Nick talks a little about the state of the league, plus retirements and other news around the league.
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?
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.
For the first time since 2011, there will be a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final as a result of the Boston Bruins’, 5-1, victory over the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center on Sunday.
Boston has never hosted a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final since the adoption of the best-of-seven format in the Final in 1939.
The Bruins last defeated the Vancouver Canucks on the road in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and have not won the Cup at home since beating the Blues in 1970.
Tuukka Rask (15-8 record, 1.93 goals against average, .938 save percentage in 23 games played this postseason) made 28 saves on 29 shots against (.966 SV%) in the win for the B’s.
Rask entered Game 6 with a 5-5 record in 10 career games when facing elimination (2.64 GAA, .899 SV%)– including a 2-0 mark during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs (1.50 GAA, .947 SV%).
He’s made 145 saves on 149 shots faced in five elimination games this postseason for a .973 SV% and improved to 3-0 with a 1.33 GAA and .953 SV% when facing elimination this spring.
The Boston goaltender also became the 19th NHL goaltender to record 50 career playoff wins.
Blues goaltender, Jordan Binnington (15-10, 2.52 GAA, .911 SV% in 25 GP this postseason) stopped 27 out of 31 shots faced (.871 SV%) in the loss.
He is 13-2 in games after a loss in the regular season and postseaosn this year.
St. Louis finished 6-7 at home this postseason, while Boston finished 8-3 on the road. The Blues are a league-best 9-3 on the road this postseason as the series heads back to TD Garden.
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, inserted rookie winger, Karson Kulhman, on the second line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, while reverting back to 12 forwards and six defenders in the lineup.
Boston’s long list of healthy scratches included 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.
Wagner returned to practice on Saturday for the B’s, but was ruled “doubtful” to return to game action for the first time since blocking a shot in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Matt Grzelcyk was not medically cleared and remains in concussion protocol, while Kevan Miller (lower body) is still out.
Blues head coach, Craig Berube added Robert Thomas back into his lineup for the first time since Game 1 in the series, while Ivan Barbashev served his one-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Bruins forward, Marcus Johansson, in Game 5.
Sean Kuraly sent the puck over the glass and out of the playing surface 2:42 into the first period and was charged with an automatic delay of game minor penalty.
St. Louis did not convert on their first power play of the night and followed up with a penalty of their own– Brayden Schenn for boarding Joakim Nordstrom at 7:17 of the first period.
The Blues held a, 4-1, advantage in shots on goal at the time of their first penalty and killed off five-straight penalties through the last two games in the series.
A little over a minute later, Ryan O’Reilly sent the puck out of play and received an automatic infraction, yielding a two-skater advantage to the Bruins at 8:19.
It was Boston’s first 5-on-3 advantage this postseason and the B’s weren’t going to go quietly on the power play for long.
Almost 20 seconds after the 5-on-3 began, Torey Krug worked the puck over to David Pastrnak at the point, whereby No. 88 in black-and-gold sent a pass across the ice to Brad Marchand (9) for the one-timer over Binnington’s glove– giving Boston the first lead of the night, 1-0.
Pastrnak (10) and Krug (16) notched the assists on Marchand’s power play goal at 8:40 of the first period.
The goal was Boston’s 24th power play goal this postseason– tying their franchise record set in 1991. It was also Marchand’s 7th career goal in the Stanley Cup Final (19 games)– tying for 2nd with Wayne Cashman (7 Stanley Cup Final goals in 26 games).
Only Bobby Orr (16 games) and Johnny Bucyk (24 games) had more goals in the Stanley Cup Final for the Bruins with eight.
Late in the opening frame, Zdeno Chara was tied up with David Perron in front of the goal and received the only minor penalty from their net front fracas– a two-minute minor for interference at 18:21.
St. Louis’ ensuing power play would extend into the second period after the Blues failed to capitalize on the skater advantage by the first intermission.
After one period of play, the Bruins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 12-9, in shots on goal. Boston also held the advantage in blocked shots (8-4) and hits (10-9), while St. Louis led in takeaways (6-1), giveaways (4-1) and face-off win percentage (59-41).
The Notes were 0/2 on the power play entering the second period and the B’s were 1/2.
With 21 seconds left to kill on Chara’s minor, Boston began the second period shorthanded. The Bruins successfully killed off the remainder of Chara’s penalty.
Midway through the middle frame, Marchand tripped Alex Pietrangelo and sent the Blues on the power play at 9:11 of the second period.
Though St. Louis didn’t capitalize on the ensuing power play, they did send five shots on goal, including one that rang the post and off of Rask’s back as the Bruins goaltender reached around his back to guide the puck with his glove hand while twirling out of the crease.
Moments later, Charlie McAvoy tripped up Vladimir Tarasenko and was sent to the penalty box with a minor infraction at 13:43 of the second period.
Once again, Boston killed off the penalty.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 20-19, in shots on goal– despite St. Louis’, 10-8, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.
Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (12-7) heading into the second intermission, while the Blues led in takeaways (9-4), giveaways (9-3), hits (23-19) and face-off win% (56-44).
Heading into the third period, the Notes were 0/4 on the skater advantage, while the Bruins were still 1/2 on the power play.
Early in the final frame of regulation, Brandon Carlo (2) let go of a floater from the point that Vesa Toskala’ed Binnington on an odd bounce (the puck bounced off his blocker and into the twine) to make it, 2-0, Bruins.
DeBrusk (7) had the only assist on Carlo’s goal at 2:31 of the third period.
The goal would become the eventual game-winner and Carlo’s first career game-winning postseason goal.
Midway through the third, Kuhlman (1) unloaded a wrist shot from the face-off dot to the left of the Blues goaltender and sent the puck over Binnington’s blocker to give Boston a three-goal lead.
Krejci (11) had the only assist on Kuhlman’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff and Stanley Cup Final goal at 10:15 of the third period and the Bruins led, 3-0.
As a result of his goal, Kuhlman became the 21st Bruin to score a goal in the postseason– tying the 1987 Philadelphia Flyers for the most goal scorers by a team in one postseason.
Less than a couple minutes later, O’Reilly (7) squeaked a one-timer just past the goal line after the puck bounced off of Rask’s leg pad and out.
Video review determined O’Reilly had indeed scored at 12:01 of the third period and cut Boston’s lead to two-goals with Pietrangelo (15) and Perron (8) tallying the assists on O’Reilly’s goal.
Rather than backing down, the Bruins pressed forward as Kuraly used the body to free the puck along the end boards and work a short pass to Marchand in the low slot.
No. 63 in black-and-gold pushed the puck to Pastrnak (9) for the drag and top-shelf goal while Binnington dove to poke-check the puck off of Pastrnak’s stick in desperation.
Marchand (14) and Kuraly (6) were credited with the assists on Pastrnak’s goal at 14:06 and Boston led, 4-1, after amassing three goals on their last nine shots including Pastrnak’s goal.
With about 4:12 remaining in the action, Berube pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail.
Shortly thereafter, Chara (2) flipped the puck from his own face-off circle to the left of Rask into the empty twine at 17:41.
The 42-year-old captain became the 2nd oldest goal scorer in the Stanley Cup Final in Bruins franchise history since Mark Recchi (43 in 2011).
In the closing seconds of the game, Sammy Blais slashing Connor Clifton and the two engaged in a shoving match resulting in two minor penalties for Blais (slashing and roughing) and a minor penalty for Clifton (roughing) at 19:38.
Five seconds later, after a face-off in Boston’s attacking zone, Robert Bortuzzo cross checked Noel Acciari and picked up a minor infraction as well as a ten-minute misconduct at 19:43.
The Bruins finished the action with a 5-on-3 advantage as the final horn sounded on Boston’s, 5-1, victory in Game 6.
Boston finished the night with the series tied 3-3 and leading in shots on goal (32-29), as well as blocked shots (16-9).
St. Louis led in giveaways (12-4), hits (29-27) and face-off win% (59-41) in their final home game of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blues went 0/4 on the power play, while the B’s went 1/2 on the skater advantage Sunday night.
Boston improved to 25-1 all-time in the postseason when Marchand has a goal and 8-0 this postseason when Marchand scores.
The team that scored first in this series has won Games 3, 4, 5 and 6.
The Bruins forced a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final for the 17th time in league history and first since their Cup-clinching victory in 2011.
The Bruins have also faced a 3-2 deficit in a best-of-seven series 25 times in franchise history– winning four of their 24 prior instances, including the 1941 Semifinal, 1994 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2019 First Round.
Puck drop for Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final is slated for a little after 8 p.m. ET at TD Garden in Boston on Wednesday. Viewers in the United States can tune in on NBC, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.
It’ll be the 2nd Game 7 of the postseason for both clubs and 6th Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs– tied for the 2nd most Game 7s in one postseason in league history.
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.
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.
The St. Louis Blues just keep on winning (11 straight, to be exact). Can they win it all? The Tampa Bay Lightning are not Stanley Cup favorites according to Nick– nobody is! Did the Edmonton Oilers win a trade? Cory Schneider won a game! and other milestones from the last week, as well as whatever happened in the Boston Bruins vs San Jose Sharks game on Monday.
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.
Fridays are the bomb.com. This one is no exception, as the league has eight games on the schedule.
Like most nights, the action finds its start at 7 p.m. when three games drop the puck (Detroit at the New York Islanders, Calgary at the New York Rangers and Columbus at Washington), followed half an hour later by two more (Los Angeles at Florida and Vancouver at Carolina). Next up is St. Louis at Winnipeg at 8 p.m., while Pittsburgh at Dallas (SN1) waits 30 minutes before getting underway. Finally, Edmonton at Anaheim closes out the evening at 10 p.m. All times Eastern.
In addition to those NHL tilts, the women’s hockey tournament at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang is also getting underway, as Japan is taking on Sweden in Group B play at 2:40 a.m. Eastern time Saturday morning.
Among the games that stick out, here’s a few I selected…
- Pittsburgh at Dallas: Drafted in 2011, D Jamie Oleksiak spent six seasons within the Stars organization. Tonight marks his first return to American Airlines Center since being traded in December.
- Edmonton at Anaheim: It’s a rematch of last year’s Western Semifinals! One team looks capable of making a return to that round, one… doesn’t.
- Japan vs. Sweden: I mean, this is hockey’s opening act of the 2018 Olympics we’re talking about here. How can this not be an important game?
However, there’s one more NHL game that sticks out above the rest, so it looks like we won’t be headed to Pyeongchang today. Maybe tomorrow!
In all honesty, if the Blues’ offense had performed yesterday like it did against Minnesota on Tuesday, we very well might be focusing on the Japan vs. Sweden game.
And that’s coming from somebody who will be wearing the Note at work this evening.
Instead, Head Coach Mike Yeo worked some magic with his line blender to lead his Notes to an explosive 6-1 victory against the Avs, the most goals they’ve scored in a game since another six-marker performance on December 9 in Detroit.
Don’t let C Paul Stastny‘s two points in last night’s game fool you: St. Louis’ top line is still a work in progress. In both instances when he found the scoresheet, he was the only forward listed, as he and D Vince Dunn assisted D Alex Pietrangelo to the captain’s second period goal and D Jay Bouwmeester and D Carl Gunnarsson assisted Stastny to his third period insurance tally.
Instead, it would seem that these new look Blues’ most dominant line might be its second, as F Patrik Berglund and F Brayden Schenn seemed to show some chemistry on the former Flyer’s second period goal. That line was completed by F Jaden Schwartz, whose +24 is (t)seventh-best in the league.
It will be interesting to see if Yeo lets his current lines play another game as they currently are (I’d put my chips in that pile) or if he’ll shake things up again tonight.
Though offense has certainly been a struggle of late for St. Louis, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been finding wins. In fact, the Blues have won seven of their past 10 games to hold on to third place in the Central Division and keep the surging Stars at bay.
Logic would lead us to believe the Notes have been one of the best defensive teams in the league during that run, but that’s only half true. The defensive skaters have been nothing worth writing home about considering their 30.9 shots against-per-game since January 16 is only 13th best in the league in that time, but 15-5-1 G Carter Hutton has been incredible in spite of that considerable workload.
Few goaltenders in the NHL have been as dominant as Hutton since January 16. He’s posted a 7-2-0 record in his past nine starts with an outstanding .95 save percentage and 1.47, improving his season numbers to a .944 save percentage and 1.7 GAA – both of which are best in the league. In fact, with the exception of G Tuukka Rask‘s 1.43 GAA since mid-January, no goaltender with more than six starts in that time even comes close to Hutton’s performance.
In other words, Hutton has been the Blues’ biggest weapon for the past two weeks – if not longer.
Of note, Hutton was in net last night in St. Louis for the Blues’ victory over the Avalanche. That leads me to believe the likely starter this evening will be 18-15-2 G Jake Allen, who has lost five consecutive decisions since December 27 with a combined .892 save percentage. If he does in fact draw the start, the Blues’ offense had better be prepared to keep pace with the Jets’ otherworldly firepower (aka RW Blake Wheeler, who’s 44 assists are sixth-most in the league).
Whichever netminder is in the crease, he has the unenviable job of trying to slow down 32-13-9 Winnipeg, who has posted a dominant 6-0-2 record over its past eight games to keep pace with the Central Division-leading Predators (the Jets are tied in points, but have one more game played than Nashville).
Of course, the Jets simply haven’t looked the same since C Mark Scheifele went down with an upper-body injury on December 27. In his absence, they’ve become a bit of a defensive team, allowing only 1.88 goals per game since January 20, the third-best mark in the NHL in that time.
While 28-6-8 G Connor Hellebuyck has looked extremely solid over this stretch (more on him in a moment), I’ve been most impressed with the efforts of his defense. Led by the efforts of D Josh Morrissey (2.9 blocks per game over this run), D Dustin Byfuglien and F Mathieu Perreault (both with seven takeaways since January 20, and Perreault with 2.1 hits per game in that time), Winnipeg has allowed only 29.5 shots against per game over this streak, the fifth-fewest in the NHL in that time.
With a workload that light, it’s hard for the league’s second-best goaltender in terms of wins to do much besides succeed. He’s started all but one of the Jets’ past eight games, earning a 5-0-2 record with a solid .934 save percentage and 1.94 GAA to improve his season numbers to .924 and 2.32, both of which are eighth-best in the NHL this season.
Halfway through the four-game series between these two clubs, we’re knotted at one game apiece with both teams winning their first home game against the other. St. Louis was the first to don its home colors, and Hutton shutout the Jets’ potent offense to a 2-0 victory on December 16 (Hutton’s three shutouts on the season are [t]seventh-most in the NHL). However, Hellebuyck and Winnipeg matched the Blues’ shutout with one of its own the next day (one of a [t]second-best five on the season), as the Jets won 4-0 at Bell MTS Centre.
In what looked like a battle of the offenses when the season started, this game will be decided by which offense can simply manage to muster up a goal against these two stellar defensive efforts. Since the Jets are playing at home this evening and they didn’t have to travel overnight like St. Louis, I’m leaning towards them earning two points tonight to surpass Nashville for the division lead (at least for a night) and pull within a point of Vegas for the Western Conference lead.
An explosive three-goal second period is all the Calgary Flames needed to beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day at Prudential Center.
Since no goals were struck in the first period, First Star of the Game C Sean Monahan‘s (D Dougie Hamilton and D Mark Giordano) wrist shot 4:16 into the second frame gave the Flames a one-goal lead. Second Star F Taylor Hall provided an unassisted wrister only 3:07 later to level the game, but Calgary was just getting its scoring started. Third Star LW Johnny Gaudreau (W Micheal Ferland) reclaimed the lead with 5:27 in the frame, but it was Monahan’s (Gaudreau and D T.J. Brodie) second marker of the period that proved to be the game-winner.
Just like Flames play-by-play announcer Rick Ball said, “persistence pays off.” After receiving a pass from Gaudreau at the blue line, Monahan attacked up the boards and through the left face-off circle before trying to beat G Keith Kinkaid near side. His initial shot found the goal post, but Monahan’s momentum carried him behind the net to Kinkaid’s left, just in time for him to collect his own aerial rebound. He one-timed his own miss-turned-assist (I mean, it was intentional, right?) past Kinkaid’s glove, clipping the left goal post before finding the back of the net 1:55 before the end of the frame.
C Pavel Zacha (F Brian Boyle and Hall) took advantage of D Travis Hamonic‘s hi-stick against F Blake Coleman to score a power play backhanded shot 7:23 into the third period, but Jersey could not find a third goal to level the game.
G David Rittich earned the victory after saving 30-of-32 shots faced (.938 save percentage), leaving the loss to Kinkaid, who saved 22-of-25 (.88).
That’s three points in the last two games for road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. As such, they’ve pulled within 26 points of the 67-39-15 hosts.
St. Louis Blues
46-29-7, 99 points, third in the Central Division
Eliminated in the Second Round by Nashville
Subtractions: LW Kenny Agostino (signed with BOS), C Jori Lehtera (traded to PHI), W David Perron (drafted by VGK), RW Ty Rattie (signed with EDM), RW Ryan Reaves (traded to PIT), W Nail Yakupov (signed with COL)
Offseason Analysis: The Blues’ biggest struggle last season was finding offensive production from someone not named Vladimir Tarasenko, the right wing that led his team with 75 points – 20 more than second-best F Jaden Schwartz.
Enter Flyer-turned-Note Schenn.
The fifth-overall pick in the 2009 Entry Draft has improved almost every season of his career. Starting with his rookie campaign in 2011-’12, Schenn has averaged .58 points-per-game, including .72 points-per-game for the past two seasons even though he played for the ninth-worst offense in the NHL during that time.
For those wanting more moves, you’ll have your wish next offseason when eight NHL contracts will expire. Until then, St. Louis is putting almost the exact same product on the ice as it did at last season’s end. Since that’s the case, the Blues’ goal of a seventh-straight playoff appearance will require a return to form from a few offensive pieces that had down years last season – particularly C Paul Stastny (18-22-40 totals), who has yet to match his career .8 points-per-game in a Blues sweater.
Of course, the main reason Stastny struggled to post numbers similar to his 10-39-49 totals from 2015-’16 was a lower-body injury suffered in March that forced him out of action for the last 10 games of the regular season and most of the Minnesota series. And he wasn’t the only one to face extended time off the ice, as a February ACL injury landed F Robby Fabbri on injured reserve. It was a disappointing halt to an excellent season for Fabbri, who had posted 11-18-29 totals in 51 games before going down.
Of course, it is these injuries that provided 21-year-old Ivan Barbashev his opportunity to explode onto the scene. In only 30 games, Barbashev was able to notch 12 points and helped the Blues close the season on a 12-2-2 run. It seems a safe assumption that he’s earned his way onto the Blues’ starting roster – at least until December when Patrik Berglund should return from his shoulder surgery.
Another task facing the Blues is identifying their new two-way defenseman, a role Kevin Shattenkirk filled for the past seven seasons. In the 20 regular season games following Shattenkirk’s trade to Washington, Captain Alex Pietrangelo more than stepped into that role by notching 5-13-18 totals for .9 points-per-game, far superior to the .5 points-per-game rate he managed in his opening 60 games.
With four assists in 11 playoff contests, Pietrangelo didn’t necessarily disappear from the scoresheet during the postseason, but his offensive contributions from the blue line were dwarfed by those of Joel Edmundson (3-3-6 totals) and Colton Parayko (2-3-5 totals). Drafted in 2012, 24-year-old Parayko has long been tapped as Shattenkirk’s replacement – especially given that he’s posted two consecutive 33+ point NHL seasons – but the Blues are cautiously hoping last April was Edmundson’s (another 24-year-old) coming-out party.
Will that dream pan out? Probably not. Edmundson has only managed 31 total points in two years of regular and postseason NHL play. But, if it somehow proves to be true, it will be hard to argue that St. Louis’ Edmundson (who’s playing for a contract this year, by the way), Parayko and Pietrangelo form one of the most dynamic defensive corps in the league.
Another interesting transition for this club is employing Thorburn as their new enforcer. For seven seasons, Reaves was charged with protecting the likes of Pietrangelo, Alex Steen and Tarasenko, but he’s looking after Pittsburgh’s stars now. With the likes of Duncan Keith still roaming the division, Thorburn – himself a four-year Central veteran – will need to assert himself early to protect St. Louis’ elite players.
Offseason Grade: B-
For the room it had on its roster (read: not much), St. Louis made a great addition in Schenn that should make a noticeable improvement on the offensive end.
But are the Blues a playoff team? I feel pretty confident saying they are. Do they make it to the Western Finals for the second time in three years or – God save me – qualify for the Stanley Cup Finals? Many of the pieces are still there, but there are more than a few talented teams in the mix. Then again, this team has proven in the past that when it’s hot, it’s en fuego. If the Notes are riding one of those highs in April, there’s no telling how far they could go.