VANCOUVER – With so few actual victories this season, the Vancouver Canucks have needed to bolster themselves mentally with a series of moral victories.
In their last seven games, they’ve arguably been the better team in all of them. Their play has improved vastly since the dismal opening three weeks of the National Hockey League season. But they’ve won only twice in those seven games as the moral victories piled up. The Canucks must lead the league in them as surely as Vancouver centre Elias Pettersson leads the league in posts and crossbars.
On Sunday, however, there was no moral victory. Sure, there was one point salvaged late in a 4-3 overtime defeat to the Winnipeg Jets. But this was a moral loss to go with the, you know, real loss. The Canucks have had 14 of those through 22 games.
Leading 2-0 on home ice late in the second period after largely controlling play, the Canucks made enough mistakes to surrender three goals in 16 minutes before eventually losing 27 seconds into overtime when new Jet Pierre-Luc Dubois overpowered Brock Boeser one-on-one and scored from an angle off the blocker of goalie Braden Holtby.
The Canucks got a point because Pettersson, who had just struck iron for the eighth time this season, double the posts and bars of any other NHL player, finally hit neither the goal frame nor the goalie when he one-timed a slapshot over Connor Hellebuyck’s shoulder to tie it 3-3 during a power play with 38 seconds remaining in regulation time.
After losing 2-0 to Winnipeg on Friday, the Canucks gained one point on the weekend. The Jets left Vancouver with four. Moral loss.
“Especially the way the game went, this was an emotional loss, I think, for our group,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “We did a lot of good things tonight. That’s a good hockey team over there. I think we’ve got them (held to) around 10 or 11 scoring chances, which is probably one of our lowest against all year. We did a lot of good things. A lot of things I loved in our game. Made a couple mistakes that you’d probably like to have back, but that happens in every hockey game.
“It’s just not going for our team right now the way they’re playing. But that’s reality.”
Holtby allowed Mark Scheifele’s goal, after J.T. Miller’s overly elaborate pass was followed by Boeser’s turnover in the Winnipeg zone, to leak through him at 5:43 of the third period when the Jets tied it 2-2.
On Winnipeg’s go-ahead goal by Neal Pionk on a power play at 10:33, Holtby was screened by teammate Jordie Benn but left a lot of net open. And he couldn’t keep out Dubois’ winner from a sharpish angle after Boeser took his own poor angle on the Jet.
“That’s one on the second goal… it’s one your goalie has to save in order to have success,” Holtby said. “I thought we played a pretty good game. Myself, I just have to be better.
“I feel good about a lot of things, but this game is a matter of individual plays, and there’s a couple there that I need to be better on.”
If there was any doubt that Thatcher Demko is now the Canucks’ starter, Holtby’s inability to help his team hold its two-goal lead on Sunday reinforced the new hierarchy.
Vancouver’s first period was one of its best this season. The Canucks outscored the Jets 2-0, outshot them 17-9 and high-danger shot attempts were 7-0.
Some of the Canucks’ bad luck seemed to be changing when Brandon Sutter made it 1-0 just 3:38 into the game, reacting first to a lively end-boards rebound that had Hellebuyck going the wrong way.
Then Pettersson, after all those posts and missing shots by an inch, scored blindly at 15:40 by reversing the puck between his legs after getting pegged at the top of the crease by Boeser’s shot from the slot.
The Canucks continued to pressure the Jets at the start of the second period, forcing five straight saves from Hellebuyck to take their shooting advantage to 22-9 before Winnipeg finally started to sustain some offensive-zone pressure.
The Jets cut the deficit in half at 14:47 when Dubois scored from a quick pass across the slot by Blake Wheeler.
The Jets’ new first line of Dubois, Wheeler and Scheifele finished with three goals and nine points and won the even-strength power matchup against Pettersson, Boeser and Miller.
“There’s still a lot of confidence in our group,” Sutter insisted. “It’s frustrating when you play like that and don’t get rewarded. We sucked a point out of it but, hey, it’s all division games this year so you’ve got to start beating these teams. Hopefully we’ve been through the rough patch of the year and we can keep pushing and getting better like we are.”
It’s already too late for moral victories. The Canucks are 8-12-2 and their .409 points percentage is the third-lowest in the NHL.
“You have to stay positive” Pettersson said. “Nothing good comes with being negative. This two weeks… I think we could have a lot more wins, but it’s not bouncing our way, it’s not going our way. But we’ve still got to keep our heads up be ready for next one. No need to look back; just keep moving forward.”
And hope there isn’t a cliff coming.
Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka to meet in Madrid final – WTA roundup
Top-seeded Ashleigh Barty and fifth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka traversed through their semifinal matches on Thursday to advance to the championship match of the Mutua Madrid Open.
Barty recorded six aces while dispatching Spanish wildcard Paula Badosa 6-4, 6-3, while Sabalenka notched a 6-2, 6-3 triumph over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia.
Saturday’s clash will mark the second time in less than two weeks that Barty and Sabalenka will meet in a final. The Australian rallied for a 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 win over Sabalenka to win in Stuttgart on April 25.
Sabalenka, who had 21 winners against 11 unforced errors in Thursday’s semis, is ready to take another swing at Barty.
“Physically I have to be ready for this match,” said Sabalenka, who is from Belarus. “She’s No.1, she’s great. I played her in Stuttgart. It’s not an easy game. I will do everything I can to prepare myself as good as I can. Just looking forward for this battle.”
Barty holds a 4-3 edge in career matches against Sabalenka.
Barty played her semifinal match prior to knowing there would be another tussle with Sabalenka.
But she was pleased with her performance and the victory was her 16th straight on clay surfaces.
“I’ve learned a lot more about it, without a doubt,” Barty said of clay. “I promise you, I’m still counting down to the grass court season. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. I think the memories and the learnings now that we’re getting from the red clay has been really cool, to be able to challenge myself in different ways.”
Thursday’s victory also was important to Barty because she was upset by Bodosa 6-4, 6-3 last month in the quarterfinals of the Volvo Car Open at Charleston, S.C.
“You have to learn from every game, every match you play against an opponent,” Barty said. “I definitely learned a lot from the match we played in Charleston. There was a small adjustment. I think just learning from some of her patterns, tendencies that came through and showed through in that match in Charleston.
“I think I was just able to control the court a little bit better.”
L’Open 35 de Saint-Malo
Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus upset fourth-seeded Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia to advance to the quarterfinals at Saint-Malo, France.
Second-seeded Rebecca Peterson of Sweden also moved on with a 4-6, 6-4, 4-0 win over Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya, who retired in the third set.
Russia’s Varvara Gracheva beat Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova when the latter retired. Gracheva won the first set 6-4 and the second was tied at 5-5.
–Field Level Media
Baseball lifts San Diego’s spirits. Can it revive a pandemic-stricken U.S. economy?
By Daniel Trotta, Howard Schneider and Chris Canipe
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) – It was Saturday night in downtown San Diego, and J Street near the Petco Park baseball stadium was bustling.
Fans of the hometown Padres, many decked out in team gear, packed the bars and restaurants with more waiting in line and happy to do so after a year of pandemic lockdown.
“It’s definitely a feel-good time,” said lawyer Chris Schon, 33, as he waited for a table outside Bub’s at the Ballpark, a sports bar.
However festive the scene, it nonetheless highlights some of the limits emerging in the U.S. economic recovery.
The Padres have been “selling out” most every game since Major League Baseball’s reopening a month ago, but in the age of coronavirus that means hitting an attendance cap of around 15,000, or roughly a third of capacity. Elsewhere in the league, results are lagging.
The surrounding restaurants, dependent on summertime ballpark crowds, remain limited to 50% capacity in California for at least another month. Owners expect depressed revenue through 2021 and worry that even as restrictions are lifted people will hesitate to join standing-room-only crowds.
“Back in the good old days, we were four or five deep at the bar, slinging beers…. Are people going to get turned off by that?” wondered Brant Crenshaw, a partner in the Social Tap bar and restaurant where big-screen TVs and picture window views of the ballpark are a draw.
His opening day revenue this year? Around $15,000 versus $30,000 to $40,000 in prior years.
‘NOT BACK TO WHERE WE WERE’
The start of a full baseball season with 162 games on tap was a milestone in the U.S. reopening. The 2020 season, shortened to 60 games and played in empty stadiums, gave way to the fanfare of Opening Day 2021 and dreams of playoff games packed with cheering crowds come October.
Restrictions are being eased as coronavirus vaccinations proceed and daily infections and deaths ebb.
Among the largest U.S. states, Texas and Florida have dropped all COVID-related limits, New York is allowing restaurants to reopen at full capacity on May 19, and California plans to lift most remaining restrictions on June 15.
However, data including national travel statistics as well as stadium-by-stadium baseball attendance https://tmsnrt.rs/3nOh7Wa compiled by Reuters suggests people remain hesitant, putting a potential brake on how quickly some parts of the economy will improve.
The 29 U.S.-based MLB stadiums are selling an average of just under 74.8% of the limited numbers of seats each team has made available. That compares with an average paid attendance of 67.6% at fully open stadiums before the pandemic. While higher now, it’s not break-down-the-doors higher at a time when households have record levels of cash saved over the past year.
The 30-team MLB’s one non-U.S. club, the Toronto Blue Jays, are playing at a minor league stadium in Florida because of travel restrictions between Canada and the United States.
More broadly, air travel has climbed back to only around 60% of pre-pandemic levels. An April Conference Board survey found 43% of respondents planned a vacation within the next six months, up from around 30% during the pandemic but well off the 55% or more before the health crisis.
Consumers spent heavily on goods during much of the pandemic, but services account for two-thirds of the economy so a fulsome recovery needs spending on everything from healthcare to baseball games to find its way back.
“When are things going to get back to normal? When people don’t worry about the virus anymore,” said Tim Duy, chief U.S. economist at SGH Macro Advisors and an economics professor at the University of Oregon. “If you are still not willing to go to a ballgame, if you cannot get more than 60% travel, we are not back to where we were.”
‘APOCALYPSE’ GIVES WAY TO ‘ELECTRIC’
Near Petco Park, but for the few face masks in the crowd, things appeared much as they did before the pandemic. Firefighters played Wiffle ball outside their station. A jazz band played around the corner.
If last year’s emptied downtown “was the apocalypse,” said Cory Whitmore, 44, a cyber security engineer who wore his “Friar Faithful” jersey to Basic Bar/Pizza, the Saturday scene had now turned “electric.”
Erik Tesmer, Basic’s general manager and part owner, said the baseball season pulls in roughly 70% of the business at his industrial brick building, previously home to a horse carriage repair shop and a surfboard company.
Revenue plummeted to 25% of normal in 2020, and the restaurant survived only thanks to two Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government. Basic was able to keep about 15 employees on payroll, down from 50, Tesmer said.
Baseball may be back, and for long-suffering Padres fans there is even hope the team’s off-season spending on players will mean wins – and sellouts – as stadium attendance limits are likely raised through the summer.
But Tesmer notes the gaps still in San Diego’s larger ecosystem. Comic-Con, a summertime comic book and entertainment convention, was canceled last year and again in 2021, as was a music festival set to move downtown. Basic will be lucky to generate 50% of typical revenue this year, Tesmer said.
His best hope, he said, is for a winning Padres season.
“With a good season … we could be packed wall to wall and everybody is in a good mood and ready to get back to normal,” he said. “It certainly would help us if there are playoff games.”
(Daniel Trotta reported from San Diego; Howard Schneider reported from Washington; Chris Canipe reported from Kansas City, Missouri; Editing by Dan Burns and Howard Goller)
Advantages of Live Casino Games
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