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Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs killing Canucks’ confidence – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – Perhaps even more than boosting their own stock during back-to-back routs, the Toronto Maple Leafs are crashing the Vancouver Canucks.

Prior to arriving in the East this week, land of the 4 p.m. PT start, the Canucks were riding a four-game win streak. That spike of good fortune now feels like GameStop mirage, abruptly pounded down to earth, first by Tyler Toffoli’s Canadiens and now even more fiercely by a rested Maple Leafs squad that has learned to hammer the gas.

In thumping Vancouver 5-1 Saturday night and jacking the two-game aggregate score to 12-4, the Leafs (9-2-1) reclaimed top spot in the NHL, padded up a bevy of individual stat lines, and rebooted the #FireBenning hashtag into trending status.

“We haven’t probably played a team that’s as fast and skilled as Toronto,” said Vancouver coach Travis Green, now tasked with injecting life into a leaky group that has showed no push-back in this city. “They are a fast, very skilled team, and you’ve got to have your skating legs to play against that team.”

Saturday, Green tried reuniting the Lotto Line. He switched goalies. He even gave Loui Eriksson his first taste of action since August, back when the Canucks looked like the best squad our country had to offer.

Nothing sparked.

Blink and a four-game win streak gave way to a four-game losing skid.

The Canucks waited nine minutes to even register a shot on net, and the Leafs dominated from puck drop to buzzer, generating 15 high-danger scoring chances at even-strength to Vancouver’s five.

Sheldon Keefe has challenged his players to widen the standings gap and pitted his two Manny Malhotra–guided power-play units in a friendly internal contest to see who could light the lamp more often.

By the time Toronto had scored another power-play goal (its 15th in 12 games), and Mitch Marner had another three assists (already his seventh multi-point outing in 2021) and Auston Matthews had extended his goal streak to seven games and running, Chris Johnston was talking about the trade potential of healthy scratch Jake Virtanen during Hockey Night in Canada’s intermission.

When the 2020 version of the Maple Leafs lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the post-season bubble, Matthews lamented the roster’s lack of a “killer instinct.”

Somewhere between signing Wayne Simmonds and Keefe & Co. drilling home a fresh mandate for urgency, that instinct is being developed.

Toronto is now 5-0-0 when leading after one period. The Leafs have yet to lose a one-goal game in regulation. They’re breaking out of their own zone with purpose and attacking the net-front with confidence.

Over the past 72 hours, Canucks defenders have been getting walked more often than the pet dog in a pandemic.

Killer instinct? Toronto is sucking the soul out of Vancouver, to the point where we’re not sure how much credit the Leafs really deserve here because, right now, the Canucks seem incapable of summoning a measuring-stick effort.

“We’re a disconnected group right now, and it’s showing,” admitted Holtby, post-loss.

Conceded Green: “I don’t think we’re a team that’s built to chase teams from behind.”

Added Brock Boeser: “We know the way we have been playing is unacceptable. We all need to work together and communicate.”

Unlike Vancouver, Toronto is being led by its best (and, yes, highest-paid) players.

Each member of the Core Four — Matthews, Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares — is humming along at a point-per-game pace or better in the goal-happy North.

Matthews, in particular, has juiced up his wow factor, with consecutive two-goal efforts during which his coach believes he could’ve scored four or five.

“He’s really hungry,” says Frederik Andersen. “He demands the puck, and he shoots with purpose every time. He has so many different kinds of shots that it’s really tough to prepare or scout him. He picks his spots and has really good vision.”

Keefe says his top centre still has the power to surprise the bench.

“That just speaks to his ability and how special he is. That goal tonight, it happened so fast that I don’t think anybody on the ice was really ready for it. Just with how quickly he went around a defender [Jalen Chatfield] to put it in the net, it was impressive,” Keefe said. “All season I really think he’s been very good for us, but these last two games he’s really had jump.”

If anything, Keefe wonders, he may have disrupted Matthews’ flow against Vancouver by rolling all four lines and keeping his 10-goal man on the bench for some O-zone starts. A luxury only long leads can provide.

“He was really feeling it. That’s really good for us,” Keefe said, “and good for him that he’s having that confidence. He was doing it in all zones for us to start the season, and now he’s starting to get the consistent rewards around the net.”

Great for the stat line. And horrible for the Canucks, who still have 60 more minutes of this to endure before they can fly out of town.

Puck drop on Black Monday is scheduled for 4 p.m. PT.

NOTE: Simmonds, who scored twice in Saturday’s victory, was struck by a puck in the third period. The winger left the game after getting attention on his hand by a trainer and needed further evaluation. An update on Simmonds’ condition is expected Monday, when the Leafs return to practice.

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Economy

South Korea economy shrank in 2020 for 1st time in 22 years – Yahoo Canada Finance

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SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — South Korea’s central bank says the country’s economy shrank for the first time in 22 years in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic destroyed service industry jobs and depressed consumer spending.

Preliminary data released by the Bank of Korea on Thursday showed the country’s gross domestic product last year contracted 1% from 2019. It was the first annual contraction since 1998, when South Korea was in the midst of a crippling financial crisis.

The economy would have been even worse if not for the country’s technology exports, which saw increased demand driven by personal computers and servers as the pandemic forced millions around the world to work at home.

The bank expects South Korea’s economy to manage a modest recovery this year driven by exports. But it says it would take a longer time for the job market to recover from the damage to services industries such as restaurants and transportation.

The bank since March last year has maintained its policy rate at an all-time low of 0.5% to help pump money into the economy. But experts say traditional financial tools aimed at lowering borrowing costs have had only limited effect during the pandemic that has damaged both supply and demand.

The country reported another new 424 cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, bringing its national caseload to 91,240, including 1,619 deaths.

The Associated Press

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Art

Art and Sandy Zimmerman rock the curling world with their hospitality – CTV Toronto

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CALGARY —
Art and Sandy Zimmerman are huge curling fans.  That’s what makes it so hard about having the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and the Tim Horton’s Brier in Calgary, minus fans.

Because the events are taking place in a bubble,  the Zimmermans can’t go to any of the games or visit any of the dozens of curling friends they’ve made over the years.

In the curling world, the Zimmermans are  rock stars who have opened the doors of their southwest Calgary home to  some of the top curlers in the world.

Iit all started years ago when Ben Hebert, a  Saskatchewan curler, was in town and looking for a place to stay.

“We are originally from Regina and our daughter was going away to school in Indiana,” Art said.  “Ben phones up and says ‘can I stay at your place for a month or two?”

“I said yeah sure come on up.  Well that month or two ended up being two and a half years,” he laughed.

LIKE FAMILY

Hebert liked it so much he told other curlers about the Zimmermans.  Art and Sandy also took in John Morris and he ended up staying for about a year.  Morris said they welcomed him with open arms and they’ve become a second family to him.

“My folks live in Ottawa and I don’t have any family in town and they’re my (Calgary) family,” Morris said.

“If I have a problem or an issue,” he added, “I’m calling Art and Sandy and you know if I just need a break to go play some crib and have a beer, that’s where I go.”

PERFECT HOSTS

They’re not Canada-centric hosts, either. Members of Team Sweden have stayed with the Zimmermans.  So has Team Norway and too many others to list.  When a curler from anywhere stays at the Zimmermans’ place, they treat you like you’re one of their own. 

Sandy loves having curlers around the house.

“Oh it’s great.  They were all a lot of fun.  I mean, I come from a curling family and you know it’s just exciting and a lot of fun.”

GREAT STORIES

The Zimmermans’ basement is filled with curling photos and memorabilia that, over the years, has produced some great stories.  Like the time Sweden’s Oscar Eriksson brought a full size cut-out of himself to the Zimmermans. 

“They were at WinSport and they were curling and his cut out was there,” Sandy said.  “They stayed here at the time and we were all saying ‘Oscar we need one of those in our house!’  And right after one of their games, he comes to the door and has the cut out there.”

Art said there are a lot of great stories but it’s probably best that they stay within their walls of their home.

“There are stories but I don’t know if they’re appropriate for (a TV) camera,” he said.

REUNITED

Art and Sandy may not be able to see it live but they’ll be keeping a close eye on the Brier starting on Friday night.  And they’ll cheering on Hebert and Morris who are back together again.  They’ll try to win another Brier title with Kevin Koe’s Wild Card rink.

They’ll be in action on Friday night in the opening draw against Nova Scotia.

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News

COVID-19 pandemic could be over in Canada by September, microbiologist predicts – CTV Edmonton

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OTTAWA —
With more doses of COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Canada and guidance changing on administering the shots to citizens, a microbiologist suggests the pandemic will “probably” be over in this country by September.

“I think we’re about to go into that third act and finally put an end to the pandemic,” said Jason Tetro, the author known as the Germ Guy, noting many people have been trained to be pessimistic this winter.

The first shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Canada on Wednesday, the third COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in this country.

Late Wednesday, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued new guidance on administering the COVID-19 vaccine. The panel of medical experts says the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines can be given up to four months after the first.

Tetro tells CTV News Ottawa that after a glum few months, there is reason for optimism.

“We’ve got lots of doses coming; we’ve got three approved, we’ve got two others that are in the pipeline. I think we’re going to be definitely getting to that point where by the summer we’re going to be in a very good position and probably see the end of this pandemic by September,” said Tetro.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the government will have enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to vaccinate all Canadians by September. Trudeau said Wednesday he’s “optimistic” the timeline could speed up.

“If we get to a point where we have the entire population vaccinated, at least with the first shot, it’s probably going to get us to a point where we’re going to be able to gather again, we may not even need the masks and while we still will probably be hesitant to get back to normal, we’re going to start looking a lot better by that time,” said Tetro.

The microbiologist says the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine gives Canada a variety of vaccine options to begin targeting different age groups.

Tetro adds the longer intervals between doses can speed up the timeline to vaccinate all Canadians against COVID-19.

“What we’re trying to do now is to remove the pandemic status of COVID-19 and maybe even bring it down by the end of this year to what would essentially be a common cold and flu status,” said Tetro.

He notes research from Scotland, Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and Israel shows one dose for all Canadians will make a difference.

“If we get everybody vaccinated with one dose, it doesn’t matter which one it happens to be, that’s going to give us the protection we need to be able to get through the seasonality and also to remove the pandemic emergency that we’re currently living through now,” said Tetro.

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