Game 1 loss served as ‘wake-up call’ for Blues

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BOSTON — Since their Game 1 defeat to the Boston Bruins Monday night, the St. Louis Blues have heard plenty about the success rate of teams that grab a 1-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

Since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format in 1939, 61 of 79 teams that won the first game of the Final went on to win the series (77.2%). That’s an encouraging statistic for the Bruins, although they don’t have to look too far into the past to see why that number isn’t 100%. Just last season the Vegas Golden Knights took Game 1, but then the Washington Capitals reeled off four straight. The 2011 champion Bruins not only lost the opening game, but fell behind 0-2 to the Vancouver Canucks before staging a comeback to take the series in seven games.

“I think that’s why you guys are doing the stats and we just play on the ice,” said Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko. “It doesn’t really matter this part of the year. You never know what’s gonna happen.”

Those numbers aren’t in the Blues’ heads, added Tarasenko, who also noted what the Capitals did in 2018.

There’s plenty for the Blues to clean up in Game 2 so as to not fall into an 0-2 hole heading back to St. Louis for Games 3 and 4. They wasted a strong opening 21 minutes and allowed their discipline to ruin the momentum they had grabbed following a strong start.

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was basically a “spectator,” as he put it, following the first period as St. Louis mustered only 12 shots on goal over the final 40 minutes, while the Bruins went into attack mode and took 30 shots on Jordan Binnington and scored four times.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

“Our support needs to be better, our neutral zone needs to be better,” said Blues forward Jaden Schwartz. “Our zone time wasn’t very high, so we need to do a better job of getting through the neutral zone and supporting the puck in the offensive zone. We just didn’t do a good enough job and didn’t get enough pucks to the net.”

A look the even strength heat map from Game 1 tells just much real estate the Bruins took up in the Blues’ zone (via Natural Stat Trick):

Via Natural Stat Trick

Tyler Bozak gave the old hockey cliche of getting pucks in deep and cycling in order for the Blues to increase their zone time. When those pucks were getting behind the defense, however, the Bruins were able to quickly transition out of the zone. That’s one adjustment needed for Game 2.

Discipline is obviously the other area that needs fixing. The Blues gave a Bruins’ power play that was clicking at 34% five opportunities in Game 1. Boston only scored once — Charlie McAvoy’s tying goal 12:41 into the second period — but it prevented St. Louis from maintaining a hold on the game.

Teams that have gone up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final have won the series 46 of the last 51 times. We’re one game in and there’s still plenty of hockey left to play. What gets cleaned up between Games 1 and 2 for the Blues will determine just how desperate they’ll have to become when the series shifts to St. Louis after Wednesday night.

“We did a little too much feeling it out and just deviated from our game plan,” said Ryan O’Reilly. “It’s a wake-up call for us. Whether it’s coming off a high and not realizing the work that we got to put in. We’re not worried. We know we have to get back and it’s not going to be easy, but we’re confident in each other.”

Blues-Bruins Game 2 is Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET from TD Garden on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.

MORE BRUINS-BLUES GAME 2:
Robert Thomas sidelined for Blues
Three keys for Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final 
Blues need another rebound game from Binnington

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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.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.