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Oilers pile on Senators as Tippett’s bet on McDavid-Draisaitl reunion pays off –



EDMONTON — The polite way to say it would be that the Ottawa Senators don’t match up really well against the Edmonton Oilers.

That Ottawa’s young, mistake-prone roster — outscored 5-2 on average over seven consecutive losses to Edmonton — is the wounded wildebeest to Edmonton’s pride of hungry lions. Or that the Senators’ creaky goaltending is the hanging curveball to the Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid’s green light on three-and-oh.

In reality, a season that has given us many unique visuals has given us one more: One team manhandling another seven times inside of 30 NHL games, beating them by an aggregate score of 34-15 while leaving a dent in the Senators’ pride the size of Marcus Hogberg’s 5.28 goals-against average versus Edmonton.

Even in the playoffs, they stop after four straight wins.

“I thought we played, for the most part a pretty good game,” said Brady Tkachuk after the latest massacre, a 6-2 thrashing Friday night in Edmonton. “There are always stretches where momentum shifts, but it definitely wasn’t a 6-2 game.”

It wasn’t?

“I don’t see a 6-2 game tonight,” echoed head coach D.J. Smith. “We can’t take that many penalties, against this power play, and they got some timely, lucky goals, I guess.

“We didn’t manage the puck the way we have to, but our effort was there.”

Look, I’ve covered the Oilers since about 1991. I’ve seen teams that own another team — specifically, the old Oilers — but the schedule never put the Sedins’ Vancouver Canucks, Nicklas Lidstrom’s Detroit Red Wings or Mike Modano’s Dallas Stars up against Edmonton seven times in a half-season of hockey.

Seven times in 29 games this year for Edmonton — nearly one-quarter of their 2021 campaign has been played against Ottawa, the sad-sack club that is responsible for 14 of Edmonton’s 36 points.

Yet, somehow, 6-2 on a Friday felt a whole lot better than 7-1 on Wednesday for the Senators.

“We learned a big lesson in the last game. We got out-worked, out-competed, and that should never happen,” said Tkachuk. “It was a big moment for us to step up and make sure we’re the team that worked the hardest.”

There is a fine line here, with due respect to a roster full of inexperienced young talents in Ottawa. An improved effort and competitive level in loss No. 7 is, we guess, in the parameters of a rebuild, a sign of progress.

But losing 6-2 two days after losing 7-1 can’t be something you clap yourself on the back over, though we understand how Smith is trying to build up his team’s confidence, not verbally dismantle it.

“Say whatever you want, those kids worked out there tonight. They competed hard,” he demanded, post-game. “We didn’t get the result we wanted, we just didn’t take care of the puck. But the effort and will to win was there.

“I think we deserved better tonight,” he said, before adding, “Their big guys — again — continue to give us major issues.”

Ya think?

Oilers head coach Dave Tippett would never admit it, but he was conducting a bit of an experiment this week. After more than a season of proving how effective they can be on separate lines, Tippett wanted to see what it would do to the overall balance, or the “rhythm” as he says, of his lineup if he put McDavid and Draisaitl back together.

Would he have done that if the week-long opponent was the Winnipeg Jets or Toronto Maple Leafs? We doubt it, and we won’t be surprised if they are back centering their own lines as soon as Monday in Calgary vs. the Flames. Or tonight in Vancouver.

But against Ottawa, Tippett gambled that his two superstars would bury the Senators all on their own, while the rest of his lines figured things out.

He was right: In seven games Draisaitl (seven goals, 10 assists) and McDavid (three goals, 13 assists) piled up 33 points.

A giveaway-prone Senators club just kept putting the ball on the tee for the NHL’s two leading scorers, and they kept striping it 300-plus down the middle of the fairway.

“In Edmonton, we’ve had our struggles (against them), but I thought we played right with them at home, where we could get a hard matchup,” Smith said. That’s fair — the scores were 3-2 and 3-1 in Ottawa, where the matchup was not nearly as lopsided as in Alberta.

“You also can’t take four penalties against that power play, and allow them free ice and feel the puck and feel good about themselves,” said Smith, considering the question about the bad matchup again. “That’s a fair assessment, but as our young guys continue to get better we’re going to be the guys that people are going to have a tough time checking.”

They will, to be sure.

That’s what they used to say in Edmonton, back in about 2010.

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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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