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SIMMONS: The old men and the 'C' keep Habs alive in Stanley Cup final – Toronto Sun

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The longest two minutes and 59 seconds of Shea Weber’s hockey life seemed to take forever.

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He sat in the penalty box at the Bell Centre, clearly uncomfortable, unable to be where he was needed most and the seconds clicked away slowly. They always do. From almost three minutes to two minutes. From two minutes to one minute.

The Tampa power play in overtime to win the Stanley Cup, to end the miracle run of the forever battling Montreal Canadiens. It was all there, all set up to end that way. With Weber sitting off for high sticking Ondrej Palat for the final 61 seconds of regulation time.

And then almost three minutes of power-play time to begin overtime.

The Stanley Cup was in the building. The Lightning needed a power-play goal from the best power play in hockey. The championship was all ready to be won — except Carey Price wouldn’t let it happen, and the terrific Montreal penalty killers, minus their giant leader on defence, somehow found a way to kill the clock, even get a shorthanded opportunity or two, before Weber returned and Montreal went on to do what its done four times before in these Stanley Cup playoffs.

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This is a dangerous Habs team when they’re hanging on the ropes, still throwing punches, just a goal, a bounce, an overtime marker away from shaking hands and saying goodbye. Three times in the first round, the Maple Leafs had to do nothing but win to knock Montreal out. They didn’t face an elimination game in Round 2 or 3 of the playoffs. Monday night in Montreal, with the dream barely alive, with this unlikely and incomparable story so close to ending, the Habs did it again.

They got up off the mat. They killed the final 61 seconds of regulation time and the first two minutes and 59 seconds of overtime – a shorthanded eternity, really – and they found a way, as they’ve done all playoffs long to win in overtime. To win scoring the first goal of the game. To prevent elimination. At least until Wednesday night.

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Montreal Canadiens right wing Josh Anderson (17) celebrates goaltender Carey Price (31) after scoring against Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (not pictured) during the overtime period in game four of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final at the Bell Centre. (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)
Montreal Canadiens right wing Josh Anderson (17) celebrates goaltender Carey Price (31) after scoring against Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (not pictured) during the overtime period in game four of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final at the Bell Centre. (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

It has been rather spectacular to watch the old men of the Canadiens, Weber on defence, Price in goal, the stalwarts of Team Canada’s past, being what they need to be on the biggest of hockey nights. Price hadn’t had a great Stanley Cup final until Montreal faced elimination.

Then he looked rather Price-like. Impossible to beat. Sharp and on angle and with the kind of goaltending that indicates one of the oldest axioms of the game: Your goaltender has to be your best penalty killer. The goaltender was in the final minute of regulation and in the 2:59 of overtime, especially with man-mountain Weber in the box, unable to do anything but watch in frustration.

He hadn’t been watching earlier in the night. He was pounding people, those all dressed up in Tampa Bay colours. He was all over Brayden Point, who has the most goals in the Stanley Cup playoffs yet none in the four games of this series. You don’t want to fool with Weber at the best of times – his kind of game can be rather frightening for anyone who dares to challenge him – and even the referee Kelly Sutherland, who was right beside Weber when his stick bloodied Palat’s face, didn’t want to make the penalty call.

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Ondrej Palat #18 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts after getting cut with a high-stick by Shea Weber (not pictured) of the Montreal Canadiens during the third period in Game Four of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bell Centre on July 5, 2021 in Montreal.
Ondrej Palat #18 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts after getting cut with a high-stick by Shea Weber (not pictured) of the Montreal Canadiens during the third period in Game Four of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bell Centre on July 5, 2021 in Montreal. Photo by Andre Ringuette /Getty Images

No one wants to make a call against Weber. Not then. Not at that time. As obvious as it was. You play the way he does and respect grows year after year.

“You can’t ask for a better teammate,” said Brendan Gallagher, who would seemingly take on the world to keep the Canadiens playing. “We could have killed (the penalty) for anyone.”

And then he said without clearly saying it.

It meant more because it was Weber in the box. Because he doesn’t lose games, he finds ways to win them. “He’s been a rock for us,” said Gallagher. “The physicality he brings, you expect from him every night. He’s a pain. We’re happy to have him on our side.”

Brayden Point #21 of the Tampa Bay Lightning is checked into the boards by Shea Weber #6 of the Montreal Canadiens during the second period in Game Four of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bell Centre on July 05, 2021 in Montreal. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Brayden Point #21 of the Tampa Bay Lightning is checked into the boards by Shea Weber #6 of the Montreal Canadiens during the second period in Game Four of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Bell Centre on July 05, 2021 in Montreal. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

You don’t reach the Stanley Cup final and move into a fifth game and get this far after that kind of wonky regular season unless some kind of magic happens. Hockey can be rather remarkable that way.

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Josh Anderson had his line changed by coach Dominque Ducharme, who should be getting a contract of significance when this series ends. A new line for Anderson and he scores the game’s first goal and the overtime winner. Tampa hasn’t won a game it hasn’t scored first in and hasn’t won a game this playoff season that went to overtime.

Everything was set up well for the Canadiens if being shorthanded for almost three minutes to start overtime is setting up well. Ducharme changed lines and Anderson became the hero of the night. He changed lines and rookie Alexander Romanov, who scored one goal this season, scored a playoff goal in an elimination game. The Romanov goal was assisted by Jake Evans, who was also part of the roster re-construction by Ducharme.

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Almost every move Ducharme made worked out for Montreal. Which has been part of their playoff story. No part more important than Montreal’s superb penalty killing, which is hitting historical marks this post-season. Led usually by Price and Weber.

“The guys have done a great job in the playoffs and we’re playing against a power play that’s pretty dangerous.” He then talked about the character of his team, the way coaches always do after a win.

And he talked about the penalty kill that kept this season alive. The penalty kill that didn’t have Shea Weber on defence. “That shows how much we care about our captain,” said Ducharme. How much all of them care.

ssimmons@postmedia.com

twitter.com/simmonssteve

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Olympic champion Simone Biles withdraws from Tokyo all-around event – Sportsnet.ca

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TOKYO — Simone Biles will not defend her Olympic title.

The American gymnastics superstar withdrew from Thursday’s all-around competition to focus on her mental well-being.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Wednesday that the 24-year-old is opting to not compete. The decision comes a day after Biles removed herself from the team final following one rotation because she felt she wasn’t mentally ready.

Jade Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying, will take Biles’ place in the all-around. Carey initially did not qualify because she was the third-ranking American behind Biles and Sunisa Lee. International Gymnastics Federation rules limit countries to two athletes per event in the finals.

The organization said Biles will be evaluated daily before deciding if she will participate in next week’s individual events. Biles qualified for the finals on all four apparatuses, something she didn’t even do during her five-medal haul in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The 24-year-old came to Tokyo as arguably the face of the Games following the retirement of swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt. She topped qualifying on Sunday despite piling up mandatory deductions on vault, floor and beam following shaky dismounts.

She posted on social media on Monday that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. The weight became too heavy after vaulting during team finals. She lost herself in mid-air and completed 1 1/2 twists instead of 2 1/2. She consulted with U.S. team doctor Marcia Faustin before walking off the field of play.

When she returned, she took off her bar grips, hugged teammates Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and Jordan Chiles and turned into the team’s head cheerleader as the U.S. claimed silver behind the Russian Olympic Committee.

“Once I came out here (to compete), I was like, ‘No mental is, not there so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself,’” Biles said following the medal ceremony.

The decision opens the door wide open for the all-around, a title that was long considered a foregone conclusion. Rebeca Andrade of Brazil finished second to Biles during qualifying, followed by Lee and Russians Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova. The four were separated by three-tenths of a point on Sunday.

Carey now finds herself in the final, capping a remarkable journey for the 21-year-old from Phoenix. She spent two years traveling the globe in an effort to pile up enough points on the World Cup circuit to earn an individual nominative spot, meaning she would be in the Olympics but technically not be part of the four-woman U.S. team.

Carey posted the second-best score on vault and the third-best on floor during qualifying, earning trips to the event finals in the process. Now she finds herself competing for an all-around medal while replacing the athlete considered the greatest of all-time in the sport.

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Tokyo Olympics: Penny Oleksiak becomes Canada's most decorated summer Olympian – The Globe and Mail

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Canada’s Penny Oleksiak races in the women’s 200m freestyle final at the Tokyo Olympics on 
July 28, 2021. Oleksiak won bronze, making her the Canadian athlete with the most Summer Games medals.

Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

Latest Olympic highlights

OLYMPIC EVENTS FOR JULY 28
  • Gymnastics: Decorated gymnast Simone Biles has withdrawn from the individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics, a day after she pulled out of the team event, putting a sharp focus on mental health at the Games. Canadian gymnast Ellie Black is also out of the final with a sprained ankle.
  • Swimming: Penny Oleksiak swam to her sixth Olympic medal yesterday – the most ever won by a Canadian athlete at the Summer Olympics. This puts her among the ranks of speedskater Cindy Klassen and cyclist and speedskater Clara Hughes, who also have six Olympic medals each. As the Globe’s Cathal Kelly writes from Tokyo, she shows up when it matters, and that’s why she’s Canada’s greatest summer Olympian.
  • Boxing: Canadian boxer Tammara Thibeault will advance in the women’s middleweight boxing event after winning her bout against Nadezhda Ryabets of Kazakhstan by split decision last night. Canadian Caroline Veyre lost in her featherweight quarter-final bout against Italian Irma Testa.
OFF THE FIELD
  • COVID-19 surge: Governors of three prefectures near Tokyo are likely to ask the government to declare states of emergency for their regions, media said on Wednesday, after COVID-19 infections spiked to a record high in the Japanese capital. Tokyo recorded 3,177 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, a new record for the second day in a row. The total of Olympics-related COVID-19 cases since July 1 has risen to 169.
  • Food waste: Olympic organizers have apologized for ordering too much food for their staff during the opening ceremony and letting it go to waste. Videos of trucks carting off boxes of uneaten food went viral online, forcing the apology.

Get the Olympic highlights in your inbox every day with our newsletter, or follow @globeandmail on Twitter for breaking news. Here are yesterday’s Olympic highlights in case you missed them.

Situation in Tokyo, by numbers

WHAT IS THE OLYMPIC MEDAL TALLY IN TOKYO SO FAR?

JAPAN’S LATEST COVID-19 DATA

WHAT TIME IS IT IN TOKYO RIGHT NOW?

More Olympic updates for July 28

  • Rowing: Jessica Sevick and Gabrielle Smith missed the podium finishing sixth in women’s double sculls after posting the fourth-fastest time in the semifinals.
  • Volleyball: Canada’s men’s volleyball team beat Iran in straight sets in its first game of the Olympics.

The Olympic experience

Globe sports reporter Rachel Brady watched a different kind of event at the famous Budokan arena – a Games team changing out the competition mats between the daytime and nighttime sessions Read more behind-the-scenes perspectives from Globe staff at the Olympics.

The Globe and Mail

Tokyo Olympics: Today in photos

From The Globe’s Olympic team

Simone Biles’ legacy may be her courage to look after herself, not the IOC

After experiencing what she called “demons” leading into and during Tuesday’s team competition, superstar gymnast Simone Biles pulled herself. In choosing her mental health over more gold medals, a superstar American gymnast is showing other athletes how much power they have to stand up to the athletic-industrial complex.

Reminder: Before and after the Olympics, women’s sports coverage is lacking

John Doyle: “I’m here to offer you a periodic reminder – before and after the Olympics, women’s sports get less attention than they merit. We will cheer on, or even worship, our women athletes now. Their accomplishments will lift the spirits of a nation and inspire young women to devote themselves to a sport. Then, afterwards, the achievement will become a memory and the activities will barely feature in media coverage, especially on television. This has to stop.”

Tokyo Olympic events to watch tomorrow, July 29

  • Swimming: Penny Oleksiak of Canada swims for gold at the women’s 100 m freestyle event.

Check the full Olympic schedule for the latest event times and competitors.

The Tokyo Olympics: Essential reads

What athletes and teams should Canadians look out for? Consult our guide.

How did Canada’s swimmers use data to get stronger? Grant Robertson and Timothy Moore explain.

Female street skateboarders like Annie Guglia demonstrate the possibility of broader change, writes Nathan Vanderklippe

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The Tokyo Olympics are turning into NBC's worst nightmare – Yahoo News Canada

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Japan’s Naomi Osaka leaves the court after being beaten by Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova during their third-round Olympic match in Tokyo. (GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP via Getty Images)

No one said these Olympics would be easy. Not even watching them.

Midway through the first week of the Tokyo Games, even the most cautiously optimistic viewer of Friday’s opening ceremony is now likely to be rubbing their eyes: With shocking upsets, unexpected exits, a 16-hour time difference and a thicket of broadcast, cable and streaming options, the most tumultuous Olympics in years are starting to catch up with the NBC stable of networks, which hold the lucrative U.S. television rights to the two-week event.

Times television editor Matt Brennan, senior writer Greg Braxton and digital editor Tracy Brown have been keeping an eye on the Games from the comfort of their homes. Read on for their discussion of the difficulties facing the Olympics and its American broadcasters — and a few of the silver linings that have emerged so far.

Matt Brennan, TV editor: As I prepared for bed Monday night, idly checking Twitter, the news broke of Japanese star Naomi Osaka’s third-round upset by the Czech Republic’s Markéta Vondrousová in the Olympic tennis tournament. Tuesday morning, I awoke to an Apple News push notification that the U.S. women’s gymnastics squad had silver-medaled in the team competition after its top athlete, Simone Biles, withdrew citing her mental health. And my first reaction to this one-two punch was, “Welp, I guess that means I can skip tonight’s telecast.”

I am a casual Olympics viewer, admittedly — following the bold-faced names, like Osaka and Biles; the big events, like swimming and track and field; and the most important stories, like… what in the heck is going on with the Tokyo Olympics? Amid a set of unprecedented challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and a crisis of legitimacy for the International Olympics Committee, I’m hard-pressed to remember a more chaotic and deflating start to what has been a TV juggernaut for most of my lifetime. I know y’all have been watching. What has your experience been so far?

Greg Braxton, senior writer: Today I tuned in to the USA women’s beach volleyball team trying to play a match in typhoon weather, which might sum up the Olympic viewing experience: The event has been overcome by a figurative typhoon. The spotlight and emphasis that NBC has placed on these opening marquee events, featuring some of sports’ biggest stars, have been crushed by a perfect storm of unimaginable disappointment and anticlimactic performances. Trying to make sense out of the maze of coverage among the various platforms of NBC, Peacock, the Olympic Channel, USA Network and others is difficult enough. Combine that with the news coming out of Tokyo about the stumbles of star athletes and it becomes doubly frustrating.

I watched the USA Men’s Basketball Team match on Sunday while reading the paper — there was no reason to pay close attention because a news bulletin several hours before announced they had lost to France. The result for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team was also broadcast far in advance, as you say. You would have had to stay in a closet all day if you didn’t want to know the outcome before turning on your TV tonight.

And I threw up my hands Monday when I found a rugby match on during NBC’s primetime programming block — and not Osaka, who was playing her match live on the Olympic Channel. The most famous female athlete in the world was being treated almost as a sideshow on a small stage when she should have been in the center ring. The outdated model of packaging the day’s events in primetime rather than showing one of the most anticipated stories of the Games live illustrated the network’s haphazard approach to the Olympics, which the age of social media has cast in an ever-harsher light.

It was Tuesday, though, that Olympic plans went south fastest. The hype surrounding the women’s gymnastics competition has been steadily building for months and hit a crescendo Sunday during the qualifying events. To hear this morning that Biles had pulled out due to mental health issues after making some mistakes in the preliminaries was really heartbreaking. Everything seems to be going wrong, and that — on top of the logistical issues — makes it hard for an Olympics fan like me to maintain interest in watching.

The Olympics used to be the ultimate watercooler event. People rushed home, had watch parties, talked about these amazing athletes the next day. That whole era is gone, but it’s particularly obvious during these Olympics. That became clear with the “opening ceremonies.” It’s a shame.

Tracy Brown, staff writer: For me, figuring out how to watch the Olympics has felt like an Olympic-caliber obstacle course because I’ve been trying to catch the events I care about live before I get a news alert or see results trending on Twitter. This has meant figuring out, as has been mentioned, the various broadcast and livestream schedules — all while running on very little sleep. Even then, there’s no way to stay on top of everything, so I also am strategic about choosing what to watch when.

Luckily, the sport I’ve been most excited about — softball returning to the Olympics for the first time since Team U.S.A.’s stunning loss to Team Japan at the ’08 Games — is one I’ve been able to watch more or less spoiler-free. Softball kicked off its preliminary rounds even before the opening ceremony, so I got an early start in trying to adjust to the time difference. And, as of this writing, I still haven’t watched the Gold medal rematch between rivals U.S. and Japan that took place in the predawn hours Tuesday (in Pacific Time). But because so many other big storylines have dominated the headlines, I think I’ll be able to experience it as if it were live — if I’m careful.

And that’s kind of how the strategy part comes into play for me. I stay on top of the events I know I want to experience unspoiled and prioritize watching those live whenever possible. I appreciate the packaged primetime programming block for what it is, but I leave that for the nights I haven’t picked anything specific to see, or when no live event holds my interest. And then there are some sports, like gymnastics, where the feats of athleticism are so amazing that even if I know the results, I’ll tune in anyway. While it may not always be the specific athlete or team I’m rooting for, someone is going to have some incredible Olympic moment or memorable story.

All that is to say, I very much had mixed feelings in the lead-up to the Games, with the reality of the surging pandemic and the people of Tokyo and Japan calling for the event to be canceled. And I still have moments of playing mental gymnastics when I think about the bigger Olympics picture. But I love sports stories — even when I have no idea what the rules are sometimes — so as soon as the events got started I got sucked in despite how hard NBC, and the real world, have made it.

Brennan: You are so right, Tracy, about the silver linings: Whether the star is a Tunisian swimmer or a Filipino weightlifter, there are inspiring stories to be found in the Olympics so far, even if the spotlight isn’t shining where we might have expected. That’s the nature of sports.

Ultimately, my disappointment is not in the competition itself, but in the sense that the Olympic television I grew up on has not grown up with me.

In my job I often say that people don’t watch TV the way they used to, so we can’t cover TV the way we used to — and NBC has unfortunately failed to reinvent the model developed in Sydney, Athens and Beijing for an ecosystem now dominated by streaming platforms and social media. All of the struggles you’ve enumerated above and others cited to me by our Times colleagues, are symptoms of this problem: live coverage bouncing between networks, the lack of timely on-demand replays, Peacock’s unintuitive design. Even the tradition of focusing the lion’s share of promotional attention on a handful of name-brand American stars like Biles seems parochial in a climate of global fame and increased sensitivity to the pressures on elite athletes.

I don’t envy the decision-makers at NBC, who are faced with broadcasting a highly complex, real-time sporting event to a notoriously fickle audience. Certainly, no one could have predicted what the media landscape would look like today when the network became the Summer and Winter Olympics’ exclusive U.S. home starting in 2000, or even when NBC and the IOC signed their last contract extension, through 2032, seven years ago. But it’s hard not to think that the Tokyo Games are shaping up to be NBC’s worst nightmare: evidence that one of TV’s most lucrative events won’t transition smoothly into the medium’s streaming age.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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