Tonight, a critical two-game series gets underway as the North Division’s first-place Maple Leafs face off against the second-place Winnipeg Jets, who are one point behind Toronto, rolling offensively, and winners of four of their last five (7:30 p.m. EST, Sportsnet)
As has been customary for Jets hockey in recent years, Winnipeg hasn’t dominated their opponents at five-on-five, but they are built on very strong goaltending and an opportunistic offense. Winnipeg spends a significantly greater amount of time in their own end than Toronto does, and yet they’re just behind the Leafs‘ points pace thanks to high-end goaltending, a top-five power play, and an ability to convert 5v5 shots into goals at an above-average clip.
While the Jets hover over 30% on the power play in the month of March, the Leafs, while they continue to gain the zone consistently and move the puck well, have not produced a high enough volume of shots on goal on the man advantage as of late.
Amid the scoreless slump on the power play over their last eight games (0-for-18) that dates back to March 10, the Leafs are 20th in the NHL in shots for per 60 on the power play after leading the NHL in the category prior to the dip. What’s interesting about the rest of the numbers, though: Toronto is still top five in expected goals, scoring chances, and high-danger chances per 60 during their dry spell.
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That is likely a big part of why Sheldon Keefe continues to be encouraged by the process, although the calls to fully load the top unit (with both William Nylander and John Tavares) are growing louder by the day. Regardless of who is out there with who and for how long, the Leafs do have to get more pucks on net, as it might take an ugly one to get the man advantage rolling again.
In the Leafs net, Jack Campbell, after taking a game and a practice off earlier this week, will return tonight as the Leafs continue to handle his nagging injury situation with an abundance of caution. Veini Vehvilainen and Michael Hutchinson have traveled with the team to Winnipeg, and the latter will back up tonight.
With a team .880 save percentage in their last 10 games over all situations, it will be crucial for Campbell to stabilize the crease — as he has in all of his starts this season — against an opponent with the most lethal top six the Leafs will encounter in this regular season and a goaltender across the way that has given the Leafs headaches in the season series (2-2-0) despite Toronto’s territorial control over the matchups at 5v5.
Connor Hellebuyck is 4-1 in his last five games and has only allowed seven goals in those contests. This season, he is 17-9-2 with a .918 Sv% and a GSAx of 9.6.
Stats — Last 10 Games
- Dylan Demelo leads the Jets with a 60.8% xG rating — Logan Stanley is their only other defenseman over 50% (53%).
- All of the Jets primary five forwards — Schiefele, Wheeler, Stastny, Dubois, Ehlers, and Connor — are producing over 2.5 xG/60 at five-on-five.
- In his five games with the Maple Leafs, Alex Galchenyuk leads the team with 67% xG share and a 62% shot attempt share.
- John Tavares leads the Maple Leafs in individual shot attempts and xGoals/60
- The Jets team save-percentage in all situations is .923%, while Toronto’s is .880%
- The Leafs have greatly outplayed the Jets at five-on-five; Toronto has a 58% xG share while the Jets are only at 49%
All stats are score and venue adjusted and sourced from evolving-hockey.com
Game Day Quotes
Paul Maurice on moving Pierre-Luc Dubois away from Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers, the players he spent most of his first few weeks in Winnipeg with:
Going back to when we first acquired Pierre-Luc, that was one of the combinations that you have that you’d like to see. There was the end of a road trip and [we wanted] a bit of a change to see if we could spark something. I wanted to be careful about changing [Dubois]’s line because, after game one of the Vancouver set, I really, really liked where they were at. In the two Edmonton games as well, I liked what they were doing, and then it just kind of levelled off.
I thought for a while there that Schiefele’s line was grinding and playing hard, but there wasn’t a whole lot going on, so that was the other part. You’ve got to give your team the best chance to win every night but you also have to understand your team by the time the regular season’s over.
We see such different styles of hockey in this division. [The] Vancouver and Calgary [games] had been very straight-line, almost every puck [was] dumped, with really physical battles at both ends. The Toronto and Edmonton series have so much danger off the rush, so you need to kind of get through these games with an idea of what changes could you make to your lines when you get into a series and something isn’t working.
We need to learn more about this team — with Pierre-Luc, I’d like to leave it for a while and see where it goes.
Sheldon Keefe on whether he feels uncertain about his team’s goaltending at the moment:
Yeah, a little bit. Certainly, when it comes to Jack’s situation, it’s kind of a day-to-day thing. He’s progressed well and it seems that when he has time to recover from his recent games, he does bounce back and feel good, so there’s less of a concern there. It is something we have to manage. You have to be responsible with it as a staff and be smart with it. He’s got to be honest and tell us exactly how he’s feeling.
Keefe on the Jets’ forwards:
They have lots of depth and they use four lines very effectively. [They] have three lines that can score and a fourth line that has been contributing as well, does a good job defensively, and they trust them. From a forward perspective, they’re a very deep team that’s playing strong team defense with strong goaltending, so there’s a lot of things that present challenges from them as a team.
Keefe on how he feels Zach Bogosian has fit in this season while playing all but one game:
I wouldn’t say I’m surprised about his durability. I didn’t have a lot of concerns about that going into the season — he’s played well. Like a lot of our guys, he’s had some nights that have not gone well for him, but I think for the most part, he’s bounced back from those and he’s showed great consistency for us in playing the role we need from him: being physical, defending efficiently, and helping us on the penalty kill.
Toronto Maple Leafs Projected Lines
#11 Zach Hyman – #34 Auston Matthews – #16 Mitch Marner
#12 Alex Galchenyuk – #91 John Tavares – #88 William Nylander
#97 Joe Thornton – #15 Alex Kerfoot – #19 Jason Spezza
#65 Ilya Mikheyev – #47 Pierre Engvall – #24 Wayne Simmonds
#44 Morgan Rielly – #78 T.J Brodie
#8 Jake Muzzin – #3 Justin Holl
#23 Travis Dermott – #22 Zach Bogosian
#36 Jack Campbell (starter)
#30 Michael Hutchinson
Extras: Martin Marincin, Alexander Barabanov, Timothy Liljegren, Adam Brooks, Scott Sabourin, Veini Vehvilainen
Injured: Frederik Andersen
Winnipeg Jets Projected Lines
#25 Paul Stastny – #13 Pierre-Luc Dubois – #26 Blake Wheeler
#81 Kyle Connor – #55 Mark Schiefele – #27 Nikolaj Ehlers
#9 Andrew Copp – #17 Adam Lowry – #82 Mason Appleton
#95 Mathieu Perreault – #11 Nate Thompson – #23 Trevor Lewis
#44 Josh Morrisey – #3 Tucker Poolman
#24 Derek Forbort – #4 Neal Pionk
#64 Logan Stanley – #2 Dylan Demelo
#37 Connor Hellebuyck (starter)
#30 Laurent Brossoit
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.
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