Sharks finally starting to turn things around

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks. Coverage begins at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

With just four wins in their first 15 games it was easy to have some very valid concerns about the 2019-20 San Jose Sharks.

They not only still had what was probably the least productive goaltending duo in the league, but the team in front of those goalies looked to be a fraction of the one that had been a Stanley Cup contender in previous years. They were getting dominated territorially, their best players were not producing, and it seemed like a team that was inching its way toward a coaching change — or some other massive change — in an effort to shake things up. Especially since they already tried one roster move to try and turn things around by bringing back veteran forward Patrick Marleau long after it seemed like that was no longer going to be an option.

Things have rapidly started to change for the better in San Jose.

They enter Tuesday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers riding a six-game winning streak and are gaining ground on the teams around them in the Pacific Division.

[COVERAGE OF OILERS-SHARKS BEGINS AT 10:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

They will have an opportunity to keep gaining that ground over the next few weeks with five of their next seven games –including Tuesday’s — coming against Pacific Division foes.

What has changed for the Sharks over the current winning streak?

How about everything.

Well, almost everything.

As a team, the Sharks are finally starting to dictate the pace of play, carrying the possession, and out-chancing teams, all of which is massive shift from earlier in the season. That is also starting to turn into goals, which is turning into ones.

Their top forwards have gone on a tear offensively starting with Logan Couture who has 11 points during the current winning streak. Beyond him, Tomas Hertl is pacing the team with six goals while Timo Meier has nine points.

On defense, Erik Karlsson has started to play like a true impact player and the Norris Trophy contender he should be every year. He has played 25 minutes per night during the streak, is rolling along at a 55 percent Corsi, has six points, and the Sharks are outscoring teams 11-3 when he is on the ice during 5-on-5 play.

They are also winning the special teams battle, and especially on the penalty kill. Since Nov. 4 (the day before the winning streak started) the Sharks have successfully killed 18 out of 19 penalties. That is good enough for the second best success rate in the league during that stretch, behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins who have been a perfect 12-for-12.

The only big question that exists right now is still the goaltending.

Even with all of their improved play overall the Sharks have still allowed 17 goals in six games, while starting goalie Martin Jones — who has appeared in all six games — still somehow has a save percentage of .891 during the streak, one of the worst marks in the league. It is absolutely amazing the Sharks have been able to turn their season around while Jones still struggles that much, and it is very reminiscent of how the team had to win a year ago.

It still seems like it is going to be a long-term issue that needs to be corrected if this team is going to get back to a championship level.

For now, though, the team in front of him is doing enough to dominate and take goaltending out of the equation and start getting the Sharks back on track.

Randy Hahn, Kendall Coyne Schofield and Bret Hedican will call the Oilers-Sharks contest from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. Paul Burmeister will host Tuesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL Bubble Wrap: Plenty of playoff action, including a double OT Game 1

NHL scores Bubble Wrap playoff double OT around the NHL
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  • Hey, the Bruins and Hurricanes got to play, and it went to (double) OT. And Rod Brind’Amour got really mad, and less rich.
  • Barry Trotz got … uh, the latest laugh(?) against his old team, the Capitals.
  • Carey Price made a righteous save, but lost.
  • Plenty of Game 1 action, so let’s get rolling.

NHL scores from 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff Game 1 action

Bruins 4, Hurricanes 3 [2 OT] (Boston leads 1-0)

After having their game postponed from Tuesday, the Bruins and Hurricanes made up for lost time by taking a lot of time in their Game 1. These two teams needed to reach a second overtime period to decide their Game 1, with Patrice Bergeron scoring the OT GWG after Petr Mrazek was just a tooooouch off of his angle.

Islanders 4, Capitals 2 (Isles lead 1-0)

T.J. Oshie scored two power-play goals to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead. Then things fell apart. The Islanders took advantage of some sloppy play from the Capitals, and Anders Lee made some Capitals enemies with a fight, a hit that may have injured Nicklas Backstrom, and a goal. Barry Trotz’s new team took this one against his old pals.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Avalanche 3, Coyotes 0 (Colorado leads 1-0)

For much of this one-sided Game 1, it seemed like Darcy Kuemper might steal (another?) win for the Coyotes. It took until fairly deep into the third period for the Avalanche to get a puck past Kuemper. But when it rained, it poured, with three goals in about a minute and a half. As great as Kuemper’s been for the Coyotes, Arizona needs to do more than sit back and only fire 14 SOG against Philipp Grubauer and the Avs.

Flyers 2, Canadiens 1 (Philadelphia leads 1-0)

The Carter Hart – Carey Price hype seemed fairly justified in Game 1. While Price made the save of that Game 1 (see: highlight of the night), Hart got the best of his idol in this one. The 2-1 score might indicate that it was a slog. Not really; the two teams played with pretty solid pace. That said, the Canadiens couldn’t get a whole lot done in the third period, when the Flyers were really clamping down.

Canucks 5, Blues 2 (Vancouver leads 1-0)

Well, then. The Canucks never trailed in Game 1, building leads of 1-0, 2-1, and then a 3-2 edge that they would not relinquish. The Canucks’ power play did a lot of damage in Game 1, and Bo Horvat was a locomotive, scoring two goals (including a beauty to really put Game 1 out of reach). Not the greatest game for Jordan Binnington, who also saw some drop-off during the regular season.

Three Stars from Wednesday in 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs

1. Patrice Bergeron, Bruins

Really, hand it to “The Perfection Line” if you’d like. Bergeron scored the overtime game-winner, and also collected an assist. David Pastrnak (1G, 1A) and Brad Marchand (2A) enjoyed two-point outputs, as well. While the Hurricanes kept that line from dominating as much as they sometimes can in Game 1, they still made the difference. (Rod Brind’Amour would argue that the refs made a big difference, as well.)

2. Josh Bailey, Islanders

Here’s another award where you could hand it to forwards who made similar impacts. Still, Bailey came up big during the Islanders’ comeback, scoring the shorthanded goal that ended up being the game-winner, and assisting on the 4-2 goal that put things out of reach. Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal both came through with two-assist games, delivering as well for the Isles.

3. Bo Horvat, Canucks

It’s tempting to go with Carter Hart, who outdueled Carey Price (his idol) on Wednesday. Maybe there’s an urge to reward Darcy Kuemper for his 37-save performance, nearly willing the Coyotes to a win before allowing three goals late against the Avs.

But Horvat scored the first goal to set the tone for the Canucks against the Blues in Game 1, and then the 4-2 tally with a beautiful move to make a St. Louis surge less likely.

Highlight of the Night

It has to be Carey Price’s diving, Nick Suzuki-saving stop, right?

Factoids

  • Shea Weber became the second defenseman in Canadiens history with a goal streak of three consecutive games or more (Weber’s now at four goals, one assist in three games). Guy Lapointe ranks as the other Canadiens defender to do so, meeting that mark in 1973. [NHL PR]
  • The Islanders are developing a knack for coming back against the Capitals in playoff games:

THURSDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 2: Blue Jackets vs. Lightning (TB leads 1-0), 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Game 2: Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights (VGK leads 1-0) , 5:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Game 2: Hurricanes vs. Bruins, 8 p.m ET – NBCSN
Game 2: Flames vs. Stars, 10:30 p.m ET (CGY leads 1-0) – NBCSN

PHT’s 2020 Stanley Cup playoff previews
Flyers vs. Canadiens
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets
Bruins vs. Hurricanes
Stars vs. Flames
Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights

First Round predictions
Power Rankings: Best First Round matchups
Conn Smythe Watch: Korpisalo, Aho leading entering First Round
Roundtable: NHL playoff surprises; vulnerable top seeds

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round 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.

Canucks never trail, beat Blues 5-2 in Game 1

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The young Canucks didn’t look like they feared the defending-champion Blues, at least not in Game 1. The Canucks never trailed in Game 1, breaking a tied third period to win 5-2, taking a 1-0 series lead against the Blues.

Blues found themselves chasing Canucks in Game 1

When we look back at this First Round 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff series, we may say that the Blues eventually neutralized the explosive but inexperienced (and not particularly deep) Canucks. That was not the story of Game 1.

During the first period, both teams scored fairly similar power-play goals, with Bo Horvat and David Perron finding the net with quick shots from the “bumper” position. Vancouver’s power play continued to cause problems, as Elias Pettersson also briefly gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead during the second period. Jaden Schwartz quickly answered with a 2-2 goal as the last tally of that period, yet this would not be the last time the Blues found themselves trailing in Game 1.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

In a moment Jordan Binnington would like to have back, Troy Stecher boomed a shot by the Blues goalie 5:37 into the third. About two-and-a-half minutes later, Horvat bamboozled Vince Dunn with a splendid move to score his second goal of Game 1, and make it 4-2.

While the Blues managed some pushes late in Game 1, they couldn’t come back against the Canucks. After St. Louis got whistled for a late penalty, J.T. Miller scored the 5-2 goal on a power play at first focused on clock-killing.

Vancouver managed one of the bigger Game 1 upsets of the First Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, leaving the Blues with some serious work to do.

There was some nastiness in Game 1, including this ugly spear by Troy Brouwer on Antoine Roussel:

Will this series get nastier? Perhaps. Considering the makeup of this Blues team, the finesse-heavy portion of the top of the Canucks lineup would be wise to mostly avoid the fray. So far, Horvat, Pettersson, and Quinn Hughes didn’t seem overwhelmed by the moment in facing the defending champs.

One other side note: should the Blues keep an eye on Binnington? As great as Binnington was during that 2019 Stanley Cup run, his NHL sample size isn’t enormous. And, quietly or not, Jake Allen enjoyed a much better 2019-20 season than Binnington did.

Consider this comparison, via Hockey Reference:

Game 1 Canucks Blues Binnington Allen comparison

Just food for thought, particularly if the Blues struggle as the First Round progresses.

No. 4 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 5 Vancouver Canucks (VAN leads series 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Vancouver 5, St. Louis 2
Friday, Aug. 14: Vancouver at St. Louis, 6:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: St. Louis at Vancouver, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 17: St. Louis at Vancouver, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Vancouver at St. Louis – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: St. Louis at Vancouver – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Vancouver at St. Louis – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round 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.

Flyers beat Canadiens as Hart gets edge over Price in Game 1

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Carter Hart and the Flyers stayed hot in Game 1, holding off the Canadiens by a score of 2-1 to take a 1-0 series lead.

Hart, Flyers win Game 1 against Canadiens

The Flyers never trailed against the Canadiens in Game 1.

To start the scoring, Ivan Provorov scored a power-play goal as the lone tally of the first period. While the Canadiens got a goal back when Shea Weber connected with a PPG, it was a short-lived burst. Joel Farabee connected on his own deflection rebound to score 16 seconds later, scoring a 2-1 goal in the second period that ended up being the last of Game 1.

This wasn’t a stodgy, all-defense affair despite the low 2-1 score.

Instead, Carey Price and especially Carter Hart were sharp for the Canadiens and Flyers in Game 1. While Hart stood out, Price also made what was almost certainly the save of Wednesday night:

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Montreal’s biggest push of Game 1 happened during the second period. The Habs managed a 17-7 SOG advantage in the middle frame, but couldn’t make enough of a difference.

Chalk it up to some special teams play or not, but the Flyers actually fired more SOG in the third period (13-6) even though they were managing a lead against the Habs.

Overall, the Canadiens didn’t seem totally out of place against the Flyers. Even so, the Flyers stayed hot, and mostly thwarted any comeback attempts by the Habs. If this becomes a pattern, Carter Hart will really gain some esteem compared to his idol, Carey Price.

No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 8 Montreal Canadiens (PHI leads series 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Philadelphia 2, Montreal 1
Friday, Aug. 14: Montreal at Philadelphia, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: Philadelphia at Montreal, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
Tuesday, Aug. 18: Philadelphia at Montreal, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Montreal at Philadelphia – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Philadelphia at Montreal – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Montreal at Philadelphia – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round 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.

Canucks-Blues stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup First Round

Canucks-Blues stream
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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Wednesday’s First Round matchup between the Canucks and Blues. Coverage begins at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Canucks-Blues stream at 5:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The defending champion Blues finished the regular season atop the Western Conference, becoming the first defending champ to finish the following regular season atop their conference since the 2000-01 Devils. But in Round Robin play, St. Louis  went winless (0-2-1), blowing a third period lead in all three of their losses.

The Canucks were the seventh seed in the playoffs based on regular season points percentage. After getting shut out in Game 1 in their Qualifying Round series against the 10th-seeded Wild, Vancouver won three straight to advance to the traditional First Round. The series win over the Wild was Vancouver’s first since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2011.

The Canucks took two of the three games against the Blues this season. Two of their matchups went past regulation, while the final game was a one-goal game until an empty-net goal.

WHAT: Vancouver Canucks vs. St. Louis Blues
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Wednesday, August 12, 10:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Kenny Albert, Pierre McGuire
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Canucks-Blues stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

No. 4 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 5 Vancouver Canucks

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Vancouver at St. Louis, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Friday, Aug. 14: Vancouver at St. Louis, 6:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: St. Louis at Vancouver, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 17: St. Louis at Vancouver, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Vancouver at St. Louis – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: St. Louis at Vancouver – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Vancouver at St. Louis – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule