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Sheldon Keefe on the Galchenyuk – Tavares – Nylander line sparking the comeback vs. Oilers: "Galchenyuk really drove the line with the speed and the work ethic he had off of the puck" – Maple Leafs Hot Stove

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After practice on Sunday, Sheldon Keefe discussed Wayne Simmonds’ play since returning from injury, the team’s 6-1-1 record against Edmonton this season, the power play’s 0-for-18 dry spell, and more.


Practice Lines – March 28


To what extent does Veini Vehviläinen become a part of the picture here? Is there any update on Frederik Andersen?

Keefe: Nothing more on Fred yet. I’ll have that update for you when I get more information on it.

In terms of Double V, it is just a chance for us to get a look at him. He hasn’t been on the ice very much. He obviously hasn’t played very much this season. I think we have been through a lot with our goaltenders this season. The more guys we have available to us, the better.

We will just take it a day at a time and allow the organization to get more familiar with him and allow him to get more familiar with his surroundings.

Was Jack Campbell on a maintenance day today?

Keefe: Yeah, just a maintenance day.

Would you prefer that Jack be not as hard on himself going forward? A few of those goals the Oilers put together were tough to stop. Jake Muzzin was saying earlier that Jack can be a tough critic of himself. If he is going to get the ball and run with it for a while, what do you think of his self-assessment?

Keefe: I think that is important. You’ve got to be even-keeled, especially the more you play. You have to recognize there are going to be ups and downs. I think Jack definitely feels like he wasn’t at his best last night.

That said, what gets lost in the game, if you go back to 3-2, McDavid was basically in alone on Campbell. He makes a huge save for us. At 3-3 with two-and-a-half minutes left, Darnell Nurse was in alone on a 2-on-1, and we got a huge save. Those are game-saving saves. He stood tall on those. If one of those goes in, we are leaving the game without any points and we are disappointed here today. You make those saves, and all of a sudden you get to overtime, you get a bounce and win in overtime, and the team is feeling really good about itself today.

There is something to be said about that: When it is time to make the save, you make it, no matter how you are playing. He did that for us last night. He has no reason to be hard on himself today.

Wayne Simmonds has been back now for four games. What are you seeing out of him since his return? What does a good game look like for Wayne right now?

Keefe: I think what I have seen from him is some really good things where he is calm with the puck, makes a good play and gets to the net. We have also seen times where you can tell he is a little bit off — his timing is off — as he is getting used to playing under pressure and all of those things that come with game action and take some adjusting to. We have seen some of that.

In terms of what a good game from him looks like: When the puck comes to him, it advances to either a teammate or to a good place where we can stay on it or stay on offense. He is obviously physical and he is engaged in the game. He is around the net, helping us at five-on-five and on the power play that way.

What did you like about the way that Galchenyuk – Tavares – Nylander played down the stretch last night?

Keefe: Lots of energy. Lots of speed. Lots of purpose. They just looked really committed to making a difference. I thought we had a pretty good period for a stretch in the third, but we were still waiting for something to crack. Those guys really started to come on. I thought that group, clearly with the goals, really stood out and made a difference that way.

You could kind of see it building with how they were playing. I thought Galchenyuk, in a lot of ways, really drove the line with the speed and the work ethic he had off of the puck. Those other guys had a little more space with it.

I thought John looked good throughout the game — had lots of good touches, lots of good opportunities to challenge the net. That was really positive as well. It obviously all came together in the third.

McDavid and Draisaitl are difficult to deal with on their own. When they are together, it is another ball game. How did you assess your team’s defensive job against that line last night?

Keefe: Obviously, not good enough. We have to be better. If you make a mistake when they are out there, they are that much more dangerous. It is not just one guy that you have to contend with.

You saw the way they paired up on the Draisaitl goal. I don’t know that there are many players in the league that can make that pass. I don’t know that there are many players in the league that can make that shot. I am not sure people would really appreciate just how difficult that shot is. There are maybe fewer than the five players in the world who would make that shot.

You’ve got the combination of the pass and the shot together, and it just goes to show you how dangerous it is and how good you’ve got to be.

You guys have a remarkable record against the Oilers this year. None of the games have been particularly easy, but is there anything that you can attribute it to in terms of how well you have played against these guys that you can bottle and take onto the rest of the season?

Keefe: As we just talked about, how dangerous their best people are really challenges us to be very focused and committed defensively in taking care of the puck and just having so much respect for the opponent.

The season brings strange things, too. The way it works out in the schedule sometimes, things go your way, bounces go your way, and you find ways to play really well against certain teams.  You are just feeling really good when those games come on the schedule.

With some teams, you are maybe not feeling so well. Your record is not as good. If you look across the division, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in some of the situations. Some teams are really, really strong against certain teams and some teams struggle against others. I think that is just kind of the way it goes.

That is something I talked about with our staff before the season. I experienced that in the American League. At times, you are playing an opponent 8-9-10 times in a season. There can be great variance in the standings, and yet there is a certain team that no matter how you play — you can play your best game — you just can’t seem to get a win.

It brings some strange things, this schedule. These are obviously two very good teams at the top of the division in the standings. We have found a way to be on the right side of it, but as you mentioned, no game has been easy, and it never is.

Everyone knows that they have elite players who can make a difference, but they are playing a really good team game.  Their depth around those guys is playing well. Their defense is really supporting their team offensively. They are defending hard. There are a lot of different things about their game that make it tough and certainly did make it tough on us until we found a way to break through in that third.

You appear to have tweaked your power-play units today. Is that just trying to find some momentum there?

Keefe: Pretty much. I actually thought our power play last night was probably as good as it has been for quite a while. We had a good practice day before last night’s game. I thought we had another good practice day today in terms of how we moved the puck around, in particular with that unit. We put John there today to give that a look as a way to get John a little bit more involved and have that option available to us.

There are a lot of really positive signs there with our power play. I think we are on the verge of getting it back into the net. As I said last night, I think we looked at the process and how things went, and we felt pretty positive about it. It gives us some confidence going forward. We do need to get results, of course. We need our power play to be a difference-maker for us.

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

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Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills

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North Division

It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.

The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.

Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.

Passers

Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.

Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.

Shooting

A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.

Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.

Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.

Stick Handling

Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.

If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.

Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.

When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.

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Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards

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Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.

Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.

Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.

“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.

“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”

After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.

Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.

Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.

“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.

“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.

“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”

Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.

“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.

“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”

For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.

“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.

“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”

 

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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