Five Thoughts: Breaking down some goodies from Canucks-Sharks Game 1

Now that we’ve got one game of each series under our belts it’s high time we overanalyzed what we saw for both games and panic about what we saw for both losers… Right? OK so we’re not about to do that, but we do have some thoughts about last night.

1. It was quite the juxtaposition for both Vancouver and San Jose last night. One team was overly rested up while the other was still working off the hangover of a grueling seven game series. The game played out pretty much the way you’d figure. Both teams came out cautious but full of energy but as the game wore down, the Sharks got tired and Vancouver took over. I doubt the rest of the series will play out similarly but this first game was one that Vancouver had to lock down in retrospect. Not beating San Jose while they were gassed would’ve been a very bad omen for Vancouver.

Instead, Vancouver gets their “gimmie” game and in comeback manner too. San Jose will be thankful to get the extra day off between Games 1 and 2 and they’ll be better prepared in Game 2 on Wednesday night.

2. Seeing the Sedin twins get things going in Game 1 was a great sign for Vancouver and very much expected to see. While San Jose is a great team, they’re not as defensively dedicated as the Nashville Predators were. The Preds made it their mission to shutdown the twins and they followed through with that with such zeal it’s a point of pride for them. San Jose isn’t going to lock in on them the same way, however.

I know that sounds like the Sharks will have problems with Henrik and Daniel if they do things that way, but the Sharks have their own sets of scorers and playmakers the Canucks will have to deal with as well. Everyone is going to get their opportunities to swing the series and it’s just a matter of cashing in on them. It just turned out that everyone we pointed to that had something to prove in these finals all came through in Game 1.

3. I’m sure we were all a bit relieved to see Maxim Lapierre get busted for diving late in the third period while trying to sell a Dan Boyle holding penalty. Vancouver’s been guilty of diving more than a few times throughout the playoffs and got away with it. Lapierre’s over-exaggerated sell job on a hold was both egregious and embarrassing. After all, if you’re being held, you don’t pirouette and fall to the ice.

It’s worth watching to see how both teams do with the diving as we’ve seen the Sharks pull off some fakery of their own throughout the playoffs. Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into an Italian soccer game with flops all over the ice to draw a call. This is one time where we’re OK with Colin Campbell flexing his authority if need be.

4. One thing the Sharks should be concerned about is that sagging third period. Sure, they came into last night’s game off a brutal series with Detroit and had just a couple days to prep for Vancouver, but this was their fourth straight bad third period effort going back to Game 5 against Detroit. It’s more than a trend right now for the Sharks and that slow, plodding effort has to change or else Vancouver is going to roll them out of the playoffs. Early intensity is great and putting opponents in that uncomfortable spot of having to fight back in games is good, but getting blitzed like that in the third period is no good.

5. If there was a team that has more questions to answer after their Game 1 loss it’s the Boston Bruins. While both the Bruins and Sharks showed some signs of things that could be worries further on in the playoffs, the way the Bruins were disposed of in Game 1 gives us more reason to be concerned for them. While its admirable that Claude Julien wanted to stick to his gameplan through Game 1, not adjusting to what Tampa Bay was throwing at them was the wrong call to make.

Yes, that three goal attack in the first period put them on their heels and changed the complexion of the game, but the Bruins didn’t generate anything else the rest of the way outside of what Tyler Seguin helped them do in his limited time on the ice. The Bruins will be better prepared tomorrow night in Game 2, but if Tampa Bay throws them any more curveballs, we worry that the Bruins will be stuck scrambling the rest of the series.

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson