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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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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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Masters 2021: Tiger Woods says he'll miss Champions Dinner, running up DJ's bill – Golf Channel

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dustin Johnson will host his first Champions Dinner on Tuesday night in the Augusta National clubhouse, and he’ll be joined by several past Masters champions.

One former winner who won’t be there is five-time champ Tiger Woods, who is still home in South Florida recovering from a serious car accident in February near Los Angeles. Justin Thomas, who is still working toward his invite to the prestigious dinner, said Woods texted him Friday night and was “bummed” to not be at the Masters this year.

Woods then tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he’ll miss one of his favorite nights of the year.

“I’ll miss running up @DJohnsonPGA’s bill at the Champions Dinner tonight,” Woods said. “It’s still one of my favorite nights of the year.”

Johnson responded to Woods’ tweet, saying: “Will miss having you here. This week isn’t the same without you.”

The PGA Tour announced that the club would leave a seat open for Woods at the dinner, though the tweet has since been taken down.

Johnson will serve a menu including filet mignon, sea bass and peach cobbler.

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