Game 4 notes: Power play has found its groove


Game 4 notes: Power play has found its groove


Maybe their overall power-play numbers dont leave you warm and tingly all over -- not when youve got the Tampa Bay Lightning humming along at 24 percent -- but if you peek a bit closer at what the Sharks are doing to the Vancouver Canucks, you realize theyve had a decided power-play edge so far.

Todd McLellans power play has scorched the Canucks for six goals in 13 chances through three games.

Thats an amazing 46.1 percent efficiency and it includes a 5-for-5 run that ended late in the opening period of Game 3, which the Sharks won, 4-3.

Its funny, said Dan Boyle, whos on the first-unit PP. Two series ago, it was how bad we were. And we were. We just didnt have it that first series against Los Angeles. Now, so far, weve got going and its the same guys. We havent changed anything. Were executing, were finding ways. Were just being opportunistic. At the end of the day, youve got to score the goal. Were finding ways to put the puck into the net.

The Sharks were 3-for-10 with the man advantage in Game 3.

You get streaky, individuals get hot, Boyle said. Power plays get hot. And power plays get cold. Right now, were just finding ways. Were on a hot streak right now and weve got to take it and run with it.

Ryane Clowe, Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi each have three power play goals in the playoffs.

In this series, Marleau has three power play goals.

RATTO: McLellan keeping doom in the air

Things are going your way and its definitely a game of inches, Marleau said. You just put in the work, keep going to the same areas, the hard areas and good things happen.

Snarling Joe Thornton?: Joe Thornton might be a lot of things to a lot of people. But intense? Snarly? You dont hear that very often from players when talking about Thornton.

Lets be real. He sometimes comes off as Joe the surfer dude in his t-shirt, blue jeans, and white sneakers.

Thornton leads all scorers in the playoffs with 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) and has been an impact player for the Sharks, while trying to eradicate a lot of past playoff failures both here and in Boston.

However, his buddy, Clowe, says that Thornton is a lot more intense than the public realizes when the puck drops.

Hes very competitive, Clowe said. He always has a snarl. You guys dont always see it. Hes a competitive guy, hes intense. He might not seem that way in all the interviews because hes pretty mellow.

Apparently, little things mean a lot to Thornton.

The little things that tick Joe off is if you dont open the gate quick enough on the bench or if the goalie is in the way when he tries to sit down on the bench, Clowe said.

Hes got funny ways that get him riled up. During the game, he is so fired up. A couple of years ago in Detroit, he got mad at me because I wasnt opening the gate quick enough. He tells me Im too slow on the gate. I told him, hes big enough to jump over the boards.

Tough skate: Most coaches take every opportunity to give players rest between games when the next game is an early afternoon start, such as Sundays noon start here.

Yet, McLellan took his players on the ice for a pretty brisk, maybe even intense skate, which we might add, the Sharks often do when they play a noon game.

The purpose was to reinforce among his players the hard skate work ethic McLellan believes has to carry over into Game 4 if the Sharks are to tie this series.

I thought it was important for our hockey club to skate today, McLellan said. We felt it was important to get back on the ice before the noon start just to feel it again, get our legs moving, feel the puck a little bit.

It wasn't an overly extensive practice. There wasn't a lot of exertion. We brought all of our black aces, if you want to call them that, on the ice, so the reps were down. It was more a cleaning-out process, resetting the mental part of the game again.

Canucks reaction: So Jamie McGinn avoided a suspension for his boarding hit that knocked defenseman Aaron Rome out of the series in Game 3.

Fellow defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, another victim of a McGinn hit earlier that game, is also out. But it was the Rome hit (suspected concussion) that was reviewed by the NHL on Saturday.

PANACCIO: Sharks need to stay physical in Game 4
Kevin Bieksa, himself no stranger to tough hits come this time of year, was asked whether a suspension to McGinn was in order.

I don't know, Bieksa replied. Obviously, my opinion doesn't matter a whole lot. You just look at the injury that happened from the play, and obviously Aaron was pretty banged up after that hit. The league did what they felt they had to do, I guess. There's your boring answer.

Vancouver is expected to replace Rome and Ehrhoff with Keith Ballard and Andrew Alberts for Game 4.

Both those players are coming in cold and that could present a communication problem behind the Canucks net for goalie Roberto Luongo, in terms of calling off guys on pucks coming into the back end, not to mention handoffs between himself and his d-men under pressure when the Sharks are forechecking.

Communication is always important, Luongo said. Also, it's going to be important for them to make sure they look at the video and see what the Sharks like to do when they have the puck behind the net, the plays they like to make.

We have to make sure we're on the same page of what we're giving up and what I'm expecting.

Tim Panaccio covers thePhiladelphia Flyers for and let him know what you think! Follow Tim @tpanotch.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's skid-snapping win over White Sox


Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from A's skid-snapping win over White Sox


The A’s six-game road trip got off to a promising start Friday as they try to reverse their fortunes away from Oakland.

Jharel Cotton shined over five innings before leaving because of a blister on his right hand, and the bullpen took care of things from there to complete a 3-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

Considering the A’s came in just 9-25 on the road so far, this was the rare occurrence of them taking control early and staying in control while wearing the road grays. Now the A’s just hope the victory didn’t come with a steep price.

In addition to Cotton (5-7) leaving after a blister opened up on his right thumb, shortstop Chad Pinder left with a strained left hamstring. The severity of that injury wasn’t immediately known.

Here’s five things you need to know from the opener of this three-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field:

-- Davis hits No. 19: Khris Davis gave Cotton some early cushion with a two-run homer off Mike Pelfrey (3-6) to center field in the first. It was Davis’ team-leading 19th long ball, but just his third in 22 games this month.

-- Another solid outing for rookie: Coming off a strong 6 1/3-inning outing against the New York Yankees, Cotton again looked in control Friday before having to leave. The right-hander held the Sox to three hits over his five innings, striking out three and walking one. It’s unknown whether the blister will affect his availability for his next start, but the A’s learned with Rich Hill last season how nagging a blister can be for a starter.

-- Ninth-inning nerves: The final score didn’t indicate how tense things got for Oakland in the ninth. Closer Santiago Casilla gave up two singles to start the inning. After Avisail Garcia flied out, Todd Frazier hit a pop up behind first. Yonder Alonso couldn’t haul it in and the ball dropped, but Alonso alertly threw to second to get a force out. Then Matt Davidson sent a deep fly ball to center that Jaycob Brugman hauled in at the warning track.

--- Joyce powers up: In the fifth, Matt Joyce lit into a 3-2 pitch from Pelfrey and homered to center field to put the A’s ahead 3-0. It was the ninth homer for Joyce, who continues to provide some of the spark the A’s are looking for in the leadoff spot.

-- A double ejection: : White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson and manager Rick Renteria both were ejected for arguing a fifth-inning play after Anderson hit a dribbler near home plate that surprised him by being called fair.

Sharks' draft pick Norris possesses 'Logan Couture attributes'


Sharks' draft pick Norris possesses 'Logan Couture attributes'

CHICAGO – Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is typically restrained in his public praise for players in the system. “We don’t like to over promote our prospects” is a phrase he’s used countless times.

That’s what made his instant comparison of Sharks first round pick center Josh Norris to a current core player so unexpected.

“We think – I hate doing this, but I’m going to – [Norris has] a lot of the Logan Couture attributes to him,” Wilson said on Friday at United Center, shortly after presenting Norris with a teal sweater.

Wilson also made note of Norris’ confidence, which was evident in the 18-year-old’s media availability. Norris described himself as “a 200-foot player. I think I can give you a little bit of everything: power play, penalty kill, faceoffs, can chip in offensively. I think I kind of do a little bit of everything.” He added that he attempts to pattern his game to Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak.

Like most players that aren’t top five selections, Norris isn’t likely to make the NHL roster in the fall. He’s set to attend the University of Michigan in the fall.

Still, Wilson suggested that it might not take long for the six-foot, 189-pound Oxford, Michigan native to make the leap.

“He’s a kid, the way he plays and the way he thinks, he potentially could fast track. So, we’ll see,” Wilson said.

Norris had some familial help on his journey to draft day. His father Dwayne had a few cups of coffee in the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques more than two decades ago, playing 20 career games from 1993-96.

Dwayne Norris was right there to congratulate his son, who was no sure thing to go in the first round as the 34th ranked North American skater, according to NHL Central Scouting.

“He just said how proud of me he was, and it was kind of a big moment we had that I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Norris said about his conversation with his father.

Norris’ stats suggest he has an ability to create offense, as he posted 27 goals and 61 points in 61 games for the U.S. National Under-18 team last season, and added 12 goals and 26 points in 25 games in the USHL.

“I think I’m a little bit of a goal scorer and a playmaker,” Norris said. “I think I’m really good in my defensive zone. I think I have a lot of upside on the offensive side of my game that I’m going to continue to work on.”

Wilson said: “We think he’s a mature player.”

Norris had a strong showing at the NHL combine, leading all 104 draft-eligible players in attendance in five of the 14 fitness tests. Those results, along with a strong interview, made Norris an appealing target for San Jose.

“He’s arguably one of the most athletic guys in the combine,” Wilson said. “His interview was phenomenal. If you go back in his history in big games he’s stepped up in a big way, and that’s the type of guy we’re looking for.”

Norris, who played baseball as a shortstop until age 13, said: “I wasn’t too nervous going to the combine. … I just tried to make good impressions on teams. The physical testing aspect of it, I’ve always been a pretty good athlete.”

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Norris will make his first-ever trip to California in early July to take part in the Sharks’ development camp.

* * *

Just before the Sharks’ contingent made its way to the stage to select Norris, Wilson was spotted talking with Washington general manager Brian MacLellan. After a brief exchange, MacLellan shook his head, and Wilson went back to the San Jose table and gathered his group to head to the podium.

Asked about the chat, Wilson said it was not about the 19th overall pick.

“We were actually looking at some other things, some other picks that we had,” Wilson said. “Some teams had reached out to us, and we’re planting our seeds a little bit for tomorrow already.”

The draft concludes on Saturday, with the second round beginning at 7 a.m. PT.