News and notes: How are the Bruins stopping Chicago’s power play?

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News and notes entering Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Final showdown — will Boston continue to stymie the power play?

Game 4: Chicago Blackhawks at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET (watch on NBC and live online) – Bruins lead series, 2-1

In Game 3, Daniel Paille and Patrice Bergeron scored second-period goals and Tuukka Rask stopped all 28 Blackhawks shots he faced in a 2-0 Bruins win. Tonight, the Bruins will look to win their eighth straight game at TD Garden – tying a franchise record for consecutive home wins in a single postseason (1990) – and take a three-games-to-one series lead to Chicago with the chance to clinch the Cup.

The Bruins, who lead a Stanley Cup Final series for the first time since 1974, when they won Game 1 vs. the Philadelphia Flyers (note: their only series “lead” in 2011 came after clinching the Cup in Game 7), look like the better side heading into Game 4. Since the first intermission of Game 2, Rask (49 straight saves) and company have shut out the Blackhawks, and the new third line of Daniel Paille (two game-winning goals) – Chris Kelly (one goal, one assist) – Tyler Seguin (two assists) has found a scoring touch that had been lacking for the most part this postseason. Patrice Bergeron scored his second goal of the series (both of which have been power-play goals) in Game 3 and raised his faceoff percentage to 69.7% (69-of-99) this series.

Boston’s penalty kill, which has not skipped a beat since PK standout Gregory Campbell was lost for the season with a broken fibula in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, has stopped all 11 Chicago power plays, extending its kill streak to 27 and raising its postseason success rate to 88.9%. While playing with the man disadvantage for almost a full period (18:54) this series, the B’s have as many blocked shots (eight, led by Dennis Seidenberg, with four) during that time as shots on goal allowed.

The Blackhawks did not lose three straight games during their Presidents’ Trophy-winning campaign. Now, they hope to avoid losing three straight for the second time in their last three playoff series. Marian Hossa, tied for the team lead with 15 points, is expected to play after leaving pre-game warmups and being scratched prior to Game 3. Head coach Joel Quenneville refused to specify the nature or cause of Hossa’s injury, other than affirming that it was an upper-body injury. (TSN later reported that his ailment is neck-related.)

With Hossa out, Quenneville tried several different power-play combinations – only Michal Handzus and Hossa’s replacement, Ben Smith, did not see any power-play time – but none were able to break through. Six Blackhawks were on the ice for four or more minutes of 5-on-4 hockey, but only three had a shot on goal.

Player

Power-play time on ice

Shots on goal

Goals

Michal Rozsival

4:52

0

0

Duncan Keith

4:29

0

0

Patrick Kane

4:28

0

0

Andrew Shaw

4:26

1

0

Patrick Sharp

4:23

2

0

Jonathan Toews

4:19

1

0

DID YOU KNOW?

Two nights after becoming the fifth-highest scorer in NHL postseason history (197 points), Bruins forward Jaromir Jagr will become the 21st player (19 skaters, 2 goaltenders) to appear in 200 playoff games. It will be only his 14th Cup Final game, fewest among the group.

GARDEN GREATNESS

Since Patrice Bergeron scored the game-tying goal (4-4) at 19:09 of the third period in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs. Toronto, the Bruins have been dominant at home. Here are some numbers which illustrate their dominance at TD Garden:

  • Outscored opponents (TOR, NYR, PIT, CHI) by a 17-6 margin
    • 4 goals for, 0 goals against since 8:51 of second period in Game 3 of Eastern Conference Final
  • Trailed for 15:50 of 427:55 (3.7%)
    • Trend: have not trailed since 3:48 of second period in Game 5 of Eastern Conference Semifinals
  • Tuukka Rask: 0.84 GAA (6 goals allowed), saved 205-of-211 (.972) shots, 2 shutouts
    • Rask trend: 87 straight saves since 8:51 of second period in Game 3 of Eastern Conference Final
  • Patrice Bergeron: 3 goals (2 OT-GWG), 4 assists, 97-of-158 (61.4%) on faceoffs
    • Bergeron trend: 41-of-54 (75.9%) on faceoffs since Game 4 of Eastern Conference Final
  • Penalty kill: 23-for-24 (95.8%)
    • PK trend: 15 consecutive kills since Game 5 of Eastern Conference Semifinals

DID YOU KNOW?

Since the Stanley Cup Final went to a best-of-seven format in 1939, teams that won Game 3 after splitting the first two contests won the Cup 21 of 25 times. Of those 25 teams, 12 had the chance to extend their series lead to three-games-to-one at home, and six – including the last three since 1989 – lost. The last team to win Game 4 at home while up two-games-to-one was the 1986 Montreal Canadiens.

Year Team Opponent Game 4 result Series result
2004 Calgary Flames Tampa Bay Lightning L, 1-0 Lost in 7
1991 Minnesota North Stars Pittsburgh Penguins L, 5-3 Lost in 6
1989 Montreal Canadiens Calgary Flames L, 4-2 Lost in 6
1986 Montreal Canadiens Calgary Flames W, 1-0 Won in 5

LINKS

  • Zdeno Chara stands tall for Bruins when they need him most [National Post]
  • Brad Marchand calls Andrew Shaw a “kitty cat” after Game 3 scrum [NESN]
  • Bruins are the team you love to love [Boston Globe]
  • Joel Quenneville refuses to tip hand on Marian Hossa injury [SportsNet]
  • Dave Bolland realizes he can’t three-peat in Game 4 [Chicago Sun-Times]

Capitals tie series with Blue Jackets

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In Game 4, the Washington Capitals showed their heart by not working overtime.

The Capitals dropped both of their home games to start their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, opening the floodgates for people to dust off their favorite, cruel jokes about this team. They’ll return home with those one-liners drying up, though.

After falling behind 2-0 in the series, the Capitals flipped the script to tie it up 2-2 after beating the Blue Jackets both times in Columbus. The symmetry wasn’t complete, however; while Washington continued the series trend of overtime nail-biters by winning beyond regulation in Game 3, they made no mistake about winning Game 4 by a score of 4-1.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

This wasn’t a case where the Bruins got the bounces and the finishes to win. The Capitals have shown signs of dominance even in defeats during this series, but they really smothered the Blue Jackets in Game 4.

The Capitals generated a 33-24 shots on goal edge, won about two-thirds of the faceoffs, and generally carried the play by every metric.

Tom Wilson making it 1-0 was valuable, and jokes about blown 2-0 leads aside, T.J. Oshie‘s eventual game-winner was important during the second period. Alex Ovechkin‘s goal from his opposite office widened the gap too much for an overmatched Blue Jackets team, even with Boone Jenner scoring and giving Columbus a brief boost.

With a goal and an assist in Game 4, this is yet another reminder that Ovechkin is a playoff performer, even if his team isn’t always there with him. After Washington went down 2-0 against Columbus, Ovechkin said “it’s going to be fun when we bounce back and tie the series,” and that’s exactly the situation Washington is in after … whatever the opposite of “holding serve” is.

Of course, people will quickly forget this triumph-within-the-series if the Capitals ultimately bow out of the first round, anyway.

The Caps must feel really good about their collective play as they aim to become the first team to win at home in this series in Game 5. Their power play has been productive, playing tight defense, getting scoring from Ovechkin/others, and Braden Holtby looks poised in regaining his usual spot in net. It’s the sort of stretch that changes the Capitals’ narrative from “here we go again” to “could this be the year we finally make a run?”

With this series now essentially becoming a best two-out-of-three clash, the disposition could easily go from sunny back to gloomy, but give this beleaguered group credit for keeping cool heads and making this anyone’s game once again.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins push Leafs to brink

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The Boston Bruins found themselves on the wrong end of plenty of stats in Game 4, but even with Patrice Bergeron on the shelf, they won 3-1 to push the Toronto Maple Leafs to the brink of elimination.

Boston took a 3-1 series lead with tonight’s win despite Toronto generating a 32-21 shots on goal advantage, hogging the puck, and holding home-ice advantage.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Goaltending was one big area of advantage for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask was forced to make some tough saves as Mitch Marner and other Leafs players created plenty of chances. One cannot help but wonder if fatigue is a bit of a factor for workhorse Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, meanwhile, as he’d likely love to have this Torey Krug goal back:

That early 1-0 lead provided a cushion for the Bruins to adjust to life without Bergeron (again), although Tomas Plekanec did tie things up. Ultimately, the Bruins were able to cash in on two 2-on-1 rushes, with Brad Marchand burying a tremendous setup by David Pastrnak for the game-winner and Jake DeBrusk finding the net after a great feed by David Krejci (who has absorbed some criticism for his play lately).

The two goals were remarkably similar in exhibiting the Bruins’ smarts and finish, along with the Maple Leafs lacking in a few areas on defense, as Nikita Zaitsev and Roman Polak were exposed (among others). Here’s that Marchang GWG:

Game 5 shifts back to Boston on Saturday. You can watch that game on CNBC, with puck drop slated for 8 p.m. ET.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins without Bergeron vs. Leafs in Game 4

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The Boston Bruins rolled through much of the regular season despite injuries, even to key players like Patrice Bergeron. The fact that they’re unfortunately experienced playing without Bergeron is probably the only silver lining regarding his late scratch heading into Game 4.

The Bruins announced that Bergeron is day-to-day with what they’re deeming an upper-body injury, so Riley Nash slips into Bergeron’s spot between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

This stands as an obvious opportunity for Auston Matthews to roam more freely against the Bruins and a chance for the Maple Leafs to tie this series in front of their home fans.

NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty makes a good point that Bergeron missing Game 4 is especially troubling since the Bruins played Game 3 on Monday, gaining an extra off day between contests.

Bergeron generated five assists through the first three games of this series, including four helpers in Game 2. He was limited to 64 regular-season games in 2017-18, falling just short of a point-per-game with 63. Naturally, his all-around game goes beyond goals and assists, so this hurts badly for the Bruins, whether they had some experience playing without him or not.

As of this writing, the two teams are tied up 1-1. Click here for the livestream link.

This news comes not that long after news surfaced that Bergeron’s once again been named a finalist for the Selke.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Doughty, Hedman, Subban are 2018 Norris Trophy finalists

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Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators have been named finalists for the 2018 Norris Trophy. The award, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Assocation, is given “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position,” will be handed out during the NHL Awards show June 20 in Las Vegas.

This is the fourth time Doughty has been name a finalist. He won the award in 2016 after finishing second the year before. Hedman finished third in the voting last season and this is the second time he’s finished in the top three. Subban, like Doughty, has a Norris Trophy on his resume (2013). This is the third time he’s been up for the award.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

The Case for Drew Doughty: The Kings blue liner finished sixth in scoring among defensemen with 60 points, which included 10 goals. He also led all NHL players in total ice time with 2,200:31, finishing with an average of 26:50 per game. He had a strong possession game with a 53 percent Corsi and a 4.39 Relative Corsi, meaning LA fired nearly five shots more per 60 minutes when Doughty was on the ice.

“I’m not starting the season, thinking ‘oh I got to get the most points I can, so I can win the Norris,’” he told The Athletic last month. “I’m starting the season, thinking, ‘I’ve got to get my defensive game even better, because that’s where my team needs me the most – to lead the charge in that area. It’s a team game and it’s about winning championships.”

The Case for Victor Hedman: Hedman finished tied for first among defensemen in goals scored with 17 and finished fourth in points with 63. He set a career high in ice time with 1,990:30 total minutes, averaging 25:51 per night. The possession stats for the Lightning defenseman were solid as well, with a 52 percent Corsi and a 0.38 Relative Corsi.

“I’m fortunate to be on an unbelievable team that helped me out through my first decade in the league, to help me grow into the player I want to be,” he told Sports Illustrated in February. “Still got stuff to work on and get better at, but obviously winning the Norris would be something that I want to do. I want to be at the top of my game. I want to play my best every night.”

The Case for P.K. Subban: Subban was right behind Hedman in goals scored (16) and right behind Doughty in total points (59). He logged 1,977:24 of ice time, playing in all 82 games for the Predators this season. As you’d expect from a Norris finalist, his possession stats were good, as he finished with a 52 percent Corsi and a 0.3 Relative Corsi.

Earlier this season, Subban told the Tennessean he felt his defensive game was overlooked. “The offensive part of my game has always been there,” he said. “The defensive part has always been there as well, but for whatever reason, I don’t seem to get the credit for what I do in my (defensive) zone and how I contribute defensively for our hockey club.”

2018 NHL Award finalists
Lady Byng (Friday)
Selke Trophy
Vezina Trophy

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.