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Canadiens vs. Oilers game recap: Stand and deliver – Habs Eyes on the Prize



It was time for a long awaited debut in a Montreal Canadiens jersey for Michael Frolik, as #67 took a spot on the fourth line, flanking Jake Evans. Frolik’s debut was necessitated by Montreal missing Joel Armia and Tyler Toffoli due to COVID-19 and injury, respectively.

Seemingly, it was also a long-awaited game for Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who was back on the ice after being considered a close contact for Armia a little over a week ago. Kotkaniemi needed exactly 18 seconds to score the opening goal of the night, taking advantage of the Edmonton Oilers’ fourth line ending up a little too high in the Montreal zone after the opening faceoff. The goal was challenged for a possible offside as Kotkaniemi drove the puck over the blue line while both Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen were charging through at full pace, but the challenge ended up unsuccessful with Montreal being awarded an ensuing power play instead.

If you thought the few minutes of wait after the goal and subsequent challenge would slow down the Habs, you were wrong. During the two minutes of man advantage, both Shea Weber and Tomas Tatar hit the iron. While yours truly was still looking at the replays to establish just how close the latter was to burying the puck past Mikko Koskinen, the third line’s Finnish armada made life difficult for their nedminding countryman yet again.

Joel Edmundson pounded away a shot from the point, and in the mess that followed in front of the net, Lehkonen pounced on the puck for his third goal of the season and the first since February 2.

While momentum was all on the Canadiens’ side, Josh Anderson decided to fight some Swedish dude named William Lagesson in a battle over who had the best flowing locks of the game. Anderson won that battle, to Lagesson’s chagrin. The referees didn’t care about the result of the fight and awarded them both with five minutes of cooldown in the penalty box.

Montreal had several chances to up their lead even further, while Edmonton continued to look lost and disconnected. We have to remember that one team had a week off before coming into the match, while the other one played an overtime battle with Toronto the previous night. The Canadiens players looked like they had much more juice in their legs during the opening period and, as it would turn out, during the entire game.

The third goal would eventually come. After yet another Weber shot hitting the post, Brendan Gallagher was like a coyote smelling prey on the rebound in the crease. When Koskinen found the puck, it was already lying behind him in the net.

Connor McDavid was obviously frustrated with his team’s effort, but that is no excuse to elbow a defenceless opponent in the head. He was let off with a two-minute minor, but could — and probably should — have received a more stern punishment from the men in charge.

Except for the power play ending 0-for-3 in the opening period, the home side couldn’t have hoped for a better start.

Speaking of being unable to capitalize on the man advantage, Edmonton quickly regrouped and drew two minor penalties in the second. This made me, an everlasting pessimist when it comes to Montreal and decisive leads, bite my nails even more intensely than I usually do. However, except for a Tyson Barrie shot which struck the outside of Carey Price’s post, Edmonton’s finest remained surprisingly blunt in the offensive zone.

When they finally did score (Connor McDavid, who else?), Dominique Ducharme successfully challenged the goal for an offside on Jesse Puljujarvi, and the Oilers continued on scoreless.

Since Phillip Danault scored his first goal of the season and got that monkey off his back, he has picked up pace and confidence in his offensive game. With that, his linemates have been injected with more fuel as well. The Habs’ fourth goal of the night was a perfect example of exactly how well Danault’s line works in its finest hours.

Gallagher got his stick on the puck out wide, preventing it from leaving the offensve zone. Danault looked up and immediately lasered it cross-ice to Tatar, who struck without hesitation, right through one of Koskinen’s many holes. It was just a sublime effort of demonstrating how to create offence by establishing pressure and turning it into efficient puck-retrieval and subsequent scoring chances near the opponent’s net.

Before the players went back into the locker room, Nick Suzuki drew a penalty on Barrie by just flying by him toward the net, forcing the defenceman to hook the sophomore to avoid a fifth conceded goal. This meant that Montreal would start period three with all but 13.6 seconds of a man advantage remaining.

I can imagine Ducharme and his team were feeling quite pleased with themselves with two-thirds of the game in the books.

The power play didn’t get a result this time either, other than in continuing to close down the minutes toward a possible first goalless game of the year for Price. A well-rounded defensive effort from the entire team made sure that Edmonton’s high-quality chances continued to be few and far between.

With five minutes left to play, Kotkaniemi could have had his second of the night as he got hold of his own rebound with Koskinen out of place. With a near open net, the Edmonton defence managed to disturb him enough to make the shot whistle just above the bar.

Montreal withstood a final penalty kill, and Carey Price could cash in his first clean sheet of the season, while simultanously ending McDavid’s point streak at 11 games. The next time Price gets a shutout will mark number 50 of his NHL regular-season career. Let us hope that there are many more still to come.

Next, Montreal will go on to face the Ottawa Senators in the Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday night. If Montreal can keep up what they demonstrated on Tuesday, we should be in for a good time.

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Motor racing-Canadian Grand Prix cancelled for second year



(Reuters) -The Canadian Grand Prix scheduled for June 13 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal has been cancelled for the second year in a row, CBC Radio reported on Thursday although Formula One said discussions remained ongoing.

With the spread of new COVID-19 variants and Canada battling to contain a third wave of the virus, Montreal public health authorities concluded that even if run behind closed doors without spectators the risks were too high, reported the CBC.

F1 officials, according to the CBC, wanted to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine for the hundreds of staff, crew members and drivers and rely on private medical staff and have the entire operation run in a bubble.

The race is scheduled to follow on immediately from Azerbaijan, whose grand prix is scheduled for June 6 in Baku and is due to go ahead after also being cancelled last year.

“We are continuing our discussions with the promoter in Canada and have no further comment,” an F1 spokesperson told Reuters.

The Autosport website quoted a spokesperson for the Canadian promoter as saying the radio report referred to “a document of recommendations from public health.

“We as an organisation have not had confirmation from our public health officials and won’t comment until we get an official confirmation.”

Canada, with some of the world’s toughest travel rules, obliges its citizens and residents arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days.

International arrivals are required to quarantine for up to three days in a hotel.

One of Canada‘s biggest sporting events, it would mark the second consecutive year the grand prix has been removed from the F1 schedule due to the spread of COVID-19.

Media reports have suggested Turkey is on standby to be slotted in as Canada‘s replacement.

The Istanbul circuit is logistically convenient for freight coming from Baku and was brought in last year also at short notice to bolster a calendar ravaged by the pandemic.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto/Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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



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 –



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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