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Stu Cowan: New Canadiens assistant coach Alex Burrows a 'hockey nerd' – Montreal Gazette

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Pincourt native came very close to giving up on his dream of playing in the NHL during his third season of making $350 a week in the ECHL.

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Alex Burrows believes that every day in the NHL “is always a great day.”

That’s not surprising when you look at the road the new Canadiens assistant coach had to take to make it as a player in the NHL.

The 39-year-old Pincourt native played two seasons with the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes, but was never selected at the NHL Draft. After junior, he spent three years in the ECHL, playing for the Greenville Grrrowl, the Baton Rouge Kingfish and the Columbia Inferno, earning $350 a week.

“I remember my third year pro when I got sent down for the third year in a row to the East Coast league,” Burrows recalled Tuesday afternoon during a video conference from Vancouver. “That’s when all my buddies were finishing university and I told myself that if I was still in the Coast by Christmas I would have probably packed it in and go to university and try to get a degree.”

Burrows got the break he was hoping for after playing only four games with the Inferno in the 2004-05 season when he got a call from Craig Heisinger, who was general manager of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, the Vancouver Canucks’ farm team at the time.

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“I never looked back ever since,” Burrows said.

Burrows made his NHL debut during the 2005-06 season and would play 12 seasons with the Canucks, followed by two more with the Ottawa Senators before hanging up his skates and taking an assistant coaching job with the AHL’s Laval Rocket in 2018, joining his friend Joël Bouchard behind the bench.

Burrows said he was shocked and excited when he got a call from Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin on the night of Feb. 23, shortly after the team’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Senators in Ottawa. Bergevin informed Burrows he was firing head coach Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller. Dominique Ducharme would replace Julien and Burrows would replace Muller.

The Canadiens arranged for a car to pick Burrows up at his Montreal home at 6 a.m. the next day to bring him to Ottawa so he could join the team for a flight to Winnipeg for a game the next night against the Jets. Burrows said his wife had to inform their three kids when they woke up that morning why their father wasn’t home and what his new job was. Burrows said his family was thrilled, noting his 5-year-old son watches the RDS sports news every morning and knows all the Canadiens players.

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“I was really excited, really thrilled to get a chance to get back in the NHL with my childhood team and to chase that Lord Stanley again,” Burrows said. “Even if it’s as a coach, for me it would be a dream come true. I’m really excited about this challenge. It’s going to take time, but at the same time, it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season and see how our team plays. The best thing for me, our guys care so much and they want to do well and we have a good group of guys. So I’m excited about that.”

The Canadiens players have talked about the excitement and energy Burrows has brought to the team. He has also helped improve the power play, which is 5-for-11 in the first six games since Burrows took charge of it, with the Canadiens posting a 2-1-3 record with their new coaches.

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Burrows started his NHL career as a fourth-line agitator “doing whatever it took to stay in the league.” He eventually moved up to a checking role on the third line and ended up playing on the Canucks’ top line with twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin. In 2019, Burrows was inducted into the Canucks’ Ring of Honour.

Burrows answered questions for more than 45 minutes Tuesday in English and French and was very comfortable and confident. He said he’s just going to be himself in his new role with the Canadiens. You could see and hear why he has been able to bring some energy to the team.

“Now that I’m here I won’t start changing the way I am,” he said. “I’m going to be myself. That’s what brought me here, that’s what gave me the career I had, so why change now?”

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Burrows describes himself as a “hockey nerd” who eats hockey and watches games every night.

When asked if he wonders what he might have done if he didn’t make it in the NHL, Burrows said: “I think the biggest thing would probably have been a phys-ed teacher. That’s probably what I would have liked to do. Because I’m a big sports fan. I watch every sport that’s out there I know about. I like to watch and I like to study how guys prepare. So I would say phys-ed teacher would have probably been my call of duty.”

Now, the NHL has come calling again. Another great day for Burrows.

scowan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/StuCowan1


  1. Canadiens Notebook: Alex Burrows getting results with Habs’ power play

  2. Winnipeg Jets centre Andrew Copp (9) leans into Montreal Canadiens defenseman Joel Edmundson (44) as Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) follows the play during NHL action in Montreal on Saturday, March 6, 2021.

    Cowan: Canadiens’ Joel Edmundson leading the NHL in plus/minus

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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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