The Philadelphia Flyers are all the rage these days, the Carolina Hurricanes are still causing a storm, what’s bedeviling the New Jersey Devils and, uh, is Sergei Bobrovsky still good?
Danton Heinen scored the eventual game-winner early in the first period and the Boston Bruins held on for a, 2-1, victory on the road against the Dallas Stars to kick off the 2019-20 season.
Tuukka Rask (1-0-0 record, 1.00 goals against average in one game played) made 28 saves on 29 shots faced for a .966 save percentage in the win at American Airlines Center for Boston, while Ben Bishop (0-1-0, 2.07 GAA, .900 SV% in one game played) turned aside 18 out of 20 shots against in the loss for Dallas.
Boston began their 96th season in franchise history, while Dallas kicked off their 27th season since relocating from Minnesota (53rd season if you include their North Stars days).
David Krejci (lower body), Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder) and Joakim Nordstrom (foot) were all out of the lineup for the Bruins.
Krejci was a game-time decision, per B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy.
Miller and Nordstrom were placed on injured reserve earlier in the week with Miller on track for a hopeful return to game action by mid-October.
Moore was placed on long-term injured reserve to start the season and likely won’t be back with the team until mid-November.
Prior to the start of the regular season, Boston placed Peter Cehlarik and Maxime Lagacé on waivers for the purpose of assignment to the Providence Bruins (AHL). Both players cleared and were assigned to Providence.
Others, like Anders Bjork, Trent Frederic, Cameron Hughes, Jack Studnicka and Jakub Zboril, were sent to Providence without having to clear waivers as part of Boston’s final cuts upon the conclusion of the preseason.
Joe Pavelski and Andrej Sekera made their Stars debuts, while Corey Perry remains out of the lineup due to injury.
In his first shift for his new team in his first game against his old team, Brett Ritchie (1) scored on his first shot of the season to give Boston their first, 1-0, lead of the season 69 seconds into the action.
Charlie Coyle (1) had the only assist on Ritchie’s goal at 1:09 of the first period, as the duo collaborated on the Bruins’ first goal of the 2019-20 season.
About a few minutes later, Stars forward, Alexander Radulov, was penalized for holding at 4:23 and presented Boston with their first power play opportunity of the season.
After receiving the puck from Matt Grzelcyk, Heinen (1) fired a wrist shot over Bishop’s blocker side to give the Bruins a two-goal lead at 5:59 of the first period.
Grzelcyk (1) and Charlie McAvoy (1) had the assists on Boston’s first power play goal of the season as Cassidy’s second power play unit converted on the skater advantage.
Late in the period, Radek Faksa caught Sean Kuraly with a high-stick and was assessed a minor penalty at 17:33.
The Bruins did not score on the ensuing power play.
Prior to the stoppage for the delayed call, however, Brad Marchand tried to chip the puck across the ice to a teammate and inadvertently deflected the puck off of Sekera’s stick into Blake Comeau’s face, leaving the Dallas forward with a bloody mouth.
After 20 minutes of play into the 2019-20 season, Boston led Dallas, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 6-4, in shots on goal.
The Stars led in blocked shots (9-3), takeaways (2-0), giveaways (6-5) and faceoff win percentage (58-42), while hits were even (7-7).
Boston was 1/2 on the power play and Dallas had yet to see time on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.
Early in the second period, Stars defender, Roman Polak, went to make a hit on Bruins forward, Chris Wagner, and pushed Wagner’s lower body with enough force to help spin the forward out of the way, but in doing so, exposing himself to the brunt of the boards– head first, right about at the back of his neck– as Polak tumbled into the corner.
He was stretchered off the ice and sent to a nearby hospital for further evaluation.
Roope Hintz (1) went top-shelf on Rask’s glove side to cut Boston’s lead in half, 2-1, a mere 51 seconds after the stoppage for Polak’s injury.
Mattias Janmark (1) and Pavelski (1) recorded the primary and secondary assists on Hintz’s breakaway goal at 7:55 of the second period.
The secondary assist was Pavelski’s first point with Dallas in his first game with the club since signing with the Stars in free agency on July 1st– leaving the San Jose Sharks (where he had played since the 2006-07 season after being drafted by San Jose in 2003).
Almost a couple of minutes later, Radulov tripped Bruins newcomer, Par Lindholm, at 9:30 of the middle frame and was assessed a minor infraction.
Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play.
After killing off Radulov’s second penalty of the night, Dallas found themselves shorthanded once again as Janmark was sent to the penalty box for interference at 16:00 of the second period.
During the resulting media timeout, the Stars tweeted that Comeau suffered a lower body injury, Jason Dickinson suffered an upper body injury and that Polak had been transported to the hospital for evaluation.
All three players would not return Thursday night’s game.
A little more than halfway into Boston’s power play, McAvoy was penalized for interference against Tyler Seguin at 17:12.
Both teams would play 4-on-4 for 48 seconds, then Dallas would have an abbreviated power play.
Neither team took advantage of the special teams opportunities.
Through two periods of play, the Bruins led the Stars, 2-1, on the scoreboard, while shots on goal were even (13-13).
Dallas held a, 9-7, in shots on goal in the second period, while the Stars also led in blocked shots (12-9), takeaways (8-1), giveaways (12-7) and hits (11-7) entering the second intermission.
Boston led in faceoff win%, 53-37, after 40 minutes.
The Stars were 0/1 on the power play and the B’s were 1/4 on the skater advantage heading into the third period.
Less than a minute into the third period, Zdeno Chara was penalized for interference. Dallas did not score on the ensuing power play, but went on to establish complete control of the stat sheet in the final frame of regulation.
Stars head coach, Jim Montgomery, pulled Bishop for an extra attacker with about 85 seconds remaining in the game, but Dallas couldn’t muster one past Rask.
Boston sealed the deal on the, 2-1, win for their first victory of the season, despite being outshot, 29-20, in the game.
The Stars held a, 16-7, advantage in shots on goal in the third period alone and led in blocked shots (18-16), giveaways (17-10), hits (15-12) and faceoff win% (53-47).
The Bruins finished the night 1/4 on the power play, while Dallas went 0/2 on the skater advantage.
The B’s improved to 1-0-0 on the season and continue their four-game road trip to kick things off with a stop in Arizona against the Coyotes on Saturday, before visiting the Vegas Golden Knights next Tuesday and the Colorado Avalanche next Thursday.
Boston makes their home debut at TD Garden against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 12th.
Chara began his 14th season as captain of the Bruins, trailing Ray Bourque for the most consecutive seasons as captain in franchise history (Bourque was captain for 15 seasons). Only Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic served as captains of their franchises for longer than Chara and Bourque.
Yzerman served as the captain of the Detroit Red Wings for 19 seasons and Sakic was captain of the Québec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche for 16 seasons. Both are now the current General Managers of the aforementioned clubs (Yzerman with Detroit, Sakic with Colorado).
Meanwhile, Patrice Bergeron remains the longest active tenured alternate captain in the league, having assumed his current role since the 2006-07 season.
43-32-7, 93 points, 4th in the Central Division
Eliminated in the Second Round by St. Louis
Additions: F Tanner Kero, F Joe Pavelski, F Corey Perry, D Andrej Sekera
Subtractions: F Erik Condra (signed with Colorado, AHL), F Ryan Hartman (signed with MIN), F Valeri Nichushkin (bought out), F Tyler Pitlick (traded to PHI), F Brett Ritchie (signed with BOS), F Jason Spezza (signed with TOR), F Mats Zuccarello (signed with MIN), D Niklas Hansson (SHL), D Ben Lovejoy (retired), D Chris Martenet (signed with Brampton, ECHL), G Philippe Desrosiers (signed with FLA)
Still Unsigned: D Julius Honka, D Marc Methot
Re-signed: F Jason Dickinson, D Gavin Bayreuther, D Dillon Heatherington, D Reece Scarlett, G Landon Bow
Offseason Analysis: Dallas Stars General Manager, Jim Nill, had one thing to do this offseason and one thing only– improve the offense.
Dallas’ defense is still growing into its own and will take care of itself as one of the better underrated blue lines in the league, plus Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin make a strong tandem in the crease.
While the additions of Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry are great on paper to the Stars’ offense, each comes with a price.
Pavelski is 35-years-old and tallied 38 goals in 75 games played last season– tying a career-high that he set in the 2015-16 season. Perry is 34-years-old and six goals in 31 games played last season.
The former was injured in the playoffs, but doesn’t seem to show signs of slowing down, even if he only scores 20-25 goals a season. Over the course of Pavelski’s three-year deal with Dallas, that’s not a terrible amount of offense, but if he deviates from the norm and regresses at all… well, he still carries a $7.000 million cap hit.
It’s a gamble considering the age factor, but it’s not the worst contract in the world.
Perry, on the other hand, has been oft-injured as of the last couple of seasons and looks like a shell of his former “Scorey” self.
The good news? Nill was smart and signed Perry to a one-year contract worth $1.500 million.
It’s a low-risk, high-reward– no foul– signing.
But with Pavelski, Perry and newcomer, Andrej Sekera, all added to the roster, Dallas’ average age across the board has only gotten older.
In a league that emphasizes youth, speed and hand-eye coordination, let’s just hope the Stars have discovered the Fountain of Youth and can beat the aging curve.
Other than that, head coach, Jim Montgomery knows what to expect out of his core and can depend on Pavelski to make something happen when Alexander Radulov falls into a lull from time-to-time.
Offseason Grade: C+
The Stars didn’t have to go out and land the biggest star in free agency, so they went out and got a modest harvest instead. Nill signed Pavelski at a steep price on what would otherwise be a bad contract if it were longer than three-years, but it’s really only as bad as when the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Patrick Marleau for three-years and over $6.000 million.
Something about ex-Sharks in the 35-plus category… Other general managers have learned from Toronto’s mistake to stay away– even if there’s a boost in the locker room for a season or two. At least Dallas had the room to make it work and has enough pending free agents in July 2020 to ease their salary cap concerns.
As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)
The projected standings below are only a forecast.
They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).
There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.
As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.
Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.
A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.
Projected Standings After ZERO Months
- z-Nashville Predators, 103 points
- x-St. Louis Blues, 100 points
- x-Winnipeg Jets, 97 points
- wc2-Minnesota Wild, 93 points
- Chicago Blackhawks, 92 points
- Dallas Stars, 92 points
- Colorado Avalanche, 86 points
Nashville Predators: Pros and Cons
Before you continue reading, it’s important to remember that this is the most unpredictable division in the league currently. Seriously.
Nashville is more than likely going to take the division in the regular season thanks to their minor moves in the offseason and major gains in the long haul, but everything else?
That’s to be determined.
Matt Duchene’s cap hit ($8,000,000) costs the Preds a million dollars less than P.K. Subban ($9,000,000), but there’s 10 pending UFAs on the roster after this season. If a legitimate one-two duo down the middle can’t get the Predators a Cup, then this window may be closing– and fast.
Pekka Rinne isn’t getting any young and the crease will soon be Juuse Saros’ before you know it.
The good news?
The Preds are still one of the most impressive teams on the blue line with Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis and Dante Fabbro.
How would the Predators fail?
Somehow 30 points in a season gets you a seven-year contract (*ahem* Colton Sissons), but kudos to General Manager David Poile on doing so at a $2.857 cap hit though. That being said, this is dangerous logic that’s tempting fate at the hands of the Hockey Gods, which might only further weaken Nashville’s goaltending when it counts in the postseason.
St. Louis Blues: Pros and Cons
Glue guys score important goals in the playoffs and glue guys come in all shapes and sizes– including dadbod, a la Pat Maroon.
But there’s just one problem, the hometown hero that lifted St. Louis over Dallas into the Western Conference Final has left the Blues for the Tampa Bay Lightning– a product of the salary cap era, a big postseason performance and a… wait, he’s not making a huge salary?
Why did Maroon leave? Because Ivan Barbashev– the younger, better, faster, stronger more long-term approach player– is still an unsigned RFA and the Blues have less than $2.000 million in cap space currently.
St. Louis still has its core, however, and will now find out if Jordan Binnington is truly “The One” or a one hit wonder over the course of a full season of having Binnington as their starter.
When all is said and done, the defending champs have a great chance to continue to make noise in the regular season and, well, we’ve never experienced the Blues winning the Cup before, so… can it happen again? Is that a thing?
How would the Blues fail?
The cliché Stanley Cup hangover. It’s a long, grueling, season that takes its toll– even with all sorts of proper training and nutrition.
Winnipeg Jets: Pros and Cons
The Jets are in trouble. Sure, they might have a decent season and finish in a divisional spot heading into the playoffs, but they’ve got about $16.150 million in cap space and currently unsigned RFAs in Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor and Eric Comrie right now.
Not to mention the fact that they traded Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers in the offseason for Neal Pionk, but at least Winnipeg got back their 2019 1st round pick in the transaction (previously dealt to New York in the Kevin Hayes trade).
Yes, a team that should see a bounce-back season in the crease from Connor Hellebuyck leading the way to a potential deep postseason run, might not even make it past the First Round if two of their prominent players (Laine and Connor) are still unsigned by the start of the regular season.
Other than that, Dustin Byfuglien is aiming for a strong run without any more injuries and the rest of Winnipeg is looking to quietly do their thing under the tremendous leadership of their captain, Blake Wheeler.
How would the Jets fail?
If Laine and/or Connor miss any part of the regular season, the Jets aren’t going to be soaring all that far without the fuel to get them to the Stanley Cup Final.
Minnesota Wild: Pros and Cons
What an offseason for the Wild and their fans, right? I mean, things are really wild in Minnesota.
First, Mats Zuccarello lands a five-year, $30.000 million contract in the State of Hockey, then (now former) General Manager Paul Fenton is fired and now Bill Guerin has his first job as an NHL GM.
Welcome to the club, Mr. Guerin, now undo all of this mess that was done by the last guy and the guy before him dating back to July 4, 2012.
At least a full season of Ryan Donato in a Wild sweater should be exciting.
Joel Eriksson Ek signed a two-year extension and Ryan Suter’s play wasn’t too terrible last season, but the wheels fell off in the crease because of how bad puck possession was in front of Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock.
Though they’re forecasted as a wild card berth (the forecast formula accounts for more than just last season), Minnesota’s not looking like they’re really going to be much better than they were last season– if at all.
Unless Guerin has any big plans up his sleeve and can get to work patching the holes left and right.
How would the Wild fail?
If they add another player over the age of 30 to their roster, then you know it’s a full-on rebuild (which might actually be for the better at this point).
Chicago Blackhawks: Pros and Cons
Patrick Kane had a tremendous season in 2018-19, amassing 44-66–110 totals in 81 games while the Blackhawks failed to make the postseason for the second straight year.
In the meantime, those that remain from Chicago’s three Cups in five years core are another year older. Jonathan Toews is 31, Kane is 30, Brent Seabrook is 34, Duncan Keith is 36 and starting goaltender, Corey Crawford, is 34.
While incredibly talented, time is not on the Hawks’ side.
That’s why General Manager Stan Bowman has been working to make the team younger with Dylan Strome, Alex DeBrincat and newcomer Olli Maatta (acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer) taking on larger roles on the Original Six squad.
Even better, 28-year-old defender in his prime, Calvin de Haan, bolsters Chicago’s blue line and provides some much needed time on ice relief for Seabrook and/or Keith as second-year head coach, Jeremy Colliton, sees fit.
Winning the 3rd overall pick in the draft in June, brought Kirby Dach into the equation– whether he’ll be ready for NHL stardom behind Toews and Strome immediately or not.
Though the Blackhawks are forecasted to narrowly miss the postseason for the third straight season, they aren’t going to miss out on the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs by much and will be the team to knock out one of the teams higher up in this outlook (*ahem* Minnesota).
How would the Blackhawks fail?
Age continues to chip away at the memories of yesteryear. That, or injuries, probably.
Dallas Stars: Pros and Cons
The Stars weren’t happy with the production from their best players despite the fact that they were– in fact– their best players. Who would’ve thought?
But now Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are joined by veterans Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry among Dallas’ forwards, while Andrej Sekera has taken a supporting role on the defense in place of the current unrestricted free agent Marc Methot (who may retire altogether).
On the bright side, Dallas’ defense contains Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, John Klingberg and one of the most underrated aspects in the league– itself.
The Stars defense– combined with the superb duo of Ben Bishop as the starting goaltender and Anton Khudobin as their backup– is really solid.
Unfortunately, the team with the most goals at the end of the game always wins and sometimes Dallas just couldn’t score.
That’s where General Manager Jim Nill has looked to Pavelski’s prowess and Perry’s ability– should he rebound– to try to fill the cracks in their offensive game and start winning games even if they only give up a goal or two when it matters most (the playoffs).
Should the Stars beat the aging curve, they’ll make it back to the playoffs. But don’t think it’s easy– they coasted into the postseason last season and shouldn’t make a habit out of that if they’re looking to play their best hockey deep into June.
How would the Stars fail?
Somehow bringing in Pavelski (35-years-old), Perry (34), Sekera (33)– thereby increasing your overall average age– and expanding your list of no-trade and/or no-movement clauses to seven players on your roster just doesn’t always seem to payout. But at least Perry and Sekera are on one-year, $1.500 million contracts.
Colorado Avalanche: Pros and Cons
Pro: This forecast doesn’t take into account how much of an outlier the 2016-17 season was for the Avs.
Con: Unfortunately, the 2016-17 season has to be included in the dataset to “accurately” predict the upcoming season’s outcome until the 2026-27 season or so.
Pro: Colorado has one of the best first lines in the NHL.
Con: Mikko Rantanen is still an unsigned RFA (and he’s a vital part of the first line).
Pro: Joonas Donskoi, Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and Andre Burakovsky are all newcomers to the Avalanche with something to prove. GM Joe Sakic was busy on the phone(s)!
Con: If the team doesn’t gel by January, it’s going to be a long season.
Pro: Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar.
Con: The number of games Gabriel Landeskog will be suspended for at some point in the season.
Pro: This is a very exciting team to watch and a surefire dark-horse to make the Stanley Cup Final.
Con: Now I’ve jinxed them.
How would the Avalanche fail?
By proving this forecast right and inexplicably regressing to their 2016-17 season ways. Otherwise, they’re definitely not actually finishing last in the Central Division… right?
While everyone awaits the dawn of the 2019-20 season, it’s time to wrap up the 2018-19 season with some wholesome family fun on a Wednesday night in Las Vegas.
Yes, it’s once again time for the National Hockey League to present its season awards to its members and gather around for an evening of B-list entertainment.
If– for some odd reason– you’re busy on a Wednesday night in June and can’t get your hockey fix– we’re here for you. Just follow along as we update the list of award winners as they’re announced.
And if you can tune in on TV, viewers in the United States can catch the 2019 NHL Awards Ceremony live from Las Vegas on NBCSN, while those in Canada can watch on Sportsnet at 8 p.m. ET.
Calder Memorial Trophy- Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks
Other Finalists: Jordan Binnington (STL) and Rasmus Dahlin (BUF)
(best rookie/rookie of the year)
Art Ross Trophy- Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
(presented to the player that led the league in scoring at the end of the regular season, awarded prior to Wednesday night)
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy- Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
Other Finalists: Sean Monahan (CGY) and Ryan O’Reilly (STL)
(sportsmanship and ability, a.k.a. this player didn’t take a lot of penalties)
NHL General Manager of the Year Award- Don Sweeney, Boston Bruins
Other Finalists: Doug Armstrong (STL) and Don Waddell (CAR)
King Clancy Memorial Trophy- Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild
Other Finalists: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (ARI) and Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)
Ted Lindsay Award- Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Other Finalists: Patrick Kane (CHI) and Connor McDavid (EDM)
(basically the “M.V.P.” as voted on by the NHLPA, a.k.a. the players)
James Norris Memorial Trophy- Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
Other Finalists: Victor Hedman (TBL) and Brent Burns (SJS)
EA SPORTS NHL 20® Cover Athlete- Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Other Finalists: None
(not actually a curse)
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy– Robin Lehner, New York Islanders
Other Finalists: Nick Foligno (CBJ) and Joe Thornton (SJS)
(perseverance and dedication to the sport)
Frank J. Selke Trophy– Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues
Other Finalists: Patrice Bergeron (BOS) and Mark Stone (VGK)
(best defensive forward)
Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy– Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
(presented to the goal scorer who scored the most goals in the season, so this one was already technically awarded before Wednesday night)
Jack Adams Award– Barry Trotz, New York Islanders
Other Finalists: Craig Berube (STL) and Jon Cooper (TBL)
(best head coach)
Vezina Trophy– Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
Other Finalists: Ben Bishop (DAL) and Robin Lehner (NYI)
William M. Jennings Trophy– Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders
(presented to the goaltender(s) who allowed the fewest total goals against in the season, awarded prior to Wednesday night)
Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award– Wayne Simmonds, Nashville Predators
Other Finalists: Mark Giordano (CGY) and Justin Williams (CAR)
(something related to leadership and growing the game that Mark Messier picks)
Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award– Rico Phillips
Other Finalists: Anthony Benavides and Tammi Lynch
(presented to an “individual who– through the game of hockey– has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society[,]” as described by the NHL)
Hart Memorial Trophy– Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Other Finalists: Sidney Crosby (PIT) and Connor McDavid (EDM)
(regular season M.V.P.)
2018-19 Team and 2019 Postseason Awards
President’s Trophy– Tampa Bay Lightning
(best record in the regular season, 2018-19)
Prince of Wales Trophy– Boston Bruins
(2019 Eastern Conference Champions)
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl– St. Louis Blues
(2019 Western Conference Champions)
Conn Smythe Trophy– Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues
(Stanley Cup Playoffs M.V.P. as determined by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association)
Stanley Cup– St. Louis Blues
(league champion, winner of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final)
The salary cap isn’t going up as much as everyone hoped. Also, there were plenty of trades, buyouts and extensions handed out in the last week. Nick, Colby, Cap’n and Pete examine each move and pick 2019 NHL Awards winners.
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 Western Conference it’s a familiar duo going at it again for the first time in three years.
P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)
The San Jose Sharks trailed, 3-0, on home ice in the third period of a Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights in the First Round, but everything changed when Joe Pavelski went down with an injury and Cody Eakin was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct.
Sure, maybe the penalty was over the top and should have only been a two-minute minor penalty, but the Golden Knights also shouldn’t have ever allowed four power play goals against in a span of 4:01. San Jose took the lead, 4-3, then Vegas tied it in the final minute of regulation.
The Sharks became just the 2nd team in Stanley Cup Playoff history to erase a three-goal deficit and win in overtime, 5-4, as they eliminated the Golden Knights in seven games in the First Round.
Anybody see that coming? No?
But at the same time, we all had a warning sign when the Golden Knights blew a, 3-0, lead in the first period of Game 2 and the Sharks tied it, 3-3, heading into the first intermission. Though San Jose went on to lose that game, 5-3, it meant Vegas was vulnerable.
Since then, the Sharks rocketed back-and-forth with the Colorado Avalanche, ultimately coming out on top, 3-2, in Game 7 on Wednesday to advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2016.
The St. Louis Blues have been riding the back of their rookie goaltender, Jordan Binnington, since a little over four months ago as the hottest team in the league since Jan. 1st.
As such, the Blues defeated the Winnipeg Jets in six games in the First Round– despite both teams dropping their first two home games in the series.
St. Louis then faced the best goaltender (statistically speaking) remaining in the postseason, Ben Bishop, and the rest of the Dallas Stars in the Second Round.
They trailed in the series, 3-2, entering Game 6 in Dallas and stormed out of American Airlines Center faster than a jet with the series tied, 3-3, heading back to home ice for Game 7.
Tuesday night, the Blues fired 54 shots on goal. Bishop stopped 52 of them, but Binnington only allowed one goal against.
Hometown hero, Pat Maroon, scored the game-winning, series clinching goal in double overtime to lift St. Louis over Dallas, 2-1, and punched his team’s ticket to the Western Conference Final for the first time since… 2016.
That’s because San Jose defeated St. Louis in six games in the 2016 Western Conference Final. The Blues had home ice in that series and utilized Jake Allen in the crease until Game 6 when then head coach, Ken Hitchcock, elected to start Brian Elliott facing elimination.
This time around, the Sharks have home ice and St. Louis appears to have an answer to the Allen wrench– it’s Binnington.
Can they enact revenge and advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1970 or will San Jose make the trip back to the Final for the second time in franchise history– and first since losing in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final?
There’s good and bad news for both teams as Peter DeBoer prepares his Sharks to take on Craig Berube‘s Blues.
San Jose has made the postseason in 21 out of 27 seasons in their existence and Sharks fans have grown accustomed to usual playoff performers like Logan Couture (9-5–14 totals in 14 games played) on their ice at SAP Center.
But the Sharks have the added benefit of a three-way tie for the lead in scoring on their roster with Couture, Tomas Hertl (9-5–14 totals) and Brent Burns (5-9–14 totals) all having amassed 14 points through two rounds.
Not only that, but Hertl is tied with Couture in goals so far this postseason. It’s been a breakout year for the already star player in teal.
General Manager Doug Wilson landed the offseason’s biggest prize on the blue line via a trade with the Ottawa Senators back in September and his asset is paying off when it really counts.
Erik Karlsson may trail Burns among all Sharks defenders in points, but he does have 12 assists through 14 games and that’s good enough to lead his entire team in helpers.
DeBoer’s lineup is pretty deep with Timo Meier contributing three goals and seven assists (10 points) in 14 games and trade deadline acquisition, Gustav Nyquist, chipping in 1-7–8 totals from the top-nine.
San Jose has also had depth scoring from Kevin Labanc (three goals, three assists in 14 GP), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (three goals, three assists in 12 GP), Joe Thornton (2-4–6 totals in 12 games) and even Joonas Donskoi— who scored a goal for the first time in 35 games (regular season and postseason) against Colorado in Game 7.
Martin Jones (8-5 record, 2.72 goals against average, .910 save percentage in 14 games played this postseason) is having an old-school Stanley Cup Playoffs performance, whereby it’s not about the numbers, but rather how many games you win (and getting better as you go).
Backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (0-1, 3.33 GAA, .861 SV% in two games played this postseason) made a couple of relief appearances against Vegas, but was not required to save his team from the Avs.
St. Louis General Manager, Doug Armstrong, landed Ryan O’Reilly via a trade and important third line center, Tyler Bozak, in free agency last summer and built a roster that looked to be force coming out of the gate.
Things didn’t go so well from the get-go as then head coach, Mike Yeo, got his team off to a horrendous start and was replaced by the interim head coach (Berube) who has taken the roster from 31st in the league (dead last) as January began to the Western Conference Final as the calendar enters mid-May.
Jaden Schwartz (8-3–11 totals in 13 GP) is tied with Alex Pietrangelo (2-9–11 totals in 13 GP) in scoring on the Blues roster. While Schwartz is also a team-best plus-seven rating and leads St. Louis in goals with eight, Pietrangelo leads his team– both as the captain and– in assists with nine.
Selke Trophy finalist, O’Reilly has two goals and seven assists (nine points) through 13 games, but is a minus-five rating.
Worse, while Vladimir Tarasenko has five goals in 13 games, the usual star at Enterprise Center has yet to pickup an assist and is also a minus-five.
Maroon, however, has three timely goals and one assist (four points) in 13 games from the bottom-six and has helped solidified St. Louis’ all-around playing style.
Meanwhile, Binnington (8-5, 2.39 GAA, .915 SV% in 13 GP) has backstopped the Blues when it matters most, or rather, when he needs to since the defense is helping keep his workload relatively low.
The Stars only managed 30 shots on goal in Game 7– you know, a game that went into double overtime. Credit where credit is due to Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson and crew on the blue line in St. Louis.
The two teams split the season series 1-1-0, but as is a well-known fact of the postseason– it’s almost like an entirely new season altogether. Having home ice is one thing. Defending it is another.
St. Louis has their best chance to win the Cup in (well, it seems like this is said almost every year with Armstrong as their General Manager, but this year they mean it) years.
That said, San Jose has a lot of momentum working in their favor from the first two rounds after riding an emotional comeback and with the return of Pavelski to their lineup.
This series isn’t going to be a short one and the Sharks should pull off another seven-game stunner, cracking the Binnington code and advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history.
Except this time around, the Sharks are out for blood.
Regular season outcomes:
3-2 F/SO SJS at SAP Center on March 9th, 4-0 STL at Enterprise Center on Nov. 9th
5/11- Game 1 STL @ SJS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/13- Game 2 STL @ SJS 9 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/15- Game 3 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVAS
5/17- Game 4 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
5/19- Game 5 STL @ SJS 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*
5/21- Game 6 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS*
5/23- Game 7 STL @ SJS 9 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN1, TVAS
Nick and Pete discuss whether or not it’s worth pursuing Pavel Datsyuk this summer, the Adam Fox trade and what it means for the New York Rangers, as well as more Second Round musings in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.