Dany Heatley, Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski

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.

Hitchcock believes Blues’ Allen is ‘locked up mentally’

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes the third period save against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 8, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Things were already rough for the St. Louis Blues and their goalies (particularly still-pretty-newly crowned No. 1 Jake Allen) heading into Thursday, but the Washington Capitals really highlighted those issues in a 7-3 thrashing.

Blues fans and management must be wondering, then: what’s wrong with their goalies, especially with Allen? Head coach Ken Hitchcock seems resigned to allowing him to fight through it, if nothing else.

“There’s a lot going on right now. … He’s kind of locked up mentally and he’s going to have to fight through this,” Hitchock said, according to Lou Korac of NHL.com. “What we see at practice, we like. That’s why we put him in quite frankly.”

Alex Pietrangelo did the typical deflecting thing, nothing that this is a “team” and that there are “no individuals.”

Still, Hitchcock’s longer press conference makes you wonder how much trust there is in Allen and Carter Hutton.

From Hitch’s perspective, it sure sounds like he believes that the Blues are over-correcting to try to limit “goals, shots.” By trying to do too much, they might be putting themselves in bad positions. And that might stem from a lack of confidence in the guys in net, or in the team’s work in their own zone overall.

Let’s be honest. As much as we can play chicken-or-the-egg as far as a defense’s impact on a goalie, it’s tough to explain away save percentages under .900 in the modern NHL. At some point, your team needs more stops.

With the races for the lower spots in the Western Conference’s playoff picture seemingly tightening up, the Blues don’t have a ton of time to figure this out.

Capitals shine glaring light on Blues’ goalie woes

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes a save during the first period against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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If you’re reaction to the headline “Something is off about the St. Louis Blues” was “Yeah, their goaltending,” then Thursday only emboldened that opinion.

It wasn’t just that the Washington Capitals bombarded the Blues by a score of 7-3. It’s that they really didn’t need to fire a whole lot of shots on goal to get to seven.

Here’s a harsh rule of thumb: when both of your goalies play in a game and each one barely makes more saves than goals allowed, that’s an awful night. Take a look at what Jake Allen and Carter Hutton went through:

Allen: six saves, four goals allowed in 25:11 time on ice
Hutton: five saves, three goals allowed in 35:49

Allen got pulled from the contest twice, by the way. He’s been pulled from four games since Dec. 30. Woof.

Even before these horrendous performances, the Blues goalies have been shaky. Hutton came into tonight with an ugly .898 save percentage; Allen wasn’t much better with a .900 mark.

Those are the type of numbers that would make Dallas Stars fans cringe, or at least experience some uncomfortable familiarity.

Now, is it all on Hutton and Allen? Much like with the Stars’ embattled goalies, much of the struggles probably come down to a team struggling in front of them.

Even so, if you assign more of the blame to Allen and Hutton, nights like this Capitals thrashing definitely strengthen your argument. Yikes.

Rangers overwhelm Leafs, make life pretty easy for Lundqvist in win

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 19:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers faces a shot in the warm-up prior to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on January 19, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Heading into Thursday, many were wondering how the New York Rangers will handle Henrik Lundqvist‘s struggles. Instead, the focus shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ difficulties, perhaps specifically in dealing with Morgan Rielly‘s absence.

The Rangers handily won this one 5-2, at least giving Lundqvist the win. He wasn’t especially busy, stopping 23 out of 25 shots, so you can probably file his story under “To be continued.”

Lundqvist wasn’t oblivious to his team’s impressive overall play.

Really, it was all about the waves of attackers the Rangers can send at opponents and the trouble that caused for the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t the easiest night for Frank Corrado, in particular, who took a couple costly penalties.

The Rangers’ next two games come in a road contest vs. the Red Wings on Sunday and a home game against the Kings on Monday. Perhaps those matches will serve as a better barometer for where Lundqvist’s really at, as he passed tonight’s test … but it wasn’t a particularly difficult one.

So, is Mike Condon actually really good? He certainly was against Columbus

OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 8: Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators stands at the bench during a break in a game against the Edmonton Oilers at Canadian Tire Centre on January 8, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Considering their numbers heading in, many were perplexed when the Ottawa Senators essentially replaced Andrew Hammond with Mike Condon. Now many are perplexed by just how strong Condon’s often been for Ottawa.

Thursday might stand as the prime example that this guy could be better than many expected.

The Columbus Blue Jackets dominated much of the play, generating a 42-28 shots on goal advantage, but Ottawa ended up winning 2-0 tonight.

Condon already came into tonight with a solid save percentage (.915 before this shutout), and he’s now won four of his last five games. Three of his four career shutouts have come this season.

Ignoring his one relief appearance with Pittsburgh this season for the sake of simplicity, just consider his tough times with Montreal last season. He went 21-25-6 with a shaky .903 save percentage.

This marks just his 21st start and 23rd appearance of this season, so it’s not a guaranteee for future results. Still … it’s another example that goalies are as just about as unpredictable as they are crucial to a team’s fate.

More and more, it seems like Condon might just be a difference-maker, and in the positive sense this time around.