Five Thoughts: Ben Eager’s rough night emblematic of Sharks struggles

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Game 2 brought more of the same for the Sharks against Vancouver that we saw in Game 1. For the Sharks that means a lot of bad things. Slow-footed defensive play, bad reads and reactions, and uncovered MVP-type players around the ice. Throw in the careless penalties and you’ve got an even uglier result. Of course there’s plenty to carve up after such a display in the Canucks 7-3 Game 2 win so let’s just get to it.

1. Ah, Ben Eager. Never before has a fourth line part-time goon made such an impression in the playoffs. After Eager’s brutal Game 2 performance that saw him nearly single-handedly derail San Jose’s chances, it’s tough to think that we’ll see him again in Game 3. After all, when you take six penalties worth 20 minutes in the box, including a late 10-minute misconduct you’re not really generating a lot of goodwill for your team. Two of Eager’s minor penalties turned out to be killers in different ways.

Eager’s boarding call in the second period against Daniel Sedin came moments after Patrick Marleau dropped the gloves with Kevin Bieksa as a means to spark his team after Vancouver had taken a 3-2 lead. Eager’s dumb move in trying to gain some retaliation against one of the Canucks’ big guns turned out to be deflating. Eager’s tripping penalty against Mason Raymond in the third period ended up turning into a Chris Higgins power play goal that sparked a four goal third for Vancouver.

Add in his nonsensical celebrating after scoring on Roberto Luongo with 2:33 left in the game and being down by four and you’ve got yourself a perfect goat for everything that went wrong for San Jose. Eager’s actions all game long were the exact sorts of things the team doesn’t need when trying to beat the best team in the NHL. Coach Todd McLellan says Eager is 100% ready to go in Game 3 so it will be fasciating to see just what we get out of him there. He can’t possibly have a game worse than he did in Game 2… Can he?

2. One reason why the Canucks are the best in the league are the Sedin twins and over the first two games of this series, they’re showing just why they’re so dynamic. Daniel Sedin has 2 goals while Henrik has a goal and 4 assists through the first two games. They were brutally damaging on the power play in Game 2 and in Game 1 it was all about Henrik getting things done.

After a Nashville series that saw both guys get shut down hard they’re showing how vitally important Shea Weber and Ryan Suter were to the Predators success. Even the Sharks’ one “shutdown” guy Douglas Murray couldn’t keep up with the twins tonight. That doesn’t bode well for the future of the series for San Jose. The Sharks will have to figure out some kind of game plan to keep them quiet. Perhaps getting the last change at home will be the switch they need.

3. While frustrations will always bubble up in a game where you’re getting smacked around late, there’s something to be said of the lack of theatrics in Game 2. No diving, no flopping around, no over-selling of any calls or potential calls. Instead, we got more of the old school agitation from the Sharks. The late game scrums, Eager’s nonsense, and lots of chatter between everyone. The Sharks kept trying to push the Canucks buttons and the Canucks resisted everything.

More than a few times in this game things could’ve gotten ugly as the Sharks kept trying to goad Vancouver’s pests into doing something stupid and none of them took the bait. Instead, the Canucks’ stiff upper lip turned out to be all the agitation they needed as the Sharks continually made mistakes and took bad penalties. For all the rightful flack the Canucks get for their theatrics, their calm, cool reserve tonight makes them seem more dangerous.

4. The Sharks have shown in their previous four games that when the third period rolls around, their legs get tired and the game slows down for them. In Game 2, however, the slowdown started in the mid-second period. The Canucks started to lock down the pace of the game and the shot totals bear that out as Vancouver outshot San Jose 14-9 in the second and then 11-9 in the third. With things only getting worse as far as that goes, it’s tough to figure just what coach McLellan can do to get things right to make sure the Sharks don’t fall apart late in games.

5. Once again during the postgame the topic of certain players not getting it done came up for the Sharks. McLellan said that the time has approached to stop hiding who his problem players are and while he wouldn’t admit who he thinks they are, it’s up to us to figure that all out. Right now, the top candidates in need for an improvement are Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi.

While the defense is having issues of their own, Heatley and Setoguchi haven’t produced offensively the way they’re both capable of. Setoguchi played great against Detroit but he’s been a total non-factor against Vancouver. Heatley’s been on and off most of the playoffs and the majority of that being mostly off. It’s a perpetual issue for him in the playoffs but if he can find that “on” switch at some point, the Sharks will be able to keep up better offensively.

The Buzzer: Josi’s island; Bob robs Vegas

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Three Stars

1. Roman Josi

There was some exciting hockey on Monday, yet there weren’t a ton of performances where players put up gaudy numbers.

Oddly, the only two skaters who generated at least three points were both part of a losing effort for the Predators. Josi stands far above Ryan Johansen from an all-around standpoint, which is why he’s also standing above the Preds center in these three stars.

Josi generated two goals and one assist in helping Nashville salvage a standings point after the Predators dug themselves a 3-0 hole against the Senators. Josi fired six shots on goal and logged 23:54 in ice time in that loss.

The Swiss-born defenseman has been coming up big for a Predators team that’s dealing with all kinds of injury headaches, including to other go-to guys like P.K. Subban and Filip Forsberg. Don’t be surprised if Josi generates some Norris buzz if he keeps this up, as he has 26 points in 34 games.

2. Sergei Bobrovsky

Monday saw some strong goalie performances. Jaroslav Halak blanked his old team as Boston crushed Montreal, only needing to make 22 saves for a shutout. Thomas Greiss didn’t shut out the Avalanche, yet he kept Mikko Rantanen off the board, which should at least earn him a Kindergarten-style gold star.

But “Bob” might have had the best night of any goalie.

Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots for his first shutout of 2018-19. It’s been a bumpy contract year for the Blue Jackets goalie, as you can see from his poor .905 save percentage. Don’t count him out, though, especially since Columbus has been able to maintain a playoff position even without Bobrovsky authoring his usual regular-season heroics.

3. Ryan Johansen

Honestly, this feels like the quintessential Ryan Johansen game.

There was the very good: Johansen managed three assists, factoring into all of Nashville’s goals. It’s been a strong season for Johansen, who’s generated 29 points in 34 games, even if his offense has cooled off with Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson on the shelf.

If there’s one thing that’s maddening about Johansen, it’s that he shoots so infrequently, so it’s fitting that he had zero SOG on Monday, even with the Predators chasing the Senators for much of the contest. Johansen now only has 55 SOG in 34 games in 2018-19, which seems almost unthinkable for a top-line forward.

But, hey, it’s mostly working, so this is probably closer to nitpicking than a more profound critique. Probably?

Highlights

Chances are, more people will bug Johansen about him giving up the puck on Thomas Chabot‘s pretty OT game-winner, though:

Since Dec. 12, Bryan Rust has a hat trick, six points in four games overall, and also provided a goaltending audition.

Factoids

You may call these Ducks plucky.

Nice fodder for Senators GM Pierre Dorion, who recently said that their rebuild might be ahead of schedule:

Another reminder that Halak was a Hab:

Scores

ANA 4 – PIT 2
CBJ 1 – VGK 0
BOS 4 – MTL 0
OTT 4 – NSH 3 (OT)
NYI 4 – COL 1

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Should Ian Cole be suspended for kneeing Brock Nelson?

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On paper, Monday was an excellent night for Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders.

The Islanders topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-1, keeping the Avs’ scorching-hot top line mostly in check. Nathan MacKinnon grabbed an assist on Gabriel Landeskog‘s power-play goal, but Mikko Rantanen was held pointless for the first time in ages. Also, with the Pittsburgh Penguins falling to the Ducks in regulation, the Isles regained control of the third spot in the Metropolitan Division.

So, the Islanders mostly contained the NHL’s hottest scoring line, and with this win, would be in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs if they began right now.

It wasn’t all good news, though.

Two injuries hang over this win, and one brings potential controversy. As you can see in the video above this post’s headline, Avs defenseman Ian Cole seemingly engaged in a knee-to-knee hit on Isles forward Brock Nelson. Cole received a kneeing minor on the play.

Also, in attempting to deliver a hit, Thomas Hickey fell awkwardly, and eventually needed to be helped off of the ice.

Following the game, Trotz didn’t have much of an update, as Newsday’s Andrew Gross reports:

Hickey came into Monday’s game averaging 19:14 TOI per contest, a career-high, so it was clear that he was earning Trotz’s trust. Nelson broke a four-game pointless streak with an assist in this win, giving him 21 points in 32 games, good for fourth on the team in scoring. So these situations are worrisome for an Islanders team that’s vastly surpassing expectations.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Pacioretty injured in Golden Knights’ shutout loss

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The Vegas Golden Knights have been gathering momentum lately, but Monday was not kind to them.

Malcolm Subban‘s solid night wasn’t enough, as the Golden Knights couldn’t score a single goal against Sergei Bobrovsky, falling via a 1-0 shutout loss.

Monday could end up being costly beyond what must have been a frustrating score, as Max Pacioretty appeared to suffer a knee injury during the defeat. (Click here for a GIF of the leg injury.)

Pacioretty wasn’t able to return to Vegas’ loss. After the loss, Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said more information could be known by Tuesday.

Pacioretty was already dealing with a different lower-body ailment amid confusion about an earlier unhealthy/healthy scratch, so “Patches” might need to rev up that “Wolverine”-style healing ability if he wants to get back into action soon.

There was some fear that Colin Miller might have suffered a knee issue of his own, but he was able to play as the game went along, so at least Vegas might have dodged that bullet. Maybe.

The Blue Jackets managed this regulation win, even with Artemi Panarin out of the lineup. Maybe it wasn’t always pretty, but they’re likely feeling better than the Golden Knights right now.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Unlikely fight: Bobby Ryan vs. Kyle Turris

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File this Monday fight under “unexpected,” as Nashville Predators center Kyle Turris dropped the gloves with Bobby Ryan of the Ottawa Senators.

Turris was once Ryan’s teammate with the Sens, but it’s unclear if that had anything to do with it. Either way, when you consider the players involved, this was a fairly passionate bout.

It looked like Ryan got the best of Turris, at one point seemingly leaving Turris dazed.

Via Hockey Fights, it’s been quite a while for Ryan, in particular, as his last fight happened against Kris Russell in March of the 2013-14 season.

Turris, meanwhile, has seen quite a remarkable array of opponents, ranging from Tanner Glass to Marc-Edouard Vlasic, with current teammate P.K. Subban also included.

After falling behind 3-0, the Predators were able to secure a standings point by sending the game to OT at 3-3. The Senators got the last laugh, however, as Thomas Chabot scored this beautiful overtime game-winner:

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.