San Jose not the typical southern hockey market

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SanJose.jpgSince I grew up learning and loving hockey in Dallas, I am someone
who firmly believes that hockey is a sport that can work anywhere. It
doesn’t matter if it’s in Michigan or Mississippi, if the team is
successful and marketed right the fans will come and these issues facing
“hockey in the south” are forgotten.

With the possibility
looming over the past year or so that the Phoenix Coyotes might move
back to Canada, the argument that hockey doesn’t belong in the south
rose up once more. For most, it seems as if it’s just an issue that
hockey is a sport played on ice, it originated in the north on ponds and
the fact that there are two teams in Florida is sacrilege. That these
teams struggle with revenue and success on the ice is even more
frustrating.

Yet there are a few teams that have proved that if
there is some actual winning involved, and an effort to promote the
sport locally, then there will be success in the region and among the
fans. The Dallas Stars, until Tom Hicks’ financial misdealings derailed
them, were one of the top revenue-producing teams in the NHL and were
one of the most successful teams of the 2000s. In the regular season, at
least. While marching to the Stanley Cup in 1999, the town became crazy
with hockey fever and while the team doesn’t have the exact same
success today the sport of hockey is doing extremely well in local
rinks.

The San Jose Sharks are enjoying a similar story. As the
Sharks move deeper into the playoffs, a spot they haven’t reached since
2004, the rest of the NHL is finally getting to see just how crazed the
fans are. The Shark Tank is one of the toughest places to win at for a
road team, yet you rarely hear how the Sharks have a great fan base. You
hear about the Flyers and Canadiens fans, but rarely about the Sharks. Todd
McLellan is ready for the stigma that San Jose is a black hole for
hockey to be erased:

“Perhaps the most telling
thing for me was when we acquired Dany
Heatley and some of the pundits out there said he can go to California
and just hide,” said head coach Todd McClellan. “That’s not what it’s
like in San Jose, by any means. You can’t hide here when you play for
the Sharks.

“It’s a passionate hockey community and I don’t know
how I get that
across to the hockey world. You can’t walk down the street, you can’t go
for dinner (without being recognized). They know who you are and they
expect big things from you.

Perhaps the fact that the Sharks have developed a bit of a reputation
for choking in the playoffs has contributed to how the team and the
fans are dismissed nationally.

If the Sharks are successful
against the Blackhawks and find a way to get to the Stanley Cup finals,
that is most likely going to change. More and more national audiences
(and writers) will be exposed to just how passionate this town is about
the team.

Talbot torments Ducks as Oilers take 2-0 series lead

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Those who vehemently argued for Cam Talbot being a Vezina finalist likely felt vindicated tonight (even if postseason results don’t factor into the voting).

In Game 1, Leon Draisaitl stole the show. Talbot was the standout of Game 2, snubbing a steady Ducks threat as Edmonton won 2-1 on Friday.

And, just like that, the Oilers are up 2-0 in their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Better yet for this young group: the venue shifts to what’s likely to be a rowdy scene in Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.

The tone was set when Andrej Sekera scored just 65 seconds into the contest. That said, the Oilers could have sulked when a would-be 2-0 goal was called off (and they had to kill a penalty). Instead, they just kept battling, even after Jakob Silfverberg ended Talbot’s shutout bit with a laser beam on the power play.

Speaking of the power play, the Oilers managed to match the Ducks (1-for-4 each on the PP), even as Talbot faced 12 shots on goal during Anaheim’s power-play opportunities.

Talbot ultimately made 39 of 40 stops, and while the Ducks kept Connor McDavid from scoring, number 97 sure looked speedy and dangerous at times in Game 2.

Anaheim came into the second round with home-ice advantage through the West side of the playoffs, seemingly enjoying a golden opportunity when other conference powers fell. Instead, it’s looking like the Oilers might just have a chance to prove that they’re big-time contenders, too.

Game 3 airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream.

Latest goalie interference mess: Oilers get penalty, not goal

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Ah, goalie interference. Does the fun ever start?

Arguably the most irritating facet of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs reared its pesky head once again on Friday, as the Edmonton Oilers saw a would-be 2-0 goal disallowed in the first period of Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The goal wasn’t just disallowed, either, as Mark Letestu was given a minor penalty.

One would imagine that there are opinions for or against the goal (and penalty counting); there are also many who are just getting a little worn out by the uncertainty surrounding such calls. Tomas Holmstrom is nodding his head so hard right now, everyone.

Here’s one unhappy take:

Moments after this post went up, the Oilers made it 2-0 for real this time. Check out the game here.

Math may help build Vegas Knights, but biggest aim is not being boring

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Unlike Pierre Dorion, it sounds like Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee would rather listen to analytics-minded people rather than … you know, hit them.

As McPhee readies for the expansion draft, he told The Star’s Kevin McGran in Q&A that they’ll at least be factored into decisions.

I’ve been really fascinated by how revealing that data can be. You have these kids speaking a different language. But I’m convinced it has a really important place in this game. You have to pay attention to it, and you have to use it.

Naturally, the real question with McPhee and other executives comes down to how much they will lean on analytics. Some teams seem to pick and choose when to listen to such voices, ending up with an odd mix of moves that please and unnerve the “fancy stats” community.

Owner Bill Foley gave a good idea of how much they’ll lean on stats vs. more traditional approaches in an interview with the Vegas Hockey Hotline back in February, which was transcribed by The Hockey Writers’ Keith Scheessele.

“Analytics is not going to drive how we draft,” Foley said. “Analytics are going to supplement what the scouts are seeing. We’re going to rely on the scouts and what they recommend.”

(Foley also spoke of rating players in 10 different categories, which started to make one think about how old sports video games could only quantify skills in so many ways. Anyway …)

So, it sounds like McPhee & Co. will take a modern approach – a mixture of the old and the new – rather than going full-on bold and revolutionary like, say, the Cleveland Browns or Golden State Warriors.

Considering the mystery of roster quality one faces with the Vegas Knights, it honestly might be most important that McPhee is repeatedly stating that he doesn’t aim to put together a boring hockey team.

Hey, if it takes a while to be good, at least the Vegas Knights might fit with their environment and put on a show.

Tarasenko’s two goals help Blues tie series with Predators

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One of the (many) remarkable things about the St. Louis Blues dispatching the Minnesota Wild was that they didn’t need a ton of production from Vladimir Tarasenko. He didn’t score a goal until the clinching game of that series.

The Blues needed more from him tonight, and he responded with two huge goals to help St. Louis win 3-2 in Game 2, tying the second-round series at 1-1.

Tarasenko scored the opening goal on that major power-play opportunity from the Vernon Fiddler knee on Colton Parayko, while Joel Edmundson wisely got out of the way to let Tarasenko nab the game-winner.

That ended up being the decisive factor as the Nashville Predators finally lost their first game of the postseason.

St. Louis must be breathing a sigh of relief for a number of reasons. The series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4, so going down 2-0 might have been lethal.

Even beyond that, the Blues had some breaks go their way that likely won’t repeat to the same degree in future contests. The Predators didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity while St. Louis spent significant chunks of the contest on the man advantage, going 1-for-5 (but again, that includes a major).

The Blues also won despite what must have been a frustrating start. They only managed a 1-1 tie after the first 20 minutes despite holding Nashville to a mere three shots on goal.

The Predators also managed leads of 1-0 and 2-1, yet the Blues kept fighting to get back in this series. Game 3 will air on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream link).

* – That said, he made a lot of commotion to set up Edmundson’s overtime game-winner from Game 1. That connection continued on Friday, as you likely noticed.