Before the Leafs opened training camp a few guys – Joe Thornton, Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Rasmus Sandin and Mac Hollowell – returned to Canada and quarantined together in the same house. And it was there that the ‘Willy Styles’ nickname was born.
“It comes from Jumbo when we were in a quarantine house together,” Nylander revealed. “He started calling me that so I put that on my sticks now.”
What motivated the moniker from Thornton?
“You know what, you’ll have to ask him,” Nylander said with a smile. “I don’t know.”
Nylander certainly isn’t afraid to make a splash with his fashion choices off the ice.
“It’s different, but it suits his personality,” said even-keeled captain John Tavares. “Me and him always joke about how we’re very opposite of each other, but we get along really well. People would see me as being a lot more reserved, kind of a little bit quieter, and Willy’s just a fun, outgoing guy and obviously likes to be a little bit different and showcase that, which is fantastic. It’s part of who he is and what makes him a great person, a great teammate, a great player so, obviously, we love having him and those styles.”
Nylander also possesses style on the ice and is on a hot streak of late with four goals in three games. He scored a backhand beauty over the shoulder of Mikko Koskinen moments after a neutral-zone draw on Monday night.
“He has that elite skill and you know when he gets his chances the majority of the time they’re going to go in,” said Leafs defenceman Justin Holl. “Some guys just know how to score and he’s one of them.”
And while Nylander recently admitted to underperforming at times this season, there’s no denying how valuable he is to a Leafs team that has won a couple games this week without leading goal scorer Auston Matthews in the lineup.
“He’s very important,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe, who hasn’t hesitated to give Nylander a metaphorical kick when necessary. “He has an ability to make the difference in a game, because in any shift and any time he can make a difference offensively. He can do the hardest thing to do in our game, which is to produce offence and that makes him extremely valuable to our team.”
But Nylander appears to have a crimp in his style right now. He was in discomfort on the bench after scoring in the first period on Monday and was conferring with head athletic therapist Paul Ayotte. A little later, during a commercial break, Nylander was doing a lot of stretching.
Nylander sat out Tuesday’s practice.
“Just a maintenance day for him,” said Keefe. “He’s had something that he’s been managing and playing through here and just wanted to give him the day to let that settle down.”
Nic Petan skated as a placeholder in Nylander’s spot on the second line.
Matthews practised in his usual spot on the top line skating between Thornton and Mitch Marner.
“It’s feeling a lot better,” the 23-year-old centre said. “It’s been progressing and each day I’ve been on the ice, the last two, three days, it’s felt better and better. [I’ve] been able to be more comfortable out there with the way I want to play and the way I want to handle the puck and stuff like that. So, hopefully it just continues to heal, continues to get better and we’ll see how it is tomorrow. I’d love to get back in a game here.”
Matthews missed one game with a wrist injury earlier this season. He hurt the wrist again last Wednesday against the Flames.
“We’re just waiting, really, for the strength to come back,” Keefe said on Monday night. “It’s a little bit of a different situation that he’s dealing with than what it was previously. That was just kind of a nagging thing. This is a little bit of a different situation.”
With the Leafs sitting comfortably in first place, there’s certainly no rush to return. The top priority is ensuring Matthews will be at his best when the most important games are played.
“I want to feel good enough to play and feel like I can contribute and play my game, but not hinder my ability and long-term [prospects] because, in the end, we’re playing for more than just the regular season,” Matthews said. “That’s a decision I’ll make and the training staff will discuss, but I don’t think we’re really going to over-complicate it.”
Frederik Andersen practised again on Tuesday as the goalie works his way back from a lower-body injury sustained on Feb. 20. Jack Campbell took the ice after practice wrapped up.
“Andersen had a positive day today and that’s a great thing for us,” Keefe said. “We’ll have to see how he is tomorrow and make a determination from there. Campbell skated, but he’s not going to be available.”
Campbell re-aggravated a leg injury, initially suffered on Jan. 24, during Saturday’s game. He still managed to post a shutout against the high-octane Oilers. Third stringer Michael Hutchinson followed that up with another clean sheet on Monday.
“I just wanted to open it up with comments about our goalies,” alternate captain Morgan Rielly said before a question could be asked during his media session following Monday’s game. “The past two nights they’ve been outstanding and they don’t get enough credit. Soup and Hutchy have been outstanding for us all year and two games in a row against a good team has been just a huge boost to our team. That’s all I wanted to say.”
The Leafs made life easier on their goalies by limiting Edmonton’s time and space in the offensive zone.
“If you’re playing without Auston Matthews you’re essentially taking a goal out of your lineup,” said Keefe, “and then you have to make sure you’re that much better defensively and you don’t give up anything so I think that’s been our mindset … It really forces you to fall back on your structure, play as a team, get guys to step up at key moments, all those kind of things.”
NHL scoring leader Connor McDavid has been held without a point in consecutive games for the first time this season.
“They’re playing solid,” the Oilers captain said. “Give them a lot of credit. They’ve had some good goaltending. They’re defending well. They’re surrounding pucks well so they’re making it hard on us … They’re obviously missing some key pieces, but it speaks to their depth, their coaching and the players themselves. They’ve played well. I don’t know what else you want me to say.”
Since Day 1 of camp, Keefe has made improving the team’s overall defensive play a priority. They’ve been looking to cut down rush chances against and prevent other teams from hemming them in their own zone for long stretches.
“The defensive foundation and mindset is not a one-man thing,” said Keefe. “It’s not relying on a few players. That’s a team mindset. That’s playing in groups of five and insulating each other. When one man makes a mistake you got the numerical advantages and the pressure to make up for it … we’re getting to the point here now where we’re proving that we’re a team that can defend well.”
The Oilers are averaging 3.29 goals per game (fifth in the NHL) this season, but couldn’t get a puck past Toronto’s back-up goalies and frustration with evident.
McDavid took a cross-checking penalty on Holl on Monday.
Alex Chiasson cross-checked Jimmy Vesey in the neck after the buzzer in the third period and was assessed a one-game suspension.
“They’re probably trying to look for a spark so it’s all very understandable and it’s part of the game and we’re looking to be physical right back,” said Holl.
Josh Archibald and Travis Dermott dropped the gloves in the last minute of the game, but it turned into more of a wresting match. After practice ended on Tuesday, Dermott got some fighting tips from veteran defenceman Zach Bogosian.
Keefe likes how his team has handled things on the few occasions that things have gotten heated this season.
“Our guys aren’t fazed by it,” the coach said. “I think that’s an important thing. We’ve added some extra experience to our team. I think that makes a difference. Guys are comfortable no matter which way the game goes.”
The line of Zach Hyman, Pierre Engvall and Ilya Mikheyev has shown so much potential in Edmonton that nicknames for the unit are making the rounds. Some like the HEM Line because they are good at keeping the opposition trapped in their own end. Some prefer the ZIP Line, because they bring so much speed and energy.
You can certainly call them effective.
“They’re both so big and strong and fast,” Hyman said of the 6-foot-5 Engvall and 6-foot-3 Mikheyev. “I think we’re able to put pressure on the opposing team’s D and break out of our zone quick. They’ve been really fun to play with. I feel like we have the puck a lot because we can all skate and we can all move up and down the ice really well. We’re trying to use their speed as much as possible and put the puck in position for both those guys to skate onto it and once we’re in the zone just control some O-zone time.”
The line has produced a goal in both games in Edmonton with Hyman scoring both.
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.
Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics
(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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