St. Louis Blues
Starting goalie: Jake Allen
Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne
St. Louis Blues
Starting goalie: Jake Allen
Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne
NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Considering the Bruins’ comfortable lead atop the Atlantic Division, most teams would gladly take on Boston’s “problems.”
Still, for the Bruins — and few other teams, but yes, also the Penguins, their opponents on Sunday afternoon — it’s about more than division titles. After falling a Game 7 shy of winning the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, this group boasts lofty aspirations.
The Bruins aim to fine-tune during this stretch of the 2019-20 season, and to some, that means reestablishing their identity.
The B’s didn’t just lose Tuukka Rask to an injury on Tuesday when Emil Bemstrom delivered an errant elbow during Columbus’ 3-0 win. Their perceived lack of a response meant that some lost respect for this group.
NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty went as far as to call the Bruins “teddy bears.”
The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa also opined (sub required) that “The Big, Bad Bruins are dead.”
“It’s not about going out there and trying to run them out of the rink. Looking at our roster, we don’t have that kind of group anymore,” Krug said after that win, via Haggerty. “But we talked about sticking together and competing harder and sacrificing a little more. That doesn’t mean putting a guy through the glass, but it means going into the corner and having the willingness to get hit, or to hit somebody else, in order to come out of there with the puck. I think that desperation was lost there for a few games, so hopefully this is a step in the right direction and we can kind of grasp that concept again. It’s been part of our DNA for years, so as long as we can get back to that [we’ll be good].”
Again, you could argue there’s some mild soul-searching going on for Boston.
Blame it on a drop in physicality, or perhaps some other factors, but I’d personally be a little more concerned about dipping underlying numbers.
Looking at sites like Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Reference, there’s been a dip in key categories. They’ve hogged the puck less often, and have been on the wrong end of high-danger chances (owning just 45.6 percent of that category, via Hockey Reference).
These numbers shouldn’t make anyone pull a fire alarm. It’s not that the Bruins have been terrible. Instead, there are some red flags that the Bruins should improve their play. Sean Tierney (Charting Hockey)’s expected goals share chart captures the sometimes middle-of-the-pack feel to the Bruins’ stats:
Would the Bruins dominate the puck if they add more edge? Maybe, but either way, there are signs that the B’s have room to improve.
Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will have the call of the Bruins-Penguins matchup on NBC from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Chicago blowing out Toronto will lead to some hand-wringing, no doubt. Yet, as much as that was on a tough night for Frederik Andersen, give the Blackhawks some credit. Toews topped all in that game with an outstanding four-point performance (two goals and two assists).
Saturday continued what’s been one heck of a month for Toews. The Blackhawks captained pushed his January total to 15 points (5G, 10A). Toews reached that total in just eight games, scoring at least one point in seven contests.
Scratch that. Toews has been on fire for a while now. He started off ice-cold with only two points in 11 October games. Toews took off after that, and has generated an impressive 41 points in his past 28 contests.
Underrated rookie Dominik Kubalik contributed to Chicago’s win, too, with three points (2G, 1A).
Sheahan scoffs at Toews’ slow start. The journeyman forward failed to score a point in 12 October games, and managed one in 11 November contests. Sheahan went and matched his December points total (four in 14 GP) in one contest on Saturday.
That’s right, he generated four points, scoring an empty-netter plus three assists. Connor McDavid dominated in his own right with two goals, but Sheahan helped the Oilers rout the Coyotes. Josh Archibald generated three points (1G, 2A) as well.
This just in: the Oilers have a lot of “that guy’s still around?” forwards. It’s honestly cool to see some of them have such a strong day, and maybe take a bit of the pressure off McDavid here and there.
It’s as though Atkinson never missed any time. After scoring a goal and an assist in his first game in almost one month on Thursday, Atkinson generated three points (2G, 1A) on Saturday. This gives Atkinson seven points (4G, 3A) in his past four contests.
Others give Atkinson a run for his money, even beyond the next section. Jason Zucker (1G, 2A) and James van Riemsdyk (1G, 2A) both contributed to their respective teams’ blowouts. Atkinson’s extra goal gives him the edge.
Saturday featured enough strong performances that it feels better to give these two a mention. After all, they already received their own posts. Yes, these two probably rank as the “real” third and fourth stars of Saturday, or higher, depending upon your personal taste.
Marc-Andre Fleury is suffering through a tough season, big-picture wise. “The Flower” keeps adding to his resume of breathtaking saves, though:
Jamie Benn provides us with a reason to laugh. At least those of us who aren’t immediately transported to our own memories of hilarious blunders.
That video summarizes the Stars’ night succinctly, as the Wild beat them 7-0.
WSH 6 – NYI 4
COL 5 – STL 3
EDM 7 – ARI 3
OTT 5 – CGY 2
CHI 6 – TOR 2
MTL 5 – VGK 4 (SO)
FLA 4 – DET 1
PHI 4 – LAK 1
CBJ 5 – NJD 0
NSH 2 – BUF 1
MIN 7 – DAL 0
VAN 4 – SJS 1
Elvis Merzlikins advanced a bold goal lately: to be more than just a funny name. He is
leaving opponents all shook up absolutely red-hot for the Columbus Blue Jackets right now.
absolutely hound-dogged shut out the New Jersey Devils in Columbus’ 5-0 on Saturday, and that 41-save performance was far from his first standout evening. Merzlikins generated three shutouts in his last four games, allowing just two goals overall. The Blue Jackets won all four of those games.
(OK, this post includes enough cheesy Elvis jokes … arguably.)
During seven appearances between October and November, the 25-year-old goalie languished with sub-.900 save percentages. Since then, he’s started to take off.
Maybe Merzlikins made a New Year’s Eve resolution to dominate? Perhaps it was because Elvis asked reporters to leave him alone? Merzlikins suffered only two losses since Dec. 31, winning eight of 10 games.
The lights-out play already makes the story endearing, but there are notes of the surreal. Consider a few facts about his hot streak:
“That’s what you like about him. He’s strong mentally,” Tortorella said after the Jan. 11 Vegas shutout, via Rob Mixer of First Ohio Battery. “He’s a piece of work as far as his personality, which I like. A lot of things have been thrown at him here…but he’s handled himself really well. I’m happy for him.”
Tortorella deserves ample credit for creating a cocoon for his goalies, of course.
CBJ has figured out how to survive and it's impressive to see Torts working a system that suits this group so well. pic.twitter.com/vqKSrQ6Ryq
— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) January 18, 2020
Regardless, Merzlikins is playing a big role in helping the Blue Jackets stay in the East wild-card races. Here’s hoping that our jokes rise up the charts or we might just need to leave the building.
(Sorry. I’m so, so sorry.)
An historic week for Alex Ovechkin was capped off with a hat trick Saturday afternoon during a 6-4 win over the Islanders. His three goals pushes him past Mario Lemieux and into ninth place with 692, tying him with Steve Yzerman.
Ovechkin opened the scoring and then passed Mario Lemieux for 10th all-time in the third period as the Capitals mounted their comeback. He ended his day with an empty-netter to seal the win and tie Yzerman. The Islanders led 4-1 entering the third period.
Powered by two consecutive hat tricks, Ovechkin has eight goals in his last three games and 10 in his previous six.
That’s now three consecutive multi-goal games for Ovechkin, the first time he’s done that in his career. Earlier this week he not only passed Teemu Selanne for 11th on the all-time goals list but also hit the 30-goal mark for the 15th time in his career. He, along with Jaromir Jagr and Mike Gartner, are the only players to ever record 15 consecutive 30-goal seasons.
With three goals Saturday — the third time he’s recorded hat tricks in consecutive games — Ovechkin now has 34 on the season as he eyes a ninth 50-goal season. His hat trick was the 26th of his NHL career, tying him with Maurice Richard for eighth all-time.
Next in Ovechkin’s sights? Mark Messier, who finished with 694 goals in his career.