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Alex Galchenyuk scores first goal as Leafs beat Flames – Pension Plan Puppets

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Alex Galchenyuk scored his first NHL goal with the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames. Morgan Rielly, John Tavares, and Auston Matthews all scored in the win, with Michael Hutchinson stopping 31 of 33 for his fourth win of the season (4-2-1). William Nylander created goals that got the Leafs tied and ahead at crucial moments, but was only credited for one. Tavares and Matthews led the way with two points; a goal and an assist each.

The Leafs didn’t have a great middle portion of their game, but a strong start and convincing third period added up to the win. It should also be noted that the Leafs failed to score on their lone power play in the game, extending the drought to 10 games (0/28).

1-0

Now in the top-10 in games played for Leafs defensemen, Rielly opened the scoring less than a minute in with a wicked shot. Rielly skated into open space created by the Flames getting caught overloading one side of the ice and losing the puck battle quickly. Marner was on one side with Hyman crashing the net on the other as Rielly stepped into a shot that beat Dave Rittich high blocker.

The Leafs were in solid control of the play in the first half of the first period. They won battles in their own zone and kept the Flames from having any cycles, while offensively they did a really good job of getting right in on Rittich with their shots. Galchenyuk had a nice solo chance off the rush, but he took a shot from distance while a Calgary defenseman was bearing down on him that was stopped.

Hutchinson was strong to start, beating Mikael Backlund on a breakaway with a nice pad save. It was a good first chance to settle him into the game and he looked comfortable on the lone other shot he got early in the game.

The fourth line for the Leafs was good, hemming the Flames in their own zone on one shift in particular. I think Mikheyev struggled to manage the puck in the offensive zone, both in handling but also in tactics. I think he’s being asked to do too much on that line sometimes. Thornton would be fun there if he’s going to be in the bottom six.

1-1

Joakim Nordstrom tied the game later in the period, tipping a point shot from Mark Giordano past Hutchinson right off a faceoff. Both Kerfoot and Spezza just drifted away from Nordstrom when the shot came through, leaving him all alone to tip it. I thought those motions were weird.

1-2

Oof. A turnover from the defense as Dermott and Bogosian both got beat to the corner cleanly and a pretty bad goal against from Hutchinson, and the Leafs entered the break down after starting so well. The shot was a floater, which makes it pretty rough.

After One

5v5 stats:

  • Shot attempts: 14-22 (39%)
  • Shots on goal: 12-11
  • Scoring chances: 8-9
  • Expected goals: 0.84-0.80 (51%)

Thoughts:

I thought the Leafs were good in the first half of the period, it seemed the Flames had no control of the puck. But in the second, they threw it all away and got completely overwhelmed. You can see in the gameflow the Leafs had put together some good shifts in a row, but immediately following the Nordstrom goal, they were on their heels until the Mangiapane goal and the buzzer for the period rang.

Spezza had the best chance in the period for the Leafs in xG but overall the Leafs offense wasn’t actually getting the chances the zone time should’ve allowed them. It definitely looked like the Flames weathered an early push and then counterattacked once they realized they were in the game.

Second Period

Hyman got tripped with the puck, the Flames guy didn’t lose his position as he fell over Hyman, but it was the Leafs who got the penalty. I don’t get that. Thankfully, the Leafs killed the penalty. At least they know how to do that.

The Leafs then got a power play when Brodie got tripped. On the same play, Matthew Tkachuk fell into an open penalty box door and had to go to the locker room. Matthews had a chance on the power play but his stick blew up on him. The power play was totally flat. Neither unit looks in sync. The fourth line got the closest thing to a shot as they started a shift with a few seconds left in the two minutes.

2-2

Alex Galchenyuk scores his first as a Leaf! Nylander made a great play to get into the zone, he found Tavares with his stick open at the side of the net. Tavares made an elite play to Galch for an awkward chance that he buried.

All the Galch Gifs!

After Two

5v5 stats:

  • Shot attempts: 12-17 (41%)
  • Shots on goal: 6-9
  • Scoring chances: 5-7
  • Expected goals: 0.41-0.51 (44%)

Thoughts:

At one point, the shots were 11-3 in the first period. They ended the second down 18-24.

Hutchinson definitely had to work in this period because the Flames were really strong all throughout. Credit to him, he stopped everything that came his way and allowed the Leafs to tie it up at the end of the period.

I don’t expect Keefe or Malhotra to listen to me on this, but I have a few suggestions for the power play:

  1. Nylander on the first unit and stick in him front of the net, end the madness.
  2. Dermott on the second unit, he might as well do something as an offensive guy on the third pair.
  3. Try some high-low plays to force the defense out wide a little bit. That’ll create lanes and openings for players like Marner, Matthews, and Nylander to find. I get what the East-West passing is trying to do, but I think teams have caught onto it, time to change it up.

Third Period

3-2

Nylander, once again, picked up an outlet pass from Tavares, got a great chance on Rittich. The puck rebounded to Tavares, who’s shot from the same area bounced off Noah Hanifin and into the back of the net. This second line has fully deserved to score some goals in this game. Nylander wasn’t given his second assist on the goal since technically Hanifin touched it, but Tavares his second primary point. Don’t tell me Tavares is slowing down, he’s still worth every penny. Plus, they’ve had so much fun with Galch, I really like this line.

4-2

Not to be out-done, Matthews and Marner connected for a goal seconds after Tavares put the team ahead.

Engvall had a nice rush up the ice that nearly opened Spezza up for a chance. I really liked this from them.

The Flames pulled their goalie with four minutes left while down two goals. Hutchinson was good in the final stretch of the game, stopping several chances in the last five minutes that could’ve been trouble. Nylander nearly got an empty netter, but he hit the side of the net. Hyman missed another empty net. And Tavares missed a third!

After Three

Full game 5v5 stats:

  • Shot attempts: 43-50 (47%)
  • Shots on goal: 30-28
  • Scoring chances: 25-22
  • Expected goals: 2.20-1.96 (57%)

Thoughts:

There were some red flags in this game as Matthews and Marner didn’t have their best nights — but hey, they scored. The bottom half of the defense didn’t inspire me much confidence. Holl was his normal awkward self, and was fairly effective nonetheless. Dermott and Bogosian looked overwhelmed several times and they finished the game with the worst shot and expected goals share.

I think it’s quite interesting that the Tavares line played only two fewer shifts than the Matthews line in this game, but their time on ice were somewhere around four minutes less. The Kerfoot-Thornton-Spezza line had the longest shift lengths on the team and they were also benched for the end of the period. Spezza and Thornton the only ones under 10 minutes. I wouldn’t worry too much about the Tavares line’s minutes, they got the deployment they (and we) wanted.

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Boston Bruins Add Offense With Solid Taylor Hall Trade – Boston Hockey Now

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The Boston Bruins clearly understood they had serious deficiencies on their NHL roster this season and credit them for going and doing something about it.

The B’s finished off their Sunday night fireworks ahead of the NHL trade deadline by sending a second round pick and Anders Bjork to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for top-6 winger Taylor Hall and bottom-6 forward Curtis Lazar. TSN’s Darren Dreger, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and ESPN’s John Buccigross were the first to report about the completed deal between the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres in the hours following the B’s getting stomped by the Washington Capitals, 8-1, at TD Garden.

The Buffalo Sabres retained half of the $8 million salary that Hall signed for prior to the start of the 2021 hockey season.

The 29-year-old Hall is having a terrible season in Buffalo with just two goals and 19 points in 37 games along with a minus-21 rating after he chose to sign a one-year deal with the Sabres during the offseason. But he brings legitimate offensive talent as a former No. 1 overall pick and Hart Trophy winner to a Boston Bruins team that’s ranked in the bottom third of the NHL offensively all season.

The Bruins were one of the suitors for Hall prior to him choosing the Sabres months ago, and now they get him for a deep discount while keeping their own first round picks after making their deadline deals.

Holding onto their own first round pick was a priority for Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney after spending first rounders at the deadline in two of the last three deadlines in trades for damaged goods Rick Nash and Ondrej Kase.

The 26-year-old Lazar has five goals and 11 points in 33 games as a bottom-6 forward for the Sabres this season and is signed for $800,000 for next season. It seemed clear that something was going on with the 24-year-old Anders Bjork over the last couple of weeks as he was a healthy scratch for five straight games, including Sunday night against Washington, and heads to Buffalo hoping to further develop a game built on speed and skill level that hasn’t translated into offense as of yet.

Hall should fit right into the top-6 with the Bruins as a skilled winger for playmaking center David Krejci, but it remains to be seen how he’s going to fit as another left winger on a team with Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk.

Either Ritchie or DeBrusk is going to have to play the off wing with a Krejci/Hall combo, but that’s a problem that Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will gladly figure out after being forced to piece together lineups all season due to injuries and offensive inconsistency. With the acquisition of Hall, Lazar and left-handed defenseman Mike Reilly on Sunday night, it would appear the Boston Bruins are largely done with deals ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Interestingly enough, the Boston Bruins are set to play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at TD Garden.

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.

For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.

Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”

The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.

Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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