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Prep for Game 1! News and notes to know from NBC Sports Research

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A host of news and notes as Chicago and Boston prepare for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final tonight (watch 8 p.m. ET on NBC and live online).

PLAYOFF HISTORY

  • 7th postseason meeting (BOS won 5 of previous 6 series, leads )
  • 1927 NHL Quarterfinals (Blackhawks’ 1st NHL season) – BOS won on goal differential in 2 games
  • 1942 NHL Quarterfinals – BOS won in 3 (best-of-3)
  • 1970 NHL Semifinals – BOS won in 4 (best-of-7) … BOS later won Cup
  • 1974 NHL Semifinals – BOS won in 6 (best-of-7)
  • 1975 NHL Preliminary Round – CHI won in 3 (best-of-3) … April 11, 1975, last CHI postseason win vs. BOS
  • 1978 NHL Quarterfinals – BOS won in 4 (best-of-7) … April 23, 1978, last postseason meeting
  • Blackhawks (58th postseason appearance, 12th Cup Final appearance – won in 1934, 1938, 1961, 2010)
  • Bruins (68th postseason appearance, 19th Cup Final appearance – won in 1929, 1939, 1941, 1970, 1972, 2011)

DID NOT MEET DURING 2012-13 REGULAR SEASON

  • Last meeting at the United Center: October 15, 2011 (won by BOS, 3-2 in shootout)
  • Last meeting at TD Garden: March 29, 2011 (won by BOS, 3-0)
  • Jaromir Jagr (BOS) is the only player on either team who has faced his team’s Stanley Cup Final opponent during the 2012-13 regular season. His Dallas Stars lost to the Blackhawks on Jan. 24 (3-2 loss) and Mar. 16 (8-1 loss), both at Dallas

FROM TEAMMATES TO RIVALS

International
Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook (CHI) & Patrice Bergeron (BOS) were teammates on gold medal-winning Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver … Bergeron also became a Stanley Cup champion on the same ice (Rogers Arena) in 2011 … Toews & Bergeron are the two most recent members of the Triple Gold Club (Stanley Cup, Olympic & World gold medals) … Jaromir Jagr has also won all three major hockey titles, with the Penguins & Czech Republic
Zdeno Chara (BOS), Marian Hossa & Michal Handzus (CHI) were teammates on Slovakia in 2010.

NHL
Zdeno Chara (2001-06), Wade Redden (1996-2008), Chris Kelly (2003-Feb. 2011), Marian Hossa (1997-2004) and Ray Emery (2002-08) were all teammates on Senators … Redden, Kelly & Emery played on losing side in 2007 Stanley Cup Final
Shawn Thornton (BOS) played first 31 NHL games with Blackhawks (2002-06), was teammates with Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford (CHI) in 2005-06 … Thornton played four seasons with AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals (2001-06), was teammates with Keith for two seasons (2003-05) and Seabrook (2004-05) and Crawford (2005-06) for one each
Jaromir Jagr (BOS) & Michal Rozsival (CHI) were teammates on Penguins (1999-2001), Rangers (2005-07) and gold medal-winning Czech Republic at 2010 IIHF World Championships
Johnny Oduya (CHI) played rookie season (2006-07) under Claude Julien (BOS) with the Devils before the latter was fired by GM Lou Lamoriello with three games remaining in the season … Oduya was also teammates with Jay Pandolfo (BOS) from 2006-10
Johnny Boychuk (BOS) played four games under Joel Quenneville (CHI) with Avs in 2007-08
Nathan Horton, Gregory Campbell, Dennis Seidenberg (BOS) & Michael Frolik (CHI) were teammates on Panthers in 2009-10
Patrick Sharp, Michal Handzus (CHI) & Dennis Seidenberg (BOS) were teammates on Flyers 2002-06
Dennis Seidenberg (BOS) & Dan Carcillo (CHI) were teammates on Coyotes in 2006-07
Johnny Oduya (CHI) & Rich Peverley (BOS) were teammates on Thrashers from 2009-Feb. 2011 Rich Peverley (BOS) & Sheldon Brookbank (CHI) were teammates on Predators in 2006-07 and AHL affiliate Milwaukee Admirals from 2005-07
Joel Quenneville (CHI) & Doug Jarvis (BOS) were teammates on Hartford Whalers from 1985-88

Europe
Patrick Kane (CHI, 13 G, 23 P in 20 GP) & Tyler Seguin (BOS, 25 G, 40 P in 29 GP) were teammates on EHC Biel of the Swiss National League A during the 2012-13 NHL lockout
Viktor Stalberg (CHI, 3 G, 10 P in 14 GP) & Anton Khudobin (BOS, 2.97 GAA, 1 SO in 26 GP) were teammates on HC Atlant Mytishchi of the Russian KHL during the 2012-13 NHL lockout … Ray Emery (CHI) also played for Atlant after leaving the NHL for one season (2008-09), as did Chris Bourque (BOS), in 2010-11
Jaromir Jagr, David Krejci (BOS) & Michael Frolik (CHI) all came through Kladno program in Czech Republic … Jagr & Krejci were teammates on the 2010 Czech Olympic team
Zdeno Chara (BOS) & Marian Hossa (CHI) came through Trencin program in Slovakia
Minors Michal Rozsival (CHI) & Andrew Ference (BOS) – Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins (AHL) in 2000-01
Chris Kelly (BOS) & Sheldon Brookbank (CHI) – Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) in 2001-02
Dennis Seidenberg (BOS) & Patrick Sharp (CHI) – Philadelphia Phantoms (AHL) 2002-05 … won Calder Cup together in 2005

Juniors
Patrick Kane, Brandon Saad, Nick Leddy, Jimmy Hayes, Jeremy Morin (CHI) all came up through U.S. Development Program
Patrick Kane, Dave Bolland (CHI) and Chris Kelly (BOS) all played junior hockey with the London Knights (OHL) … Bolland was on the Dale Hunter-led squad that won the Memorial Cup in 2005
Brad Marchand (BOS) & Corey Crawford (CHI) – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) in 2004-05
Andrew Shaw (CHI) & Dougie Hamilton (BOS) – Niagara IceDogs (OHL) in 2009-10
Matt Bartkowski (BOS), Brandon Bollig & Jimmy Hayes (CHI) – Lincoln Stars (USHL)

AMERICAN-BORN PLAYERS

Blackhawks
Patrick Kane – Buffalo
Brandon Saad – Pittsburgh
Nick Leddy – Eden Prairie, MN
Brandon Bollig – St. Charles, MO
Ben Smith – Winston-Salem, NC

Bruins
Torey Krug – Livonia, MI
Matt Bartkowski – Pittsburgh
Jay Pandolfo – Winchester, MA
Carter Camper – Rocky River, OH
Chris Bourque – Boston

UNIVERSITY PLAYERS

Blackhawks
Jimmy Hayes (Boston College – 09,10,11)
Ben Smith (Boston College – 07,08,09,10)
Duncan Keith (Michigan State – 02,03)
Nick Leddy (Minnesota – 10)
Jonathan Toews (North Dakota – 06,07)
Brandon Pirri (RPI – 10)
Brandon Bollig (St. Lawrence – 09,10)
Patrick Sharp (Vermont – 01,02)
Viktor Stalberg (Vermont – 07,08,09)
Jamal Mayers (Western Michigan – 93,94,95,96)

Bruins
Chris Bourque (Boston University – 05)
Jay Pandolfo (Boston University – 93,94,95,96)
Bob Essensa (Michigan State – 84,85,86,87)
Torey Krug (Michigan State – 10,11,12)
Matt Bartkowski (Ohio State – 09,10)
Rich Peverley (St. Lawrence – 01,02,03,04)

PREVIOUS STANLEY CUP WINNERS

with 2010 Blackhawks (8 players of 21, 2 coaches):
Dave Bolland, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews (captain, Conn Smythe winner), Joel Quenneville (head coach), Stephane Waite (asst)
with other franchises (1 coach):
Jamie Kompon (asst, 2012 Kings)

with 2011 Bruins (17 players of 21, 4 coaches):
Patrice Bergeron, Johnny Boychuk, Gregory Campbell, Zdeno Chara (captain), Andrew Ference, Nathan Horton, Chris Kelly, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid, Daniel Paille, Rich Peverley, Tuukka Rask, Dennis Seidenberg, Tyler Seguin, Shawn Thornton, Claude Julien (head coach), Doug Houda (asst), Doug Jarvis, Geoff Ward (asst), Bob Essensa (asst)
with other franchises (4 players, 1 coach):
Jaromir Jagr (1991, 1992 Penguins), Jay Pandolfo (2000, 2003 Devils), Shawn Thornton (with 2007 Ducks), Doug Jarvis (1976-79 Canadiens as player; 1999 Stars as asst coach)

SEEKING 1ST STANLEY CUP

Blackhawks

have played or coached one+ playoff game this postseason (15 players, 1 coach):
Bryan Bickell (name not etched), Brandon Bollig, Sheldon Brookbank, Daniel Carcillo, Corey Crawford, Ray Emery (back-up goalie), Michael Frolík, Michal Handzuš, Marcus Krüger, Nick Leddy, Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsíval, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Viktor Stålberg, Mike Kitchen (asst)

Bruins

have played or coached one+ playoff game this postseason (6 players):
Matt Bartkowski, Kaspars Daugaviņš, Dougie Hamilton, Anton Khudobin (back-up goalie), Torey Krug, Wade Redden

Berube’s coaching style well-suited to Blues’ roster

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

It’s not often that an interim coach is handed the keys to a last-place team and ends up winning the Stanley Cup in the same season.

Not impossible, as Craig Berube proved last season. Just incredibly unlikely.

Berube was as much of an X-factor for the Blues as, say, Jordan Binnington. Without Berube, who knows where the Blues would have ended up. The man known as a ‘Chief’ brought a disjointed team together and began sprinting toward the finish line at a fervent pace.

[MORE: 2018-19 review | Three questions | Under Pressure]

The decision to hand Binnington the reins, an 11-game winning streak that followed suit, and a renewed camaraderie amongst the players all happened under Berube’s watch after Mike Yeo was handed his walking papers near the end of November.

“Craig made an enormous impact on our team when he took over last November,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said after the team stripped the interim tag and handed Berube a three-year deal. “He restored our identity and provided our players with a clear sense of direction.”

If that’s not X-factor material, I don’t know what is.

Berube is now tasked with maintaining the team culture he created with, by-and-large, the same contingent of players that he led to the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

It’s a tall order.

Nothing was really expected from Berube when he took over. Sure, Blues fans and brass alike would have wanted to see things pointing in the right direction, but never could they have imagined what took place from Jan. 7 onward.

Ask any Blues player and they’ll say it was Berube that was the team’s catalyst as they reversed their fortunes.

Berube, as Armstrong said, instilled an identity and within a month or so, it began to take shape on the ice.

Berube showed that you don’t have to have a flashy team with many superstars to get the job done. And he’ll have another go at proving that is, indeed, the case.

He’ll have the “Stanley Cup hangover” to contend with an, perhaps, a pinch of complacency, even if it is only early on.

The biggest thing the Blues can do is get off to a good start. Stave off any of those hangover effects by stringing a few wins together to begin the season.

You won’t find the impact of a coach in a simple math equation (or a complex one, either.) But simply having a team believe in your cause is a massive boon to any bench boss. The players can now attest that Berube’s direction works, so they can certainly get behind his next installment as he develops the team into the rugged, hard-to-deal-with type that never gave up in last season’s playoffs.

There will be no surprises from the Blues this year. No underestimations from unsuspecting teams.

It will be on Beruble to navigate through that and more.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


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

Blues’ Binnington faces whole new world in 2019-20

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

Come out of nowhere, steal the No. 1 job, win a Stanley Cup and get a nice payoff all inside six or so months.

It seems hardly believable. Impossible, really.

Yet there stands Jordan Binnington, a 26-year-old formerly journeyman goalie who, prior to puck drop in a Jan. 7 game against the Philadelphia Flyers, was simply a nobody in the NHL world.

Two-and-a-half hours and 25 saves later, Binnington had his first NHL win in his first NHL start and his first NHL shutout all under his belt. A flash in the pan? Far from it, apparently.

Binnington would feature in 29 games in the second half of the season for the Blues. His 24-5-1 record with a .927 save percentage and five shutouts during that span would pull the Blues all the way from the league’s murkiest spot in the basement to third-place in the Central Division.

And from there, he’d start all 26 games the St. Louis Blues played in the playoffs on their magical run to the Stanley Cup. Binnington would set rookie records for wins in a postseason and, ultimately, lift Lord Stanley with a 16-10 record, including a 32-save, .970 performance in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to cement the Blues worst-to-first achievement.

[MORE: 2018-19 review | Three questions | X-Factor]

These things simply don’t happen, and yet Binnington willed it into existence with a ‘Do I look nervous to you?’ attitude that was only backed up on the ice.

Binnington’s emergence earned him a two-year, deal worth $4.4 million annually, making him the highest-paid goalie on the Blues (a mere $50,000 more than Jake Allen) and No. 1 status between the pipes heading into the 2019-20 season.

He’s earned it. And now the hard work begins.

There was no pressure on Binnington last season. Every win was met with awe, not expectation. If he had come in and failed, he wouldn’t have been labeled as a bust. If he had crashed out in the first round of the playoffs, he still would have been considered a success.

Winning the Stanley Cup? It’s still hard to fathom, really.

But now Binnington has some statistics to his name. The bar he set for himself is in the realm of the NHL’s elite. And somehow, he has to now make that translate into a full slate of NHL starts — perhaps as many as 60 next season.

That’s where the pressure lies.

Binnington is unproven as a full-time NHL starter, like Carter Hart in Philadelphia. Both had great seasons, but both only played half the year. So questions remain.

There’s nothing, at least at the moment, to suggest that Binnington can’t handle it. Sure, his save percentage dipped in the playoffs, but he handled the pressure of a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final with apparent ease.

He appears to be a true iceman when it comes to that.

Nevertheless, he’s now playing for a bigger payoff in two years after having bet on himself over the next two seasons. His long-term financial gain also hangs in the balance.

Binnington gave fans what they craved and now they’re only going to want more.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


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

Can Blues repeat as Stanley Cup champions?

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

Let’s ponder three questions facing the Blues.

[MORE: 2018-19 review | Under Pressure | X-Factor]

1. Can they do it all over again?  

If winning the Stanley Cup is the hardest thing to do in hockey, then winning it two years on the trot is that much more difficult.

One team in the salary cap era has been able to pull off a repeat and they had some guy named Sidney Crosby on those teams. The point is that it’s uber-difficult, but a question that every Cup champion faces.

This is the challenge the Blues now face with more or less the same team they won the Cup with this past June. Not much has changed in St. Louis since Alex Pietrangelo hoisted Lord Stanley for the first time in franchise history.

But can a team that was in last place in January and now feeling the effects of the Stanley Cup hangover do it all over again?

The NHL’s tightest-knit group has all the chemistry one could ask for and it’s largely intact from a season ago. And now they have all of that experience to lean upon, as well. But the Central Division is no push-over and several teams have strengthened their squads while the Blues have chosen to rely on what’s within.

It’s certainly a tall order.

2. Will Alex Pietrangelo’s lack of a contract extension be a distraction? 

He’s the team’s captain, talisman and one of the best defensemen in the NHL. And he’s (at this point) entering the 2019-20 season with a year left on his current deal and unrestricted free agency waiting for him next summer.

If you go back to December of last year, you’ll find a lot of ink was spilled where the best trade destinations for Pietrangelo would be. The Blues were an awful team at that point and the Blues, perhaps, could have capitalized on such an intriguing asset. They didn’t and were rewarded in the playoffs with a special performance.

His play during the Stanley Cup run will only have upped his asking price on the free-agent market. And the Blues need to decide on what to do before a John Tavares-like scenario becomes their own reality.

3. Is Jordan Binnington for real? 

We’re going to cover this in a separate post, but it bears mentioning here.

Binnington should probably have won the Calder Trophy for the NHL’s best rookie after he won 24 of 30 decisions he figured in with a .927 save percentage and five shutouts. The most impressive part of all of this is he didn’t start a game until early January.

Now, he could face a schedule with a workload double what he played last season. Those are uncharted waters for 26-year-old.

Binnington made the most of his opportunity when handed one last year. There were no expectations then, however. Now, they’re higher than ever.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


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

It’s St. Louis Blues Day at PHT

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

2018-19 

45-28-9, 99 points (3rd in the Central Division, tied for fourth in the Western Conference)
Playoffs: Won Stanley Cup

IN:
Nathan Walker
Derrick Pouliot
Jake Dotchin
Andreas Borgman

OUT:
Jordan Schmaltz
Adam Musil
Nikita Soshnikov
Jakub Jerabek
Patrick Maroon

RE-SIGNED
:
Jordan Binnington
Joel Edmundson
Jordan Nolan
Samuel Blais
Zach Sanford
Robby Fabbri
Oskar Sundqvist
Carl Gunnarsson
Nolan Stevens

[MORE: Three questions | Under Pressure | X-Factor]

2018-19 Summary

Well, that went pretty well, didn’t it?

No matter how many times you hear it, it’s still unbelievable to see the NHL standings on Jan. 3, 2019 and the Blues at the very bottom — 31st overall. Fast forward 160 days and they were hoisting the Stanley Cup celebrating the franchise’s first championship.

It was quite a season for the Blues, who fired head coach Mike Yeo on Nov. 20 after a 7-9-3 start. General manager Doug Armstrong turned to assistant coach Craig Berube to right the ship as the organization planned for a coaching search that would go far and wide.

Under Berube, the Blues didn’t improve much, going 9-10-1 in their first 20 games under the interim bench boss. But then came Jan. 7 and a game at Philadelphia featuring goaltending Jordan Binnington making his first NHL start, which ended with a shutout. Two weeks later they began a franchise-record 11-game winning streak that powered them up the Central Division standings. The winning ways continued through the end of the regular season as St. Louis earned 65 out of a possible 90 points in their final 45 games to finish tied for second in the division and fourth in the Western Conference.

Riding their red-hot goaltender and being led offensively by their summer acquisition in Ryan O’Reilly, the Blues took care of the Winnipeg Jets in six games, then the Dallas Stars in a memorable seven-game series before topping the San Jose Sharks in six games to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Their final foe, the Boston Bruins, needed seven games to be defeated, with O’Reilly winning Conn Smythe Trophy honors.

Through the unforgettable ride, the Blues adopted the 1981 Laura Branigan song “Gloria” as their theme after several players heard it in a Philadelphia bar in January. The DJ kept playing the song at the request of a customer and the players decided it would be played in the dressing room following wins.

“Play Gloria!” soon became the rallying cry and took over the city. Also becoming an important part of the Blues’ season was retiring anthem singer Charles Glenn, who continued performing as he battled multiple sclerosis, and 12-year-old Laila Anderson, who was diagnosed with a rare disease called Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocystosis. She became friendly with several players and was well enough to attend several games during the season and playoffs, including the team’s Game 7 victory over the Bruins in the Cup Final.

It’s interesting to think what would have happened had Armstrong not had the patience with the roster that he did and chose to blow up the team’s core before things changed. He stayed the course, chose the right coach to replace Yeo, and rode a hot Binnington to an unforgettable finish.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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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.