TSN Toronto Reporter Mark Masters reports on the Maple Leafs, who held a practice at Ford Performance Centre on Wednesday ahead of facing the Winnipeg Jets Thursday at Scotiabank Arena in the second game of their three-game series.
A day after losing their third straight game, the Leafs held one of their shortest practices of the season.
“We got right to it,” said coach Sheldon Keefe of the 20-minute session. “When we have a day like this, you really take out fluff — the warm-up, all of those kinds of things — and get right to what you really need to get done.”
Usually, the team will skate for between 30 and 45 minutes on practice days held a day after a game, but fatigue is a factor right now. Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets was Toronto’s 17th game in 34 days. And the team just wrapped up a five-game swing through Western Canada over the weekend.
Still, Keefe felt it was important to get on the ice on Wednesday.
“It’s always tough to come in a day after a game, win or lose, because there is a quicker turnaround,” Keefe acknowledged. “That is a bit of a grind for players and even more so when you are losing. That is why I felt it was important that we skated today. I thought we skated hard for 20 minutes and got done what we needed to get done. The guys are leaving the ice and the building here today feeling good and refocused and ready to go.”
For the first time since Keefe took over behind the bench on Nov. 20, 2019, the Leafs have lost three straight games in regulation. Toronto’s grip atop the North Division has loosened with the Jets, who have played two fewer games, now within five points. The teams face off again on Thursday and Saturday.
“I don’t think there is any sense of panic here or anything like that,” Keefe said. “Yet, at the same time, we have had very open discussions about things that we have done here that have contributed to us losing versus the things that we did in Edmonton, as an example, that contributed to us winning. The recipe is right there for us. We just have to go out and execute.”
After Tuesday’s defeat, Keefe lamented the fact his team had slipped away from “winning habits” established through a dominant start to the year. Players were abandoning the structure and not managing the puck properly. An errant outlet pass by Morgan Rielly in the third period on Tuesday, for example, led to a turnover and eventually the winning goal by Mason Appleton.
“The train of thought is this is a blip on the radar and we want to take care of it,” Rielly said. “It’s hard over a quick time span like this to really judge the growth of the group, but the one thing I’ve noticed just about every day is that if we’re playing well we don’t get too high and if we lose a game we don’t get too low. That’s part of maturing together. That’s a good sign for us.”
Top-line winger Mitch Marner identified a couple key priorities moving forward.
“Making sure we’re getting out of our zone cleanly,” Marner said. “Obviously our PK. We got to clean that up.”
Toronto’s penalty kill allowed a goal on all three chances the Vancouver Canucks had in two games last week. The Jets converted on one of two chances on Tuesday.
“We have to get through kills and get them finished,” Keefe said. “We have had a number of them this season where in the last 20 seconds or so, after we had done a lot of good things, it ends up in our net. The first one we gave up from the bad angle in Vancouver — that was an unbelievable kill for us. In fact, we had opportunities to extend our lead and all of a sudden it is in our net. We have to just stay with it. I think that is the biggest thing: stay with it to the very end, compete to the very end.”
This latest rough patch has seen Toronto’s penalty kill drop to 20th in the NHL at 76.6 per cent.
“Before we went to Vancouver, we had the No. 1 penalty kill in the division,” Keefe pointed out. “We were feeling pretty good about the things that we were doing. It just goes to show it can get away from you quickly … We will continue to clean up the details, but we can’t ignore the fact that there had been a number of positives that had been happening prior to the last three games.”
Auston Matthews is playing through a wrist injury, but the 23-year-old centre suggested the pain isn’t a big factor.
“Once you get out there it dwindles away,” Matthews said after scoring twice Tuesday night. “I felt fine.”
Matthews was absent from Wednesday’s practice.
“He wanted to skate today,” Keefe revealed. “We thought it was a good opportunity for him to take a rest day.”
Both of the Matthews goals against the Jets came from in close. He deflected home a Rielly shot on the power play and chipped in a puck from the doorstep with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker.
The top line still hasn’t generated an even-strength goal since Matthews returned to the lineup four games ago. Marner has fired 10 shots on net in the last two games, his highest two-game total of the season, but insists he hasn’t had to adjust his game.
“I don’t think it has much of an impact,” said Marner, who is now goal-less in five straight, his longest drought of the year. “I don’t think anything’s really changed with our line. We’re still trying to play the same way as we have all year.”
Toronto’s top trio drove play on Tuesday with shots favouring the Leafs 10-2 when Matthews, Marner and Joe Thornton were on the ice together at even strength, per NaturalStatTrick. They were matched against the Mark Scheifele line most of the night.
Matthews finished with a game-high six shots and won 13 of 18 faceoffs.
“It’s not even just the production,” said captain John Tavares. “His overall game is tremendous in all three zones and such an influence for us. The way he controls the play. The way he competes for the puck. His strength defensively. He continues to battle well in faceoffs. His overall game is really strong.”
Keefe noted the medical staff has determined Matthews won’t make the injury worse by playing.
“It is not the type of thing where taking a game or two off is going to allow it to fix itself,” the coach said. “I think a lot of players throughout the league are going through it, but you don’t hear about it as much as you would in Toronto with such a great player.”
One theme during the losing streak has been the play of the opposition goalie. Thatcher Demko was excellent in Vancouver while Connor Hellebuyck stopped 36 of 39 shots on Tuesday.
“They got a Vezina winner in the net so we got to get guys in front and get more tips on net and get those second opportunities,” Marner said.
Frederik Andersen allowed four goals on 23 shots on Tuesday while suffering his first career regulation loss against the Jets.
Andersen is now 1-2-0 with an .889 save percentage since returning from a lower-body injury.
“I feel good,” he said. “I think I’m moving pretty well. Pretty much most of my game I like. Of course, the results lately haven’t been there.”
Andersen was asked if he’s motivated to measure himself against Hellebuyck.
“Yes and no,” the Dane said. “You want to go out and beat the guy at the other end, but as a goalie you know what happens at the other end doesn’t really effect what’s going on in my end. So, my focus is to try to be ready and make the saves I can. Of course, you want to beat the guy at the other end and win.”
The Leafs are looking for more performances like the one Andersen provided last week in Edmonton when he stopped 26 of 27 shots. After that game, Matthews described Andersen as “Fredzilla.”
Who came up with that?
“A lot of nicknames are coming from Jumbo,” the 6-foot-4, 238-pound goalie said referencing Thornton. “He’s a nickname machine. He has a lot. He even has nicknames you guys don’t even hear before they come and go. He cycles through them pretty quick. He loves throwing out a good nickname.”
Justin Bieber posted “a love letter to the Maple Leafs” on social media Wednesday. The tweet from the singer features his new song ‘Hold On’ set to Leafs highlights.
“Biebs is a very special person and an incredibly talented artist,” said Rielly. “When he’s eager to work with the team and spend time around the guys that’s a pretty cool opportunity. We’re very fortunate to play for this organization and I guess that’s one of the things that comes with it.”
Bieber has struck up a friendship with Matthews in recent years.
“I know his relationship with him is pretty tight,” said Andersen. “It’s fun to have a musical talent like his be a big fan of us and, likewise the other way, a lot of us appreciate his music. I’m looking forward to hearing it.”
— Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) March 10, 2021
Lines at Wednesday’s practice:
Thornton – Boyd – Marner
Kerfoot – Tavares – Nylander
Mikheyev – Engvall – Hyman
Vesey – Agostino – Spezza
Rielly – Brodie
Muzzin – Holl
Dermott – Bogosian
Liljegren – Lehtonen
Motor racing-Canadian Grand Prix cancelled for second year
(Reuters) -The Canadian Grand Prix scheduled for June 13 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal has been cancelled for the second year in a row, CBC Radio reported on Thursday although Formula One said discussions remained ongoing.
With the spread of new COVID-19 variants and Canada battling to contain a third wave of the virus, Montreal public health authorities concluded that even if run behind closed doors without spectators the risks were too high, reported the CBC.
F1 officials, according to the CBC, wanted to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine for the hundreds of staff, crew members and drivers and rely on private medical staff and have the entire operation run in a bubble.
The race is scheduled to follow on immediately from Azerbaijan, whose grand prix is scheduled for June 6 in Baku and is due to go ahead after also being cancelled last year.
“We are continuing our discussions with the promoter in Canada and have no further comment,” an F1 spokesperson told Reuters.
The Autosport website quoted a spokesperson for the Canadian promoter as saying the radio report referred to “a document of recommendations from public health.
“We as an organisation have not had confirmation from our public health officials and won’t comment until we get an official confirmation.”
Canada, with some of the world’s toughest travel rules, obliges its citizens and residents arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days.
International arrivals are required to quarantine for up to three days in a hotel.
One of Canada‘s biggest sporting events, it would mark the second consecutive year the grand prix has been removed from the F1 schedule due to the spread of COVID-19.
Media reports have suggested Turkey is on standby to be slotted in as Canada‘s replacement.
The Istanbul circuit is logistically convenient for freight coming from Baku and was brought in last year also at short notice to bolster a calendar ravaged by the pandemic.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto/Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Ken Ferris)
Boston Bruins Add Offense With Solid Taylor Hall Trade – Boston Hockey Now
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.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) April 12, 2021
The Buffalo Sabres retained half of the $8 million salary that Hall signed for prior to the start of the 2021 hockey season.
After acquiring Hall @ 50% & Lazar for Bjork, the #NHLBruins added $772K Cap Hit for remainder of year.
They have $24K of Projected Cap Space; $100K Annual Cap Hit that can be added, w/ 24 Active on Roster. Sending players to taxi would create more room.https://t.co/2o0hsHzUIy https://t.co/rXiRKKk3lt pic.twitter.com/I7ZRUSmSQp
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) April 12, 2021
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.
Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca
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.