What's missing from this San Jose Sharks team? Heart.

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Thornton1.jpgIf there’s one thing we can count on every postseason, it’s the
endless supply of articles that rip the San Jose Sharks to shreds for
yet another playoffs disappointment. This year, I had hopes that perhaps
we could avoid all that — as fun as it may be — and even if the
Chicago Blackhawks won the Conference finals we could sit back and say
“well, at least they gave it their best shot.”

After two games, it
appears that won’t be the case.

In Game 1, you could say that the
Sharks were just unlucky as they hit an Antti Niemi that was suddenly
on fire. They outplayed the Hawks for much of Game 1, and for at least
the first part of Game 2. While plenty of inked will be spilled writing
about yet another Joe Thornton collapse, much of the attention should be
on the play of Evgeni Nabokov; specifically, how the soft goals he
allows suck every ounce of life out of the team in front of him.

You
could say that Game 1 was an anomaly; a hard fought, close game in
which the Sharks just couldn’t score on Niemi. Yet in Game 2, the team
was grossly outplayed for much of the contest and it all started with a
deflating first goal. Coach
Todd McLellan and Joe Pavelski agree:

“(That) goal took a lot out of us for some reason,” coach Todd
McClellan admitted. “You could feel it on the bench. It took us a while
to climb back and get the energy level back up where it needed to be.”

“Didn’t have nearly enough guys out there,” revealed Joe
Pavelski
said after Chicago thumped San Jose 4-2 to take the
proverbial commanding 2-0 series lead. “When we have won so far this
season, it’s been a commitment by everybody. Everybody’s showed up, and
that’s what we need.”

There’s some detailed insight for ya.

After two games, this is not a case of Niemi stealing wins, as I’ve
seen Sharks fans boast on Twitter. Instead, this is yet another instance
of a team not being able to step up and hit that extra gear with the
opposing teams take the game to another level.

This isn’t an issue with talent, this has to do with heart. For
whatever reason, this Sharks team — like others before — is incapable
of rising to the challenge with the stakes are at their highest.

You see it nearly every season and it’s painful to watch; a team with all the talent in the world falls by the wayside as a stronger and mentally tough team takes them out. It’s not about matchups and overall talent, it’s about just how much each team wants this win. Sometimes wanting it isn’t enough, sometimes the pressure is just too much.

Sometimes, the core of your team is missing something vital for playoff success.

Sharks grind out win, make life difficult for Kings

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If the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings meet again, it will be in the playoffs. If they do so, the Sharks will hold quite a bit of a recent edge.

They defeated them in the first round of the 2016 playoffs and won the 2016-17 season series with the Kings after beating L.A. in a tight 3-2 affair on Wednesday.

During a week where leads have been flimsy and goals came in flurries, this one started off pretty hot. The Sharks generated a 2-1 lead in the first period, and then the two teams exchanged goals in the second, with Joe Pavelski‘s goal ultimately standing as the game-winner.

The Sharks won after a scoreless third period, keeping them in a position to take back first place in the Pacific Division:

1. Ducks – 59 points in 47 games
2. Oilers – 57 in 47
3. Sharks – 56 in 45

San Jose has an opportunity to make up that ground with its games in hand. The Kings, on the other hand, see their margin of error for a wild card spot dwindling:

Second wild card spot: Kings, 48 points in 45 games

Canucks – 48 in 46
Predators – 47 in 44
Stars – 46 in 46
Jets – 46 in 48

The Sharks made life easier for themselves while making it tougher for the Kings. If that’s the end of their interactions for 2016-17, Sharks fans should be quite happy.

Red Wings rally by Bruins in another game that evokes the Eighties

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Things looked pretty grim for the Detroit Red Wings after the Boston Bruins chased Jared Coreau from the net with a quick 3-0 lead. Maybe the Red Wings took note that this has been a weird, high-scoring week in the NHL, because they rallied back and eventually won 6-5 via a shootout.

To recap the zaniest games of each day from this odd few days of hockey:

Monday: The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 8-7 in an overtime thriller.

Tuesday: The Dallas Stars managed to hold off the New York Rangers in a 7-6 victory. Plenty of weird things happened beyond all of those goals.

Wednesday: Red Wings storm back from that 3-0 deficit to eventually win.

Games like these can be a nightmare for coaches and goalies on both sides, yet Claude Julien was probably especially steamed by this one.

The Bruins were up 3-0, 4-1 and 5-4 but the Red Wings kept fighting back. As a defensive-minded coach, Julien couldn’t have been happy with his team’s play.

(That’s the coach’s answer to slamming a video game controller in a frustrating loss.)

Fitting in with this week’s other wilder contests, there were flurries of goals even beyond the trio that quickly gave Coreau the boot. The Red Wings warped a 4-1 Bruins lead to a 4-4 tie with three goals in a little more than 10 minutes of time.

Adam McQuaid then regained Boston’s lead 21 seconds after it was tied, but the Red Wings didn’t give up. Instead, they applied a ton of pressure in the third period until Gustav Nyquist tied it up with about three minutes left.

Detroit still has a long way to go to protect its remarkable playoff streak, especially when teams like the Bruins can at least salvage “charity points” with losses. If the Red Wings want to make an unlikely push, they’ll need to show the kind of resolve that was on display on yet another wild night in the NHL.

Pavelec makes highlight reel save, gets win in return to Jets’ net

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 28:  Ondrej Pavelec #31 of the Winnipeg Jets dives across to make a first period save against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Jets 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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With an expiring contract, Ondrej Pavelec’s time with the Winnipeg Jets is nearing an end. Plenty of Jets fans would say, mercifully.

Still, he did return to the Winnipeg Jets net on Wednesday for his first NHL appearance since April 9, 2016, to mostly successful results. The Jets beat the Arizona Coyotes 6-3, for one thing.

Beyond that, it probably felt like a typical Pavelec start for many Jets fans, though some would contest that it would also need to involve a loss.

There were those regrettable moments, like giving up a goal right away:

Even his critics would probably agree that Pavelec does have a knack for making breathtaking saves:

It’s unclear how many more times we’ll see Pavelec play for the Jets (or an NHL team in general). His performance – if given more chances – in the near future may determine that answer.

If nothing else, his 2016-17 debut felt pretty fitting.

Connor McDavid hits the 100-point mark, scores OT-winner (or did he?)

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 08: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers skates with the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers in the third period at Wells Fargo Center on December 8, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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PHT brings you the hard-hitting math, as you know, so here’s the latest burst: Connor McDavid is more than a point-per-game player.

You see, he scored the 100th point of his promising NHL career, and he did so in just his 92nd career game on Wednesday. Let us remind you that he’s just 20 years old (and he turned 20 on Jan. 13). Yeah.

Point 100 came on via an assist on a Zack Kassian goal as the Edmonton Oilers went up 1-0 against the Florida Panthers.

Here’s the clip:

Update: There’s debate regarding whether McDavid’s overtime-winner should have counted or not, but either way, it’s impressive that he generated a goal and an assist after hitting the 100-point mark. So it’s now 102 points in 92 games.

Here’s that contested goal: