Author: James O'Brien

San Jose Sharks v Columbus Blue Jackets

Pavelski: The harder the Sharks try, the worse things get

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It’s easy to look at the San Jose Sharks’ four-game losing streak and feel like they’re mailing it in, but judging by possession stats and shot totals, the effort seems to be there.

That seems to be the frustrating part for Joe Pavelski, as he told the Mercury News.

“The harder we try right now,” Pavelski said, “It’s like the worse it’s going.”

The Sharks generated a 32-19 shot advantage against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, yet they lost 2-0. They’ve out-shot opponents in every game of their four-game skid (including a 30-14 disparity in another dispiriting loss to Buffalo), yet they’ve managed two standings points from shootout losses.

In what almost seems like a cruel coincidence, they were hugely out-shot 45-19 in their last win, a 2-0 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Optimists looked at the Sharks’ opening schedule (16 of 21 on the road to start 2014-15) and thought things might turn around. That hasn’t happened so far, as they’ve dropped three straight home games.

Head coach Todd McLellan made it clear that every loss stings.

“Every game’s critical. Not by any means can we put anything on cruise control and let a game slip here and there,” McLellan said to the Mercury News. “We’re in the thick of it right now. The rest of this homestand is critical, but so are the next two road games, and the games after that.

“We’re an everyday team right now, just scrambling to the point where we can get our heads above water.”

The team might treasure a chance to catch its collective breath, then. They don’t play again until Saturday’s home game against the Anaheim Ducks.

PHT shares #WhyImThankful

Jaromir Jagr Sightings In Prague
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Happy Thanksgiving everyone! James O’Brien, PHT’s American writer, shares his list of five hockey-related things for which he’s thankful. Feel free to add yours in the comments section, and we hope you enjoy the holiday, as well as tomorrow’s Thanksgiving Showdown between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, which airs on NBC at 1 pm ET.

1. Many hockey connections – Despite a snow-related power outage, I’m able to write this post thanks to a my hockey-loving wife, who thought ahead to get battery backup and a WiFi hot spot. She’s the most important person I’ve met through my fascination with the sport, but the list of interesting oddballs and/or kind souls I’ve come across thanks to a shared love of all things puck is as large as it is eclectic.

I’m certain many of you have enjoyed similar (and otherwise unlikely) friendships and relationships thanks to hockey, too.

2. Jaromir Jagr love – I remember a time when No. 68 was reviled for what seemed like some pretty dubious reasons (although Washington Capitals fans probably had a leg to stand on). Maybe chalk it up to his elder statesman status, but most of that disdain has dissolved into Teemu Selanne-style love for a veteran with staying power. Jagr gets bonus points for his unusual mix of self deprecation and self-aggrandizement. Not many people would embrace the Traveling Jagrs by showcasing a sense of humor and dropping the line, “They know who the man is.” Here’s hoping he pushes 50 at this level.

3. Knowledge is power – Finally, the game is starting to get a little smarter.

While we can quibble about “advanced stats,” subtle changes make the 2014-15 season more entertaining on a game-by-game basis. The phrase “less dump and chase and more controlled zone entries” sounds boring until it means more opportunities for players to showcase their skills and less monotony. There are still fights, yet there aren’t as many bland “staged” ones. That means the fights that do happen are more likely to actually be passionate, which will make them more entertaining too. (It also means that teams are shifting from fight-only enforcers to more talented fourth-liners, which means better hockey, too.)

All in all, this age of hockey enlightenment should mean that entertainment values will improve, which is good even for cranky traditionalists.

4. Patrick Roy vs. the world – Speaking of “old guard thinking,” few things have been as fascinating as watching Patrick Roy’s stubbornly insist that the Colorado Avalanche can survive employing their current strategies. Just search his name on Pro Hockey Talk and you’ll be treated to a delicious stream of delusions. It’s a real treat.

5. Roberto Luongo’s Twitter feed – It’s really the gift that keeps on giving.

This one really goes out to all NHL players who add a little humor and flavor to proceedings. We all appreciate any time you step out of “we need to take it one game at a time”-type quotes.

***

As far as O’Brien family-specific Thanksgiving food goes, I’d also like to express gratitude for pierogies. They’re just glorious.

There have been plenty of great #WhyImThankful submissions, including NBC’s own Mike Milbury:

Before we go, here are a few of the highlights from that #WhyImThankful series:

Flyers’ latest loss prompted players-only meeting

Braydon Coburn, Steve Mason
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After a 5-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Rivalry Night, the Philadelphia Flyers held a players-only meeting, CSNPhilly.com reports.

It’s understandable that players aren’t divulging specific details about that meeting – let’s face it, a good chunk of the content would probably need to be censored heavily, anyway – yet Steve Mason clarified that the team knows it can’t slip too far in the standings.

“It’s pretty easy to see things slipping away,” Mason said. “Points are up for grabs but other teams are grabbing them and you’re not and you’re falling behind.”

Head coach Craig Berube might not have been part of that meeting, but he probably echoed some of those sentiments in asking for better efforts from his team.

“We need to fight through adversity better,” Berube said. We need to stick with the game plan a little bit more. We stopped doing the little things.”

“We had some guys that aren’t competing and it results in goals against. It can’t happen. You need everybody on your team competing at the highest level all the time in this league; otherwise you will not win.”

With a road-heavy schedule through the start of 2015 (as detailed here and here), the Flyers will need to put forth maximum effort to stay in the hunt through a tough stretch of games. It’s never fun to lose, especially on national TV, yet last night’s defeat might just be the kind of wake-up call Philly needs to brace itself for the challenges up ahead.

NHL will hold hearing with Adam Lowry for boarding Patrick Kaleta

Pittsburgh Penguins v Winnipeg Jets
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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will hold a hearing on Thursday with Winnipeg Jets forward Adam Lowry for his boarding hit on Buffalo Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta.

The league didn’t clarify if it will take place in person or over the phone, but the hearing is scheduled for today. Lowry received a game misconduct and five-minute boarding major for his check on Kaleta, who returned later in the contest:

Replays:

Lowry, 21, is a rookie and hasn’t been suspended on the NHL level. Kaleta, 28, is no stranger to supplementary discipline and has dealt with an injury-riddled start to the 2014-15 season.

PHT Morning Skate: Does hitting translate to winning?

Minnesota Wild v Colorado Avalanche
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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.

Stats-leaning observers tend to bristle at nearly any mention of hitting, but is there any correlation between body checks and winning hockey games? Jen Lute Costella breaks down that question for Puck Daddy. (Puck Daddy)

Which NHL squad is the best at fighting? The answer might surprise you. (The Hockey News)

A tribute to Gilles Tremblay. (Greatest Hockey Legends)

Brian Burke on Pat Quinn’s impact. (Calgary Flames)

Steven Dangle points out that even Toronto Maple Leafs fans respect Daniel Alfredsson. (Sportsnet)

Another look at Martin St. Louis’ return to Tampa Bay. (SB Nation)