A rough Game 1 for Schmaltz, who needs to be better


Nick Schmaltz‘s first NHL playoff game could’ve gone better.

The 21-year-old rookie was on the ice for the Nashville Predators’ only goal last night in Chicago, and he could’ve done a better job to stop it.

The goal ended up being the winner in a 1-0 Blackhawks defeat, and Schmaltz found himself demoted to the fourth line for much of the remainder of the game.

Stream Blackhawks vs. Predators on NBC Sports

As you can see in the replay, Schmaltz failed to check Ryan Johansen at the blue line, taking out linemate Richard Panik in the process. Johansen was then able to get a pass to Filip Forsberg, who one-timed it for Viktor Arvidsson to tip home.

Now, granted, it was only one game. Nothing to panic about. Schmaltz will probably be back with Panik and Jonathan Toews for Game 2.

But it’s worth monitoring, because the chemistry that Schmaltz found with Toews and Panik was one of the good stories this season for the Blackhawks, who searched for much of the year for a left winger to play with their captain.

Another rookie, Tanner Kero, replaced Schmaltz last night, and Kero acquitted himself fairly well.

Bottom line: whoever ends up filling the spot alongside Toews and Panik will need to be good, otherwise it could be a problem for the ‘Hawks.

USA Hockey names 15 players to Worlds roster


USA Hockey named 15 players to its initial World Championship roster today.

It’s a mostly young group, including NHL prospects Jordan Greenway (Wild), J.T. Compher (Avs), and Cal Petersen (Sabres).

But there are also some veterans, the oldest being Jimmy Howard, 33, of the Red Wings.

Here’s the full list of 15:

In case you’re wondering, Daniel Brickley is an undrafted 22-year-old. Despite drawing significant NHL interest, he decided to return to school for his junior year next season.

The 2017 Worlds will be held May 5-21 in Cologne, Germany, and Paris, France. The Americans will be coached by Jeff Blashill.

DeBoer calls talk of Sharks’ slump ‘totally ludicrous’


Pete DeBoer thinks too much was made of the Sharks’ late-season slide that cost them first place in the Pacific Division.

It was just a “bit of a stumble,” according to the head coach. Nothing too serious.

Certainly, it was no reason to believe that San Jose couldn’t go on another deep playoff run.

“I mean, I’ve heard people say we were bad for two months. That’s totally ludicrous,” DeBoer said Thursday, the day after his team took a 1-0 series lead on the Oilers.

Watch Sharks vs. Oilers on Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

“We lost three or four games in regulation in a 25-game span between January and mid-March. And then we hit mid-March and we had injuries to (Melker) Karlsson, (Marc-Edouard) Vlasic and (Logan) Couture, a bunch of different guys.

“Yes, our game slipped a little bit, and we had a bit of a stumble. But it was two and a half weeks. It wasn’t two months. I always knew we would get it back, and we did.”

The Sharks did finish the regular season with three wins out of four. That being said, they looked to be in tough after last night’s first period in Edmonton. Connor McDavid and the Oilers had a 2-0 lead, and the crowd at Rogers Place was in a frenzy.

It was at that point the defending Western Conference champs took over. The Sharks ended up outshooting the Oilers, 34-9, the rest of the way. They won the game, 3-2, in overtime, grabbing home-ice advantage in the series.

“From the second period on, we had control of that game,” Couture told reporters afterwards. “It was just a matter of time before the puck was going to go in.”

Game 2 goes Friday in Edmonton.

And with Games 3 and 4 in San Jose, the pressure’s squarely on the Oilers to avoid a 2-0 deficit.

Hextall gives Giroux a vote of confidence


Claude Giroux may be nearing his 30th birthday, and he may be coming off one of the worst statistical seasons of his NHL career. But his general manager gave him a vote of confidence today.

“He’s not on the decline,” said Ron Hextall, per CSN Philly. “I know this, I’ll be shocked next year if you guys don’t ask me in January how has G turned this around. He’s a very driven athlete, very driven.”

Giroux finished 2016-17 with 14 goals and 44 assists in 82 games. His 58 points were nine fewer than last year, 15 fewer than the year before, 28 fewer than the year before that, and a whopping 35 fewer than 2011-12, when he finished third in NHL scoring.

Giroux is signed for five more years at a cap hit of $8.275 million, so it’s imperative for the Flyers that he does bounce back. His contract includes a no-movement clause, and he says he’s not leaving Philadelphia.

Related: Flyers fire longtime assistant coach Joey Mullen

In farewell to Vancouver, Desjardins defends his approach to young players


Willie Desjardins had one last press conference this morning in Vancouver. He spoke about his three years as head coach of the Canucks, a tenure that ended with his dismissal after a 29th overall finish in 2016-17.

For Desjardins, the one thing he kept coming back to was injuries. The Canucks have been decimated the past two years. For a retooling team already short on talent, it was simply too much to overcome.

“Over 450 man games lost. That’s a lot to lose,” said Desjardins. “It’s nobody’s fault. Our roster was thin. … When you have a thin roster to start, you just can’t afford to have injuries and guys missing. You can’t. And that’s not a cop out. It’s just a fact.”

He did not blame the general manager.

“Jim Benning was outstanding,” said Desjardins. “It was a good relationship. Jim and I, we didn’t have one fight. There wasn’t once we blew up at each other. Not once. There’s always a little difference with management and coaches. There just is. Coaches are a little more short term, management’s a little more long term. But it would’ve been hard to have a better relationship with a general manager than I had with Jim.”

Desjardins did take issue with one thing, and that was the notion that he didn’t trust young players.

“There is a misconception,” he said. “I’ve never had a problem playing young guys. You look at (Bo) Horvat, you look at (Brock) Boeser. Boeser’s a young guy, came in, played all the time, played power play. That wasn’t ever an issue with me.

“I knew where the organization was and where we had to go. I have my beliefs in how you develop young guys, and maybe that was a little different than the media thought. I’ve developed a lot of young players in my coaching career, and a lot of my guys have turned out.”

The next coach of the Canucks, whether it’s Travis Green or someone else, will have similar challenges going forward.

“We’re going to be young,” president of hockey ops Trevor Linden said earlier this week, per The Globe and Mail. “Young players make mistakes. There’s going to be some growing pains. We need a coach that understands exactly where we are.”

Related: Desjardins calls out Goldobin, says he needs to work harder