Sharks hope for more from Dany Heatley, Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski

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The San Jose Sharks lost Game 1 against the Vancouver Canucks, but that doesn’t mean they need to panic. Sure, it’s a bit discouraging that they gave up another third period lead, but it’s not like they were up 3-0 and fell apart. Vancouver produced two quick strikes after consistently taking the game to the Sharks, to the point that a lead change almost seemed inevitable.

While the Sharks shouldn’t be overly worried, they do need better contributions from some of their top players. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen targeted three players, in particular: Dany Heatley, Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski.

Here are our observations about each players’ chances of working out of their funks.

Heatley:

When it comes down to it, Heatley has one mission: to create goals, whether that means a nice pass or a ruthless snipe. He’s a two-time 50-goal scorer and already has 325 regular season goals at the age of 30, so he’s an expert at doing just that.

He’s not particularly adept at doing much else, though. Heatley received a (somewhat dubious) elbowing call on Raffi Torres, a penalty that gave the Canucks an opportunity to take a 3-2 lead. Which, of course, they did.

Heatley has eight points in 14 playoff games, his worst postseason output aside from the 2008 series in which the Ottawa Senators were smothered by the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games. The Sharks would love more from him, but it’s almost as if opportunities will need to come to him.

Clowe:

It doesn’t seem totally fair to criticize Clowe when it’s quite likely that he is playing injured.

Unfortunately, he’s been a catalyst for the Sharks offense in the playoffs, so they could really use more from him. Clowe is tied with Joe Thornton for the team lead with 13 playoff points and he played in one less game than Big Bird.

Losing his physical edge is a problem because that’s a more consistent part of his game than the offensive production that probably wasn’t sustainable anyway. Here’s what Clowe told NHL.com about the team’s game.

“Let’s call a spade a spade, we were awful (Sunday) night,” Clowe said. “We’ve got to be a lot better than that. We had the puck a lot of times on our stick and just turned it over. That hasn’t been in our game. Our line has been successful in grinding teams down and scoring goals, but we weren’t very good. I think you can expect a lot more from us next game”

Pavelski

Rosen critiques Pavelski for “only” having seven points in 14 games after producing an astounding 17 in 15 contests last playoff year, but I think the real Pavelski lies somewhere between those two results. He still scored some big goals so far and is a nice weapon for San Jose, overall.

That being said, the Canucks’ third line clearly outplayed Pavelski-Kyle Wellwood-Torrey Mitchell in Game 1. Pavelski’s solid complimentary line feasted on easier matchups in previous rounds, but they’re up for a tougher test in the Western Conference finals. Here’s what Todd McLellan said about Pavelski’s Sunday night.

“Pav has had some better nights,” McLellan said. “The good news is we had a 2-1 lead in the third period. We lost it, but we definitely had our ‘B’ game on display. We’d like to find that ‘A’ game again.”

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Overall, I’d say that Pavelski has the best chance to willfully make a bigger impact on Game 2. Heatley might produce more, but that might have as much to do with circumstance as it does with attitude. Clowe would be another type who could put his hard hat down and make a bigger difference, but I worry that injury issues are slowing him too much.

That being said, all three players have the talent to be difference makers for what could be a long and enthralling series. We’ll see if they can make that happen, starting Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on Versus.

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.