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Jets’ resiliency contributing to team’s success in close games –



WINNIPEG – Perhaps it was fitting the topic of resilience was on the plate of Paul Maurice in the hours leading up to puck drop.

The head coach of the Winnipeg Jets couldn’t have predicted his high-scoring team would only be able to generate two shots on goal in the third period of a tie game and 19 overall, forced to hang on for dear life, just to get to overtime and to bank the single point that accompanies it.

Maurice couldn’t have known he would have to dig into his bag of tricks to employ the aggressive three-forward approach to start the bonus hockey portion of the evening – a strategy that has now worked perfectly twice after Saturday’s 2-1 overtime triumph over the Canadiens that came 36 seconds into the extra session.

“It’s a guarantee that adversity is coming and it’s a guarantee that stretches of time, whether it’s a period or a game or a week, that’s going to happen to you in the NHL,” Maurice said after the morning skate. “And your ability to have resilient leaders that come in the next day after a tough day and go back to work and not let themselves slip into despair or worse, disbelief in the fact that you can win. That would be the intangible that I think I value the most.”

Instead of lamenting an off night, the Jets could take a deep breath, knowing they had found a way to win when they clearly weren’t at their best.

That’s ultimately what building resilience is all about.

“You’ve got to go through a little bit of adversity. You’ve got to fail a little bit and you’ve got to realize what it feels like to lose and to lose tight games or big games,” said Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who was an essential piece in the process, turning aside 40 of 41 shots on goal that he faced. “You’ve got to remember how bad it feels and maybe that gives you a little boost and a little bit of extra energy when you really need it.”

Although he didn’t reference the specifics in his statement, it seemed clear that part of what Hellebuyck was referencing were the two earlier losses the Jets suffered in the final 10 seconds of regulation time.

Those are the types of heartbreaking moments that can lead to self-doubt if you let them linger.

But that’s not something the Jets have allowed to happen with regularity.

Instead, they’ve made a habit of being able to rally and to put deficits behind them – winning six times when trailing after one period.

That’s a testament to the Jets depth up front and offensive flair, but there is also a correlation to the belief the Jets have in their masked men.

“There’s a lot of confidence in our room,” said Jets centre Andrew Copp. “Like the other night, we’re down two but we feel like we can score on any given shift. I think we have a lot of confidence in our offensive game and are able to come back and a lot of confidence in our goaltender to keep us in it, not let that lead get to three or four. On any given night it can kind of be any line and we’ve kind of proved that over the course of the season so far.”

The only shot to sneak past Hellebuyck on Saturday night was a sharp-angle special, a bank job from behind the goal line by Nick Suzuki.

For many teams that don’t employ a Vezina-calibre netminder, it was the type of marker that can be deflating or even back-breaking.

The kind of goal that potentially opens the floodgates.

For Hellebuyck, it merely heightened his focus.

“It was one of those goals that you could do that 99 out of 100 times and it’s not going to go in,” said Hellebuyck. “I got caught on the one, which seems to be a theme this year, but I felt good in the game and just followed it up on the save to add momentum to me.”

This isn’t a one-off either.

Hellebuyck has built enough of a reservoir of resources to lean on in this department, not allowing a single moment to knock him off track.

“There’s a sense though, in our room, that when Connor gives up a goal like he did, you’re going to have a really, really hard time getting the next one,” said Maurice. “There’s a faith in our goaltender.”

That faith is well-founded and it’s an important part of the Jets success, as they won for a fourth consecutive and improved to 13-6-1 through 20 games of this 56-game schedule.

The Jets aren’t a finished product and they aren’t without flaws as they approach the midway point.

They also aren’t letting the pack run away from them either, they’re actually beginning to create a bit of separation.

At a time that was supposed to start providing a few clues about where the Jets actually stand in the North Division, they’ve found a way to take some important steps forward as they prepare for a two-game set with the Vancouver Canucks on Monday and Tuesday to round out this four-game homestand.

The Jets are tied for third in goals for per game (3.55), eighth in goals against (2.60 goals against per game) and boast a goal differential of plus-16, good for third in the NHL and behind only the Tampa Bay Lightning (plus-30) and Toronto Maple Leafs (plus-23).

Building blocks are being put down and this group is learning how to win – which isn’t necessarily as easy as it sounds.

Especially on a night when the Jets were clearly not clicking on all cylinders against a desperate Canadiens team that made a coaching change earlier this week.

“You’re going to have games like that,” said Jets centre Paul Stastny, who delivered the OT winner on Saturday. “When things aren’t going your way, you’ve just got to find a way. Whether you get a point or two points, sometimes you grind those wins out or sometimes you grind those overtime points out, and (Saturday) was a perfect example of that.”

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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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