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Report Cards: Jack Campbell spectacular again, Jason Spezza the shootout hero in Toronto Maple Leafs' second straight win over Winnipeg – Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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It was a Good Friday for some Leafs hockey.

My apologies for the awful pun. Five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime weren’t enough for the Winnipeg Jets or Toronto Maple Leafs to settle this one, so we had to settle for everyone’s favourite way to end a sporting event: a shootout.

Jason Spezza scored the game-winning goal there, while Jack Campbell made a few more key saves en route to the 2-1 victory. That’s his eighth win in a row this season, which has to be the main storyline coming out of this game considering his stellar performance.

Let’s dive into some individual player grades to help sort out the rest of the game. I think we all know who we’re going to start with.

5 Stars

Game Puck: Jack Campbell (G, #36) — Just when you think his .948 save percentage coming into the game was wildly unsustainable, he stops 31 of the Jets’ 32 shots on Friday night, bringing him up to .951 in his eight games this season. That’s obviously going to fall back down to earth over time, but it speaks to how well he’s played this season.

Campbell was forced to make a few diving saves down the stretch, sprawling across his net to deny backdoor passes. That happened a bit too often for my liking, and I say that referring to the Leafs‘ defensive play in the third period. When your team gives up quality chances, though, it’s your job as a goaltender to come up with those saves.

Mission accomplished tonight for Campbell, who really seems to be solidifying himself as Toronto’s starting goalie moving forward.

Zach Hyman (LW, #11) — Right from his first shift, you can see the type of impact he was having on the game. Hyman’s ability to get in on loose pucks and prevent the opposing defenseman from making the play they want to make is what makes him such a great F1 forechecker.

That type of presence allows his skilled linemates to come in and scoop up the puck with plenty of room to make a play. Hyman also negated two icings with his hustle, a stat that I’m sure he would rank near the top of the league if it was publicly available.

Sportlogiq, we’re going to need your help on this one.

4 Stars

The Muzzin-Holl Pair — I’ve been really impressed with this pairing all season, and tonight was no exception. Jake Muzzin does such a great job defending the rush, breaking plays up before the Jets’ speedy forwards had a chance to gain the zone.

Here’s a quick example.

Muzzin makes plays like these with consistency, which is why his team usually ends up on the right side of shots and scoring chances at 5v5.

Justin Holl has a similar impact defending the rush, using his legs to stay with opposing forwards and often getting his deceptively long stick on the puck to break up plays. On the breakout, he got himself open on the right side of the ice a few separate times to get Toronto out of trouble. From there it was a clean zone entry the other way and sustained pressure.

One final note is that both players looked great on the penalty kill, not allowing the Jets to complete any dangerous passes through the middle of the ice.

Mitch Marner (RW, #16) — Hyman might’ve been the energizer bunny tonight, but Marner was the primary puck carrier. He sliced through the defense on multiple occasions, deking his way into the high slot. Marner wasn’t able to complete those plays with a quality shot, although he was looking to shoot more overall at 5v5.

On the power play, he probably should’ve picked up an assist or two tonight. He completed a seam pass to Auston Matthews at one point, then at 4v3 in overtime he threaded another one to William Nylander. He even put the puck on John Tavares’ tape in tight, but sometimes the pucks don’t want to go in, especially when Connor Hellebuyck is locked in.

Jason Spezza (RW, #19) — His shootout goal was genuinely hilarious, almost losing the puck at one point, regaining control, and then out-waiting Hellebuyck for the deke back across the grain. At 5v5, he picked up another point on his drop pass to Travis Dermott, keeping Spezza on pace as the team’s Points/60 leader.

It also moved him into the Top 100 in NHL history among point producers.

That’s not a bad list to be joining.

Travis Dermott (LD, #23) — Let’s give my man some credit, he scored a goal! Yes, it was a flukey one from the blueline, but like Jeff O’Neill said in his video breakdown, Dermott getting that shot off quickly allows it to get through traffic before the goaltender has a chance to track it.

I’m not advocating for more 0.01 xG shots from the Leafs, but getting pucks through has been a massive concern for Dermott at the NHL level. Here’s hoping that these plays give him some more confidence moving forward. He could certainly use some on the offensive side of center ice.

3 Stars

Zach Bogosian (RD, #22) — Dermott’s partner on the third pair wasn’t too shabby either on Friday night. Bogosian was at his best on the penalty kill, blocking backdoor passes by “standing in the right spot” as Mike Babcock would say.

As always, Bogosian would go for that pinch or two offensively where he finds himself way deeper in the play than you’d probably like. Then again, for Sheldon Keefe’s possession-style of game to work, all five skaters need to be in constant motion. Keep those legs moving, Bogo!

Auston Matthews (C, #34) — I didn’t love his game defensively tonight; there were a few times he was supposed to be the high forward (F3) and he didn’t get back in time to prevent the 3-on-2 rush. Offensively, though, he was Auston Matthews tonight, generating nine shot attempts and seven chances from the slot, leading the Leafs in both categories.

Alex Kerfoot (C, #15) — Fun fact: rebounds tend to have the highest expected shooting percentage, which makes sense considering the goalie is usually out of position. With that in mind, Kerfoot grabbed a rebound in this game and passed it east-west to Bogosian. It didn’t go in, but that’s a really high-percentage play offensively.

Kerfoot also did this on the cycle, which was pretty impressive.

It doesn’t look like much, but that hit the post. That’s a good job by Kerfoot to create his own shot with his shiftiness, and more importantly, actually shoot the puck when he’s in a good shooting position.

I’ve been liking his game more and more these last few games. It’s good timing, too, with the trade deadline coming up in just over a week.

TJ Brodie (RD, #78) — After taking a hard spill into the boards early, Brodie bounced back and looked like his usual self defensively. He wasn’t able to take away the 2-on-1 pass (for once) after Morgan Rielly pinched a bit too aggressively, resulting in the Leafs‘ only goal against.

That said, Brodie was making calm plays with the puck and appeared to be in the right spots defensively aside from that 2-on-1 rush, at least to my eye test*.

*The same eye test that believed in Travis Dermott, so it could be faulty.

Pierre Engvall (C, #47) — He’s becoming one of the weirder players for me to evaluate lately. I love his tools as a player; watching him skate the puck up the ice like a gazelle on skates is something to behold. He then crosses the blue line and he can’t make a play, which is the infuriating part of watching Pierre Engvall.

There aren’t too many players with his elite size-speed combo, but there are a lot of NHLers who can read the game faster and make the next pass. Whether it’s a 2-on-1 or an opportunity to get the puck across the crease on the cycle, Engvall tends to be late on those decisions, which really hurts his offensive upside as a player.

Maybe you accept the fact that he’ll never be anything more than a bottom-six grinder. I just find that to be a disappointing ceiling for a player who can do the things he can do.

Ilya Mikheyev (LW, #65) — In a similar vein, does anyone expect Mikheyev to convert on a 2-on-1? He got another one tonight and skated himself into the corner, which killed any chance of getting the pass across, eventually resulting in Mikheyev shooting it himself from the hashmarks.

His defensive value is undeniable; forcing turnovers in the offensive zone leads to quality offense. That’s how he set up Tavares for a partial breakaway. Much like Engvall, though, it can be frustrating when Mikheyev finds himself in situations where he has to make an offensive play.

Simply put, I’m not sure if he can, which is weird considering the flashes of skill we saw last season. Part of me wonders if his stick-handling and shooting ability will ever be the same after suffering that nasty wrist laceration.

2 Stars

Morgan Rielly (LD, #44) — Oh Rielly.

You need to take chances to create goals, and no one is a better example of that than Morgan Rielly. He’s still coming out on top in the aggregate this season, but he didn’t make enough positive plays with the puck tonight to make up for that whoopsie.

Joe Thornton (LW, #97) — If he had a different name on the back of his jersey, I’m sure he’d be hearing it from Leafs fans on the internet. Think of the way we treated Jimmy Vesey this season.

Thornton is reaching the point this season where he seems to float in and out of games. There are times the puck will land on his stick and he’ll make a great play, saucing his teammates into an open patch of ice. Then another period will go by and you’ll forget #97 is playing.

I still think he needs some rest, which I’m hoping the Leafs will be able to give him after the trade deadline passes. My assumption is that they’re keeping him in the lineup to maximize their cap space. After April 12th, this man needs a night off.

1 Star

Coaching Staff — I’m not one to panic, but the Leafs’ power play hasn’t been inspiring a ton of confidence lately. The good news is that they rank fourth in the NHL in shots and expected goals at 5v4 since March 1st. They’ve just been shooting zero percent on their last 24 power plays.

I’ll give the coaching staff some credit for trying different things, but throwing Muzzin out on PP2 isn’t exactly the gamechanger I think fans were hoping for. Keefe chose to put his four best forwards on the ice in overtime for the 4v3 power play, which led to a bunch of quality chances.

It’s also worth noting the team has been playing extremely well at 5v5 lately, to the point where they look like one of the truly elite teams in the league. At the end of the day, though, Toronto’s power play is a big part of what the team is built on, and it’s the coaching staff’s job to get that clicking again.

The Tavares Line — Yeesh.

The trio of Alex Galchenyuk, John Tavares, and William Nylander got absolutely filled in at even strength. Their first period was atrocious, although they did start to look more like themselves towards the end of regulation. I’m not going to sugarcoat this; a $20 million line shouldn’t be spending the majority of their night stuck in the defensive zone.

This wasn’t their night.

Wayne Simmonds (RW, #24) — In a similar vein to my Thornton comments, ask yourself what we would be saying if the jersey read “Vesey” instead of “Simmonds” on the following clip.

That’s a terrible play — I don’t care who the player is making it.

Simmonds has been getting stuck in his own end because of turnovers like these on the breakout. He hasn’t looked good at 5v5 since returning from his injury, which is putting it nicely, if we’re being honest.


Heat Map

Here’s a quick look at where each team’s shots were coming from at even strength, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

The Leafs controlled 53 percent of the shots and 63 percent of the expected goals at 5v5. That’s another game where they’ve dominated the run of quality chances.


Game Score

Game score is a metric developed by The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn to measure single-game performance. You can read more about it here.


Tweets of the Night

“Gotta let the boys play,” I was told.

Do yourself a favour and follow Earl. He knows more about the CBA than I’ll ever dream to — I’m convinced it’s Brandon Pridham’s burner account.

This has been my biggest takeaway from Toronto’s past month. Despite a shooting percentage of zero at 5v4 lately, the Leafs’ elite 5v5 play has been carrying them to some deserved wins.

Throw in a bit more puck luck with the man advantage and we’re looking at a pretty scary team here. Some might even refer to them as a Juggernaut.


Final Grade: A-

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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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