Nick takes a little time out of the summer to go over third line signings, jersey number controversy and Ron Francis’ hiring as General Manager of the Seattle expansion franchise.
After what seems like an eternity has passed (drop the puck already), the 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the Eastern Conference champion, Boston Bruins, and the Western Conference champion, St. Louis Blues, kicks off Monday night at TD Garden.
Here’s a look at how the best-of-seven series should pan out.
A2 Boston Bruins (49-24-9, 107 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)
Boston is making their third appearance in the Final in the last eight years– winning the Cup against the Vancouver Canucks in seven games in 2011 and losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in 2013.
St. Louis is making their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 49 years– losing in four games to the Bruins in 1970.
Regardless of the series outcome– history will be made.
The Bruins outlasted the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the First Round, bested the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games in the Second Round and swept the “Bunch of Jerks” known as the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.
The Blues grounded the Winnipeg Jets in six games in the First Round, beat the Dallas Stars in seven games in the Second Round and took a bite out of the San Jose Sharks in six games in the Western Conference Final.
Both teams have incredible depth scoring, solid defense and out-of-this-world goaltending.
Only one team can win it all, however.
Both cities have met in all four major North American professional sports championship games and/or series, with St. Louis last beating Boston in the 1967 World Series as the Cardinals defeated the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox.
Since then, the B’s beat the Blue Notes in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final as Bobby Orr soared through the air after scoring “The Goal”, the New England Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams (R.I.P.) in Super Bowl XXXVI and the Red Sox beat the Cardinals twice in 2004 and 2013.
Brad Marchand led his team in scoring in the regular season with 100 points and his 18 points in 17 games played this postseason lead David Pastrnak (15 points), David Krejci (14), Patrice Bergeron (13), Charlie Coyle (12), Torey Krug (12) and the rest of the Bruins.
Bergeron leads his roster in goals so far in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with eight, including a postseason leading six power play goals– the most by a Bruin since Cam Neely scoring nine goals on the power play in 1991.
Marchand is tied with Pastrnak for the second-most goals for Boston, trailing Bergeron with seven goals each, followed by Coyle (six) and Krejci (four).
The only Bruins without a goal this postseason are Brandon Carlo (a lineup regular), John Moore (primarily a scratch throughout this postseason) and Karson Kuhlman (appeared in six games in the First and Second Round before David Backes took over in each round on the second line right wing).
There have been 19 different scorers for Boston in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
General Manager, Don Sweeney, addressed his apparent lack of secondary scoring with the acquisitions on Coyle (6-6–12 totals in 17 games this postseason) and Marcus Johansson (3-6–9 totals in 15 games) leading up to the trade deadline.
Head coach, Bruce Cassidy, has adjusted his game on-the-fly, mixing up the lines when necessary to rejuvenate the scoring touch of “The Perfection Line” (Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak), while lighting a fire under the annual playoff performer in Krejci and his wingers Jake DeBrusk and Backes.
Marchand and Krug are tied for the lead in assists with 11, while defender and captain, Zdeno Chara, leads his crew in plus/minus with a plus-11 rating in 16 games played this postseason.
Chara, 42, missed Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final in Carolina, but is ready and refreshed to try to earn four more wins against St. Louis and join Johnny Bower (42, 1967), Dominik Hasek (43, 2008), Mark Recchi (43, 2011) and Chris Chelios (46, 2008) as the only players to win the Cup at the age of 42 or older.
The rest of the B’s defenders have played a shutdown style that has led to the Bruins in control of all the important statistical categories at the end of the night– the final score.
Boston is 11-0 when leading after two periods this postseason and has only trailed in 9.9% of their minutes played since the start of the Second Round.
They’re also on a seven-game winning streak– their third longest in franchise history in the postseason– behind only runs of 10-0 in 1970 and 9-0 in 1972.
Both of those years, the Bruins won the Cup.
Though Chris Wagner (upper body) and Kevan Miller (lower body) are out for the remainder of the playoffs, the next man up mentality has landed Noel Acciari a spot on the fourth line with Joakim Nordstrom and Sean Kuraly in place of Walpole, Massachusetts native Wagner, as well as regular time for Connor Clifton on the blue line in place of Miller.
Coyle, Wagner and defender, Matt Grzelcyk, are seeking to join Myles Lane as the only Massachusetts-born players to win a Cup with the Bruins. Lane did so in Boston’s first Stanley Cup championship back in 1929.
Meanwhile, Tuukka Rask (12-5 record, 1.84 goals against average, .942 save percentage in 17 games played this postseason) is having a Conn Smythe worthy performance in the net for the B’s.
Rask’s stats are better than his 1.88 GAA and .940 SV% in 22 games played in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final and better than Tim Thomas’ 1.98 GAA and .940 SV% in 25 games played en route to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship.
The B’s have gone ten full days without a game, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Rask as his workload was reduced with the help of backup goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, in the regular season.
Sweeney and Cassidy and wanted a dynamic duo of goaltenders that would let their starter in Rask find his groove and work efficiently.
There’s no better efficiency than the way he’s playing right now.
With the shutout in Game 4 against the Hurricanes, Rask improved to 8-0 in eight career appearances in the Conference Finals, as well as franchise record holder for most series-clinching shutouts in Bruins history with three (surpassing Gerry Cheevers and Thomas’ previous mark of two series-clinching shutouts).
Boston held an intra-squad scrimmage last Thursday to keep the game-flow going and charged fans $20 to attend and see their players in action that they might not otherwise be able to afford to see (with Stanley Cup Final tickets on the secondary market going for $1,000).
Every dollar went to the Boston Bruins Foundation, which redistributes funds to charities throughout New England that help enrich the lives of children in the region.
The Bruins are facing the St. Louis Blues for the 3rd time in a playoff series (previous, 1972 Semifinals, BOS W, 4-0). Boston also swept St. Louis in the 1970 SCF.
St. Louis is well-familiar with “The Hub of the Universe”. They were swept by Boston in the 1970 Stanley Cup Final– the Blues third appearance in their first three years of existence as a franchise in the Final.
Then the two clubs met again in the 1972 Semifinals. Once more, the Blues were swept by the Bruins.
The team with a blue music note with wings for a crest has yet to win a game in the Stanley Cup Final. 1968, 1969 and 1970 resulted in 12 straight Stanley Cup Final losses to the Montreal Canadiens and Boston.
A lot of franchise history has passed for St. Louis and names like Wayne Gretzky have even gone through the club (albeit for 31 games in the regular season and playoffs in 1996).
49 years later, hometown heroes, like Pat Maroon, and adopted hometown heroes, like David Perron (in his third stint with the organization) have led from the back-end of the top-nine group of forwards out.
Jaden Schwartz leads St. Louis in scoring with 12 goals– the second most in franchise history in a postseason, trailing Brett Hull’s 13 goals in 12 games played in the 1990 Stanley Cup Playoffs– and 16 points in 19 games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Schwartz even has two hat tricks this postseason and is the first NHLer to record two hat tricks in one postseason since Johan Franzen did so with the Detroit Red Wings en route to their 2008 Stanley Cup championship.
Offseason acquisition, Ryan O’Reilly, has proven General Manager, Doug Armstrong, worthy of being named a finalist for GM of the Year this season, as O’Reilly has 3-11–14 totals in 19 games
Vladimir Tarasenko– St. Louis’ regular star– has eight goals and five assists (13 points) and is tied for third in scoring on the roster with Perron (6-7–13 totals) and Alex Pietrangelo (2-11–13 totals).
All of the Blues are in search of their first Stanley Cup championship ring and must face former captain and current Bruin, David Backes. After 10 years with the organization, Backes joined Boston on July 1, 2016. In his 13th career season, he’ll face his former team for the Cup.
St. Louis has had helping hands on the blue line in Pietrangelo’s 13 points and Colton Parayko’s 11 points this postseason.
Among their regulars, only Jay Bouwmeester and Carl Gunnarsson have yet to score a goal in this year’s playoffs (Zach Sanford also hasn’t recorded a point in three games played).
Backes’ storyline isn’t the only familiarity with the Blues, however.
Rookie goaltender, Jordan Binnington (12-7, 2.37 GAA, .914 SV% in 19 GP) holds the franchise record for most wins in a postseason by a rookie netminder, but spent last season on loan to the Providence Bruins (AHL).
If there’s team with more internal notes on the goaltender that they’re facing in this year’s Stanley Cup Final– it’s the Boston Bruins.
But Binnington’s not nervous– he hasn’t been all postseason long, en route to eliminating the Jets, Stars and Sharks.
He is, however, about to face his biggest challenge yet in the Bruins, unless Craig Berube finds a way to coach his team into taming the bears charging at them down the ice.
While Robert Thomas is likely good to go in Boston for Game 1, Vince Dun will be out of the lineup and day-to-day.
That’s no worry for the cool, calm and collected Berube– who’s guided his team from 31st (dead last) in the league on the morning of Jan. 3rd to the Stanley Cup Final after being named interim head coach back in November, replacing Mike Yeo.
Ten out of the last 13 Cup winners have had the shorter turnaround from the Conference Finals to the Stanley Cup Final, but we’re talking a difference of a few days as opposed to an average of just over a week for the two opponents this year.
The winner of Game 1– since the best-of-seven series format was adopted for the Final in 1939– has gone on to win the Cup in 61 out of 79 series’ (77.2% success rate).
Though both teams expect to play sloppy coming out of the gate, it is vital for Cassidy to keep his players on edge at the top of their game.
Play your game and you control the game. Play the Blues’ game and you’ll fall behind.
Berube managed to frustrate the Jets and Stars, while St. Louis lucked out against a battered Sharks roster.
That’s not to say the Blues are any less dangerous this time of year. In fact, they’re quite good. They won the Western Conference.
However, this time of year is both a sprint and a marathon. How fast can you skate up and down the ice for a full 60-minute (sometimes more) effort and can you maintain that for up to seven games?
Boston is a team with enough experience to go the distance, but St. Louis is a team with enough history to overcome.
In the end, the Bruins should be the ones raising the Cup above their heads for what might the be final time in their current core group of players’ careers as Bergeron, Krejci, Chara, Marchand and Rask continue to leave their mark on franchise history– defining careers worthy of recognition in the rafters of TD Garden.
Time will tell over six games in the series as the events unfold.
Regular season outcomes:
2-1 F/SO STL at Enterprise Center on Feb. 23rd, 5-2 BOS at TD Garden on Jan. 17th
5/27- Game 1 STL @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/29- Game 2 STL @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
6/1-Game 3 BOS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
6/3- Game 4 BOS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
6/6- Game 5 STL @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*
6/9- Game 6 BOS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*
6/12- Game 7 STL @ BOS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*
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.
Patrice Bergeron opened the game’s scoring while crashing the net on a rebound and closed the game’s scoring with an empty net goal, while Peter Cehlarik took home the game-winning goal in the Boston Bruins’, 3-1, victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday night at TD Garden.
It was the 53rd game of the 2018-19 regular season for the Bruins and the 1,000th regular season game in Bergeron’s career.
An alternate captain for the Bruins playing in his 15th NHL season, Bergeron became the 53rd player in NHL history to score a goal in his 1,000th game and the 3rd to do so in a Boston uniform (joining Johnny Bucyk on Dec. 10, 1970 and Jean Ratelle on March 23, 1977).
Bergeron also became the 6th player in league history to score multiple goals in his 1,000th game.
Tuukka Rask (16-8-4 record, 2.30 goals against average, .924 save percentage in 29 games played) made 28 saves on 29 shots against for the .966 SV% in the win for Boston– his 254th of his career.
In his last 11 starts, Rask is now 8-1-2 with a 1.42 GAA and .945 SV%. Boston is 9-3-3 in their last 15 games as a result.
Robin Lehner (16-8-4, 2.02 GAA, .932 SV% in 29 GP) turned aside 24 out of 26 shots faced for a .923 SV% in the loss for New York.
The Islanders’ eight-game point streak came to an end as a result of the loss in regulation to Boston on Tuesday.
The Bruins improved to 29-17-7 (65 points) on the season and remained in 4th place in the Atlantic Division, while the Islanders fell to 30-16-6 (66 points), but stayed in command of the Metropolitan Division.
Boston also improved to 19-4-5 when scoring first this season and 2-0-0 in the month of February.
Bergeron and Rask were each honored with their own standing ovations during stoppages in the first period for reaching their own milestones (Bergeron, 1,000 games and Rask, 253 wins as a Bruins goaltender– a new franchise record, set on Sunday in Washington in a, 1-0, shutout against the Capitals).
Bruce Cassidy made no changes to the B’s lineup among his forwards, but switched up his defensive pairings– placing Zdeno Chara with Brandon Carlo, Torey Krug with Kevan Miller and Matt Grzelcyk alongside Charlie McAvoy.
Just 18 seconds into the action on Tuesday, David Backes sent the puck over the glass and out of the rink for an automatic delay of game penalty.
The Isles did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.
Almost midway through the first period, Brock Nelson hooked Carlo and the Bruins went on the power play for their first time in the game at 9:43.
Boston did not capitalize on their first skater advantage of the night, nor did they find a way to crack the code all night on the power play, as the B’s went 0/3 on the night after Ryan Pulock‘s slashing minor at 11:51 and Scott Mayfield‘s cross-checking infraction at 15:04.
Entering the first intermission, the game was still tied, 0-0, while the Bruins led in shots on goal, 10-7, and in face-off win percentage (67-33). New York led in blocked shots (7-3) and takeaways (4-3) after 20 minutes of play.
Both teams had four giveaways each and nine hits aside, while the Islanders went 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/3.
Marchand flipped a pass over to the 22-year-old Boston winger for the one-timer, but Lehner made the initial save. He also gave up a rebound.
While crashing the net, Bergeron (17) found the loose puck and buried it in the twine to give the B’s the lead, 1-0, at 2:32 of the second period.
Pastrnak (33) and Marchand (39) notched the assists as Marchand quickly skated after the puck and collected it for Bergeron’s mantle at home, having scored in his 1,000th game.
As a result of the goal, Pastrnak had been involved either directly by scoring or indirectly by assisting on eight straight goals for the Bruins, but fell shy of the team record of nine straight goals later in the game.
Almost a minute into the power play while Wagner was in the box, Jordan Eberle (12) squeaked a shot past Rask on the short side from about the goal line at 16:40 to tie the game, 1-1.
Mathew Barzal (32) and Nelson (16) had the assists on Eberle’s power play goal.
Both teams entered the dressing room for the 2nd intermission tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard, but Boston led in shots on goal, 19-18, despite being outshot by New York, 11-9, in the middle frame alone.
The Isles led in takeaways (8-5), as well as giveaways (8-5), through two periods, while the B’s led in face-off win% (54-46). Both teams had 12 blocked shots and 17 hits each through 40 minutes of action.
Entering the third period, New York was 1/3 on the power play, while Boston remained 0/3.
Cal Clutterbuck thought he gave the Islanders their first lead of the night at 4:52 of the third period with snipe past Rask, however, Cassidy used his coach’s challenge wisely and sent the play to review.
After review, it was determined the Devon Toews and Clutterbuck connected on the play while offside, meaning the call on the ice was overturned and the Islanders hadn’t actually scored. No goal.
A couple minutes later, Cehlarik (3) followed up on a rebound and banked the puck off Lehner and in the net as the New York goaltender dove across the crease in desperation after turning aside the initial shot.
Miller (4) had the only assist on Cehlarik’s goal at 6:34 of the third period and the Bruins led, 2-1.
Past the midpoint of the final frame of regulation, Grzelcyk was charged with two minor penalties against Eberle– one for slashing and another for tripping– resulting in a rare four-minute power play for the Isles.
Rask and his penalty killers stood tall, limiting New York to just three shots on goal through the first half of the extended power play opportunity and successfully killing off Grzelcyk’s minors.
Islanders head coach, Barry Trotz, pulled his goaltender with about 1:15 left in regulation for an extra attacker to try to tie the game, 2-2, but it just wasn’t written in the cards on an otherwise beautifully scripted night for Boston sports fans (the six-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots were honored for their, 13-3, win in Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams and participated in a ceremonial puck drop prior to Tuesday night’s action).
Marchand sent a pass to Pastrnak as No. 88 broke free of the New York defenders and entered the attacking zone with an empty 4-by-6 frame in front of him and the chance to put the game away.
Instead, Pastrnak unselfishly looked behind himself and dropped the puck back to an approaching Bergeron (18) for his second goal of the game and the empty net goal that secured the, 3-1, victory for Boston at 19:05 of the third period.
Pastrnak (34) and Marchand (40) were tabbed with the assists on the goal.
With his second assist of the night, Marchand reached the 40-assist plateau for the third consecutive season as the usual scoring suspect for Boston has reshaped his game into scoring goals and being a playmaker.
At the final horn, the Bruins won, 3-1, and led in blocked shots (17-15) and hits (25-23) after 60 minutes of action. The Islanders led in shots on goal (29-27) and giveaways (15-9), while both teams were 50-50 in face-off win%.
New York finished the night 1/5 on the power play, while the B’s went 0/3.
In his last six games, Bergeron has 4-3–7 totals with 21 shots on goal and a plus-two rating. He ranks 5th in games played in franchise history behind Ray Bourque (1,518 games played in a Bruins sweater), Bucyk (1,436), current General Manager Don Sweeney (1,052) and Wayne Cashman (1,027).
Current teammate and captain, Chara is 6th in franchise history with 927 games played on the Boston blue line.
Bergeron is just the 5th player to reach 1,000 games played with the franchise and 12th player this season to reach the milestone. He has 307 goals and 473 assists (780 points) in that span.
Among the four major North American men’s professional leagues, only Tom Brady of the Patriots has played in more seasons in New England than Bergeron.
Brady’s 19 seasons tops the list among all four organizations with Bergeron (15) 2nd, Boston Red Sox player Dustin Pedroia 3rd (13) and Boston Celtics star Marcus Smart (5) rounding out the list.
Boston travels to Madison Square Garden for an 8 p.m. ET puck drop against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night before returning home for a 1:00 p.m. ET matinee matchup with the Los Angeles Kings and another afternoon battle with the Colorado Avalanche (3 p.m. ET) on Sunday in back-to-back games on back-to-back days.
The Bruins wrap up their short three-game homestand against the Chicago Blackhawks next Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Bergeron will be honored with a pregame ceremony prior to the game on Saturday against Los Angeles.
Nick and Connor rant about retired numbers, anniversary patches, showing emotion in hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs and William Nylander, coaches that might get fired, “the code” and Mike Matheson’s antics.
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.
Nick and Connor recap the 2018 trade deadline, 2018 Winter Games and 2018 overall even though it’s only March. Marco Sturm is worthy of an NHL coaching job, but will anyone take the risk? Hint: They should. Also, more thoughts on the Erik Karlsson saga.
Another two-week special, courtesy of a trip to the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Skater of the Week(s): Evgeni Malkin
Hey, so, you know that thing the Penguins do where they trick everyone into thinking they’re not very good and then right around February they just start crapping in everyone’s Wheaties? Yeah, keep those cereal boxes sealed.
The Pens are 4-1-0 in five games over this two-week span, and Geno is a major reason why. With eight goals and 11 points over the five contests, Malkin leads the league by two points in overall scoring in that span, and teammate Phil Kessel is the one trailing him. Possibly even more impressive is the fact that in the first game of the five, he was held scoreless, so he’s actually put up those numbers across just four contests. Throw in three power play tallies, a game-winner, and a cartoonish .40 shooting percentage, and it’s not hard to see why Malkin gets the nod here.
Tendy of the Week(s): Carter Hutton
I’m honestly very glad I checked the stats page on this, because I was jotting down Tuukka Rask‘s name when I saw he had actually been bested.
Hutton continues an absolutely ridiculous run this season with a perfect 4-0-0 record and seemingly-impossible advanced stats with a .984 save percentage and 0.50 GAA over the past two weeks. He’s given up two goals on 123 shots, and I literally cannot even come up with anything witty for that.
The 32-year old career journeyman now boasts a 14-4-1 record on the season with a .947 save percentage and 1.61 GAA. When the Blues traded Brian Elliott, it was because they felt they now possessed a true #1 goaltender for the future. But I’m pretty sure Hutton was not the name they were thinking of at the time.
Game of the Week: Super Bowl LII
The empire has fallen. Behold a god that bleeds.
News, Notes, & Nonsense:
Rick Nash has submitted his list of teams that he would not accept a trade to upon the Rangers’ request. The former Rocket Richard winner is now in his mid-30s and has seen his production dip signficantly, though some think a change of scenery could reinvigorate his career. The popular narrative is that he returns to Columbus, but I think I speak for most intelligent CBJ fans when I say ‘Dear god please no’.
Jaromir Jagr retired from the NHL and returned to his native Czech Republic to continue his career back home. There were many touching sendoffs from around the NHL, but I’m honestly not sure why considering he’ll just come back in about three years and be a productive player for a few more teams.
Filip Forsberg was suspended for three games following a very illegal hit, a decision that has apparently shocked and upset his teammates. Now I will definitely say the Department of Player Safety has been less than stellar with some decisions this year, and I am certainly of the opinion that good clean hits cause far too much hooplah anymore, but I don’t know how anyone can defend a hit as late and dirty as this one.
Rookie sensation Charlie McAvoy made his triumphant return to the Bruins lineup just 12 days after undergoing a procedure on his heart to treat an abnormal rhythm. I’m not a doctor, but that sounds like a pretty heroic comeback effort to me after literally having the thing that keeps you alive fixed.
Radko Gudas is back at the center of controversy, because of course he is. The oft-suspended Flyers defenseman made airborne contact with Kyle Palmieri after attempting to avoid leg-on-leg contact with teammate Wayne Simmonds by leaping out of the way, only to be met by a backchecking Palmieri. I am actually of the belief that this was truly an accident, but Gudas’ history probably doesn’t help his case.
No one knows what goaltender interference actually is anymore, so everybody get your licks in on that guy who always stones you on breakaways while you can.