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Report Cards: Toronto Maple Leafs close out Winnipeg series with a thud – Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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Has Connor Hellebuyck been holding the Winnipeg Jets back? My column.

The Leafs dominated the run of play in their previous two games against Hellebuyck and the Jets. That was not the case tonight.

Paul Maurice decided to go with Laurent Brossoit in net, which must have energized the team because they looked much better at even strength. Thanks to a few power-play goals in the third period, aided by a bench minor and “questionable” penalty calls, Winnipeg was able to defeat Toronto by a final score of 5-2.

I’m sure this will be an emotional one for fans. Let’s all take a deep breath and do that one thing you know will calm you down after a third period like that.

Did you do it?

Awesome, it’s time for some report cards!

4 Stars

Mitch Marner (RW, #16) — His line didn’t quite have “it” tonight, but Marner did everything he could to help open up space with some shifty moves. He pulled off a few little jump dekes to avoid contact while still maintaining possession of the puck.

That’s how he started the PK rush leading to a primary assist.

Believe it or not, this was Toronto’s first shorthanded goal of the season. They actually generate the most 4v5 scoring chances per 60 in the NHL, so maybe this is a sign of things to come. They weren’t going to keep shooting zero percent on all of those rush chances.

Getting back to Marner, one thing that stood out to me was just how fast he was skating back to cover for pinching defensemen. The Leafs love to get Rielly-Brodie in motion when they’re cycling in the offensive zone, but that can only work if the forwards buy into the system and consistently cover as the third forward (F3). Marner has been excellent in that regard this season.

William Nylander (LW, #88) — This might be the best stretch of hockey we’ve seen him play.

William Nylander is on fire offensively right now, using his speed in transition to back off defenders and create something dangerous with that open space. One thing I noticed is that he was also using his speed well defensively in the neutral zone, skating stride-for-stride with Nik Ehlers at one point — something none of Toronto’s players have been able to accomplish in this series.

Jake Muzzin (LD, #8) — I know Sheldon Keefe said that he didn’t think anyone had a good game tonight, but I disagree. Jake Muzzin did a great job standing up on opposing Jets forwards in transition, killing plays early in the neutral zone. We’ve come to expect that from Muzzin.

What we typically don’t expect is him jumping up in the offensive zone and creating chances. He had that shorthanded goal off the rush on the PK, not to mention sneaking backdoor at 5v5, where he received a great pass from Ilya Mikheyev.

I’m not used to seeing Muzzin as active in the OZ as he was tonight, but he looked good doing it. Maybe that’s something the Leafs should encourage him to do more often.

TJ Brodie (RD, #78) — He’s been earning his paycheck with defensive plays like these.

That’s textbook 1-on-1 defense against Kyle Connor.

TJ Brodie has a knack for getting his stick on the puck in these situations. You’ve also probably noticed he has a habit of breaking up 2-on-1 passes with a well-timed slide in the defensive zone.

The most efficient offense in the NHL is created off the rush, with a pass through the middle of the ice. Brodie’s great at preventing that, which is confirmed by both the eye test and the numbers.

Not a bad acquisition by Kyle Dubas.

3 Stars

John Tavares (C, #91) — One of the things that stood out to me tonight was how well Tavares was able to get body position, boxing out opposing players before going into a 1-on-1 puck battle. This was most noticeable in the defensive zone, which helped Tavares scoop up loose pucks and start the breakout for Toronto. His drawn penalty on Mark Scheifele was because of one simple thing: body position.

Now, Tavares did get burned by Mason Appleton when he was supposed to be covering for a pinching defenseman, but Frederik Andersen bailed him out with a big save* on the ensuing 2-on-1.

*Insert joke about how it was Andersen’s only big save of the night.

The Third Line — This play technically didn’t exist because of a hand pass, but my word, what a shot from Pierre Engvall.

The tools on this guy are ridiculous. He’s a 6’5, long dude who can absolutely rip the puck. Offensively, I’d love to see him use that heavy wrister more often from good locations like this.

Defensively, it’s crazy how much ground he can cover in a short amount of time. There were a few separate instances on the backcheck where you’re thinking, “there’s no way Engvall’s going to catch him,” and he does. By a lot.

Ilya Mikheyev was also showing off a bit more offense than we’re used to seeing. He pulled off a few separate “spin moves” in the offensive zone to create some space off the cycle. That’s how he ended up finding the room to deliver a backdoor pass to Muzzin, who was denied by Brossoit.

Last (and least) is Alex Kerfoot, who was a bit of a third wheel at 5v5, although he did have a couple of nice rushes with the puck. He made a bigger impact when Toronto had four skaters on the ice, forcing the turnover on the PK that led to the Muzzin goal, as well as drawing a tripping penalty on Pierre Luc Dubois at 4v4 by moving his feet.

Joe Thornton (LW, #97) — If you watch the Nylander goal again, you’ll notice Thornton makes a great little one-touch pass to create the 2-on-1. I didn’t love Thornton on the power play tonight; he turned the puck over a few times and took an interference penalty.

Justin Holl (RD, #3) — He had a few ups and downs in this game. The Nik Ehlers 2-on-1 earlier in the game was his fault, but at the same time, Holl helped create the Nylander 2-on-1 goal, so we’ll call that a wash.

With Muzzin jumping up into the play so often at 5v5, Holl was forced to sit back more often, which doesn’t make for a super noticeable game — it’s hard to take notes on the guy who isn’t even in the frame.

2 Stars

Coaching Staff — I’m not sure if I should be laughing or terrified.

Keefe was not happy with the officiating down the stretch in the third period, which is understandable considering some of the calls. That said, he essentially put the game to bed by picking up a bench minor there, forcing his team to kill two full minutes of a 5-on-3.

If we’re talking about actual tactical decisions, I loved the fact that he ran with a 4-forward power play at 4-on-3, putting his four best players on the ice when the Leafs really needed a goal.

Auston Matthews (C, #34) — Without his A+ shooting ability, Matthews has been forced to become more of a passer these last few games. He’s still making an impact in that regard, starting the breakout with some slick passes and looking to connect on those dangerous east-west passes in the offensive zone, which he connected on with Rielly off the rush.

All of that said, it feels weird watching Matthews without his shot. He just doesn’t look the same, and it shows on nights like these. The Hyman-Matthews-Marner line got filled in at even strength.

Morgan Rielly (LD, #44) — There are shifts where I marvel at Rielly’s skating and creativity in the offensive zone. Then there are shifts where he’s the first one in on the forecheck and five seconds later, Andersen is facing a 2-on-1. We could talk about his interference penalty on Ehlers, but honestly, that one was pretty dicey.

The bigger concern to me is the fact that Rielly got outshot again at even strength, this time by a significant margin (19-11 shot attempts). He creates so much offensively, but if you give it all back on defense, how much is that really worth tonight?

The Fourth Line — We can go quickly here. Jimmy Vesey really struggled to complete passes up the ice, as did Travis Boyd. That resulted in them getting hemmed in the DZ for most of their shifts, although Jason Spezza was able to generate a few sharp-angle shots that looked somewhat dangerous. Spezza also failed to pick up anyone on the backcheck of Winnipeg’s first goal, which was a bad look for him (and Travis Dermott).

1 Star

Zach Hyman (LW, #11) — When was the last time a Zach Hyman line got out-chanced by eight shots from the slot? Tonight just wasn’t his night.

The Bottom Pair — Zach Bogosian had a few rough moments with the puck, including a failed dump-in that led to a Blake Wheeler breakaway, where Bogosian slashed him at the end and picked up a penalty. He did close out well in transition defense, finishing his checks on Jets forwards as they crossed the blue line.

Travis Dermott was the nearest defender on two goals against, and frankly, you could make a good case that he was the “most guilty” Leaf on both of them.

Someone’s got to pick up Appleton there, whether it’s Spezza or Dermott. We’re not going to bother showing the other clip, but Dermott got caught chasing the puck behind the net, which led to a pass out front for a goal.

Frederik Andersen (G, #31) — Yikes.

He’s been a hot topic lately. Since we all do it on Leafs Twitter anyway, let’s go through each of the five goals Andersen allowed.

  • 1st goal: Backdoor pass
  • 2nd goal: Double deflection
  • 3rd goal: Pass out front, five-hole
  • 4th goal: Screen & Ehlers snipe
  • 5th goal: Beat clean from the left dot

With goaltenders, you’ll either hear fans scream, “He has to make that save!”, or, “He had no chance on that one!” Frankly, the first two probably fall in that second category, but there were some saveable shots that Andersen let past him tonight.

That doesn’t mean he’s a bad goaltender. It means he had a bad game.


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 got significantly outplayed, controlling only 40 percent of the shots and chances at 5v5.


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

Good question, yes.

This made me laugh out loud. Kevin Bieksa sure is one funny dude.

They tweeted this before the third period in Toronto’s game. I know the EvolvingWild twins are really good at coming up with predictive metrics at their website, but now they have predictive tweets!?


Final Grade: F

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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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