It didn't take long for Sharks 'choking' talk to return

franzia.jpgIf any team can relate to the “What have you done for me lately?” feeling, it’s the San Jose Sharks. They bounced back from a heartbreaking loss against the Colorado Avalanche by never losing another game in the series. After going up 2-0 at home against Detroit, the Sharks managed to snatch Game 3 in a dramatic overtime victory. Yet one bombastic 7-1 loss brought out the “choking” claims and all sorts of buzzards of negativity.

Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski featured a nice roundup of the various viewpoints on the subject and offered his feedback.

Were this not the Sharks, a big loss and a 3-1 series lead headed back home wouldn’t amount to anything more than an anomaly at best and a recalibration at worst. But San Jose hasn’t earned the right to escape from a devastating loss like this without facing questions about their resolve and fortitude and …

… oh, wait, yes they have: Lest we forget they already faced them in Round 1 against the Colorado Avalanche after the Dan Boyle/Ryan O’Reilly/OT Goal From Hell debacle. So beaten-down and debilitated were the Sharks that they only won their next six games by a combined score of 24-14.

So what that Heatley was shut down or that Thornton reminded us why he doesn’t wear the ‘C’. So what the Nabokov was shelled and pulled. It’s not on them to win Game 5: It’s on Pavelski and Clowe and Setoguchi and Mitchell and Couture. They’ve been the backbone of this team in this postseason, and there’s no reason to believe they’ll go spineless in three straight.

The other thing to consider: The Red Wings haven’t put together back-to-back dominating efforts in this postseason. They’ve looked this good before — think Game 7 against the Phoenix Coyotes — but haven’t followed through. And we expect back-to-back-to-back Cup-worthy efforts to win this series?

You could almost feel the relief of some lazy-minded folks who really wanted to dust off their tired choking jokes and go back to a world in which the Red Wings always “figure it out.” Now, I’m not saying it’s wholly impossible that Detroit could pull off a miracle comeback. Winning Game 5 would bring this series to 3-2 which could conceivably be followed by a series-tying win at the Joe. Then, of course, it would be a Game 7 featuring one epically nervous Sharks team (and fan base).

Still, my guess is that the Sharks come out with a thunderous vengeance in Game 5 and wrap things up either there or in Game 6. The Red Wings played too well in this series to be swept, but they’re going to have to pull off quite the turnaround to justify the surprisingly early sightings of Chicken Little.

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    Flames get Johnny Gaudreau back way ahead of schedule

    CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5: Johnny Gaudreau #13 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 5, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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    Some good news if you’re a fan of the Calgary Flames.

    Johnny Gaudreau, who missed 10 games with a finger injury, will be back in their lineup for Sunday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The Flames forward was injured in a game against Minnesota on Nov. 15 (he was slashed by Eric Staal), and after he underwent surgery, the team announced that he’d be out six weeks.

    In the end, he missed less than three weeks of action.

    “I’m ready to play,” Gaudreau said, per NHL.com. “I think the finger’s healed up pretty well there. I’m just excited to get things going here.

    “I think they did a great job with my finger and we did a great job rehabbing it. They keep tell me it’s going to be harder to break the nine other fingers than to re-hurt this one. It feels good. It feels good when I shoot. I’m excited to finally get out of there.”

    He’ll be playing with some added protection, as Calgary’s equipment manager made this glove for him:

    Before Gaudreau got hurt, the Flames had a 6-10-1 record. But thanks to improved team play and some strong performances from goalie Chad Johnson, they managed to go 6-3-1 in, while Gaudreau was out.

    The 23-year-old has five goals and six assists in 17 games, but he had scored three goals in three games before getting hurt.

    Related:

    Gaudreau injury a reminder as to how star players are treated

    Boudreau: Flames made “mountain out of a molehill” over Gaudreau slash

    Garret Sparks plays for first time since being suspended by Maple Leafs

    TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 30:  Garret Sparks #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs gets set to face the Edmonton Oilers in an NHL game at Air Canada Centre on November 30, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Oilers 3-0. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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    Garret Sparks made waves for all the wrong reasons last week, as he was suspended by the Maple Leafs for remarks he made on social media.

    Sparks officially made his return on Saturday night in the Marlies’ 3-2 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack. He stopped 27 of 30 shots.

    “It’s been a lot to deal with. I understand what I did,” Sparks said, per TSN.ca. “[The incident] wasn’t me. That’s not who I want to be known as, it’s not the image I want my reputation to have.

    “I should know the difference between what I can and can’t say. It’s just holding myself to a higher standard of professionalism.”

    The 23-year-old actually returned to the team on Tuesday, but didn’t play until yesterday.

    With Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen dealing with an illness, the Leafs recalled Antoine Bibeau, which opened the door for Sparks to make his return.

    Sparks has been limited to just five AHL games this year, but he was between the pipes for 17 NHL games in 2015-16.

    ‘We were awful’: Duchene calls out Avs after latest shutout loss

    DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 19:  Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche awaits a face off against the Edmonton Oilers at Pepsi Center on December 19, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Oilers 5-1.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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    The Colorado Avalanche are one of those teams that’s hard to figure out.

    They have plenty of offensive talent on their roster, and going from Patrick Roy to Jared Bednar was supposed to help get the most out of their star players.

    But through 23 games, that hasn’t been the case.

    Going into Sunday’s action, they find themselves in the basement of the Western Conference with a 9-13-1 record.

    It doesn’t help that they’ve had to deal with a number of injuries. They were dealt an even bigger blow on Saturday, when they announced that Erik Johnson (leg) would be out for six-to-eight weeks.

    Gabriel Landeskog and Fedor Tyutin are also dealing with lower-body injuries.

    “Injuries are no excuse, but it helps to have some of those guys in the lineup,” Bednar said, per the Denver Post. “You’re missing a pair on ‘D.’ I still can’t help but feel we have more to give. .. You still have to stick with it and work through it. That’s the only way you get out of it is to work out of it.”

    Colorado had an opportunity to get things on track, but they finished their latest homestand with an 0-4-1 record. Yikes!

    One of the biggest problems with this team is that they can’t seem to find the back of the net with any regularity.

    No team has scored less times than the Avalanche, who are tied for last with a league-worst 49 goals for. They’ve also been shut out five times already in 2016-17.

    Their power play was so bad against Dallas that Bednar decided to start the man-advantage with John Mitchell and Blake Comeau at one point.

    “We were awful. I totally get why he did what he did,” forward Matt Duchene said after Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Dallas. “It’s frustrating. We’re just not executing right now. I think we’re overthinking things because we haven’t been winning.

    “We’re not playing good hockey right now.”

    With Corey Crawford out, ‘Hawks recall goalie Lars Johansson from AHL

    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 17: Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks follows the action against the Montreal Canadiens at the United Center on January 17, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Canadiens 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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    The Chicago Blackhawks were dealt a blow yesterday, when they announced that starting goalie Corey Crawford would miss two-to-three weeks after undergoing an appendectomy on Saturday.

    With Crawford unavailable yesterday, Chicago was forced to look for an emergency backup in the Philly area. Ultimately, they settled on former temple goalie Eric Semborski.

    On Sunday, they got their goaltending situation in order, as they recalled Lars Johansson from the AHL.

    Johansson, 29, is in his first season in North America. He played the previous 10 years over in Sweden with Mora IK, Vasteras IK and Frolunda HC.

    In the AHL, he’s posted a 6-7-1 record with a 2.63 goals-against-average and a .911 save percentage in 2016-17.

    His numbers in the minors might not look good, but Johansson had the best goals-against-average (1.74) in the top league in Sweden last year.

    The Blackhawks also sent forward Nick Schmaltz to the minors.

    Schmaltz, who was Chicago’s first-round pick in 2014, made the team out of training camp, but has played limited minutes.

    The 20-year-old has just one goal and three assists, while averaging 11:46 of ice time in 2016-17.

    Playing a larger role with AHL Rockford should be good for his confidence.