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Jets' statement win over Maple Leafs caps off exemplary road trip –



WINNIPEG – This was a classic case of actions speaking so much louder than words for the Winnipeg Jets.

At a time when the magnifying glass was firmly planted on this first-place showdown with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Jets showed a renewed commitment to defence and put an exclamation point on an exemplary road trip with a 5-2 triumph on Saturday night in the centre of the hockey universe.

And after that final buzzer had sounded, Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry and Jets head coach Paul Maurice were singing from the same hymn book.

None of them were about to pound on their respective chests or waste any time patting themselves on the back for a job well done.

Despite taking five of six points against a Maple Leafs club that dismantled the last challenger to the throne to the tune of a 13-1 composite score in a three-game sweep, the Jets treated the endeavour as though it was just another day at the office.

This was the type of game they routinely want to play, whether it’s against the class of the North Division or the cellar-dwelling Ottawa Senators.

If members of the media or the outside world wants to call this a statement game or a measuring stick series, so be it.

The Jets call it another step in the process, another brick in the wall.

“Oh for sure, obviously we’re very, very happy with the way this series went. But every game is a measuring stick,” said Scheifele, who scored his 12th goal of the season and is sitting fifth in NHL scoring with 36 points in 27 games. “You can’t just rest on your laurels and think about just this game and this series. You’ve got to focus on continuing to get better.

“Those are the teams that have success in the playoffs, the teams that keep on ramping it up as the year goes on and we’ve got to use this great series and take it for the rest of the season and know when we’re at our best, what makes us the best team we can be and keep on working toward that.”

Keeping that perspective is essential for the Jets.

Sure, the success from the past three games is to be celebrated, but only one of those outings included something that resembles a template suitable for a sustained run of success.

This was a glimpse into the type of effort the Jets want to provide on a more consistent basis.

“I don’t know. You always want to play your best and get results,” Lowry said. “Good teams not only find ways to win games, but get it to overtime. In Game 1, they kind of turned it up on us in the third period. It’s important there’s a bit of a pushback. We know that as a team we could play a little tighter, a little better.

“But I think (Saturday) definitely was the best effort of the three games. I don’t know if we were necessarily looking to make a statement, we were just trying to finish the road trip on the right foot and I think we’re happy with how the road trip went.”

No matter how you slice it, you can be sure the Jets came away from this series with a serious jolt of confidence.

Not only from Saturday’s game, but from the way the Jets responded after getting shelled 7-1 by the Montreal Canadiens on March 6.

Jets captain Blake Wheeler was quick to proclaim that was nothing but an outlier – and his teammates spent the next three games backing up those words.

After leaning heavily on goalie Connor Hellebuyck during the first two games of the series, Maurice turned to backup Laurent Brossoit for the series finale in what was both a show of confidence and an opportunity to get his No. 1 guy a three-day block of rest in a month where the Jets play 17 games in 31 days.

As he’s done basically every time his number has been called this season, Brossoit delivered, even if there were some challenges to work through, including an early goal which was disallowed due to a hand pass after a video review was required and biting on a William Nylander fake that opened up just enough room for him to squeeze a shot through the pads.

Brossoit, who made 20 saves and won a fourth consecutive start, wasn’t overworked as the Jets neutralized the Maple Leafs’ potent attack in what was the most complete defensive effort put forth this season.

“We didn’t get ahead of ourselves in the defensive zone. We weren’t trying to get it to a next place,” Maurice said. “We just stayed in the battle and stayed in the fight. I thought we were a little ahead of the game in our first two. We were trying to get stuff going, right? We were trying to generate, and I thought we were really effective at being comfortable in our own end.

“They’re such a powerful, offensive team, and they have a unique way of controlling the puck that you’re going to spend some time in your end regardless of how well you play. I thought we were there as five and committed to it.”

That’s the thing.

After hearing ad nauseam about how the Maple Leafs had carried the bulk of the play and generated a lopsided amount of quality scoring chances this week, the Jets went out and did something about it.

They flat-out smothered their high-octane opponent, while showing off their own offensive chops in the process.

Despite giving up a shorthanded goal to Jake Muzzin in the second period, the Jets found a way to win the special-teams battle, delivering a pair of power play goals in the third from Nikolaj Ehlers that made it 4-2 and another from Scheifele that came on a two-man advantage.

The game-winner was courtesy of Lowry, who snapped a 19-game drought and finished with a two-point night after setting up Mason Appleton for the opening marker of the contest.

Just how good was the Jets’ third line, which includes Andrew Copp, on this evening?

“I wouldn’t number them three, that’s how good,” quipped Maurice. “They were true to identity, It’s not a line you put on the ice necessarily to hold water anymore. That’s the vision for that line. They’ll just generate it in a different way — net drive, with a battle behind the net, those close plays behind the net. They were really good.”

By wrapping up the five-game road trip with a record of 3-1-1, the Jets banked seven important points and pulled within four points of the Maple Leafs for top spot in the North – and they’ll hold three games in hand by the time the Jets play again.

As important as this stretch was for the Jets – and this development can’t be discounted – the next test is just around the corner, as the Canadiens serve as the opponent on Monday and will attempt to regroup after dropping consecutive games to the Calgary Flames under new bench boss Darryl Sutter.

So it goes in the North, where one day a team dreams of being in a battle for first and just a few days later, it’s only natural to be looking over your shoulder at a club or two with plans of passing you.

With the midway point of the season arriving on Monday for the Jets, one thing is certain: the hard work is just beginning, but that gap between them and the Maple Leafs might not be as wide as most observers thought it was.

The best news is that there are six more head-to-head games left on the docket to sort that out – and neither team will be lacking motivation when the next one arrives on March 31.

“Honestly it doesn’t mean that much,” said Scheifele when asked about the value this series could potentially have down the road. “We’re still going to play them a bunch more times this year and playoffs are a ways away. Both teams are going to be a lot different come playoff time, but they’re obviously fun to play against. They’re a fantastic team, a lot of really, really fun players to watch on their team and it’s always a fun battle against the Leafs.”

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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.

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 –



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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