic legends

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Allison Schmitt, after failing to qualify for world championships teams, revealing a battle with depression and taking nearly two years off competition post-Rio, has a chance to swim at her fourth Olympics this summer. And to do it in an individual event for the first time since 2012.

Schmitt won the 200m freestyle in 1:56.01 at the Tyr Pro Swim Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday night.

The time would have ranked second among Americans in 2019 behind Katie Ledecky. Ledecky is not swimming in Knoxville, but the 2012 Olympic champion and American record holder Schmitt beat Simone Manuel by 1.24 seconds.

“Wish I could say I was tapered, would make it feel a lot easier,” Schmitt said on NBCSN. “Getting better every time I jump in the water and swim in finals.”

Schmitt’s time marked her fastest outside of a major summer meet since the 2012 London Games. She’s bidding to become the third U.S. woman in her 30s to swim an individual event at an Olympics, joining 12-time medalists Dara Torres (who swam in her 40s) and Jenny Thompson.

Full Knoxville results are here. Broadcast coverage of the meet continues Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Swimmers are preparing for June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event qualify for the Tokyo Games, plus extra 100m and 200m free swimmers for relays.

In other events Friday, 18-year-old Carson Foster took the men’s 200m free in 1:47.74, beating the U.S.’ top 400m freestyler, Zane Grothe, by 1.33 seconds.

Foster, younger than any U.S. Olympic male swimmer since a group including Michael Phelps in 2000, is better known for his individual medleys. But the 200m free offers up to six Olympic spots when including the 4x200m free relay.

“Any event where there’s more spots on the line this summer is an event I want to train for,” said Foster, who ranked outside the top 10 in the U.S. in the 200m free in 2019 and beat a field Friday that included none of the six fastest.

Annie Lazor won the 100m breaststroke in 1:06.68, a time congruent with her No. 2 ranking in the U.S. last year behind Olympic champion and world-record holder Lilly King. King, who trains with Lazor, is not competing in Knoxville.

In the 100m butterfly, 29-year-old Amanda Kendall upset top-ranked American Kelsi Dahlia in 57.65 seconds. Regan Smith, the fastest backstroker in history, was second in a personal-best 57.86, followed by Dahlia.

MORE: Australian swim star issues plea after hometown hit by fires

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