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New Flames structure failing to generate necessary urgency –



The coach called some of his players dopey and blamed several bad penalties on the loss.

Fact is, the minutiae of the Calgary Flames’ latest in a string of four losses is irrelevant, as it’s just a slightly different spin on the same old story of late.

How they lost is secondary to figuring out how this group can possibly keep the faith — not just that it can pull off a miracle to get back into the playoff race, but that it can somehow find ways to score goals again under their new structure.

A 3-2 loss Friday to a formidable Winnipeg squad puts the Flames’ goal tally at four over their last four outings, leaving them four points back of fourth-place Montreal, which has four games in hand.

At a scoring clip like that Jacques Plante couldn’t save this bunch.

Both Flames goals came from redirects two feet from the goal line, on a night when the Flames had just five high danger scoring chances.

The Jets had nine.

Don’t pay attention to the score — this one wasn’t close.

Perhaps the game — and the Flames’ situation these days — was best summed up by a solid opening eight minutes in which the Flames only managed to muster a single shot on goal.

Their anemic offence, which is now based around winning puck battles following dump-ins, isn’t generating any semblance of sustained pressure of late.

“You’ve got to play with pace,” said Sutter when asked about how his players can maintain belief in a system they haven’t had any success with of late. “The system, all it is, is faster than the one they were playing, and that’s difficult to grasp. It has nothing to do with anything else. The scoring chances were on the forecheck and very little on the rush, which indicates the puck isn’t moving fast enough or some of our players aren’t.”

Yet, there were the Flames, fighting back from a 2-0 second intermission deficit, to make it interesting after Milan Lucic had one pinball off him and Josh Morrissey in the crease with 13 minutes left.

With eight minutes remaining Lucic was whistled for boarding Mason Appleton, drawing attention from Neal Pionk, who was promptly decked by a Lucic right hand.

While Lucic served four minutes in the box Jacob Markstrom complicated comeback efforts by firing the puck into the stands for a delay of game penalty that gave one of the NHL’s best power plays an easy five-on-three goal by Paul Stastny.

That goal stood as the game-winner, as a Matthew Tkachuk goal with the goalie pulled and two minutes remaining, created a façade this one was a nail biter.

Not in the least.

“The five-on-three is clearly the difference in the game,” said Sutter, who could be seen behind the bench vehemently disagreeing with the extra roughing call Lucic received.

“Obviously tonight the difference is we took a dumb high sticking penalty (by Dillon Dube) and they scored on it right away (10 minutes into the game), then we took a shoot it out of play for a five-on-three.

“We had some real dopey players in the first period — it cost us the game. We had some dopey players who didn’t wake up until we were down a goal, which is unfortunate. The urgency is there when we’re down a goal but you have to have the strength and mental toughness to play through that. You don’t always have the lead.”

Illustrating his point is the fact the Flames had just 13 shots on goal after two periods before perking up for the third period with a level of desperation missing in the opening 40.

Sutter has certainly fixed the team’s glaring work ethic issues since he’s arrived, but the trade-off is that an increased demand on details appears to be affecting the creativity and finish of a team that rarely looks dangerous offensively anymore.

The Flames, who are now 4-5 under Sutter, host Winnipeg again Saturday and Monday.

“Lose another one-goal game,” said a pensive Lucic, whose post-game body language understandably suggested this team is out of answers and, likely, hope.

“It sucks because we’re running out of time and running out of games. We’ve got to start getting in the win column if we’re going to have any sort of chance.”

To do that they’ll have to figure out how to get it in the net first.

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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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