Brent Burns

Burns, Karlsson, Hedman named Norris Trophy finalists

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The three nominees for this year’s Norris Trophy are in.

San Jose’s Brent Burns, Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman are the finalists, the NHL announced on Friday. The news came as little surprise, as the trio finished as the top three scoring defensemen in the league this year — Burns finished with 76 points (and 29 goals, by far the most from a blueliner), Hedman with 72, and Karlsson with 71.

This marks the fourth time Karlsson has been a finalist, having won the award in 2012 and again in 2015. Burns was a nominee last year, finishing third in voting, while Hedman made the final three for the first time in his career, having never finished higher than seventh.

Most expect this to be a two-horse race, between Burns and Karlsson. The former, as mentioned above, had a terrific offensive campaign, and became the first defenseman to post back-to-back 75-point campaigns since Brian Leetch did it 20 years ago.

Karlsson had an equally stellar year, and got some push for Hart Trophy consideration as league MVP.

“With what he’s done this year, the way he’s done it, I can’t imagine better,” head coach Guy Boucher said, per CBC. “Right now it’s absolutely sublime, it really is.”

 

 

San Jose’s power play was bad all year, now it’s proving costly

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The Sharks were the NHL’s third-best team with the man advantage last year, and they carried that over to the playoffs by scoring at a 24 percent clip.

This year, same story.

Sorta.

Stream Sharks vs. Oilers on NBC Sports

San Jose has certainly carried its regular-season PP over to the postseason — only it’s been lousy, not stellar. The Sharks finished 25th in the NHL this year with a 16.7 percent success rate, and are now 1-for-14 through three games against the Oilers.

In Sunday’s 1-0 Game 3 loss, San Jose had two chances with the man advantage. It didn’t score, which makes sense because it wasn’t credited with a single shot on goal.

“You’ve got to shoot the puck,” Logan Couture said, per NBC Sports California. “You’ve got to score some goals. We know that. Obviously that’s been a concern for us all season, our power play hasn’t been where we need it to be.

“We need it to be better. It’s simple to say, it’s easy to say, but we’ve got to be better.”

It’s puzzling why the unit is so bad. All the guys that made last year’s PP so dynamic are still there — Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Brent Burns — but the production isn’t. Last year, the Pavelski-Marleau-Thornton trio combined for 31 PPG.

This year? Just 16.

Head coach Peter DeBoer suggested the group wasn’t “hungry enough” and got outworked, and some of that surely has to do with the Oilers.

Edmonton was a good penalty killing team at home during the regular season — 82.3 percent at Rogers Place — and that carried over to Games 1 and 2, when the Oilers surrendered just one PPG on 12 opportunities. They also got a massive shorthanded goal from Zack Kassian, and have started using captain Connor McDavid more and more on the PK.

After averaging just 48 seconds of shorthanded ice time during the regular season, McDavid is up to 1:57 per in the playoffs.

“He can skate, he’s got great instincts,” Oilers coach Todd McLellan said of McDavid on the kill, per TSN. “His stamina is second to none. Those are all pretty good qualities for a penalty killer.”

Here are the West Finalists for Kraft Hockeyville

The nominations are in, and we have a Top Four for Kraft Hockeyville.

Watch the video above for more information on the two rinks that made it in the East and the two that will represent the West region.

The two East finalists can be seen here while the two West rinks that made it to the Top Four are:

Stream Sharks vs. Oilers on NBC Sports

Pepsi Ice Center: Bloomington, IL

“Hockey is for everyone” at this rink, which serves hockey players of many age groups and skill levels.

Bloomington Ice Garden: Bloomington, MN

It makes sense to see “watch out for flying pucks” on the walls when you consider some of the talent cultivated at this rink, including some (now-bearded) fellow named Brent Burns.

To find out more, including details regarding prizes and individual vignettes for each location, visit krafthockeyville.com.

Oilers need to ‘stay out of the box’ against Sharks

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It was a spirited Edmonton team that made its long-awaited return to the playoffs.

Perhaps a bit too spirited.

The aggressive Oilers ended up shorthanded six times against the Sharks, whose comeback Wednesday started with a power-play goal early in the second period.

Stream Sharks vs. Oilers on NBC Sports

It wasn’t just the goal that hurt the Oilers, either. It was all the time they had to spend on the kill.

“We went over why the game turned, and it’s pretty simple,” forward Jordan Eberle said, per the Edmonton Journal. “We got caught a lot with long shifts and just didn’t have any energy. You get a guy like Brent Burns spending 10 minutes on the power play, it’s not going to help your cause.”

The Oilers led 2-0 after 20 minutes of Game 1. But the Sharks were in control from the second period onward, and they eventually won it, 3-2, in overtime.

Game 2 goes tonight in Edmonton.

“We’ve got to stay out of the box,” said Eberle.

Toews believes Blackhawks ‘have that feeling again’ heading into playoffs

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The Chicago Blackhawks have been here so many times before. They’re 16 postseason wins away from a fourth Stanley Cup title in eight years, and their veteran core knows it has the talent and the experience to survive the two-month playoff grind.

Nobody else in the Western Conference playoff picture can say any of that.

None of the other seven teams has won a recent Stanley Cup. In fact, only three of those franchises have raised the Cup at all, and only two players were in their current uniform for it: Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, who won their rings a decade ago.

So is it Chicago’s conference crown to lose when postseason play gets underway Wednesday?

Watch Blackhawks vs. Predators on NBC Sports

The top-seeded Blackhawks have been around for too long to believe anything matters except Game 1 on Thursday night against Nashville.

“I think that energy, that ambition and motivation is back,” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. “We have that feeling again, that every single moment and every single game matters. It’s a lot of fun to play at this time of the year. It’s why we work all year to get to this point, and as we have said in the past, the real season begins. Obviously, we want to see what we are made of, and I think we are all pretty confident what we are able to do.”

The rest of the West is about to find out if it measures up.

Here’s what to watch in the four first-round series beginning this week:

BLACKHAWKS vs PREDATORS

Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Marian Hossa are just part of the veteran group that propelled the Blackhawks down the stretch to the West’s top record and the NHL’s third-best performance since New Year’s Day (58 points).

Yet these Blackhawks have been refreshed by an infusion of youngsters hoping for their first taste of Stanley Cup glory, most notably Artemi Panarin. The high-scoring Russian is in only his second NHL season, and his first postseason run ended abruptly last year with Chicago’s first-round loss to St. Louis.

The Predators were Chicago’s first-round postseason opponents before the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup title runs in 2010 and 2015. Nashville’s record (41-29-12) was nearly identical to last season’s mark, but the Predators have made one big change: P.K. Subban replaced Shea Weber as their top defenseman this season, headlining a blue-line corps including Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis in front of goalie Pekka Rinne.

Chicago knows that if Rinne plays at his all-world best, even the Blackhawks could have trouble scoring enough to win.

WILD vs BLUES

Minnesota was cruising toward the Central Division title before a late-season slump, while the Blues surged into the postseason after firing coach Ken Hitchcock and trading top defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

Both teams are regular playoff qualifiers, but both are hoping for a breakthrough this spring after years of disappointment. Keep an eye on Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk, whose proficiency against Vladimir Tarasenko and the Blues’ scorers could determine this series.

DUCKS vs FLAMES

Anybody who is aware of the Flames’ 25-game regular-season losing streak at Honda Center could be excused for thinking the Ducks have an astonishing home-ice advantage in this matchup of the five-time defending Pacific Division champions and the West’s top wild card.

The Flames are loaded with young talent, but this series rests heavily on Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan Kesler and the rest of Anaheim’s veteran core, which simply hasn’t been able to finish: The Ducks have lost a Game 7 at home in each of the last four postseasons.

The Ducks streaked into the postseason on an 11-0-3 roll, and they have more talent and experience. But after Anaheim’s first-round flop against Nashville last season, the Flames realize they might be facing some sitting Ducks in their quest for a playoff breakthrough.

OILERS vs SHARKS

Connor McDavid will make his Stanley Cup playoff debut at Rogers Place’s first postseason game on Wednesday night, and the hockey world can’t wait to see what he does next.

McDavid already won the NHL scoring title and led Edmonton back to the postseason after a 10-year absence. The Oilers even finished above the Sharks, who have much the same team that won the West last season.

San Jose might be far from full strength: Centers Joe Thornton and Logan Couture are out with injuries, and it’s unclear when they’ll return. But Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski are ready to apply their full range of playoff knowledge against the upstart Oilers and McDavid, who might be at the start of the best chapter yet in his remarkable story.

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