Canada’s patience pays off versus Finns, but forwards aren’t scoring

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SOCHI, Russia — Team Canada has now played three games at these Olympics. Two of them have been against tournament minnows Norway and Austria, the other versus injury-ravaged Finland. In total, Canada has scored 10 times in regulation, plus one more in overtime. And of those 11 goals, only five have been scored by forwards.

Now, to be fair, Canada has only surrendered two goals, finishing the preliminary round with a plus-9 goal differential. And that’s good. But for a team that’s overflowing with world-class scorers — Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Patrick Sharp all entered the Games among the top 10 in NHL scoring — suffice to say, five goals in three contests is not what was expected from this talented group of forwards.

Tonight against Finland, the forwards were held scoreless entirely, with defenseman Drew Doughty notching his third and fourth of the tournament to give his team the 2-1 overtime win — a victory that came with a spot in the quarterfinals.

“We had a good test of our patience today, and our game,” said Crosby. “We did a good job of holding onto the puck. We didn’t necessarily generate the goals that we wanted, but our patience was tested and we did a good job of sticking with it.”

VIDEO: Canada needs OT to beat Finns

Can it be hard to stay patient in a game like tonight’s?

“You understand that’s the only way you’re going to have success,” he said. “I think we all believe in the way we play, and every guy there. It’s really not that difficult. You’ve just got to remind yourself to do it. That’s just more of focusing on what you need to do to win than trying to fight it. I think we did a real good job of that tonight.”

Getzlaf did suggest one area for improvement when Canada meets the winner of Switzerland and Latvia.

“Tonight we played a little bit too much on the outside,” he said, “and we’ll adjust that for the next one.”

But like Crosby, he lauded the team for sticking to the system: “You’ve got to stay patient, and we did in the end.”

Tavares, meanwhile, thought the refereeing played a role.

“I thought we controlled most of the play,” he said. “Obviously it seemed like the whistles were put away for the most part. There was not much room, even when you consider how big the rink is. Just trying to get to the middle of the ice, and trying to get some pucks in front of the net wasn’t easy tonight. We did a good job of sticking with it and controlling the play, and it paid off for us.”

Looking ahead, if Switzerland does as expected and dispatches Latvia, Canada will face a team that’s allowed just one goal in the entire tournament. In fact, all three of the Swiss games have ended in a 1-0 score, with victories over Latvia and the Czech Republic and a loss to Sweden.

The way things have gone, Canada may need to stay patient again.

“We had some real good chances, especially in the third [versus Finland],” said Crosby, “still playing the right way, not giving up a whole lot and being able to generate chances.

“I think you’ve got to trust that and trust that they’ll go in, but there wasn’t a lot to be had. I think it was pretty tight. It was a battle to fight for every inch to get to the front of the net. If that’s the game you’re going to have to play, you’re going to have to be pretty opportunistic.”

Pre-game reading: A warning from Donald Fehr, about the NHL and the Olympics

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— Up top, even Patrick Kane seemed amused that he got into a little scrap with Jussi Jokinen on Saturday. The refs only gave them two minutes each for roughing. No rematch is planned.

— NHLPA chief Donald Fehr warns that if the NHL stops sending players to the Olympics, “the reaction from the players’ side — across the board — is not going to be a good one. And my guess is it’s going to last for a very long time.” Which certainly wouldn’t bode well for the next CBA negotiation. Fehr has vowed that players won’t bargain for the right to participate in the Games. (National Post)

— The Anaheim Ducks, after surging past San Jose into first place in the Pacific Division, are hoping to make some noise in the postseason. Said d-man Cam Fowler: “When you make a run in the playoffs, things have to line up for you, you have to be healthy, and a lot of things have to go right. We’re just hoping that it’s our time.” (ESPN)

— Florida forward Nick Bjugstad has just six goals in 46 games this season, and his ice time is way down. That’s not what the Panthers were expecting when they signed him to a six-year deal, and the 24-year-old is committed to turning things around. “Trust me, no one is more disappointed with this than I am. I’ll do my best to change things this summer.” (Miami Herald)

— Another young forward who’s endured a frustrating season is Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen. The sixth overall draft pick in 2014, Virtanen is currently in the AHL, where he only has seven goals in 56 games for the Utica Comets. “It hasn’t been all roses for Jake down in the AHL,” said coach Travis Green. “We’ve been very honest with him. Are we hard on him? Sometimes. But with that, there’s good dialogue. He understands that and is confident his game is going in the right direction, even though it’s hard sometimes.” (The Province)

— An interview with former All-Star Game MVP John Scott, who seems to be keeping busy in his post-NHL career. One of his hobbies? Making his own sausages. (The Athletic)

Enjoy the games!

Goalie nods: After blowout loss, ‘Hawks start Darling against desperate Bolts

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It wasn’t a good performance from Corey Crawford in Saturday’s 7-0 loss in Florida — the Chicago starter was hooked after allowing four goals on 25 shots.

Of course, it wasn’t a good night for the guy that replaced Crawford, either.

Scott Darling was torched for three goals on six shots against the Panthers, but now gets the first crack at redemption — Darling will start tonight when Chicago gets back into action in Tampa Bay.

The Lightning are hopeful they’ll have as much success against Darling — and maybe even Crawford — as the Panthers did on the weekend. Tampa Bay is desperate for points, and heads into tonight’s action sitting three points back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins are idle tonight, but the Isles — who have 82 points, to Tampa Bay’s 81 — are in action, hosting Nashville.

So it’s a big night for Tampa, to say the least. Appropriately, Andrei Vasilevskiy will get the start, after stopping 29 of 30 shots in a big OT win over Detroit on Friday.

Elsewhere…

Eddie Lack is 5-1-1 in March with a .931 save percentage, so he gets the call as the ‘Canes host the Red Wings. Petr Mrazek goes for Detroit.

Roberto Luongo is still out, meaning James Reimer gets yet another start for the Panthers (he scored the shutout against Chicago over the weekend). Robin Lehner is in goal for Buffalo.

— We mentioned the Isles-Preds game above, and it’ll be Thomas Greiss in goal for the host team. It’s his second straight start, having played in Saturday’s loss to Boston, and it comes ahead of the recently recalled Jaroslav Halak. No word yet on a Preds starter.

Jake Allen‘s ridiculous month (7-1-1, .951 save percentage) continues with a start against the Coyotes. Mike Smith will be in goal for the visitors, looking to snap a five-game personal losing streak.

— The Flames will stick with Brian Elliott when they host the Avs tonight. No word yet on a Colorado starter.

Sharks’ Haley suspended one game for Jarnkrok sucker punch

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has come down on San Jose tough guy Micheal Haley.

On Monday, Haley was suspended one game for his sucker punch of Preds forward Calle Jarnkrok, near the end of Nashville’s 7-2 over the Sharks on Saturday.

“Haley forcefully punches a player who is off balance, not engaged in the confrontation and not even looking when the punch is thrown,” the DoPS explained, via video. “This is a forceful punch on an opponent who is not able to defend himself at the time.”

The DoPS did acknowledge Jarnkrok’s hit on Haley that preceded the punch — Jarnkrok was given a boarding minor on the play — and also noted that Haley explained he was seeking retribution for said hit.

In addition, the DoPS acknowledged this was Haley’s first offense.

As a result of the suspension, Haley will now miss San Jose’s next game — tomorrow at home against the Rangers — and will be eligible to return on Thursday, when the Sharks take on the Oilers in Edmonton.

Haley will also forfeit $3,472.22 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

 

Cassidy says Bruins ‘overused’ Rask early on

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Some interesting comments today from Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, after goalie Tuukka Rask returned to practice.

Cassidy’s remarks came in the wake of Saturday’s big win in Brooklyn — a game that Rask missed with a lower-body injury.

“He had a good practice today,” Cassidy said of Rask, per CSN New England“He’s a guy that’s played a lot of hockey this year … and he’s not a 240-pound goaltender that can handle all of the games, all of the workload every year. We know that. I’m not going to put limitations on him, but we probably overused him at the start of the year. At this time of year, it gets tougher and tougher with any player that’s been overplayed.”

It remains to be seen which netminder will get the nod tomorrow against Nashville at TD Garden. Anton Khudobin stopped 18 of 19 shots in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Islanders. After a 1-5-1 start to the season, the 30-year-old backup has won his last five starts.

But Cassidy insisted today that Rask is the Bruins’ “No. 1 goalie.”

“He’s our No. 1 and his health is very important,” said Cassidy. “When he’s physically ready to go and he tells me that, then we’ll make that decision.”