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Facing elimination, Canadiens are desperate to rediscover winning formula in Cup final –



Dominique Ducharme has been here before.

Well, not right here — down 3-0 in the Stanley Cup final and facing elimination on home ice — but the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens stared at the same long odds back in junior and managed to flip the script.

After losing the first three games of their quarterfinal series against the Quebec Remparts in the 2012 QMJHL playoffs, Ducharme’s Halifax Mooseheads responded with 2-1 and 3-2 wins to force Game 6.

Led by 16-year-old Nathan MacKinnon, they followed that up with a 5-2 victory before securing a thrilling 5-4 overtime decision in Game 7.

The stakes are much higher some nine years later in the summer of 2021 with Montreal down 0-3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the clinical defending champions looking to become just the second team to repeat since 1999.

‘That’s what we’re thinking about’

Ducharme’s overarching blueprint to get back in this series, however, remains the same.

“You can’t look too far ahead,” he said Saturday. “If you do, the mountain seems pretty high. There are steps to follow. The first step is to win at home [Monday in Game 4]. Those who think we’ll just go away don’t really know us. We’ll fight.

“That’s what we’re thinking about.”

WATCH | Late turnover costs Habs any chance of comeback against Lightning:

Ondrej Palat capitalized on a late turnover from Joel Edmundson to put an end to any potential comeback from the Montreal Canadiens in game two. 1:03

The Canadiens are also thinking about how they can get back to a style of play that solidified midway through the first round against the heavily favoured Toronto Maple Leafs and propelled them on this improbable playoff journey.

Montreal erased a 3-1 hole in that series by taking care of the puck, finally capitalizing on its chances, and relying on consistency up and down its lineup.

The Canadiens then stunned the Winnipeg Jets with a sweep — they won seven straight contests without ever trailing at one point this spring — and used the same formula against the Vegas Golden Knights in the semifinals.

But the NHL’s 18th-ranked team during the pandemic-shortened regular season, and the last to qualify for the playoffs, has looked like it for much of the Cup final.

Montreal gifted Tampa goals left and right in Friday’s 6-3 loss at the Bell Centre with sloppy decisions and mental mistakes that simply weren’t made over the last month-plus of grinding, methodical action.

The Lightning capitalized on an inability to clear the puck and a needless delay-of-game penalty early to take a 2-0 advantage in Game 3.

Montreal steadied itself and cut the lead heading into the first intermission, but again switched off in the opening stages of the second by failing to get the puck deep on a line change and creating a 2-on-0 the other way that was followed up by a 2-on-1 strike a few minutes later.

And that was basically that at 4-1.

The Canadiens are wary of making mistakes against an opponent stacked with skill and assassin-like precision, but is overthinking and not playing on their toes actually forcing them into the exact errors they’re looking to avoid?

Ducharme doesn’t think so.

“We know how to manage [the puck],” he said less than 24 hours after returning to the bench following a 14-day absence because of a positive COVID-19 test. “There’s nothing to say about our will [in Game 3]. You just need to find the right balance and manage that, and manage that energy the right way.

“When you’re trailing, you have a tendency of pushing a little bit more and forcing a little bit more, and you make a little bit more risky plays. The risk and reward, sometimes you get a bit.”

‘The best team we’ve played’

What was working in the first three rounds is no longer the case. And Tampa — with the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy — is doing its part to complicate matters.

“The best team we’ve played,” Ducharme said with both clubs staying off the ice thanks to an extra day off between games. “Everything that we do is just a little bit more difficult because we’re playing a good team. I don’t feel that being smart with the puck puts you on your heels because you don’t want to make mistakes.

“It’s just being smart.”

WATCH | Game 3 of Stanley Cup Final, Montreal Canadiens vs Tampa Bay Lightning:

Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals have the Montreal Canadiens back on their home turf. The stadium will let 3,500 people in — with physical distancing required. Montreal went into this game down 0-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. 1:57

Lightning defenceman Ryan McDonagh said Tampa has emphasized speed to keep Montreal off balance at both ends of the rink.

“That’s when we’re really at our best: when we’re attacking the opposition when they don’t have the puck,” said McDonagh, whose team can become the first since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings to sweep the final. “When we get away from it, we realize it right away.

“When we’re at our best — when the puck’s not on our stick — we’re using our speed to get in their face and try and disrupt things.”

Ducharme said he’s contemplating lineup changes with his team’s back pressed against the wall, but one switch firmly off the table is benching Carey Price.

The former Hart and Vezina Trophy winner is the main reason Montreal is in its first final since 1993, but he also owns an ugly .835 save percentage in the series.

“Carey’s the guy playing Monday,” Ducharme said. “You can talk about one guy or another guy. It’s about all of us. We need to be better in front of him. Everyone. All 20 guys putting on the jersey are looking for, Monday night, playing their best game.

“That’s it.”

The trouble is, their best game still might not be good enough.

WATCH | Meet Canada’s Olympic track and field team:

This week on Team Canada Today, Andi Petrillo explains all of the big Canadian storylines in athletics — including Andre De Grasse’s chances at winning another medal. 4:13

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More people watched Seattle NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 than Cubs-Cards on ESPN – Awful Announcing



In the grand scheme of things, 637,000 viewers nationally is not a huge number for a cable channel with any level of significant distribution. Most things on broadcast TV not only beat that, but beat it by quite a bit, and that kind of number isn’t usually even amongst the top cable broadcasts. However, the news that ESPN2 pulled that number in for its (NHL-produced, but featuring ESPN figures) coverage of the NHL expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken Wednesday night was certainly interesting, especially as so much of the actual news around that draft was reported in advance, and also given that their main-network coverage of the MLB game between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals drew fewer viewers. Here’s a comparison of Wednesday night sporting events from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal:

On the negative side, that draft didn’t even draw the numbers of studio show Pardon The Interruption (however, that airs on ESPN rather than ESPN2; they’re similar in distribution, but many people turn on main ESPN first). It also didn’t draw the numbers of early Olympic programming from NBCSN. On the positive side, it outdrew a national MLB game. And it drew more than the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft five years ago (595,000 on NBCSN for a combined broadcast of that draft and the NHL Awards). And it’s a good sign for ESPN, as this is their first big NHL event they aired under their new deal.

And yes, as Ourand noted in a follow-up tweet, that Cubs-Cards game didn’t have regional sports network blackouts, so Cubs and Cardinals fans could still watch it on their local RSNs. And most probably did, so it likely primarily pulled the national audience that didn’t have those RSNs. But it’s still interesting to see an ESPN2 event outdraw an ESPN event, especially when the ESPN event is a live game and the ESPN2 event is a one-team expansion draft (and one where most of the information was previously available to the public).

If ESPN versus ESPN2 programming decisions were made strictly from a standpoint of what they thought would draw more viewers, this result would go against that. That’s not entirely the case here, as the MLB on ESPN package comes with some restrictions on where games can air. But it’s still interesting to see the NHL expansion draft on ESPN2 outdraw a live MLB game between two prominent teams.

That is also perhaps further evidence that draft “spoilers” don’t always damage the ratings that much. That’s long been a debate, from the NFL’s heavy pushes against pick-tipping to the NBA’s more moderate approach (which sees pick-tipping still happen with some different language, and which hasn’t really led to obvious ratings losses).

In the case of this draft, figures who don’t work for expansion draft rightsholders Sportsnet (Canada) and ESPN (U.S.) reported many of the picks early, with Frank Seravalli (formerly of TSN, now of Daily Faceoff) and Pierre LeBrun (TSN/The Athletic) getting many of those, other national figures getting some more, and local reporters getting some others. So a mostly-full picture was available before the broadcast for those who wanted to find it. But that didn’t stop a significant amount of people from watching this, and that maybe shows that the league pushes against pick-tipping aren’t always that impactful.

[John Ourand on Twitter]

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Cleveland changes MLB team nickname to Guardians after months of discussion –



Known as the Indians since 1915, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will be called Guardians.

The ball club announced the name change Friday with a video on Twitter narrated by actor Tom Hanks, ending months of internal discussions triggered by a national reckoning by institutions and teams to permanently drop logos and names that are considered racist.

The choice of Guardians will undoubtedly be criticized by many of the club’s die-hard fans.

The organization spent most of the past year whittling down a list of potential names that was at nearly 1,200 just over a month ago. But the process quickly accelerated and the club landed on Guardians.

Social unrest spurred name change

Team owner Paul Dolan said last summer’s social unrest, touched off by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, spurred his intention to change the name.

Dolan is expected to provide more details on the choice and background on the change at a news conference at Progressive Field before Cleveland hosts the Tampa Bay Rays.

Dolan said the new name mirrors the city and its people.

“Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity,” he said in a statement. “Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders. ‘Guardians’ reflects those attributes that define us.”

In 2018, the team stopped wearing the contentious Chief Wahoo logo on their jerseys and caps. However, the team continues to sell merchandise bearing the smiling, red-faced caricature that was protested for decades by Native American groups.

The name change has sparked lively debate among the city’s passionate sports fans. Other names, including the Spiders, which is what the team was once called, were pushed by supporters on social media platforms.

But Guardians does seem to fit the team’s objective to find a name that embodies Cleveland’s ethos while preserving the team’s history and uniting the community.

Not far from the downtown ballpark, there are two large landmark stone edifices — referred to as guardians — on the Hope Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River.

The team’s colours will remain the same, and the new Guardians’ new logos will incorporate some of the architectural features of the bridge.

The change comes as the Washington Football Team continues to work toward a similar makeover. The franchise dropped its name before the 2020 season and said it will reveal a new name and logo in 2022.

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LIVE BLOG: Opening ceremony kicks off 2020 Olympics in Tokyo – Global News



After being postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has officially kicked off.

The Olympic Games opening ceremony is typically a chance for competing countries and athletes to show off their pride and culture, but this year will be a little different.

Normally held in a stadium full of ecstatic fans, this year’s ceremony will have international athletes parade around a near-empty venue after it was announced fans would not be allowed to attend because of rising COVID-19 cases in Japan.

Read more:
Fireworks light up Tokyo sky as 2020 Olympics officially begin amid pandemic

Athletes from around the world, including Canada, are taking part in the ceremony for the Summer Games, which will run until Aug. 8.

Canada has sent 370 athletes to the Olympics, the nation’s largest delegation since 1984.

Click to play video: 'Team Canada names flag-bearers for Tokyo Olympic Games'

Team Canada names flag-bearers for Tokyo Olympic Games

Team Canada names flag-bearers for Tokyo Olympic Games

But only 30 to 40 athletes are marching into the Olympic Stadium, the Canadian Olympic Committee has previously said, saying athletes aren’t allowed into the Olympic Village until five days before they compete.

Many of them will be too close to the start of their competition to join flagbearers Miranda Ayim of the women’s basketball team and men’s rugby sevens co-captain Nathan Hirayama.

Read more:
Canada at the Tokyo Olympics — Who’s competing, attending opening ceremony Friday

The ceremony’s theme is “United by Emotion,” as officials are aspiring to reaffirm the role of sport and the value of the Olympic Games, express gratitude and admiration for the efforts made over the past year, and also bring a sense of hope for the future, the Olympics website says.

Despite all the difficulties the International Olympic Committee has faced to stage the Games amid a global pandemic, president Thomas Bach previously said he believes the ceremonies will be a moment of “joy and relief.”

The event runs from 7 a.m. ET to 11 a.m. ET

You can follow along here.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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