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Belief in Jack Campbell among Maple Leafs continues to grow –



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



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



(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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Masters 2021: Tiger Woods says he'll miss Champions Dinner, running up DJ's bill – Golf Channel



AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dustin Johnson will host his first Champions Dinner on Tuesday night in the Augusta National clubhouse, and he’ll be joined by several past Masters champions.

One former winner who won’t be there is five-time champ Tiger Woods, who is still home in South Florida recovering from a serious car accident in February near Los Angeles. Justin Thomas, who is still working toward his invite to the prestigious dinner, said Woods texted him Friday night and was “bummed” to not be at the Masters this year.

Woods then tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he’ll miss one of his favorite nights of the year.

“I’ll miss running up @DJohnsonPGA’s bill at the Champions Dinner tonight,” Woods said. “It’s still one of my favorite nights of the year.”

Johnson responded to Woods’ tweet, saying: “Will miss having you here. This week isn’t the same without you.”

The PGA Tour announced that the club would leave a seat open for Woods at the dinner, though the tweet has since been taken down.

Johnson will serve a menu including filet mignon, sea bass and peach cobbler.

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