Blues vs. Bruins: Three keys to Game 3 of Stanley Cup Final

2 Comments

When Carl Gunnarsson scored at the 3:51 mark of overtime in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night, he gave the St. Louis Blues their first ever Stanley Cup Final win.

They return home on Saturday night with a chance to take the lead in the series in Game 3 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN; Live Stream) when they host the Boston Bruins.

So far it has been a tough, physical series and there is no indication that is going to change on Saturday night. Both teams have had stretches where they have carried the play, and given that the Blues are returning home to play in what should be a charged up environment the Bruins should be prepared to weather an early storm.

Here are the three keys for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

• Discipline … again

This has been the talking point for the Blues so far in the series, and we have to keep mentioning it because it keeps becoming a factor.

Through the first two games the Blues have already been shorthanded 10 times (to only five times for the Bruins) and have already surrendered a pair of power play goals. The Blues’ inability to stay out of the penalty box helped crush any momentum they had built early in Game 1, and then nearly got them into trouble in Game 2.

The Bruins’ power play has been a nearly unstoppable force throughout the postseason, converting on more than 31 percent of their chances. That is one of the highest marks in the history of the league and it has helped drive the team’s offense.

The Blues can not keep giving that unit chances to take over a game because it has shown time and time again this postseason that it can do just that. If the Blues can keep this a 5-on-5 game they have to like their chances. But if they can not help themselves when it comes to taking penalties they run the risk of losing a huge opportunity to win their first ever championship.

It is pretty clear that this series has a physical tone to it, and the Blues obviously want to try and impose that on the Bruins, but there has to be a line between playing physical and playing reckless.

During the first two games the Blues have had a difficult time walking that line.

• Bruins’ top line

If there is a concern early on for the Bruins it might just how quiet their top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak has been over the first two games. So far they have managed just one empty-net goal while also getting outscored, outshot, and outchanced when going head-to-head against the Blues’ top line that is being driven by an incredible hot streak from Vladimir Tarasenko.

They have enough of a track record — both individually and as a group — that they should be expected to snap out of this little funk because it is awfully hard to imagine them having three consecutive off games. But sometimes slumps happen to even the very best players, and if one starts to get away from you early in a best-of-seven series that could be the difference between winning and losing the whole thing.

“March, Pasta, Berge and Krej are all first for scoring, so they’ve done it in the Playoffs,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said on Thursday. “Not maybe in these two games, it’s short sample size, but that’s what we’re looking for. The better players perform, better chance of winning. I expect they’ll be better in St. Louis offensively. We’ll go from there.”

The quartet of Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak, and Krejci has combined to score 27 of the Bruins’ 63 goals so far in the playoffs, but in the first two games of the series they have managed only the aforementioned Marchand empty-netter, while Pastrnak (an assist) is the only one that has contributed to another goal.

Depth scoring is an essential ingredient to winning, but the Bruins are still going to need their top players to find the back of the net, especially if the Blues’ top line — and especially Tarasenko — continues to play the way it has.

• Both teams missing key depth players

It is all the result of one play in Game 2.

The Bruins will find themselves playing without defender Matt Grzelcyk after he was injured on a hit by Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist early in Game 2. Grzelcyk isn’t one of the stars on this Bruins roster but he has become an extremely valuable player due to his ability to move the puck and help feed the team’s transition game. They missed that element after he exited Game 2 and were unable to consistently contend with the Blues’ aggressive forecheck.

It could be an issue in Game 3 and beyond if he remains sidelined.

He will be replaced by veteran defender John Moore. It is not only a drop off in terms of what to expect out of that spot on the third-pairing, but it also puts more pressure on Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug to make more of an impact because they are only two other defenders on the roster that can excel when it comes to moving the puck.

That play also resulted in Sundqvist being suspended for Saturday’s game, putting a pretty significant dent in the Blues’ depth.

Sundqvist has been a great find for the Blues on their fourth line and had a breakout 2018-19 regular season performance that has carried over to the playoffs where he has had a knack for scoring some big goals while also playing a sound defensive game. But his hit on Grzelcyk was a reckless one and was the second time in the first two games that he took a bad penalty by delivering a bad hit from behind.

The first one cost the Blues in Game 1 when McAvoy responded on the ensuing power play with a game-tying goal.

The second one cost them by removing a key depth player (Sundqvist himself) out of the lineup for Game 3.

Along with Sundqvist, the Blues will once again be without rookie forward Robert Thomas.

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

More Blues-Bruins Game 3:
The Wraparound: Stanley Cup Final returns to St. Louis
Blues’ Oskar Sundqvist suspended
Blues’ Tarasenko sniping at Ovechkin-like level
Grzelcyk’s absence could be significant for Bruins
Blues’ top line getting best of Bruins’ top line so far

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

Trade: Islanders land Devils captain Andy Greene

Islanders trade for Andy Greene Devils get pick, prospect
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The New Jersey Devils aren’t waiting until the trade deadline to start selling. The Islanders landed Devils captain Andy Greene in a trade on Sunday, and New Jersey may end up making more moves soon.

Islanders trade for Greene, Devils’ return highlighted by second-rounder

The Islanders treasure defense and grit under Barry Trotz. The Islanders got what they wanted, then, in a trade for Greene.

Chances are, Lou Lamoriello looks at Greene as a replacement for injured blueliner Adam Pelech.

The Devils? Well, they landed a pretty nice haul for a defenseman who wouldn’t make sense for their rebuild. That should soothe any discomfort that may come from sending Greene in a trade to the rival Islanders.

Islanders receive in trade: Greene, 37, on an expiring contract ($5M AAV); no word yet if there was salary retention

Devils get: 2021 Islanders second-round pick, prospect David Quenneville

Greene doesn’t blow you away offensively, by any means, with two goals and 11 points in 53 games. Greene also isn’t an analytics darling.

The Islanders march to the beat of their own drum, though, so this Hockey Viz heat map won’t phase them:

Greene Viz trade to Islanders

Greene fits the Islanders’ M.O. of being an experienced, defense-first (second, and third) player.

One interesting part of the gamble is that it’s a 2021 second-rounder, rather than the Islanders’ 2020. Will the Islanders be a better team in 2020-21, or could recent stumbles indicate a bumpier future? The Devils will be rooting for the Islanders slip like the Senators watching the Sharks this season.

Quenneville, 21, was a seventh-round pick (200th overall) in 2016.

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Blake Coleman isn’t suiting up for Sunday’s game, inspiring new rumblings.

The Devils shot down a report that Coleman was headed to the Avalanche, but that doesn’t mean a Coleman trade won’t happen in some later form. Stay tuned.

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.

Black Girl Hockey Club bolsters fan inclusivity

Leave a comment

NBC Sports celebrates Hockey Day in America this Sunday with an NHL tripleheader on NBC and NBCSN, as well as a collection of stories and features which explore hockey’s impact and influence across the U.S.

At the beginning of the 2018 NHL season, Renee Hess founded the Black Girl Hockey Club to create a comfortable atmosphere for black women to watch hockey games together.

Hess became interested in hockey years ago after running into a crowd of excited Penguins fans while she was working in Pittsburgh. The first game left Hess hooked, but she noticed that there weren’t a lot of people like her in the stands.

Hess found a handful of other black female hockey fans on Twitter and they created a group: the Black Girl Hockey Club. The must-follow group uses this platform to discuss the sport and meet in-person at games across the country. It looks they’re currently experiencing what the Carolina Hurricanes have to offer:

The Black Girl Hockey Club boasts a membership exceeding 200 people. Their story just seems to be beginning, yet they already rank as one of the best stories from “Hockey Day in America.”

You can follow their events and donate to Black Girl Hockey Club here.

(Oh, and Hess must have been happy to see the Penguins win on Sunday, too.)

NBC Hockey Day in America remaining schedule

Bruins at Rangers – NBC – 3 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Mike Tirico will call the matchup at Madison Square Garden alongside Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury.

Blues at Predators – NBCSN –  6 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Chris Cuthbert will call the action from Bridgestone Arena alongside Darren Pang.

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.

Penguins roll through Red Wings, gain ground in Metro race

Leave a comment

On paper, this seemed like it would be an easy win. Hockey is one of the more unpredictable sports, though, so credit the Penguins with taking care of business against the Red Wings. The Penguins won 5-1 to kick off “Hockey Day in America” on Sunday, improving their odds of taking the Metro crown.

Detroit got off to a 1-0 lead, but it ended up being short-lived. The Penguins tied it up 1-1 when Sam Lafferty (or was it Patric Hornqvist?) scored less than three minutes after Valtteri Filppula made it 1-0.

Hornqvist played a big role in the Penguins growing a 2-1 lead to a 5-1 rout during the second period. From there, it was automatic for Pittsburgh.

It turns out Hornqvist didn’t quite get a hat trick as it originally appeared, but he still had a big game. Sidney Crosby scored one goal and one assist, while Matt Murray stopped 26 out of 27 shots.

The Penguins set the stage for a potentially interesting race for the Metro Division title. They’ve been gaining quite a bit on the Washington Capitals:

  1. Capitals: 79 points in 58 games played (37-16-5)
  2. Penguins: 78 points in 57 GP (36-15-6)

NBC and NBCSN Hockey Day in America schedule

Bruins at Rangers – NBC – 3 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Mike Tirico will call the matchup at Madison Square Garden alongside Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury.

Blues at Predators – NBCSN –  6 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Chris Cuthbert will call the action from Bridgestone Arena alongside Darren Pang.

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.

WATCH LIVE: Rangers vs. Bruins on Hockey Day in America

Leave a comment

NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Boston looks to be headed to its fourth straight postseason and potentially its first division title since 2013-14, when they won the Presidents’ Trophy with 117 points. They have finished second in the Atlantic in each of the previous two seasons behind the Lightning.

New York sits seven points out of the East Wild Card and enters this matchup on a season-high four-game winning streak after a 3-1 victory at Columbus on Friday to close a three-game road trip. On this run, the Rangers have scored three-plus goals in each game and allowed just six goals total.

After scoring a hat trick against Montreal on Wednesday, David Pastrnak scored again against Detroit on Saturday. He leads the NHL with 42 goal this season and is second in the league with a career-high 82 points. He’s the first Bruin to surpass the 40-goal mark since Glen Murray scored 44 in 2002-03 and Pasta is now on pace for 58 goals – which would be the most by a Bruin since Phil Esposito led the league in goals in 1974-75 (61).

Igor Shesterkin has opened eyes in recent weeks as the potential heir apparent to future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist. After starting his career in the KHL, Shesterkin had been with the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL) this season before the Rangers called him up in early January. Shesterkin won his first two NHL starts and has gone 6-1-0 with a 2.18 GAA & .941 SV% thus far in his Rangers career, making 40+ saves in three of his six wins.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 3 P.M. ET ON NBC]

WHAT: Boston Bruins at New York Rangers
WHERE: Madison Square Garden
WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 16, 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Bruins-Rangers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS
Brad MarchandPatrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Jake DeBruskDavid KrejciKarson Kuhlman
Anders BjorkCharlie CoyleDanton Heinen
Joakim NordstromSean KuralyChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Jeremy Lauzon

Starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak

RANGERS
Chris KreiderMika ZibanejadPavel Buchnevich
Artemi PanarinRyan StromeJesper Fast
Phil Di GiuseppeFilip ChytilKaapo Kakko
Brendan LemieuxBrett HowdenGreg McKegg

Brady SkjeiJacob Trouba
Brendan SmithMarc Staal
Ryan LindgrenAdam Fox

Starting goalie: Alexander Georgiev

NBC Sports celebrates Hockey Day in America this Sunday with an NHL tripleheader on NBC and NBCSN, as well as a collection of stories and features which explore hockey’s impact and influence across the U.S.

Coverage shifts to NBCSN at 6 p.m. ET for a Central Division battle as Ryan O’Reilly and the St. Louis Blues head to Music City to battle Roman Josi and the Nashville Predators.

Hockey Day in America pre-game coverage begins at noon ET on NBC from the plaza outside Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. Host Liam McHugh and analysts Keith Jones, Anson Carter, and Brian Boucher will anchor pre-game, intermission, and post-game coverage throughout the day.