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Belief in Jack Campbell among Maple Leafs continues to grow – Sportsnet.ca

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For a few brief moments, the Zen of Jack Campbell was disrupted.

It was not easy for the man challenging to take control of the Toronto Maple Leafs crease to brush aside the fact that both pucks that got behind him Thursday were on the blade of his Warrior goalie stick immediately before they went in.

Campbell’s learned to cut himself some slack during a career that’s picking up momentum, but personal development has its limits.

“I mean I still beat myself over those,” he said. “You know they just can’t go in. I’m still a competitor and I’m human, so when that happens, I’m not happy with myself.”

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That he didn’t unravel entirely is stabilizing in itself. Two wobbly puck touches quickly became something to chuckle about on the charter flight home when Justin Holl finished off a 3-2 overtime victory over the Ottawa Senators.

Holl was standing closest to Campbell when Alex Formenton tied the game on a sequence where the defenceman got crossed-up by a waved-off icing call and his goaltender turned over the puck. But he made amends at 4:42 of overtime after jumping over the boards and cruising into the middle of the offensive zone to finish off a nice sequence from Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews.

“That’s what I was joking about with the guys in the locker-room, I was like ‘that’s why you give up a goal with six minutes left, you know?”’ said Holl.

It was a victory that nudged the Leafs two points up on Winnipeg and Edmonton in the North Division and improved Campbell’s record to 5-0-0 on the season. The 29-year-old is finally healthy after two prolonged absences with the same leg injury and feels like he’s starting to find a rhythm.

The timing couldn’t be better with Frederik Andersen now sidelined — he’s officially listed as day-to-day, but hasn’t been on the ice with his teammates all week — and the Leafs entering another busy stretch of schedule.

While it’s been described by some locally as a goaltending controversy, the truth is there is no controversy to be found. Toronto has yet to have both of its top options healthy and performing well at the same time this season so there haven’t been any tough decisions for Sheldon Keefe to make.

Campbell has a chance to create a tough decision to come. He’s been dialled in with a .958 save percentage on 138 shots so far and finished with 29 stops Thursday despite seeing his teammates tilt the ice pretty significantly in Ottawa.

They kept on after Campbell was pressured by Chris Tierney while handling the puck behind his net and saw it bounce out to Connor Brown for a short-handed marker late in the first period. John Tavares skated immediately to his goaltender to calm the waters.

“Yeah he just said ‘keep going, we got ya.’ And they did have me all night,” said Campbell. “That’s why I feel bad about those two goals. I don’t want to kill the momentum and we played so well and I know those types of goals just can’t go in. Those are 100 per cent on me, of course, and I’ll know I’ll be a lot better on those goalie handles.”

That view wasn’t shared unanimously throughout a dressing room where Campbell is known for being nice to a fault. Keefe said that he had no choice but to play the puck in both instances and lamented the fact that teammates skated towards him, rather than providing outlet options, on the first goal against.

Holl and the other Leafs players on the ice didn’t sort out the defensive assignments properly on the second one.

“I told him after the game — like I thought both decisions were the right decisions [for him to go out], it’s just the plays didn’t work,” said Holl. “You kind of stick with the same process and I have confidence in him.

“I think he’s a great puck-handler and I expect him to keep handling the puck and being aggressive.”

What shouldn’t be lost is the second-period stops he made on Tim Stützle and Josh Norris, or the right pad he extended to deny Brady Tkachuk.

Campbell buttoned things down and helped ensure the Leafs didn’t squander another opportunity against the last-place Senators. The frustration he felt was only temporary. The win was sweet.

“Instead of thinking about how bad I feel for myself or something, it’s about the team,” said Campbell. “They need the next save and they just need better plays from me. When they’re playing that strong, all I could think about was shutting the door.

“I know I had a couple bad giveaways tonight so I’ll clean that up. But they can count on that, for sure.”

The belief in him is growing with each passing game.

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?

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It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

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Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills

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North Division

It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.

The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.

Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.

Passers

Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.

Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.

Shooting

A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.

Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.

Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.

Stick Handling

Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.

If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.

Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.

When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.

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