The San Jose Sharks seemed to run out of gas during the third period against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. That being said, it wasn’t like the Sharks were absolutely trampled in that contest. The Canucks earned a 3-2 win after scoring twice in rapid succession in that final frame, but a one-goal loss is something the Sharks have dealt with quite a bit lately.
Then again, when you get this far in the playoffs, each win and loss often comes down to which team fights a bit more for loose pucks and comes out on top in board battles. It seemed like the Canucks were the ones winning a lot of those “50/50 battles” on Sunday night, but the Sharks hope to play a better all-around game tonight (at 9 p.m. ET on Versus).
Small – yet crucial – improvements seemed to be what Sharks coach Todd McLellan was preaching about today. He told CSN’s Tim Panaccio that he isn’t asking for huge improvements from players, just small ones that could make all the difference.
“We’ve massaged the mind,” Dr. Todd said. “We’ve held them accountable. We’ve tried to help them. I talked to some of the skaters on the ice obviously today as they were roaming around. They all felt pretty good, refreshed. I expect us to be immensely better.”
“At this time of the year, you always hear us talk, the team that loses says, ‘We’ve got to be better, work harder,’” McLellan said. “It’s not this much, it’s only that much. We’ve got to convince the players of that. We’re not asking you to be 10 or 15 percent better, we’re asking you to be 1 percent better. Sometimes that’s all you need.”
“If I talk to Devin Setoguchi, for example, and pull him in and ask him to do a few things better, it’s not a big gap. He’s done it before. It’s just a small gap that he has to close.
“That’s what I mean by convincing them. Getting them to understand that they’re not going to be asked to do something they haven’t done before. They’re only going to do what they’re doing and do it better and longer, if that makes any sense at all.”
People say that playoff hockey can come down to funky bounces, but there’s some truth to the sentiment that you “make your own bounces” too. The Sharks eventually stopped doing that in Game 1. If they hope to avoid heading back to San Jose down 2-0, they need to win more of those legitimate little battles. Even if making that little improvement is a lot tougher than it sounds.
Alex Galchenyuk has been one of the Montreal Canadiens best players this season and entered play on Friday night with nine goals in his first 23 games.
In the first period against the San Jose Sharks he had himself in a great position to score goal No. 10 when he had a wide open look right in front of the net.
Sharks goalie Martin Jones, however, had other ideas and absolutely robbed the Canadiens’ star forward.
Have a look.
Jones took over as the Sharks’ starting goaltender a year ago after he was acquired in an offseason trade with the Boston Bruins. He was a key piece in their run to the Stanley Cup Final.
He has been on quite a run for the Sharks over the past couple of weeks and entered play on Friday having allowed just six goals in his past five starts.
The Ottawa Senators were without forward Bobby Ryan during their 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday due to a hand injury that he aggravated on Tuesday against Buffalo. That injury resulted in him being placed on injured reserve by the team, which means he will miss at least the next two games, and potentially more.
On Friday, Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said the team received some positive news regarding Ryan’s injury and that it is possible he could accompany the team on its upcoming four-game road trip that begins on Monday in Pittsburgh. But he will still not be eligible to return until Wednesday when the team visits the San Jose Sharks.
That means he will be sidelined for Saturday’s home game against Florida as well as Monday’s game against the Penguins.
Dorion said on Friday, via NHL.com, that there is a 50-50 chance he accompanies the team on the upcoming road trip that also includes games against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.
“I’ve got to give Bobby a lot of credit. People don’t know how many injuries he’s played through here, getting his hand frozen and playing through pain,” Dorion said via NHL.com.
Ryan initially injured his finger back on Nov. 17 against Nashville, forcing him to miss the next two games. After returning to the lineup he eventually had to leave Tuesday’s game against Buffalo.
After scoring 24 goals for the Senators a year ago he has just three goals and five assists in 21 games this season.
The Senators are 14-8-2 and in second place in the Atlantic Division, four points behind the Montreal Canadiens.
The Buffalo Sabres announced on Friday evening that they have called up defenseman Brendan Guhle from the Prince George Cougars of the WHL on an emergency basis.
Guhle, a second-round pick (No. 51 overall) by the Sabres in 2015, had impressed in Sabres training camp the past two years but just missed out on making the roster each time. He missed making the team in 2015 in large part because of a concussion after he was hit by Dion Phaneuf.
He did end up playing six games for the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League a year ago, scoring a goal and adding three assists.
Before his call-up on Friday he had spent the first part of the 2016-17 season playing in the WHL for Prince George as well as the Prince Albert Raiders (he was acquired by Prince George on Nov. 19).
In 19 games between the two teams he has five goals and two assists.
The Sabres needed to call up a defenseman because veteran Josh Gorges was injured on Thursday night in the team’s win over the New York Rangers when he was hit in the foot by a shot.
He had x-rays on Friday and the team is expected to offer some sort of an update on his status on Saturday. In 23 games this season for the Sabres, Gorges has no goals and one assist.
What really hurts for Sabres at the moment is they are already playing without defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and Zach Bogosian due to injury.
The Sabres host the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET.
The NHLPA has rejected a proposal from the National Hockey League to extend the current collective bargaining agreement by three years in exchange for participation in the 2018 Olympics, according to reports from the Associated Press and Canadian Press.v
The NHL’s participation in the 2018 games in Pyeongchang remains in doubt, mostly due to the cost of insurance and other expenses that go with sending players. In the past, those expenses have been handled by the IOC and IIHF but they are reluctant to foot the bill for the 2018 games.
In recent weeks the NHL presented the NHLPA with an opportunity to participate in the 2018 Olympics in exchange for extending the current CBA through the year 2025, while also eliminating an opt-out clause that exists in 2019.
It was expected that the NHLPA would not be willing to accept that offer from the league.
On Friday, IOC president Thomas Bach said it is in the best interest of all parties for NHL players to participate in the 2018 games, telling the Olympic Channel “all the rational arguments are speaking in favor of participation.”
There is a January deadline set for participation in 2018.
Back in September NHL deputy commissioner said it is possible the NHL could skip the 2018 games and then return for 2022 in Beijing.
NHL players have participated in the past five Olympics dating back to the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan.
There seems to be a desire among the players to participate. Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, for example, has repeatedly said he plans on playing whether the NHL goes or not.