Dan Bylsma

Bylsma: ‘Blue-collar mentality’ is Americans’ strength

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On a team loaded with talent, Dan Bylsma is focusing on the team’s ability to put in work.

“We have a blue-collar mentality,” the U.S. Olympic head coach said on Tuesday. “That is where our strength is at.”

It’s not surprising that Bylsma, a bottom-six grinder during his nine-year playing career, is embracing his team’s workmanlike characteristics. The style served the U.S. well in Vancouver four years ago, allowing six goals in five games en route to the gold medal game, three coming in a win over Canada in the preliminary stage.

While Ryan Miller took home most of the accolades for that defensive effort, others contributed with a decidedly lunch-bucket approach. Veteran forward Chris Drury killed penalties and blocked shots with aplomb. Captain Jamie Langenbrunner also turned in a gritty performance, as did the likes of Ryan Kesler and David Backes.

Four years later, the American team displays similar characteristics.

Rangers captain Ryan Callahan seems primed to fill the Drury mold, even though he plays wing instead of center. A heart-and-soul guy, Callahan was a bit player in Vancouver but should have a more significant role this time around, thanks to his ability to block shots (he led all NHL forwards with 66 during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign) and play the body. Callahan acknowledged he’ll probably be asked to kill penalties in Sochi, one of his prime responsibilities with the Blueshirts.

“I’m guessing I’ll be doing that, yeah,” Callahan said, per the New York Daily News. “It’s always a big part  of my game.”

Dustin Brown, a holdover from the ’10 team, is another that embodies the blue-collar approach with 187 hits this year, third-most in the NHL. Same goes for T.J. Oshie, tops among Blues forwards in blocked shots.

All these players seem to share similar traits — speed, tenacity and the ability to get nasty if need be. Bylsma said this was all part of the selection process.

“We looked at the strength of each player and we thought we would be a good skating team, a smart and intelligent team,” he said. Our group is toughest to play against.

“Look right down the line from the top to the last defenseman. We are tough.”

WATCH LIVE: Canada-USA (IIHF World Hockey Championship)

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A huge tilt on day one of the World Hockey Championships, as Canada and the USA clash in Russia. You can watch the game online using the NBC Sports Live Extra app.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Canada came away with a gold medal in last year’s tournament while the United States took home the bronze. Of course, each team’s roster changes significantly every year.

The USA’s next game is tomorrow against Belarus. Canada will play Sunday against Hungary.

PHT Morning Skate: Canucks prospect Brock Boeser is taking a girl with Down syndrome to prom

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–Here’s a feel-good story. Canucks prospect Brock Boeser is taking a girl with Down syndrome to prom. (Sportsnet)

–NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire does a lot of traveling during the playoffs. (Sports Illustrated)

–It sounds like ESPN’s Mike Wilbon isn’t a fan of the Coyotes’ latest front office hire. (ESPN)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Stars and Blues. (Top)

–Former referee Kerry Fraser wants the old charging rule to make a return. (TSN)

–Hockey is becoming more common in the North Carolina Sports Hall-of-Fame. (Charlotte Observer)

–Leafs prospect Mitch Marner’s family home caught fire prior to Game 1 of the OHL final. (Sportsnet)

Video: Predators even series with Sharks after franchise-record triple OT thriller

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The marathon is over. The Nashville Predators are back in the series.

The Predators have evened their best-of-seven second-round series with the San Jose Sharks at two-games apiece after Mike Fisher finally broke the deadlock with 8:48 remaining in the third overtime of an instant classic in these 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Fisher buried a rebound in front of the San Jose net to give the Predators a massive 4-3 win on home ice.

The goal capped off a frenetic (and lengthy) overtime session that was nothing but utter chaos at times in the opening extra frame. By the end, Fisher was almost too exhausted to describe the winner. Can you blame him?

Twice, the Sharks, who could’ve put the Predators on the brink of elimination with a win, thought they had scored the winner. Joel Ward couldn’t quite bury a wrap-around attempt before just about every player on the ice, it seemed, converged in the Nashville crease — some working to put the puck in the net, others working to keep the puck out.

The puck, somehow, never crossed the line, though some members of the Sharks raised their arms in celebration as if they had the decisive goal.

Later in the first OT period, the Sharks again thought they had won the game, only to have a lengthy and controversial review determine Joe Pavelski “…made incidental contact with Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne before the puck crossed the goal line, preventing Rinne from doing his job in the crease,” according to the league.

Adding to it all, the Predators were unsuccessful on two OT power plays. That opened the door for the Sharks, who were awarded power plays on two Shea Weber penalties in overtime but also couldn’t capitalize.

The Predators were less than five minutes away from losing this game in regulation, and going down 3-1 in the series, before James Neal tied it with 4:21 remaining.

‘We earned it,’ says Spezza after Stars regroup to even series with Blues

St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) looks on as Dallas Stars forward Jason Spezza, second from right, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
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The Dallas Stars faced the possibility of going home facing elimination. That was the scenario Thursday, as the Stars battled the St. Louis Blues in Game 4.

The previous game didn’t go well at all for the Stars. They were thumped 6-1, as things turned nasty between the two teams, and, most importantly, they fell behind in the series. There were serious questions surrounding their goalie duo that includes Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi. And Tyler Seguin was ruled out for Game 4.

Yes, things weren’t working in favor of the Stars.

But after a poor start in the opening period Thursday, the Stars fought back with Cody Eakin playing the unlikely overtime hero in a crucial Game 4 win. And Lehtonen was able to settle in after allowing that Vladimir Tarasenko goal in the opening period, stopping 24 of 26 shots.

“You really do have to stay level,” Jason Spezza told the Dallas Morning News.

“It’s the best two-of-three now, it’s momentum swings. We survived some breakaways, and the last two periods we played right and we earned it.”