Sharks look to even series in Vancouver

Sharks look to even series in Vancouver

May 18, 2011

SHARKS (0-1) vs.
VANCOUVER (1-0)

Coverage begins at 5:30 P.M. on Versus

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) San Jose captain Joe Thornton tried to get the Western Conference finals off to a raucous start when he asked gritty Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler to drop the gloves right off the opening faceoff.

"Why not?" Thornton said Tuesday, confirming he made the invitation to Kesler. "Let's fight. Let's start the series off with a bang."

It didn't happen. Instead, the Canucks rallied in the third period for a 3-2 win on Sunday night.

Maybe Thornton and the Sharks should be more concerned about how they finish games than how they start them. San Jose is trailing in a series for the first time this postseason and will have a chance to get even on Wednesday night in Game 2 in Vancouver.

The Sharks' inability to hold onto third-period leads nearly cost them in the second round against Detroit, when the Red Wings erased a 3-0 series deficit to force a Game 7.

Even though the Sharks are behind in a series for the first time, they are all too familiar with coughed-up leads. San Jose surrendered third-period advantages in Game 5 and 6 against the Red Wings before holding off Detroit in Game 7.

The Sharks were ahead 2-1 going into the third period of Game 1 against Vancouver, but gave up two goals 79 seconds apart and were outshot 13-7 in the final frame.

REWIND: Sharks listless in 3-2 loss to Canucks in Game 1

That makes three blown third-period leads in four games for the Sharks, who were 33-2-2 during the regular season when leading after 40 minutes.

"I certainly don't feel uncomfortable with a lead," Sharks top defenseman Dan Boyle said. "That's where I want to be, and we have to find a way to finish people off, maybe by getting that next goal and building on that one-goal lead."

It's a lesson the Canucks already learned - the hard way - in these playoffs.

Vancouver was 38-0-3 with the lead after two periods during the regular season in which the Canucks had the NHL's best record and topped the league in several key categories. But after surrendering a 3-0 series lead to nemesis Chicago to start the playoffs, the Canucks gave up a short-handed goal late in Game 7 before recovering to win in overtime.

They continued to sit on leads against Nashville early in the conference semi finals, surviving a 1-0 win in Game 1 before surrendering one with 67 seconds left in Game 2 and losing in overtime. It wasn't until Game 6, the series' clincher against the Predators, that the Canucks got back to their regular season habit of trying to build on, rather than protect, late leads.

"I hope we've learned from our mistakes and mishaps, and we have to continue to have that killer instinct," Canucks forward Mason Raymond said. "We were good all year but regular season is regular season, playoffs are another level. We talked about having more of a killer instinct when we do get the lead, not sitting back so much."

Fatigue might have played a role in the Sharks' latest late-game letdown. Coming off an emotional Game 7 win against Detroit and with only two days off before starting their second straight conference finals, San Jose looked tired against the Canucks' third-period push.

After taking Monday off before practicing Tuesday, both teams expect better from the Sharks in Game 2.

"(Monday) helped us a little," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We dealt with the mental part of the game, some video. Today it was important to get back on the ice and get our legs going. We had some tempo. Doesn't guarantee we'll skate any better, but it's a step in the right direction."

PANACCIO: McLellan turns to psychology to lift Sharks

Boyle's next step is to keep going forward. He said the Sharks were guilty of turning over the puck on their way into the offensive zone, and that they spent too much time in their own end as a result of the Canucks' counterattack.

That is exactly where Kesler wants his team, pointing to the continued push after the Canucks took the lead with 11 minutes left in Game 1.

"We've learned from past experience that we're not a very good team when we sit on leads," Kesler said. "We have to keep pushing and play a fast game."

As for fighting to start games, Kesler said he laughed at Thornton's invitation after a lot of jostling got both players tossed out of the series' first faceoff.

"I'm not intimidated by anyone," Kesler said, pointing to Nashville defenseman Shea Weber as proof. "I played against Weber and that beard last round."

NOTES
Boyle accused the Canucks of embellishing fouls in Game 1 to get penalty calls: "Their heads are going back like they are getting shot with a gun." Vancouver had four power plays to one for San Jose. ... Sharks D Jason Demers is expected to play Game 2 after being a surprise scratch on Sunday because of an unidentified injury. Kent Huskins played his first game of these playoffs in his place. ... Vancouver C Manny Malhotra skated in full equipment Tuesday after returning last week to the ice for the first time since a career-threatening eye injury in March, but still hasn't been cleared for contact. ... Vancouver LW Jeff Tambellini is expected to replace Tanner Glass on the fourth line after practicing there Tuesday, adding speed in place of grit.

A's position outlook: Will three catchers make Opening Day roster?

A's position outlook: Will three catchers make Opening Day roster?

The A’s have options at the catcher position, and with those options come decisions to make.

Figure that manager Bob Melvin and the rest of Oakland’s front office will use the length of spring training to evaluate their catching corps, and the decisions that eventually come down will impact the rest of the roster.

Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley could form a natural left-right platoon, as they did to begin last season. But Phegley is coming off right knee surgery that ended his 2016 season in July and proved more problematic than anticipated as he recovered. His status can’t be adequately judged until camp begins and he’s behind the plate testing his mobility.

Adding intrigue to the catching puzzle was last season’s emergence of Bruce Maxwell, who hit .283 after making his major league debut in July and shows defensive upside.

Might the A’s keep three catchers to begin the season? Melvin acknowledged that possibility when asked about it during the winter meetings. Vogt has played first base and the outfield in the past, so he provides a little flexibility. But keeping him, Phegley and Maxwell would short the A’s roster elsewhere.

There are decisions to make, but a full Cactus League exhibition season should influence how things shake out at catcher.

STARRING CAST: Maxwell’s emergence, and the fact he hits left-handed, made the 32-year-old Vogt a potential trade piece this winter. But the veteran is still an Athletic and has been an All-Star in back-to-back seasons, though his 2016 stats didn’t jump off the page. He hit .251 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI, delivering a much better first half than second half offensively. But Vogt’s biggest value comes with his clubhouse leadership and ability to connect with his pitchers. He’s the unofficial team spokesman, always willing to stand in front of the cameras after a tough loss. His steadying presence is even more important on a team that annually undergoes such heavy roster turnover.

CAMP COMPETITION: Phegley, 28, missed time in May with a strained right knee, then underwent surgery in July to remove a cyst from the knee. That seemed a rather minor procedure, but Phegley was hospitalized in August after developing a case of synovitis, or inflammation in the knee joints. A’s general manager David Forst said recently that Phegley’s offseason rehab has gone well, but Phegley will remain a question mark until he shows he’s full strength throughout camp.

Maxwell, 26, hadn’t played above Double-A before last season. But he impressed at Triple-A Nashville both with his bat and overall defensive skills. After a slow start in the majors, Maxwell hit .367 over his final 20 games. He began showing flashes of the potential the A’s saw when they made him a second-round pick in 2012 out of tiny Birmingham Southern College.

“Bruce is a guy that maybe in the season you didn't expect to see (before) September, and he’s a guy that came in and made an impact defensively and offensively,” Melvin said during the winter meetings. “It's exciting to have a young catcher like that, especially that hits from the left side of the plate to give Stephen some days off. Stephen is a versatile guy where you can DH him some too, maybe even play him at first base on a day that Yonder (Alonso) gets a day off.”

Could the A’s simply go with Vogt and Maxwell at catcher, though both hit left-handed? Again, Phegley’s health could factor prominently.

PAY ATTENTION TO: A catcher the A’s drafted in the third round last summer, Sean Murphy. He’s a non-roster invitee to big league camp. Murphy, who attended Wright State, is said to be a gifted catcher defensively, with mlb.com’s Jim Callis saying last June that Murphy had the strongest arm of any catcher in the 2016 draft.

Raiders name former Chargers DC as assistant head coach-defense

Raiders name former Chargers DC as assistant head coach-defense

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio has hired former Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano, the team announced on Monday evening. He will be the team’s assistant head coach on the defensive side of the ball.

Pagano has spent most of his coaching career in San Diego, working with the Chargers in various capacities since 2002. He was promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator in 2012, where he led that unit for five seasons.

Pagano and Del Rio worked together in 1997, when Pagano was a New Orleans Saints defensive assistant and Del Rio was the assistant strength coach.

Pagano was a longtime linebackers coach before becoming a play caller. He has worked with several quality pass rushers and has proven to be adept at creating pressure.

The Raiders created a position for Pagano, who will help a defense that ranked 26th in yards allowed and dead last in sacks. Pagano was looking for a different gig after new Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn hired Gus Bradley as his defensive coordinator. 

Ken Norton Jr. remains defensive coordinator, but Pagano will bring experience and creativity to the game-planning process.

He has worked within a 3-4 defensive scheme, but has experience in all formations. The Raiders run multiple defensive fronts.

Pagano is the assistant coach on defense, while offensive line coach Mike Tice has a similar title on the offensive side. The Raiders have a vacancy on the staff, and are looking for a new defensive backs coach.

John Pagano is the younger brother of Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano.