Sharks coach Todd McLellan is ‘massaging minds’ going into Game 2

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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.”

(snip)

“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.”

(snip)

“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.

Predators survive Blues’ big late push to win Game 1

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The Nashville Predators’ 4-3 Game 1 win against the St. Louis Blues makes it difficult to use “perfect.”

You could get away with using that word, mind you, as the Predators followed up their surprising sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks by going up 1-0 against the Blues in St. Louis. Still, the ride was so bumpy in the third period, it’s probably wiser to focus on the fact that Nashville is unbeaten.

Because, yikes, that third period was a roller coaster for Nashville.

via Natural Stat Trick

P.K. Subban scored a goal and two assists in the first 40 minutes to help the Predators bring a 3-1 lead into the final frame. The Blues absolutely dominated play in the third, however, briefly tying the game as they put immense pressure on Pekka Rinne & Co.

Ultimately, the Predators received a game-winner from an unlikely source in Vernon Fiddler, gaining a 1-0 series edge.

Even so, few will talk about “mystique” after that shaky finish.

For one thing, both Rinne and Jake Allen allowed goals that they’d like to forget. Also, both squads experienced lopsided periods; Nashville dominated shots in the second (15-8) while the Blues almost doubled-up the Preds in the third (11-6).

Nashville also seems likely to play without rising rookie Kevin Fiala, who was hospitalized after an absolutely horrifying crash into the boards.

It was a weird and often wild – sometimes nasty – contest, with the Predators ultimately coming out on top. There’s plenty of intrigue heading into Game 2, which airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)

WATCH LIVE: Second round begins with Predators – Blues, Oilers – Ducks

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Update: With both games likely to run simultaneously, note that Ducks fans can watch on NBCSN in the Anaheim market while the game is also available via streaming links below.

In addition to that, Ducks – Oilers is slated to begin on NHL Network.

This tweet explains it in additional detail.

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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.

We start with a battle of the hottest goalies in the postseason so far as Jake Allen and the Blues host Pekka Rinne and the Predators. The duo of Game 1’s wraps up when Connor McDavid and the Oilers take on Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks.

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)

Video: Austin Watson takes a shot at Vladimir Tarasenko

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The St. Louis Blues and their fans showed class in how they reacted to Kevin Fiala‘s very, very scary injury during Game 1.

Still, these are two physical Central Division rivals, so you expect to see some nastiness here and there between the Blues and Nashville Predators.

One moment that will likely divide onlookers came when Predators tough guy Austin Watson got a shot in on Vladimir Tarasenko, at least briefly hurting the world-class sniper.

It’s unlikely to be a big deal since Tarasenko seems to be OK, but there may be some debate here. On one hand, there are those who believe Watson got away with a cheap shot; on the other, some seem to imply that there was some embellishment. Maybe it’s even a combination of the two?

Either way, the Predators enter the third period up 3-1, so St. Louis will likely ask Tarasenko to focus on getting revenge by scoring goals.

Blues just have no answer for P.K. Subban right now

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In the first round, P.K. Subban was dominant against the Chicago Blackhawks, but mainly if you look at “fancy stats.” There’s nothing wrong with two assists in that sweep, but those aren’t jaw-dropping numbers.

You don’t need to dig deep to see his impact on Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues. A mere glance at the box score – or a chance to see his blistering shot – and you’ll realize that the Nashville Predators defenseman has been a nightmare for Jake Allen & Co. so far on Wednesday.

Subban seemingly scored his first postseason goal with the Predators to make it 1-0, but Colin Wilson was actually credited with the tally.

No bother there. Subban gave the Predators a crucial lift shortly after player resumed following Kevin Fiala‘s horrifying injury, getting that first Predators playoff goal with another booming shot.

Subban managed to draw a slashing penalty on Scottie Upshall and also sent another huge shot to set up a James Neal goal. There’s no mistaking that P.K. has played a huge role in Nashville going up 3-1 so far; the Blues need to find some answers, and fast.