NHL podcast with Matt Harrington: Bruins, despite injuries, win 5-2 over Preds; CBJs get a 4-3 OT win against Philly; Habs-Knights games turning into a rivalry; plus more

@NHLBruins: The Boston Bruins had plenty to celebrate as Patrice Bergeron (37) scored twice once in the first and another in the third period to help the B’s get a two goal 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday

On the NHL podcast with Matt:

#1 The Boston Bruins (20-12-4) took care of business with a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators (22-13-2), First period goal from the Bruins Patrice Bergeron (10) and a third period goal–number 11 for the season.

#2 Columbus Blue Jackets (20-12-3) got a 4-3 win past the Philadelphia Flyers (14-16-4) Zach Werenski gets his sixth goal and Cam Atkinson gets his 21st and 22nd in the one-goal win for the CBJs.

#3 Florida Panthers (14-14-6) get a 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings (15-17-5). The Panthers got a first period goal from Mike Hoffman (16) at 3:09 and Evgenii Dadonov (17) at 17:21.

#4 The Montreal Canadiens (19-13-5) got a 4-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights (20-15-3). For the Habs’ Phillip Danault got goals three, four and five for a hat trick.

#5  The last place Los Angeles Kings (13-20-2) picked up an overtime win over the San Jose Sharks (19-12-6). For the Sharks, it was their second straight loss after winning five straight. The Kings’ IIya Kovalchuk scored his seventh goal for the overtime winner.

Join Matt each Saturday for the NHL podcast at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

NHL podcast with Daniel Dullum: Blackhawks mascot and fan brawl; Caps’ Ovi a scoring machine; Less fighting, more skill in the NHL; plus more

photo from NBC Sports.com: Tommy Hawk the Chicago Blackhawks mascot gets on top of a fan attending a game Friday night at the United Center. The unidentified fan reportedly attacked Tommy and the fan got body slammed to the floor and got up and the two were exchanging punches. No arrests were made in the brawl.

On the NHL podcast with Daniel:

1 McDavid scores twice as surging Oilers beat Flyers 4-1

2 Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin just can’t stop scoring right now

3 NHL ‘toughness’ is dying out, and that’s a good thing

4 Blackhawks’ mascot roughs up fan in concourse altercation

Join Daniel each week for the NHL podcasts Sundays at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

NHL podcast with Matt Harrington: Yotes snap 4-game skid with 4-3 win; McDavid gets 2 goals, Oilers upend Flyers; Jets pick up OT win, down Hawks 4-3; plus more

freep.com photo: Arizona Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski (33) skates against New York Rangers center Filip Chytil (72) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York.

On the NHL podcast with Matt:

#1 The Arizona Coyotes’ Derek Stepan, the former New York Ranger, got a chance at revenge and defeated his old team in overtime with a goal at 4:28 to help the Yotes snap out of a four-game losing streak at Madison Square Garden. The Coyotes were behind 3-0 at one time, but scored four unanswered goals for the comeback.

#2 The Oilers’ Conner McDavid is one you could count on scoring two goals and an assist and teammate Leon Draisaitl had three assists as the Oilers got a three-goal win over the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1.

#3 The Winnipeg Jets’ Mark Scheifele with 50 seconds into the overtime scored the game-winning goal to edge the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3. Scheifele scored two goals in the game for the Jets fourth win in a row and the Hawks have now lost nine of their last ten games.

#4 The Ottawa Senators got offensive help to get by the Detroit Red Wings 4-2. The Sens’ Mark Stone scored a third period goal, Chris Tierney added a goal on a empty-netter.

#5 In overtime, New Jersey’s Nico Hischier got the game-winner after 41 seconds. New Jersey came back from three goals down to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights 5-3.

Matt does the NHL podcast each Saturday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

NHL podcast with Matt Harrington: Jackets on a roll, get ninth win past Caps; Leafs with five-goal win, 6-1, over New Jersey; NHL matchups for tonight

Photo credit: nhl.com/bluejackets

On the NHL podcast with Matt:

#1 The Columbus Blue Jackets (9-6-1) got by the Washington Capitals 2-1 Friday night. The Jackets got a goal from Oliver Bjorkstrand at 17:16 in the first period and Anthony Duclair got goal number seven of the season at 5:09. Not much offense from the Caps.

#2 The Toronto Maple Leafs (11-5-0) and the New Jersey Devils (6-7-1)  skated to a 6-1 five-goal Leafs victory Friday night. The Leafs scored four goals in the second period and they’re not slowing down.

#3 The Vancouver Canucks (10-7-1) are in Buffalo (9-6-2) tonight. How dangerous, how improved are these Canucks this season?  The Sabers won it by a goal 4-3 in a shootout beating a tough Canucks team after having a two goal deficit.

#4 The Chicago Blackhawks (6-7-3) face the Philadelphia Flyers (8-7-1) at the Wells Fargo Center. Is this an evenly matched game or do the Flyers have the home ice advantage when the puck drops tonight? The Flyers blanked the Blackhawks 4-0 for the Hawks seventh straight loss.

#5 Tonight, the Golden Knights (7-8-1) are in Montreal (8-5-3). Taking a look at the Knights’ offensive leaders: Jonathan Marchessault leads the team with 14 assists, seven goals, and William Karlsson eight assists, and for the Montreal Canadiens, Max Domi 19 points, nine goals, and Jeff Petry with 11 assists.

Matt does the NHL podcasts each Saturday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

Sharks Sink Flyers in Overtime 4-3

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Sharks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 in overtime Saturday. In the process, Timo Meier scored two goals, breaking Patrick Marlowe’s team record by scoring 11 goals in the first 14 games of the season. Goalie Martin Jones played his 200th game with the Sharks, the third goaltender to do so. He made 23 saves for the win. Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton also scored for the Sharks. For the Flyers, Nolan Patrick, Jordan Weal and Jakub Voracek scored, while their goalie Calvin Pickard stopped 31 shots.

For the first time in 10 games, the Sharks gave up the first goal just 37 seconds in. Philadelphia’s Nolan Patrick carried the puck through the neutral zone, passed it to Oskar Lindblom on his left, who passed it back across behind Patrick to Travis Konecny on the right wing. Konecny found Patrick at the edge of the blue paint, and Patrick pulled the puck across in front of Jones, putting it under Jones as Jones moved left. Assists went to Konecny and Lindblom.

Meier tied the game at 3:15. Vlasic sent the puck in around the boards, where Hertl caught it behind the net. He carried it back over the goal line and made a pass almost behind him. Meier met the puck right in front of the blue paint and took the shot before Pickard could get across. Assists went to Hertl and Vlasic.

The Flyers took the lead again at 16:40 of the period with a goal from Jordan Weal. Wayne Simmonds brought the puck out from behind the net and centered it for Weal. Weal turned and took the shot quickly, with Dale Weise screening the goalie.

The Sharks started the second period with eleven seconds of penalty yet to kill. They had a second penalty to kill at 2:47. Midway through the kill, Brenden Dillon started an impressive short-handed attack with Couture and Burns. They created some good chances but did not score during the Flyers power play.

The Sharks tied the game at 10:35 of the second, on the power play. Kevin Labanc made a pass that looked enough like a shot for the goalie to commit to stopping it. Pavelski, below the faceoff circle across the ice from Labanc, caught the pass and took the shot too quickly for Pickard to get across. Assists went to Labanc and Burns.

A few minutes later, Hertl took a hit from Christian Folin and looked shaken up. Folin and Hertl appeared to have bumped helmets. There was was no call on the play and Hertl did not return to the game. Melker Karlsson took Hertl’s spot with Meier and Couture.

Jakub Voracek gave the Flyers another lead with just 30 seconds left in the second. Brent Burns had just taken a penalty and the Flyers were playing with delayed penalty time. Lindblom sent the puck up from below the goal line to Voracek high in the slot. Voracek took a quick shot and beat Jones glove side. Assists went to Lindblom and Ivan Provorov.

The Sharks had a power play early in the third period. The Sharks showed some urgency but the Flyers penalty killers were very aggressive and made it hard for the Sharks to come through the neutral zone or do much in the offensive zone. The Sharks made amends for that power play a few minutes later with an impressive shift in the Flyers’ zone. They kept the Flyers scrambling for what seemed like minutes. They got credit for two shots in that spell.

It ended with a too many men on the ice call as the Sharks slipped up trying to change. The Sharks made another short-handed attempt right at the start of that penalty kill, keeping the Flyers busy in their own zone for nearly a minute. They finished the kill off in a more traditional manner.

Thornton tied the game again with a strong shot from above the faceoff cirle, his first goal since January. An assist went to Labanc, who had carried the puck across the blue line and into the slot. His path blocked, he made the pass across to Thornton for the shot. The second assist went to Dillon.

At the end of regulation, the Sharks led in shots 34-25, though the big difference there came in the first period. In the second and third, the Flyers had just one less shot than the Sharks.

Meier ended the game just 13 seconds into overtime. Logan Couture bulled his way by Voracek to bring the puck into the offensive zone where he found Meier skating down the slot. Meier took the pass and the shot without hesitation.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer made some line adjustments prior to Saturday’s game. The successful trio of Couture, Meier and Hertl was reunited. Antti Suomela sat out while Rourke Chartier came in on the third line with Labanc and Joonas Donskoi. On defense, Erik Karlsson started with Dillon while Vlasic was paired with his partner of many seasons, Justin Braun.

The Sharks next play on Tuesday at 7:30 PM PT, hosting the Minnesota Wild.

Goalies and Go-Getters: NHL Playoffs

By Mary Walsh

Watching the French team beat the Canadians in the World Championships was one of the most entertaining viewing experiences I have had in a while. Even though I had to keep clicking through ad popups, exposing my computer to who knows what kind of hazards, the game was riveting. Sure, it went to a shootout, after a couple of power play goals from the French kept them in the game. Goalie Cristobal Huet also kept them in the game, neutralizing the not yet ready for prime time Canadian team. But who doesn’t love to see an underdog steal one?

The French are not the only underdogs playing right now. The Montreal Canadiens, though their record hardly looks like an underdog’s, had the Boston Bruins on the ropes for a bit. I wonder how many people became Habs fans then? It isn’t that the Bruins are so easy to root against, but they won the Cup so recently, and they are reputed to be big tough guys. The Habs are supposed to be quick and light in the way they play. (Hence the utter confusion about the Douglas Murray signing.) Yet even if the Bruins are the hounds and the Canadiens the foxes, it usually takes several hounds to take down one fox. That makes us root for the fox. We know one hound could never catch a fox on his own, but it still seems unfair to gang up on the little fox like that.

The thing is, it isn’t true. Apart from Zdeno Chara, the Bruins are not bigger than average for an NHL team, and the Canadiens are not small. Even their playing styles are exaggerated– the Bruins play fast whenever possible, and the Canadiens don’t scamper around the rink without standing their ground defensively.

Neither team shows the defensive recklessness of some teams (hello Pittsburgh), though both teams get reliable goaltending. Tuuka Rask and Carey Price are both exceptional, in their prime, and playoff hardened. Neither has been surprising in a good way or a bad way. They have performed as expected: very well.

The teams were more evenly matched than advertised, but hyperbole makes it a better story.

What is not exaggerated are their respective playoff records. The Bruins won the Cup in 2011 and made it to the Finals last season. The Habs haven’t been to the Conference Finals since 2010, and they haven’t won a Cup since 1993. One of these teams is due, the other has won recently enough to remember the way clearly. The latter will not go quietly, if at all. The Bruins demonstrated as much by taking the lead in the series on Saturday.

Here in the West, Sharks fans may or may not be watching the Freeway Series between the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks. If they are watching, they may have noticed how strange it is that two teams that did so well at home have now turned into road warriors, if across town really counts as a road game. In any case, it is strange to see the Ducks cast in the underdog role, since they were so dominant in the regular season.

One of the more talked about issues is the way Bruce Boudreau has been handling the Anaheim goaltenders. He pulled Frederik Andersen twice before he had to be replaced for injury, always putting Jonas Hiller in. Hiller has played well, has experience, and probably deserved to start Saturday. But the Ducks started the season overloaded with young goaltending talent. They even traded one away to the Oilers, they had so many goalies. Now they can’t seem to find one the coach can rely on.

It doesn’t really breed confidence, to keep switching goaltenders. It also doesn’t breed confidence to have a goalie the team doesn’t trust to make all the stops he needs to make. Here is the problem with that– some teams play better defense with a backup in the net, precisely because they don’t trust him. Doesn’t it make more sense to give defense extra attention, no matter who is in goal? What if your awesome unbeatable goalie has an off night? It wouldn’t matter if you were helping him out enough.

See the Minnesota Wild and Ilya Bryzgalov for how to make it work. Bryzgalov has one of the most mercurial records in the NHL. This season alone, he had to claw his way back into the league after starting off signed to a PTO with an ECHL team. He is not stealing games for Minnesota, but they are doing pretty well for a team working on its fourth goalie in the season. In response, he is playing better behind them.

See the LA Kings and Jonathan Quick in Games 1 & 2 against Sharks for how to let it take you down. No matter how the Sharks lit him up, it took the Kings two games to figure out that their super-duper goalie was not going to win the game for them and he needed some help. Once they gave it to him all was well, but how it could take them so long to get their act together is mind-boggling.

They say that a goalie has to steal a couple of games along the road to a Stanley Cup. That may be true but it seems awfully risky to assume that your team is going to simply fall apart for a game or two along the way. Yes, if a Sharks goalie had stolen a game, or two, maybe they would still be in it. But after the way the Sharks played in Game 5, did they deserve to be?

Sometimes a team has no choice but to flip flop goalies through the playoffs. The 2010 Flyers made it as far as the Finals, changing starting goalies mid-playoffs due to injury. Michael Leighton had only been cleared to play the day before he replaced Brian Boucher, and each goaltender gave exceptional performances in turn. In the end, they were still being swapped mid-game, I suspect because neither was truly 100% healthy. Through it all, the rest of the team held it together, killed themselves on defense (Ian LaPerriere almost literally) and went further than the Sharks have ever gone.

Maybe confidence is over-rated. Maybe will is all.

Antti Niemi was a raw rookie in his first season of North American hockey when he won. He didn’t even play in the minors. The Blackhawks made due. There really is no sure-thing formula for the role goaltending plays in a Cup run. Everyone needs to pull their weight and a little more if possible. Should it matter to the Ducks whether Anderson or Hiller or Gibson is behind them? No. If the puck is behind them, they need to get it back in front of them ASAP, no matter who is perched in the paint. That’s a good rule for any team to follow.

Flyers too much for the Sharks

By Ivan Makarov

Going into the Monday night matchup against Philadelphia Flyers at SAP Center, San Jose Sharks did not lose to that team in 13 straight games, dating all the way back to December 21, 2000. The world was very different back then – we could bring liquids on the plane, there was no iPhone and the average price of gas was $1.65 per gallon.

The winning streak against the Flyers came to an end in one of the more disappointing performances by the home team. After beating the current Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks at home on Saturday, the Sharks showed the lack of consistency, focus and depth, and lost 5-2.

The only positive time for the Sharks came in the first period when Sharks showed speed and resiliency they are known for when playing at home this season, especially at the start of the game. They did allow the Flyers to score first on their power play, when Mark Streit put a slapshot past Antti Neimi while he was screened by Flyers’ forward Wayne Simmonds. But the Sharks came right back and tied the game three minutes later on their own power play. Matt Neito scored after a nifty pass from Tommy Wingels as he was the first to the puck after Matt Irwin dumped it inside the Flyers zone.

Matt Nieto didn’t stop there and recorded another goal five minutes later. During Sharks possession inside the Flyers zone he was able to skate away from coverage. As he received the pass from Brent Burns from the corner, he made a great individual play as he paused the puck to bring Steve Mason down and put the puck into the net.

But this is where positives ended for the Sharks.

Being up one goal, they seem to have been content to try to ride it until finish, but were unable to match Flyers energy and execution. They ended up keeping the lead all the way into the third period, but the visiting team dominance on the ice eventually translated into goals, as Flyers scored three in the first four minutes of the third period.

“Even in the first, I did not think we were very sharp as we needed to be,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. “We broke the cardinal rule – when you get outworked and get outnumbered all over the rink – you’re going to lose. It’s as simple as that.”

Those punches were too much for Sharks to overcome, and they were unable to generate any sustained pressure, or chances on goal even after Sharks coaching staff replaced Antti Niemi in goal with Alex Stalock. The move did not shake up the team like it sometimes does, and the Flyers increased the lead to three goals with a couple of minutes remaining. It was obvious with what McLellan thought of team’s performance as he let third and fourth line finish off the game.

“I don’t have any other explanation or excuse for it,” he said after the game. “I thought [the Flyers] were harder than we were, in all facets of the game – the goaltender, the blue line, 5-on-5, special teams. They were just a better team. It’s disappointing.”

Sharks still have a chance to rebound before the Olympic break in the schedule that starts after the game on Friday, and they’ll look to do just that when they host Dallas Stars on Wednesday.