The Battle For Gloria concludes. The Jeff Skinner extension is analyzed. What to do with Corey Perry? As well as everyone’s favorite game returns.
In a scene of poetic justice, if you will, the St. Louis Blues raised the 35-pound Stanley Cup high over their heads Wednesday night against the team that beat them the last time they were in the Final 49 years ago– the Boston Bruins.
The Blues are your 2019 Stanley Cup champions after defeating the Bruins, 4-1, in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final– capturing the series 4-3.
For the first time in franchise history, a St. Louis captain skated out to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, shake Bettman’s hand, take a photo and accept the hardest silverware to win in professional sports.
Alex Pietrangelo gets to be the first person in league history to say that he lifted the trophy as a member of the Blues.
They were dead last in the league standings entering 2019.
For the first time in their 52-year existence (51 seasons), the Blues are Stanley Cup champions thanks to Jordan Binnington’s NHL rookie record 16 wins in the postseason, as well as his 32 saves on 33 shots against en route to the win in Game 7.
Binnington (16-10 record, 2.46 goals against average, .914 save percentage in 26 games played this postseason) also recorded an 8-2 record on the road in the postseason– tying Nikolai Khabibulin (2004), Miikka Kiprusoff (2004) and Ron Hextall (1987) for the most road wins by a goaltender in a playoff year.
He made 187 saves on 205 shots against (.913 SV%) and had a 2.76 GAA in the series.
Ryan O’Reilly took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP. He finished with a six-game point streak in the Final.
Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask (15-9, 2.02 GAA, .934 SV% in 24 GP this postseason) stopped 16 out of 20 shots faced in the loss.
Rask finished the 2019 Stanley Cup Final with 176 saves on 193 shots against (.912 SV%) and a 2.46 GAA.
Eight years after winning the Cup in the last Game 7 in a Stanley Cup Final in Vancouver, the Bruins will have to wait until another day to earn their seventh title in franchise history.
For the first time in their 95-year franchise history, the Bruins hosted a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final (though the Final only became a best-of-seven series since 1939).
Boston joined the Chicago Blackhawks as the only other team to lose the only Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final that they’ve ever hosted among the first six financially stable franchises from 1942-67– after the league’s inception in 1917 (otherwise referred to as the “Original Six” teams).
The other “Original Six” teams have hosted at least one such contest with the Detroit Red Wings (3-2 in five Stanley Cup Final Game 7s on home ice) as the most successful team.
The Toronto Maple Leafs (2-0), Montreal Canadiens (1-0) and New York Rangers (1-0) have all never lost a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final on home ice.
St. Louis finished 10-3 on the road this postseason, while Binnington improved to 14-2 in games after a loss in the regular season and playoffs in his young career.
The Blues became the fifth road team to win a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final– and third in-a-row since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 and Bruins in 2011.
Home teams are now 12-5 in 17 total Game 7s in the Stanley Cup Final.
No home team has won the Cup since the 2015 Blackhawks.
The Bruins fell to 14-9 in Game 7s on home ice (last loss prior to Wednesday night was against Montreal, 3-1, in the Second Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs).
This postseason run wrapped up the longest season (regular and playoffs) in Blues franchise history as St. Louis participated in 108 games total (26 postseason games).
It was the 2nd longest season in Bruins franchise history as Boston played 106 total games (82 regular season and 24 playoff games)– one game short of their 2010-11 record (107 games, 82 regular season and 25 playoff games).
Boston is now 2-1 all time in a playoff series against St. Louis, winning the Cup in four games in 1970, sweeping the Blues in four games in the 1972 Semifinals and losing in seven games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, told reporters ahead of Game 7 that defender, Matt Grzelcyk, would be a game-time decision and was cleared from concussion protocol.
After warmups, Grzelcyk was good-to-go and placed alongside John Moore on the third defensive pairing in place of Connor Clifton.
Joining Clifton among the long list of healthy scratches for Boston Wednesday night was Chris Wagner, Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, David Backes, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, and Trent Frederic.
Once again, Kevan Miller (lower body) remained out of the lineup for the final time this season due to injury.
B’s captain, Zdeno Chara, set an NHL record for the most Game 7 appearances by a player with his 14th Game 7 on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Blues interim head coach, Craig Berube had the services of Ivan Barbashev back in the lineup after Barbashev served his one-game suspension in Game 6 for an illegal hit to head of Boston forward, Marcus Johansson, in Game 5.
Berube also scratched Robert Bortuzzo and re-inserted Joel Edmundson on his blue line for Game 7.
Nearly halfway through the opening frame, St. Louis defender, Colton Parayko, sent the puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game minor penalty at 7:57 of the first period.
Though they moved the puck around with ease on the ensuing power play, Boston couldn’t muster a goal on their first skater advantage of the night.
The Bruins fired three shots on goal on the power play– including a point-blank attempt by David Krejci to deke and stuff the puck through Binnington’s five-hole.
Late in the period, after Boston’s fourth line couldn’t clear their own zone, Jay Bouwmeester let go of a shot from the point that O’Reilly (8) redirected through Rask’s five-hole to give St. Louis the fist goal of the game.
Bouwmeester (7) and Pietrangelo (16) had the assists on O’Reilly’s goal and the Blues led, 1-0, at 16:47 of the first period.
The goal came on just the third shot on goal for St. Louis after they got the first shot in the game 27 seconds into the action.
For the first time since Wayne Gretzky did so in 1985, O’Reilly scored a goal in four consecutive Stanley Cup Final games. It was also his 22nd point of the postseason– establishing a Blues franchise record for points in a playoff year.
With eight seconds left in the first period, Jaden Schwartz evaded an attempt by Brad Marchand to make a check while Marchand was a de facto defenseman on a botched line chance by the Bruins.
Schwartz skated with the puck deep into the corner and dropped a pass back to Pietrangelo (3) whereby the Blues captain walked right into the slot, pulled the puck to his backhand and flipped it through Rask’s seven-hole to make it, 2-0, St. Louis.
Pietrangelo’s goal officially came at 19:52 of the first period and was assisted by Schwartz (7).
After one period of play at TD Garden, the Blues led, 2-0, on the scoreboard, while the Bruins dominated shots on goal, 12-4.
The B’s also led in takeaways (5-2), giveaways (5-0) and face-off win percentage (61-39), while the Notes led in blocked shots (9-2) and hits (14-11).
St. Louis had yet to see any action on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission, while Boston was 0/1 on the power play entering the second period.
Despite being badly outshot in the first period, the Blues emerged as hockey normally has its way swinging games back-and-forth for a full-press middle frame.
Brayden Schenn had a shot midway in the second period that went off Rask’s stick, off the crossbar and stayed out of the twine thanks to Chara’s stick work keeping the puck out of the goal while chaos befell the rest of the players on the ice all around the crease.
Through 40 minutes of play, St. Louis still led, 2-0, and trailed Boston in shots on goal, 23-10– including an, 11-6, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone for the Bruins.
The B’s led in takeaways (6-5), giveaways (12-4) and face-off win% (51-49), while the Notes led in blocked shots (15-7) and hits (27-21).
The Blues still hadn’t seen any time on the power play entering the third period and the Bruins were 0/1.
Midway through the final frame, Vladimir Tarasenko chased a loose puck in the attacking zone and threw a pass to Schenn (5) in the slot for the one-timer to give St. Louis a three-goal lead and all but assure themselves of their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.
Tarasenko (6) and Schwartz (8) tallied the assists on Schenn’s goal at 11:25 of the third period and the Blues led, 3-0.
St. Louis capitalized on the scoreboard moments after Joakim Nordstrom was denied at the other end by Binnington’s right pad.
Late in the period, the Blues did it again as David Perron threw the puck through the slot to Zach Sanford (1) for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff and Stanley Cup Final goal.
The New Hampshire native made it, 4-0, St. Louis with a goal that was assisted by Perron (9) and O’Reilly (15) at 15:22 of the third period.
With the secondary assist on the goal, O’Reilly boosted his own Blues franchise record for the most points in a single postseason to 23 points (8-15–23 totals).
Cassidy pulled Rask with 3:54 remaining in regulation out of a desperate attempt to just get on the scoreboard and it worked.
As the seconds counted down, Grzelcyk (4) sent a shot off the crossbar and into the back of the net over Binnington’s blocker side to cut St. Louis’ lead to three goals.
Krejci (12) had the only assist on the goal at 17:50 of the third period.
The Blues were still in command, 4-1, and even after Boston pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker again with about 1:48 left on the clock, that three-goal deficit was all St. Louis needed.
At the final horn, the Notes had done it.
They finally won their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.
This, despite trailing in shots on goal, 33-20, in Game 7. The Bruins also finished the night leading in giveaways (13-7) and face-off win% (51-49), while the Blues led in blocked shots (21-7) and hits (36-28).
There was only one penalty called in the game and thus St. Louis’ power play never saw a second of ice time, while Boston went 0/1 on the skater advantage– way back in the first period after Parayko sent the puck over the glass for an automatic infraction.
The team that scored first won Games 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the series, while the home team only won two games in the entire seven game series.
Boston finished 5-1 in elimination games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs (won Games 6 and 7 in the First Round against Toronto, won Game 6 against Columbus, won Game 4 against Carolina and forced Game 7 against St. Louis by winning Game 6– then lost in the final game).
Exactly 35 years ago, Wednesday night, the Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA Championship in the last Game 7 hosted in Boston.
That was at the old Boston Garden (1928-95). Wednesday night’s action was at TD Garden (1995-present) and the opposing team won.
The Bruins have not won the Cup on home ice since beating St. Louis on May 10, 1970. Bobby Orr scored his iconic– sports photography defining– goal in overtime to clinch the Cup for Boston for the first time since 1941 that night– ending a 29-year drought.
In 2019, it was the Blues quenching their thirst by winning their first.
More on the Arizona Coyotes latest debacle with Seattle expansion looming, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith did something never done before, the Calgary Flames rise in the Western Conference and the St. Louis Blues dismal season. Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks made a few moves– signing Murray to an extension, claiming Chad Johnson off waivers and a minor trade.
Plus, Nick and Connor review the last 15 years of first round picks by the Pittsburgh Penguins and do a deep dive on their future and what it might look like.
15,948 days after their first puck drop in franchise history, 3,701 games (regular season and postseason combined), 1,124 games played by Alex Ovechkin, 44 years, 20 years between Stanley Cup Final appearances and 1 Stanley Cup championship— their first in franchise history— the Washington Capitals are your 2018 Stanley Cup champions.
The Capitals won Game 5 on the road, 4-3, Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena and defeated the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-1, in the series.
Washington wasn’t one of the teams expected to win the Cup from day one back in October, unlike the last four or five years, but they won it anyway— clinching every series on the road and as the best road team this postseason.
Oh yeah, in case you haven’t already heard, Ovechkin finally won the Cup in his 13th NHL season. The captain of the Caps, Ovechkin was also named the 2018 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the Most Valuable Player of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs— becoming just the 2nd Russian born NHL player in league history to capture the MVP award.
Washington netminder Braden Holtby made 28 saves on 31 shots against for a .903 save percentage in the Cup clinching win, while Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves on 33 shots faced for an .879 SV% in 57:56 time on ice in the loss.
Lars Eller scored the game-winning goal with a little more than seven minutes remaining in the game after Devante Smith-Pelly scored the game-tying goal while falling in what’s sure to become the most iconic photo in D.C. hockey history.
David Perron, Tomas Tatar and William Carrier were in the lineup for the Golden Knights on Thursday, with Ryan Reaves and Ryan Carpenter as a couple of healthy scratches after playing in prior Stanley Cup Final games leading up to Thursday’s Game 5 action.
Colin Miller was guilty of the action’s first penalty, having received an infraction for interference against Washington defender, Michal Kempny, at 11:44 of the first period. Vegas killed off the penalty, however, and the score remained, 0-0, despite Ovechkin having dented the post on the ensuing power play.
After one period, the score remained tied, 0-0, with the Capitals leading in shots on goal, 9-7. Both teams had four blocked shots aside and the Golden Knights had the advantage in just about everything else, including hits (18-10), takeaways (5-1), giveaways (7-1) and faceoff win percentage (62-39).
There was only one penalty called after 20 minutes. As a result, the Caps were 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission.
Teetering with danger isn’t normally advised, but it’s what Vegas goers live for in forms of entertainment— like magicians, acrobats and the like— but hockey? Maybe not a great idea, though Shea Theodore put the dangerous Capitals power play unit on the ice without him as the Golden Knights defender was guilty of tripping T.J. Oshie 21 seconds into the second period.
Nevertheless, the home team prevailed unscathed.
The Golden Knights went on the power play themselves for the first time Thursday night when Christian Djoos delivered a high-stick to Reilly Smith moments later at 3:19. Vegas did not convert on their first player advantage of the game.
A few minutes later, after Las Vegas resident Deryk Engelland fired a shot high over the crossbar, Jakub Vrana had the puck on his stick, transitioning from the center redline into the attacking zone on a breakaway for Washington.
Vrana (3) sniped a shot upstairs— top-shelf, glove side— on Fleury, giving the Capitals the 1-0 lead and scoring the game’s first goal.
Wilson (10) and leading point scorer in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Evgeny Kuznetsov (20), had the assists on Vrana’s goal at 6:24 of the second period. Depth scoring remained a major key to Washington’s success and ultimate victory.
But the Golden Knights weren’t going down without a fight, having reached back into their young franchise history of comebacks and quick responses to being scored on in the postseason.
Nate Schmidt (3) tied the game, 1-1, with a slap shot at 9:40 of the second period. Smith (17) and Jon Marchessault (13) had the assists and Vegas came alive— not just the team, but the entire home crowd.
With their backs against the wall, there was no backing down from the immense pressure of elimination.
But with pressure comes susceptibility to making costly errors.
Brayden McNabb yanked down Ovechkin with a trip on a breakaway 11 seconds after Schmidt scored, giving Washington’s deadly power play another chance. This time the Capitals wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to capitalize on the player advantage.
In stereotypical fashion, it was Ovechkin (15) breaking the hearts of Vegas’s penalty killing unit, rocketing his 15th goal of the playoffs past Fleury on the power play at 10:14. Not only did he set a franchise record for most goals in one postseason with the goal, but he became the first player to score 15 goals in a postseason since his biggest rival, Sidney Crosby, did so in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It seemed like poetic justice. It seemed like fate. Perhaps to the Hockey Gods, it was destiny.
Almost a few minutes later, Vegas was rocking again on a double deflection, ultimately put in the back of the net by Perron (1)— the healthy scratch for most of the Stanley Cup Final, that had yet to score this postseason.
Perron’s goal was challenged for goaltender interference by Capitals head coach, Barry Trotz, but after review, the call on the ice was confirmed; it was a good goal.
Video replay indicated Washington defender Djoos pushed Perron into the crease and made no difference on the play as Holtby was already in desperation, scrambling outside of the crease to get back square to the shooter.
The Golden Knights had tied it, 2-2, in part, thanks to the assists on Perron’s goal from Tatar (1) and Miller (4) at 12:56.
Having lost the coach’s challenge, Washington forfeited their timeout.
For the next five minutes, the game descended into organized chaos. Shift changes on-the-fly, shots ringing off the iron, save-after-save was made and bodies were flying either by contact or by propulsion on skates.
Then Ovechkin was guilty himself— guilty of tripping Karlsson late in the period as the Golden Knights were surging.
Vegas’s power play took their time to set up the perfect play. Holtby was out of position as a result of second, third and fourth chances, leaving an open net for Smith (5) to cash in the power play goal on a pass across the low slot from Alex Tuch, giving the Golden Knights their first lead of the night, 3-2.
Tuch (4) and Theodore (7) had the assists on the Smith’s goal at 19:31 of the second period and as the home crowd experienced euphoria, gloves and shoves were being exchanged after the goal horn.
Washington’s Brooks Orpik and Jay Beagle picked up matching roughing minors with Vegas’s Smith and Tuch. Both teams remained at full strength and headed into the second intermission with the Golden Knights holding on to a one-goal lead.
Entering Thursday night, the Golden Knights were 10-0 when leading after 40 minutes this postseason. Exiting Thursday night, they’d finish their Stanley Cup Final run, 10-1.
But through two periods of intense action, Vegas led, 3-2, on the scoreboard and shots on goal were even, 20-20. The Golden Knights led in everything else, including blocked shots (9-6), hits (29-16), takeaways (13-8), giveaways (11-3) and faceoff win percentage (51-49). Both teams had scored a power play goal entering the second intermission. Washington was 1/3 and Vegas was 1/2 on the man advantage.
Tatar opened the third period with a hooking minor against Eller at 5:37.
Once again the Capitals set up Ovechkin on the ensuing power play, but this time Fleury was able to slam the door shut on the prolific goal scorer and keep his team ahead.
Yet Washington’s onslaught lasted longer than the power play, pressing as hard as ever to tie the game and take back momentum as the midway point of the third period approached.
Orpik kept the puck in the zone at the blue line and threw the rubber biscuit to the front of the net where Smith-Pelly (7) gained possession, dangled as Fleury went through the routine of doing the splits to go from one side of the goal to the other, but Smith-Pelly had just enough to muster a shot while falling, past Fleury’s leg pad and in.
The Caps forward tied it, 3-3, at 9:52 of the third period, matching his goal scoring output from the regular season (seven goals in 75 games played) in just 24 postseason games. Orpik (4) notched the only assist on the now iconic goal in Washington sports lore.
Then Eller (7) pocketed the go-ahead goal and game-winner, as a result of yet another scramble in front of the net, traffic, pounding and collecting a garbage goal— Washington led, 4-3, with a little more than seven-and-a-half minutes left in regulation.
After a stoppage in play with 2:04 remaining in their season, Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant used his team’s timeout to rally his troops and pulled Fleury for an extra attacker.
Washington kept getting the puck out of their own zone, sometimes icing it, sometimes just sending it wide of the empty net, but as long as time ticked down and it didn’t end up behind Holtby, nothing else mattered.
Not even a score-clock malfunction inside the arena, whereby (thankfully) the backup timekeeping apparatus was still working and kept the officials on top of everything, right down until the very last second.
For D.C. sports fans, the agony was over. Their Capitals had won.
For the first time in franchise history— dating back to 1974— Washington is home to Stanley Cup champions and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis can celebrate.
After a 60-minute effort in Game 5, the Capitals won, 4-3, and led in final shots on goal, 33-31. Washington also finished the night leading in blocked shots (13-11), while Vegas held the advantage in hits (39-27) and giveaways (15-6). Both teams finished the night scoring a power play goal, with Washington (1/4) and the Golden Knights (1/2).
The teams shook hands, Ovechkin was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the fans wearing Vegas gold and Caps red both booed league commissioner, Gary Bettman, and finally, Ovechkin was presented with the hardest trophy to win in all professional sports— the Stanley Cup— for the first time in his career.
Entering Thursday night, Washington had lost nine out of their last 10 Game 5s on the road. That didn’t matter. Teams leading the series 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final were 32-1 all-time, until the Capitals made them 33-1.
Veteran forward Jay Beagle became the first player to win the ECHL’s Kelly Cup, AHL’s Calder Cup and NHL’s Stanley Cup in a professional career, while Ovechkin became just the first Russian captain to lead his team to a Cup victory in NHL history.
Ovechkin also became the 16th player in league history to play at least 1,000 regular season games before winning his first Cup (joining legendary Detroit Red Wings star and current Tampa Bay Lightning GM, Steve Yzerman, to do so all with one team).
Kuznetsov finished the postseason as the third Russian-born player to lead the NHL in playoff scoring during the league’s modern era (since 1943-44), joining Sergei Fedorov (1995) and Evgeni Malkin (2009, 2017) in doing so.
As for Barry Trotz, the Washington Capitals head coach who is now technically a free agent in search of his next contract (and just won his first Cup in his 20th year as an NHL head coach), Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan told reporters after the game, “if he wants to be back, he’ll be back.”
The house always wins in Vegas and that was once again apparent as the Vegas Golden Knights took down the Winnipeg Jets, 4-2, on Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.
The Golden Knights lead the 2018 Western Conference Final, 2-1, thanks to the efforts of Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal and their superstar since the 2017 Expansion Draft, Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 3.
For the first time in about nine weeks, the Jets have lost back-to-back games (dating back to a string of three losses in mid-March during the regular season).
Fleury made 33 saves on 35 shots against for a .943 save percentage in the win, while Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck stopped 26 shots out of 29 shots faced for an .897 SV% in 58:58 time on ice in the loss.
Quick goals were a theme Wednesday night as Jonathan Marchessault (7) kicked things off with a beautiful backhand goal, beating Hellebuyck with just a tap-in after the Jets netminder overcommitted 35 seconds into the action.
Brayden McNabb (2) had the only assist on the goal and the Golden Knights led, 1-0.
After taking a wild elbow to the face from a Winnipeg defender, James Neal left the ice for a short period of time in the first period. Neal would return by the end of the opening frame and proved to be a key component in Game 3 in the second period.
Erik Haula served a minor penalty for tripping about midway through the first period and the Jets did not convert on the ensuing power play.
Vegas was unable to convert on two man advantage opportunities of their own late in the third (Josh Morrissey for holding at 14:50 and Mathieu Perreault for tripping at 19:35 of the first period, respectively).
After one period of play, the Golden Knights led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and 10-3 in shots on goal. Vegas also led in takeaways (6-0), giveaways (5-1) and faceoff win percentage (71-29), while Winnipeg led in blocked shots (8-5) and hits (18-9). Both teams had yet to convert on the power play as the Jets were 0/1 and the Golden Knights were 0/2 after the first period.
Winnipeg opened scoring in the second period with a nifty deflection by Mark Scheifele (13) on a shot from Blake Wheeler at the goal line to the left of Fleury. Scheifele’s deflection beat the Vegas netminder on the short side and tied the game, 1-1, at 5:28 of the second period as the Jets looked to soar.
Wheeler (16) had the only assist on the goal and the game did not remain tied for long.
Not long at all, as 12 seconds after the Jets tied it, the Golden Knights untied it with a goal of their own from none other than James Neal.
Neal (4) pocketed the puck in the twine after Hellebuyck butchered a chance to handle the puck and promptly turned it over to Vegas forward, Erik Haula. Haula quickly threw the piece of vulcanized rubber in front of the goal where Neal was awaiting and Vegas took the lead, 2-1, at 5:40 of the second period.
Haula (4) had the only assist on the goal.
Less than three minutes later the Golden Knights were at it again with the same basic principle— get the puck down low, toss it to the guy in front of the net in the low slot, one-time it/deflect it and score.
So it came as no surprise when Neal collected his own rebound, then wrapped around the goal only to toss the puck to Alex Tuch (5) in the low slot for the redirection into the twine. Vegas had a two-goal lead just like that at 8:13 of the second period. Neal (5) and Nate Schmidt (4) were credited with the primary and secondary assists and the Golden Knights led, 3-1.
About a minute later, Scheifele slashed McNabb and the home team went on the power play. Unfortunately for T-Mobile Arena goers, the Golden Knights did not score a goal on the ensuing power play.
Moments later, Vegas defender, Luca Sbisa, was guilty of holding Perreault and was sent to the sin bin. Winnipeg did not convert on the ensuing player advantage at 14:39 of the second period.
In the closing minutes of the second frame, a scrum resulted after the whistle had been blown on a routine cover up by Fleury. Every skater on the ice grabbed a hold of an opponent and exchanged some pleasantries while Fleury tickled Wheeler’s ear and Jets defender, Dustin Byfuglien latched on to two Golden Knights at once.
Scheifele, Ryan Carpenter, Wheeler and Cody Eakin were all sent to the box for their respective teams with matching roughing minors at 17:26 of the second period so there was no change in strength on the ice.
Through 40 minutes of play, Vegas held on to a 3-1 lead over Winnipeg. The Golden Knights still had advantages in shots on goal (22-19), blocked shots (14-13), takeaways (11-2), giveaways (8-4) and faceoff win percentage (51-49), while the Jets led in hits (38-24) after two periods. Neither team had scored on the power play, as Winnipeg was 0/2 and Vegas was 0/3 entering the second intermission.
Winnipeg came out strong in the third period.
So strong, in fact, that the Jets scored in the first 18 seconds of the period as Scheifele (14) scored his second goal of the night emulating Tuch on his goal for the Golden Knights.
The Jets won the opening faceoff of the third period and worked the puck down low in the attacking zone, where Kyle Connor then found Scheifele sneaking behind Vegas’s defense in open ice for a one-timer past Fleury as the Golden Knights goalie had to stretch across the crease.
Connor (7) and Wheeler (17) had the assists on the goal and Winnipeg pulled to within one, as the Golden Knights two-goal lead diminished to a 3-2 lead with plenty of time left in regulation.
Scheifele’s second goal of the night set an NHL record for most road goals in a postseason (11), previously held by Sidney Crosby (with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009) and Joe Mullen (with the Calgary Flames in 1989), who each had 10 road goals in their respective postseason runs.
Coincidentally, both the 2009 Penguins and 1989 Flames won the Stanley Cup.
The Jets dominated the pace of play throughout the third period, as Fleury was auditioning for a role in Cirque du Soleil by seemingly standing on his head making save-after-save for Vegas.
Fleury’s play culminated in a split across the crease followed by a desperation dive to deny Winnipeg of two quality scoring chances that for sure would have tied the game otherwise if it were not for Fleury’s superhuman ability.
After Hellebuyck covered the puck for a faceoff, Paul Maurice called a timeout to gather his team, draw up a plan and rally a way to forcing the issue.
Instead, Maruice’s Jets were no match for Gerard Gallant’s Golden Knights as the Winnipeg netminder was finally able to vacate the net with about a minute left in regulation.
Despite two blown chances at the empty net with about 25 seconds left in Game 3, Marchessault (8) was the one to get the job done on a wraparound with 2.7 seconds left in the game.
The Golden Knights forward beat out the icing call, raced to the puck and put it away for a 4-2 victory in Game 3 and a 2-1 series lead as McNabb (3) and Fleury (1) picked up the assists. Yes, Fleury fittingly got an assist on the empty net goal.
At the final horn, Adam Lowry mixed things up a bit with Ryan Reaves and the rest of the skaters on the ice as both teams found partners in case they needed to go square dancing, but the linesmen got things under control after a shoving match and Vegas celebrated their victory.
Entering Wednesday, Winnipeg had not lost back-to-back games this postseason, nor had they trailed in a series. Until now.
After 60 minutes of play, the Golden Knights walked away with the 4-2 win and an advantage in faceoff win percentage (52-48). The Jets finished the night leading in shots on goal (35-30) and hits (48-41). There were no penalties called in the third period.
Game 4 is scheduled for Friday night at T-Mobile Arena with puck drop a little after 8 p.m. ET. Viewers in the United States can tune in once again to NBCSN, while fans in Canada can catch the action on CBC, SN1 or TVAS.
Second Round predictions, Minnesota needs a new GM, Calgary’s got a new coach, award finalist reactions, a Game 7 breakdown between Boston and Toronto, and where do the Leafs go from here? All that and more as Nick and Connor discuss on the latest DTFR Podcast.
In a first, everyone (except for Jordan) appears on the Down the Frozen River Podcast to predict how the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs will go before the 2017-18 NHL regular season even ends, technically speaking. The 100th episode anniversary is informally observed.
We’ve all had some time to digest the spectacle that was the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, now let’s reflect on the experience as a whole for a minute and discuss ways to make it more interesting, considering ratings fell for the third year in a row.
This is DTFR Overtime and I’ve been neglecting you all through the holidays.
The Winter Classic is great.
You heard that right. I love an outdoor NHL game. Not for the most commonly stated reason why NBC loves the game. No, I couldn’t care less about how much a player feels like they’re a kid again playing outdoors on their backyard rink, local pond, river or lake.
I love the Winter Classic because it’s different.
Different jerseys, different atmosphere, different venue and usually a different game winner.
The Buffalo Sabres-New York Rangers matchup actually turned out to be a good one. Just when all hope was thought to be lost after trailing 2-0 early, the Sabres showed up on the scoreboard.
In the end, the Rangers won and that was fitting, since they were closer to their home ice than the technically speaking “home” team in this year’s Winter Classic due to a clause in New York’s contract with Madison Square Garden that states the Rangers cannot play a home game outside MSG.
Overtime outdoors with flames in the end seemed like a perfect ending to a largely under-produced, under-promoted, sporting event.
The Winter Classic has always shown potential. Why not tap into it?
Let’s address the obvious elephant in the room from this year’s matchup– the matchup itself. Sure, letting Jack Eichel run around outside is a great idea and all, but against the New York Rangers at Citi Field? None of that makes sense, considering 1) if you’re going to go with the 10th anniversary narrative, at least invite the Pittsburgh Penguins alumni team and Sabres alumni team to skate around the mini rink during intermission or something and 2) it should have been you, New York Islanders.
Not a Sabres-Islanders matchup, but rather a Battle for New York (City). Rangers-Islanders at Citi Field would’ve made a lot more sense, because, you know. The Islanders are the New York Mets of the NHL. Jimmy Fallon loves the Rangers, Jon Stewart loves… well, the Mets. At least the Islanders have that whole color scheme going for them (oh and a new arena coming soon to Belmont Park).
NBC didn’t have a problem calling up archival footage of Sidney Crosby scoring the shootout winning goal from the first Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY.
Like Colby Kephart said on the podcast two weeks ago, Crosby’s path to glory at the NHL level started with that game winning shootout goal. He rose to stardom, but didn’t win a Cup immediately. Prior to appearing in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final (and 2009, 2016 and 2017 as well), Crosby’s biggest stage was his Winter Classic moment (again, until he lifted the Cup over his head in 2009, 2016 and 2017).
Eichel could’ve been played up as the American version of Crosby– still one of the greatest players in the league, though sometimes overlooked as if he had to prove himself some more.
Don’t like a Pittsburgh-Buffalo rematch 10 years in the making? That’s fine.
A Rangers-Islanders matchup would’ve made more sense on New Year’s Day if you really want to play the rivalry card. It also would’ve actually meant something in the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division.
As much as people hate on NBC for taking away divisional or actual rivalry games from local media broadcasting crews, sometimes it must be done. Nationally displaced local fans want to be able to watch their teams with ease– having some of their biggest matchups on national television isn’t a bad thing when it’s done right.
Give us the standings– give us the storylines of recent hatred among the clubs and national audiences might eat it up more than hearing over and over again where somebody is from or how one goaltending coach taught the two goalies at opposite ends of the ice everything they know.
If the league could schedule one or two matchups between rivals within a week or two before they take things outside, imagine what a perfect storm of potential chaos that would be on the ice.
Of course, timing is everything when it comes to touting a rivalry as a premiere event to be seen by all.
Remember how the 2016 Winter Classic was a 5-1 blowout by the Montreal Canadiens on road ice at Gillette Stadium? The Boston Bruins missed the playoffs in 2015 and they went on to miss them again in 2016.
They were in a lull in talent on the ice. Their longest rivalry with Montreal had crescendoed when Bruins exorcised their demons in 2011 en route to the Cup, but not much of the championship roster from 2011 remained in 2016– except for core players in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask.
Then the rivalry went dormant as Boston fell asleep at the wheel in the Second Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Canadiens ousted the President’s Trophy winning Bruins in seven games.
And 2017’s Winter Classic matchup of the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks at Busch Stadium didn’t go as hoped for a 50-year old rivalry– the Blues defeated the Blackhawks 4-1.
If you’re looking ahead to the 2019 Winter Classic between Boston and Chicago from Notre Dame Stadium, well, you better hope both teams are as lively as they’ve been at times this season on January 1, 2019.
Timing is everything.
If you’re worried about making adidas Winter Classic merchandise and getting it out to the consumers in time for the big game, let alone scheduling the right venue, teams and ticket sales, then why not have all 31 teams prepare something. Let every NHL franchise draw up a set of potential home and road Winter Classic sweaters.
Instead of announcing the following year’s Winter Classic a year and a half ahead of when it’s going to be played, just keep the fans in suspense– let rumors swirl about every team’s potential outdoor look and/or venue for just long enough until the league says “surprise, it’s going to be the Vegas Golden Knights against the Nashville Predators from Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee”. Trust me, people would want to go see that.
Worried about having jerseys made in time for fans to purchase? Make the Winter Classic announcement in July or August, then make the Winter Classic jerseys go on sale in pro shops in December.
Boost your holiday sales while not having to give in to the demands of consumers who want to get everything done and out of the way in October or November leading up to the December holidays and Happy Honda Days.
I know it’s hard, but actually keep some things secret.
The Winter Classic should be around through 2021 at least (pending NBC broadcasting rights and negotiations regarding an extension or who knows, maybe ESPN will want to cover hockey again in three years?), but we shouldn’t find out– through the league or anonymous sources– that the Blackhawks will be hosting the Penguins in a first ever home-and-home matchup in 2020 whereby Chicago hosts the Winter Classic and Pittsburgh hosts the Stadium Series until, say, before the start of the 2019-20 season.
The 2019 Winter Classic shouldn’t have been unveiled by a report from Barstool Sports in November 2017. Calendar-year-wise that’s a difference of two years.
That’s at least a year and six months of potential suspense that could’ve been building over where the local market cash grab outdoor game would be venturing off to– it’s Chicago again, isn’t it? Dammit.
At the very least, a league that’s pulling in $4.5 billion in revenue that also doesn’t want to share more money with the players (hello forthcoming lockout anytime between 2020 and 2022) should shell out $1 million to get someone like Lady Gaga or yes, even Coldplay (because hockey is played in the cold), or literally anyone other than Goo Goo Dolls, Nate Ruess or someone NBC wants on TV because they’re a winner or runner up from The Voice.
You can either praise Sidney Crosby all day during a game in which Crosby isn’t involved or you can give me a reality TV singing contestant that nobody’s heard of but you can’t have both in one day, NBC! *That sounded better in John Oliver’s voice in my head than it did when I wrote it, but the point still stands.*
Think of it this way, Mr. Bettman.
If you cast aside one or two outdoor games a year– because we all know three or four of them a year is too many– then you should have enough money to attract someone better than this year’s Super Bowl Pepsi Halftime Show performer, Justin Timberlake, and assert your dominance over the NFL in intermission/halftime entertainment at your very own “super bowl” (ahem, the Winter Classic) months before the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
I’ll even take more of whatever this year’s Road to the Winter Classic was actually about (I think it was a Honda ad) if you’d just entertain us all for once during intermission instead of putting us to sleep before the Blackhawks come back out of the locker room for their 82nd outdoor game of the season.
And if it’s supposed to have a winter carnival vibe, maybe don’t bring the same stuff every year to each venue.
Bubble hockey is great and all, but giant inflatable snow globes and inflatable jerseys have gotten old. NASCAR’s Fanatics merchandise tent is more exciting than your free FanFest or whatever.
And please, bring back the Winter Classic Alumni Game. Beg NBCSN to show that instead of whatever Mecum Auto Auction they’re rerunning on New Year’s Eve or whatever.
I just don’t want to go a day without hockey, especially when I’m starting a new calendar year.
It’s a low-key Monday in the NHL with only eight teams in action. The action starts at 7 p.m. with Florida at New Jersey (SN/SN1), followed half an hour later by Washington at Montréal (NHLN/RDS). 8 p.m. marks the puck drop of Calgary at Winnipeg (TVAS), with tonight’s nightcap – Dallas at Los Angeles (SN) – waiting until 10:30 p.m. All times eastern.
- Washington at Montréal: For all intents and purposes, Lars Eller played the first six years of his NHL career in Montréal. Nowadays, he finds himself playing for the Capitals.
- Calgary at Winnipeg: It’s the third-straight rivalry game for the Flames.
Not only is this a special night for Eller, but it should be a fantastic game between two competitive teams. To the City of Saints we go!
The Danish center might have been drafted by St. Louis 13th-overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, but he only suited up seven times for the Blues during the 2009-’10 season before being traded to the Canadiens with Ian Schultz for Jaroslav Halak.
It turned out to be a good trade for both clubs. Specifically for Eller, he ended up notching 154 points from 2010-’16 during his tenure with the Habs – the eighth-most for a Canadien during that span.
He especially had a knack for scoring when shorthanded, as his eight shorthanded points for the Habs are second-most for the club during his tenure. That 2011-’12 season was certainly a magical one for Eller. He notched three shorthanded points that season, including two shorthanded goals.
But scoring probably isn’t what he’s most known for.
From the moment he showed up in Montréal to the day he left, Eller was always known as a physical player. Every single season, he made Montréal‘s top-10 list for hits thrown, including twice finishing the season with the third-most on the club. His presence was most known during the 2013-’14 campaign when he threw 130 hits, his career-high.
During the 2016 NHL Entry Draft with two years remaining on his contract, Eller was shipped down to Washington in exchange for the Capitals‘ 2017 and 2018 second-round picks.
Eller has kept his hitting ways up with the Capitals, as his 33 hits 10th most on the club. But he’s been an even bigger asset at the faceoff dot, where his .46 winning percentage is fifth-best on the team.
Eller and his new club, winners of their last five contests, come to Montréal with a 25-9-5 record, only good enough for fourth place in the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division. Although usually known for their offense, it’s been the Capitals’ impressive defense and goaltending that has led the way, allowing only 79 goals this season – the fewest in the NHL.
As you’d expect after the phenomenal year he had last season, 18-8-4 Braden Holtby has been charged with manning Washington‘s crease most nights. He’s done a good job, notching a season .931 save percentage and 1.93 GAA – the fourth and second-best efforts, respectively, among the 45 goaltenders with 16 or more appearances.
A player of Holtby’s caliber doesn’t necessarily need help, it’s certainly nice to play behind the sixth-best defense. Led by Karl Alzner‘s 70 blocks, Washington allows only 28 shots-per-game to reach Holtby’s net.
That success has continued into the penalty kill, where the Capitals are third-best in the league, neutralizing 87.1% of their shorthanded situations. Among the blueliners, Brooks Orpik deserves most credit for that success with his team-leading nine shorthanded blocks.
Surprisingly, the Washington power play is on the verge of being strikingly bad. Scoring on only 16.4% of their opportunities, the Capitals are tied for 10th worst in the NHL. Nicklas Backstrom has led the man-advantage surge with 13 power play points to his credit but, as one would expect, it’s been Alex Ovechkin scoring most the power play goals, with six to his credit – twice the total of second place.
Playing host this evening are the 25-9-6 Canadiens, the best team in the Atlantic Division. Winners of their last three games, Montréal has also played fantastically on the defensive end, allowing only 92 goals – the fifth-fewest in the league.
20-5-4 Carey Price has been just as impressive for the Habs with a season .93 save percentage and 2.06 GAA – the fifth and seventh-best efforts, respectively, in the league among the 45 netminders with 15 or more appearances.
I would like to submit the argument that Price’s play has been more important for the Habs than Holtby’s for the Caps. You see, even with Shea Weber‘s team-leading 85 blocks, Montréal‘s defense allows 30.1 shots-per-game to reach Price’s crease, the 15th-highest total in the league.
The defensive issues especially come to light when Montréal is on the penalty kill, as their 80.3% success rate is tied for 10th-worst in the league. Once again, Weber takes command of the defensive efforts with 24 shorthanded blocks, but he and Alexei Emelin are the only two skaters with 20 or more blocks on the penalty kill. More skaters need to get involved if the Habs want to find success when the playoffs come around.
Fortunately for the Canadiens, they’ve been able to cover their inability to stop power play goals by scoring quite a few of their own. Successful on 21.3% of power play opportunities, the Habs are 10th-best in the league and led by Weber’s 14 man-advantage points, eight of which are goals, which also leads the club.
These clubs have already met once this season, with the Canadiens earning a 2-1 road victory on December 17. Price earned the victory thanks to a Jeff Petry tally late in the second period.
Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Montréal‘s Max Pacioretty (19 goals [tied for sixth-most in the league]) and Price (20 wins [tied for second-most in the NHL] on a .93 save percentage [fifth-best in the league] and a 2.06 GAA [seventh-best in the NHL], including two shutouts [tied for ninth-most in the league]) & Washington‘s Holtby (five shutouts [tied for most in the NHL] and a 1.93 GAA [tied for second-best in the league] and .931 save percentage [tied for third-best in the NHL] for 18 wins [tied for seventh-most in the league]) and Ovechkin (18 goals [tied for ninth-most in the NHL]).
Montréal has a -110 next to their name in Vegas, marking them the favorite in tonight’s contest, and based on the most recent matchup, I think that’s fair. As both teams are certainly capable of scoring, I give the edge in this game to the Habs‘ blueline that will guide them to victory.
- Scott Thornton (1971-) – This left wing was the third-overall pick in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by Toronto, but he spent most of his playing days in San Jose. By the time his 17-season career was through, he’d notched 285 points, 144 of which were goals. And yes, he and Joe Thornton are cousins.
- Radek Bonk (1976-) – A two-time All Star, this center was drafted third-overall in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft by Ottawa. He played 10 of his 14 seasons with the Senators, helping them to eight playoff appearances over his tenure.
- Mathieu Garon (1978-) – The 44th-overall pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft by Montréal, this goaltender played 341 games over a dozen seasons. He played most of those games with Los Angeles, even though he spent more years with the Canadiens. He was a member of Pittsburgh‘s 2009 Stanley Cup winning squad.
Minnesota took command of the second period in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, beating the Ducks 2-1 at the Honda Center.
Only the Ducks were able to break through for a goal in the first period, compliments of Third Star of the Game Ryan Kesler‘s (Jakob Silfverberg) tip-in tally, his 16th time lighting the lamp this season. Anaheim held their lead into the first intermission.
Only 4:39 after returning to the ice, Matt Dumba (Zach Parise and First Star Eric Staal) took advantage of a five-on-three power play caused by both Cam Fowler and Logan Shaw taking seats in the penalty box for separate offenses and leveled the game with a slap shot. 1:42 later, Jared Spurgeon (Jason Pominville and Jason Zucker) scored what ended up being final goal of the game, a game-winning wrister.
Minnesota‘s win is the second-straight for road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series, setting the series record at 47-27-14 in favor of the hosts by 11 points.