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Pierre-Luc Dubois changes the dynamic of Toronto Maple Leafs-Winnipeg Jets rivalry – TSN

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William Nylander


The Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets held optional skates at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday


A lot has changed since the Leafs and Jets last played on Jan. 18 in Toronto when Patrik Laine was sidelined, and the home team won 3-1.

Since then, Toronto and Winnipeg have established themselves as the most consistent contenders in the North Division and the Jets made a blockbuster trade, shipping Laine, a winger, to Columbus in exchange for centre Pierre-Luc Dubois

“They got two really dynamic centre-ice men and now we do as well,” noted coach Paul Maurice. “[John] Tavares and [Auston] Matthews both do a lot of dynamic things and we have Mark [Scheifele] and Pierre-Luc who will be able to do the same for us.”

Dubois was a standout in the playoff series between the Jackets and Leafs in the summer. 

“That was when everyone saw what he was made out of,” Scheifele said. “That’s a pretty special hockey player.”

Dubois owned a plus rating in three of the five games in the series as the Jackets held the high-powered Leafs to just three goals in five-on-five play. Dubois also brought an edginess and physical dynamic to the proceedings. 

“I’m a competitor, so it forces you to bring your ‘A’ games,” Dubois said of the matchup against Toronto’s stars. “Those are guys that if you make a mistake, they’ll take advantage of it. They’re just waiting for you to make that one mistake or one missed back-check or missed assignment or something like that, so it forces you to bring your best game possible.”

Dubois’ signature moment came in Game 3 when he scored a hat trick, including the overtime winner, as Columbus erased a 3-0 deficit and grabbed the upper hand in the series. 

“He was obviously a game breaker for Columbus when we played them in the playoffs,” acknowledged Zach Hyman. “He’s a big, strong guy, who can really skate, so we’ve got to be aware of that.”

“Skates really well through the neutral zone,” observed Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe. “No matter how they use him or who they play him with, he’s a lot to handle.”

Questions about Dubois and his ability to match up against Matthews dominated today’s media session. 

“Somebody asked me earlier today, ‘Are you happy you don’t have to answer the Laine-Matthews question?'” Maurice said with a smile. “So, this is the new question.”

Matthews went first overall in the 2016 NHL draft, followed by Laine and Dubois. 

“You feel good playing against certain teams, right?” Maurice said. “I think every time the puck drops there’s an opportunity for the change of momentum and a new story to be written.”

“We’re a big team,” said Dubois. “We have offence, too. We can move the puck well. I think we just have to bring it to them instead of just waiting and hoping for them to make a mistake. We have to go at them and play in their zone.”

Leafs prepare for ‘gamebreaker’ Dubois and new dynamic he brings to Jets

Pierre-Luc Dubois was one of the difference makers in the series that saw the Blue Jackets eliminate the Maple Leafs from last year’s playoff bubble. The Leafs know he can be a gamebreaker and just adds a new dynamic to an already talented Jets team.


Dubois is still getting comfortable with his new team, but likes the chemistry being generated on his line with Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor

“I love playing with those two guys,” Dubois said. “Nicky, he can do everything. I know this year he’s concentrating on shooting the puck more and he’s got a good shot, so why not? And then KC is one of the most underrated players in the NHL. He’s dangerous. He can pass the puck also, but he’s got such a quick release, quick shot. As a centre, I have to support those two guys. I have to do a lot in the D-zone, work for them, get them the puck, so we can get up ice.”


Scheifele sits fifth in NHL scoring with 33 points, which is one behind Mitch Marner and two ahead of Matthews. 

“Playing against two of the premier players in this league in Matthews and Marner tonight, it’s going to be a big test and always motivates you a little more to be that much better,” said Scheifele, who was held without a point in the previous trip to Toronto this year. “They do everything right.”
Scheifele has been held without a point in only four games all season. He was asked if he’s proven he deserves elite status alongside Matthews and Marner. 

“Every day is another chance to prove yourself,” he said. “It’s not one game, it’s not a week, it’s not a month, it’s every single game and being consistent that way. Tonight is another test, another chance to prove yourself and that extra pressure makes you work that much harder.”

The 27-year-old native of Kitchener, Ont. seems to relish these trips. And while Scheifele may not enjoy some home cooking this week, he did receive a morale boost. 

“My parents drove in and we were able to go for a walk outside,” he said. “I was thankful I was able to see them. I haven’t seen them in a long time. Just to be able to see their faces, even though our masks were on, and be able to talk to them and see them in person definitely meant so much to me. It’s definitely tough not being able to go for dinner with them or spend more time with them and actually see their full faces, but that’s what we’re living in.” 

Scheifele has 19 points in 15 career games against the Leafs.

Scheifele gets morale boost from parents as he gets set to face Matthews/Marner

Mark Scheifele admits his home coming is a little different during the pandemic than what it used to be, but says he’s thankful he can still go for a walk with his parents and see them in-person. He adds it’s always fun facing top-tier talent and that’s no different tonight going up against Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.


Toronto’s third line featuring Hyman with Ilya Mikheyev and Pierre Engvall performed well during the recent road trip, producing a goal in four of five games. 

“We’re three big guys who can skate and who can hopefully shut other teams down just with our skating and our physicality,” said Hyman. “Creating more off the cycle is something we want to do. Putting pucks to the net, having bodies there and creating chaos. We had success out West, but we can have more success by continuing to do that. We’ve had the puck a ton and just [have to] continue to find ways to generate offence. It may not be as pretty as some of the other lines, but I think that we can be just as successful if we go and do the things that we’re good at.”

The new third line has the potential to be a fan favourite by marrying speed, work ethic and physicality. Hyman insists that even without a crowd inside the building this year, he’s feeling the love from Leafs Nation. 

“Just, personally, being from Toronto, I know when the team’s doing well it just feels different,” he said. “Even though we don’t go out and can’t see anybody, I know what it means when the Leafs are doing well and when we’re having success.”

Even without fans, Hyman feeling the love from Leafs Nation

Zach Hyman says even though you can’t really go out or have fans in the building, you can still feel the excitement in the city when the Maple Leafs are having success.


Mikheyev picked up his third goal of the season during the recent road trip and the Leafs believe the second-year NHLer can produce more offensively moving forward.

“For a guy who generates so many chances, there’s obviously great potential,” Keefe said. “Certainly, there’s a luck element to it. I think part of it, too, is just having increased confidence and relaxing. When you get into those spaces you tend to get into your own head a little bit, trying to force it to go in and I think that’s part of it, just settling down and have a little extra poise in those spaces.”

Mikheyev ranks sixth in shots among Leafs players, but is last in shooting percentage among forwards who have put at least 10 pucks on net. Mikheyev has converted on just three of his 52 shots (5.8 per cent).  

“Having great depth is something championship teams have,” Hyman noted. “I think it also helps with team morale and team chemistry when everybody feels like they’re contributing. You don’t just need to score goals to contribute. You can contribute in other ways, but it’s always fun to score.”

Even if the pucks don’t go in, the Leafs see a lot of value in how Mikheyev is performing. 

“We’re obviously very encouraged by the fact that he’s getting the opportunities and puts a lot of pressure on the opposition,” Keefe noted. “Whether the puck goes in or not, it’s a long way away from our net and that, ultimately, is a big part of Mickey’s job.”

Mikheyev has 11 goals in 65 career NHL games. 

Leafs Ice Chips: Bouncing back in a big week

The Maple Leafs are coming off back-to-back losses against the Canucks and will look to right the ship against a tough Jets squad that is also coming off a big loss. Mark Masters has more as Winnipeg and Toronto prepare for three straight against eachother.


Projected Leafs lines for Tuesday’s game: 

Thornton – Matthews – Marner
Kerfoot – Tavares – Nylander 
Mikheyev – Engvall – Hyman 
Vesey – Boyd – Spezza 

Rielly – Brodie 
Muzzin – Holl
Dermott – Bogosian 

Andersen starts 

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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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