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Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Campbell, Matthews, Spezza, Holl & More – The Hockey Writers

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The Toronto Maple Leafs came into last night’s game well-rested and atop of the North Division’s standing. The Ottawa Senators were playing their third game in four nights and were at the bottom of the North Division’s standings. The Maple Leafs should have won, and they did. But it was far from easy.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Jack Campbell Is a Teammate You Want on the Roster

In this post, I’ll comment on the game and some of the reasons the Maple Leafs prevailed. I’ll also share what this game might mean going forward as the team prepares to play the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

Item One: Jack Campbell’s Still Perfect, Except He Needs Some Practice

The Jack Campbell mini-era (it’s really only been five games) remains perfect. He was in goal for the second straight game on Thursday against the Senators and he moved the dial to a record of 5-0-0. With injured starter Frederik Andersen out for at least another week, Campbell is the guy.

Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

So far, so good for the Maple Leafs. During last night’s game, he let in only two goals on 31 shots and his team hung in there to score late in overtime to increase its modest winning streak to two games. What was most interesting is that fans have perhaps seen something Campbell’s really not very good at – at least not on this night. 

From what I can see this season, it looks as if Campbell simply suffocates the puck when it comes toward him. It looks like it goes into some sort of a vacuum cleaner. As a result, he seldom allows rebounds that his players are responsible to clear out in front of them. He also seems calm and relaxed when the game is in front of him.

That said, he’s not the Edmonton Oilers’ Mike Smith with the puck. Smith is perhaps the best puck-moving goalie I’ve seen. Campbell is not that. In fact, last night his puck-handling skills – or lack thereof – almost cost his team the game. Two mistakes: two Senators’ goals.

I’m a huge Campbell fan and I love his game and character, but he’s not perfect. Still, in what was a bit of a different game for the Maple Leafs, the depth of the team stood out and, with goals from Ilya Mikheyev (his fifth of the season), fourth-line future Hall of Famer Jason Spezza (his eighth of the season), and seldom-scoring Justin Holl (his second of the season), the team survived a surprising tough Ottawa team.

Campbell’s goals-against-average is now at 1.18  and his save percentage is now at a .958 this season – both numbers are remarkable. Those numbers might drop over the season, but Campbell still looks capable in net – except for his mistakes handling the puck. 

Item Two: Auston Matthews Leads Without Scoring

After the game, Spezza said about Auston Matthews: ”He’s just elevated his game in so many ways. The great players have the sense to be big in the big moments. ”Auston has that.”

Without Matthews defensive play in overtime, the Maple Leafs would not have scored and – in fact – might have been scored upon. With little time left in the overtime period, it looked as if the Senators had a three-on-one break headed toward Campbell. Somehow, Matthews anticipated where Thomas Chabot’s pass was heading and blocked it with his body. He then had the presence of mind to play it onto his stick and drive on net. 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Approaching the net, Matthews made a modified move similar to the one he used to beat Winnipeg Jets’ goalie Connor Hellebuyck recently.  His first shot nearly beat Senators’ goalie Anton Forsberg. But, Mitch Marner was able to jump on the loose puck and passed it to Holl. Holl fired it past Forsberg for the game-winner. 

Related: Tim Peel Firing Could Affect Connor McDavid Calls Going Forward

That was Matthews’ assist on the night and perhaps the best secondary assist on the season. Spezza is right: Matthews is amazing.

Item Three: Jason Spezza Now Has Three Goals in Three Games

I’m so glad that no one picked up Jason Spezza when general manager Kyle Dubas placed him on waivers earlier this season. To my mind, he’s such a huge part of this team and where it might go during the 2020-21 season. Spezza scored his eighth goal of the season and his third goal in three games. 

Is it my imagination, or is every goal that Spezza scores different? Two games ago, he squeezed in a seeing-eye shot. Last night he simply blasted the goal into the net from long distance. That goal gave his team a 2-1 lead in the middle of the third period, which – of course – led Matthews and Holl’s overtime heroics.

Toronto Maple Leafs Jason Spezza
Toronto Maple Leafs Jason Spezza (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov)

The 37-year-old Spezza still has plenty left in his tank. Don’t you have the feeling he’s really enjoying this season, including playing with another future Hall of Famer in Joe Thornton? Both still have plenty of game.

Item Four: Justin Holl Scores His Second Goal of the Season

It would be wrong in this post not to specifically say something about Justin Holl’s game and generally about his season. He’s grown tons over the past four seasons and is becoming a stronger defenseman. Last night he was in the right place at the right time to convert Marner’s pass into the game-winning goal for a 3-2 win over a surprisingly strong Ottawa team.

But on the season, his defense and comfort level have seemed to improve and he’s growing into a keeper for the Maple Leafs. For me, he’s one of the surprises of the season. Holl’s shot was perfect last night, and he now is up to three points during his last eight games. If you’re counting, this was Holl’s sixth goal of his NHL career.

What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs moved two points ahead of the idle and well-rested Edmonton Oilers, and will meet them on Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada. With last night’s win, the Maple Leafs pushed their lead in the North Division to two points over both the Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets. 

Related: Auston Matthews Is Better than Leon Draisaitl

Saturday’s game should be a test of two strong teams. As I noted, their goalies have different styles, which adds an element of interest to the game.



The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act). He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf

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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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