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Flames season on brink after gut-wrenching loss to Senators – Sportsnet.ca

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In the early stages of the Calgary Flames’ latest faceplant against the Ottawa Senators, Kyle Dubas sat alone at Canadian Tire Centre, taking notes on a possible trade partner.

Surely the Leafs GM figured it was worth it to see a few players up close who are sure to be made available at the trade deadline from a seventh-place Senators squad.

By night’s end, it was evident the more likely trade partner could be the Calgary Flames, who are moving perilously closer to becoming sellers.

Calgary’s season on the brink hit a new low Wednesday.

In desperate search of a solution to their scoring woes, the only thing the Flames seem capable of finding nowadays are new ways to lose.

Entering the third period with a 1-0 lead and a 13-0-0 record when leading after two, the new, defence-first Flames failed to preserve the win.

An early third-period goal in the midst of a 13-minute stretch without a Flames shot on goal set the stage for Chris Tierney’s second-straight game-winner with eight minutes remaining in a game that ended 3-1.

It sends the lads limping home with three-straight losses on a four-game roadie that leave the Flames four back of a fourth-place Montreal team that has three games in hand.

“It’s not easy losing two here,” said Dillon Dube when asked if his 15-16-3 club had hit rock bottom.

“We had the game in our favour going into the third and it got away from us. So it’s tough. It’s not what you want for sure.”

As has been the case in all eight outings under Darryl Sutter, the effort was there. A desperate, determined Flames club held its own in yet another, plodding defensive battle that was decided by a few tiny mistakes late in the game.

But looking at the big picture, the Flames struggled to get just one goal in each game against a rookie netminder making his first two NHL starts on a young, last-place team that has allowed far more goals than any club in the NHL.

It sets up what could be a terrifying trio of visits from Winnipeg starting Friday that has the potential to all but mathematically eliminate a Flames team that still has 22 games left.

“Right now we’re really feeling this one and letting it sink in,” said Dube, who was instrumental in the forecheck and net-front traffic that allowed Mark Giordano’s point blast to carom off Alex Formenton 13 minutes into the second period.

“We can’t just move one, you’ve got to feel this and let it motivate you for the next one. We’ve got to go home and come strong and take care of that first game. That’s all we need to worry about – we can’t get ourselves stressed out here and worry about all those 14 games.”

The 14 games he’s referring to are the number of home contests remaining for a Flames team that almost certainly will need 16 wins to challenge for a playoff spot.

The club is 8-5-1 at home this year and has given no reason to believe that without the aid of 18,000 frothy fans urging them on, they can somehow turn this ship around in dramatic fashion.

Sutter once again felt his team played well, despite losing to a team that every other club in the north outside of Montreal has feasted on.

They made a 22-year-old goalie feel comfortable despite dealing with a condition that causes numbness in his hands when he’s stressed.

Perhaps the Flames should be checked for a similar condition after scoring just twice in their last three games.

“For long stretches of the game we were playing the right way – we’re checking hard and the effort is there,” said Giordano, whose club has claimed five of a possible 14 points from Ottawa.

“It’s about getting chances and finishing them. Three pretty hard-fought games (on the trip) but our inability to finish our chances is pretty much the difference.”

On Wednesday, the Senators completed their comeback at the tail end of a lengthy clinic in the Calgary zone against a newly-formed line of Milan Lucic, Elias Lindholm and Sam Bennet that saw Noah Hanifin on for more than three minutes before losing his check on the winning rebound.

As Sutter pointed out, the team had three chances to clear the zone, but failed.

“Both games (in Ottawa) feel similar – we didn’t have the ability to lock it down when we needed to in the final minutes there,” said Giordano.

“It’s tough. This (was) a big trip for us. We’ve got to make plays under pressure in all three zones, and that’s the difference.”

The early optimism that came with Sutter’s hire is gone, as the team is 4-4 with him here.

On Wednesday he implemented significant line changes, with the same result.

Matthew Tkachuk, Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane were reunited, while Dube played with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau.

To no avail.

One game after throwing 71 shot attempts at the Senators, the Flames threw 67 Wednesday, which included 29 that needed to be stopped by Filip Gustavsson.

Only three were considered high-danger chances by NaturalStatTrick.com.

Not good enough.

Words we’ve heard far too often from the players themselves, some of whom should start to wonder how much longer they’ll be in Calgary.

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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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Masters 2021: Tiger Woods says he'll miss Champions Dinner, running up DJ's bill – Golf Channel

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dustin Johnson will host his first Champions Dinner on Tuesday night in the Augusta National clubhouse, and he’ll be joined by several past Masters champions.

One former winner who won’t be there is five-time champ Tiger Woods, who is still home in South Florida recovering from a serious car accident in February near Los Angeles. Justin Thomas, who is still working toward his invite to the prestigious dinner, said Woods texted him Friday night and was “bummed” to not be at the Masters this year.

Woods then tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he’ll miss one of his favorite nights of the year.

“I’ll miss running up @DJohnsonPGA’s bill at the Champions Dinner tonight,” Woods said. “It’s still one of my favorite nights of the year.”

Johnson responded to Woods’ tweet, saying: “Will miss having you here. This week isn’t the same without you.”

The PGA Tour announced that the club would leave a seat open for Woods at the dinner, though the tweet has since been taken down.

Johnson will serve a menu including filet mignon, sea bass and peach cobbler.

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