NHL Most Important Players: St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues are the 2019 Stanley Cup champions. The game recap and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: For the first time in their 52-year history, the St. Louis Blues are the Stanley Cup champions. Ryan O’Reilly scored a goal and added an assist while Jordan Binnington made 32 saves as the Blues defeated the Boston Bruins 4-1 to win the Cup in seven games.
O’Reilly, playing with a cracked rib suffered during the opening round, was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason’s most valuable player.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and winger Alex Steen waited a long time for championship glory. Bouwmeester played in 1,184 NHL games while Steen, who joined the Blues in 2008, is their longest-serving active member.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the Blues. From dead last in January to champions in June, it was a remarkable run for this club. O’Reilly was my choice for the Conn Smythe but Binnington also deserved recognition. His play since mid-January helped spark his team’s remarkable turnaround.
NEW YORK POST: O’Reilly also inadvertently blurted out an “F-bomb” during a post-game interview with Hockey Night in Canada’s Scott Oake. “Once we got that lead, we knew we were gonna f—ing get it,” he said. O’Reilly quickly apologized for swearing.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No apology necessary. Besides, there were a lot more “F-bombs” dropped by his happy teammates during their celebratory skate with the Cup. That’s what you get for allowing live mikes at ice level, Sportsnet and NBC Sports.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: A lack of first-period scoring doomed the Bruins in Game 7. They were the dominant club in the opening frame but fell behind 2-0 on goals by O’Reilly and Alex Pietrangelo. Bruins first-line center Patrice Bergeron played with a groin injury in the Final.
THE SCORE: Bruins winger Brad Marchand was devastated by the loss. “I’ll never get over this,” he said in a post-game interview. “Still not over ’13 yet. This hurts more than that. It’s not something you ever forget.” Marchand was the Bruins leading scorer in this postseason, finishing with nine goals and 23 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Marchand probably feels this sting more than most of his teammates. His turnover and ill-timed line change in the dying seconds of the first period led to what became Pietrangelo’s game-winning goal.
The Bruins’ championship window of opportunity remains open but it’s difficult to repeat as a Cup Finalist. Core veterans like Marchand, Bergeron, captain Zdeno Chara, goaltender Tuukka Rask, and David Krejci are getting older. The Bruins could look toward their younger talent to take on a larger burden of responsibility. Going forward, much more will be expected from David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Jake DeBrusk.
In other news…
The Boston Bruins win Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Check out the recap in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: There will be a seventh and deciding game in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final as the Boston Bruins beat the St. Louis Blues 5-1 in Game 6 on Sunday. Tuukka Rask made 28 saves while Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak each had a goal and an assist.
The Bruins successfully killed all four Blues power plays. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara’s empty-net goal made him the oldest defenseman (42) to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Final.
SPORTSNET: Bruins center Patrice Bergeron’s pre-game speech helped motivate his teammates to victory.
THE SCORE: Blues center Ryan O’Reilly admitted his delay-of-game penalty early in the first period put his club on the back foot. The Bruins capitalized with a game-opening five-on-three power-play goal, forcing the Blues to try to play catch-up for the rest of the game.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper prematurely published a letter from Blues chairman Tom Stillman congratulating the players and Blues fans for their Stanley Cup championship to their digital edition. The pages were eventually removed before Game 6.
STLTODAY.COM: The loss was the Blues seventh on home ice in 13 postseason games this spring.
Game 7 will be held in Boston on Wednesday night.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wasn’t for a lack of effort by the Blues. This game was much closer through the first and second periods, with the Bruins clinging to a one-goal lead before blowing it open in the third. Indeed, the Blues controlled most of the play through those two periods but couldn’t beat Rask. The Bruins’ netminder made the difference, aided by his hardworking defense corps. If the Bruins win Game 7, Rask will probably win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
The Blues tied the 2019 Stanley Cup Final at two games apiece, the Jets trade Kevin Hayes to the Flyers and more CBA updates in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Ryan O’Reilly scored twice, including the game-winner, as the St. Louis Blues doubled up the Boston Bruins 4-2 in Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. The series is tied at two games apiece heading back to Boston for Game 5 on Thursday. O’Reilly’s teammates Brayden Schenn and Alex Pietrangelo each collected two points.
Blues defenseman Vince Dunn returned to action after being sidelined by concussion symptoms since Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. St. Louis center Oskar Sundqvist also returned after serving a one-game suspension for boarding Bruins blueliner Matt Grzelcyk in Game 2.
The Bruins blueline suffered a significant blow when captain Zdeno Chara left the game in the second period after being struck in the mouth by a puck. He returned to the bench in the third period wearing a full face mask but didn’t play. His status for Game 5 is uncertain.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Once again, the Blues showed a remarkable ability to bounce back from a lopsided defeat. Veterans like O’Reilly, Pietrangelo, Schenn, and Vladimir Tarasenko led the way in what was a very entertaining contest.
While the Blues dominated most of this game, the Bruins also demonstrated they’re still a dangerous club when outplayed. They tied the game twice and kept the outcome in doubt until O’Reilly’s winning goal in the third.
Chara’s absence hurt Boston’s blueline. With Grzelcyk already sidelined, losing Chara would further deplete their defense corps for Game 5 if both are unable to play.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers last night acquired center Kevin Hayes from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the upcoming 2019 NHL Draft.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A versatile two-way forward, Hayes had a career-best 55 point splits between the Jets and New York Rangers this season. Acquired by the Jets at the trade deadline, the 27-year-old center struggled in Winnipeg and couldn’t address their need for a reliable second-line center.
He’s an unrestricted free agent on July 1 but it’s apparent the Flyers hope to sign him before then. Flyers coach Alain Vigneault probably had a hand in this move. Hayes played for Vigneault during their tenure with the Rangers.
EDMONTON 630 CHED: Sportsnet’s John Shannon is confident the NHL can avoid another lockout with the NHLPA. He points out how both sides are doing well under the current collective bargaining agreement. The team owners are very happy with the current CBA and Shannon believes only tweaks are necessary.
Because Shannon doubts we’ll see another work stoppage, he doesn’t see compliance buyouts being part of the next CBA. He also suggested contracts terms could be shortened to five years.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shannon’s remarks are the latest in a series of optimistic reports regarding ongoing CBA negotiations between the league and the PA. Both sides can exercise their early opt-out in September but we could instead see a new agreement by then. If the league were to agree to reduce the percentage of escrow clawbacks, I can see the players agreeing to a five-year cap on their contract.
Game recaps, Flames clinch a playoff spot, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche kept their playoff hopes alive by blanking the New Jersey Devils 3-0. Tyson Barrie scored twice and Philipp Grubauer kicked out 22 shots. With 74 points, the Avalanche are four points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Sam Reinhart scored the game-winner in a shootout as the Buffalo Sabres edged the St. Louis Blues 4-3. Blues center Ryan O’Reilly collected an assist in his first game back in Buffalo since being traded to St. Louis last summer. St. Louis (82 points) picked up a point and sit third in the Central Division.
The New York Islanders (91 points) edged the Minnesota Wild 3-2 to move into a first-place tie with the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Brock Nelson tallied the winner in overtime. The loss leaves the Wild (77 points) one point behind the Arizona Coyotes for the final Western Conference wild-card berth.
Josh Leivo’s shootout goal gave the Vancouver Canucks a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars. Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom made 44 saves for the win. The Stars (80 points) sit two points ahead of the Coyotes in the first wild-card spot in the West.
The Philadelphia Flyers (78 points) moved to within five points of an Eastern Conference wild-card berth by nipping the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1. James van Riemsdyk scored the game-tying goal late in the third period, setting the stage for Sean Couturier’s overtime goal. The Penguins played without Evgeni Malkin, who’s week-to-week with an upper-body (rib) injury.
Jakob Silfverberg’s third-period goal gave the Anaheim Ducks a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers. Ryan Getzlaf collected two assists for the Ducks while Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau also had two helpers. The loss leaves the Panthers (76 points) eight points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Vegas Golden Knights picked up their eighth win in nine games by beating the Edmonton Oilers 6-3. Jonathan Marchessault scored twice for the Golden Knights (85 points), who sit third in the Pacific Division. Connor McDavid set up two of the Oilers’ three goals.
Because of the Minnesota Wild’s loss to the Islanders, the Calgary Flames (95 points) became the first Western Conference team to clinch a playoff spot this season. Speaking of the Flames, forward Sam Bennett is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.