The Wraparound

The Wraparound: Sharks in familiar waters ahead of Game 6 vs. Blues

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

The San Jose Sharks have been here before.

In Round 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Sharks faced elimination in three straight games after falling behind 3-1 in that series. They rallied, of course, including a 2-1 overtime win in Game 6 in hostile territory at T-Mobile Arena.

“We’re still alive,” said playoff leading scorer Logan Couture. “We’ve been in this spot before, going to Vegas down 3-2 in a very difficult building. St. Louis is similar, it’s a tough building against a good team. A structured team. We scored one goal in the last two games, that’s not going to cut it. We’re not doing enough around their net or creating enough opportunities on second chances.”

It may sound a tad odd, but the Sharks may have the Blues exactly where they want them ahead of a pivotal Game 6 matchup on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream).

San Jose is a dreadful 0-6 when leading a series this postseason but is 10-3 when trailing or tied, including a perfect 4-0 record when facing elimination. We probably shouldn’t get this twisted — the Sharks tempting their own demise isn’t exactly ideal. But if anyone thinks the Sharks are dead in the water, their record speaks for itself.

And if you’re the superstitious-type, the Sharks lost 5-0 to the Golden Knights in Game 4 of Round 1 to be put on the verge golf-course duty and then never lost again in that series.

“We’ve been here before,” Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said. “Had to go on the road and win in Vegas in order to get to a Game 7. You’re never comfortable when your back’s against the wall like that, but we have been here before and found a way and I’m confident we can do that again.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

To “do that again” the Sharks will have to overcome their 3-5 record on the road in the postseason (St. Louis is 4-5 at home, conversely). More importantly, however, they may have to do it with some of their best stuck in the infirmary.

Erik Karlsson did what he could in Game 5, but could only play 10:32 with a groin injury that he aggravated in Game 4. With the way Game 5 went, and with the type of injury Karlsson has, resting him was the right choice but it’s still to be determined whether EK65 can do much — or anything — in Game 6.

Tomas Hertl took a hit to the head from Ivan Barbashev in the first period of Game 5 — one that went uncalled — and missed the entirety of the third period. His status, too, is up in the air.

And then there’s captain Joe Pavelski, who was hit by Alex Pietrangelo in the later stages of the third and he, too, left the game.

DeBoer offered no updates on the status of three of his best players on Monday, and we may not really know the status of the trio until pre-game line rushes.

Martin Jones didn’t have his best game last time out but has been a rock when the Sharks have faced elimination.

  • Round 1 Game 5: 30 saves on 32 shots
  • Round 1 Game 6: 58 saves on 59 shots
  • Round 1 Game 7: 34 saves on 38 shots
  • Round 2 Game 7: 27 saves on 29 shots

This all adds up to a 4-0 record with a 1.87 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage when the pressure is on.MORE: Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info


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

The Wraparound: Sharks step up to the plate in back-and-forth series

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

In a series where a loss has been met by a response from the team that most recently fell, it’s the San Jose Sharks turn to answer the bell.

The Sharks had their chance to put the St. Louis Blues on the ropes in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final, but as has been the case throughout this series, winning two straight hasn’t come easy and the Blues prevailed to make this series a best-of-three.

Game 5 goes Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. ET; NBC; live stream).

“Maybe the best I’ve felt about our game in the series so far, even though we lost. We put two goals in our own net off our own guys. Didn’t get the start we wanted, got on our heels the first shift, took a couple penalties … then not finding a way to get a couple more goals. I thought we did a lot of good stuff.”

The Sharks managed 73 shot attempts in the game, more than doubling the Blues output in that regard.

San Jose’s issue? Jordan Binnington. The rookie netminder stopped 29 en route to his 10th playoff win. And men flailing themselves in front of oncoming rubber: the Blues blocked 21 shots in the game. And then misfiring, given the number of shot attempts that never turned into bona fide shots: 22.

“We were trying to keep them to the outside as much as they can,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “We don’t want those guys up top shooting too. We were trying to limit the rebounds and second opportunities. I thought we did a good job of pushing their guys out.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Sharks are 0-6 in this postseason when leading a series, a number that hardly screams, “clutch.” What they are good at is finding wins when series are tied. They’re 10-2 when trailing or tied in a series, including winning two Game 7s along their journey to the penultimate round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

San Jose lost for the first time when allowed two goals or fewer in a game. Not in the playoffs, but all season. They entered Game 4 with a 39-0-0 record and left with their first blemish.

The Sharks, then, need to find some killer instinct if they’re going to advance to the Final. Martin Jones has given them a chance between the pipes, but he needs a few to start reciprocating.

Tomas Hertl, for instance, doesn’t have a point 5-on-5 in this series. Ditto for Joe Pavelski and likewise for Evander Kane. Kane doesn’t have a goal in his past nine games.

Those 73 shot attempts are encouraging, but they’re meaningless if you manage just a single goal. In wins, the Sharks have managed to score 11 goals in this series across both games. In losses? Just three.

The Blues have embraced the grind from the beginning. The Sharks need to figure out how to match it.

And they may have to go at it without defenseman Erik Karlsson.

Winners of Game 5 when a series is deadlocked 2-2 go on to win 70.3 percent of the time.

There’s no shortage of motivation for either team today.

MORE:
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
PHT Conference Finals predictions


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

The Wraparound: Can a return home jump-start the Hurricanes?

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

It’s pretty much do-or-die for the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

We all know the math when a team falls behind 0-3 in a series. It’s already bad enough when a team takes a 2-0 series lead in a Conference Finals series, where the team on the right side of the first two games holds a 30-2 series record (93.8 percent).

The chips are already stacked against the Hurricanes, who’ve gone from a Category 5 to a barely noticeable tropical storm. Perhaps they can gain some wind speed as the series shifts to PNC Arena in Raleigh, a place where the Hurricanes have yet to lose in these playoffs with a 5-0 record.

“I think just all in all we’ve got to rediscover who we are,” Hurricanes forward Justin Williams said. “You spend all this time off leading up [to the series] and everyone writing articles about how great we are, and then you come out and sometimes you’ve got to eat a poop sandwich. It doesn’t taste good, and you have to chew on it for a little bit, and we’ll have to do it for a couple days and get the taste out of our mouths next game.”

Carolina can draw on their experience in Round 1 when they went down 2-0 to the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. The home/road splits for the Hurricanes have been night and day in these playoffs.

HOME: 
• Record: 5-0
• GF/G: 4.40
• GA/G: 1.40
• Games with 3+ GA: 0

ROAD:
• Record: 3-5
• GF/G: 2.00
• GA/G: 3.63
• Games with 3+ GA: 6

The Hurricanes’ four goals over two games just won’t cut it against the Bruins, who have scored 11 in the same span.

Carolina has failed on the power play in six of its seven attempts in the series, including going 0-for-4 in Game 2. Meanwhile, the Bruins are 4-for-7 and are finding all sorts of timely goals thanks to untimely discipline problems for the Hurricanes.

“It always seems to come down to the special teams and generally who wins special teams,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said prior to Game 2. “I call it the special teams war and whoever wins the war at the end of the night wins the game.”

Throw in some shaky goaltending and the Hurricanes have a lot of questions that need quick answers if this is going to turn into a series when the final buzzer founds on Tuesday night.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

MONDAY’S SCOREBOARD
Blues 4, Sharks 2 (Series tied 1-1)
The Buzzer has more on Monday’s action

MORE:
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• PHT roundtable
• Hurricanes/Bruins series preview
• PHT Conference Finals predictions


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

The Wraparound: Hurricanes know they need more

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

A 2-1 lead heading into the third period should have been right where the Carolina Hurricanes wanted the Boston Bruins.

The ‘bunch of jerks’ had gone 3-0 when leading after two frames prior to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, but they buckled under the pressure of two separate penalties that derailed all of their hard work through 40 minutes.

“We’re not going to win if we don’t play better than that,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “We had spurts, but it’s not going to be good enough in the regular season, and it’s certainly not going to be good enough this time of year. We’ll regroup and try to get better for the next game.”

That game comes Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC)

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Did Carolina fall victim to the ‘rest-equals-rust’ problem we’ve seen in these playoffs? The New York Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche had all lost games following extended time off between rounds. Carolina added their names to that list last Thursday.

“In the playoffs, we’ve been pretty successful holding leads,” Hurricanes forward Justin Williams said. “We got kicked in the pants a little today. That hasn’t happened in a while.”

Still, if you spot the Bruins a couple of third-period power plays, you have to expect that a team with the resume the Bruins have in the playoffs will extract something from them.

And they did.

“At the end of the day, they’re an experienced group,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “They know that we need them at that particular point. The power play was what was required because [CAR] took a few penalties, so it might be the penalty kill on Sunday that needs the big kill. I think our group’s been pretty good at identifying some key times in games throughout these playoffs [where] we’ve got to step up, and that was one of them. [The game-tying score] was a big goal for us. Both of them, really. It changed the complexion of the game, so good for them.”

The Bruins are clipping along at a 30 percent rate with the man-advantage in the playoffs, ranked first.

The Hurricanes could use a boost in that department. They enter the games going at a 12.2 percent rate, good for 14th, which isn’t good at all. They are just 2-for-28 in their past nine games but did find a power-play marker in Game 1.

A couple of quick notes:

  • Scoring first is paramount for the Hurricanes, who are 4-0 when getting that opening tuck in this year’s postseason
  • Conversely, the Bruins are 8-0 when leading after two periods
  • Boston has a plus-8 goal differential in both the first and third periods this postseason, but they are minus-1 during the second period.

SATURDAY’S SCOREBOARD
Sharks 6, Blues 3 (SJS leads 1-0)
The Buzzer has more on Saturday’s action

MORE:
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• PHT roundtable
• Hurricanes/Bruins series preview
• PHT Conference Finals predictions


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

The Wraparound: Getting Mrazek back is Step 1 for Hurricanes

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

Let’s not take anything away from Curtis McElhinney here.

He was sensational in his two starts to close out the New York Islanders in Round 2, and stopped 17-of-17 shots in Game 2 after coming in to relieve the injured Petr Mrazek.

But the Boston Bruins aren’t the Islanders, and the Carolina Hurricanes need their No. 1 in this series.

The good news is that it looks as if Mrazek is set to start Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream). As the above suggests, Mrazek hasn’t played since Game 2 when he left in the second period after sliding across his crease to make a save.

Before that, Mrazek set the tone in Game 1 in a 31-save shutout, his second of the postseason. The 27-year-old started the playoffs by throwing up two duds, but return with a vengeance in Game 3 against the Washington Capitals, posting an 18-save shutout. From there, his only other blemish came after giving up six in Game 5. From there, he allowed four goals in Games 6 and 7 to steer the Hurricanes past the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

The series is a lesson in how having a 1A and 1B scenario can really make a big difference.

Mrazek started just 40 games during the regular season (Tuukka Rask, who will line up across from him, started just 46).

What it also goes to show is that if Mrazek was to get injured again, Carolina has a 35-year-old ace up its sleeve with McElhinney, who won his first two playoff starts last round.

Given the Hurricanes have had five days off, and the Bruins just two, Mrazek may be called into action early in Game 1 on Thursday. That might be just what he needs to get himself situated once again.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WEDNESDAY’S SCORES
Sharks 3, Avalanche 2 (San Jose wins 4-3)
The Buzzer has more on Wednesday’s action

MORE:
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
PHT roundtable
Hurricanes/Bruins series preview
PHT Conference Finals predictions


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