Six minutes left: Raska in the middle of things as usual for San Jose Sharks. Sends Benoit to locker room with a hit near bench – don’t think it was as bad as Brian Hayward was making it out to be though. Benoit hit the wall not the bench door, as Hayward originally suggested. Regardless: Anybody surprised to see Raska involved?
The two-on-one Groulx goal isn’t Merkley’s fault, but he doesn’t play the pass well.
Seven in: On same PP though, Merkley and Eklund work a little magic. Merkley sucks in forechecker Volkov deep into corner, that gives Eklund and Simek, who are back to help, plenty of time and space. Then it looks like Eklund head fakes Volkov, leaving Volkov in a different area code. Small but subtle skill plays from both.
Good read by Merkley to jump down, take advantage of aggressive Anaheim forecheck – Ducks had two forecheckers on one Kniazev in four-on-four play – it’s a three-on-two up the ice with Merkley’s read. Then Anaheim loses Merkley in ensuing action, Merkley scores.
Three minutes left: Pederson does nice job to win puck battle along wall, send it to Merkley at blueline.
But then Pederson loses puck at other blueline, his pass is intercepted, Meier loses sight of Terry floating down middle, Reimer has to make a big save. Sloppy overall play.
Three in: Like that Eklund shift. Calm puck decisions, pinpoint passes. Every indication is his brain is NHL-caliber. But it’s fair to ask if his body can stand the grind? But impressive: He doesn’t hurry moving the puck and he does do a good job of avoiding physical punishment (while still entering traffic areas). He invites contact.
Nice sequence of small, short passes from San Jose Sharks under pressure: Kniazev to Weatherby, Weatherby to Raska, Raska to Viel. Sharks take lead.
Ten in: Liked that Merkley shift. Better-looking defensive attention, then a good offensive read to jump up. Defensively, he stays with circling Lettieri. Lettieri tries a pass into slot, but Merkley’s stick is there. Then up the ice, Merkley ends up in front of the net – not a bad thing here. But obviously, he, like Burns and Karlsson, require utmost attention from your own forwards to make sure you know where they are on the ice so you can cover for them.
Four left: Tough pass for Kniazev to handle from Middleton. But Kniazev compounds problem by throwing it up the middle, it’s intercepted by Milano. Kniazev trying to make a play, but that’s a place where maybe go against the boards, go safe.
Opening Eklund shift: Pretty drop pass to Pederson in NZ. But also purposeful, springs Pederson entry. Then on backcheck, Eklund is right there with trailer Pateryn, Meier punches it out to spring Merkley-led two-on-one. Details consistently there with the kid.
Four in: Merkley steps up as Duck enters the zone, kills play. You want to see more of that.
Gambrell has been nifty with the puck today – had a spin-o-rama exiting the zone earlier in the period. I bring it up because I think Boughner wants a fourth line that plays with pace with Nieto and Cogliano – I think that can be Gambrell better than the other 4C candidates. Maybe.
Getzlaf versus Chmelevski definitely not on my “fight” card today. That must be surreal to Sasha, who grew up in the area and went to his share of Ducks games.
Ten left: Kniazev all over the place in the OZ on that shift in a good way.
Nine left: Impressive work by Eklund to skate through three Ducks, get a backhand chance. The San Jose Sharks prospect is smart, patient, and cool with the puck.
Five left: Raska makes a play again, draw a penalty.
Three left: PK’er Groulx jacks it from Eklund who’s trying to wheel it up on PP breakout. That’s the type of play that needs to be cleaned up.
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