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.
Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s
The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.
Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.
Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.
Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.
He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.
Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.
“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.
“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”
Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.
(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)
Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills
It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.
The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.
Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.
Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.
Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.
A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.
Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.
Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.
Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.
If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.
Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.
When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.
Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards
Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.
Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.
Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.
“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.
“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”
After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.
Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.
Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.
“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.
“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.
“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”
Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.
“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.
“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”
For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.
“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.
“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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