The Blues aren’t playing very well, says chart

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It would be easy to just blame Jaroslav Halak. When a goalie gets yanked after allowing three goals on eight shots — as Halak did Saturday in a 5-2 loss to Anaheim — he’s going to be a target.

When that same goalie boasts a modest .910 save percentage on the season, he becomes an even easier target (e.g., for bloggers who think the Blues should give Buffalo a call about Ryan Miller.)

But to pin the St. Louis Blues’ recent struggles on one position would be entirely unfair. Saturday’s loss was their third in four outings. And to be perfectly honest, they weren’t all that great Thursday when they beat the Islanders, 5-1.

“I just don’t think we’re working hard enough,” forward Vladimir Sobotka said, per the Post-Dispatch. “We’re losing every battle. We’re just not prepared for a battle.”

One of the NHL’s best possession teams based on measures like Corsi and Fenwick, the Blues have been far from dominant in their last four games.

In graphical form, via Extra Skater:

source:

Those last four bars suggest the Blues were out-possessed when the score was close in each of their last four games. You can see the bars are usually in positive territory for St. Louis. (PHT analysis made easy: Up good, down bad.)

“The execution of the game plan the first five or 10 minutes is unacceptable,” defenseman Barret Jackman said in plain English. “That’s not the way that this team is built. We’re built on strong starts and getting engaged early and we haven’t been doing that.”

The Blues will get their next chance to get engaged early when they play the Jets tomorrow in Winnipeg.

“We’ve had a lot of success, but now we’ve got to really dig in,” said coach Ken Hitchcock. “Every game is a process. It’s not the end of the world, it’s a process. We had lots of success with the process. But we’re going to have to get a better buy-in, and this really starts with your top players. Our top players have to buy this because otherwise we’re just going to become a collection of individuals.”

Brace yourselves, Senators – Penguins Game 7 goes to overtime

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It’s dangerous to assume much of anything in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators seem like they’re taking turns flipping the script.

After the Senators received the only two power-play opportunities through the first two periods, Phil Kessel drew a call on Dion Phaneuf. Justin Schultz almost immediately reminded us of part of the reason why his presence had been so sorely missed, scoring an authoritative 2-1 tally.

Here’s that goal:

There seemed to be a possibility that officiating would be a huge sticking point, as some didn’t like that call and Guy Boucher was incensed when a whistle was blown when Phil Kessel was hit in the ear with a puck. Penguins haters probably felt especially irritated since the Penguins scored while Zack Werenski was down (and bloodied) during a somewhat similar exchange earlier in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Some will bring that up, especially once we find out how this one will end, but Ryan Dzingel shifted the focus to how the Senators just won’t quit as he scored soon after that 2-1 goal to tie it 2-2, the second time Ottawa’s fought back (quickly) from a seemingly huge Penguins goal.

Watch that goal above, then hold your breath as this game goes to overtime.

You can watch Game 7 live on NBCSN. The game can also be viewed online and via the NBC Sports App. Here is the livestream link.

Video: Marc Methot’s impressive hip check on Evgeni Malkin

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So far, the Ottawa Senators are getting their way in Game 7, as their 1-1 contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins has been a grinding, sometimes stifling affair.

This sets the stage for a dramatic finish, as the two teams are locked up by that 1-1 score heading into the third period.

With a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line, everyone’s pushing hard, and sometimes that means delivering hard hits.

All things considered, you’d be hard-pressed to top Marc Methot‘s hip check on Evgeni Malkin from a degree-of-difficulty standpoint.

Hip checks are already endangered species in the NHL because it’s just so difficult to lineup in this speedier, more skillful game. But to do it in a tied Game 7, against a driven Malkin, in your own zone? That’s borderline audacious. Then again, Methot’s fighting through that gruesome finger injury (along with … maybe other things given playoff secrecy), so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.

Check it out in GIF form, too:

Some Penguins fans are grumbling about that not being a penalty, and that’s a debate for the comments. Most of us can agree that it was an impressive feat either way.

You can watch Game 7 live on NBCSN. The game can also be viewed online and via the NBC Sports App. Here is the livestream link.

Calm, then storm: Penguins, Senators trade Game 7’s goals in 20 seconds

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Here’s hoping that you didn’t take a poorly-timed break in the second period.

For much of Game 7, the Ottawa Senators have been able to slow down the Pittsburgh Penguins, resulting in a contest that went scoreless for what sometimes felt like ages.

Chris Kunitz changed that, long after missing on a golden opportunity shortly after Mike Sullivan decided to put him on Sidney Crosby‘s line. Kunitz finished a nice rush play to make it 1-0 9:55 into the second. Check out that goal below.

Guy Boucher didn’t have to deploy “attack mode” very long, as Mark Stone stunningly tied it up 1-1 just 20 seconds later. That surprising tally can be seen in the clip above this post’s headline.

Who’s playing for Penguins, Senators in Game 7

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We finally know the lineups for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Pittsburgh’s tweaks are most interesting, which isn’t a huge surprising considering the consistent inconsistency bred by their injury issues.

The Penguins will get Conor Sheary and Justin Schultz back in the mix. Despite showing a lot of energy warming up, Patric Hornqvist isn’t good to go. Here are the full Penguins personnel notes; also realize that this is Matt Murray‘s birthday.

Ottawa places Chris Kelly back in, getting the nod over Tommy Wingels and Colin White. Kelly’s had some experience in these scenarios.

You can watch Game 7 live on NBCSN. The game can also be viewed online and via the NBC Sports App. Here is the livestream link.