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Jets answer Maurice’s challenge with complete effort vs. Canucks –



WINNIPEG — The offensive well was running a bit dry.

Going six periods without a five-on-five goal is certainly going to catch the attention of most head coaches and Paul Maurice was no different.

After the Winnipeg Jets bench boss saw his team get blanked 4-0 by the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night, Maurice made a notable admission about some bad habits creeping in and a plea to his players to simplify things in the offensive zone.

No, Maurice wasn’t asking his skilled players to abandon their creativity entirely, nor was he asking this group to adopt a shoot-from-anywhere mentality just to generate a few additional clicks on the shot clock.

But when a good scoring chance presents itself, don’t necessarily look for the perfect play or the seam pass for the backdoor tap-in.

The message was not a complicated one: be more direct.

It took just over five minutes for the approach to be rewarded and by the time the final buzzer sounded, the Jets had earned a decisive 5-2 victory over the Canucks in what was one of the most complete efforts they’d put forth this season.

Not only did the Jets improve to 14-7-1 to move into sole possession of second place in the North Division, but they’re also now 6-0-1 when coming off a loss and have yet to drop consecutive games in regulation time through 22 games.

“Short-term memory,” said Jets forward Paul Stastny. “A lot of times, you’re playing the same team again, so you want to get the edge early on. But more than anything, it’s just been the mindset that we’ve had from the start with Paul (Maurice) is all about if you can try to get a winning streak, do it. But as important as that is, getting off a losing streak as quick as possible is important too.”

The premise of not wanting to drop consecutive games is standard fare, but the ability to actually achieve that common goal is much more difficult.

This game represents another example of the Jets’ steely resolve — and a glimpse of the template they’re trying to employ on a regular basis.

Getting the offensive engine fired up again after getting shut out for the first time this season was important, but the Jets were also stingy defensively and paid close attention to the details.

They used their speed to be disruptive on the forecheck, they got a power-play goal and another technically-sound performance from backup goalie Laurent Brossoit, who made 30 saves to improve to 4-1 this season.

“I don’t want to get too confident, too cocky,” said Brossoit, who raised his save percentage to .936 and lowered his goals-against average to 2.19. “It’s the best league in the world and there’s great players out there, so I like to keep myself pretty grounded and realistic. I just prepare as best I can and hope that my best is better than anyone else in the league.”

Brossoit’s best to this point has been downright sensational.

There is no need to be on high alert when the Jets turn to the No. 2 man on the depth chart, his teammates realize they can count on him.

“This year, every time (Brossoit) got in net, he got the job done for us,” said Jets winger Mathieu Perreault. “He’s been rock solid. And the same with (Connor Hellebuyck). This is a key for every team that wants to contend for a Stanley Cup. You’ve got to have a goalie that makes the save, and we are lucky to have two of them that can do that.”

After being held off the scoresheet in consecutive games for the first time this season, Jets centre Mark Scheifele chipped in three assists.

Scheifele, who was on the receiving end of a big check from Alex Edler in the first period on Tuesday, has collected at least a point in 18 of 22 games this season and has recorded three points on four occasions as he increased his totals to 11 goals and 31 points.

The newly-formed top line of Scheifele between Blake Wheeler (an empty-net goal and two assists) and Stastny (an insurance goal) had a strong night, but the complementary players were also right in the middle of the action.

Aside from Perreault’s important contribution, Mason Appleton established a career-high with his sixth goal of the season to get the Jets on the board.

Not only has Appleton been able to solidify his spot on the Jets’ checking line, but he’s also blossoming as a penalty killer and showing off the offensive flair that was on display when he put up 66 points as a rookie pro with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.

“You go into every season, you always want more,” said Appleton. “I’m still a young player in this league. I’m playing more minutes and that gives me more confidence and lets my game evolve.

“You don’t just get bigger, faster, stronger overnight. It’s a product of years and a product of opportunity. I’ve really liked my development path and I’m going to keep my foot on the gas and keep trying to get better every single day.”

Appleton is a shining example for some of the young guys in the Jets’ system who are currently having trouble getting into the lineup or are currently down in the minors.

“He’s really developed into accepting a style of play that he can excel at,” said Maurice. “So, it’s different than Nikolaj Ehlers or Kyle Connor. It’s a different style of game. Killing penalties, playing with Adam (Lowry), they play against the other team’s best an awful lot. And there’s offence there, it’s just going to look different. It’s going to be a different style.

“(Tuesday) was a perfect example. Drive the net twice, once for a goal, once for a drawn penalty that leads to a goal. That’s real offence. That’s not a less-skilled offensive game. As a matter of fact, as the games become, as you move close and closer to the playoffs and into the playoffs, that’s the style of game that’s played and he should be able to excel in that.”

When asked about the contributions of Appleton and Perreault, Brossoit’s face lit up and he was bursting with pride.

“I see those guys practice hard, I see those guys preparing for the game,” said Brossoit. “(With) how little ice time they get and to still be effective is something I can relate to. And seeing guys like that playing so well lately, it’s great to see.”

With 12 of the next 14 games on the road and 17 games in 31 days during the month of March, the Jets are staring at the most difficult portion of the schedule.

This survival-of-the-fittest stretch continues with a five-game road trip that begins with two games against the Montreal Canadiens (beginning Thursday) and a three-game series with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Can the Jets (who have won five of the past six games) keep it up and possibly start closing the gap for top spot between themselves and the Maple Leafs?

It won’t take long to find out.

At a time when it seems like several North Division teams are frequently dealing with a potential crisis, the Jets feel like they’re just starting to get into a groove.

“Every time you put points in the standings and you see the name of your team moving on up, it’s a good feeling,” said Perreault. “This is the feeling that we want to keep around this locker room. It’s nice to be sitting there right now (in second place) and going on the road, hopefully we can keep going up.”

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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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