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Copp, Hellebuyck lead way as Jets edge Leafs, gain ground in North – TSN

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TORONTO — The Winnipeg Jets could have dissected every goal against and mistake made in the aftermath of a forgettable night in Montreal.

The team’s veteran roster instead did what it’s done a lot this season — they flushed it and moved forward.

And now the Jets have the North Division leaders squarely in their sights.

Connor Hellebuyck made 36 saves as Winnipeg defeated Toronto 4-3 on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game series to climb within five points of the Maple Leafs for top spot.

The Jets were run out of the Bell Centre over the weekend in a 7-1 thrashing by the Canadiens that brought a four-game winning streak to a screeching halt, but liked a lot of their performances in the leadup to that miserable showing where nothing went according to the plan.

“We weren’t very good, right?” Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice said looking back to Saturday. “The whole entire team’s minus, both goalies don’t like their game.

“That wasn’t who we were.”

Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey, who scored his first goal of the campaign Tuesday and played a season-high 29 minutes after Nathan Beaulieu left with an injury, said his group’s composure stood out in the wake of the Montreal mauling as Winnipeg improved to 7-0-1 following a regulation loss in 2020-21.

“Nobody panicked,” he said. “It’s not like the next day we were singling guys out in video and going through all seven goals in slow motion where it feels like the world is ending, but just keeping an even-keel approach.

“It’s a 56-game season and we are going to have some of those here and there. You’ve got to let it go. We had a great practice (Monday), and I bet you no one was even thinking about that coming into the game.”

Andrew Copp, with a goal and an assist, Kyle Connor and Mason Appleton also scored for Winnipeg (16-8-1). Neal Pionk added three assists and Nikolaj Ehlers had a pair for the Jets, who have two games in hand on the Leafs.

“We didn’t go searching,” said Hellebuyck, who allowed four goals on 19 shots Saturday. “We all believed in our game and we stuck to it. You could tell guys were hungry.

“They didn’t let it weigh in a negative way on their brains.”

Auston Matthews, with his NHL-best 19th and 20th goals of the season, and Zach Hyman replied for Toronto (18-7-2). Frederik Andersen stopped 19 shots as the Leafs dropped their third straight in regulation.

“It wasn’t a bad game, but it definitely wasn’t our best,” Matthews said. “We had really good moments at times and had the puck in their zone, and were creating lots of chances. I thought in the third period we had a couple of really good looks.

“You gotta tip your hat to their goalie.”

The Leafs, who returned home returned home following back-to-back defeats to the Vancouver Canucks after sweeping the Edmonton Oilers three straight by a combined 13-1 scoreline, and Jets play eight more times between now and April 24, including Thursday and Saturday back at Scotiabank Arena.

“We’re just going through it here a little bit,” Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Every team goes through those stretches like this, but I think there’s lots for us to take away from it.

“We were right there in every game … we could have very easily gotten points out of each.”

Down 2-1 through 20 minutes, Winnipeg got even at 12:45 of the second period when Matthews tried to block Morrissey’s point shot, but instead saw it glance off his airborne skate and fool Andersen.

The Jets then went ahead for the first time with 2:18 left when Ehlers showed great patience off the rush before finding Connor from behind the Toronto net to bury his 12th on a bad Leafs change.

The Leafs had a couple of chances to make it 3-1 earlier in the period before Winnipeg equalized when Alexander Kerfoot had a chance from the slot on Hellebuyck and Ilya Mikheyev fanned on a tap-in off a pass from Morgan Rielly.

Down to five defenceman after Beaulieu took a shot off his hand, the Jets also came close as Mathieu Perreault was denied in tight by Andersen, while Blake Wheeler saw his sneaky deflection smothered by the Toronto goaltender.

Hellebuyck robbed Mitch Marner from point blank four minutes into the third as the Leafs came out of the intermission with more purpose. But the Jets made it 4-2 at 7:53 when Appleton took a little pass from Copp before stepping around a sprawling Rielly and beating Andersen to score his seventh.

Toronto’s goalie then stopped Wheeler on a breakaway with four minutes left in regulation to keep his team close.

Matthews scored his 20th of the campaign with 1:54 left in regulation and Andersen on the bench to make it 4-3, but the home side wouldn’t get any closer as Hellebuyck and some key shot blocks late made the difference.

“He made some huge saves in the third,” Morrissey said of his netminder. “He was rock solid.”

The Leafs, who beat the Jets 3-1 in Toronto on Jan. 18 in the teams’ only meeting, opened the scoring at 8:16 of the first when Hyman took a pass from T.J. Brodie in his own zone and sliced through a porous Winnipeg defence before roofing his eighth on Hellebuyck.

The visitors tied it on their second man advantage at 12:20 when Copp recovered a loose puck and then finished off the sequence by tipping Pionk’s point shot home for his fifth.

But Toronto got that one back when the league’s top-ranked power play connected for the 26th time in 27 games as Matthews, who’s been bothered by a wrist/hand injury and had failed to score in his last five outings, tipped his 19th past Hellebuyck off Rielly’s point shot before the Jets grabbed hold of things in the second.

“That’s a very good team,” Keefe said. “But you either have winning habits or you have losing habits. When you have losing habits, you end up giving up free goals. When you’re not scoring enough (to overcome mistakes), you lose games.

“We’ve got to get back to having consistent, winning habits.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 9, 2021.

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

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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 – Sportsnet.ca

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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

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(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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