The salary cap isn’t going up as much as everyone hoped. Also, there were plenty of trades, buyouts and extensions handed out in the last week. Nick, Colby, Cap’n and Pete examine each move and pick 2019 NHL Awards winners.
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.
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*
Nick, Cap’n and Pete mourn the Columbus Blue Jackets, review the Vegas Golden Knights front office moves, Ken Holland to the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers new assistant coaches. Finally, the guys preview the 2019 Eastern Conference Final matchup between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, as well as the 2019 Western Conference Final matchup between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.
If you didn’t learn your lesson from the First Round to the Second Round, hopefully you’ve learned it by now, because their is no “Third Chance Bracket”.
Yes, it’s time for the Conference Finals in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, ladies and gentlemen, and this year in the Western Conference it’s a familiar duo going at it again for the first time in three years.
P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)
The San Jose Sharks trailed, 3-0, on home ice in the third period of a Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights in the First Round, but everything changed when Joe Pavelski went down with an injury and Cody Eakin was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct.
Sure, maybe the penalty was over the top and should have only been a two-minute minor penalty, but the Golden Knights also shouldn’t have ever allowed four power play goals against in a span of 4:01. San Jose took the lead, 4-3, then Vegas tied it in the final minute of regulation.
The Sharks became just the 2nd team in Stanley Cup Playoff history to erase a three-goal deficit and win in overtime, 5-4, as they eliminated the Golden Knights in seven games in the First Round.
Anybody see that coming? No?
But at the same time, we all had a warning sign when the Golden Knights blew a, 3-0, lead in the first period of Game 2 and the Sharks tied it, 3-3, heading into the first intermission. Though San Jose went on to lose that game, 5-3, it meant Vegas was vulnerable.
Since then, the Sharks rocketed back-and-forth with the Colorado Avalanche, ultimately coming out on top, 3-2, in Game 7 on Wednesday to advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2016.
The St. Louis Blues have been riding the back of their rookie goaltender, Jordan Binnington, since a little over four months ago as the hottest team in the league since Jan. 1st.
As such, the Blues defeated the Winnipeg Jets in six games in the First Round– despite both teams dropping their first two home games in the series.
St. Louis then faced the best goaltender (statistically speaking) remaining in the postseason, Ben Bishop, and the rest of the Dallas Stars in the Second Round.
They trailed in the series, 3-2, entering Game 6 in Dallas and stormed out of American Airlines Center faster than a jet with the series tied, 3-3, heading back to home ice for Game 7.
Tuesday night, the Blues fired 54 shots on goal. Bishop stopped 52 of them, but Binnington only allowed one goal against.
Hometown hero, Pat Maroon, scored the game-winning, series clinching goal in double overtime to lift St. Louis over Dallas, 2-1, and punched his team’s ticket to the Western Conference Final for the first time since… 2016.
That’s because San Jose defeated St. Louis in six games in the 2016 Western Conference Final. The Blues had home ice in that series and utilized Jake Allen in the crease until Game 6 when then head coach, Ken Hitchcock, elected to start Brian Elliott facing elimination.
This time around, the Sharks have home ice and St. Louis appears to have an answer to the Allen wrench– it’s Binnington.
Can they enact revenge and advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1970 or will San Jose make the trip back to the Final for the second time in franchise history– and first since losing in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final?
There’s good and bad news for both teams as Peter DeBoer prepares his Sharks to take on Craig Berube‘s Blues.
San Jose has made the postseason in 21 out of 27 seasons in their existence and Sharks fans have grown accustomed to usual playoff performers like Logan Couture (9-5–14 totals in 14 games played) on their ice at SAP Center.
But the Sharks have the added benefit of a three-way tie for the lead in scoring on their roster with Couture, Tomas Hertl (9-5–14 totals) and Brent Burns (5-9–14 totals) all having amassed 14 points through two rounds.
Not only that, but Hertl is tied with Couture in goals so far this postseason. It’s been a breakout year for the already star player in teal.
General Manager Doug Wilson landed the offseason’s biggest prize on the blue line via a trade with the Ottawa Senators back in September and his asset is paying off when it really counts.
Erik Karlsson may trail Burns among all Sharks defenders in points, but he does have 12 assists through 14 games and that’s good enough to lead his entire team in helpers.
DeBoer’s lineup is pretty deep with Timo Meier contributing three goals and seven assists (10 points) in 14 games and trade deadline acquisition, Gustav Nyquist, chipping in 1-7–8 totals from the top-nine.
San Jose has also had depth scoring from Kevin Labanc (three goals, three assists in 14 GP), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (three goals, three assists in 12 GP), Joe Thornton (2-4–6 totals in 12 games) and even Joonas Donskoi— who scored a goal for the first time in 35 games (regular season and postseason) against Colorado in Game 7.
Martin Jones (8-5 record, 2.72 goals against average, .910 save percentage in 14 games played this postseason) is having an old-school Stanley Cup Playoffs performance, whereby it’s not about the numbers, but rather how many games you win (and getting better as you go).
Backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (0-1, 3.33 GAA, .861 SV% in two games played this postseason) made a couple of relief appearances against Vegas, but was not required to save his team from the Avs.
St. Louis General Manager, Doug Armstrong, landed Ryan O’Reilly via a trade and important third line center, Tyler Bozak, in free agency last summer and built a roster that looked to be force coming out of the gate.
Things didn’t go so well from the get-go as then head coach, Mike Yeo, got his team off to a horrendous start and was replaced by the interim head coach (Berube) who has taken the roster from 31st in the league (dead last) as January began to the Western Conference Final as the calendar enters mid-May.
Jaden Schwartz (8-3–11 totals in 13 GP) is tied with Alex Pietrangelo (2-9–11 totals in 13 GP) in scoring on the Blues roster. While Schwartz is also a team-best plus-seven rating and leads St. Louis in goals with eight, Pietrangelo leads his team– both as the captain and– in assists with nine.
Selke Trophy finalist, O’Reilly has two goals and seven assists (nine points) through 13 games, but is a minus-five rating.
Worse, while Vladimir Tarasenko has five goals in 13 games, the usual star at Enterprise Center has yet to pickup an assist and is also a minus-five.
Maroon, however, has three timely goals and one assist (four points) in 13 games from the bottom-six and has helped solidified St. Louis’ all-around playing style.
Meanwhile, Binnington (8-5, 2.39 GAA, .915 SV% in 13 GP) has backstopped the Blues when it matters most, or rather, when he needs to since the defense is helping keep his workload relatively low.
The Stars only managed 30 shots on goal in Game 7– you know, a game that went into double overtime. Credit where credit is due to Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson and crew on the blue line in St. Louis.
The two teams split the season series 1-1-0, but as is a well-known fact of the postseason– it’s almost like an entirely new season altogether. Having home ice is one thing. Defending it is another.
St. Louis has their best chance to win the Cup in (well, it seems like this is said almost every year with Armstrong as their General Manager, but this year they mean it) years.
That said, San Jose has a lot of momentum working in their favor from the first two rounds after riding an emotional comeback and with the return of Pavelski to their lineup.
This series isn’t going to be a short one and the Sharks should pull off another seven-game stunner, cracking the Binnington code and advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history.
Except this time around, the Sharks are out for blood.
Regular season outcomes:
3-2 F/SO SJS at SAP Center on March 9th, 4-0 STL at Enterprise Center on Nov. 9th
5/11- Game 1 STL @ SJS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/13- Game 2 STL @ SJS 9 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/15- Game 3 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVAS
5/17- Game 4 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
5/19- Game 5 STL @ SJS 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*
5/21- Game 6 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS*
5/23- Game 7 STL @ SJS 9 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN1, TVAS