Stanley Cup Final: Blues special teams continue to be sour note

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This is starting to sound like a broken record.

Scratch that. It is a broken record.

The lyrics go something like this: “The St. Louis Blues need to stop letting the Boston Bruins have their way with them on the power play. They need to stop taking bad penalties to prevent the former. They need to stop shooting themselves in the foot, killing momentum gained by handing the Bruins the keys to turning the game around.”

These aren’t seminal lyrics in music history by any means. It’s certainly no Gloria, either. But it’s the sad song the Blues will be singing all summer long if they can’t stop Boston’s madness.

Craig Berube must feel like he’s talking to a wall, assuming he’s spoken to his team about this crucial issue in the Stanley Cup Final. That is, of course, if he hasn’t obliterated the wall with his head already.

“We know they have a dangerous power play and we’ve been flirting with danger all series,” he said following the game.

It happened in Game 1. In Game 2, they allowed five power plays and one goal, but it was downplayed by the fact they won the game and stopped Boston from scoring anymore. And then it steamrolled into Game 3, as the Bluenotes had none of their Game 2, penalty-killing magic left to spare.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

You won’t be surprised, then, that the outcome was identical on Saturday night at Enterprise Center. The Blues giveth and the Bruins tooketh — handily — snatching a 2-1 series lead after the Bruins went 4-for-4, on four shots, in a 7-2 win.

“They got the power-play goal that gave them momentum, for sure,” Berube said. “We had trouble breaking the puck out of our own end for a little bit that caused some issues.”

It’s not just that the goals are coming, either. That’s a massive issue, but the ferocity of Boston’s power play was on full display. Boston’s four power-play markers came 21, 51,  31 and 23 seconds into their respective power plays. The quickness of the strikes is stunning.

Berube lamented a couple of the goals that were deflected, most notable Patrice Bergeron‘s goal that gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

“We’ve got to be better. The penalty kill has got to be better,” Berube said. “We do have to limit the penalties. We know they have a dangerous power play. We’ve been flirting with danger the whole series and it burnt us. But in saying that, we’ve got to do a better job killing them tonight. We didn’t it. That’s why they won the hockey game.”

The Bruins have now equaled a franchise record for consecutive games (7) with at least one power-play goal (done on three other occasions, most recently in 1991) and their 23 goals thus far in the playoffs is one off their franchise mark in a single playoff run (1991). They’re 6-for-14 in the series (43 percent), after coming into the series operating at 34 percent.

“They were shooting the puck from the top a lot more,” Ryan O'Reilly said of Boston’s adjustment after Game 2. “I think we might read it a bit better and collapse and just be ready for that. I think they a couple times caught off guard with that shot and broke us down from there.”

It’s not just the Blues who have fallen victim to Boston’s nasty power play, but they’re letting the Stanley Cup slip out of their hands at the moment with their lack of answers.

Having a bad penalty kill is debilitating enough, but pairing that with a terrible power play of their own is damn close to flatlining.

The Blues went 1-for-5 in Game 3, which was an improvement on their 0-for-3 Game 2 and 0-for-2 Game 1.

Progress?

Recent history might suggest the Blues start slow with the man-advantage and find their way as a series ages. They were 0-for-6 in the first two games of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks but finished the final four games with five goals on 15 attempts. That said, the Blues were 2-for-22 in their series against the Stars, so a longer look just reinforces a bad trend.

You can dig for silver linings on your own time.

The fact remains the Blues need to be better at both ends of the rink, up a man or down one (or get lucky like they did in Game 2). And it’s not like that Game 2 well was overflowing to begin with.

Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Monday (stream here).


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Looking back at the Blackhawks’ Scott Foster game

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take an occasional look back at some notable “this day in hockey history” moments. Today, Scott Foster gets to play a game for the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Before there was David Ayres with the Carolina Hurricanes, there was Scott Foster with the Chicago Blackhawks.

It was two years ago Sunday that Foster, an accountant by day, was forced into action as the emergency goalie against the Winnipeg Jets.

He stopped all seven shots he faced in 14 minutes of ice-time to help the Blackhawks hold on for a 6-2 win. You can see the highlights of his performance in the video above.

At the time of Foster’s appearance the entire thing was pretty unheard of because the NHL hadn’t really seen an appearance like this — a non-professional player forced into a game — in the modern era.

It all happened because of a series of goaltending injuries that left the Blackhawks shorthanded at the position. Chicago signed Foster to an amateur tryout contract the night before the game due to injuries to Corey Crawford and Anton Forsberg. He was supposed to serve as the backup to rookie Collin Delia as he made his NHL debut. Everything was going as planned until Delia was also injured early in the the third period, forcing Foster into the game.

His performance earned him No. 1 star honors for the game.

Because the Blackhawks were already comfortably ahead when he entered the game he did not get credit for the win. It was probably the biggest highlight of the season for the Blackhawks as they missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

At the time Foster’s appearance and performance was mostly celebrated and treated as the feel-good story that it was.

But when Ayres had to enter a game for the Hurricanes this season — and ended up being the winning goalie against the Toronto Maple Leafs — there was a very vocal minority that thought it was an embarrassment for the league and that, maybe, the emergency goalie protocol needed to be changed. It was eventually decided that no change needed to be made. Even with two instances in the past couple of years it is still a very rare occurrence that needs a very specific set of circumstances to actually happen.

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.

Olympic hockey on NBC: 2018 women’s gold medal game

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Hockey Week in America continues Sunday with the unforgettable Olympic women’s gold medal game in 2018.

NBC will present the women’s gold medal game at the 2018 Olympics between Team USA and Canada, won by the Americans in a 3-2 shootout in PyeongChang. With the victory, the women’s ice hockey team claimed its second ever Olympic gold medal and ended the Canadians streak of four straight gold medals.

Kenny Albert, AJ Mleczko and Pierre McGuire called the gold medal game in PyeongChang.

You can catch a replay of the 2018 women’s Olympics gold medal game Sunday on NBC at 1 p.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SUNDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Maple Leafs vs. Bruins (Game 7, Round 1, 2013 playoffs) – 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN
• Golden Knights vs. Sharks (Game 7, Round 1, 2019 playoffs) – 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN
• Kings vs. Blackhawks (Game 7, Western Conference Final, 2014 playoffs) – 12 a.m. ET on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

Capitals vs. Penguins on NBCSN: Kuznetsov’s overtime series clincher

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Hockey Week in America continues Saturday with memorable playoff performances in the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

In 2018, the Capitals and Penguins met in Round 2 for the third straight postseason. Pittsburgh won the previous two series en route to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. But this time Washington would have its revenge. Evgeny Kuznetsov would score in overtime of Game 6 to help the Capitals advance as they went on to win their first championship in franchise history.

You can catch Game 6 of the 2018 Penguins vs. Capitals playoff game Saturday night on NBCSN beginning at 12:30 a.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SATURDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2018 playoffs) – 12:30 a.m. on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

Capitals vs. Penguins on NBCSN: Bonino Bonino Bonino!

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Hockey Week in America continues Saturday with memorable playoff performances in the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

The Capitals needed a win to force Game 7 in Round 2 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Facing the Penguins yet again, the clawed back from a 3-1 third period deficit to force overtime. It was there, however, that Pittsburgh once again topped their Metro Division rivals. This time it was Nick Bonino breaking their hearts to put the Penguins on a path to the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup title.

You can catch Game 6 of the 2016 Penguins vs. Capitals playoff game Saturday on NBCSN beginning at 10 p.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SATURDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2016 playoffs) – 10 p.m. on NBCSN
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2018 playoffs) – 12:30 a.m. on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

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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.