Author: James O'Brien

Calgary Flames v San Jose Sharks

Pavelski says Sharks’ struggles are on ‘everybody’

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Despite glimpses of the team that was once a regular-season juggernaut, the San Jose Sharks have inspired plenty of doubt in 2014-15. It sounds like they crisis of confidence extends to the locker room, too.

The Calgary Flames leapfrogged over the Sharks for second place in the Pacific Division with Monday’s 4-1 win, representing a decisive – maybe merciful – end to the two teams’ season series.

While the two teams are still tightly matched, the Flames dominated the five games between the teams, as the Sharks managed three out of a possible 10 standings points (going 1-3-1).

A banged-up defense was one thing that was cited in the loss, but Joe Pavelski’s among those who believe that the Sharks need improvements in every facet of their game, as he told CSNBayArea.com.

“Bottom line is it’s on everybody,” Pavelski said. “We weren’t good enough. Not one guy, not 20. We’ve got to find it.”

Maybe the Flames just represent a tough matchup for the Sharks, but standings points and final scores weren’t the only numbers that are a little troubling for San Jose. Consider this: Calgary sports a +19 goal differential this season, while the Sharks have only scored one more goal (154) than they’ve allowed (153).

Some of that might be chalked up to “puck luck” – their fairly low PDO argues as much – but it seems like the Sharks are slipping from an elite possession team to a merely good one.

Long story short, the Sharks’ margin for error might be shrinking, so Pavelski may be right that it’s ultimately on everyone (even if one might argue that certain facets of the roster are holding up their end of the bargain better than others).

Check out this CSNBayArea.com video for more on the Sharks’ struggles.

Canucks’ Miller acknowledges ‘feast or famine’ season

Ryan Miller
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It’s been an up and down season for the Vancouver Canucks, and that seems especially true for Ryan Miller.

The last two games might depict that contrast most succinctly: after shutting out the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, Miller was pulled midway through Monday’s loss to the Minnesota Wild after allowing five goals on 18 shots.

The 34-year-old seemed perplexed by his erratic work in discussing it with the Vancouver Province.

“There are no real adjustments — just stay the course and take what you can out of it,” Miller said. “My read on the third goal (Nino Niederreiter slot slapper off cross-ice feed) could have been better and he got it up. I don’t know. That’s hockey. Feast or famine I guess — four hooks and six shutouts. Who knows?”

Most goalies probably see some pretty dramatic differences in their stats in wins versus losses, yet the disparity is still pretty striking with Miller.

In 25 wins, he has those six shutouts, a 1.47 GAA and a .947 save percentage. In 15 defeats, his GAA balloons to 4.40 and his save percentage plummets to .849.

On face value, his stats are about par for the course for his career (25-14-1 record, 2.45 GAA, and a .913 save percentage that’s just short of his .915 career average).

At his age, it’s not likely that he’ll make drastic changes. He’s just going to need to hope for better results from himself and his team going forward.

PHT Morning Skate: Stem cells and Mr. Hockey

Gordie Howe
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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.

Andre Pickard isn’t so convinced about stem cell treatments saving Gordie Howe. (The Globe & Mail)

NY Mag’s take on the subject. (New York Magazine)

Hulkamania is running wild for the Moncton Wildcats. (The Hockey News)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $30,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Tuesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $3,000. Starts Tuesday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

What it’s like lining up with the Sedin twins. (Sportsnet)

Music and the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Toronto Star)

NHL on NBCSN: Blackhawks open lengthy homestand vs. Coyotes

Arizona Coyotes v Chicago Blackhawks
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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyoteas at United Center at 8:30 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

By their own lofty standards, the Chicago Blackhawks have been just OK so far in 2014-15, but Monday begins their big chance to make a run for the Central Division crown.

(As far as it seems away today, with the Nashville Predators ahead by eight points.)

The Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes to begin an eight-game homestand that serves as a great opportunity to make up ground. Here’s that upcoming slate of games:

Monday: vs. Arizona
Wednesday: vs. Vancouver
Friday: vs. New Jersey
Sunday: vs. Pittsburgh
Feb. 18: vs. Detroit
Feb. 20: vs. Colorado
Feb. 22: vs. Boston
Feb. 24: vs. Florida

With all of those contests at the United Center (not to mention no back-to-back sets unless you count today), the Blackhawks could at least position themselves to rest some players late in the season if they can’t do much about their seeding position.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $20,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts Monday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

While the Blackhawks have been up and down over the big picture, they’ve won two games in a row. They’re also not that far removed from throttled the Coyotes in Chicago by a score of 6-1 on Jan. 20.

With two straight losses and only five wins in 2015, the Coyotes seem like a vulnerable opponent on paper, although their collective confidence should almost certainly be considerably higher than the last time these two teams met.

If nothing else, Mike Smith has to be feeling better about his play, as he’s at least looked like a respectable starting goalie in February.

The Blackhawks are coming off of a 4-2 win against the St. Louis Blues from Sunday, so Arizona can add the rest advantage. On paper, this seems like a mismatch, but there are a few signs pointing to this contest being closer than many might expect.

Can Chicago build up some momentum with the season starting to wind down? We’ll see on NBCSN tonight.

Boudreau: Andersen says he is fine after injury scare

The Anaheim Ducks are coming off of a loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but they have a reason to feel upbeat this morning, as it appears that Frederik Andersen avoided an injury on Sunday.

There was some concern that he was hurt after a net fell on him yesterday, but head coach Bruce Boudreau said that the young goalie told him he was fine, the OC Register’s Eric Stephens reports.

That’s certainly a relief for the Ducks as they’ve leaned on the 25-year-old goalie more than just about anyone expected after coming into 2014-15 expecting a timeshare between Andersen and John Gibson.

Andersen is tied with Carey Price for second in the NHL for wins with 29 this season as he helps the Ducks continue their strong success in regular season play.

Here’s video of the moment that left the Ducks worried:

Considering how much Ilya Bryzgalov has struggled, Anaheim really dodged a bullet here (assuming there isn’t a setback).