Get your game notes: Blackhawks at Blues

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Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the St. Louis Blues hosting the Chicago Blackhawks starting at 8 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

— The defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks open the playoffs on the road at St. Louis. Chicago is 1-6-1 in their last 8 away games. Going for their 3rd Cup in the last 5 seasons (2009-2010, 2012-2013), the Blackhawks are trying to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since the Detroit Red Wings accomplished the feat in the 1996-‘97 & 1997-’98 seasons.

— The Blues come in having lost six straight games (all in regulation) with their last win coming on April 3rd at home against Buffalo. This is the longest such drought for St. Louis since they dropped 7 straight from Dec. 26, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010 (0-5-2) and the franchise’s longest point drought since a 7-game stretch from Jan. 4-17, 2006. The Blues have been outscored 22-5 during the six-game losing streak.

— Ryan Miller was acquired by St. Louis in a deal with the Buffalo Sabres on February 28:

First 8 Games: 7-0-1 record, 1.61 GAA, .933 SV%.

At least one point in each of first eight starts (franchise record)

Last 11 Games: 3-8-0, 3.13, .883, 9 of 11 games against playoff teams

*Last 5 Games: 0-5-0, 3.82 GAA, .856 SV% (3+ goals allowed in each game)

— This series is a matchup of the career wins leaders among active coaches, Chicago’s Joel Quenneville (first, 706) and St. Louis’ Ken Hitchcock (second, 657). Quenneville and Hitchcock are two of the elite group of 12 coaches with at least 600 career wins.

— This will be the 11th postseason meeting between the Blues & Blackhawks and the first since a 2001-2002 first-round series in which the then Quenneville led Blues won in 5 games (outscoring CHI 13-5). Quenneville is St. Louis’ all-time winningest coach (307 wins, 1997-2004) and the second-winningest coach in Blackhawks history (268 wins, 2008-present).

— Chicago has won 7 of the 10 playoff series overall but St. Louis won the two most recent (1992-1993 being the other, 4-0 series sweep).

— St. Louis won 3 of 5 meetings this season (two in shootouts), including both home meetings, but lost the two most recent matchups, including the last time meeting on April 6th by a score of 4-2.

— The Blues established a new franchise record with 52 wins on the season, passing the 51-mark set by the 1999-2000 team (coached by Quenneville) – that won the franchise’s only Presidents’ Trophy at 114 pts.

— St. Louis & Chicago gained 63 & 61 pts. respectively in their first 41 games – Anaheim (61 pts.) was the only other team to reach the 60-point mark in the first half of the season. The Blues & Blackhawks each finished the regular season 10-9-1 in their final 20 games.

— Chicago finished 2nd in goals/gm. (3.18); St. Louis finished 3rd in goals allowed/gm. (2.29). The ‘Hawks have 5 players who tallied 60+ points this season (t-1st in NHL: Patrick Sharp–78, Patrick Kane–69, Jonathan Toews–68, Duncan Keith–61, Marian Hossa–60), the Blues have 2 (Alexander Steen–62, T.J. Oshie–60).

— Chicago & St. Louis have been without key players of late, Vladimir Tarasenko (STL, 21-22—43 pts., hand surgery, out since Mar. 17) & Patrick Kane (CHI, 29-40—69 pts., leg injury, out since Mar. 21).

Leafs chase Rask, but Bruins make things interesting

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The Toronto Maple Leafs came into Saturday’s game facing elimination, but they turned in a relatively solid performance in the first two periods of the game.

Connor Brown opened the scoring at the 6:36 mark of the first period before Andreas Johnsson, who was a healthy scratch in the first game of the series, made it 2-0 for the Leafs. Nazem Kadri made an immediate impact in his first game back from a suspension, as he fed Johnsson with a great feed.

David Backes got a goal back for the Bruins, but Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk extended Toronto’s lead to 4-2 in the middle frame. That’s when Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy decided to give Tuukka Rask the hook.

After failing to convert on a long 5-on-3 power play, Sean Kuraly scored to make it 4-2 with under three minutes remaining in the second period.

This should be an interesting final 20 minutes at TD Garden. The Maple Leafs need this victory to stay alive in the series.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Backstrom provides OT winner as Capitals take 3-2 series lead

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The Washington Capitals are on the verge of the second round.

Yes, the Capitals, who began the series with back-to-back losses in Game 1 and 2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, are now on the brink of eliminating Ohio’s team after Nicklas Backstrom‘s deft deflection in overtime gave the Capitals their third straight win and a 3-2 series lead.

It was the fourth time in the series both clubs played to a tie in regulation. After Columbus won the first two in OT, Washington replied with a win in double-overtime in Game 3 before Backstrom ended Game 5 at the 11:53 mark of the first frame of free hockey.

Backstrom scored his first goal of the series to open the scoring for the Caps and assisted for the sixth time in the series on the go-ahead goal in the second period before Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it in third.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Braden Holtby had to be sharp, especially in the third period as, inexplicably, the Caps were outshot 16-1. At home. Holtby made 40 saves when it was all said and done.

Two-hundred feet away, Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task, making some silly stops including a big one on Alex Ovechkin earlier in overtime and a bigger one in regulation time off the same man’s stick.

Game 6 of this series is slated for Monday in Columbus, with a start time still to be determined.

In his post-game comments, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said, twice, that his team will be back in the capital for Game 7.

The promise has been made.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Kucherov, Vasilevskiy shine as Lightning eliminate Devils in 5

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One’s up for the Hart as the NHL’s best player while the other is up for the Vezina as the league’s top goaltender. Both combined their talents to eliminate the New Jersey Devils with a 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

Nikita Kucherov was once again on point for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Saturday’s matinee. Leading 1-0 in the third period, Kucherov scored a clutch goal — his fifth of the series — to put the Lightning from just inside the blue line to put the Bolts up two with seven minutes and change remaining.

It proved vital, Kucherov’s goal, as the Devils attempted a late comeback with Kyle Palmieri scored with three minutes remaining after Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra attacker 30 seconds earlier.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in the final 180 seconds, stopping 26-of-27 to help usher the Lightning into the second round.

Tampa, the Atlantic Division winners in the regular season, will face the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, who play later on Saturday in Game 5. The Bruins lead the series 3-1.

Kucherov was as immense for the Lightning as he was oppressive for the Devils, adding five assists to bring his series total to 10 points. His usual scoring touch was supplemented by his play in the physical department, including this bone-crushing hit on New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

For the Devils, it was hard-fought series from a young team still trying to find its way in the playoffs.

The Devils abandoned goalie Keith Kinkaid after dropping the first two games. Cory Schneider, who hadn’t won a game in 2018 before Game 3, came in and provided the spark in goal, one that seemed to get the Devils going at the other end of the rink as well as they rolled to a 5-3 win.

But that well ran dry in Game 4 as the Devils produced just one goal in a 3-1 loss. Game 5 was much the same, production-wise, with the Devils only managing one goal.

Fellow Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall provided two goals and six points in the series after a 93-point regular season. Rookie Nico Hischier managed just a goal after scoring 20 in his rookie campaign.

For Vasilevskiy, after looking far more human in the second half of the season, finding his mojo again can only be mean bad things for future playoff opponents.

The young Russian finished with a .941 save percentage in the series.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blue Jackets’ Matt Calvert scores unusual breakaway goal

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We’ve all see some breakaways go horribly, horribly wrong in the past.

Patrik Stefan reigns supreme here. Devin Setoguchi didn’t fare too well on this one. And then there was this gaffe by Dennis Wideman once upon a time.

But sometimes one screws up, only to rebound quickly and turn a near-blunder into a nice-ish goal.

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert did that today, in what’s already being called the best/worst breakaway attempt of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As you can see in the video above, Calvert gets a nice clean breakaway. As he attempts to first a wrist shot, he whiffs on the attempt but manages to corral the puck back, doing the whole spin-o-rama thing, and deposit the puck past Braden Holtby for his second goal of the game.

Sometimes it just all works out.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck