Sharks advance after sweep of hapless Ducks

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Few figured the San Jose Sharks would have had it this easy against the Anaheim Ducks.

Anaheim came roaring into the postseason, winners of five straight and eight of their past 10 as they worked their way into second place in the Pacific Division

Perhaps they just ran out of gas or, perhaps, the Sharks are quite good at Duck Hunt. Either way, the Sharks made quick work of their California rivals, recording the sweep after a 2-1 win on Wednesday in Game 4.

The truth is the Sharks were far and away the better team in the series and the Ducks — outside of John Gibson — were horribly inept offensively and couldn’t handle the Sharks’ offensive attack, or solve Martin Jones.

After being shutout in Game 1, the Ducks lost a close 3-2 decision in Game 2 only to follow that up with an incredibly embarrassing effort in an 8-1 loss in Game 3.

In Game 4, and on the cusp of being swept, the Ducks managed just a single goal as they went crashing out of the playoffs.

That’s four goals in four games.

Poor John Gibson. The Ducks’ No. 1 faced a combined 69 shots in Games 1 and 2 and then 24 in Game 3 before being pulled, mercifully, in favor of Ryan Miller. In Game 4, Gibson faced a further 24 shots and once again received next to no run support.

The Ducks’ veteran core of Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry combined for four points in the series. Perry was shutout entirely and the trio failed to combine for a single goal.

The Sharks were very much the opposite.

Captain Joe Pavelski had a goal and four assists. Logan Couture had two goals and five points. Evander Kane, acquired at the trade deadline, scored three times and added an assist.

And then there was Marcus Sorensen, who in 32 regular season games only scored five times but had three goals and an assist in four games in the series.

Jones got all the run support Gibson didn’t and was equally as good, turning aside 131 of the 135 shots he faced during the four game.

The Sharks will play the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round after Vegas swept the Los Angeles Kings in four games on Tuesday.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Johansen, Kesler renew rivalry with a short scrap (video)

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You had a feeling this was going to happen.

Ryan Johansen on one side. Ryan Kesler on the other. On the heels of the Nashville Predators taking a 3-0 lead on a shorthanded goal by Austin Watson, and with two men with a firey history dating back to last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the gloves finally came off near the end of the second period on Thursday night.

The dislike for one another dates back to last year’s Western Conference Final. Johansen took exception to Kesler’s trademark agitating style, calling him out in a post-game interview following Game 2 by questioning how he could play like he does in front of his family and friends.

Via Sportsnet during last year’s playoffs:

“He just blows my mind. I don’t know what’s going through his head out there,” Johansen said. “His family and friends watching him play, I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that. It just doesn’t make sense how he plays the game. I’m just trying to go out there and play hockey, and it sucks when you have to pull a stick out of your groin after every shift.”

“He’s not my friend, he’s not going to be my friend, so he can say whatever he wants,” Kesler said in response. “Obviously, I know he doesn’t like it now and I’m not gonna let up just because he said something.”

Given Kesler’s track record as a No. 2 disturber, likely took it as a compliment at the time. If getting under Johansen’s skin was the objective, Kesler had accomplished the mission.

Johansen was able to swing one right hand in (it missed) before Kesler took over and Johansen turtled, to which Kesler made sure everyone in the arena knew what just transpired.

The scrap seemed to give the Ducks the jolt they needed. Rickard Rakell pulled the Ducks to 3-2 in the third period, but that’s as close as they came. Nashville sent the Ducks packing (quacking?) en route to their 10th straight win.

Kesler got a spot of revenge and a nice meme, but Johansen got the last laugh. Again.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Henrique, Kesler too much for Quick, Kings in 2-1 Ducks win

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Jonathan Quick did all he could.

The posts behind him helped on a couple occasions, but Quick was everything the Los Angeles Kings needed to break out of their five-game losing streak, which they entered Friday wearing like a ball and chain.

But while Quick was solid in the crease, making 29 saves, the men in front of him couldn’t replicate their goalie’s performance in a 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

The Kings have now lost six straight and just two of their past 10 and are tied with four teams, including the Ducks, who sit on 53 points and just outside the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference.

The Ducks-Kings rivalry has become quite the grind ’em out slugfest over time, and despite their recent downward spiral, the Kings weren’t going to roll over and die when the puck dropped, even if they played 24 hours earlier.

This rivalry doesn’t allow for one team to not show up, despite whatever mitigating circumstances may be available.

And neither team was giving the other any allowances, evidenced by a 0-0 scoreline after 40 minutes.

The Ducks struck first in the third frame as Adam Henrique finally willed a puck behind Quick, who had puzzled Anaheim’s offense for 42 minutes and change.

Henrique’s individual effort on the goal began a few seconds earlier as he won a foot race to the puck to get it into the Ducks’ zone, dove to make sure it stayed there and they got up and went to the net, where he picked up a loose puck that and put it in the back of the net for a 1-0 lead at the 17:55 mark.

That lead was shortlived, however.

The Kings struck back two-and-a-half minutes later as some extended offensive zone time by the Kings resulted in Alex Iafallo flicking a puck up and over John Gibson off a rebound to ruin his shutout bid at 4:48.

The Ducks would get the final say.

Jakob Silfverberg‘s excellent forecheck kept the Kings from clearing the puck out of their zone.

The puck found its way to the point, where Francois Beauchemin unleashed a high point shot that was redirected down and under Quick by Ryan Kesler for the eventual game-winner.

Gibson’s night may have been a little quieter than his counterpart 200-feet away, but he was on point when he needed to be, making 23 of 24 saves, including getting just enough on Iafallo’s second-period shot to steer it off the post and out to keep the game 0-0 at that point.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Andrew Ladd reminds us: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is back

Last summer, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge generated a ton of donations – and almost ubiquitous videos, sometimes ones that were very ambitious – for charity.

Winnipeg Jets forward Andrew Ladd tweeted his submission along with the hashtag #EveryAugustUntilACure on Tuesday, reminding hockey fans that the drive is going again in 2015.

He challenged Jonathan Toews, teammate Adam Lowry and TV personality Cabbie Richards to continue the icy promotion in his tweet and clip:

Hey, we can let the your/you’re thing slide just this once, Laddie.

As a bonus, here are a few memorable Ice Bucket Challenge entries from last summer.

Apparently Jonathan Toews already did one, does that exempt him from Ladd’s challenge?

To little surprise, Roberto Luongo’s submission brought some laughs:

Ryan Kesler did his part:

P.K. Subban would take the NHL-version cake:

… If it weren’t for BizNasty:

Yeah, it will require a bucket of creativity to top 2014.

Poll: What should the ‘Canes do with Eric Staal?

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With captain Eric Staal entering the final year of his seven-year, $57.75 million contract, GM Ron Francis has a big decision to make.

Does he ink the 30-year-old to a new multi-year extension? Or does he deal the former first-round pick in the hopes it returns some scoring help?

Staal is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2015-16 season.

He could be eyeing another significant payday on the open market, especially given what the likes of Jason Spezza got out of Dallas and Ryan Kesler signed for in Anaheim. All three are in their early 30’s.

“We’ll look at the whole situation and try and figure out what’s best,” Francis told the team’s website recently. “As we said from Day 1, it has to make sense for our organization. We always talk about the term of the contract and the money in the contract – making sure we’re not blocking things going forward either.”

Carolina’s offensive woes have been well documented.

If Francis is to deal the former second overall pick, he’ll likely be seeking young forward prospects with offensive upside in return.

Given the youth movement on the blue line, it might be the right time to deal Staal for some youth up front.

OK, time to vote: