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Blame it on some fantastic competition in the Western Conference or not, but the St. Louis Blues must have an empty feeling after dropping four straight games to lose to the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 in their first round series. Let’s take a brief look back at their season.
- Here’s the synopsis before we get into the details: the Blues enjoyed another exceptional regular season only to fall in the first round for the second season in a row.
- Some won’t care about context, but they lost to the eventual champions in 2012 in the semifinals, those same Los Angeles Kings who were defending champions in 2013 and the current defending champion Blackhawks. Maybe that earns a little leeway?
- The Blues lost 10 of their last 12 games and gave up a 2-0 series lead. Fair or not, there will be some who will throw around the word “chokers.”
- After being patient with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, the Blues bet big on Ryan Miller. While he started off hot after that trade, the ultimate result was mediocre results in the regular season (10-8-1 with a .903 save percentage) and a pretty poor finish. The Blues out-played the ‘Hawks heavily yet Corey Crawford topped Miller in Game 6.
- This is probably bad news for the Buffalo Sabres, too, as they lose out on a first-round pick under most circumstances. (Read more about the in’s and out’s of that here.)
- The Blues were a dominant team for much of the season, but they sagged heading into the playoffs thanks to injuries and other concerns. PHT asked if the Blues could get back on track and the answer appeared to be “No.”
- There are plenty of questions about where the team should go from here. Ken Hitchcock isn’t getting any younger, which has to be a consideration even for a head coach. Most obviously, the biggest question is in net; Miller may opt for a team like the Anaheim Ducks while Brian Elliott is an unrestricted free agent. Where do they go from here?
- Much of the Blues’ core is in place and is fairly young, so GM Doug Armstrong may lean toward tweaking his setup rather than blowing everything up (especially after signing Alexander Steen to a big extension).
Born in Scottsdale, AZ., Auston Matthews has taken the NHL by storm in his rookie season as an elite talent headlining an impressive freshman class.
Taken first overall last June, Matthews made history with four goals in his debut, surely a dizzying experience for Maple Leafs fans accustomed to heartbreak and frustration. And he really hasn’t slowed down since.
On Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes — and on Hockey Day in America — the 19-year-old Matthews once again put on a show, scoring his 28th goal of the season. That gave Toronto a two-goal lead.
As he’s often done in his brief time in the NHL, this goal was of the spectacular variety, as he broke in off the left wing and, as he was getting hauled down to the ice, slid the puck five-hole on Cam Ward.
Related: Auston Matthews is having a rookie season for the ages
For about a month now, Evander Kane has enjoyed a particularly productive stretch for the Buffalo Sabres.
Kane scored with 5.6 seconds remaining in the first period of Sunday’s game versus the Chicago Blackhawks, converting on a nifty pass from Jack Eichel and going top shelf on Scott Darling.
He now has goals in three straight games, and 15 points in 14 games as the Sabres have fought their way back into the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, this latest run comes just before the trade deadline, and Kane’s name has consistently been in speculation about a possible move — in addition to off-ice issues. While GM Tim Murray has said earlier this month that he’s not actively shopping Kane, he also didn’t absolutely rule out trading the 25-year-old left winger, now into his second season in Buffalo.
(Murray: “Is there a crazy deal that somebody could throw at me that would force me to do it? I guess there is.”)
Most impressive about Kane’s numbers — remember he missed time earlier this season with a rib injury and then had a slow start, which drew the ire of the coach — is that he’s done the vast majority of his scoring, 20 of 21 goals, at five-on-five.
The Boston Bruins are back from their bye week, looking to continue a three-game winning streak since Bruce Cassidy took over as head coach from Claude Julien.
The Bruins can extend their streak Sunday, when they visit the San Jose Sharks (8:30 p.m. ET). You can check out the game on NBCSN or online with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:
The NHL’s bye week experiment is still a work in progress
Pre-game reading: Are the Bruins and Avalanche on verge of trade?
Sharks have reason to wait on Thornton, Marleau extensions
Jacob Trouba could be getting a call from the NHL Department of Player Safety for a hit to the head of Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone.
The incident occurred during the third period of Sunday’s game, as Stone was passing the puck after he entered the zone. Trouba stepped up and delivered a high hit, resulting in only a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.
Stone, who dealt with a concussion that was reported in September, remained down on the ice before eventually going to the dressing room.
As you can see from the video, Senators coach Guy Boucher was furious officials on the ice decided this was only worth a minor for Trouba.