Brent Sutter

Another 1st-rounder responds to Brent Sutter’s ‘he’s not ready’ assertion

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The Colorado Avalanche made Conner Bleackley their first-round pick (23rd overall) at the 2014 draft, which comes with big pressure given both of the club’s last two first-round selections — Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog — jumped straight to the NHL.

One person that doesn’t think Bleackley can make the same leap this year is his current WHL Red Deer coach, Brent Sutter.

“No, he’s not ready for NHL hockey,” Sutter said, per the Denver Post. “Conner still needs to grow, especially with skating and defensive responsibilities. His vision needs to improve. I’m not Colorado, I’m not Patrick Roy, but I feel like he’s not NHL ready. There is growth in his game. There is a reason he went (23rd) and not in the top 10, but I do think he’s a great prospect for that organization.”

This isn’t a flame job by Sutter. He’s as straight a shooter as his brother Darryl — and, presumably, all the Sutter brothers — and is telling it like it is.

Just like he did with another first-rounder from two years ago.

Brendan Gaunce, the OHL product Vancouver took 26th overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, got a similar review after working under Sutter at a Canadian National Team junior camp. From The Province:

“He’s a big guy and he’s a ways away from being a pro player yet,” Sutter said of Gaunce.

“He’s a very defensive-oriented guy as far as understanding the game. He knows his limits offensively, but he’s a big power forward who’s a decent skater and he’s got some good skills. But I see him more as a third- or fourth-line player in the National Hockey League, more of a power guy.”

Again, nothing malicious from Sutter here — he didn’t think the kid was ready, so he said so. The only issue, it seems, is that the likes of Bleackley and Gaunce were forced to answer questions about Sutter’s comments, which is a less than comfortable situation. These kids haven’t played a day in the NHL, so they can’t fire back and certainly don’t want to question the hockey knowledge of a two-time Stanley Cup winner.

But they also want to, y’know, stick up for themselves.

“Everyone has their opinions and he is obviously an established coach for the NHL and junior levels, and he knows what he’s talking about,” Gaunce said in reply. “And if that’s his opinion, that’s his opinion, I can’t change that.

“That’s not something I should probably comment on further, because I’m not a coach and I don’t want to comment on someone else’s opinion.”

As for Bleackley?

“Obviously [Sutter] knows a lot more about pro hockey,” he said. “But at the same time, my mindset hasn’t changed. Do I think I’m going to play [in the NHL] this year? I don’t know.

“No one really knows for sure. It’s up to me and my training.”

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.