Fair or not, more than a few people will linger on this fact: the St. Louis Blues have put together strong regular seasons followed by first-round exits for two straight seasons.
The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Blues 5-1 in Game 6 to win the series 4-2 after the Blues took a 2-0 series lead. This contest was the only one that broke from a narrative that bore a downright eerie resemblance to the way St. Louis lost to the Los Angeles Kings in 2013:
Many will bury Ryan Miller for this loss and maybe even this failure overall, and the optics certainly aren’t flattering. The Blues absolutely dominated the second period in particular, yet the third period began tied 1-1 … and then everything fell apart in a big way.
Q: "We were definitely lucky to be 1-1 going into the 3rd period." #Blackhawks#NHL
Miller allowed four goals in that final frame, with Jonathan Toews notching another game-winning goal 44 seconds into the third. Patrick Sharp made it 3-1 a little more than two minutes into the third period and then things devolved from there.
Toews' 9th career playoff GWG puts him in nine-way tie for 51st all time. He's 25.
The “What if?” questions pile up for the Blues, including the hypothetical situation in which this might have been called a goal:
Special teams may also be a sore spot for St. Louis. The Blues power play went 0-for-6 on Sunday while Chicago went 1-for-2 (and that power-play goal was Toews’ game-winner).
In a way, this highlights the often brutally small line between success and failure in sports. Despite being close to taking the defending champions down – and much closer in this game than the score indicated – the Blues can only look at this season as a failure unless they’re extreme optimists.
I understand injuries. I know stuff happens. They drew the defending champ. But team was all in. Season is a failure.
As far as the “What’s next?” question, we’ll have to wait and see with the Blues. For the Blackhawks, it’s all about awaiting their second-round opponent as the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild duke it out.
To the chagrin of the coaches and goalies, the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs are keeping things hectic during the second period of Game 7.
Kasperi Kapanen seems like he’s perpetually battling for a permanent/more prominent spot with the Maple Leafs, but it’s not for a lack of trying or moxie. He’s been hitting posts on some near-misses lately, but saved some magic for tonight.
You can see that in a 4-3 goal that currently stands as the Maple Leafs’ lead. Kapanen overpowers Brad Marchand and then outwaits Tuukka Rask for an absolutely tremendous shorthanded goal.
(Check out that goal in the video above this post’s headline.)
Impressive, especially considering who that came against. At one point, the Maple Leafs had converted on both of their shots on goal early in the second period to go from being down 3-2 to up 4-3. As mentioned after that wild first period, you have to wonder about both goalies’ confidence, but that’s especially true of Rask right now.
The two teams are also accruing some bumps and bruises, which must be to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s liking.
In the most dramatic instance, Brad Marchand ducked a high Zdeno Chara shot, leaving an unsuspecting Morgan Rielly to take a puck to the face. It’s a scary moment, although the good news is that Rielly was able to return for the beginning of the second period.
Chara also seemed stung by a blocked shot during the first period, as he took a puck to his ankle/foot area. He didn’t appear to miss any time, and it would be tough to imagine him not fighting through it during a Game 7, yet you wonder if the hulking defenseman’s mobility might be hindered after that.
The Bruins and Leafs already put on a show through 20 minutes. We’ll see who’s left standing to face the Bolts, whether this game ends in regulation or hits sudden death in a Game 7.
Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche, Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins and Gerard Gallant of the Vegas Golden Knights have been named as the three finalists for the 2017-18 Jack Adams Award. The winner of the award, voted on by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association and given to the the head coach who has “contributed the most to his team’s success,” will be announced during the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 20.
The Case for Jared Bednar: With a full summer to work with compared to 2016-17, Bednar helped guide the Avalanche to a 47-point improvement and a trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2014. The production of their youth was key in the resurgence, with Bednar using 11 rookies throughout the season, tied for the most in the NHL. Led by Alex Kerfloot (43 points), J.T. Compher (23 points) and Tyson Jost (22 points), Colorado rookies played an NHL-high 419 games. The offense also posted its best numbers since 2006-07 with the number of goals scored (shootout excluded) increasing from 165 last season to 255 in 2017-18.
The Case for Bruce Cassidy: During his first full season in Boston, Cassidy led the team to 50 wins and 112 points, the Bruins’ fourth-highest total in 40 years. Like Colorado, the Bruins received contributions from their kids with an NHL-best 58 goals from rookies in 2017-18. Cassidy’s impact extends back to when he took over for Claude Julien over a year ago. The Bruins went 18-8-1 in final 27 games of last season to help return to the playoffs following a two-year absence. This season, Boston cruised through the regular season and was in contention until the final few days for not only the top spot in the Eastern Conference but also the Presidents’ Trophy.
The Case for Gerard Gallant: What else can you say about the job Gallant, an Adams finalist for the second time, and the Golden Knights did during an historic inaugural season? Vegas finished with 51 wins and 109 points to become the first modern-era expansion team from any of the four major North American professional sports leagues to win its division. After a hot start, the Golden Knights saw their goaltenders hit with injury, which included losing Marc-Andre Fleury to a concussion for two months. They would use four netminders to stay afloat and set an NHL record on Feb. 1 with their 34th win, most by a team in its first season.