Tag Archives: Colton Parayko

Blues win first Cup in franchise history

In a scene of poetic justice, if you will, the St. Louis Blues raised the 35-pound Stanley Cup high over their heads Wednesday night against the team that beat them the last time they were in the Final 49 years ago– the Boston Bruins.

The Blues are your 2019 Stanley Cup champions after defeating the Bruins, 4-1, in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final– capturing the series 4-3.

For the first time in franchise history, a St. Louis captain skated out to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, shake Bettman’s hand, take a photo and accept the hardest silverware to win in professional sports.

Alex Pietrangelo gets to be the first person in league history to say that he lifted the trophy as a member of the Blues.

They were dead last in the league standings entering 2019.

For the first time in their 52-year existence (51 seasons), the Blues are Stanley Cup champions thanks to Jordan Binnington’s NHL rookie record 16 wins in the postseason, as well as his 32 saves on 33 shots against en route to the win in Game 7.

Binnington (16-10 record, 2.46 goals against average, .914 save percentage in 26 games played this postseason) also recorded an 8-2 record on the road in the postseason– tying Nikolai Khabibulin (2004), Miikka Kiprusoff (2004) and Ron Hextall (1987) for the most road wins by a goaltender in a playoff year.

He made 187 saves on 205 shots against (.913 SV%) and had a 2.76 GAA in the series.

Ryan O’Reilly took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP. He finished with a six-game point streak in the Final.

Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask (15-9, 2.02 GAA, .934 SV% in 24 GP this postseason) stopped 16 out of 20 shots faced in the loss.

Rask finished the 2019 Stanley Cup Final with 176 saves on 193 shots against (.912 SV%) and a 2.46 GAA.

Eight years after winning the Cup in the last Game 7 in a Stanley Cup Final in Vancouver, the Bruins will have to wait until another day to earn their seventh title in franchise history.

For the first time in their 95-year franchise history, the Bruins hosted a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final (though the Final only became a best-of-seven series since 1939).

Boston joined the Chicago Blackhawks as the only other team to lose the only Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final that they’ve ever hosted among the first six financially stable franchises from 1942-67– after the league’s inception in 1917 (otherwise referred to as the “Original Six” teams).

The other “Original Six” teams have hosted at least one such contest with the Detroit Red Wings (3-2 in five Stanley Cup Final Game 7s on home ice) as the most successful team.

The Toronto Maple Leafs (2-0), Montreal Canadiens (1-0) and New York Rangers (1-0) have all never lost a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final on home ice.

St. Louis finished 10-3 on the road this postseason, while Binnington improved to 14-2 in games after a loss in the regular season and playoffs in his young career.

The Blues became the fifth road team to win a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final– and third in-a-row since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 and Bruins in 2011.

Home teams are now 12-5 in 17 total Game 7s in the Stanley Cup Final.

No home team has won the Cup since the 2015 Blackhawks.

The Bruins fell to 14-9 in Game 7s on home ice (last loss prior to Wednesday night was against Montreal, 3-1, in the Second Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs).

This postseason run wrapped up the longest season (regular and playoffs) in Blues franchise history as St. Louis participated in 108 games total (26 postseason games).

It was the 2nd longest season in Bruins franchise history as Boston played 106 total games (82 regular season and 24 playoff games)– one game short of their 2010-11 record (107 games, 82 regular season and 25 playoff games).

Boston is now 2-1 all time in a playoff series against St. Louis, winning the Cup in four games in 1970, sweeping the Blues in four games in the 1972 Semifinals and losing in seven games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, told reporters ahead of Game 7 that defender, Matt Grzelcyk, would be a game-time decision and was cleared from concussion protocol.

After warmups, Grzelcyk was good-to-go and placed alongside John Moore on the third defensive pairing in place of Connor Clifton.

Joining Clifton among the long list of healthy scratches for Boston Wednesday night was Chris Wagner, Lee Stempniak, Zachary Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, Zane McIntyre, Paul Carey, Ryan Fitzgerald, David Backes, Steven Kampfer, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Anton Blidh, and Trent Frederic.

Once again, Kevan Miller (lower body) remained out of the lineup for the final time this season due to injury.

B’s captain, Zdeno Chara, set an NHL record for the most Game 7 appearances by a player with his 14th Game 7 on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Blues interim head coach, Craig Berube had the services of Ivan Barbashev back in the lineup after Barbashev served his one-game suspension in Game 6 for an illegal hit to head of Boston forward, Marcus Johansson, in Game 5.

Berube also scratched Robert Bortuzzo and re-inserted Joel Edmundson on his blue line for Game 7.

Nearly halfway through the opening frame, St. Louis defender, Colton Parayko, sent the puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game minor penalty at 7:57 of the first period.

Though they moved the puck around with ease on the ensuing power play, Boston couldn’t muster a goal on their first skater advantage of the night.

The Bruins fired three shots on goal on the power play– including a point-blank attempt by David Krejci to deke and stuff the puck through Binnington’s five-hole.

Late in the period, after Boston’s fourth line couldn’t clear their own zone, Jay Bouwmeester let go of a shot from the point that O’Reilly (8) redirected through Rask’s five-hole to give St. Louis the fist goal of the game.

Bouwmeester (7) and Pietrangelo (16) had the assists on O’Reilly’s goal and the Blues led, 1-0, at 16:47 of the first period.

The goal came on just the third shot on goal for St. Louis after they got the first shot in the game 27 seconds into the action.

For the first time since Wayne Gretzky did so in 1985, O’Reilly scored a goal in four consecutive Stanley Cup Final games. It was also his 22nd point of the postseason– establishing a Blues franchise record for points in a playoff year.

With eight seconds left in the first period, Jaden Schwartz evaded an attempt by Brad Marchand to make a check while Marchand was a de facto defenseman on a botched line chance by the Bruins.

Schwartz skated with the puck deep into the corner and dropped a pass back to Pietrangelo (3) whereby the Blues captain walked right into the slot, pulled the puck to his backhand and flipped it through Rask’s seven-hole to make it, 2-0, St. Louis.

Pietrangelo’s goal officially came at 19:52 of the first period and was assisted by Schwartz (7).

After one period of play at TD Garden, the Blues led, 2-0, on the scoreboard, while the Bruins dominated shots on goal, 12-4.

The B’s also led in takeaways (5-2), giveaways (5-0) and face-off win percentage (61-39), while the Notes led in blocked shots (9-2) and hits (14-11).

St. Louis had yet to see any action on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission, while Boston was 0/1 on the power play entering the second period.

Despite being badly outshot in the first period, the Blues emerged as hockey normally has its way swinging games back-and-forth for a full-press middle frame.

Brayden Schenn had a shot midway in the second period that went off Rask’s stick, off the crossbar and stayed out of the twine thanks to Chara’s stick work keeping the puck out of the goal while chaos befell the rest of the players on the ice all around the crease.

Through 40 minutes of play, St. Louis still led, 2-0, and trailed Boston in shots on goal, 23-10– including an, 11-6, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone for the Bruins.

The B’s led in takeaways (6-5), giveaways (12-4) and face-off win% (51-49), while the Notes led in blocked shots (15-7) and hits (27-21).

The Blues still hadn’t seen any time on the power play entering the third period and the Bruins were 0/1.

Midway through the final frame, Vladimir Tarasenko chased a loose puck in the attacking zone and threw a pass to Schenn (5) in the slot for the one-timer to give St. Louis a three-goal lead and all but assure themselves of their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.

Tarasenko (6) and Schwartz (8) tallied the assists on Schenn’s goal at 11:25 of the third period and the Blues led, 3-0.

St. Louis capitalized on the scoreboard moments after Joakim Nordstrom was denied at the other end by Binnington’s right pad.

Late in the period, the Blues did it again as David Perron threw the puck through the slot to Zach Sanford (1) for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff and Stanley Cup Final goal.

The New Hampshire native made it, 4-0, St. Louis with a goal that was assisted by Perron (9) and O’Reilly (15) at 15:22 of the third period.

With the secondary assist on the goal, O’Reilly boosted his own Blues franchise record for the most points in a single postseason to 23 points (8-15–23 totals).

Cassidy pulled Rask with 3:54 remaining in regulation out of a desperate attempt to just get on the scoreboard and it worked.

As the seconds counted down, Grzelcyk (4) sent a shot off the crossbar and into the back of the net over Binnington’s blocker side to cut St. Louis’ lead to three goals.

Krejci (12) had the only assist on the goal at 17:50 of the third period.

The Blues were still in command, 4-1, and even after Boston pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker again with about 1:48 left on the clock, that three-goal deficit was all St. Louis needed.

At the final horn, the Notes had done it.

They finally won their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.

This, despite trailing in shots on goal, 33-20, in Game 7. The Bruins also finished the night leading in giveaways (13-7) and face-off win% (51-49), while the Blues led in blocked shots (21-7) and hits (36-28).

There was only one penalty called in the game and thus St. Louis’ power play never saw a second of ice time, while Boston went 0/1 on the skater advantage– way back in the first period after Parayko sent the puck over the glass for an automatic infraction.

The team that scored first won Games 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the series, while the home team only won two games in the entire seven game series.

Boston finished 5-1 in elimination games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs (won Games 6 and 7 in the First Round against Toronto, won Game 6 against Columbus, won Game 4 against Carolina and forced Game 7 against St. Louis by winning Game 6– then lost in the final game).

Exactly 35 years ago, Wednesday night, the Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA Championship in the last Game 7 hosted in Boston.

That was at the old Boston Garden (1928-95). Wednesday night’s action was at TD Garden (1995-present) and the opposing team won.

The Bruins have not won the Cup on home ice since beating St. Louis on May 10, 1970. Bobby Orr scored his iconic– sports photography defining– goal in overtime to clinch the Cup for Boston for the first time since 1941 that night– ending a 29-year drought.

In 2019, it was the Blues quenching their thirst by winning their first.

Krug, Bruins, rout Blues, 7-2, in Game 3

Torey Krug had a four-point night (goal, three assists)– setting a franchise record for most points in a Stanley Cup Final game– and Patrice Bergeron had a three-point night (goal, two assists) as the Boston Bruins stomped the St. Louis Blues, 7-2, in Game 3 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final on Saturday.

Boston improved to 7-2 on the road this postseason and established a franchise record for most wins on the road in a playoff year.

Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask (14-6 record, 1.91 goals against average, .939 save percentage in 20 games played this postseason) stopped 27 out of 29 shots faced (.931 SV%) in the win at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.

Blues starting goaltender, Jordan Binnington (13-9, 2.54 GAA, .909 SV% in 22 games played this postseason) turned aside 14 shots out of 19 shots against (.737 SV%) before being replaced by Jake Allen after 32:12 TOI.

Allen (0-0, 2.50 GAA, .750 SV% in one game played this postseason) made three saves on four shots against for no decision in relief for the first time this postseason for St. Louis.

The Bruins lead the series 2-1 for the fourth time in franchise history in the Final, winning two of their previous three such instances.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, replaced Matt Grzelcyk (undisclosed) with John Moore on the left side of the third defensive pairing, while keeping the rest of his lineup intact from Games 1 and 2.

Grzelcyk is day-to-day and joins Chris Wagner (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) as the only Boston skaters out of the lineup due to injury.

The B’s long list of healthy scratches for Game 3 included 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.

Craig Berube inserted Zach Sanford into his lineup in place of Oskar Sundqvist– who served a one-game suspension in Game 3 for his hit on Grzelcyk in Game 2.

Jake DeBrusk was first to put his name on the even sheet for kneeing Blues captain, Alex Pietrangelo, at 1:02 of the first period. St. Louis did not convert on the ensuing power play, despite mustering four shots on goal during the skater advantage.

Midway through the opening frame, David Perron was penalized for interference at 10:26 of the first period.

It didn’t take long for Boston to capitalize on their first power play of the night as Krug fired a pass from the point that Bergeron (9) redirected over Binnington’s glove and into the twine for his 7th power play goal of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Krug (12) and DeBrusk (6) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the B’s led, 1-0, at 10:47 of the first period.

The goal was also Bergeron’s 100th career playoff point (all with Boston)– joining current teammate, David Krejci, as the only other Bruin to do so this postseason.

Bergeron’s 100th career postseason point also tied him for 4th in franchise history with John Bucyk and Rick Middleton. He added a pair of assists thereafter to move into a tie with Phil Esposito for 2nd place in franchise history in Stanley Cup Playoff points (102).

Late in the period, after a stoppage in play, Ivan Barbashev and Connor Clifton exchanged pleasantries, resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction for Barbashev and a roughing minor for Clifton at 14:22.

Both teams skated at even-strength, 4-on-4, for two minutes before resuming 5-on-5 action.

Charlie Coyle resurrected the puck from his own zone and started a breakout the other way for Boston, leading Danton Heinen with a pass into the attacking zone.

Heinen dropped the puck back to Marcus Johansson, who flipped it over to Coyle (8) who settled the puck and sent a shot past Binnington’s glove side for the two-goal lead.

Johansson (7) and Heinen (6) had the assists on Coyle’s goal and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 17:40 of the first period.

A couple minutes later, Joakim Nordstrom tied up a St. Louis skater from clearing the zone enough for Sean Kuraly (4) to swoop in, pick up the puck and fire one by the blocker side of the Blues goaltender.

Nordstrom (4) had the only assist on Kuraly’s goal at 19:50 and Boston led, 3-0.

Berube used his coach’s challenge, asking for an official review of the goal for a potential offside, but the video review determined that Joel Edmundson was the last to touch the puck as it re-entered Boston’s offensive zone– thereby lending the play onside leading up to Kuraly’s goal.

As a result of the failed coach’s challenge, St. Louis was charged with a bench minor for delay of game.

Perron served the Blues’ bench infraction at 19:50 and the power play would carry over into the second period for Boston.

After one period of action, the Bruins led, 3-0, on the scoreboard and, 12-8, in shots on goal– including three goals on their last four shots to finish the first period.

The Bruins also led in blocked shots (4-2), hits (16-14) and face-off win percentage (60-40) through 20 minutes of play, while the Blues led in takeaways (5-3) and giveaways (4-0).

St. Louis was 0/1 on the skater advantage, while Boston was 1/2 on the power play heading into the second period.

While still on the power play from the end of the first period, the Bruins worked the puck deep into the low slot whereby David Pastrnak (8) dragged the rubber biscuit to his backhand and elevated the puck over Binnington’s leg pad for Boston’s second power play goal of the night.

Krug (13) and Bergeron (6) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s power play goal and the Bruins led, 4-0, 41 seconds into the second period.

Pastrnak’s goal marked four goals on their last six shots for Boston.

Almost midway through the middle frame, Charlie McAvoy slashed Brayden Schenn and Zdeno Chara and Pat Maroon received matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties at 7:37 of the second period.

As a result, the Blue Notes were on the regular 5-on-4 power play and were not able to score on the skater advantage.

Shortly thereafter, Sanford found Barbashev (3) as Barbashev crashed the low slot, point blank, for a one-timer off of McAvoy’s skate and into the twine to put St. Louis on the scoreboard.

Sanford (1) and Alexander Steen (3) notched the assists on the goal and the Blues cut the lead to, 4-1, at 11:05. With the primary assist on Barbashev’s goal, Sanford recorded his first career Stanley Cup Final point in his first career Stanley Cup Final game.

Less than a minute later, Colton Parayko caught Brad Marchand with a high-stick at 11:41 and took a trip to the sin bin, giving the Bruins their third power play opportunity Saturday night.

It didn’t take long for Krug (2) to riffle a shot off of Jay Bouwmeester’s skate and behind Binnington’s glove to give Boston another power play goal and the four-goal lead once again.

Marchand (12) and Bergeron (7) had the assists on Krug’s power play goal at 12:12 and the B’s led, 5-1.

As a result, Berube pulled Binnington for the first time this postseason (as well as the first time in his NHL career) and replaced the St. Louis starter with Allen.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 5-1, on the scoreboard and, 20-18, in shots on goal– despite trailing the Blues, 10-8, in shots on goal in the second period alone.

The B’s led in blocked shots (11-5) and face-off win% (55-45) after two periods, while St. Louis led in takeaways (9-6), giveaways (5-4) and hits (27-25).

The Blues were 0/2 on the power play entering the third period, while the Bruins were 3/3.

Less than a minute into the final frame of regulation, Perron piled up another couple of penalty minutes for roughing Rask 54 seconds into the third period.

Not to be outdone, however, in the ensuing scrum after the whistle, Clifton picked up a minor infraction for cross-checking, resulting in 4-on-4 action that was shortlived Brandon Carlo cut a rut to the penalty box for interference at 1:31 of the third period.

As a result, St. Louis had an abbreviated 4-on-3 power play for about 1:23, then a short, 5-on-4, regular power play.

The Blues did not convert on either skater advantage, but had another chance on the advantage moments later when Chara roughed Carl Gunnarsson at 5:18 of the third period.

Six seconds into the ensuing power play, Parayko (2) blasted a shot that deflected off Carlo and over Rask’s shoulder into the twine to give St. Louis their first power play goal of the series and cut the lead to three goals.

Ryan O’Reilly (13) and Tyler Bozak (7) had the assists on Parayko’s goal at 5:24, and the Blues trailed, 5-2.

Almost a minute later, DeBrusk sent the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game penalty at 6:04.

This time, St. Louis had nothing going on while on the power play.

With 5:31 remaining in regulation, Berube pulled Allen for an extra attacker, then pulled him again with about 4:00 to go after a defensive zone face-off.

As the clock ticked under two minutes left in the game, Noel Acciari (2) received a pass through the neutral zone from Nordstrom and buried the puck into the empty net to give the B’s the four-goal lead once again.

Nordstrom (5) and Coyle (7) tallied the assists on Acciari’s empty net goal and the Bruins led, 6-2, at 18:12 of the third period.

While scoring the empty net goal, Acciari was slashed by Pietrangelo, yielding the fourth power play of the night for Boston.

Johansson (4) scored on a one-timer off a give-and-go along the point to Krug and back– beating Allen on the short side– to extend the lead to five goals, 7-2, for the Bruins.

Krug (14) and Clifton (3) had the assists on Johansson’s power play goal at 18:35 as the B’s notched seven goals on their last 15 shots on goal in Game 3.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 7-2, and taken the 2-1 series lead on road ice, despite trailing in shots on goal, 29-24.

St. Louis also led in giveaways (7-4) and hits (35-29), while the B’s held the advantage in blocked shots (19-7) and face-off win% (56-44).

The Blues finished Saturday night 1/5 on the skater advantage.

Meanwhile, the Bruins went 4/4 on the power play in Game 3 and have scored a power play goal in seven straight games (tying a franchise record– 10 power play goals in seven games this postseason, eight PPGs in seven games in 1999, 11 PPGs in seven games in 1988 and 12 PPGs in seven games in 1958).

Though he blocked a shot late in the third period and went down the tunnel, McAvoy is fine, according to Cassidy.

The four power play goals for Boston in Game 3 were the most in a Stanley Cup Final game since the Colorado Avalanche scored four power play goals in Game 2 of the 1996 Stanley Cup Final in Denver against the Florida Panthers.

The team that scored first lost in Game 1 and 2. That wasn’t the case in Game 3 as the Bruins improved to 12-0 when leading after two periods this postseason.

Puck drop for Game 4 at Enterprise Center on Monday is set for a little after 8 p.m. ET. Viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBC and those in Canada have an array of options to choose from, including CBC, SN and TVAS.

2019 Stanley Cup Final Preview

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

Schedule:

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*

*If necessary

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference Final Preview

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.

Sound familiar?

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.

Though Donskoi hasn’t scored as much, the Sharks have a deeper team than in 2016 and are a younger bunch– what with the lack of Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward on their roster– this time around.

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

Schedule:

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

*If necessary

Boston’s singing the Blues, lose 2-1 in shootout to St. Louis

Two red-hot teams collided at Enterprise Center on Saturday afternoon, whereby the home team, St. Louis Blues topped the Boston Bruins, 2-1, in a shootout. The Blues have won 12 out of their last 13 games and the Bruins’ seven-game winning streak was snapped.

Jordan Binnington (14-2-1 record, 1.70 goals against average, .934 save percentage in 19 games played) made 31 saves on 32 shots against (.969 SV%) in the shootout victory for St. Louis, while Boston goaltender, Tuukka Rask (20-8-5, 2.40 GAA, .920 SV% in 34 GP) turned aside 28 out of 29 shots faced (.966 SV%) in the loss.

Binnington is the sixth goaltender in NHL history to earn wins in each of his first six-plus career regular season home starts (joining Martin Jones, 6-0-0 with the Los Angeles Kings from Dec. 3-21, 2013, Bob Froese, 6-0-0 with the Philadelphia Flyers from Jan. 8-27, 1983, Wayne Thomas, 7-0-0 with the Montreal Canadiens from Jan. 14-27, 1973, Ken Dryden, 8-0-0 with the Canadiens from March 14-April 3, 1971 and Frank McCool, 8-0-0 with the Toronto Maple Leafs from Oct. 28-Nov. 11, 1944).

Boston’s seven-game winning streak was their longest stretch of consecutive victories since 2013-14 (12-0-0). The Bruins are now 9-0-2 in the month of February and finished their five-game Western Conference road trip, 4-0-1, earning nine out of a possible ten points in the standings.

The B’s fell to 36-17-9 (81 points) on the season, but remain in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Blues improved to 33-23-5 (71 points) this year and remain 3rd in the Central Division.

Charlie Coyle made his debut for the Bruins since being acquired on Wednesday from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a conditional 2019 5th round pick and Ryan Donato.

Coyle centered the third line as Bruce Cassidy inserted Peter Cehlarik to the left of Coyle and David Backes on his right. Cehlarik returned to the lineup for the first time after missing the last two games with a lower body injury and was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Thursday.

Trent Frederic was reassigned to Providence in Cehlarik’s place after Cehlarik was originally sent down on Wednesday to accommodate the acquisition of Coyle’s cap hit.

Cassidy left the rest of his lines the same, as Joakim Nordstrom joined John Moore and Steven Kampfer as the B’s healthy scratches. David Pastrnak (left thumb) remains out of the lineup, but is progressing well, according to Cassidy.

Almost midway through the first period, Alex Steen (7) capitalized on a give-and-go off a Bruins turnover and fired a shot past Rask to give St. Louis the lead, 1-0.

Oskar Sundqvist (12) had the only assist on Steen’s goal at 7:15 of the first period.

Late in the opening frame, Colton Parayko slashed Jake DeBrusk and sent Boston onto their first power play of the afternoon at 18:16. The B’s skater advantage was cut short after Torey Krug tripped up Ivan Barbashev at 19:29.

An abbreviated 4-on-4 scenario unfolded heading into the second period, whereby a short power play would commence for the Blues thereafter.

Through one period of play, St. Louis led Boston, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 9-8, in shots on goal. The Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (5-1) and hits (10-9), while the Blues led in takeaways (7-1), giveaways (2-0) and face-off win percentage (58-42).

Boston was 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission and St. Louis had yet to see any time on the skater advantage heading into the second period.

Early in the middle frame, after killing off Krug’s minor, the Bruins caught the Blues behind the play as Krug dished a pass up-ice to Kevan Miller through the neutral zone.

Miller found Chris Wagner (9) bolting down the right side in open ice and connected with the B’s winger on a tape-to-tape pass. Wagner promptly fired a shot past Binnington’s short side to tie the game, 1-1, at 5:12 of the second period.

Miller (6) and Krug (37) notched the assists on Wagner’s third goal in his last seven shots.

Moments later, Coyle was penalized for hooking St. Louis’ top star, Vladimir Tarasenko, at 7:28 of the second period. Boston killed off the penalty with ease as the Blues failed to convert on the skater advantage.

Late in the second frame, Brad Marchand took a trip to the penalty box for holding Ryan O’Reilly and St. Louis went back on the power play at 15:32.

The Blues did not convert on their third power play of the evening, but still fired four shots on goal.

After 40 minutes of play, the score remained tied, 1-1, with the Bruins leading in shots on goal (19-16) and blocked shots (15-4). St. Louis held onto the lead in takeaways (12-4), giveaways (6-0), hits (16-14) and face-off win% (63-38).

Boston was still 0/1 on the power play, while the Blues were 0/3 on the skater advantage heading into the second intermission.

Though the game was still tied in the third period, only one event was noted on the scoresheet– a penalty against Boston at 11:57. Brandon Carlo received a two-minute minor for tripping Sammy Blais– the eventual shootout game-winning goal scorer.

Through regulation, the Bruins led in shots on goal (30-23) and blocked shots (22-6), while the Blues led in takeaways (14-6), giveaways (10-1), hits (29-17) and face-off win% (54-46).

St. Louis finished the game 0/4 on the power play, while Boston went 0/1 on the skater advantage. No penalties were called in the overtime period.

Speaking of overtime, Cassidy started Sean Kuraly, Coyle and Charlie McAvoy, while Blues interim head coach, Craig Berube, sent out Jaden Schwartz, Tyler Bozak and Parayko to kick off the five-minute, 3-on-3, action.

Cassidy soon was quickly rotating two defenders and one forward as the Bruins were trapped in their own zone, playing for a shootout. Rask made six saves in overtime, including a few heartbeat elevating stops on Tarasenko and gifted scorers for St. Louis.

After overtime wasn’t enough to settle a, 1-1, game, things would be decided with a shootout.

But first, a quick– final– review… Boston led in shots on goal (32-29) after 65 minutes of play and in blocked shots (23-6), while St. Louis led in giveaways (10-1), hits (30-17) and face-off win% (54-46).

In the first round of the shootout, Bozak scored high, blocker side, on Rask after flying in with speed, then slowing himself down to snipe his shot.

DeBrusk, on the other hand, was stopped by Binnington– in fitting fashion, after his five-game goal scoring streak was snapped once time expired in overtime.

Tarasenko’s backhand shot went wide in the second round of the shootout, while Marchand straight-up missed the net with his own backhand.

O’Reilly was stopped with the first shot of the third round, but Coyle scored after deking Binnington out of position and sliding the puck just past his outstretched leg pad to force the shootout into extra, sudden death, rounds.

Steen, David Backes, Robert Thomas and Patrice Bergeron were all stopped by their opposing goaltender, while Blais roofed the puck into the twine in the sixth round after Rask sprawled to make a poke-check in desperation.

With the game on his stick, Danton Heinen, had to score. Instead, he rushed his shot entering the zone and firing wide of the net to drop to 0-for-5 in his shootout career.

St. Louis had won the shootout, 2-1, after six rounds and took home the extra point, as well as the final score, 2-1.

For the fifth time in the last eight games for Boston, bonus hockey had been required. The Bruins fell to 2-3 in shootouts this season, while the Blues improved to 1-1.

Boston fell to 12-2-4 when tied after two periods this season, but earned nine out of a possible ten points on their five-game road trip (4-0-1) as St. Louis has now won 12 out of their last 13 games.
The Bruins return home with a 4-0-1 record on their five-game road trip and take on the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday and Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday to wrap up their schedule in the month of February.

DTFR Podcast #136- We’ve Got The Future Blues

More on the Arizona Coyotes latest debacle with Seattle expansion looming, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith did something never done before, the Calgary Flames rise in the Western Conference and the St. Louis Blues dismal season. Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks made a few moves– signing Murray to an extension, claiming Chad Johnson off waivers and a minor trade.

Plus, Nick and Connor review the last 15 years of first round picks by the Pittsburgh Penguins and do a deep dive on their future and what it might look like.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

DTFR Podcast #127- Tip Of The Hat(s)

John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron both had hat tricks in the last week, so Nick and Connor discuss hat trick ethics and more, since celebrations are hot topics these days. Also, everything else that happened in the first week of regular season action.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

DTFR Podcast #122- 2018-19 Central Division Season Preview

It’s the DTFR Podcast’s official season preview for all things Central Division in 2018-19 as Nick and Connor embark on season five of the show…

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify.

April 7 – Day 178 – Win and you’re in

Get ready hockey fans. Today has the chance to get wild.

With the exception of Pittsburgh, each and every team will be in action today, and most of those clubs (all but Boston and Florida) are playing their final game of the regular season.

The action starts with a 3 p.m. matinee featuring the New York Rangers at Philadelphia (NBC), a fun warm-up setting up the seven games (Chicago at Winnipeg [SN], Ottawa at Boston [CITY/TVAS], Montréal at Toronto [CBC/TVAS], the New York Islanders at Detroit, Buffalo at Florida, New Jersey at Washington [NHLN] and Tampa Bay at Carolina) at 7 p.m. Columbus at Nashville is the only puck drop scheduled for 8 p.m., with two tilts (Anaheim at Arizona and St. Louis at Colorado [NHLN]) waiting an hour before getting underway. Another couple fixtures (Vegas at Calgary and Vancouver at Edmonton [CBC]) find their start at 10 p.m., while the final pair (Dallas at Los Angeles [NHLN] and Minnesota at San Jose) wait half an hour before closing out this busy Saturday. All times Eastern.

With all those points on the line, any playoff spot not locked down has the chance to change hands. Today’s most important matchups include:

  • New York at Philadelphia: As long as the Flyers do anything better than lose in regulation, they eliminate Florida and clinch a spot in the postseason for the second time in three seasons. What spot that’d be is anyone’s guess, as Philly could do as well as third in the Metropolitan Division or remain the Eastern Conference’s second wild card.
  • Ottawa at Boston: Even with a game in hand, the Bruins are not in control of their own seeding. They need a win today and tomorrow – neither of which may come in a shootout – before they can even think about challenging for first place in the East.
  • Buffalo at Florida: This game hinges on the Flyers’ result. A Philly regulation loss keeps the Panthers’ playoff hopes alive, but they still have to win today and tomorrow’s games – with at least one of those not requiring the shootout.
  • New Jersey at Washington: A win ensures the Devils a minimum of the East’s top wild card, but they can climb into third place in the Metro if Columbus doesn’t earn two points or requires a shootout to beat Nashville.
  • Tampa Bay at Carolina: As long as they avoid a shootout, two points for the Bolts clinches them the top seed in the East.
  • Columbus at Nashville: Having already won their season series against the Devils, all the Blue Jackets need to clinch third place in the Metropolitan Division is a victory that doesn’t necessitate a shootout.
  • Anaheim at Arizona: A win of any variety ensures the Ducks no worse than third place in the Pacific Division, but two points paired with a Sharks regulation loss propels Anaheim into second.
  • St. Louis at Colorado: The second wild card is the only spot left in the Western Conference playoffs, and both the Avalanche and Blues are eligible.
  • Dallas at Los Angeles: The Kings can do no worse than their current position as the West’s first wild card, but it’s still possible for them to jump all the way into second place in the Pacific.
  • Minnesota at San Jose: With as little as a point, the Sharks will clinch second place in the Pacific – good enough for home ice in the first round.

No arena is going to be buzzing quite like Pepsi Center tonight, so it looks like we’re headed to Denver for an extremely important Central showdown!

The nice thing about this game is it’s totally independent of the rest of today’s action. Simply put, the winner of this contest is all but ensured a season that extends beyond 82 games.

However, on the last day of the year in the Western Conference, “all but ensured” just isn’t precise enough, is it?

Currently sitting in the second wildcard spot with a one-point advantage, 44-31-6 St. Louis has the inside track towards qualifying for its seventh-consecutive postseason. A win of any variety – or even a loss in extra time (more on that in a moment) – for the Blues this evening earns them a date with the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Nashville Predators.

The reason the Blues are in that second wildcard spot is due to beating Chicago 4-1 last night to snap their four-game losing skid. Having posted a 1-3-1 record since March 30, St. Louis is very fortunate to still be in playoff consideration.

As would be expected from a five-game run like that, issues abound with this Blues squad. For starters, the offense is struggling, managing only 2.4 goals per game since March 30 to rank eighth-worst in the NHL in that time.

The biggest reason for St. Louis’ sputtering attack is that both D Colton Parayko (6-29-35 totals) and F Vladimir Sobotka (11-20-31) are in significant scoring ruts right now. Even though both players have provided at least 31 points so far this season, neither have found the scorecard during this five-game run. Additionally, D Alex Pietrangelo (15-38-53) and F Alex Steen (15-31-46) have also had their scoring issues, as neither have played anywhere near their season .6 points-per-game form during this skid, having posted only a point apiece.

However, those skaters’ struggles pale in comparison to the horrid effort 27-24-3 G Jake Allen has put forth lately, and really for his entire season as a whole. Allen has posted an abysmal .869 save percentage and 3.85 GAA in his last four starts – well off the pace of his lackluster .905 save percentage and 2.74 GAA for the season.

For those wondering if the Blues’ defense is to blame, you’d be surprised to learn that St. Louis has allowed only 27.8 shots against per game in its last four showings – the third-best average in the NHL in that time. Even with the incredible play of F Kyle Brodziak (seven takeaways in his past five games), D Joel Edmundson (2.6 blocks per game since March 30) and W Dmitrij Jaskin (3.4 hits per game over this skid) in front of him, Allen continues to let pucks by at an alarming rate that would earn most goalies a demotion to backup.

The beauty of a hockey club always keeping two goaltenders on the active roster is the ability to turn to one when the other is struggling. Why Head Coach Mike Yeo hasn’t given starts to 17-7-3 G Carter Hutton more often is truly baffling. After all, Hutton’s .931 season save percentage and 2.09 GAA are both best in the league among qualified goaltenders, not to mention the fact that he earned the only win in St. Louis’ last five outings – last night’s 4-1 victory against Chiacgo.

I must admit, as a sided supporter of this club, I would have much preferred to see Allen play last night’s game against the Blackhawks – a game that ultimately didn’t matter considering the Blues could still qualify for the playoffs with a win tonight – and have Hutton ready to go today.

Unfortunately for Yeo and the Blues, they’ve made their bed and now they must lay in it – no matter the result.

As for the 42-30-9 Avalanche, they need something a little bit more than just any old victory tonight to qualify for the playoffs: they have to win this game in regulation. Neither overtime nor a shootout is acceptable for Colorado as, even though it’d be tied with the Blues at 95 points if it won, it would lose either the regulation+overtime wins tiebreaker (in the case of a shootout victory) or the season series tiebreaker (St. Louis has earned six points at the hand of the Avalanche, yielding only two).

As luck would have it, Colorado enters tonight’s game riding a similar 1-2-1 record since March 30. However, the similarities end there, as the Avs have been recording losses for far different reasons.

While the defensive skaters have not played exactly well lately – allowing an average of 34 shots against per game since March 30 to rank (t)sixth-worst in the league in that time – they’ve been more than bailed out by the excellent play of 18-13-3 G Jonathan Bernier. Having assumed starting duties since 24-16-6 G Semyon Varlamov went down with a knee injury, Bernier has managed a .905 save percentage and 3.26 GAA in his last four appearances – marks roughly in line with his .912 save percentage and 2.87 GAA for the entire season, especially when we factor in that the Avs have allowed only 2.75 goals per game since March 30 ([t]10th-best in the NHL in that time).

Instead, the biggest problem for Colorado lately has been its sputtering offense, which has scored only 2.75 goals per game in its past four outings to rank (t)12th-worst in the NHL since March 30.

It’s never a good sign when a potential Hart Trophy candidate gets held goalless for multiple games in a row, so one can only imagine the frustration F Nathan MacKinnon (38-57-95 totals) is experiencing right now during his nine-game goalless skid – his longest rut of the season. Further accenting MacKinnon’s scoring troubles, linemate LW Gabriel Landeskog (24-35-59) has also been held to only two assists during this four-game run.

A few more players that have had their issues lately include F Carl Soderberg (16-19-35 totals) and F J.T. Compher (13-10-23), not to mention a fractured patella that will keep D Erik Johnson (9-16-25) off the ice for the next six weeks. Compher and Soderberg are both riding six-game scoreless skids in their bottom-six roles, putting even more pressure on MacKinnon’s line to come alive and carry the team.

As mentioned before, Colorado has certainly had its struggles this season against St. Louis, as the Blues have posted a 3-1-0 record in their first four meetings.

The first matchup occurred way back on October 19, a little over two weeks before the F Matt Duchene trade that allowed the Avalanche to assume their winning form. With that in mind, it only makes sense that the Blues won that game at Pepsi Center 4-3 (D Robert Bortuzzo‘s first goal of the season proved to be the game-winner).

The last three games have occurred a bit more recently. Game 2 was scheduled for January 25 at Scottrade Center, where St. Louis earned a 3-1 victory (Steen earned First Star honors with his one-goal, two-point night). The Avs were back in Missouri exactly two weeks later, suffering an embarrassing 6-1 loss at the hands of the Notes (D Vince Dunn led the way with a three-assist effort).

That loss in particular surely stung, as Colorado made sure its last visit of the season to St. Louis didn’t end in a similar fashion. As such, the Avs won March 15’s showdown by a decisive 4-1 score (Varlamov earned First Star honors with his 44-save performance).

With this game boiling down to whether St. Louis’ goaltending or Colorado’s offense can return to form fastest, I’m going to bet on the home team with a day’s rest every time. Mix in the fact that I’ve trusted MacKinnon to bounce back far more than Allen all season, and the Avalanche look like as good a lock as any for the postseason.


With a 5-3 victory over the Dallas Stars at Honda Center in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, the Anaheim Ducks have jumped back into third place in the Pacific Division with only only one day of play remaining in the Western Conference.

If it weren’t for a disastrous first period for the Stars defensively, the score would have better reflected just how competitive this game was. Even though both teams managed only a goal apiece in both the second and third frames, Anaheim earned its victory by notching three markers in the opening 20 minutes.

Second Star of the Game W Jakob Silfverberg (First Star D Josh Manson and F Andrew Cogliano) got the scoring started early, burying a tip-in only 2:28 into the game to give Anaheim an early lead, and that advantage doubled to two only 4:05 later when F Rickard Rakell (C Ryan Getzlaf and C Adam Henrique) scored a power play tip-in with RW Alexander Radulov in the penalty box for slashing Getzlaf. Though D Marc Methot (Radulov and LW Jamie Benn) was able to score his first goal of the season to pull Dallas back within a goal with 8:47 remaining in the period, C Derek Grant (Silfverberg and D Hampus Lindholm) sneaked a tip-in past G Mike McKenna with only 20 ticks remaining on the opening frame’s clock to set the score at 3-1 going into the first intermission.

Scoring started to slow down in the second period, but that’s not to say there weren’t any important goals scored. In fact, the most important tally – the game-winner – was struck 4:36 into the frame courtesy of Manson (Getzlaf and W Corey Perry).

Perry deserves a lot of the credit for this goal, as it was him that intercepted Radulov’s pass along the blue line to spring a breakaway opportunity for Anaheim. Once Perry reached the right face-off dot in his attacking zone, he dropped a pass to Getzlaf who one-timed a wrist shot toward McKenna’s far post. The netminder completed the save with his right shoulder, but he left a juicy rebound that Manson converted into an easy backhanded goal considering McKenna had drifted beyond his crease.

Facing a three-goal deficit, the Stars got to work on the offensive end with C Radek Faksa (D Greg Pateryn and F Tyler Pitlick) potting a wrister at the 7:49 mark, setting the 4-2 score that held into the second intermission.

Whatever Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said in the dressing room, it obviously inspired Benn (D John Klingberg), who buried a wrister 2:52 into the third period to pull Dallas back within a goal of tying the game. However, the Stars’ inability to find that leveling goal paired with Cogliano’s (Silfverberg and F Ryan Kesler) wrister with 5:25 remaining in regulation ensured Anaheim two more points in the standings.

G Ryan Miller earned the victory after saving 23-of-26 shots faced (.885 save percentage), leaving the loss to McKenna, who saved 28-of-33 (.848).

The 102-54-22 home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series are now riding a five-game point streak – a run that has expanded their advantage over the roadies in the series to 51 points.

March 27 – Day 167 – A win streak must end!

Tuesdays are usually one of the busier days in the NHL’s weekly schedule, and this one is no different as nine matchups are on tap this evening.

Like most nights, the action finds its start at 7 p.m. when Carolina at New Jersey drops the puck, followed half an hour later by two more (the New York Islanders at Ottawa [RDS] and Pittsburgh at Detroit [NHLN/TVAS]). 8 p.m. marks the start of a trio of tilts (San Jose at St. Louis, Minnesota at Nashville and Boston at Winnipeg), while Philadelphia at Dallas waits 30 minutes before getting underway. Columbus at Edmonton is next up at 9 p.m., while Anaheim at Vancouver closes out the night with a 10 p.m. showdown. All times Eastern.

Surprisingly, there’s only two games being televised nationally this evening even though there’s some interesting narratives associated with at least three…

  • Pittsburgh at Detroit: After meeting in back-to-back Stanley Cups, the relationship between these teams and fanbases is – at least in my experience – one of mutual respect.
  • Boston at Winnipeg: D Paul Postma is currently with the Boston Bruins instead of the Providence variety and, should he be active tonight, he’ll make his first return to Winnipeg since departing as a free agent.
  • Columbus at Edmonton: After four seasons with the Blue Jackets, F Mark Letestu signed with the Oil in 2015-16. However, he’s since been traded back to Columbus, and this will be his first return to Rogers Place as a former Oiler.

As tempting as the Bruins-Jets matchup is – believe me, that’s going to be a stellar game – the fact that both teams have already clinched a postseason spot makes it a little less exciting. However, the Kings’ win last night booted St. Louis out of playoff picture, and it’ll have to beat a red-hot Sharks team to resolve that issue.

 

Due in large part to Columbus’ recent 10-game winning streak that just ended (at the hand of the Blues, mind you), 44-23-9 San Jose’s eight-game winning streak has not gotten the publicity it deserves.

Perhaps part of the reason for that is the Sharks’ schedule. No victory in the NHL is easy, but the fact that six of San Jose’s last eight opponents currently sit outside the playoff picture shows that the Sharks’ competition of late has been significantly less talented.

On the other hand, the Sharks would argue that they can only play the teams on their schedule in the order they come and that they are taking care of business during the home stretch of the regular season.

Either way, the Sharks have left little to doubt if they’re prepared for the playoffs. Earlier in the season, I had my concerns about San Jose’s playoff chances due to its less than exemplary offense.

The Sharks have put those doubts to bed over this winning streak, as their unbelievable 4.63 goals per game since March 12 has been the best mark in the NHL in that time, not to mention 1.2 goals better than the second-best Western playoff team (Anaheim) over that same stretch.

It’s hard to say which skater has been the most dominant during this eight-game run, as F Tomas Hertl has posted the most points with his 5-4-9 totals (21-23-44 for the season), but LW Evander Kane‘s gaudy 7-1-8 marks (28-25-53 for the season) have more than proven why his services were so desired at the trade deadline.

Whichever mark you think is most impressive, the best thing for San Jose is that neither player has participated on the same scoring play in Kane’s short tenure in Northern California. That means that each and every one of their points represents its own goal, so those two players have contributed to 17 of the Sharks’ most recent 37 scores. That’s over 45.9 percent of the offense from only two players, an impressive stat to say the least.

Of course, the story of San Jose’s attack doesn’t stop there, as second-liner F Logan Couture (4-4-8 totals since March 12, 31-26-57 overall) and third-pair defenseman Brenden Dillon (3-5-8 since March 12, 4-16-20 overall) are also averaging a point per game over this run.

That impressive offense has also yielded results on the defensive end, as the Sharks are possessing the puck so well they’re limiting opponents’ scoring opportunities. Pair that with Dillon (two hits per game since March 12) and D Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s (2.3 blocks per game over this run) defensive efforts, and you get a team that has allowed only 30.13 shots against per game over its past eight games, the 11th-best mark in the NHL since March 12.

No one has enjoyed that performance more than 29-18-6 G Martin Jones, who’s all but likely to be in net this evening. Jones has posted an impressive .919 save percentage and 2.38 GAA over his past seven starts, improving his season marks to a .918 save percentage and 2.45 GAA.

Between Jones and his skaters, the Sharks have allowed only 2.5 goals per game since March 12, the (t)ninth-lowest average in the league in that time.

However, it’s not just the Sharks that come into this game defending a winning streak. The 42-28-5 Blues have also gone five-straight games without suffering a loss, and they have all intentions of keeping their winning ways going at Scottrade Center this evening.

You’re hard pressed to find a defense playing better right now than St. Louis’. Led by the impressive efforts of W Dmitrij Jaskin (3.2 hits per game since March 17), D Colton Parayko (four takeaways in his last five games) and D Alex Pietrangelo (2.6 blocks per game over this run), the Notes have allowed only 25.2 shots per game since March 17, the best mark in the NHL in that time.

Similar to Jones with the Sharks, the biggest beneficiary of this performance has been none other than 26-21-2 G Jake Allen, who will be earning his 10th-consecutive start this evening. With help from the lightened workload, Allen has managed an impressive .921 save percentage and 1.97 GAA in his last five starts, well superior to his season statistics of a .908 save percentage and 2.68 GAA.

Between Allen and his skaters, the Blues have allowed an average of two goals per game since March 17, the (t)second-best mark in the Western Conference and league in that time.

While the Blues’ offense hasn’t achieved rankings quite as high as the defense of late, St. Louis still sports an impressive attack that cannot be taken lightly, as five players have averaged at least a point per game over their last five showings.

There’s been no better Blues skater lately than Pietrangelo. A captain that prefers to lead by example, Pietro has posted 3-5-8 totals since March 17 to improve his season marks to 15-36-51, the (t)second-most goals and 12th-highest point total among all NHL defensemen.

Joining Pietrangelo in averaging a point per game over this five-game winning streak includes F Jaden Schwartz (2-4-6 totals since March 17, 22-33-55 overall), F Alex Steen (2-3-5 since March 17, 15-30-45 overall), F Brayden Schenn (1-4-5 since March 17, 25-38-63 overall) and D Vince Dunn (1-4-5 since March 17, 5-17-22 overall). Altogether, the Blue Notes have averaged 3.4 goals per game over their last five games, the (t)10th-best mark in the NHL since March 17.

Of these teams, the Blues definitely need to keep their winning streak alive the most considering their precarious playoff chances (more on that in a moment). Unfortunately for them, they have not performed well against the Sharks this season, as San Jose has taken both previous meetings. San Jose won the first game at Scottrade Center on February 20 with a 3-2 scored (W Mikkel Boedker provided the game-winning goal), followed by a defensive 2-0 victory at SAP Center on March 8 (Boedker again provided the game-winning goal to earn First Star honors).

Should the Notes be able to keep Boedker off the board and buck that trend, they’ll catapult themselves into sixth place in the Western Conference, good enough for the first wild card (Los Angeles would fall to the second and Colorado would end up on the wrong side of the bubble).

As for San Jose, it currently sits six points behind Vegas for the Pacific Division lead and six points ahead of third-place Anaheim. With all three teams having six games remaining to play, anything is still technically possible, but it seems likely that the Golden Knights and Sharks are locked in as the top two seeds in the division.

I know who I’m pulling for in this game, but that’s not what you came here for. The Blues are awfully confident right now having beaten both Boston and Columbus in the past week, but the Sharks are definitely playing much better right now. This game might require more than 60 minutes, but I have a feeling San Jose walks away with two points tonight.


With a three-point effort, First Star of the Game F Jon Marchessault led the Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche at T-Mobile Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

After both squads played to a scoreless first period, Colorado let Vegas get on the board by committing a silly too many men on the ice penalty at the 4:06 mark of the second period. It took only eight seconds with the man-advantage for Third Star W Alex Tuch (C William Karlsson and Marchessault) to bury a snap shot to give the Knights the first goal. Though the Avalanche would eventually level the game 9:27 later courtesy of an D Erik Johnson (W Blake Comeau and W Matt Nieto) snapper, Marchessault (Second Star D Shea Theodore and Karlsson) would eventually find the game-winning goal with 5:44 remaining in the frame.

Barring a usually stellar offense struggling to find much success, the main reason the Avs lost is because of some boneheaded plays. This time, it was F Tyson Jost sent to the penalty box after earning a double minor penalty for hi-sticking F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare with 6:17 remaining in the period. 33 seconds later, Tuch was screaming into the offensive zone with the puck on his stick before slinging a pass towards the left boards for Karlsson. Karlsson reset the play to Theodore at the point, who tapped a pass along the blue line to Marchessault at the right point.

While all this was happening, Tuch was still at work setting up shop right in front of G Semyon Varlamov‘s crease to act as a great screen. After Marchessault advanced to the right face-off dot, Tuch leaned into the slot just enough to expose the near post, allowing the former Panther to tuck his wrist shot over the netminder’s left shoulder.

The Golden Knights cemented their victory with two insurance tallies in the final frame. Theodore (F Erik Haula and W James Neal) registered the first only 1:31 into the period, and Karlsson (Marchessault) completed the scoring on an empty net with 16 seconds remaining in regulation, setting the 4-1 final score.

G Marc-Andre Fleury earned the victory after saving 28-of-29 shots faced (.966 save percentage), leaving the loss to Varlamov, who saved 26-of-29 (.897).

Vegas’ home victory marks five-straight games in the DtFR Game of the Day series where the hosts earned at least one point, as well as a third-consecutive win. As such, the 93-53-21 hosts now have a 38-point advantage over the roadies in the series.