Connect with us


Canucks snap back to reality after another lopsided loss to Jets –



VANCOUVER – The consolation prize for the worst schedule they’ve ever had, which is a high bar because the Canucks play in Vancouver and flew commercially for two decades, is a six-day break starting Thursday.

It comes too late in the pandemic-shortened season to really help the players, but falls perfectly for general manager Jim Benning. Instead of a stay-cation of sleeping, hiking and playing video games like his players, Benning has an open week to make sales calls.

The Canucks’ playoff chances, already skinnier than Elias Pettersson’s jeans, fell closer to zero Wednesday when the Winnipeg Jets completed a two-game sweep in Vancouver with a 5-1 win at Rogers Arena.

The Jets scored the first nine goals in the mini-series before the Canucks got the 10th, as Nils Hoglander spoiled Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck’s perfect visit with a goal with 1:25 remaining.

Canucks coach Travis Green noted after Monday’s 4-0 setback that his team “played their asses” off. They did again Wednesday, but that alone wasn’t nearly enough against the impressive Jets.

Maybe the next time the Canucks see Hellebuyck, they should aim for his posts. Maybe they’ll miss and the puck will go in the net because aiming for the corners hasn’t worked. Vancouver hit the post or crossbar seven times in the two games and on Wednesday actually outshot an opponent (39-36) for the first time in 14 games.

The Canucks didn’t get what they deserved, but they’ve earned their record, 16-18-3, which makes their fantastical ambition of still making the playoffs all but impossible.

Starting next Wednesday against the Calgary Flames, a home game that is followed by another hilarious seven-game, 12-night road trip, the Canucks may need to win 15 of their final 19 games to make the Stanley Cup tournament. And life amid COVID-19 will be back to normal by last summer.

It was a nice thought, but proved spectacularly optimistic.

Luckily, hockey is just hockey. But the NHL is a business, too, and Benning needs to undertake the serious business of leveraging a handful of expiring contracts to see what he is able to extract for his rental players from teams more certain of needing lineup depth for the Stanley Cup tournament.

The NHL trade deadline is April 12.

Canucks defencemen Alex Edler, Travis Hamonic and Jordie Benn, and forwards Tanner Pearson, Brandon Sutter, Jimmy Vesey and Travis Boyd – the latter two claimed recently on waivers – are headed towards unrestricted free agency after this season.

In a “normal” season, several of those players would have value as experienced rentals.

Benning has rebuilt the Canucks core, but there remains obvious and critical work to be done in strengthening the bottom half of the Vancouver lineup.

The team just hasn’t been good enough this season, and after an admirable 7-1-1 push at the start of March, is suddenly back on a three-game losing streak, going again the wrong way in the North Division standings.

“I’m just trying to focus on the team that we have,” Canucks captain Bo Horvat, who played Wednesday after hobbling off the ice on Monday, said in the post-game Zoom call. “That’s not, obviously, anybody in the room’s job to figure out what’s going to happen. But we want to win with this group that we have here. It’s a great group of guys we have, guys that want to win here. I feel like we’ve been playing really good hockey as of late (but) it’s out of our hands what happens. We’ve just got to try to win hockey games.”

They certainly tried against the Jets.

But in a second period Wednesday in which they registered 20 shots, the Canucks surrendered the game’s first three goals on mistakes. They took consecutive too-many-men penalties and couldn’t kill either of them, and Mark Scheifele made it 3-0 Winnipeg on rebound at 18:13 after Hamonic passed the puck into a turnover while fellow blue-liner Tyler Myers had already been stuck on the ice for more than two minutes.

Myers needed oxygen and an IV, not a bounce pass from Hamonic.

Andrew Copp scored twice more for the Jets in the third period, completing his hat trick at 17:34 after scoring into an empty net a couple of minutes earlier.

“I didn’t like the two penalties that we took for too many men, and I didn’t like our penalty kill,” Green said. “And that was probably the difference in the game.”

Asked if getting none of the four points available against the Jets are the toughest losses so far in a season when there has been too many for the Canucks, Green said: “I think later in the year, as the games go on, they do tend to sting a little bit (to lose), especially when you play well.

“We talked about raising our game to find a way to win, and sometimes you play a pretty decent game and things don’t go the way you want. So, does it sting? Yeah, a little bit. But they should, though. That’s why we play the games — because they matter. You feel great when you win, and when you lose, they’re supposed to hurt.”

It has been a painful season.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


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.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


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.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


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)

Continue Reading