The Toronto Maple Leafs finally did the thing! Congrats to the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame Class and taking a look at who might join them in 2020.
Wednesday afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs fired their now former head coach, Mike Babcock, and promoted Sheldon Keefe as the new head coach of the Leafs from his previous head coaching duties with the Toronto Marlies (AHL).
It’s a move that everyone likely saw coming, but this soon? That’s impressive.
Babcock was adamant in his coaching abilities and in his belief in himself as “the greatest coach who ever lived” (paraphrasing, obviously), but could not salvage his hubris when it mattered most– right now.
Toronto is currently 9-10-4 (22 points) on the season, 5th place in the Atlantic Division and outside of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Luckily for the Leafs, the Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-3, 25 points), Philadelphia Flyers (10-7-4, 24 points) and Buffalo Sabres (10-8-3, 23 points) aren’t that far ahead of them in the standings for now.
It’s the perfect time to be bold and make a move if you’re looking to provide a short-term spark that will hopefully re-ignite some cooling embers and launch the Maple Leafs back into playoff contention at the very least– if not Stanley Cup contention, as many have expected for a few years now before Toronto’s General Manager, Kyle Dubas, was forced to spend about $40.489 million on William Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner while somehow forgetting the importance of a defense and a backup goaltender in the process.
For a team that used to employ a coach that notoriously bet on himself and his process for better or worse, well, they’re betting heavily on the salary cap ceiling to make a significant jump by the time a new national TV rights distribution package in the United States is negotiated in 2022.
But that’s a separate discussion entirely.
For now, we’re left in the wake of a post-Babcock Leafs Era and what it means for the Boston Bruins– Toronto’s biggest rival most recently.
The 56-year-old former head coach in Toronto was in his 5th year of an eight-year, $50.000 million contract with the Maple Leafs.
Toronto went 29-42-11 in the 2015-16 season, which led them to drafting Matthews with the 1st overall pick in the 2016 Draft.
The following year, Babcock and the Maple Leafs improved to 40-27-15, qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2013, before losing in six games to the Washington Capitals in the 2017 First Round.
Then history repeated itself as the Leafs went 49-26-7 in the 2017-18 regular season before losing in seven games to Boston in the 2018 First Round.
From there it was a broken record for Toronto– a 46-28-9 effort in 2018-19 led to another First Round matchup with Boston and another Game 7 loss on the road to the Bruins in the 2019 First Round.
This season, through 23 games, the Leafs have six wins in regulation. They have nine total.
Babcock hasn’t won a playoff series since he was still with the Detroit Red Wings in 2013. He hasn’t led a team back to the Stanley Cup Final since losing in 2009 with Detroit in the Red Wings-Penguins rematch from 2008.
He may be “Canada’s Coach”, but he isn’t “Canada’s favorite team’s head coach” anymore.
Enter Keefe, a 39-year-old, from Brampton, Ontario– a short drive from Toronto– emerging as “The Chosen One”.
Hired by Toronto to lead the Marlies on June 8, 2015, Keefe had a respectable first season with Toronto’s AHL affiliate in 2015-16, notching a 54-16-5-1 record (wins-losses-overtime losses-shootout losses, for those of you who aren’t AHL savvy).
Keefe pushed his team all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs (his rookie season as an AHL coach, mind you) before the Marlies succumbed to the Hershey Bears in five games.
In 2016-17, Keefe coached his team to a 42-29-4-1 record and a North Division Final appearance in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs that resulted in a Game 7 loss to the Syracuse Crunch.
That loss didn’t set the Marlies back, but instead motivated Keefe and his team as they marched to a 54-18-2-2 record in 2017-18 and a 2018 Calder Cup Final appearance.
They defeated the Texas Stars in seven games and captured Toronto’s first championship in ice hockey since the NHL’s Maple Leafs raised the Stanley Cup in 1967.
Though it was only the AHL, it proved that something was in the works.
Dubas’ masterplan was coming to fruition as the analytics guru rose to power– taking over as GM of the Maple Leafs with Lou Lamoriello’s departure in the 2018 offseason.
Keefe had followed Dubas from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) to the Maple Leafs organization in 2015, but Babcock stood in the way of his destiny, it seemed.
Babcock was Lamoriello’s choice and fit with Brendan Shanahan’s “Shanaplan”.
Keefe fit with Dubas in the contemporary game, “Shanaplan” be damned.
In 2018-19, Keefe led the Marlies to a 39-24-9-4 record and an Eastern Conference Final appearance for the 2nd year in a row in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Though the Marlies lost to the Charlotte Checkers in six games, one thing was for certain– Keefe had it going in the minor league.
It’s not every day that a coach is able to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in his rookie season, let alone in three of his first four full seasons as an AHL bench boss.
Up until his promotion to the NHL, Keefe amassed a 10-2-2-1 record with the Marlies this season.
They were 1st in the North Division at the time of his departure for the big league.
In 320 career AHL games with the Marlies, Keefe collected a 199-89-22-9 record and a .622 winning percentage in the process– plus one Calder Cup championship in 2018.
So, what does this mean for the Bruins?
A lot when you factor in advantages and disadvantages for each team in the promotion of Keefe from the Marlies to the Leafs.
First, for Toronto, the advantages of having Keefe for a potential playoff matchup with Boston.
The core of Toronto’s current roster (Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman, Morgan Rielly and even Frederik Andersen) has lost in the First Round in at least one of the last three postseasons (Tavares is the only member who hasn’t had to endure three-straight soul crushing First Round departures under Babcock’s reign).
Yes, this may seem bad, but it actually speaks volumes for their playoff experience.
This team is hungry– right from its core– and its fanbase, its front office and its backyard media wants to win sooner rather than later.
Plus, Nylander’s 2nd season in the AHL (although it was only a partial season) overlapped with Keefe’s time behind the bench of the Marlies, so there’s some familiarity between one of the four highest paid players on the Leafs and their head coach.
Additionally, Kapanen, Hyman and others have experience with Keefe and the Marlies’ system.
There’s enough familiarity there for something– potentially something dangerous.
Now for the advantages for Boston.
History is on their side. Boston’s core (Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask) has shown its capable of making another Cup run (even with an aging captain and 1-2 centers).
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, remains a constant and in control.
Boston missed the playoffs in 2015 and 2016, but Claude Julien was still their head coach then, so the combination of Cassidy, plus Chara, Bergeron and Krejci’s leadership made for an easier transition into getting the team back into a “top of their game” playoff performer (and eventual Cup contender in 2019).
This isn’t a luxury the Leafs have, where the team’s looking to get back into postseason contention, period, let alone win a series.
Toronto missed the playoffs in their first year with Babcock, but made it for the last three years and lost each year in the First Round.
This leads to Toronto’s disadvantages for another potential postseason meeting with the Bruins.
History is not on Toronto’s side and neither are the statistics.
Yes, Dubas’ 2nd favorite thing in the world– analytics– could get in the way of his 1st favorite thing in the world– bringing the Cup back to the Maple Leafs organization.
As things stand, the Leafs have a greater chance of missing the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs than making them currently.
Toronto– the city, the fans, the players, the front office and the media– wants to win right now. There’s no room for excuses (even if they’re legitimate, like taking one’s time to formulate a defense via prospects or trades and supplementing Andersen in the crease with a legitimate backup goaltender).
But, whereas Cassidy inherited broken pieces in Boston that were addressed and revamped as the team went from outside the playoffs two years in a row to making three consecutive postseason appearances under Cassidy in his head coaching tenure with the B’s– addressing the need for depth down the lineup in the process without the likes of a highly touted free agent acquisition– Keefe and the Leafs have the majority of this season to work on that necessary synergy with a better offense (on paper).
Cassidy was named interim head coach of the Bruins in Feb. 2017. Boston was ousted by the Ottawa Senators in six games in the 2017 First Round and lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the 2018 Second Round prior to their 2019 Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Keefe has Tavares, Matthews and Marner (when healthy) to unleash on any given night and could very well pull a turnaround in one season a la the St. Louis Blues last season (who beat the Bruins in the Final in Game 7 at TD Garden) or the Penguins in 2009 (when Dan Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien midseason and won the Cup) and 2016 (when Mike Sullivan replaced Bylsma midseason and won the Cup).
In that sense, recent history is actually on Toronto’s side.
Boston had some growing pains to go with their dramatic improvement, but the Leafs are built to counteract that pain if Keefe can find a better way to manage it than Babcock did.
As it is, Cassidy is 130-55-27 in 212 games with Boston from 2017-present (good enough for a .613 winning percentage), but 207-128-21-24 in 380 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL) from 2011-16 (.545 winning%).
Babcock was 173-133-45 in 351 games with the Maple Leafs from 2015-19 (.493 winning%).
Keefe gets the final say and has his .622 winning% in 320 games with the Marlies going for him as he steps into the biggest role behind any bench in the National Hockey League.
Playoffs or not, the rest of this season is about to be a wild ride for the Maple Leafs and their fans.
Bruins fans be worried or not.
Ryan O’Reilly scored two goals and helped even up the series as the St. Louis Blues beat the Boston Bruins, 4-2, on home ice Monday night
It was the first home win in the Stanley Cup Final for the Blues at Enterprise Center and in their entire franchise history.
Jordan Binnington (14-9 record, 2.52 goals gainst average, .909 save percentage in 23 games played this postseason) turned aside 21 out of 23 shots faced in the win for St. Louis.
Meanwhile, Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (14-7, 1.96 GAA, .938 SV% in 21 GP this postseason) made 34 saves on 37 shots against in the loss.
Binnington now has seven wins following a loss this postseason and trails only Nikolai Khabibulin (2004), Mikka Kiprusoff (2004) and Ron Hextall (1987) who all had eight wins following a loss in their respective playoff years.
In the 25 instances in which the team that tied the series 2-2 in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final format– prior to Monday night– that team has gone on to win the Cup 10 times.
Three out of the last five instances have resulted in Cup championships, including 2015, 2013 and 2011 (Chicago, Chicago and Boston, respectively).
Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his lineup for the Bruins, while Chris Wagner (upper body), Kevan Miller (lower body) and Matt Grzelcyk (undisclosed) remained out of the action for Game 4.
Boston’s long list of healthy scratches including Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.
Blues head coach, Craig Berube, had Oskar Sundqvist and Vince Dunn back in his lineup for Game 4. Sundqvist returned from his one-game suspension and Dunn made his first appearance in this series after being injured in the Western Conference Final and missing the last six games.
Robert Thomas remained out for St. Louis, while Zach Sanford suited up in his place for the second straight game.
O’Reilly (4) scored the game’s first goal in the opening minute of the action on Monday after jumping on a loose puck and wrapping around the goalframe.
Boston couldn’t clear the zone and Sanford made just enough of a redirection to yield a rebound for O’Reilly to pounce on and bury in the twine as Rask was forced to go end-to-end in the crease.
Sanford (2) and Dunn (6) tallied the assists on O’Reilly’s goal 43 seconds into the first period and St. Louis led, 1-0.
With the secondary assist, Dunn collected his first point of the series in his first game back from injury.
Midway through the opening frame, Danton Heinen absorbed a hit while bringing the puck into the attacking zone, whereby Zdeno Chara scooped up the rubber biscuit and sent it to the net– generating a rebound.
Charlie Coyle (9) collected the puck and pocketed it in the twine to tie the game, 1-1, at 13:14 of the first period– his third goal in as many games, joining Devante Smith-Pelly (2018) and Jake Guentzel (2017) as the only players to score a goal in three straight games in the Stanley Cup Final in the last three years.
Chara (4) had the only assist on the goal as the B’s got on the scoreboard.
Almost a couple minutes later, Vladimir Tarasenko (11) banked in a rebound past Rask after Alex Pietrangelo kept the puck in the zone while entering fresh off the bench in the midst of a line change.
Pietrangelo (12) and Brayden Schenn (7) notched the assists on Tarasenko’s goal and the Blues led, 2-1, at 15:30 of the first period.
After one period of play, St. Louis was leading on the scoreboard, 2-1, and in shots on goal, 13-9. The Blues also held the advantage in giveaways (6-4) and hits (24-16), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (5-0) and face-off win percentage (52-48).
Both teams had four takeaways aside and neither team had yet to see time on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.
With 16:53 left in the second period, Chara took a shot that ricocheted off his own stick and into his mouth, causing the 6-foot-9 defender to bleed and leave the ice for repair.
Early in the middle frame, Coyle caught Carl Gunnarsson with a high-stick and was assessed a minor penalty at 5:47 of the second period.
St. Louis did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.
Gunnarsson, in turn, flipped the puck over the glass without any deflections, yielding an automatic minor penalty for delay of game at 8:31 of the second period.
Though the Blue Notes almost scored a shorthanded goal, nothing happened on the special teams opportunity– Boston’s first power play of the game– and both teams resumed 5-on-5 action two minutes later.
Shortly thereafter, Connor Clifton caught Tarasenko with an illegal hit to the head as Tarasenko attempted to back-check the Bruins defender.
Clifton was sent to the penalty box with a minor penalty at 13:53 after finishing a shift that spanned 3:06.
While shorthanded, Brad Marchand sent Patrice Bergeron up-ice in the attacking zone whereby the longest-tenured alternate captain in the NHL fired a shot and generated a rebound off Binnington.
Brandon Carlo (1) buried the rebound for his first career Stanley Cup Final goal and tied the game, 2-2, with Boston’s first shorthanded goal of the series.
Bergeron (8) and Marchand (13) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on Carlo’s goal at 14:19 of the second period.
Carlo’s goal was also the first shothanded goal by a defender since Scott Niedermayer scored a shorthanded goal for the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the 2000 Stanley Cup Final.
No. 25 in black-and-gold scored the 19th shorthanded goal by a defender since the league began tracking the stat in the 1933-34 season.
The Blues did not capitalize on the power play as both teams went to the second intermission tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard with St. Louis still ahead in shots on goal, 25-19 (including a, 12-10, advantage in the second period alone for the Notes).
Through 40 minutes of play, the Blues maintained an advantage in takeaways (9-8), giveaways (9-6), hits (32-29) and face-off win% (51-49), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (12-3).
St. Louis was 0/2 on the skater advantage– while allowing a shorthanded goal– and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play.
Chara returned to the bench for the third period– wearing a fishbowl– but did not take a shift. He is one of the few remaining players that were grandfathered in after the mandatory visor rule was put in place prior to the 2013-14 season.
Early in the final frame of regulation, Heinen tripped up Jaden Schwartz and was sent to the box at 2:08 of the third period.
Once again, St. Louis was not able to capitalize on the power play, but at least the Blues didn’t allow a shorthanded goal against this time around.
Jay Bouwmeester caught Coyle with a high-stick at 6:42 of the third period and was charged with a minor penalty.
Boston did not score on the resulting power play.
Midway through the third period, Pietrangelo sent a shot off of Rask’s blocker and generated enough of a rebound for O’Reilly (5) to bury for his second goal of the game.
Pietrangelo (13) and Gunnarsson (2) had the assists on O’Reilly’s goal at 10:38 of the third period and the Blues took the, 3-2, lead thanks to O’Reilly’s eventual game-winning goal.
Cassidy pulled Rask for an extra attacker with about 1:43 left in the action and Schenn (4) subsequently forced a turnover, then buried the puck in the empty net to seal the deal on St. Louis’ Game 4 efforts.
Torey Krug and Bouwmeester got into a fracas that resulted in a slashing minor for Krug and an elbowing infraction for Bouwmeester at 19:34, yielding 4-on-4 action to finish the night.
At the final horn, the Blues had won their first Stanley Cup Final game on home ice in franchise history with a, 4-2, victory over the Bruins and evened the series 2-2.
St. Louis finished the night leading in shots on goal (38-23), giveaways (9-6), hits (44-41) and face-off win% (52-48), while Boston led in blocked shots (15-7).
The Blues went 0/3 on the power play and the B’s went 0/2 on the skater advantage on Monday.
The team that has scored first in each game has now won the last two games in the series as Boston took down St. Louis, 7-2, in Game 3 and St. Louis beat Boston, 4-2, in Game 4.
Binnington improved to 13-2 after a loss in his career (regular season and playoffs), while the Blues improved to 7-2 when leading after one period this postseason.
Of note, as a result of Carlo’s goal, the Bruins have now had 20 different goal scores in this postseason– the most in franchise history, surpassing the previous record (19) established in 1988.
The series shifts back to Boston for Game 5 at TD Garden on Thursday. Puck drop is expected a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the game on NBC. Fans in Canada can tune in on CBC, SN or TVAS for the action.
Whoever wins on Thursday will have a chance to win the Cup back in St. Louis in Game 6.
After what seems like an eternity has passed (drop the puck already), the 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the Eastern Conference champion, Boston Bruins, and the Western Conference champion, St. Louis Blues, kicks off Monday night at TD Garden.
Here’s a look at how the best-of-seven series should pan out.
A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)
Boston is making their third appearance in the Final in the last eight years– winning the Cup against the Vancouver Canucks in seven games in 2011 and losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in 2013.
St. Louis is making their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 49 years– losing in four games to the Bruins in 1970.
Regardless of the series outcome– history will be made.
The Bruins outlasted the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the First Round, bested the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games in the Second Round and swept the “Bunch of Jerks” known as the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.
The Blues grounded the Winnipeg Jets in six games in the First Round, beat the Dallas Stars in seven games in the Second Round and took a bite out of the San Jose Sharks in six games in the Western Conference Final.
Both teams have incredible depth scoring, solid defense and out-of-this-world goaltending.
Only one team can win it all, however.
Both cities have met in all four major North American professional sports championship games and/or series, with St. Louis last beating Boston in the 1967 World Series as the Cardinals defeated the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox.
Since then, the B’s beat the Blue Notes in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final as Bobby Orr soared through the air after scoring “The Goal”, the New England Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams (R.I.P.) in Super Bowl XXXVI and the Red Sox beat the Cardinals twice in 2004 and 2013.
Brad Marchand led his team in scoring in the regular season with 100 points and his 18 points in 17 games played this postseason lead David Pastrnak (15 points), David Krejci (14), Patrice Bergeron (13), Charlie Coyle (12), Torey Krug (12) and the rest of the Bruins.
Bergeron leads his roster in goals so far in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with eight, including a postseason leading six power play goals– the most by a Bruin since Cam Neely scoring nine goals on the power play in 1991.
Marchand is tied with Pastrnak for the second-most goals for Boston, trailing Bergeron with seven goals each, followed by Coyle (six) and Krejci (four).
The only Bruins without a goal this postseason are Brandon Carlo (a lineup regular), John Moore (primarily a scratch throughout this postseason) and Karson Kuhlman (appeared in six games in the First and Second Round before David Backes took over in each round on the second line right wing).
There have been 19 different scorers for Boston in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
General Manager, Don Sweeney, addressed his apparent lack of secondary scoring with the acquisitions on Coyle (6-6–12 totals in 17 games this postseason) and Marcus Johansson (3-6–9 totals in 15 games) leading up to the trade deadline.
Head coach, Bruce Cassidy, has adjusted his game on-the-fly, mixing up the lines when necessary to rejuvenate the scoring touch of “The Perfection Line” (Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak), while lighting a fire under the annual playoff performer in Krejci and his wingers Jake DeBrusk and Backes.
Marchand and Krug are tied for the lead in assists with 11, while defender and captain, Zdeno Chara, leads his crew in plus/minus with a plus-11 rating in 16 games played this postseason.
Chara, 42, missed Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final in Carolina, but is ready and refreshed to try to earn four more wins against St. Louis and join Johnny Bower (42, 1967), Dominik Hasek (43, 2008), Mark Recchi (43, 2011) and Chris Chelios (46, 2008) as the only players to win the Cup at the age of 42 or older.
The rest of the B’s defenders have played a shutdown style that has led to the Bruins in control of all the important statistical categories at the end of the night– the final score.
Boston is 11-0 when leading after two periods this postseason and has only trailed in 9.9% of their minutes played since the start of the Second Round.
They’re also on a seven-game winning streak– their third longest in franchise history in the postseason– behind only runs of 10-0 in 1970 and 9-0 in 1972.
Both of those years, the Bruins won the Cup.
Though Chris Wagner (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) are out for the remainder of the playoffs, the next man up mentality has landed Noel Acciari a spot on the fourth line with Joakim Nordstrom and Sean Kuraly in place of Walpole, Massachusetts native Wagner, as well as regular time for Connor Clifton on the blue line in place of Miller.
Coyle, Wagner and defender, Matt Grzelcyk, are seeking to join Myles Lane as the only Massachusetts-born players to win a Cup with the Bruins. Lane did so in Boston’s first Stanley Cup championship back in 1929.
Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask (12-5 record, 1.84 goals against average, .942 save percentage in 17 games played this postseason) is having a Conn Smythe worthy performance in the net for the B’s.
Rask’s stats are better than his 1.88 GAA and .940 SV% in 22 games played in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final and better than Tim Thomas’ 1.98 GAA and .940 SV% in 25 games played en route to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship.
The B’s have gone ten full days without a game, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Rask as his workload was reduced with the help of backup goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, in the regular season.
Sweeney and Cassidy and wanted a dynamic duo of goaltenders that would let their starter in Rask find his groove and work efficiently.
There’s no better efficiency than the way he’s playing right now.
With the shutout in Game 4 against the Hurricanes, Rask improved to 8-0 in eight career appearances in the Conference Finals, as well as franchise record holder for most series-clinching shutouts in Bruins history with three (surpassing Gerry Cheevers and Thomas’ previous mark of two series-clinching shutouts).
Boston held an intra-squad scrimmage last Thursday to keep the game-flow going and charged fans $20 to attend and see their players in action that they might not otherwise be able to afford to see (with Stanley Cup Final tickets on the secondary market going for $1,000).
Every dollar went to the Boston Bruins Foundation, which redistributes funds to charities throughout New England that help enrich the lives of children in the region.
The Bruins are facing the St. Louis Blues for the 3rd time in a playoff series (previous, 1972 Semifinals, BOS W, 4-0). Boston also swept St. Louis in the 1970 SCF.
St. Louis is well-familiar with “The Hub of the Universe”. They were swept by Boston in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final– the Blues third appearance in their first three years of existence as a franchise in the Final.
Then the two clubs met again in the 1972 Semifinals. Once more, the Blues were swept by the Bruins.
The team with a blue music note with wings for a crest has yet to win a game in the Stanley Cup Final. 1968, 1969 and 1970 resulted in 12 straight Stanley Cup Final losses to the Montreal Canadiens and Boston.
A lot of franchise history has passed for St. Louis and names like Wayne Gretzky have even gone through the club (albeit for 31 games in the regular season and playoffs in 1996).
49 years later, hometown heroes, like Pat Maroon, and adopted hometown heroes, like David Perron (in his third stint with the organization) have led from the back-end of the top-nine group of forwards out.
Jaden Schwartz leads St. Louis in scoring with 12 goals– the second most in franchise history in a postseason, trailing Brett Hull’s 13 goals in 12 games played in the 1990 Stanley Cup Playoffs– and 16 points in 19 games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Schwartz even has two hat tricks this postseason and is the first NHLer to record two hat tricks in one postseason since Johan Franzen did so with the Detroit Red Wings en route to their 2008 Stanley Cup championship.
Offseason acquisition, Ryan O’Reilly, has proven General Manager, Doug Armstrong, worthy of being named a finalist for GM of the Year this season, as O’Reilly has 3-11–14 totals in 19 games
Vladimir Tarasenko– St. Louis’ regular star– has eight goals and five assists (13 points) and is tied for third in scoring on the roster with Perron (6-7–13 totals) and Alex Pietrangelo (2-11–13 totals).
All of the Blues are in search of their first Stanley Cup championship ring and must face former captain and current Bruin, David Backes. After 10 years with the organization, Backes joined Boston on July 1, 2016. In his 13th career season, he’ll face his former team for the Cup.
St. Louis has had helping hands on the blue line in Pietrangelo’s 13 points and Colton Parayko’s 11 points this postseason.
Among their regulars, only Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson have yet to score a goal in this year’s playoffs (Zach Sanford also hasn’t recorded a point in three games played).
Backes’ storyline isn’t the only familiarity with the Blues, however.
Rookie goaltender, Jordan Binnington (12-7, 2.37 GAA, .914 SV% in 19 GP) holds the franchise record for most wins in a postseason by a rookie netminder, but spent last season on loan to the Providence Bruins (AHL).
If there’s team with more internal notes on the goaltender that they’re facing in this year’s Stanley Cup Final– it’s the Boston Bruins.
But Binnington’s not nervous– he hasn’t been all postseason long, en route to eliminating the Jets, Stars and Sharks.
He is, however, about to face his biggest challenge yet in the Bruins, unless Craig Berube finds a way to coach his team into taming the bears charging at them down the ice.
While Robert Thomas is likely good to go in Boston for Game 1, Vince Dun will be out of the lineup and day-to-day.
That’s no worry for the cool, calm and collected Berube– who’s guided his team from 31st (dead last) in the league on the morning of Jan. 3rd to the Stanley Cup Final after being named interim head coach back in November, replacing Mike Yeo.
Ten out of the last 13 Cup winners have had the shorter turnaround from the Conference Finals to the Stanley Cup Final, but we’re talking a difference of a few days as opposed to an average of just over a week for the two opponents this year.
The winner of Game 1– since the best-of-seven series format was adopted for the Final in 1939– has gone on to win the Cup in 61 out of 79 series’ (77.2% success rate).
Though both teams expect to play sloppy coming out of the gate, it is vital for Cassidy to keep his players on edge at the top of their game.
Play your game and you control the game. Play the Blues’ game and you’ll fall behind.
Berube managed to frustrate the Jets and Stars, while St. Louis lucked out against a battered Sharks roster.
That’s not to say the Blues are any less dangerous this time of year. In fact, they’re quite good. They won the Western Conference.
However, this time of year is both a sprint and a marathon. How fast can you skate up and down the ice for a full 60-minute (sometimes more) effort and can you maintain that for up to seven games?
Boston is a team with enough experience to go the distance, but St. Louis is a team with enough history to overcome.
In the end, the Bruins should be the ones raising the Cup above their heads for what might the be final time in their current core group of players’ careers as Bergeron, Krejci, Chara, Marchand and Rask continue to leave their mark on franchise history– defining careers worthy of recognition in the rafters of TD Garden.
Time will tell over six games in the series as the events unfold.
Regular season outcomes:
2-1 F/SO STL at Enterprise Center on Feb. 23rd, 5-2 BOS at TD Garden on Jan. 17th
5/27- Game 1 STL @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/29- Game 2 STL @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
6/1-Game 3 BOS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
6/3- Game 4 BOS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
6/6- Game 5 STL @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*
6/9- Game 6 BOS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*
6/12- Game 7 STL @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*
For the first time since 2013, the Boston Bruins are going to the Stanley Cup Final– and for the first time since 1990, the Bruins will have home ice advantage in the Final– after their, 4-0, victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Thursday.
The Bruins swept the Hurricanes in the series 4-0 to reach the 2019 Stanley Cup Final– their 20th appearance in the Final in franchise history.
Tuukka Rask (12-5 record, 1.84 goals against average, .942 save percentage in 17 games played this postseason) made 24 saves on 24 shots against to record the shutout win for Boston.
He made 109 saves on 114 shots faced in the entire series against the Canes.
Hurricanes goaltender, Curtis McElhinney (3-2, 2.01 GAA, .930 SV% in five games played this postseason) stopped 19 out of 22 shots faced (.864 SV%) in the loss.
Carolina finished the postseason 5-2 on home ice and 2-1 when facing elimination, while the Bruins improved to 11-0 when leading after two periods this season.
Boston also improved to 20-1 all time when leading a series 3-0.
The Hurricanes became the first team since the 1992 Bruins to sweep the Second Round, then be swept in the Eastern Conference Final.
Boston swept the Montreal Canadiens in the 1992 Adams Division Semifinals, then got swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1992 Eastern Conference Final– en route to Pittsburgh’s 1992 Cup run.
Bruce Cassidy was forced to make adjustments to his lineup due to injury, replacing Chris Wagner (upper body) with Noel Acciari on the fourth line right wing after Wagner blocked a shot and left Game 3, as well as Zdeno Chara (undisclosed) with John Moore for Game 4.
Moore was placed on the left side of the third defensive pairing alongside Connor Clifton, while Matt Grzelcyk took Chara’s place on the first pairing with Charlie McAvoy.
Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo suited up as normal on the second pairing.
Chara had played in 98 consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff games.
Aside from Chara, Wagner and Kevan Miller (lower body), Boston’s usual crew of healthy scratches included Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.
Carolina had an early power play after Grzelcyk tripped Nino Niederreiter at 1:18 of the first period, but the Hurricanes did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.
Midway through the opening frame, Niederreiter skated to the penalty box with a minor infraction of his own for slashing Boston’s Brad Marchand at 10:35 of the first period.
The Bruins did not capitalize on their skater advantage and Charlie Coyle was penalized with about 20 seconds left on the power play– resulting in a short 4-on-4 even strength opportunity before an abbreviated power play for the Canes at 12:19.
Entering the first intermission, the score was still tied, 0-0, with the Hurricanes leading in shots on goal, 13-11.
The Canes also led in blocked shots (6-5) after one period, while the B’s led in takeaways (5-3), hits (9-7) and face-off win percentage (57-44). Both teams had seven giveaways each.
Heading into the second period, Carolina was 0/2 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/1.
Early in the middle frame, the Hurricanes botched a line change as the puck came out of their attacking zone and the Carolina bench was caught with too many men on the ice.
Justin Williams served the bench minor penalty at 4:28 of the second period.
Shortly thereafter, Marchand led Boston on a break in on the power play and sent a pass to the slot whereby David Pastrnak (7) redirected the puck behind McElhinney to give the B’s the first goal of the game, 1-0.
Pastrnak’s power play goal was assisted by Marchand (11) and Krug (11) at 4:46 of the second period.
Late in the period, Greg McKegg bumped into Rask while going hard to the crease, yielding a goaltender interference minor penalty at 18:10.
While on the ensuing power play, Patrice Bergeron (7) worked a give-and-go to Pastrnak and sneaked his way to the bumper to receive the pass back from his winger to rip the one-timer past McElhinney and give Boston a two-goal lead.
Bergeron’s power play goal was assisted by Pastrnak (7) and extended the Bruins lead to, 2-0, at 18:34 of the second period. The goal also moved Bergeron past Phil Esposito, John Bucyk and Jean Ratelle for the 2nd most power play goals by a Bruin in a postseason.
Cam Neely holds the franchise record with nine power play goals in a single playoff year.
Through 40 minutes of play, Boston led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 19-17, including an, 8-4 advantage in the second period alone.
The B’s also held the advantage in face-off win% (52-48), while the Hurricanes led in takeaways (10-7) and hits (19-15) after two periods. Entering the second intermission, both teams had 14 blocked shots aside and 11 giveaways each.
Carolina was 0/2 on the power play heading into the third period, while Boston was 2/3 on the skater advantage.
Midway through the final frame of regulation, the Selke Trophy finalist, Bergeron forced a turnover to Pastrnak in the attacking zone.
Pastrnak worked the puck back to Bergeron (8) along the goal line near the short side whereby the veteran Bruin blasted a one-timer past the Carolina goaltender to give Boston a three-goal lead.
With his second assist of the night, Pastrnak (8) had the only assist on Bergeron’s goal and notched his third point of the evening (1-2–3 totals) at 10:32 of the third period as the Bruins led, 3-0.
As time ticked down in the third period, Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with about 5:22 to go in regulation.
Shortly thereafter, Bergeron freed the puck through the neutral zone to Marchand (7) for the empty net goal to make it, 4-0, Bruins.
Bergeron (5) and David Krejci (10) notched the assists on Marchand’s goal at 17:43 of the third period.
With the primary assist on the goal, Bergeron tallied a three-point night (two goals, one assist) as Boston closed out the series.
At the final horn, the Bruins completed the sweep with a, 4-0, win and finished the night leading in blocked shots (23-16) and face-off win% (53-47).
Carolina wrapped up their season leading in shots on goal (24-23), giveaways (15-14) and hits (33-17).
The Canes went 0/2 on the skater advantage, while Boston went 2/3 on the power play on Thursday night.
For the first time since 1990, the Bruins will have home ice in the Stanley Cup Final as they await the winner of the 2019 Western Conference Final between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.
San Jose currently leads the series 2-1 over the Blues.
This will be the first Stanley Cup Final appearance for David Backes– who spent 10 seasons with St. Louis before signing with Boston in free agency on July 1, 2016.
It’s also Cassidy’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance as a head coach.
It will be the third time the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup Final since 2010, joining the Chicago Blackhawks as the only team to reach the Final in three or more appearances since 2010.
Chicago made (and won) the Final in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
(For those wondering, the Penguins made the Cup Final in 2008, 2009, 2016 and 2017.)
Chara, Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand and Rask are the only Bruins to have been part of all three Stanley Cup Final appearances for Boston since 1990 (2011, 2013 and 2019).
The “Mayor of Walpole” initiated scoring, the “Little Ball of Hate” scored the eventual game winner and Tuukka “Mr. Steal Yo’ Game” Rask backstopped the Boston Bruins to a, 2-1, win at PNC Arena in Game 3 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Boston leads the series 3-0 and is one win away from sweeping the Eastern Conference Final.
Tuukka Rask (11-5 record, 1.96 goals against average, .939 save percentage in 16 games played this postseason) turned aside 35 out of 36 shots faced for the .972 SV% in the win. He’s also made 85 saves on 90 shots faced through three games in this series.
Carolina goaltender, Curtis McElhinney (3-1, 1.70 GAA, .943 SV% in four games played this postseason), made 29 saves on 31 shots against for a .935 SV% in the loss.
Acciari resumed skating with full-contact on Tuesday, but was a coach’s decision and did not suit up for Game 3.
The long list of healthy scratches in the playoffs continued Tuesday night for Boston– including Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.
Almost a minute into Game 3, Brandon Carlo sent the puck over the glass in his own zone and received an automatic delay of game penalty, yielding the first power play of the game to the Hurricanes.
Carolina did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage, but continued to dominated possession in their attacking zone.
After saying he wasn’t going to play like poop again, Justin Williams didn’t play a disciplined game in the first period. Williams was sent to the penalty box on three separate occasions prior to the first intermission.
First, Williams and Torey Krug received matching roughing minor infractions, leading to a solid two minutes of 4-on-4 action at 6:23 of the first period.
The Canes were outshooting the Bruins, 11-1, by the time both players reached the sin bin to serve their minors.
Midway through the opening frame, Williams went back to the box for holding the stick at 10:41 of the first period and the B’s went on the power play for the first time of the night.
Boston’s power play was shortlived, however, as Jake DeBrusk slashed Jaccob Slavin at 11:26 and David Krejci followed things up with a high-sticking minor of his own at 11:32 after Sebastian Aho got a quick cross check to Krejci’s midsection that went uncalled.
Needless to say, discipline was an issue at both ends of the rink and the Hurricanes found themselves with an abbreviated 4-on-3 power play that became a short 5-on-3 skater advantage.
Carolina did not convert on the opportunity.
The Hurricanes didn’t score on the ensuing 5-on-4 power play.
Late in the period, Williams amassed his third penalty of the night after he elbowed Krug at 18:27. Though the power play overlapped into the second period, Boston did not muster a goal on the skater advantage.
Heading into the first intermission, the score remained tied, 0-0, while the Hurricanes led in shots on goal, 20-6.
Carolina also held the advantage in takeaways (7-6), giveaways (7-4) and hits (12-8) as Boston dominated in blocked shots (5-1) and face-off win percentage (61-39) after one period.
The Canes were 0/4 on the skater advantage and the B’s were 0/2 on the power play entering the second period.
Rask became the first Bruins goaltender to make 20 or more saves in a period since Tim Thomas did so in the third period of Game 2 against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals (Thomas made 22 saves).
Nordstrom threw a shot towards the slot for Chris Wagner (2) to redirect past McElhinney at 1:21 of the second period to give Boston the first lead of the night, 1-0.
The former Hurricane, Nordstrom (2) picked up the primary assist, while Kuraly (3) was tabbed with the secondary assist on Wagner’s goal.
Moments late, Niederreiter went to the box for high-sticking Krejci at 4:47 of the second period.
Late in the ensuing skater advantage, Brad Marchand (6) let go of a backhand shot from the low slot that deflected off of Carolina defender, Calvin de Haan, and through McElhinney’s five-hole into the twine.
Krejci (9) and Charlie McAvoy (6) had the assists on Marchand’s power play goal and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 6:28 of the second period.
With the primary assist on Marchand’s goal, Krejci reached the 100-point plateau in his postseason career points totals and became just the 5th Bruin in franchise history to do so. He also tied Rick Middleton and John Bucyk for 3rd all-time in postseason scoring for Boston.
Boston did not score on the resulting power play and the Canes utilized the momentum of the penalty kill to muster a couple of great one-timer opportunities in the vulnerable minute thereafter, but Rask made a couple great saves across the crease.
Off of an offensive zone face-off win for Carolina, the Hurricanes worked the puck “D-to-D” along the blue line for the blast from de Haan (1) that squibbed through the leg pads of the Bruins goaltender for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.
Justin Faulk (7) and Aho (7) notched the assists on de Haan’s goal at 13:48 and the Hurricanes cut the B’s lead in half, 2-1.
After 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and trailed, 26-24, in shots on goal– despite outshooting the Hurricanes, 18-6, in the second period alone.
Carolina maintained the advantage in blocked shots (9-7), takeaways (11-9), giveaways (11-5) and hits (28-19), while Boston led in face-off win% (61-39).
The Canes were 0/4 on the power play heading into the second intermission, while the B’s were 1/4 on the skater advantage entering the third period.
de Haan tripped Marchand at 3:43 of the third period to grace Boston with an early power play to begin the final frame of regulation.
While on the power play, the Bruins thought they scored when Krug fired a shot from the point that deflected off of Slavin and went behind McElhinney as the Hurricanes goaltender was being screened by DeBrusk, but the goal was immediately waved off for incidental contact with the goaltender (goaltender interference).
As such, Cassidy challenged the call on the ice, but his coach’s challenge was to no avail because– even after it appeared DeBrusk was bumped by Slavin and tried to get out of the way of McElhinney as the Canes goaltender skated out of his crease into the oncoming Bruin on his own merit– this is what happens when a coach’s challenge is a thing.
The call on the ice was confirmed. No goal.
Can’t just enjoy a call– blown or otherwise– like the good ol’ days, right? (Standard disclaimer, not all video review is bad, folks.)
The Hurricanes did not score on the ensuing power play opportunity.
Despite pulling McElhinney for an extra attacker with about 2:04 remaining in regulation, Carolina was not able to slip a puck past Rask and the Bruins managed to defend their way to the, 2-1, win at the final horn.
The Canes finished the night leading in shots on goal (36-31), giveaways (15-5) and hits (35-24), while the B’s finished Tuesday night leading in blocked shots (16-13) and face-off win% (57-43).
Carolina went 0/5 on the power play and Boston went 1/5 on the skater advantage, while taking command of a 3-0 series lead heading into Game 4 on Thursday.
The Bruins are 19-1 all-time when leading a series 3-0 and have won seven straight Eastern Conference Final games dating back to their last appearance in the Eastern Conference Final in 2013 (a 4-0 series sweep over the Pittsburgh Penguins).
Boston is also on a six game winning streak in the postseason for the first time since 1978, and improved to 10-0 this postseason when leading after two periods.
The Hurricanes fell to 5-1 on home ice in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and are looking to avoid elimination Thursday night at PNC Arena.
Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8:00 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBCSN. Fans in Canada can tune to CBC, SN or TVAS for the game.
Nick, Cap’n and Pete mourn the Columbus Blue Jackets, review the Vegas Golden Knights front office moves, Ken Holland to the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers new assistant coaches. Finally, the guys preview the 2019 Eastern Conference Final matchup between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, as well as the 2019 Western Conference Final matchup between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.
If you didn’t learn your lesson from the First Round to the Second Round, hopefully you’ve learned it by now, because their is no “Third Chance Bracket”.
Yes, it’s time for the Conference Finals in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, ladies and gentlemen, and this year in the Eastern Conference it’s an old Adams Division rivalry matchup.
A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs EWC1 Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7, 99 points)
The Boston Bruins beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the First Round for the second year in-a-row, then went on to defeat John Tortorella and his pesky Columbus Blue Jackets in six games in the Second Round after turning more than a few heads during the regular season for their resolve during periods of injury.
The Carolina Hurricanes didn’t beat the Washington Capitals at any point in the regular season, but forced the defending Stanley Cup champions to a decisive Game 7– and won– to punch their ticket to the Second Round, then the Canes swept the New York Islanders.
Don Cherry labeled the Hurricanes as a “bunch of jerks” for their post-win celebrations in the regular season. People from Massachusetts are sometimes referred to as “Massholes”– especially when they get talking about their sports teams.
For the first time since 2009, Carolina made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That same postseason, these two organizations collided in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
It was just the second time the Hurricanes went head-to-head in the playoffs with Boston since relocating from Hartford, where the Whalers went 0-2 in their postseason series lifetime against the B’s in the days of the Adams Division.
The Bruins eliminated the Canes in six games in 1999.
Ten years later, Carolina eliminated the B’s on road ice– in overtime– in a Game 7. Scott Walker scored the infamous goal after sucker punching former Hurricane defender, Aaron Ward earlier in the series.
Though this will only be the fifth time both clubs have met each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, these teams don’t like each other.
If that wasn’t “old time hockey” enough for you, Carolina was wearing their throwback Whalers sweaters at TD Garden that evening.
The Bruins came back from a two-goal deficit to win in overtime in that game.
Earlier in the season, the Hurricanes donned their Hartford Whalers throwbacks for “Whalers Night” at PNC Arena on Dec. 23rd and both clubs swapped goals until Carolina came out on top– for once in a Hartford sweater– in a whale’s tale of a regular season battle.
Though the Bruins hold a 3-1 advantage in all-time series matchups with the Hurricanes (including their two meetings while still in Hartford), this isn’t your father’s Whalers/Hurricanes.
Rod Brind’Amour is back (remember him?)– this time as the head coach of the team he won the Stanley Cup with in 2006.
When Brind’Amour makes a lineup change, though it may be rare, it’s deliberate. Hell, Greg McKegg had the series clinching goal in the Second Round.
Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, will have to keep adapting throughout each game– let alone the series– as he traditionally has since taking over behind the bench for the B’s in Feb. 2017.
Boston has been looking for the right amount of scoring touch for the last few seasons and General Manager, Don Sweeney, made sure to add without subtracting for this season’s deep run.
Third line center, Charlie Coyle, has proven to fit in just fine with the Bruins’ brass and Johansson even had a goal in Game 6 against Columbus.
Neither of those players were on the roster at the beginning of February, but by the end of it, Sweeney had dealt Ryan Donato and a draft pick to the Minnesota Wild for Coyle, as well as draft picks to the New Jersey Devils for Johansson to assure himself of some much needed– coveted even– depth in the bottom-six.
Secondary scoring hasn’t been a problem in this postseason run for the Bruins.
Coyle is tied for 4th on the roster in points this postseason with 5-3–8 totals in 13 games, while Johansson has chipped in two goals and three assists (five points) in 11 games played.
Leading the way in the top-six forwards, Brad Marchand has 5-8–13 totals in 13 games played. His teammate on the first line, David Pastrnak is starting to get his hot hands back and enters the Eastern Conference Final with six goals and five assists (11 points) in 13 games.
Krejci is three points shy of 100 career Stanley Cup Playoff points (all with the Bruins) and had the game-winning, series clinching, goal at Nationwide Arena in Monday’s, 3-0, shutout over the Blue Jackets.
Speaking of shutouts, Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask is on fire lately. Rask is 8-5 with a 2.02 goals against average and .938 save percentage in 13 games played this postseason.
Gerry Cheevers holds the franchise record with eight postseason shutouts in his time wearing a black-and-gold sweater.
Though the B’s will be without Charlie McAvoy for Game 1 (McAvoy will be serving a one-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head against Josh Anderson in Game 6 against Columbus), Torey Krug (1-7–8 totals) still knows how to move the puck around– especially on Boston’s special teams opportunities.
In addition, the postseason emergence of workhorse, Brandon Carlo, on the blue line has solidified an already stable, experienced, defense with 42-year-old captain, Zdeno Chara (a plus-nine rating through 13 games) leading from his own zone.
But Carolina has a workhorse of their own– with more offensive skill than Carlo. Jaccob Slavin has 11 assists from the point this postseason in 11 games.
No other defenders have had as many assists as Slavin in Whalers/Hurricanes postseason history.
Slavin also leads his team in scoring, while forwards, Teuvo Teravainen, Warren Foegele, Jordan Staal and Sebastian Aho and are tied for 2nd place on the roster in postseason scoring– each player has nine points through 11 games of Carolina’s 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff run.
Teravainen leads his team in goals with six so far this postseason, but newcomer Foegele is hot on his tail with five goals and a team-best 31.3 shooting percentage.
Hurricanes General Manager, Don Waddell, didn’t need to add much during the season, but it certainly helped that he was able to flip Victor Rask for Nino Niederreiter, who’s been a versatile addition up-and-down the lineup when Brind’Amour has called his name.
Bringing back a little familiarity in July 2017 didn’t hurt either, as “Mr. Game 7” himself and pending-UFA, Justin Williams, not only reached 100 career playoff points in Game 4 against the Islanders, but has helped lift Carolina over their playoff opponents with 3-3–6 totals in 11 games.
On defense, former Bruin Dougie Hamilton has three goals and four assists (seven points) in 11 games with the Canes this postseason. He leads his fellow defenders in goals, but trails Slavin in points thus far.
Though Carolina looks to be a top-heavy team on paper, their entire lineup was able to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions in the First Round and limit New York to five goals in four games in the Second Round.
Nobody prevents goals against as a last resort more than a goaltender and the Hurricanes have gotten everything they’ve needed and more from their goaltending duo of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney this season.
Mrazek (5-3, 2.22 GAA, .913 SV% in nine games played this postseason) got the Canes past the Capitals in the First Round and went down with a lower body injury in Game 2 against the Isles last round.
That’s where McElhinney (3-0, 1.56 GAA, .947 SV% in three games played this postseason) stepped up and got the job done in relief in Game 2 against New York and as the oldest goaltender to make his first career start in Stanley Cup Playoff history at the age of 35 in Game 3 on home ice against the Islanders.
Brind’Amour doesn’t want to rush Mrazek if he is not 100% and could very well keep going with the upper hand of McElhinney for the time being against Boston to start the series.
The Bruins led the season series 2-1-0, however, regular season success only means so much for the playoffs. Home ice is a great thing, sure, but the Stanley Cup Playoffs are an entirely different animal when it comes to predictions based on season performance.
When the Hurricanes beat the Bruins, 5-3, on Dec. 23rd in Carolina, Boston went on to lose to New Jersey on Dec. 27th in regulation.
The B’s did not lose consecutive games in regulation until they lost three games in-a-row on the road from March 10-14th (4-2 loss to PIT on March 10th, 7-4, loss to CBJ on March 12th and a, 4-3, loss to WPG on March 14th).
Since Jan. 1st, Boston went 28-10-5 to finish off the regular season, while the Hurricanes went 31-11-2 from Jan. 1st until the dawn of the postseason.
Both teams have been hot since the turn of the calendar year. There’s no reason why either of them don’t deserve to have made it this far in the Eastern Conference.
Unfortunately, one of them will have to lose in order for the other to compete for the Stanley Cup.
Boston is poised to utilize their roster that’s full of playoff experience, while Carolina is certain to try to continue to their underdog story.
That said, the Bruins are taking the series in six games and heading back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2013.
Regular season outcomes:
4-3 F/OT BOS at TD Garden on March 5th, 5-3 CAR at PNC Arena on Dec. 23rd, 3-2 BOS at PNC Arena on Oct. 30th
5/9- Game 1 CAR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/12- Game 2 CAR @ BOS 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/14- Game 3 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/16- Game 4 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/18- Game 5 CAR @ BOS 7:15 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*
5/20- Game 6 BOS @ CAR 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVAS*
5/22- Game 7 CAR @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVAS*
For the first time since 2013, the Boston Bruins are heading to the Eastern Conference Final after a, 3-0, shutout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena in Game 6 of their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round series.
Boston will host the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final after Tuukka Rask (8-5 record, 2.02 goals against average, .938 save percentage in 13 games played this postseason) made 39 saves on 39 shots against to record his 6th career postseason shutout and tie Tiny Thompson and Tim Thomas for the 2nd-most Stanley Cup Playoff shutouts in Bruins franchise history.
Gerry Cheevers leads the club with eight postseason shutouts in his career with the B’s.
Blue Jackets goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky (6-4, 2.41 GAA, .925 SV% in 10 games played this postseason) stopped 26 out of 29 shots faced in the loss.
Once again, Boston’s long list of healthy scratches included, Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Jordan Szwarz, Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.
Early in the opening frame of the game, Pierre-Luc Dubois went hard into Rask and was assessed with a goaltender interference minor penalty. Boston went on the power play for the first time of the night at 6:46 of the first period.
Seconds after Columbus killed off Dubois’ minor, the Bruins thought they had a goal when Sean Kuraly appeared to pocket the puck in the open twine.
However, Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella used his coach’s challenge to send the call on the ice to a review, in which it was determined that Joakim Nordstrom was not pushed into Bobrovsky by a Columbus defender and instead had collided with the Columbus goaltender by his own merit.
As a result, the call on the ice was overturned. No goal.
The game remained tied, 0-0, heading into the first intermission with the B’s leading in shots on goal, 12-10.
Boston also held the advantage in giveaways (3-2) and face-off win percentage (60-40). Meanwhile, Columbus led in blocked shots (5-1) and hits (24-8). Both teams had one takeaway each and the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play entering the second period.
Columbus did not convert on the ensuing power play.
The Blue Jackets didn’t capitalize on their second power play of the game and the Bruins took advantage of the vulnerable minute after special teams play.
DeBrusk (3) and Connor Clifton (2) tallied the assists on Krejci’s goal.
McAvoy received a two-minute minor for an illegal hit to the head at 19:40, leaving fans inside the arena, at bars and on their couches at home confused as to why it was not a five-minute major infraction.
Regardless, McAvoy should expect to receive a phone call from the NHL Department of Player Safety, at the very least. Warnings can still be a thing, even if a player can or cannot be suspended.
Anderson did return from the second intermission for the third period.
Through 40 minutes of play, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and trailed, 27-17, in shots on goal after the Blue Jackets had a, 17-5, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.
Columbus also held the advantage in blocked shots (9-7) and hits (36-17), while the Bruins led in giveaways (6-5) and face-off win% (53-48) after two periods.
Both teams had four takeaways aside. The Blue Jackets were 0/3 on the skater advantage, while the B’s were 0/1 on the power play entering the third period.
Though they had a few shots on net while McAvoy was in the box with time remaining on his penalty to start the third period, Columbus did not score on the power play.
Nordstrom slashed Dubois at 4:48 of the third period and sent the Blue Jackets back on the power play early in the final frame of regulation.
Once again, the Blue Jackets failed to hit the back of the twine on the skater advantage.
A little over a couple of minutes after killing Nordstrom’s penalty, Boston’s bottom-six forwards went to work and hooked up Marcus Johansson (2) with a quick break-in and shot that popped off Bobrovsky and carried itself over the goal line with just enough momentum on the puck.
Less than a couple minutes later, Krejci worked a pass to Torey Krug, whereby Krug turned and flung the puck towards David Backes (1) for the redirection past the Columbus goaltender and the, 3-0, lead.
Krug (7) and Krejci (6) were tabbed with the primary and secondary assists, respectively, at 10:39.
As a result of his two-point effort in Game 6, Krejci is now three points shy of 100 career Stanley Cup Playoff points (all with Boston). He’s seeking to become the 5th Bruin to reach 100 postseason points with the franchise.
With no other choice but to pull his goaltender for an extra attacker, Tortorella exercised his right with 3:30 remaining in regulation, but the Blue Jackets couldn’t maintain enough offensive zone pressure to muster a comeback.
Nor could the Bruins tally an empty net goal, but by the final horn none of that mattered.
Boston had defeated Columbus, 3-0, in Game 6 and won the series 4-2.
The B’s finished Monday night leading in blocked shots (15-11), while the Blue Jackets gave their home crowd a solid performance– despite the loss– leading in shots on goal (39-29), giveaways (10-7), hits (43-19) and face-off win% (51-49).
You can’t say Columbus didn’t try.
Neither team scored a goal on the skater advantage in Game 6 as the Blue Jackets went 0/4 on the power play and the Bruins went 0/1.
The Bruins improved to 8-0 when leading after two periods this postseason as Rask picked up his first Stanley Cup Playoff shutout since 2014.
For the first time since they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final, Boston will host the Hurricanes in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.
Carolina last appeared in the Eastern Conference Final in 2009 and lost in four games to the Penguins.
But that same Hurricanes team also defeated the Bruins in their last series matchup in seven games in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Scott Walker had the series clinching goal in overtime against Thomas to lift the Canes over the B’s, 3-2, at the then branded TD Banknorth Garden in Game 7 of that series.
Boston holds a 3-1 series record all-time against the Hurricanes including two postseason matchups with the Hartford Whalers before they relocated to North Carolina in 1997.