Author: Mike Halford

San Jose Sharks Name Peter Deboer Head Coach

Despite ‘win right now’ mentality, Sharks unlikely to shop No. 9 pick at draft

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Even though they hired a veteran head coach in Peter DeBoer — who, upon taking the job, said his expectation is to “win right now” — the San Jose Sharks don’t sound as though they’ll be entertaining offers for the ninth overall pick at this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

“The strength of this draft year, it impacted some of our decisions this season,” GM Doug Wilson said, per NHL.com. “We were not going to move our first-round pick regardless.

“The chance to add a high-end quality player [in the draft] was not something we were going to compromise on.”

While this approach fits with the “tomorrow team” label Wilson put on his team prior to last season, there was some thought the Sharks could have altered their philosophy, largely based on what DeBoer said upon being introduced in late May.

“I think if you enter the San Jose Sharks organization, like I am as the head coach, the expectation is to win right now,” he said. “Regardless of the ages or the birth certificates of the players, there’s a tradition here of winning and of challenging to go deep into the playoffs. That’s my expectation. I think that’s [GM Doug Wilson’s] expectation, and I don’t think anyone’s looking for anything less than that here.”

DeBoer then predicted a “big bounce-back” for the Sharks after they missed the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. That belief is based partly on a veteran core group of players — Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Brent Burns, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic — who will (presumably) return next season, and not so they can be part of a rebuild.

But even with that core group in place, Wilson was adamant he wants to stockpile future talent at what’s expected to be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.

“We see it as a very good draft,” Wilson said. “It was forecast as a good draft and it’s playing out that way.”

Less than three weeks to draft, Eichel remains undecided about going pro

Jack Eichel
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CHICAGO — Call it posturing if you want.

But if you do, be sure to mention the lack of wavering.

With less than three weeks before he’ll be chosen second overall by the Sabres at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Jack Eichel continued to insist — even after participating in the Buffalo-based scouting combine — there’s still no decision on whether he’ll turn pro next year, or return to Boston University for his sophomore campaign.

“There’s a lot of pros and cons about going both places,” Eichel said Monday as the top draft prospects met the media at the United Center. “It’s not an easy decision — that’s why I haven’t really made it yet.”

Eichel, who has already stated he’ll announce his decision after the draft, was then pressed further on exactly when that will happen.

And, on cue, he offered up the same reply he’s given in the past.

“After the draft,” he said. “Probably sooner than later. I’d like to know what I’m doing this summer. Probably pretty quickly after the draft, I’ll finalize my decision.”

Talks then turned to what would bring Eichel back to school. The most obvious thing, of course, is what was left on the table — he and the Terriers fell agonizingly short of a national title, losing to Providence in the Frozen Four finale.

There’s also the fact BU named Eichel an assistant captain for next season at their end-of-year awards banquet.

“There’s some unfinished business,” he explained. “It was definitely tough to lose the last game, and I think that’s one of the lures of coming back — we didn’t graduate too many guys. Obviously we lost our goalie [Matt O’Connor, signed in Ottawa] and two of our top-six forwards [including Evan Rodrigues, who signed in Buffalo].

“But coach Quinn did a great job of recruiting, so we’re bringing in a lot of great players. I think we’ll be another competitor next year.”

During his media availability, Eichel made it clear he knows the Sabres are taking him — “obviously nothing’s set in stone, but it seems like Buffalo is where I’d be,” he said — so the decision is this: It’s either Buffalo or BU next season.

There was no “I need to see who takes me first”-type talk and, as mentioned above, this comes after participating in the combine, during which Sabres GM Tim Murray revealed that, during the team’s interview, Eichel proclaimed he’d eventually be better than No. 1 overall pick Connor McDavid.

That such information became public took Eichel a bit off guard:

Of course, there are few who actually expect Eichel to return to BU. Outside of winning a national title, the reigning Hobey Baker winner has little to accomplish at the NCAA level. Coaches, teammates and his soon-to-be bench boss, Dan Bylsma, have all said he’s ready for the pros, and an impressive performance for Team USA at the world championships cemented that. But there is a certain hesitancy in Eichel when it comes to committing to the NHL and, by proxy, the Buffalo Sabres.

Here’s his answer to a question asking if, had BU won the national title, the decision to go pro would be a no-brainer.

“No. I don’t really make decisions that lightly. I don’t think I’d be able to leave BU that quickly.”

Crawford says performance ‘not good enough,’ Coach Q says ‘just OK’

Corey Crawford
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TAMPA — Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final wasn’t a banner night for starting goalies.

Ben Bishop surrendered three goals before exiting the game, twice, under mysterious circumstances. The second time, he left for good.

As for Corey Crawford? Four goals allowed on 24 shots, one ugly one to Tyler Johnson, and some less-than-stellar performance reviews.

The first, from his head coach!

Q. What is your assessment of Crawford in this one tonight?

COACH QUENNEVILLE: Just okay.

Crawford’s self-assessment was equally blunt.

“It’s frustrating,” he explained. “I felt good but it’s not good enough”

“I can’t let that happen again.”

The final two goals — surrendered to Jason Garrison and Tyler Johnson — annoyed Crawford, but the latter irked him the most, a bank shot scored from a bad angle.

“I don’t want to give that up,” Crawford said. “I don’t think he was trying to do that. He kind of fanned on his backhand, hit the side of the net, I don’t know if it bounced up, I kind of lost it from there, but I felt something on my back.

“You can’t give those up in these games. That’s two goals I pretty much just gave them and gave them momentum back.”

Of course, rough playoff reviews aren’t anything new for Crawford. He’s faced plenty of criticism over the last few years about his play — in 2013, much was written about Boston exposing his glove hand; last year, he finished the Western Conference Final against the Kings with an .878 save percentage; in this year’s opening round, he was parked in favor of Scott Darling after two shaky outings against Nashville.

Yet Crawford is the same guy that’s won over 40 postseason games in five years, with a .920 save percentage and 2.26 GAA. He’s also the same guy that helped Chicago win a Cup two seasons ago.

That’s probably why, regardless of games like tonight, the Blackhawks have consistently had his back.

“I don’t really follow media the way you guys do so I don’t know what’s said or not outside,” ‘Hawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said. “In the locker room, we know what kind of player he is. He’s always been tremendous here. He’s a hard competitor. He loves the game.

“Every time it’s on the line, we know we can trust him.”

Sharp apologetic, takes responsibility for costly third-period penalties

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Two
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TAMPA — For Patrick Sharp, Saturday was a night to forget.

Or more specifically, a third period to forget.

The veteran forward took two crucial penalties in the final frame of tonight’s Game 2 loss of the Stanley Cup Final, with the second paving the way for Jason Garrison to score the Bolts’ game-winner.

“It was something I don’t think I’ve ever done before,” Sharp said of taking back-to-back penalties. “It happened. You move on from it.

“I take responsibility and apologize to our penalty killers for putting them under such stress.”

Sharp’s first infraction, a slash on Anton Stralman, was called shortly after Marian Hossa got away with interference on Ben Bishop for Chicago’s 3-3 goal early in the third period. While the ‘Hawks were able to kill that one off, they had no such luck with Sharp’s second infraction — a high-stick on Ryan Callahan.

“We were battling and I guess my stick came up and clipped him,” he explained. “I didn’t mean to do it. It happens. I’ll take responsibility.

“It’s tough to put your penalty kill in a situation like that.”

The Garrison goal was Tampa’s first on the power play in this series, after the Bolts went 0-for-2 with the man advantage in Game 1.

Chicago has, for the most part, done a good job of staying out of the box this postseason — averaging the fourth-fewest PIM per game of all 16 teams to make the dance — and that’s probably a good thing; the ‘Hawks are only killing penalties at a 75.9 percent clip in the playoffs, down from 83.4 in the regular season.

As for the legitimacy of his penalties — Stralman did go down somewhat easy on the slashing call — Sharp took the high road, and didn’t go anywhere near criticizing the officials.

“They made the calls,” he said. “I guess I gotta be less careless with my stick. I didn’t think I made too much contact on the first one.”

“But I’m not arguing with the call.”

Tampa Tough: Bolts overcome adversity to draw even in Cup Final

150606_TBLGame2
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TAMPA — Well, that was interesting.

In a game with so many compelling storylines — tons of offense, multiple lead changes and a bizarre situation with Ben Bishop twice exiting the contest — the Tampa Bay Lightning wrote the biggest and most important one by defeating the Blackhawks 4-3 on Saturday night, evening up the Stanley Cup Final at one game apiece.

For the Bolts, it was a gutsy victory. Though they refused to call it a must-win, tonight’s game was pretty much that — Since the Stanley Cup Final went to best-of-7 in 1939, teams that go down 0-2 have lost 44 of 49 times.

And getting this series to 1-1 wasn’t easy.

The Lightning had a legitimate beef with Chicago’s 3-3 goal in the third period, as Marian Hossa clearly interfered with Ben Bishop’s pad prior to the puck crossing the line. The officials convened briefly to discuss the incident but — with video replay and coach’s challenges not coming into effect until next season — there was nothing to be done; the goal stood, and the Blackhawks erased a one-goal Tampa lead for the second time on the night.

Shortly thereafter, things got weird.

Bishop left the game briefly midway through the frame, paving the way for 20-year-old Russian rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy to make his series debut. Vasilevskiy then proceeded to stand in net, not face any shots, yet end up the goalie of record as he was in when Jason Garrison scored at 8:49 for what proved to be the game-winner.

Immediately after Garrison scored, Bishop came back in — only to exit again minutes later, forcing Vasilevskiy to go back in goal and finish out the game.

The netminder drama and interference goal overshadowed one of the night’s major themes — that Game 2 was, as many will point out, a showcase of the hockey most expected but failed to witness in the series opener. It was fast, skilled and filled with scoring chances — a far cry from Game 1, which featured just three goals and a third period where Tampa went 13 minutes without a shot.

Tonight, Chicago and Tampa combined to score seven goals on nearly 65 shots. Sixteen different players scored at least a point, with the high-octane “Triplets” line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov combining for three.

It set the stage nicely for what promises to be an entertaining Game 3, when the two teams switch locations to the United Center in Chicago.

Notes…

Bolts rookie Jonathan Drouin made his series debut and had two shots in 7:52 of ice-time… Nine different players had single points for Chicago, with Teuvo Teravainen scoring his second goal in as many games… Patrick Sharp wore the goat horns in the third period, taking back-to-back penalties, the second of which Garrison converted for the GWG… Vasilevskiy finished with five saves on five shots, Bishop with 21 on 24… Corey Crawford finished with four goals allowed on 24 shots.