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Flames’ new attitude under Sutter leading to instant success –



The newfound swagger is undeniable.

So is the fact Darryl Sutter has found a way to tap into the all-for-one and one-for-all attitude it will take for the Calgary Flames to continue chasing down a playoff spot.

On Monday night the team extended its winning streak to three under Sutter, employing a swarming defensive structure that put a stop to the traditional dominance Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have had over their southern rivals.

Sure, the duo hooked up for a goal that tied the game 3-3 early in the third.

But instead of wilting, as the team would have done earlier this year when surrendering a 3-1 lead, a gorgeous finish from Noah Hanifin one minute later was good enough for the Flames to continue rolling with a 4-3 win.

“It’s a great sign,” said Hanifin, who scored his third goal in five outings by collecting a great drop pass from Andrew Mangiapane and roofing it over Mike Smith’s blocker.

“Obviously we’ve dealt with some adversity and with Darryl coming in we’ve rebounded pretty well and put together a few big games. I think guys are starting to play their roles, compete, and work hard and play a full 60 minutes. We’ve got a deep team and I think we’re doing a good job utilizing everybody. We’ve still got some ways to climb a bit, but we’re going in the right direction.”

Now just five points behind the third-place Oilers with two games in hand, the Flames sit just two back of Montreal for the fourth spot.

On this night they got there with significant efforts from a long list of contributors, backing Sutter’s recent assertion that his team isn’t exactly star-studded compared to divisional rivals.

• Mangiapane, Elias Lindholm and Dillon Dube all had a goal and an assist, which included Lindholm’s second-period steal from McDavid that sent Dube in alone for the game-opening strike.

Mikael Backlund did well to shut down the Oilers’ big guns, adding two assists in the process. Stick tap to all his teammates for a commitment to defence that held the Oilers to four first period shots.

Brett Ritchie responded to a first period headshot from Jujhar Khaira on a prone Oliver Kylington by dropping the mitts with the Oilers mucker. The towering Ritchie quickly knocked Khaira out, prompting him to need help leaving the ice due to a potential concussion. Khaira will likely face some disciplinary action from the league for the hit.

• Kylington left the game to be checked out but returned with a dashing offensive foray that set up Lindholm’s goal, putting the Flames up 2-0 early in a five-goal second period.

Jacob Markstrom made 28 saves, but none bigger than the blocker stop on Jesse Puljujarvi in the final minute of the game.

Milan Lucic acquitted himself well on the shutdown line, adding some offence by stealing the puck from a wandering Smith late in the second period before feeding Mangiapane to put the Flames up 3-1.

Nine periods into the latest Sutter era the Flames have yet to trail, which is a significant development for a team known for its slow starts and wild inconsistencies.

They’ve held on tight to third-period leads, kept scoring chances to a minimum and on Monday stepped up — literally — when the momentum had a chance at reversing on them.

That’s when Hanifin joined the rush for his game-winner.

“It was a huge response,” said the 24-year-old defenceman who continues to find more opportunities to explore his offensive game. “When you’re playing a team like that, the game’s going to be really intense and it’s going to go back and forth a bit. It was a huge rebound for us.”

Lindholm’s reversal of fortune on McDavid to set up Dube’s goal was an equally impressive effort, which fits into Sutter’s increased demands on his centres to control play.

“I just tried to get back as soon as McDavid got the puck, and he’s a little bit faster than me,” chuckled Lindholm, who stripped a streaking McDavid of the puck and sent Dube in alone.

“It is a great track and he created all of it — to be able to turn that puck over was huge,” added Dube, who beat Smith between the legs. “They had a lot of speed going the other way and had numbers.”

Forever asking his players for more, Sutter reiterated the numbers in the big picture still aren’t what they need to be.

“We’re still behind the eight-ball and if this was our last game of the year we can say we won but we didn’t make the playoffs,” said Sutter, whose club hosts Edmonton again Wednesday.

“There’s lots of things we can get better at.”

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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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