Canucks dominate third period, take 1-0 series lead over Sharks with 3-2 win

The Vancouver Canucks went into the third period down 2-1 but simply outlasted the San Jose Sharks in the final frame. CSN’s Ray Ratto points out that the Canucks took 21 of the last 28 shots in Game 1, as the home team wore down their talented opponents.

Many wondered if the Sharks’ seven-game tussle with the Detroit Red Wings caused that weak finish, but that seems like a flimsy excuse. It disrespects the physical game the Canucks bring to the ice (they were credited with 38 hits) and seems like a “too bad, so sad” complaint since San Jose had plenty of opportunities to earn some rest earlier in that second round series.

Let’s not forget that the Canucks were in a similar situation (but with two less nights of rest) against the Nashville Predators in Round 2, yet they prevailed in that Game 1.

Vancouver 3, San Jose 2; Canucks lead series 1-0

No doubt about it, the Canucks wanted more from the Sedin twins going into this series. The duplicate duo seemed to gain confidence as the contest went on (much like their team). Daniel Sedin didn’t manage to find the net, but his six shots on goal indicate that he was involved in much of the play. Henrik Sedin might have been the MVP of the game, though. Henrik earned a secondary assist on Kevin Bieksa’s game-tying goal and then cashed in on a brilliant Christian Ehrhoff pass to put home the game-winning goal on the power play.

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A look at the goalies

Roberto Luongo should thank his teammates for pulling out the win tonight, because he was responsible for the type of goal that can earn a “goat” label. Luongo and the Canucks defense experienced a lapse in communication late in the first period, leading to an ill-fated pass that landed right on Joe Thornton’s stick and into Vancouver’s net. The Canucks went into the first intermission with a bitter taste in their mouths down 1-0.

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Antti Niemi was brilliant at times in a losing effort, making 35 saves. Still, he showed that Luongo isn’t the only goalie who struggles to move the puck, as his failed clear helped to set up Maxim Lapierre’s 1-1 goal.

Sharks build a small lead

Early on in this game, it seemed like the Sharks were going to get the “easy” goals. Along with that gimme for Thornton, Patrick Marleau was able to score on the power play to give San Jose a 2-1 lead going into the third.

Niemi’s most brilliant moments probably came late in the second period, as he made some gorgeous saves and survived a rugby-like scrum.

Canucks dominate third

Some will say that San Jose “choked” in the third, but it’s more appropriate to say that Vancouver took over. Henrik Sedin sent a pass to Alexander Burrows, who set up Kevin Bieksa for an odd angle goal Niemi probably regrets. Sedin then scored that PP game-winner about a minute later, rapidly changing the tone of the game.

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Outlook for both teams

The Canucks took care of business tonight and must feel content about their efforts. They played their game – and perhaps most importantly – didn’t sit on their lead when they earned it 8:21 into the third. Ryan Kesler didn’t get on the board, but the team was still able to win because of their quality depth and Henrik Sedin’s much-anticipated production.

The Sharks cannot be happy with coughing up another third period lead, even if they were tired. The Canucks are a deeper team than Detroit and a more explosive one that Los Angeles, so they must finish stronger. The Sharks converted on their only power play, so they can look at that as a silver lining since they’ll almost certainly get more opportunities in future games.

On the bright side for those blaming fatigue, the two teams will play on Wednesday instead of the traditional two-day turnaround. We’ll see if the Sharks can take advantage of that extra rest or if the Canucks will remain too much for that talented San Jose squad to handle.

Agent says Kucherov blasted Bolts out of frustration from missing playoffs

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Quite the situation developing in Tampa Bay.

Earlier today, the translation of Nikita Kucherov‘s interview with Sovietsky Sport hit social media and caught a number of people by surprise. In it, Kucherov said some of his Lightning teammates “got their money and stopped working” this season, then complained about a lack of consistent linemates.

And that’s not all. (See below).

When reached for comment, Kucherov’s agent — Dan Milstein — didn’t deny the remarks were made. Instead, Milstein told the Tampa Bay Times they came out of frustration after Kucherov and the Bolts failed to make the playoffs.

More:

Here’s the full text of Kucherov’s remarks to Sovietsky Sport (translation courtesy the Times):

“Some guys overstayed in team. They’ve got their money and stopped working. They knew there’s no competition for their positions and the organization is not going to take someone else. They played not really well this year. You can see it in their stats and way of play. When we played together and I made a pass, they even were not expecting this. That’s why this season was hard for me despite good stats.

“We had great chemistry with [Vladislav] Namestnikov and [Steve] Stamkos at the start of the season. We understood each other really really well. And then Stamkos was injured, I was very upset. I think those nine games were my best in the NHL. After that coaches started shuffling lines. Partners were changing like in a kaleidoscope. It was very hard to get used to it, because guys didn’t play at Stamkos level. It’s hard to explain how I played with them. We had a lack of understanding of each other and there were some problems. I was suffering torments all season, because I couldn’t find perfect chemistry with other partners after Stamkos injury. We played with Jonathan Drouin once, and it was good. But coach didn’t put us together again for some reason.”

It’s unclear who Kucherov is referring to in the opening graph. He had numerous linemates this year, as mentioned in the second graph. As for the money angle, the most recent Tampa Bay forwards to get lucrative paydays were Alex Killorn (seven years, $31.5 million) and Stamkos (eight years, $68 million), both of whom were signed last summer.

Kucherov, as mentioned above, signed a three-year bridge deal at $4.766 million annually in October, then went out and provided the Bolts with terrific value. He emerged as a Hart Trophy candidate down the stretch, finishing the year with 40 goals (second only to Sidney Crosby) and 85 points (fifth-most in the NHL).

But while Kucherov had a great individual effort, the same couldn’t be said for the Bolts. Injuries and inconsistency derailed what was supposed to be a promising campaign, given the club advanced to the Cup Final two years ago, and the Eastern Conference Final last season.

If there is a bright side to any of this, it’s that Milstein told the Times Kucherov wants to remain in Tampa Bay long term.

Related: Yzerman won’t blame injuries for Bolts’ playoff miss

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule for Wednesday, April 26

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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.

After disposing of the Calgary Flames in the first round, the Anaheim Ducks will look to take down another team from Alberta, while two red-hot goalies, Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne, go head-to-head.

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)

Green will be judged on progress of Canucks’ youngsters

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Expectations have officially changed in Vancouver.

Whereas the last few years the Canucks have tried to stay competitive and make the playoffs (failing miserably the last two seasons), the plan now is to develop their youth with an eye towards the future.

“I’m not sitting up here and saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to win the Stanley Cup next year,'” new head coach Travis Green said today.

“But I will tell you we’re going to get better.”

Green was hired after four seasons as head coach of Vancouver’s AHL affiliate in Utica. He understands that the Canucks need to keep injecting youth into their lineup. He knows that’s why he was hired, despite his lack of coaching experience in the NHL.

“We need to get younger, that’s no secret,” he said.

So, for Green, it will not be wins and losses that he’s judged on for the next year or two. Instead, it will be the progress of Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Jake Virtanen, Brock Boeser, Nikolay Goldobin, Ben Hutton, Troy Stecher, Brendan Gaunce, Olli Juolevi, Jonathan Dahlen, and any other youngsters in the organization.

A veteran of over 1,000 NHL games as a player, Green is not expecting this to be a smooth ride. Young players make mistakes. They are inconsistent. They can be immature. Sometimes they progress, only to regress.

“You have to let them learn on the fly, some of them,” said Green. “You have to give them rope. You want them to swim, you don’t want them to sink. (But) you want them to go through adversity as well. I think it’s good for young players to go through adversity.”

Green started his coaching career in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks. Combined with his AHL experience, he believes he’s learned a thing or two about getting through to younger players.

Not that he’ll be Mr. Nice Guy all the time. He intends to push his players. He’s more than willing to make them uncomfortable, if that’s what he thinks is required.

“I want my players to be accountable,” he said, “in what they do, how they prepare, how they practice. But I think if you build relationships and you communicate with players, they appreciate it — especially today’s player. I don’t play a lot of mind games. They always know where they stand. At the end of the day, when I was a player, you always wanted to know where you stood.”

The end goal — whether it’s two years down the line, or even three or four — is to produce a winning team that can compete for a championship.

“We know where we’re at,” said Green. “I know the management group understands that, I feel confident in that. But hey, I want to win. No one likes winning more than me. I want to see our team get better. I want to start the process and push the envelope with these players, and see improvement.”

Related: Trading Burrows and Hansen represents significant ‘shift’ for Canucks

Report: Vegas’ first-ever game will be preseason tilt in Vancouver

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The Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to be busy this fall, and they’ll reportedly start their work north of the border.

Per the Review-Journal, Vegas has finalized its preseason schedule and, pending league approval, will play its first-ever game on Sunday, Sept. 17 against the Canucks at Rogers Arena.

The Golden Knights have submitted a loaded, compacted preseason schedule, which makes sense. The players selected in June’s expansion draft will have little to no familiarity with one another, meaning head coach Gerard Gallant has a massive task in trying to build chemistry.

More, from the Review-Journal:

On Sept. 19, they’ll travel to Colorado to face the Avalanche at Pepsi Center followed by a trip to San Jose Sept. 21 to face the Sharks at SAP Center. The road portion of the preseason concludes at Anaheim against the Ducks Sept. 24.

The first of the three home games at T-Mobile will be Sept. 26 against the Los Angeles Kings. The other home games are Sept. 28 against Colorado and Oct. 1 vs. San Jose.

Vegas team officials wouldn’t comment to the Review-Journal about the preseason schedule. According to the report, the timing of the Vancouver game hinged on the dates for the Canucks-Kings games in China this fall (Sept. 21 in Shanghai, and Sept. 23 in Beijing.)