Stanley Cup Final: Blues’ top line has early edge on Bruins’ top line


One of the big matchups to watch entering the Stanley Cup Final was going to be how the Bruins would contend with the St. Louis Blues’ white-hot top line. The trio of Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, and Jaden Schwartz was the biggest driving force behind the Blues’ Western Conference Final win over the San Jose Sharks, and it seemed to be a given that Bruce Cassidy was going to counter them with his top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak in a power vs. power matchup.

Especially with home-ice advantage and the opportunity to dictate more of the line matchups.

But through the first two games of the series, which is now tied 1-1 after the Blues’ 3-2 overtime win on Wednesday night, Cassidy has already started to get away from that matchup as the Blues’ top line has carried the play.

Tarasenko extended his current point streak to eight games with a late first period goal in Game 2, once again victimizing the Bergeron line. Through the first two games of the series the two lines have only spent eight minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time going against each other, with the Tarasenko line outscoring them by a 3-0 margin and controlling the territorial game. Small sample size or not, that has resulted in the Bruins using their fourth line against the Tarasenko line for much of the first two games, which is hardly what we expected at the start.


Cassidy was asked on Thursday how his top line can get out of its current funk that has not only included them not scoring in the series (outside of an empty-net goal by Marchand), but also giving up its share of goals.

“Well they’ve certainly generated on the power play to get their momentum going 5-on-5,” said Cassidy. “What they’ve done well in the whole playoffs, even when they weren’t scoring, they played against Tavares and Marner, and certainly kept them off the score sheet. Then you go to Panarin and I think it was Atkinson. They’ve done a good job. So then there was Staal and Williams. So they’ve been able to at least do that part of the job. So far this series Schenn’s line’s got some 5-on-5 goals. So that’s the part of why we made the switch. Try to free them up and try to lock down that line with Kuraly.

He continued. “I suspect they’ll want to go to that matchup again, I don’t want to speak for them. They’re going to go to that matchup in St. Louis, looks like they wanted it here. So if that’s the case, then that’s a big challenge for [Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak]. They’re typically up to it. They’ve always found their game, they usually don’t go very long without being a factor. I don’t imagine that will change. I suspect in Game 3 we’ll see their best game of the series. Until that happens, it’s kind of speculation, but that’s what I suspect will happen.”

If the Bruins are going to end up winning this series that is probably going to have to happen.

For as important as depth scoring can be this time of year (and it is extremely important) you still need your best players to play like your best players. That doesn’t mean they have to dominate every single night, because everyone is prone to a slump at some point, and it doesn’t even mean that they have to score a ton of goals. But in the Bruins’ case they do have to find a way to slow down Tarasenko, Schenn, and Schwartz because that shutdown ability is one of their key roles. And also one that you always expect to be there even when the offense isn’t.

“Yeah, I think they’re a really good line,” said Bergeron on Thursday when talking about the matchup. “They play well together, they’re hard on the forecheck, they’re good at turning pucks over and sustaining some pressure with that cycling game, and they capitalized. And for us it’s about being better, and we’ve dealt with this this whole playoffs against different lines. So we look at videos, we look at tendencies, we also know how we can play and play the right way. I think sometimes it’s about simplifying but also taking care of the puck in your own zone before they get on offense.”

Blues-Bruins Game 3 is Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET from Enterprise Center on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Cirelli, Lightning cruise past Jets; Crosby tallies OT winner

Anthony Cirelli #71 of the Tampa Bay Lightning
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Three Stars

1) Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning

Cirelli recorded his first NHL hat trick as the Lightning steamrolled the Winnipeg Jets Friday evening. The 22-year-old scored twice in the opening period as the Bolts jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back. Cirelli hammered a feed from Ondrej Palat 9:27 into the game and then converted a nifty forehand-backhand maneuver to close out the first 20 minutes. Cirelli would complete the hat trick midway through the third period.

2) Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin recorded two power-play assists to set up Pittsburgh’s two goals in its 2-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings. Sidney Crosby has received a lot of attention since returning from a 28-game absence earlier this week and added the game-winning goal Friday. However, it was Malkin who looked off the defender and delivered a perfect pass to set up the Penguins captain. Malkin has recorded 10 points in the previous six games.

3) Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

The 26-year-old winger scored twice in Tampa Bay’s 7-1 win. Cirelli and Kucherov alternated goals as Tampa Bay jumped out to a 4-0 lead, including three in the opening period. Kucherov buried two tap-in opportunities to record goals 21 and 22 on the season. The Russian winger has five goals in his previous three games and the Lightning improved to 12-2-0 in the previous 14 games.

Highlights of the Night

Crosby extended his goal-scoring streak to three games when he buried a pretty feed from Malkin to propel the Penguins in overtime.

Sam Steel fired the OT winner after Andrei Svechnikov‘s costly turnover.

Stats of the Night


Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Detroit Red Wings 1 (OT)

Anaheim Ducks 2, Carolina Hurricanes 1 (OT)

Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Winnipeg Jets 1

• All-Star Game rosters
• Rosters for Elite Women’s 3-on-3 Revealed
• Pass or Fail: 2020 All-Star Game jerseys
• Alex Ovechkin will not play in 2020 All-Star Game
• NHL Skills Competition to feature women’s 3-on-3, pucks shot from stands

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Predators’ Arvidsson fined $2,000 under NHL diving policy

Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) — Nashville Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson has been fined $2,000 by the NHL under the league’s rules regarding diving and embellishment.

NHL Rule 64 was designed to penalize players who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. A player gets a warning for a first citation and a $2,000 fine for the second citation.

League officials said Arvidsson received a warning following an incident Dec. 27 against Pittsburgh. His second citation occurred during an incident in the first period of a Jan. 7 game with Boston that resulted in coincidental minor penalties on Arvidsson and Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

Fine proceeds go to the players’ emergency assistance fund.

Fans troll with Tkachuk billboard, charities end up the big winners

Tkachuk billboard Kassian Flames Oilers
via CJAY 92

Matthew Tkachuk‘s trolling made a great impact, and not just by earning the Flames a power play. Thanks to enterprising Flames and Oilers fans, a drive to put up a Tkachuk billboard in Edmonton morphed into something much more, raising a ton of money – more than $50K overall, it seems – for charitable causes.

It’s the sort of thing that might even make Zack Kassian smile.

[Catch up on the feud: Kassian threatens Tkachuk after suspension; witness the carnage]

This began with a modest Tkachuk billboard meant to gently torment

The ball really got (t)rolling when Mohamed Elsaghir (self-proclaimed “second most-hated man in Edmonton after Matthew Tkachuk) started a GoFundMe drive to put up Tkachuk billboards to torment Oilers fans.

CTV’s Glenn Campbell chronicles how that amusing idea morphed into something much bigger. Not only are Tkachuk billboards going up, but the process looks like it will raise at least $20K for ALS research.

The viral sensation drew the attention of Calgary radio station CJAY 92, which is owned by Bell Media. That connection made the billboards happen, and oh are the designs ever glorious:

With the billboards taken care of by CJAY 92/Bell Media, Elsaghir instead shifted the focus of that $10K donation drive to combating ALS. Elsaghir noted that proceeds will be donated to Snowy Strong for ALS in honor of Flames assistant GM Chris Snow’s battle with the disease. To make it even better, entrepreneur W. Brett Wilson pledged to match that $10K, pushing the money raised to $20K and counting.

Oh, and even that doesn’t cover the extent of the money raised by the raised ire between Tkachuk and Kassian.

Oilers fans get into the charitable, trolling spirit, too

Edmonton resident Samantha Costa made about a $25 donation to Calgary charity Brown Bagging It “in honor of Kassian.” That charity seeks to serve needy children with lunches. With that in mind, Costa ended her tweet with a nice barb:I chose @BrownBaggingIt so that kids can get a proper meal and grow up to be tougher than Tkachuk.”

Well, Costa’s tweet went viral, too.

To make this all more delightful, Brown Bagging It has been sharing updates that indicate this side of “The Charitable Battle of Alberta” will be competitive, too.


Flames and Oilers meet again soon, and will get to see the Tkachuk billboard

Other NHL trash-talkers need to step their games up now, to be frank. Brad Marchand needs to lick this one now, is what I’m saying.

The Tkachuk billboard notes that the Flames – Oilers “the friendship tour” continues in Edmonton on Jan. 29. After that, the two teams meet in Calgary on Feb. 1. They also close out the regular season in Calgary on April 4.

Kassian vs. Tkachuk Part II already ranked as must-watch hockey, and a potential mess for the NHL. Following this inspiring charitable drive, it’s even more exciting. Honestly, “The Battle of Alberta” just keeps piling on reasons to cross our fingers for a playoff series.

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

Pass or Fail: LA Kings’ 2020 Stadium Series jerseys

adidas / Kings

One day after the Colorado Avalanche showed off their jerseys for next month’s Stadium Series game, the Los Angeles Kings revealed what they will wear when they hit the ice at at Falcon Stadium on Feb. 15 (8 p.m. ET; NBC).

As is tradition for Stadium Series games, the design is very unique and out there. The black, white, and silver is there along with the LA from their regular jerseys “taking flight” since the game will take place on the campus of the Air Force Academy.

adidas / Kings

Now while you’re maybe distracted by the black and white of the jerseys and the sweet white gloves, do not overlook one neat feature: the shiny silver helmets.

adidas / Kings

Some additional notes from adidas:

Crest: A new L.A. crest takes flight on diagonal bisected blocking, inspired by aircraft battle stripes.

Design: The architecture of the venue’s Air Force Academy, coupled with a pilot’s ambition to push to the edge, inspired the oblique angles used to shape the jersey’s typography and numbering. A checkerboard design graphic is implemented along the neckline.

What do you think? The black, white, and silver against the burgundy, blue, and white will be an interesting look on the ice.

MORE: Avalanche reveal 2020 Stadium Series jersey

The 2020 Stadium Series game between the Avalanche and Kings will take place Feb. 15 at Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo.. The game will air on NBC at 8 p.m. ET.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.