The St. Louis Blues beat the Minnesota Wild 4-2 in a game where a lot of key players had the afternoon off, but that doesn’t mean it meant absolutely nothing. For one thing, this outcome clinches a first-round series between the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks.
(Nashville gets home-ice advantage as the second seed in the Central while a Calgary Flames loss clinches that same edge for the Vancouver Canucks in the Pacific’s No.2 vs. No. 3 series.)
St. Louis also kept its hopes of being the West’s top seed alive. The Blues moved to 109 standings points, two ahead of the Anaheim Ducks, who must win in regulation to take back the No. 1 spot.
Blues boast the better B-team
Despite some incentive for both teams – the Blues seek that top seed, the Wild may have had a chance to move out of the wild card – plenty of players got a breather on Saturday. Really, it makes sense to do so, as this day off could mean a week out of game action. Maybe that opens the door for rust to form, yet considering how bruising 82 games can be, it seems reasonable enough.
The Blues got off to such a slow start that their home fans gave them a Bronx cheer for an early shot on goal, yet they soldiered on and eventually won by a comfortable margin.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 37th goal of a brilliant breakout season to remind us that some big stars were still playing:
Brian Elliott won his 26th game of the season. This could be a helpful couple of wins for the 2015 All-Star, even if he backs up Jake Allen in the playoffs.
So far, we know that the Blackhawks will face the Predators and the Vancouver Canucks will take on the Calgary Flames out West. The Blues and Wild won’t know their first-round opponents until this evening’s busy proceedings come to an end.
For all we know, Saturday could have been a first-round preview … albeit one without some top attractions.
Heading into Saturday, Aho only scored in one goal (a goal and an assist) in his past five contests. He made up for that dry spell in a big way against the Wild, generating a hat trick plus two assists.
His third goal was an empty-netter, but Aho’s first tally ended up being the game-winner. Aho was really clicking with Teuvo Teravainen, who finished the night with three assists.
Aho now has 27 points through his first 30 games in 2019-20.
The Lightning made life miserable for the Sharks on Saturday, feasting by way of a 7-1 score.
Killorn was a big part of that, generating a goal and three assists for four points. Killorn now has three goals and three assists for six points during a three-game streak, giving Killorn 22 points in 25 games in 2019-20.
As effective as Killorn has been over the years, his career-high is 47 points. Chances are, he’s going to slow down (example a 15.7 shooting percentage so far this season, against a 10.5 career average), but if reasonably healthy, Killorn should blow that previous number out of the water.
There were other Lightning players who played really well, as you’d expect from a blowout. Steven Stamkos ranked among those who collected three points, while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 37 saves to exaggerate the distance between the two teams.
Really, you can take your pick between Malkin and Jake Guentzel, as they both enjoyed one-goal, two-assist nights on Saturday, and they both clearly play off each other quite well. As much as Guentzel has been conjoined to Sidney Crosby during his young (and underappreciated) career, it seems like he can click with Malkin, too. Obviously, it’s not difficult to transition from one “NHL 100” player to another who should have made the “NHL 100,” yet … we’ve seen wingers who cannot find chemistry with one or more of Malkin and Crosby. So credit to Guentzel for being deadly with both, and likely making life a little easier for each of them.
Malkin now has a fantastic 26 points in just 19 games, and may very well have his biggest year in a while if he can stay healthy — an uncomfortably familiar phrase for the Penguins for quite some time. (Heck, even spanning back to Mario Lemieux.)
Guentzel now has 31 points in 30 games, and a solid chance to exceed last season’s excellent career-high of 76 points.
Highlight of the Night
Uh, you think the Kings were expecting Johnny Gaudreau to pass when he did? (Don’t lie.) This is just a tremendous combination of speed, skill, and vision as he set up Sean Monahan:
Star Wars Storm Surge
Yay or nay on the Star Wars-themed Storm Surge from the Hurricanes? I’d say solid enough, although it lacked a Bunch of Baby Yoda so … maybe not ideal.
The Blue Jackets spoiled Sergei Bobrovsky‘s shutout bid a bit more than halfway through the third period. Still, Bob had a strong night with 33 saves. Hot take: Columbus is still probably relieved to not be spending to the tune of Bob’s $10M AAV, considering how infrequently Bob has looked this good.
NHL PR notes that the Avalanche extended a point streak to 14 games, while they also gave the Bruins their first regulation loss at home this season.
It would have been silly for Nashville Predators fans to boo P.K. Subban during his return to “Smashville.”
Subban didn’t choose to be traded from Montreal to Nashville, and he didn’t elect to be sent from Nashville to the New Jersey Devils, either.
Sports fans aren’t always so rational, though. Really, it makes sense: spending so much money, time, and emotional energy on a game isn’t exactly the most rational thing to do. So there was some concern about how Subban would be received, especially since he’s already booed in an honestly uncomfortably large number of NHL arenas already.
Subban and others can breathe a sigh of relief, though, as while not everyone greeted Subban with open arms in as literal a way as Roman Josi did with their hug on Saturday, the team gave Subban a fantastic welcome back tribute video:
Not only does that video include some of Subban’s great moments during his three seasons with the Predators (that Stanley Cup Final appearance, a Norris Trophy win), it also captures some of the off-the-ice qualities that make Subban so fun and entertaining (and make people sometimes get perplexingly, maybe troublingly mad about him). He got up and decided to sing some Johnny Cash upon arriving in Nashville, was a fantastic charitable presence, and was a lot of fun.
(No Listerine was spilled in the making of the ad, but you can’t have it all.)
Anyway, good on the Predators and their fans for welcoming P.K. back.
As a reminder, Montreal Canadiens fans greeted him with love upon his return, too:
The Colorado Avalanche have done a masterful job, for the most part, when it comes to rolling with injury-related punches to key players such as Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. They have to hope that Saturday didn’t send another such haymaker their way.
Rising star defenseman Cale Makar (who just fell under a point per game on Saturday with 28 in 29 contests) was clearly shaken up by a hard hit by Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand.
Either way, Makar’s reaction is troubling. You can see him shake his head multiple times following the hit, which gives the impression that he could have suffered a concussion. That doesn’t guarantee that Makar did, but it’s a situation to watch — and one the Avalanche should absolutely be careful about.
The Avalanche ended up beating the Bruins 4-1 on Saturday.
If it got a “little dusty” at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Saturday, that’s understandable, because the continued story of Laila Anderson meeting Kenton Felmlee, her bone marrow donor, is sure to make most get a case of heightened allergies.
(Is that a leak from the ceiling? /Sobs)
Anyway, Felmlee was Anderson’s guest during Saturday’s Toronto Maple Leafs – St. Louis Blues game, giving the two another chance to bond, and beyond that, for Anderson to thank Felmlee for helping her in her battle with the rare immune disease HLH.
It’s great stuff, even if the actual Blues game isn’t going so great for St. Louis.