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Jack Campbell stabilizes the crease, Toronto Maple Leafs snap losing skid with win over Flames

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The Toronto Maple Leafs outplayed the Calgary Flames at even strength for the second night in a row. This time around, they had Jack Campbell in net, who put on a stellar performance en route to a 2-0 Leafs victory.

It’s obvious what the major storyline is coming out of this game, especially considering Frederik Andersen’s poor run of play recently. Goaltending typically dictates the outcome of hockey games, so when a strong team finally starts to get some saves, it makes a big difference.

Without further ado, let’s dive into some individual player grades for tonight’s game. I wonder who’s going to be ranked the highest…

5 Stars

Game Puck: Jack Campbell (G, #30) — If there’s one Leaf who deserves a stick-tap tonight, it’s Jack Campbell.

What stood out is that most of his saves tonight were composed. He was deflecting pucks off of his blocker into the corner and controlling his rebounds well on point shots.

Then he reached back into his bag of tricks for another highlight-reel save.

A night like this would’ve been special even if Andersen had been playing well lately. The fact that he hasn’t is going to give Campbell some real runway moving forward.

It’s Soupy’s net to lose now.

Jake Muzzin (LD, #8) — It feels boring to keep saying “Muzzin holds the line well” in these postgame report cards, but then you’ll see a goal created off of a smart pinch and it’s easier to see the value of holding the blueline.

Muzzin makes plays like these all the time, except they usually don’t lead directly to a goal. It’s little plays like these that add up over time, resulting in the Leafs controlling the run of play when their best 5v5 defenseman is on the ice. And yes, that’s Muzzin.

He played 25 minutes tonight, most of which came against Matthew Tkachuk. The two were battling all night long in front of the net and along the boards. In the end, Muzzin came out on top with respect to shots, goals, and penalty differential.

Morgan Rielly (LD, #44) — It’s so much fun watching the Rielly-Brodie pair share the ice with Matthews-Marner. The fifth player in that situation will head to the front of the net, whether it’s Zach Hyman, Joe Thornton, or Wayne Simmonds tonight.

The other four skaters are in constant motion, which opens up passing lanes for a player like Rielly to do some damage. Toronto outshot Calgary 10-0 and out-chanced them 5-0 when Matthews and Rielly were on the ice together.

Rielly also took out two Flames players like they were bowling pins on the Hyman goal, but the clip I’m more interested in showing you is a defensive decision he made in the third period.

Understanding the game state is important here. The Morgan Rielly we know and love chases after that loose puck 10 times out of 10, but knowing his team is up by two goals in the third period, he makes the smart decision to not get burned for an odd-man rush late in his shift.

Jason Spezza (RW, #19) — If you want to watch his goal again, scroll back up to the Muzzin section. Spezza still has a wicked release, a nifty set of hands, and the passing ability to find open players backdoor. It’s why he still leads the Leafs in Points per 60 — at even strength and on the power play.

He’d be on pace for 48 points in an 82 game season, despite averaging only 10:24 a night. That’s insane for an NHL player earning the league minimum.

4 Stars

Zach Hyman (RW, #11) — His most memorable shift of the night was when he harassed Rasmus Andersson on the forecheck, forced a turnover, and then did this right afterward.

Hyman finished the game with seven chances from the slot, including this insurance goal.

TJ Brodie (RD, #78) — One of the things I love most about Brodie’s game is how he handles elite puck carriers in one-on-one situations. Here’s a quick look at him defending Johnny Gaudreau in open space.

Kevin Bieksa loves to talk about “quiet feet” when you’re defending the rush. Brodie does a great shop of keeping Gaudreau in front of him without giving him too much room, all while keeping his feet quiet in the middle of the ice.

Brodie also made a few slick passes under pressure to beat the infamous Darryl Sutter forecheck, similar to last night’s game. It is worth noting Brodie jumped over the boards a tad early, leading to a Too Many Men penalty that Leafs fans certainly weren’t upset with on the internet.

Mitch Marner (RW, #16) — In my post-game tweet where I crowdsource Leafs fans’ opinions, I noticed a few people didn’t like Marner’s game tonight. Personally, I thought he looked great.

He was making creative plays off the rush right from the get go. In the offensive zone, he pulled off a few shifty moves, including a spin move to create space for himself. My favourite offensive play of his was this pass across to Matthews on the power play.

Throw in some stellar penalty killing, including a drawn penalty to end Calgary’s power play, and I’d say that’s a pretty good night for Marner.

3 Stars

Auston Matthews (C, #34) — That clip above says it all. Matthews generated a team-high eight chances from the slot in this game. He did have some trouble getting around Chris Tanev, who looks like he’s turned back the clock this season.

The one thing I wanted to note about Matthews tonight is that his stick-handling looked better. Nagging wrist injuries are naturally going to impact a hockey player’s shooting and puck-handling abilities, which is why it’s nice to see Matthews progressing in both of those departments lately.

He’s still not 100%, but he’s getting closer.

Wayne Simmonds (LW, #24) — When you’re evaluating a player like Wayne Simmonds, I think you have to ask yourself, “What is he supposed to provide as a player?” Are you expecting him to receive passes at an A-plus level in the offensive zone? Probably not, because he really struggled in that department tonight.

If we accept that’s not what we’re looking, how about we ask ourselves, “Did he bring his team energy tonight?” Unequivocally, the answer to that question is yes. I’m not sure how to measure it, but when Simmonds is running into opponents on every shift and hyping up his teammates from the bench, you can see it has a tangible impact on the rest of the team.

Do I still qualify as a nerd if I believe in momentum?

Justin Holl (RD, #3) — Leading his team in ice time tonight, Holl played 25:27 of solid 200-foot hockey. He was activating on the breakout to give his forwards an extra option heading up the ice. Holl also did well to limit Calgary’s rush opportunities, getting his stick on pucks in transition.

MikhEngvall — It’s hard for me to separate these two in my head. Both Ilya Mikheyev and Pierre Engvall have a knack for getting their long sticks on loose pucks in the offensive zone. They also have a tendency to shoot from too far away, but they make up for it with their relentless puck pursuit.

When it comes to Engvall specifically, sometimes I find myself asking “What is this?”

A player who has the tools to do that should probably be creating more offense. I know he’s already 24 years old, but does anyone else see a raw hockey player that could develop into something more offensively?

Coaching Staff — Credit where credit is due: The Leafs have continued to play stellar 5v5 hockey lately. It’s certainly nice to get some goaltending, but the bigger takeaway here for me is that the Leafs significantly outplayed Sutter’s Flames in back-to-back games.

Now, we should probably touch on the power play getting a bit predictable.

It’s good that the Leafs recognize Matthews is their primary option, but when the opposing team is overcommitting to it, you need to go with option number two or three.

In football, if the opponent was double-teaming your #1 receiver, you’d look to take advantage of the open space on the other side of the field. I think the Leafs could benefit from that mentality when teams load up on Matthews.

2 Stars

John Tavares (C, #91) — The frustrating part about assessing Tavares’ performance is that he was fantastic on the power play, but underwhelming (again) at even strength. At 5v4, he was able to generate lots of quality chances from the slot in that “bumper” role. He even got a great rush opportunity on the power play.

At 5v5, he wasn’t able to accomplish much of anything in transition. Tavares is still great in tight spaces lower in the DZ or OZ, but if you watch him closely when play is moving up the ice, he hasn’t looked nearly as dangerous this season as in years past.

Alex Galchenyuk (LW, #12) — I’m rooting for the Alex Galchenyuk experiment as much as you are, but I didn’t think he looked great tonight. Aside from a few decent passes at his own blueline, Galchenyuk was a liability in transition to my eye-test, losing the puck on a few different occasions in the neutral zone.

What’s weird is that puck-carrying has always been a strength of Galchenyuk’s.

That 81 on the graphic indicates that Galchenyuk’s Controlled Zone Entry % ranks in the 81st percentile among NHL forwards over the past four seasons. He’s good at carrying the puck up the ice — he just wasn’t tonight.

Alex Kerfoot (RW, #15) — Aside from a breakaway on a Rielly stretch pass, this was a pretty quiet night from Kerfoot. He did have a nice little rush in the third period, although it ended with a soft wrister from distance. Missing the empty net as the clock expired might have been the perfect microcosm of his time as a Maple Leaf.

Joe Thornton (LW, #97) — Earlier in the game, Thornton was making a few heady passes to reverse play to the weak side. Unfortunately, he faded as the game went on, which makes sense for a 41-year-old playing on the second half of a back-to-back.

In related news: why is Joe Thornton playing on the second half of a back-to-back?

Zach Bogosian (RD, #22) — He did his job in that he boxed out opposing forwards in front of his net. The issue was that his pairing spent so much time on defense, getting outshot at 5v5 despite sheltered usage. Personally, I’d put more of that on his partner.

1 Star

Travis Dermott (LD, #23) — I’ve spilled so much ink analyzing Dermott’s game, to the point where I get really frustrated when he has stretches of play like this. Anyone who watched his first few games as a Leaf knows he’s a dynamic skater, but he hasn’t been able to use it to effectively start the breakout lately.

I remain a Dermott truther for various reasons, but he isn’t helping my case with games like these.

William Nylander (RW, #88) — This was one of Those Nights for Nylander. He didn’t look super engaged without the puck, which is a big part of the reason his line didn’t have it very often tonight.


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 generated 56 percent of the shots and 60 percent of the chances at 5v5. For the second night in a row, they controlled the run of play against Sutter’s Flames, except this time, they got goaltending.


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

This one was technically tweeted during the day, but it was so funny I just had to post it here.

If you’ve ever scrolled through Leafs Twitter, this is 100% accurate.

This was legitimately one of the coolest moments of the season. You’ve got to love that kind of passion from Simmonds.

Maybe the most obscure tweet to come across my timeline tonight. Also possibly my favourite.

Is that good?

Yeah, it doesn’t seem super controversial to play the better goaltender right now.

You can’t make this stuff up, folks.


Source:- Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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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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