TSN Toronto Reporter Mark Masters reports on the Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers (optional), who held skates at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday.
A lot has changed since the Leafs outscored the Oilers 13-1 while sweeping three games in late February and early March. Toronto has just one regulation win in nine games since then (3-6-0). The Oilers, meanwhile, have won seven of nine to creep to within two points of the division leaders.
And yet that three-game set in Edmonton remains fresh in the mind of figures on both sides of this rivalry.
“We played as good as we have and I don’t think we got the best that Edmonton has,” said coach Sheldon Keefe. “I expect here now, with the week off and how things went the last time, that Edmonton is going to be at their very best and we have to find our way back to what we looked like out there. It’s a good opportunity for us to do that. It’s a great challenge. They’re back playing extremely well and back confident once again and motivation won’t be lacking for them.”
Connor McDavid was held without a point in the three previous games against his hometown team. Since then, he’s been on the scoresheet nine straight times with 20 total points.
“We have to show not only to them, but to ourselves that we can play with these guys and we can beat these guys,” McDavid said. “We’ve done it before.”
The Leafs and Oilers had split the first four games of the season series before the domination in Edmonton.
“Any time you get whacked around for three games at home, you know, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth,” said Mike Smith, who gets the start for the Oilers. “I feel like tonight we have no excuse but to come out with our best game and hopefully that’s good enough to get a win.”
Mitch Marner says that Toronto is looking to replicate “as much as possible” from that last series against Edmonton. The recipe for success against the high-octane Oilers is clear.
“Make sure we’re staying above [them] and not giving up too many odd-man rushes,” Marner outlined. “We know they’re a deadly team off the rush so just got to make sure everyone is doing their part, being smart out there, and not diving in too much.”
“We’re prepared for them to make a push and play hard and be a motivated bunch,” said defenceman Morgan Rielly. “We didn’t allow too many odd-man rushes and we played to our structure. We made it tough for them coming through the neutral zone, clogged it up pretty good, and we’re going to have to replicate that.”
The first three games of the Oilers road trip were postponed due to the Canadiens’ COVID situation.
“A strange week,” said McDavid. “It’s been boring, honestly. That’s the first word that comes to mind. It’s almost been a little bit of a bye week, I guess. We should be rested. Guys should have legs. Guys should have energy. Sometimes when you’re coming off a delay like this the attention to detail or the little things can be missed so it’s important to dial that in right away.”
During his six seasons in the National Hockey League, McDavid’s played six games in Toronto. He has played here on a Monday, Tuesday, twice on a Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. So, is there any extra meaning to playing in Toronto on a Saturday?
“Absolutely,” McDavid said. “The league likes to try to sneak us through here on a Monday, Wednesday night so for us to get a Saturday night game is exciting. As a kid, obviously, you watch Saturday night hockey and growing up in the Toronto area that was always the Leafs so it’s exciting to be able to play here on a Saturday.”
McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have looked great while playing on the same line of late, which is something the Leafs didn’t see consistently during the three-game sweep.
“He passes the puck so well,” McDavid said of the reigning Hart Trophy winner. “We think a lot alike. We’ve been playing together for a long time now and kind of understand what each other is thinking and what we’ll be doing. Obviously, a special player and always fun to get the chance to line up beside him.”
“They’re pretty deadly together,” noted Marner. “They know where each other is going to be. You got to be ready. When you think a pass can’t be made, they’re pretty good at finding a way to get it there.”
McDavid and Draisaitl skated on the same line at Friday’s practice, but Dave Tippett was noncommittal when asked about playing them together in Toronto.
“It’s just a tool that we use,” the coach said on Saturday. “They play a lot together during the game whether it’s power play or certain shifts here and there and then there are times when we want to play them together all the time. It just gives a different dimension to our team. They’re both top, top players and the individual skill-set they bring is immense so you put them together and you’re just doubling that.”
Keefe shuffled his lines this morning, moving Joe Thornton back to the top line with Auston Matthews and Marner. Wayne Simmonds moved to the second line with John Tavares and William Nylander.
“I’ve wanted to get Simmonds back with Tavares and Nylander,” Keefe explained. “That line, to me, when Wayne left our lineup, was just starting to get going. I thought it’s the best trio we’ve had there. Those guys were really going and had a lot of opportunities and Wayne was bringing a lot to the line so I’ve been wanting to go back with that.”
Simmonds played a couple games with Tavares and Nylander before breaking his wrist on Feb. 6 and missing six weeks. He has played the last two games with Matthews and Marner.
Matthews and Marner, meanwhile, are likely to see a lot of Edmonton’s top line tonight and Keefe likes how his No. 97 has handled things when on the ice against the Oilers No. 97.
“Joe has played really good hockey against the Edmonton Oilers this season,” Keefe said. “Defensively, especially, with what he’s brought to those guys and how he’s played against Edmonton’s best players. He’s done a really good job. Very conscious of when they’re out there and how he needs to play so wanted to get that back.”
Newcomer Alex Galchenyuk, who had been with Tavares and Nylander, moved to the fourth line with Alex Kerfoot and Jason Spezza.
“Galchenyuk, getting him a good opportunity early was important,” Keefe said. “We got him in a good place here now and I like a lot about what he’s done. It’s nothing against what he brought to that line, but I have wanted to get Wayne in that place.”
Keefe also stressed it was important to keep the third line together. The trio of Pierre Engvall between Ilya Mikheyev and Zach Hyman had a coming-out party of sorts against the Oilers producing a goal in each game of the sweep. And Hyman really seemed to get under the skin of Smith in the final game of the series.
Kailer Yamamoto returns to the Oilers lineup for the first time since March 17.
“He’s just got to get back to playing how he was,” said Tippett. “He’s great on the forecheck. He keeps pucks alive. He’s got good skill to make plays. Smart defensive player. So, he just has to get his game back up and going again. It was an injury that kept him out a little longer than expected and now with the break that we had he’s back and 100 per cent healthy.”
Yamamoto skated on the second line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Dominik Kahun at Friday’s practice.
“He brings a lot of work,” McDavid said. “He works his tail off and works [to get] pucks back. He’s a good little player when he’s got the puck. Sometimes he defers a little bit too much, but that can happen with a young guy. When he’s confident, there’s not many wingers better to play with than that guy. He works as hard as I’ve seen anyone. He’s a guy that brings a lot of energy.”
Jack Campbell, who posted a shutout against the Oilers on Feb. 27, makes a third straight start for the Leafs. He’s vowing to be better with his puck touches after a pair of botched handles ended up in the net on Thursday in Ottawa.
“Those types of goals just can’t go in,” Campbell said. “Those are 100 percent on me, of course.”
Keefe said that Campbell made the right decision to play the puck both times, but could’ve been more assertive. The fact he’s only played five games this season makes it hard to get in a rhythm when it comes to moments like that, the coach noted.
Frederik Andersen still isn’t back on the ice. Toronto’s No. 1 goalie hasn’t skated since losing to the Flames on March 19.
“No real update yet,” said Keefe. “He’s had some different examinations and different things he’s had looked at … his return is not imminent. I expect we’ll have an update in the coming days.”
Lines at Leafs morning skate:
Thornton – Matthews – Marner
Nylander – Tavares – Simmonds
Mikheyev – Engvall – Hyman
Galchenyuk – Kerfoot – Spezza
Rielly – Brodie
Muzzin – Holl
Dermott – Bogosian
Power play units at Leafs morning skate:
1/20 in the last nine games
Matthews – Thornton – Marner
Nylander – Tavares – Spezza
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.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) April 12, 2021
The Buffalo Sabres retained half of the $8 million salary that Hall signed for prior to the start of the 2021 hockey season.
After acquiring Hall @ 50% & Lazar for Bjork, the #NHLBruins added $772K Cap Hit for remainder of year.
They have $24K of Projected Cap Space; $100K Annual Cap Hit that can be added, w/ 24 Active on Roster. Sending players to taxi would create more room.https://t.co/2o0hsHzUIy https://t.co/rXiRKKk3lt pic.twitter.com/I7ZRUSmSQp
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) April 12, 2021
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.
Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca
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.
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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