Ryan O’Reilly joins Wayne Gretzky in Stanley Cup Final record books

Ryan O’Reilly has joined impressive company in the Stanley Cup record books.

O’Reilly scored the first goal of Game 7 on Wednesday to give his St. Louis Blues a 1-0 lead over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. That was the fourth straight Stanley Cup Final game in which O’Reilly had scored, something last accomplished by Wayne Gretzky in 1985.

O’Reilly scored on a deflection with just over three minutes to go in the first period.

Alex Pietrangelo added another goal with seven seconds left in the period to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead through the first period.

O’Reilly actually has five goals in four games as he scored twice in the Blues’ Game 4 win. For his performance in the Final, as well as the rest of the postseason, O’Reilly was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Blues hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time in franchise history.

Original Article

By: Larry Brown

Stanley Cup Final: The names to know

The Blues and Bruins not only had success in the standings, but they also looked like championship-level teams with the way they played, controlling possession, playing great defensively, getting great goaltending and finding secondary scoring to go with their dynamic top line players.

Both teams have continued that level of play throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and now they are meeting in a rematch of the 1970 series that was won on Bobby Orr’s legendary overtime goal. With the series set to begin, let us take a look at some of the most important names you need to know.

Those include the star players, the goalies, the coaches and a group of people who do not actually play for either team.

Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins —  Everything with the Bruins revolves around Marchand. He is their best offensive player and one of the most productive in the entire NHL. He is a top-tier goalscorer and an excellent playmaker, and he combines all of that with an outstanding defensive game that makes him one of the most complete players in the league. He is also almost certainly going to do something — maybe even several things — that draw the ire of the Blues and their fans or pretty much anyone that is not a Bruins fan. Along with being a top-10 offensive player, he is also the most effective pest and agitator in the league. Sometimes he takes that heel role a little too far and gets himself in trouble, running the risk of an ejection or a suspension (or actually getting ejected or suspended), but it is a part of his game and it is not going anywhere. One way or another he will be one of the main attractions in this series.

The Goalies: Tuukka Rask and Jordan Binnington —  We mentioned them in our look at the potential X-factors in the series, but they really need to be mentioned again because they will play such an enormous role in who wins this series. Rask is not only playing the best hockey of his career this postseason, but he also is currently putting together one of the single best postseason goaltending performances ever, at least from save percentage and goals against standpoints. He has played on this stage before, backstopping the Bruins to the 2012-13 Stanley Cup Final where they were defeated by the Chicago Blackhawks, but he has yet to be “the man” in net for a championship run. This is obviously his best chance. Binnington, meanwhile, has a far smaller resume and track record at the NHL level but has been one of the most surprising individual success stories in the league. At the start of the year, he was nothing more than an afterthought in the Blues organization and is now one of the biggest reasons the team is playing in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the 1969-70 season.

Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues —  Tarasenko is the Blues’ most dangerous player and is heading into the Stanley Cup Final riding a six-game point streak, finding the score sheet in every single game of the Western Conference Final. Along with being a consistent 35-40 goal-scorer since becoming a regular in the NHL, Tarasenko is also one of the best postseason goalscorers ever. His 0.476 goals per game average in the playoffs is not only higher than his career regular-season total, but it is also second best among all active players and in the top 25 in the history of the league. He had a slow start to the playoffs but has looked unstoppable over the past two weeks.

David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins —  One of the biggest reasons the Bruins’ Stanley Cup window reopened over the past couple of years has been the emergence and development of young players like Pastrnak and McAvoy. They needed another wave of talent to come through their system and complement the core of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Zdeno Chara, and these two have been everything the Bruins could have possibly hoped for them to be. Pastrnak has become one of the top goal-scoring wingers in the NHL (38 goals in only 66 regular-season games this season), while McAvoy is the perfect modern-day No. 1 defender given his skating, ability to jump into the play and lead the rush and overall brilliance.

Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues —  After a disappointing regular season that saw him score just 11 goals in 69 games, Schwartz has put together a Conn Smythe-worthy performance in the playoffs, already eclipsing his regular-season total. He is one of just three players in NHL history to have scored at least 10 goals in the playoffs and exceed his regular-season total. He has two hat tricks and two game-winning goals so far this postseason.

The referees: Gord Dwyer, Steve Kozari, Wes McCauley, Chris Rooney, Kelly Sutherland — The NHL would probably prefer that you did not know the names of this group, but given the way the playoffs have gone so far you might soon become acquainted with them. Officiating has been the sub-plot of the 2019 postseason due to the controversial calls, missed calls and messed up calls that have severely impacted games. Every round has been affected in some way by the officiating, and the NHL has to be hoping that trend does not continue in the Stanley Cup Final.

The top centers: Patrice Bergeron and Ryan O’Reilly —  This series will feature two of the best two-way centers in the NHL when Bergeron (Bruins) and O’Reilly (Blues) go head to head. Bergeron is the standard against whom all other defensive forwards are measured in the NHL right now and is just as dominant with the puck on his stick as he is without it. He will score, he will shut down your top scorer and he will dominate every phase of the game when he is at his best. O’Reilly may not quite be on his level (few players are), but he is not far behind. He, too, blends top-line offense and stellar defensive play and also has the ability and discipline to play big minutes against the league’s best players, play them tough and still stay out the of the penalty box at astonishingly low rate.

Full Article

By: Adam Gretz

Biggest surprises of the NHL playoffs so far

With the second round of the NHL playoffs underway, the chances of a perfect bracket are slim to none. According to NHL.com, there are only five perfect brackets remaining.

Because of the chaos, there have been many surprises since the first game of the 2019 NHL playoffs. We look at the biggest shockers of the first round.

Lightning sent home thanks to Blue Jackets

  • Led by head coach John Tortorella , the Columbus Blue Jackets swept the President’s Trophy winners, even after Tampa’s historical regular season.
  • The Lightning were one of the best offensive teams in the league this season but were outscored, 19-8, in the series and had scarce offensive output from their best players.
  • With 128 points during the regular season, Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov registered only two assists in four games for the Bolts.
  • This is the first time in NHL history that a No. 1 overall seed has been swept in the first round of the playoffs.

The Jets were grounded after six games

  • After making it to the Western Conference finals last season, the Winnipeg Jets were the most favored Canadian squad to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
  • The Jets lost in six games to the St. Louis Blues, who have won 12 of their past 16 games dating back to March 16.
  • All of Winnipeg’s losses came by one goal, as well as both their victories.
  • Even in their own arena during Game 5, the Jets allowed three goals in the third period and lost, 3-2.

Some of the league’s top players were shut down

  • Arguably the best player of the past decade, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby registered one assist in the playoffs — the lowest postseason point total of his career. He finished with a minus-4 in four games, the worst mark of his postseason career.
  • Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau also finished with one assist in five games with a minus-2 rating after scoring 99 points in the regular season.
  • Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist for the Predators and was not much of a factor, and the Dallas Stars took advantage, taking the series in six games.
  • Steven Stamkos also had a goal and an assist, with a plus/minus of minus-8. You could say he was a defensive liability for the Lightning.

Golden Knights get robbed in Game 7

  • Up 3-0 in Game 7, Vegas’ Cody Eakin cross-checked San Jose’s Joe Pavelski to the ice. Eakin was given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct.
  • San Jose had an unreal comeback, netting four goals on the 5-minute power play to take the lead, with two goals coming from Logan Couture.
  • The Sharks won with two minutes left in overtime thanks to a goal from Barclay Goodrow, who only played two shifts the entire period.
  • On Thursday, the NHL apologized to the Golden Knights and admitted the referees were incorrect on Eakin’s penalty. That does not change anything for the Golden Knights.

A “Bunch of Jerks” beat the defending champs on the road in Game 7

  • One of the biggest underdogs in the playoffs, the Carolina Hurricanes took the Washington Capitals to double overtime and advanced on a goal from Brock McGinn.
  • The Caps’ Alex Ovechkin had seven goals in the series but finished with a minus-2. He was a force in the offensive end but not so much on defense.
  • Warren Foegele led the Canes with four goals. In 77 regular- season games, Foegele had 10 total goals. The third liner has been great in his first playoff series.
  • The Hurricanes advance to the second round for the first time since 2009, when they made it to the Eastern Conference finals.

By: Trevor Drake

Original Article

NHL playoff primer: 5 intriguing matchups to watch in the 1st round

It’s playoff season once again.

Before you fill out your postseason bracket, we break down one key matchup across five first-round series that could make or break a team in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Top-line takeover

It’s no secret – for the Leafs to trump the Bruins, they need to find an answer for the three-headed monster of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand.

The Leafs were tormented by the Bruins’ top line in their seven-game series last postseason. Bergeron and Co. controlled possession, posting a Corsi rating of 64.90, and dominated Toronto in high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five, 49-26. An encouraging note for the Leafs is that the Corsi number dropped to 54.84 when matched with Auston Matthews and shot up to 75 when going against Tomas Plekanec – suggesting the trio dominated much of the play against a veteran player who is no longer in the league.

Looking at the regular season, both Matthews and Bergeron were out of the lineup for two of the teams’ meetings this season, so we’ll have to see how the coaches choose to deploy their top talent with the pair back in the mix.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders

Goaltending vs. star power

The Islanders claiming home-ice advantage was key, but perhaps their biggest edge sits between the pipes. Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss combined to capture the William M. Jennings Trophy this season, and their dominant play must continue for the team to be successful against the Penguins’ offensive arsenal.

Though neither netminder has a ton of playoff experience, the job will likely be Lehner’s to lose. Since returning from injury on March 19, the 27-year-old has posted a 5-2 record with a .942 save percentage.

Barry Trotz’s club allowed a league-low 191 goals on the campaign and posted a record of 38-2-2 when scoring at least three times in a game. Led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins boasted the fifth-best offense this year and rostered four players with 70-plus points.

Pittsburgh mustered 13 goals in four games against the Islanders during the regular season, with Crosby and Malkin combining for eight points.

Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche

Can ‘Johnny Hockey’ outperform MacKinnon?

Calgary’s Gaudreau and Colorado’s MacKinnon each notched a career-high 99 points this season. Though they play different positions up front, the two will be a joy to watch compete as they best embody the speed and skill that will be on display in this series.

The All-Stars have no problem facing the pressure of playoff hockey, either, as MacKinnon has tallied 16 points in 13 career contests, with Gaudreau posting 11 points in 15.

Both men know how to deliver when it matters most, too. “Johnny Hockey” racked up 39 points and 17 goals in the third period or overtime this season, while MacKinnon contributed 37 points and 15 goals in those clutch moments. When the game is on the line, look for one of these two studs to follow through.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Stingy penalty kill vs. Electric man advantage

Special teams will heavily influence this matchup between one of the greatest regular-season teams ever and a franchise looking for its first playoff series victory.

The Lightning’s power play was lethal this season, clicking at a league-leading rate of 28.2 percent. The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, deploy the NHL’s top penalty kill.

The Lightning and Blue Jackets posted similar possession numbers with Corsi ratings of 51.59 and 50.21, respectively. The more even-strength hockey Columbus can play, the better its chances of pulling out the upset – in the regular season, the Lightning erupted for six power-play goals on 11 attempts in their three victories over the Jackets this year.

St. Louis Blues vs. Winnipeg Jets

Battle in the crease

This Central Division clash is about as even as any playoff series on the slate. The Jets won 47 regular-season games and sported a goal differential of plus-28, while the Blues won 45 contests and were plus-24. Both teams finished with 99 points, but what may ultimately separate the two in this series is the play in the crease.

The Blues netminder was one of the best stories of the season. In 32 appearances, Binnington posted a .927 save percentage and an unbelievable 1.89 goals-against average en route to setting a franchise record for wins by a rookie goaltender with 24. The 25-year-old has yet to face the Jets this season, perhaps to the Blues’ advantage.

Hellebuyck was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season but will need to regain his form in a hurry after taking a step backward this year. The 25-year-old won 10 fewer games and saw his goals against average spike from 2.36 to 2.90.

With two netminders trending in opposite directions, goaltending will be the deciding factor in this series.

By: Matt Teague

Full Article

2019 NHL All-Star rosters announced

The NHL has announced the four rosters for the 2019 All-Star Game today, scheduled to be held on January 26th in San Jose. Earlier today, Alex Ovechkin, who was elected captain of Metropolitan Division squad, told the league that he wouldn’t be attending and will accept the punishment of missing one game either before or after the break. Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Auston Matthews will represent the Pacific, Central and Atlantic respectively, as the other captains. A replacement captain for Ovechkin has yet to be named.

The full rosters are as follows:

Pacific Division

John Gibson (ANA)
Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK)

D Erik Karlsson (SJS)
Brent Burns (SJS)
Drew Doughty (LAK)

Connor McDavid (EDM)*
Johnny Gaudreau (CGY)
Joe Pavelski (SJS)
F Elias Pettersson (VAN)
F Clayton Keller (ARI)

Central Division

Pekka Rinne (NSH)
Devan Dubnyk (MIN)

D Roman Josi (NSH)
D Miro Heiskanen (DAL)

Nathan MacKinnon (COL)*
Mikko Rantanen (COL)
Blake Wheeler (WPG)
Patrick Kane (CHI)

Mark Scheifele (WPG)
F Ryan O’Reilly (STL)

Atlantic Division

Jimmy Howard (DET)
G Carey Price (MTL)

Keith Yandle (FLA)
D Thomas Chabot (OTT)

F Auston Matthews (TOR)*
F Nikita Kucherov (TBL)
F Steven Stamkos (TBL)
John Tavares (TOR)

F David Pastrnak (BOS)
F Jack Eichel (BUF)

Full List

By Zach Leach

Predators Beat The Blues To Advance to First WCF

Written by Jen Neagle at YahooSports.com

For the first time in franchise history, the Nashville Predators are headed to the Western Conference Finals.

In Game 6 of the series, the Predators defeated the Blues, 3-1. And the home crowd, as the kids say, was ‘lit.’

Kevin Fiala, who broke his leg in Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues, was on hand to whip the Nashville crowd into a frenzy following the anthem by multi-Grammy award winning group, Lady Antebellum.

The Preds didn’t appear to get the memo that the game had started for real.

Two minutes in, Austin Watson gets the puck and appears to attempt to get it out of the zone with the softest pass in the history of hockey. Colton Parayko easily intercepts. The Blues skate circles around the Preds before Vladimir Tarasenko sends a shot on net. The puck bounces off Pekka Rinne’s pad and lands behind the netminder’s skate where Paul Stastny punches it in. Blues up 1-0.

The sleepy Predators could not get anything going despite having two power plays to work off of. The first period ended with the Blues leading, 1-0.

Nashville pounded a double espresso (or something) during intermission because they came out awake.

Thirty five seconds into the second period, Mattias Ekholm fired a cross-ice pass to a waiting Roman Josi. The defenseman blasts a one-timer past Jake Allen to tie it up.

The Preds power play continued to struggle, getting another two opportunities with the extra man in the second, and coming up empty each time.

For the fourth time in six games, the Blues and Predators entered tied in the third period.

The physicality continued as Ryan Reaves plastered PK Subban. The Preds defenseman went back to the bench in pain, but would return to play. Reaves was not penalized.

The Preds took the lead early in the third.

Nashville caught St. Louis pinching. Viktor Arvidsson received a pass in the neutral zone and beat Jay Bouwmeester. Arvidsson, managed to hold up just slightly to buy time for a streaking Ryan Johansen.

Johansen beat Colton Parayko, then beat Jake Allen on the backhand. Preds go up, 2-1.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Blues Furious Over Late Penalty That Lead to GWG For Preds

Written by Jeremy Rutherford at St.Louis Dispatch.com

The Blues managed only one goal for the second consecutive game, so they have little to complain about in terms of not winning Game 4 against Nashville on Tuesday. But they weren’t happy with a turn of events that triggered the Predators’ 2-1 victory.

There was extracurricular activity throughout the game between members of the fourth lines, but when it happened with 15 minutes, 49 seconds left in regulation, the penalties handed out were not what many except the crowd of 17,273 at Bridgestone Arena might have expected.

The sequence resulted with the Blues’ Joel Edmundson and Ryan Reaves, along with Nashville’s Cody McLeod, being assessed roughing penalties, and on the ensuing power play Ryan Ellis broke open the scoring. The Predators added a goal by James Neal with 6:57 to play, and that stood as the game-winner after Edmundson scored with 3:49 to go.

The game finished close, but the Western Conference semifinal is no longer that, with Nashville’s victory building a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series that now heads back to Scottrade Center for Game 5 on Friday.

The Blues know one goal per game won’t cut it against the Predators and admitted that a too many men on the ice penalty on the power play in Game 4 was costly, but they all left Music City singing the same tune about the turning point in Tuesday’s game.

“I think it’s a terrible call,” Reaves said. “I disagree with it 100 percent. There’s 10 guys all grabbing one guy and you pick one extra on one team in a crucial part of the game in a big series … I think it’s bad judgment.”

To continue reading this article, click here.

Predators Beat Blues To Take 2-1 Lead in Second Round Matchup

Written by Adam Vingam at The Tennessean.com

Word of mouth dates Nashville’s christening as “Music City” as far back as the 1800s.

“Defenseman City” doesn’t have the same ring to it, but its origins are clearer. The Predators’ nearly two-decade existence has seen the franchise manufacture high quality defenseman after high quality defenseman. They are the organization’s defining characteristic and having a dramatic effect on the Predators’ playoff run to this point.

“I always say that our defense is our backbone,” Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said after the team’s 3-1 second-round victory in Game 3 against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday. “It’s no secret. That’s the way it is.”

The Predators tied for the NHL lead with 181 points from defensemen this season, and now 12 of their past 13 goals have involved a defenseman in some capacity after each of their three goals Sunday included a point from the back end.

Nashville has a league-leading seven goals from defensemen this postseason, receiving two more Sunday.

“The last couple years, I’m pretty sure we’ve been tops or pretty close to the top of the league as far as contributing,” said Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis, whose first-period goal extended his playoff point streak to six games, second-longest in team history. “We stress how everyone has to be active.

“It’s a five-man game out there. We can’t watch the forwards do everything. The (defense) has to get up and do (its) part.”

The ability of the Predators’ defense to influence the flow of play might be unmatched in the NHL. It’s reflected in statistics used to track puck possession and the Predators’ 15-0 advantage in shots that spanned the first 13 minutes of Sunday’s second period.

“They know that they need their defensemen being part of the attack,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said. “That’s going to be a challenge. We knew that was a challenge right from the start walking into this series.”

To continue reading this article, click here.

Preds Score More Than Blues To Win Game 1

Written by Jake O’Brien at NBCSportsNet.com

The Nashville Predators’ 4-3 Game 1 win against the St. Louis Blues makes it difficult to use “perfect.”

You could get away with using that word, mind you, as the Predators followed up their surprising sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks by going up 1-0 against the Blues in St. Louis. Still, the ride was so bumpy in the third period, it’s probably wiser to focus on the fact that Nashville is unbeaten.

Because, yikes, that third period was a roller coaster for Nashville.

P.K. Subban scored a goal and two assists in the first 40 minutes to help the Predators bring a 3-1 lead into the final frame. The Blues absolutely dominated play in the third, however, briefly tying the game as they put immense pressure on Pekka Rinne & Co.

Ultimately, the Predators received a game-winner from an unlikely source in Vernon Fiddler, gaining a 1-0 series edge.

Even so, few will talk about “mystique” after that shaky finish.

For one thing, both Rinne and Jake Allen allowed goals that they’d like to forget. Also, both squads experienced lopsided periods; Nashville dominated shots in the second (15-8) while the Blues almost doubled-up the Preds in the third (11-6).

Nashville also seems likely to play without rising rookie Kevin Fiala, who was hospitalized after an absolutely horrifying crash into the boards.

It was a weird and often wild – sometimes nasty – contest, with the Predators ultimately coming out on top. There’s plenty of intrigue heading into Game 2, which airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Blues Hanging On To Dear Life Down 3-1

Written by Jeremy Rutherford at St.Louis Dispatch

A crowd 19,721 strong — the largest at Scottrade Center this season — was in their seats early chanting “Let’s Go Blues!” A video message from Arianna Dougan, the 11-year-old cancer patient who recently attended a Blues’ road trip as the guest of Vladimir Tarasenko, played on the Jumbo-tron. “Go Blues!” she shrieked. The puck dropped and they had a chance to sweep a playoff series for the first time since 2001.

The Blues had more motivation than perhaps needed going into Game 4 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series against Minnesota on Wednesday night and somehow it wasn’t enough.

The Blues came out flat and their emotions showed up too late, allowing the Wild to prevail 2-0 on goals by Charlie Coyle and Martin Hanzal and a 28-save shutout by goaltender Devan Dubnyk. The Blues now lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 as it heads back to Minnesota for Game 5 Saturday at 2 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center.

“That’s what you’re dealing with this time of year, the emotions,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said. “Whether it’s lack of desperation or nerves, we were on our heels. We let them dictate and not a good recipe.”

Minnesota was just more desperate Wednesday, and that was evident when Wild coach Bruce Boudreau pulled a maneuver rarely seen in the NHL. He insisted Wednesday morning that despite having an offense with just three goals in the three games of the series, he was keeping his lines the same. He even went to the extreme of having his players skate their old combinations during the pre-game warmups, and then switch to the new ones at the start of the game.

“We’re down 3-0, you’ve got to try everything you can try,” Boudreau said. “Down 3-0, all the tricks are out of the bag.”

To continue reading this article, click here.