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The Wraparound: Stanley Cup Final returns to St. Louis

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

It’s been a long wait for hockey fans in St.  Louis to see a Stanley Cup Final game in person — May 5, 1970, a 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins was the last one — but it finally ends on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN; Live Stream) when the series shifts to Enterprise Center for Game 3 of the now tied series.

It is sure to be a raucous environment as the Blues not only return home for the city’s first Cup Final game in nearly 50 years (after winning their first ever Stanley Cup Final game), but they also have a chance to take control of the series after wrestling home-ice advantage away from the Bruins on Wednesday night with their 3-2 overtime win.

So far it has been an incredibly close series in aggregate as the two teams have put up nearly identical numbers across the board. Through the first two games the Bruins have a 6-5 edge in goals scored, while both teams have an identical number of total shot attempts and have seen almost no difference in shots on goal or scoring chances.

Both teams have shown flashes of dominance and carried the play for stretches (the Bruins in the second half of Game 1 ; the Blues in the second half of Game 2) but overall it has balanced out.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

One area where the Blues have had a significant advantage so far in the series is the performance of their top-line.

The Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, and Jaden Schwartz trio has outscored the Patrice Bergeron line by a 3-0 margin when they have been matched up head-to-head, prompting Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy to shift away from it a little bit over the first two games of the series in an effort to free them up offensively. So far, it has not really worked with Brad Marchand‘s empty-net goal at the end of Game 1 being the only goal from that line over the first two games.

Tarasenko has been especially hot for the Blues, entering Saturday on an eight-game point streak that has seen him tally 10 total points (five goals, five assists). He has a goal in four straight games entering Game 3 and has started to emerge as the Blues’ leading contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy (if they win the series) with the way he has carried the offense since the beginning of the Western Conference Final series.

Over the Blues’ past eight games he has been on the ice for 14 of the Blues’ 28 total goals (literally half!).

The only other player on the team that has been on the ice for more than 10 goals during that stretch is defender Colton Parayko, who has been on the ice for 13 … and he has played 71 more minutes than Tarasenko during that stretch.

Whether it is the Bergeron line or some other combination of matchups the Bruins are going to have to find a way to slow him down on Saturday night to avoid falling behind in the series.

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.

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.

Canucks’ Miller scored an awesome water bottle breaker in OT

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Over time, you can become jaded as a sports (and specifically hockey) fan.

Stories about abusive coaches, lockouts, fans booing players for simply no longer being on their teams — it can sap some of the joy of the game.

Thankfully, we have highlights, and I can’t think of many simpler joys than someone scoring a goal and absolutely obliterating the goalie’s water bottle in the process. (As long as no one gets too dehydrated in the making of such films.)

Vancouver Canucks winger J.T. Miller did it one better on Saturday: he scored an important goal that way. Miller presented the ultra-rare OTBBGWG (overtime bottle-breaking game-winning goal) as the Canucks beat the Buffalo Sabres 6-5 in OT.

Bask in the glory of that goal in the video above this post’s headline. Here’s a fun alternate angle:

By the way, Miller continues to be a deadly offensive weapon for the Canucks. This one-goal, one-assist output extended his current point streak to an impressive eight games (5G, 6A for 11 points). Overall, Miller has 31 points in 30 games during his first season in Vancouver.

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.