Stanley Cup Final Roundtable: Secondary scoring, underrated contributors

Leading up to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final (Monday, 8 p.m. ET, NBC), Pro Hockey Talk will be looking at every aspect of the matchup between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues.

Which team is in bigger trouble if they fail to get secondary scoring?

SEAN: Tuukka Rask is going to make life difficult for any Blues player to score, and if the top line of Schwartz, O’Reilly and Tarasenko are slowed on any given night, the secondary scoring is essential. It’s been a huge part of their success. The same can be said for the Bruins, but their top line has been unstoppable and will give the Blues’ defense fits. Boston’s secondary scorers drying up won’t be as big of a death knell as it would be for St. Louis, who have stepped up in their own way this postseason.

JAMES: The Blues’ highest-end scorers are nothing to sneeze at … but unfortunately, the bar goes higher in the postseason, particularly when you’re facing arguably the best top line in the NHL in Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. Those three could carry Boston to a series win if need be, and they also boast the two-way acumen to win a strength vs. strength battle if St. Louis goes top-heavy.

ADAM: It’s the Blues, simply because I think Boston’s top-end players are a little better and they have more of them. Tarasenko and O’Reilly can definitely make an impact on their own, but the Bruins’ trio of Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak has carried them quite often over the past two years and I see no reason why they couldn’t do it again if needed.

JOEY: I’m going to go with the Blues. The Bruins have had 19 different goal scorers in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so as important as Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak are, the rest of the team can still find a way to contribute offensively. St. Louis has made it this far without their top scorers contributing all that much, but the good news for them is that their high-end guys have started chipping in more. They’ll need Tarasenko and company to keep rolling if they’re going to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.

SCOTT: There were stretches against Toronto and against Columbus where Boston’s otherwise dominant top line wasn’t as trigger happy. And it was then that the Bruins’ depth really showed. They’ve seen goal scoring come from 19 different players in this playoffs, from the top line right down to the guys on the fourth. The Bruins have a chance if those guys aren’t producing, is what I’m saying. I’m not sure the same can be said of the Blues if Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz aren’t lighting the lamp. There’s depth on the Blues roster, certainly, but this is the Cup Final against the hottest goalie in the playoffs and one of the best defensive teams in front of him. St. Louis can’t afford not to have their top guys running on all cylinders.

RYAN: The Blues. Boston’s top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak can carry the Bruins if needed. If this series turns into a battle of the top lines, then I don’t see St. Louis coming out on top. The Blues have gotten significant contributions from Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron, and Tyler Bozak in particular in the postseason and that needs to continue.

Who has been the most underrated contributor for each team?

SEAN: Do you know who has recorded the sixth-most playoff points since 2011? It’s David Krejci, who has 29 goals and 80 points in 98 games since the Bruins Cup run eight years ago. He’s been a reliable contributor in the shadows of Bergeron and Marchand, who typically lead the way and nab the headlines. This postseason he’s third on the team with 14 points and has gone consecutive games without recording a point only once since the end of January.

Another year, another Cup Final for David Perron. In his third stint with the Blues, Perron has already set a career high in postseason points with 13 in 19 games this spring. He scored a goal and added eight assists last season for the Vegas Golden Knights during their run to the Cup Final. This season he’s played a huge role as part of the team’s secondary scoring after netting 23 goals and 46 points.

JAMES: Defensemen for each side: Torey Krug for the Bruins; Colton Parayko for the Blues. Krug is a vital cog in the best power play of this postseason, and brings value beyond offense, too. Parayko, meanwhile, opens up Alex Pietrangelo to more scoring opportunities by being so stout defensively, and Parayko can also chip in on offense with a rifle of a shot.

ADAM: On the Boston side it is definitely David Krejci. He is like the forgotten man on that team but he has been around forever it seems and always has a knack for producing on these big stages. He has done it again in the playoffs and doesn’t really seem to be slowing down all that much even as he gets into his 30s. He’s been a workhorse for that team for years. For St. Louis, I think Alex Pietrangelo. He is their No. 1 defender but we really don’t talk enough about how good the Blues’ defense (and him especially) actually is. He has been great this postseason.

JOEY: No one seems to talk about David Krejci. The big three in Boston get all the headlines, but Krejci always seem to elevate his game at the right time. The 33-year-old has quietly put up 14 points in the first 17 games of this year’s playoffs and he’s chipped in 101 points in 125 career postseason games.

SCOTT: For Boston, I believe it’s become Marcus Johansson. I think people will finally begin to notice his contributions with just one series left. He’s been stout offensively and contributed on a few key moments for the Bruins over the past two rounds. He’s become a key trade-deadline acquisition for Boston. For St. Louis, I still think Oskar Sundqvist has been a quietly good contributor on the fourth line. He ended the San Jose series with a goal and an assist over the final two games, including the game-winner in Game 5.

RYAN: I don’t think Jay Bouwmeester has gotten enough attention for his key role in getting the Blues this far. He doesn’t do much offensively anymore, but even at the age of 35 he’s been a workhorse for the Blues in the playoffs. He’s averaging 23:02 minutes per game and has blocked 36 shots in the playoffs. The Blues would be in a very tough spot without him playing such a big role on the blueline.

On the Bruins side, while Boston’s top line has understandably gotten a lot of attention, the third unit has been a significant part of their success, led in part by trade acquisitions Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson. I’ll single out Coyle as the most effective of that group with his six goals and 12 points.

Will the 11-day layoff help or hurt the Bruins early in the series?

SEAN: The Bruins have tried to keep the intensity up in practices during their break, including holding a full scrimmage last week in front of a sold out crowd. There’s no way to simulate an NHL playoff game, but there’s enough experience on that roster that such a break won’t have a long affect on the team, if at all. The first game of a Cup Final always features a feeling out process, so that could allow the Bruins to shake off their rust and get back to the style that saw them blow through the Eastern Conference to reach this point.

JAMES: The Blues have had a pretty ample breather in their own right, so the Bruins’ rest advantage isn’t as extreme as, say, the 1986 Canadiens, who had a week off versus the 1986 Flames only getting a day off. I tend to roll my eyes at certain rust talk, as I’d wager that most struggles (beyond maybe the first 20-40 minutes of Game 1) are probably more to do to getting fewer bounces or facing tougher opponents. Still, 11 days is pushing it, and I worry the most about Tuukka Rask, who was red-hot. Will he be less sharp? I still say take the rest when you can, but this feels like the hockey equivalent of an NCAA football team getting a month off before a big bowl game. So I’d say hurt, but just a paper cut.

ADAM: I honestly don’t think it is going to matter simply because the Blues have been off for a long time, too. I don’t think the Bruins are going to complain too much about having an extended rest at this time of year. Their first two matchups were really difficult and the break has probably done them some good. They might be a little rusty in the first 10 minutes, but the first period of the first game of the Stanley Cup Final tends to be a little choppy anyway because both teams are still getting a sense of what the other is all about.

JOEY: As much as their intra-squad game will help them, I think they’ll be rusty early on in Game 1. But I don’t think it’ll hamper them for an entire game. The Bruins found a way to overcome a quick turnaround and they’re good enough to figure things out after a long layoff. I don’t think the layoff will be a big factor either way.

SCOTT: Meh. I’m not a huge believer in the whole rest-equals-rust debate. The Bruins needed it to tend to some bumps and bruises. If anything, it’s probably a bigger issue for Tuukka Rask given the run he was on prior to it. I just don’t see how rest is a bad thing is something as grueling as the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And let’s not forget, St. Louis is coming off an extended rest of their own here. If anything, they’ll need to survive the first period to get their groove back.

RYAN: Hurt. A moderate sized rest, like the one the St. Louis Blues are getting, would have probably done Boston some good. This rest is far too long though, especially for a team that was red hot. If any team can overcome it, it’s the Boston Bruins, but the long layover is nevertheless something to be overcome rather than something to be thankful for.

STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW
Who has the better forwards?
Who has the better defensemen?
Who has the better goaltending?
Who has the better special teams?

X-factors
PHT Power Rankings: Conn Smythe favorites
How the Blues were built
How the Bruins were built
Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

The Buzzer: Stars Wars Storm Surge; Bob beats Blue Jackets

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Three Stars

1. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes

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.

2. Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning

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.

3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

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.

Factoids

  • 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.
  • Brady Tkachuk received a fine from the Department of Player Safety for cross-checking Scott Laughton. More on that wild game here.
  • A bit esoteric, but interesting, from NHL PR: Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid are the fifth pair to generate at least 300 points each in 320 games or fewer. They’re the first pairing to pull that off since Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

Scores

PHI 4 – OTT 3
VAN 6 – BUF 5 (OT)
COL 4 – BOS 1
PIT 5 – DET 3
TBL 7 – SJS 1
FLA 4 – CBJ 1
CAR 6 – MIN 2
TOR 5 – STL 2
NSH 6 – NJD 4
DAL 3 – NYI 1
CGY 4 – LAK 3

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

P.K. Subban gets a warm tribute during his return to Nashville

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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:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Avs’ rising star Cale Makar shaken by hit from Bruins’ Marchand

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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.

It didn’t seem like a heinous hit by Marchand, although there are some who wonder if it was a bit high.

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.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Laila Anderson, bone marrow donor attend Blues game

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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.

This longer clip from their first meeting earlier this week is worth watching, unless you don’t want people to see you openly weeping’n’stuff:

(Personally, I’d say it’s worth it.)

MORE ON LAILA ANDERSON AND THE BLUES:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.