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Toronto Maple Leafs plan to tighten up on Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl – TSN

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William Nylander


The Maple Leafs practised at Ford Performance Centre on Sunday. 


The Leafs held the Oilers to just 20 shots on Saturday night, but a couple moments of brilliance from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl forced them to chase the game. 

“Two really good players and then put them together and,” defenceman Jake Muzzin said before pausing and starting to laugh, “it’s a lot. They look for each other. They find each other. You can’t make a mistake. You can’t let up. You just got to be on every second they’re on the ice, because they can make you pay. So, it is what it is, man.”

On Edmonton’s second goal, McDavid jumped on a loose puck after Justin Holl failed to knock down a clearance at the offensive blue line. The Toronto defenceman did a good job of skating back hard and keeping McDavid to the outside, but the National Hockey League’s scoring leader still managed to find the reigning Hart Trophy winner for a one-timer goal. Muzzin was back in time, but couldn’t get his stick on the pass. McDavid took a peek back during the rush up ice, but didn’t look at Draisaitl when he fired the pass.  

“I don’t know if there’s many players in the league that can make that pass and I don’t know if there’s many players in the league that can make that shot,” said Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe. “I’m not sure if people appreciate just how difficult that shot is. There’s maybe less than five players in the world that will make that shot. So, you 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 got to be.” 

Saturday was the first time this season that Edmonton deployed their two top weapons consistently together on the same line against the Leafs.

“We got to be better,” said Keefe. “When you make a mistake when they’re out there, they’re that much more dangerous. It’s not just one guy that you got to contend with.” 

On the third Edmonton goal, Draisaitl knocked down a Muzzin pass behind the Leafs’ net and fed Tyson Barrie at the opposite point. The Oilers defenceman sent the puck back to Draisaitl​, who made a no-look, backhand pass from behind the net back to the ex-Leaf, who had moved into the slot. Holl was at the side of the net looking to deny a pass to McDavid. 

The Leafs eventually pulled off a comeback win to improve to 6-1-1 this season against the high-octane Oilers, including four straight wins. Toronto’s only regulation loss to Edmonton this season was the first game between the two teams way back on Jan. 20. Three of the victories by the Leafs came without the league’s leading goal scorer, Auston Matthews, in the lineup. 

“We know we’re going against another highly skilled, top end skill-set over there so maybe we’re a little more dialled in defensively,” Muzzin mused. “We’re a little tighter. Our back-checks are a little harder. We’re not giving free ice out there so maybe it’s something to do with that.”

The Oilers are averaging two goals per game against the Leafs this season and 4.4 goals per game against the rest of the North Division. 

“How dangerous their best people are, it really challenges us to be really focused and very committed defensively and taking care of the puck,” Keefe noted, “and just having so much respect for the opponent.”

NHL: Oilers 3, Maple Leafs 4 (OT)

Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid combined for five points in the second period to give the Oilers a 3-1 lead but the Maple Leafs battled back to tie it in the third before Auston Matthews sealed the comeback victory for Toronto in overtime with his 22nd goal of the season.

On Saturday night, Jack Campbell allowed more than two goals in a game for the first time this season. 

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it, I just didn’t have it,” he admitted afterwards. “Didn’t like my game one bit. We won the hockey game so it makes it a little bit easier. I’ll have a good practice and we’ll go from there.”

But Campbell didn’t get a chance to take the ice at practice. He was held out for a maintenance day. The team is being cautious with Campbell’s workload since he returned from injury on March 20. He twice hurt his leg this season and now, with Frederik Andersen sidelined, is playing a string of games in a row. 

“He’s a tough critic on himself but, if you guys know Soup, that’s just kind of the way he is,” said Muzzin, who also played with Campbell  in Los Angeles. “He put it on himself, but it’s definitely a team thing and not just Soupy, obviously.”

Saturday was Campbell’s third straight start and the schedule is starting to get really busy. How big is the adjustment? 

“Honestly, it’s normally pretty easy, because you get in a nice rhythm and you’re not thinking so much and you just go out and play,” Campbell said. “That’s typically when everybody’s at their best is when you’re just having fun and playing and, for whatever reason, I was thinking a little bit [on Saturday night] but I’m not too worried about it. I didn’t like my game, but I know what to do to fix it.”

Keefe suggested the goalie, who is a perfect 6-0-0 this season, was being a bit too hard on himself. 

“You got to be even keel, especially the more you play,” the coach said. “You got to recognize there’s going to be ups and downs. Jack definitely feels like he wasn’t at his best last night.”

Keefe pointed out that Campbell made key stops late in the third period to keep the Leafs in the game. 

“It was 3-2 and McDavid is basically in all alone on Campbell and he makes a huge save for us,” the coach noted. “At 3-3, two and a half minutes left, [Darnell] Nurse is in basically alone on a two-on-one, we get a huge save. Those are game-saving saves and he stood tall on those and gave us a chance. If one of those goes in, we’re leaving the game without any points and we’re disappointed here today … There’s something to be said about that, when it’s time to make a save, you make it no matter how you’re playing and he did that for us last night. He’s got no reason to be hard on himself today.”   

Andersen, again, was not on the ice and hasn’t skated since March 19 as he deals with a nagging lower-body injury. There was no further update on his status. 

Veini Vehviläinen​ skated with the team for the first time since being acquired in a trade from Columbus. 

“We’ve been through a lot with our goaltenders this season and the more guys we have available to us the better,” Keefe said. “We’ll just take it a day at a time and let the organization get more familiar with him and allow him to get more familiar with his surroundings.” 

Leafs Ice Chips: Maintenance day for ‘tough critic’ Campbell

Jack Campbell was not impressed with his own play in the win over the Oilers on Saturday and was eager to get back on the ice at practice to work on his game. Instead, Sheldon Keefe opted to give Campbell a maintenance day as the team tries to manage his workload with Frederik Andersen still out with a nagging injury.

While Campbell kept the Leafs in the game down the stretch, the second line stepped up in a big way at the other end. 

Alex Galchenyuk, who started the game on the fourth line, was promoted to the left wing spot with John Tavares and William Nylander and picked up a pair of assists. 

“They just looked really committed to making a difference,” Keefe said. “Galchenyuk, in a lot of ways, really drove the line with the speed and work ethic he had off the puck and [gave] those other guys a little more space with it.”

“He’s been flying around out there,” said Nylander. “I mean, heavy forecheck, getting pucks back and obviously making some great plays on the goals last night.”

Galchenyuk owns a deadly shot of his own, but has impressed his new teammates the most with a positive attitude and determined approach. The 27-year-old is eager to make things work in Toronto after bouncing around between teams the last few years. 

“He’s the hardest-working guy on the team right now,” said Muzzin. “It’s contagious. When you see a guy working like that you want to continue working. He’s done a great job for us and we’re going to need him to continue.”

Galchenyuk played three straight games with Tavares and Nylander before Wayne Simmonds took that spot to start Saturday’s game. 

Tavares, Nylander growing in confidence as Galchenyuk provides a spark

It hasn’t been the smoothest season for John Tavares and William Nylander, but on Saturday night, Toronto’s second line came to life, sparking a third period comeback against the Oilers. Tavares scored his fourth goal in five-on-five play this season, while Nylander snapped a four-game drought and newcomer Alex Galchenyuk deserves a lot of the credit. Mark Masters has more.

Tavares, Nylander and Galchenyuk stayed out late after Sunday’s practice to fine tune their skills and have some fun. Tavares won a shootout game and the normally reserved captain raised his arm in celebration as he skated off the ice.

The line was all smiles throughout Sunday’s workout.

“I think the confidence for us scoring those goals is going to help our line a lot,” said Nylander. 

Saturday’s goal was just the fourth in five-on-five play for Tavares this season. 

“Nice to get one, obviously,” Tavares said. “It’s a big part of my game and this year it hasn’t seemed to be as consistent as I’d like. I’m doing some good things and just trying to stay with it.”

What’s been missing? 

“I’m still trying to figure some things out,” Tavares said. “It’s not a perfect science. Some of them I just have to bear down on my opportunities. I’m good around the net, finding rebounds and plays in-tight, and I haven’t seemed to get as many of those as I’d like so I think that’s one area.”

Keefe has repeatedly pointed out that Tavares has made strides defensively. He finished last season at minus-seven and has improved to plus-12 so far this year. 

“I know I can’t sacrifice that part of the game and only worry about producing,” the 30-year-old said. “I want to be, in all facets, relied upon so just continue to work at it and find my balance and hopefully you’re able to really connect those two parts of your game. That’s always the goal.”

‘It’s not a perfect science’: Tavares seeks to be a more consistent goal scorer

John Tavares scored just his fourth five-on-five goal of the season on Saturday night. “It’s a big part of my game and this year it hasn’t seemed to be as consistent as I’d like,” the Leafs captain admitted. “It’s not a perfect science … I’m good around the net, finding rebounds and plays in-tight and I haven’t seemed to get as many of those as I’d like.” Tavares, however, is playing better defensively this season.

Tavares has scored five of his 10 goals this season on the power play despite spending a lot of time on the second unit. But, at practice on Sunday, Tavares was promoted to the bumper spot on the top unit, which features Matthews and Mitch Marner on the flanks, Simmonds in front of the net and Morgan Rielly up top. 

“A way to get John a little more involved and have that option available to us,” Keefe explained. “There’s a lot of positive signs there with our power play and I think we’re on the verge of getting it back into the net.”

The Leafs are 1/22 on the power play over the last 10 games. 

“We need to get some more action around the net,” said Simmonds. “Teams have tried to take away Mitchy and Auston a little bit more. Not a little bit more, a lot more, and we need to find ways to counteract that and that’s what we’ve been working on. That’s why you see Johnny go in the slot there so we have another great shooting option in the middle.” 

Joe Thornton moved to the second unit at practice. 

‘It’s not a perfect science’: Tavares seeks to be a more consistent goal scorer

John Tavares scored just his fourth five-on-five goal of the season on Saturday night. “It’s a big part of my game and this year it hasn’t seemed to be as consistent as I’d like,” the Leafs captain admitted. “It’s not a perfect science … I’m good around the net, finding rebounds and plays in-tight and I haven’t seemed to get as many of those as I’d like.” Tavares, however, is playing better defensively this season.

Simmonds has one assist and five shots on net in four games since returning to the lineup. He missed six weeks with a broken wrist and hasn’t shaken off all the rust yet. 

“It’s coming along,” he said. “Obviously, I don’t think I’ve been playing the greatest at the moment, but every day my wrist is getting better and I’m able to do different things. I need to be a lot better. I’m going to be a lot better. I need to start contributing now that I’m back in the lineup.”

Simmonds had been heating up before the injury with five goals in six games. 

“It’s not about points to me,” he stressed. “It’s being able to shoot as hard as I can, go into the boards and be able to dig and have one hand on my stick and just be strong and confident with the wrist. Every day that is going to another level [as] it’s healing more. My first two games I probably wasn’t able to shoot the puck, but I was able to do other things to contribute to the team and the last couple games were a lot better. But I got to find my timing here and be better.”  

As wrist gets stronger, Leafs’ Simmonds vows to be better

Wayne Simmonds admitted to the media on Sunday that his wrist still doesn’t feel 100%, but he continues to make progress with each passing day. Simmonds recognized that his game isn’t where he wants it to be and vowed that he will be a lot better as he inches closer to full strength.

Lines at Sunday’s practice: 

Hyman – Matthews – Marner 
Galchenyuk – Tavares – Nylander
Thornton – Kerfoot – Spezza 
Mikheyev – Engvall – Simmonds
Barabanov, Robertson, Sabourin

Rielly – Brodie 
Muzzin – Holl
Dermott – Bogosian
Hollowell, Liljegren

Hutchinson 
Vehvilainen

Power play units at Sunday’s practice: 

Rielly 
Matthews – Tavares – Marner 
Simmonds 

Brodie 
Nylander – Thornton – Spezza 
Hyman 

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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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