Are the Canucks making a bad gamble by tweaking Roberto Luongo's style?

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luongodeep.jpgIt’s one thing to tweak the way a hitter swings a baseball bat or to ask a basketball player to stop chucking ill-advised three-point shots, but it’s a whole other beast to ask someone to fundamentally change the way they function when they’ve operated that way up to the professional level. Just look at when an NFL team tries to change a quarterback’s throwing motion; you can justify the concept, but there’s a fine line between coaching a player and trying to impose an unnatural change.

Most of the time, sporting leopards cannot change their spots.

This is an elaborate way of saying that I’m a little skeptical about the wisdom in Vancouver Canucks’ goalie coach Rollie Melanson (great name, by the way) asking Roberto Luongo to adjust his goaltending style by staying deeper in his crease instead of challenging shooters. Let’s look at what Luongo said about the alterations in The Province.

On Wednesday, Luongo unveiled the first of the tweaks to his game initiated since working with new goalie coach Rollie Melanson. And it was not insignificant. For years, Luongo has thrived by being out and in front of his crease to both challenge and intimidate.

Melanson, whose star student is Jaroslav Halak, wants to see Luongo deeper in his crease; to play in the blue specifically during half-court play.

It would allow Luongo a better chance to position himself for back door plays and second chances without having to lunge as often as he did during last season’s playoffs. Meticulous about routine, Luongo has opened himself up to the idea.

“The adjustments have to make sense to me for me to do it and they do,” Luongo said.

“It’s going to be a process to get used to some of those things but I’m willing to learn, I’m willing to give it a shot. Hopefully it will improve my game.

“Anything to make my game better, I’m willing to try it. I probably have three more games this preseason to work on the process.”

timtebow.jpgIt’s great that Luongo is willing to part with some of the techniques that helped him earn a huge lifetime contract and plenty of league-wide acclaim after his confidence was shaken this season. I’m also willing to admit that I am far from an expert on goalies; perhaps this isn’t as drastic as a change as it sounds like.

My instinct is to say that this might be a shaky process, though. Luongo’s future isn’t Tim Tebow-murky, but I’d say it would be better if the Canucks let him be who he is. Then again, Melanson and the Canucks are paid to make these kinds of bold decisions. We’ll just have to wait and see which school of thought makes more sense this season, then.

Keep an eye on Oilers’ Slepyshev (the Ducks certainly should)

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The breaks and breakaways frequently went the Edmonton Oilers’ way as they eliminated the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of their first-round series. Those results have been more of a mixed bag for Edmonton against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 tonight, though.

Anton Slepyshev is a great example of those ups and downs.

In Game 6 against the Sharks, Slepyshev used his speed to score a breakaway tally that ended up being the game-winner. (See here for those friendly breakaways.)

Slepyshev’s been burning the Ducks with his speed on Wednesday, but the Oilers have been burned in the process. For one thing, John Gibson turned aside this big chance shortly after Ryan Getzlaf gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead:

Later on in that same second period, Slepyshev got a step on the Ducks defense again. This time, he didn’t just fail to score; he took a goalie interference penalty for bumping Gibson.

With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being among those hitting posts, it might feel like it’s all against the Oilers this time around, but crossbars/postsanother theme from Edmonton’s Game 6 win vs. San Jose – have more or less balanced out.

And, one break really went Edmonton’s way: a Ducks defender broke his stick on the Oilers’ 5-on-3 opportunity, opening the door for a crucial Mark Letestu goal:

The end result is a 1-1 tie, but give the Oilers credit for not getting rattled. If Slepyshev can keep up his efforts, his speed could be a factor in a series that looks like it could be a real tug-o-war.

Jake Allen takes blame for Predators’ game-winner vs. Blues

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Let’s be honest: the St. Louis Blues owe a lot to Jake Allen‘s work against the Minnesota Wild in that first-round series.

He probably bought himself a significant amount of goodwill for that outstanding work, but Allen isn’t resting on his laurels. He admitted that “a little mistake by me cost” the Blues the 4-3 decision against the Predators, leaving St. Louis down 1-0 to Nashville.

The goal in question was Vernon Fiddler‘s unlikely 4-3 tally, which came after an unsuccessful poke check attempt by Allen:

Now, to be fair, that wasn’t even the only failed poke check that turned into a goal, as Pekka Rinne also got beat after making such an attempt:

Then again, Allen is wise to score points with teammates for taking the blame. As far as his team, head coach Mike Yeo believes that it was the second period that really made the difference.

Regardless, Allen and the Blues hope to carry over the momentum from their third-period dominance in Game 1 to Game 2 to tie the series 1-1.

That contest airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)

Predators survive Blues’ big late push to win Game 1

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The Nashville Predators’ 4-3 Game 1 win against the St. Louis Blues makes it difficult to use “perfect.”

You could get away with using that word, mind you, as the Predators followed up their surprising sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks by going up 1-0 against the Blues in St. Louis. Still, the ride was so bumpy in the third period, it’s probably wiser to focus on the fact that Nashville is unbeaten.

Because, yikes, that third period was a roller coaster for Nashville.

via Natural Stat Trick

P.K. Subban scored a goal and two assists in the first 40 minutes to help the Predators bring a 3-1 lead into the final frame. The Blues absolutely dominated play in the third, however, briefly tying the game as they put immense pressure on Pekka Rinne & Co.

Ultimately, the Predators received a game-winner from an unlikely source in Vernon Fiddler, gaining a 1-0 series edge.

Even so, few will talk about “mystique” after that shaky finish.

For one thing, both Rinne and Jake Allen allowed goals that they’d like to forget. Also, both squads experienced lopsided periods; Nashville dominated shots in the second (15-8) while the Blues almost doubled-up the Preds in the third (11-6).

Nashville also seems likely to play without rising rookie Kevin Fiala, who was hospitalized after an absolutely horrifying crash into the boards.

It was a weird and often wild – sometimes nasty – contest, with the Predators ultimately coming out on top. There’s plenty of intrigue heading into Game 2, which airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)

WATCH LIVE: Second round begins with Predators – Blues, Oilers – Ducks

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Update: With both games likely to run simultaneously, note that Ducks fans can watch on NBCSN in the Anaheim market while the game is also available via streaming links below.

In addition to that, Ducks – Oilers is slated to begin on NHL Network.

This tweet explains it in additional detail.

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The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.

We start with a battle of the hottest goalies in the postseason so far as Jake Allen and the Blues host Pekka Rinne and the Predators. The duo of Game 1’s wraps up when Connor McDavid and the Oilers take on Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks 

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online)