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Player grades: No joy in Mudville as Edmonton Oilers whitewashed 4-0 by Toronto – Edmonton Journal

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Maple Leafs 4, Oilers 0

Objects in first place may be further than they appear.

When Edmonton Oilers took to the ice on Saturday night for the opening game of a three-game set against Toronto, they had designs on overtaking the Maple Leafs’ four-point lead in the standings in the days to come. But the first move in that journey was a giant step backwards, as the homestanding Oilers were dominated 4-0 by a Toronto club missing its marquee player and its #1 goaltender. Playing without NHL goal scoring leader Auston Matthews, the rest of the Leafs checked like demons, giving Edmonton’s star players little room to weave their magic. They also took taking advantage of some wide open spaces at the other end of the ice and a couple of holes in a shaky Mike Smith.

In a game that featured just one powerplay for the two teams combined (and quickly resulted in the game winning goal for the visitors), the Oilers weren’t good enough at even strength. While they did generate a significant plurality in shot attempts (58-39), many of them were from the outside, and some of their best looks missed the target. Actual shots on goal were 30-29 Edmonton, but that included 14 shots by Oilers defencemen vs. just 6 by their counterparts in white and blue.  By the Cult of Hockey‘s count of Grade A scoring chances, the visitors held a 10-8 advantage (running count).

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Perhaps the shift that exemplified this game was when Dave Tippett sent out his “In Case Of Emergency, Break Glass” Line of McDavid, Draisaitl and Yamamoto for a late second period push that saw the Oilers threesome pinned below their own hashmarks for the entire shift by the Pierre Engvall trio. You know it’s not your night when…

Player grades

#4 Kris Russell, 4. Accomplished something no other player on either team was able to do when he took a penalty 14 minutes into the first period, the game still scoreless. 24 seconds later he took the “skate of shame” back to the bench and Toronto had the lead for good. Otherwise a quiet, solid game.

#6 Adam Larsson, 5. His night was epitomized by one play where he twice swung and missed at a slow pass across the slot, then deflected the subsequent shot on his own net.

#13 Jesse Puljujarvi, 5. One of the few Oilers who created some traffic in the low slot. 5 shot attempts, but just 1 on net when he was set up by Draisaitl.

#15 Josh Archibald, 5. Played with edge all night, landing a season-high 10 hits in the process. Was among the culprits on the Toronto powerplay goal. first losing a puck battle in the corner, then getting pushed by Joe Thornton into his own crease where he got in Smith’s way. He of all people was left to defend a wide-open 2-on-1 and did cut out Jason Spezza’s passing option; even as the Leafs veteran was able to convert all on his own with a nifty move it wasn’t on Archibald.

#16 Jujhar Khaira, 6. His line did its job, sawing off in 11 minutes and change. Played a solid 2-way game, landing 5 hits in the process. 1 decent shot from the edge of the crease, and a team best 63% on the dot (5/8).

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#21 Dominik Kahun, 4. Oilers controlled territorial play during his 14 minutes but created precious little of actual danger. 0 shots, and 0 involvement in Grade A scoring chances.

#22 Tyson Barrie, 3. Lost a battle on Toronto’s second goal, then had a bad read on the third when he jumped on the ice on a line change but with his partner already trapped up-ice on the rush. He didn’t recognize the danger of an imminent counter attack and got caught in no man’s land.

#25 Darnell Nurse, 3. Very active in the offensive end with 13 shot attempts, 7 of them on goal, both of which led the team by a mile. But most of those shots were from outside, and were in need of a deflection which never seemed to happen. Had a tough night in his own end, as he was on the ice for all 4 Toronto goals and was among the defensive culprits on 3 of them. Twice he dropped to a knee trying to stop Mitch Marner, and both times the shifty Leaf held the puck and beat him to the outside, once to set up a goal, the other time to score himself. Lost a battle in the corner on the game’s final tally.

#29 Leon Draisaitl, 4. Is reportedly banged up and it showed at times. Was repeatedly double-teamed by Leafs defenders along the wall and lost the majority of those battles. Had precious little support from his regular wingers; 2 of the 3 Grade A chances he was involved with came on a shift with Archibald, and the third when he set up Puljujarvi in the slot late in the game after Tippett switched out the lines. 2 giveaways but 3 takeaways. 5/12=42% on the dot in just 17:19 in ice time.  No issues defensively. Absorbed a heavy hit that almost dislodged his helmet, though no call was forthcoming on See No Evil Night at Rogers Place.

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#39 Alex Chiasson, 6. His line with Haas and P.Russell was Oilers’ best, holding a significant edge in play (shot attempts were 14-3 Oilers during his 13 minutes). Twice set up Haas for excellent chances. Played a hard physical game with 4 hits.

#41 Mike Smith, 3. After being at the very top of his game in Thursday’s shutout win in Vancouver, he was off his form on this night. He struggled to track the puck, to stay square to the shooter, and to control or even find rebounds. Got lucky more than once with quick whistles or uncontrolled rebounds that dribbled past the post. First two goals went right through him, while he was completely fooled by Spezza’s fake slapshot and move to the outside. Made a couple of decent stops along the way but rarely looked comfortable doing so. 29 shots, 25 saves, .862 save percentage.

#52 Patrick Russell, 5. 12 solid minutes on an effective depth line. 1 shot, 3 hits, plenty of grinding.

#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 4. Quiet, too quiet. 1 shot on net, a decent chance off a McDavid feed after the lines were shuffled.

#63 Tyler Ennis, 6. Very involved in this game. His 5 shot attempts were the most of any Oilers forward, even as he missed the target with his best opportunity, a clear slap shot from the slot after a Leafs turnover in the early going. Shortly after he was pushed into Toronto netminder Jack Campbell while driving the net, resulting in the one scrum of the game. Had a couple of issues on the defensive side of the puck, including a pair of giveaways.

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#74 Ethan Bear, 4. Still finding his game after a lengthy stint on IR. Among the defensive culprits on the first and last Toronto goals. Not much sign of his trademark outlet passing game.

#82 Caleb Jones, 5. Played 16:27, about 10 minutes of it with Bear before spending time with his early-season partner Larsson down the stretch. Had some issues defensively, but nothing costly. Did fire 3 shots on net, 1 of which produced a dangerous rebound.

#91 Gaetan Haas, 5. His line buzzed around at even strength and created a couple of decent chances. Continued to struggle on the faceoff dot (2/9=22%) to drop to below 40% on the season. One of those lost draws came at the beginning of the Toronto powerplay, leading directly to 24 seconds of pressure ending in a goal.

#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 4. A very quiet night, with 2 harmless shots and 0 contributions to scoring chances. Unlucky on the third Toronto goal when he was driving the middle but McDavid’s pass to Nurse on the far wing caught his skate, creating a turnover and a quick counterattack. Oilers didn’t get enough from their stars in this game.

#97 Connor McDavid, 3. Speaking of which… Edmonton’s captain had a rare off night, beyond a solid 12/20=60% on the dot. Under heavy Leaf checking he generated precious little offensively (just 1 early shot and 1 other contribution to a Grade A chance) while also having a poor time of it at the defensive end. Was burned on all 3 of Toronto’s even-strength goals. Unlucky on the one detailed in the previous comment on RNH, but had no such excuse with weak backchecks on the second and fourth Toronto tallies. Not his night, nor his team’s.

Recently at the Cult of Hockey

McCURDY: Oilers first three-game set a showdown vs first-place Leafs

STAPLES: Everybody loves Jesse Puljujarvi, even his coach

STAPLES: Player grades — Brilliant goaltending at both ends as Oilers beat Canucks

McCURDY: Oilers have depth scoring! Oilers have depth scoring!

STAPLES: How to ramp up Yamamoto’s even-strength scoring

LEAVINS: Player grades in comeback win over the Canucks

McCURDY: Caleb Jones finally gets his chance

Follow me on Twitter @BruceMcCurdy

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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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