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Mac Neil wins Canada's first gold in Tokyo Games first in women's 100 butterfly – CTV News

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TOKYO —
Margaret Mac Neil shrugged off the bull’s-eye she felt on her to win Canada’s first gold medal of Tokyo’s Olympic Games.

The reigning world champion in the women’s 100-metre butterfly blitzed the back half of that race Monday at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre.

Seventh at the 50-metre turn, Mac Neil mowed through the pack to win in 55.59 seconds, which is the third-fastest time in the history of the event.

“It was more than I was hoping for at this point,” said the 21-year-old from London, Ont. “I was really just trying to enjoy the experience and just have fun, which I think I did today.

“So I’m really proud of that and just trying to not be so nervous and just try to loosen up, which is when I really swim at my best.”

The Canadian out-touched silver medallist Zhang Yufei of China by five hundredths of a second. Australia’s Emma McKeon took bronze.

Mac Neil is the seventh Canadian to win Olympic swimming gold. She joins teammate Penny Oleksiak (2016), Mark Tewksbury (1992), Alex Baumann, Victor Davis, Anne Ottenbrite (1984) and George Hodgson (1912).

She’s also Canada’s first multi-medallist in Tokyo after combining with Oleksiak, Kayla Sanchez and Rebecca Smith to win freestyle relay silver on the opening day of finals.

Mac Neil didn’t know she’d captured butterfly gold when she touched the wall. She wears glasses outside the pool, but not contact lenses when swimming.

Mac Neil squinted hard at the scoreboard to read her result before exclaiming “oh my god.”

The London Aquatic Club product possesses a strong underwater kick off the blocks, but is no stranger to swimming a negative split to win.

“I’m not usually out as fast,” she explained. “I need a little bit more time to get going. The second 50 is always my sweet spot and where I feel the most comfortable.”

Mac Neil was a surprise winner of a world title two years ago in Gwangju, South Korea, where she bested 2016 Olympic champion Sarah Sjoestroem of Sweden.

“Coming in with a target on your back is hard in so many ways that I wasn’t really expecting” Mac Neil said. “Going into worlds, I was relatively unknown, so I had that to my advantage.

“Going in with an expectation that I wanted to do well for myself and my family and friends and teammates that are home, I think that added pressure just makes it a little bit more challenging.”

World-record holder Sjoestroem, who broke her elbow in February in a fall on ice, finished seventh Monday.

Canada’s swim team opened the Olympic Games with two medals in as many days, and nearly claimed a couple more Monday

Toronto’s Summer McIntosh, who at 14 is the youngest athlete on Canada’s Olympic team, was fourth in the women’s 400-metre freestyle.

“It’s definitely just the beginning for me,” the teen said. “It’s amazing that I can have this experience under my belt for the coming years.”

Standing in the media interview room watching McIntosh race on television, Mac Neil urged her athletes’ village roommate with repeated “Go Summs.”

The men’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay team of Brent Hayden, Josh Liendo, Yuri Kisil and Markus Thormeyer was also fourth.

World champion backstroker Kylie Masse of LaSalle, Ont., advanced to the 100-metre final with the second-fastest time in the semifinals. The final is Tuesday morning local time, but late Monday evening in Canada.

A two-time NCAA champion who trains under Rick Bishop at the University of Michigan, Mac Neil returned to Canada in early April and served her mandatory two-week isolation under COVID-19 restrictions.

She then joined Ben Titley’s training group at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.

“I was really kind of quite nervous about how it was going to turn out, switching so close to the Olympics and trials, but it worked out for the best and I’m really happy with that decision,” she said.

Mac Neil placed sixth in 100 butterfly in the 2016 Olympic trials for Rio. She watched a 16-year-old Oleksiak win silver in her event, as well as freestyle gold, and thought to herself “I’m the same age as her.”

“I kind of forget where I was but I remember when Penny won her gold,” Mac Neil said. “That was the first gold that Swimming Canada has had for a very long time. I’m really honoured to add to that legacy.”

She looks forward to getting inked with an Olympic rings tattoo when she returns to Canada. Mac Neil suspects her mother Susan McNair will drop her previous reservations about it.

“She’s not a fan of it, but as a physician she’s emailed every doctor to find out the cleanest spots in London,” Mac Neil said. “You can bet I’ll be getting one when I go home.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2021.

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Canadiens come up nearly empty against Rangers in home opener – Montreal Gazette

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Jonathan Drouin’s goal gave hockey starved Montreal fans their only thrill in a 3-1 loss.

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A third-period goal by Alexis Lefreniére proved to be the difference as the New York Rangers defeated the Canadiens 3-1 to spoil the home opener at the Bell Centre on Saturday night.

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Lafrenière got behind the defence and Jake Allen had little chance as he converted a perfect pass from Mika Zibanejad to snap a 1-1 tie. The goal at 9:50 came 26 seconds after Jonathan Drouin gave the near-sellout crowd some hope when he ended Igor Shesterkin’s shutout bid. He was set up by Christian Dvorak, who carried the puck behind the net and found Drouin in the slot.

Kevin Rooney completed the scoring for the Rangers with an empty-net goal.

Shesterkin made 31 saves, while Allen stopped 21 of 23 shots.

After a listless first period, the Rangers picked up the pace to start the second and the Canadiens provided some opportunities by taking three consecutive penalties before the period was 10 minutes old. Montreal did a good job killing the first two, but New York got the bounce to take a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal at 9:59.

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Chris Krieder was credited with his third goal of the season when he deflected a shot by Zibanejad. Allen stopped the shot, but the rebound went in off defenceman Alexander Romanov.

The Canadiens created two scoring chances later in the second period. Cédric Paquette deflected a shot by Jeff Petry and it was headed to the top corner when Shesterkin made a spectacular glove save.

Two minutes later, defenceman David Savard showed off his puck-handling skills as he weaved his way through the Rangers and tried to find Brendan Gallagher in front. Gallagher was unable to control the pass for a shot and Shesterkin pounced on the loose puck.

The Canadiens’ power play continues to experience problems. Montreal had two power plays in the first period and managed only one shot on goal. They had four shots on a third-period advantage, but the best scoring chance came on a shorthanded breakaway by Zibanejad. The Montreal power play is now 0-for 11 on the season

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There were few opportunities for either team in the first period, which ended with the Rangers outshooting the Canadiens 7-5. Josh Anderson had the best scoring chance when he unleashed a shot from the right faceoff circle. Shesterkin was unable to handle the shot cleanly, but the puck trickled wide. Tyler Toffoli attempted a wraparound late in the period, but Shesterkin sealed off the post.

The game was preceded by words of welcome from team owner Geoff Molson and a drawn-out introduction of the players, coaches, the training and medical staffs and various other members of  the hockey operations department. The loudest ovation was for Drouin, who returned to action this season after taking timer off to deal with anxiety.

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During a break in the first period, the Canadiens announced this will be the final  season for Pierre Gervais as the team’s equipment manager. Gervais, who has been involved in more 3,000 games over a 35-year career, will remain with the team in yet-to-be-determined new role.

This was the first of four consecutive homes games for the Canadiens. They will welcome the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, followed by the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday and the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

phickey@postedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

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  3. Canadiens Shea Weber moves the puck up ice during first period against the Calgary Flames in Montreal on April 14, 2021.

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Canadiens vs. Rangers: Game thread, rosters, lines, and how to watch – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers

How to watch

Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CityTV, Sportsnet East (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the Rangers region: MSG
Streaming: ESPN+, NHL Live, Sportsnet Now

We pick the best three comments from each game thread to feature in our Top Six Minutes articles which are published at the conclusion of the game. Be sure to share your best gif or analysis to become a star.

The Montreal Canadiens head to the Bell Centre for the first meaningful action since last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. The last game Montreal fans witnessed in person was an overtime victory on Josh Anderson’s second goal of Game 4 in the Final.

Anderson was responsible for that last goal the Canadiens scored in 2020-21, and had a major hand in the first one versus the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night, but offence has been very difficult to come by for the team since that goal seven minutes into the opener; there’s only been one more since.

As a reaction, lines were juggled in the most recent match in Buffalo, but to little avail. Even so, Dominique Ducharme is sticking with the group he has hoping that his players will quickly find solutions.

The Rangers’ bid to increase their early-season offence was dealt a blow when Ryan Strome was ruled out by the COVID protocol for tonight’s game, knocking one of the top point-producers from a season ago out of action. Both teams will be missing significant offensive pieces as they go for their first win, but one of the clubs is going to avoid a winless start, even if it takes Marek Malik coming out of retirement to end it.

Montreal Canadiens projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
#40 Joel Armia #14 Nick Suzuki #22 Cole Caufield
#92 Jonathan Drouin #28 Christian Dvorak #17 Josh Anderson
#73 Tyler Toffoli #71 Jake Evans #11 Brendan Gallagher
#85 Mathieu Perreault #13 Cédric Paquette #62 Artturi Lehkonen

Defencemen

Left Defence Right Defence
Left Defence Right Defence
#27 Alexander Romanov #26 Jeff Petry
#8 Ben Chiarot #58 David Savard
#77 Brett Kulak #20 Chris Wideman

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
#34 Jake Allen #35 Samuel Montembeault

New York Rangers projected lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Alexis Lafrenière Mika Zibanejad Chris Kreider
Artemiy Panarin Filip Chytil Kaapo Kakko
Sammy Blais Barclay Goodrow Julien Gauthier
Dryden Hunt Kevin Rooney Ryan Reaves

Goaltenders

Starter Backup
Starter Backup
Igor Shesterkin Alexandar Georgiev

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In ever-evolving NBA, Raptors’ length and athleticism opens doors on defence – Sportsnet.ca

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Under head coach Nick Nurse, the Toronto Raptors have always worked to stay abreast of league trends, or even push the envelope on what might be next.

As an assistant coach, Nurse received a considerable amount of credit for overseeing an effort to inject more spacing, ball movement and player movement into an offensive approach that had grown too reliant on DeMar DeRozan’s mid-range isolations. The result was a team-record 59-win season in 2017-18. Nurse also had his fingerprints on the “bench mob” – the high-tempo, aggressive defence-first group that was a big part of the Raptors’ regular-season success.

Since becoming head coach in 2019-19, Nurse’s defensive focus has been more apparent, with the Raptors embracing liberal switching on the perimeter as well as a growing reliance on zone defences – tactics that were less common across the league than they quickly became.

But basketball’s pace of change hasn’t stalled. You can only pay so much attention to games that don’t matter, but it’s hard not to notice that in pre-season play the Golden State Warriors are putting up an astounding 55 three-point shots a game. Four other teams – Sacramento, Denver, Utah and Oklahoma City are averaging 45 three-point attempts.

For context the only teams in league history to average 45 three-point shots a game were the 2018-19 and 2019-20 Houston Rockets, with James Harden at his gun-slinging peak. A decade ago NBA teams averaged 20 three-point attempts a game. Last season it was 34 and still climbing apparently.

“I don’t know if any of us sat here at some point and said the amount of threes are going to be double … or whatever the number is,” said Nurse. “… It does evolve pretty quickly though.”

Given the value of those shots, a team that wants to be effective defensively must have a plan to discourage them being taken, or at least make them more difficult.

One of the benefits of a roster rounded out with so many players in the six-foot-six to six-foot-nine range – the Raptors only have four players in training camp shorter – is the pressure they can put on perimeter shooters.

The Raptors got a taste of it last season, when six-foot-nine Chris Boucher led the NBA with .84 blocked three-pointers a game and was ranked fourth in the league in the percentage that opponents shot when he was the closest defender. Pascal Siakam ranked second in the league in the number of three-pointers contested after leading that category in 2019-20.

As a whole, the Raptors weren’t especially good at defending the three-point line – opponents shot 37.9 per cent from deep, which was above league average and ranked them 24th overall – but given the range of mitigating circumstances they faced last season it’s probably not something to dwell on. The Raptors led the NBA in that category in 2019-20 when the set a franchise record for winning percentage.

This is a different team with plenty of new faces, but maybe having a roster full of athletic, agile guys in the mould of Boucher and Siakam could pay dividends in a league where it looks like more teams are going to be hoisting threes than ever before.

Raptors rookie Dalano Banton has certainly had the importance of getting to three-point shooters impressed upon him in his weeks-old NBA career, and as a nimble six-foot-nine guard, he can play the part.

“Shot contesting is one of our pillars that we go off of on defence as well as pressuring the ball so guys don’t get easy shots so, running them off the line,” said Banton after practice Friday. “In this league guys make shots and they make it at a high clip so I feel like just doing the best you can to run out at every shot that gets put up by the other team is big for us and being in our defensive stance, just showing length and just discouraging them from making plays they’d make if we weren’t in our right spots.

“…Just being in the right spot is just the biggest part of the battle and showing your hands. Once you’re there, it puts your whole team in a better position to play defence.”

Selling out on three-point shooters takes trust. Actually blocking a shot is rare and smart teams and players will look to pump fake on careless closeouts and look for a side-step three, a chance to penetrate the paint for layups, generate kick-outs to open shooters or simply swing the ball to take advantage of a scrambling defence.

It’s not enough to run at a shooter, it has to be done properly.

“Just playing the game the way you practice — running guys off lines and the next guy helping and making the next play,” says Banton. “So, it’s just about the offence having to make the next play, not giving them that shot or that layup, having to make them make that extra pass. The guy behind you is gonna help, we’re all playing defence in one line together so we’re all trying to work in a tandem and move where we have to move and rotate to the right spots.”

It’s music to Nurse’s ears. The goal of his scheme, he says, it to challenge every shot, everywhere.

“It’s kind of icing on the cake when we get a block [on a three-pointer],” he said. “I think I’m really more concerned that we’re making a heavy contest. Obviously the block is the heaviest of all contests. We just want to make sure we make it contested. It goes to hustle and hard play: You’ve got to keep playing the whole possession. Sometimes you’ve got to fire out, fire out, fire out.

“Every now and then you get put in rotations and some teams are really good in making you do it. But you’ve got to do it. That’s just an effort and hustle thing that we want the heavy contest. Chris [Boucher] has certainly got a knack, incredible timing on that stuff. I’m not sure it’s teachable or transferable … What we teach and what we drill every day is heavy contesting.”

Changing times call for changing measures – and maybe a lot of long, athletic guys flying around at the three-point line like never before.

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