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NHL Free Agency: Binnington signs two-year, $8.8 million deal

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One of the most remarkable stories in all of sport has cashed in on his unlikely season.

The St. Louis Blues handed goaltender Jordan Binnington a two-year, $8.8 million bridge deal late Saturday, locking up the restricted free agent and avoiding arbitration with the man who began the season in the American Hockey League only to lead his team to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history last month.

The deal has a $4.4 million average annual value, $50,000 more than Jake Allen‘s $4.350 million.

“I’m happy to get this deal done with the St. Louis Blues,” said Binnington in a release from the team. “To the city of St. Louis, thank you for welcoming me in and trusting me to do me. I’m excited and motivated to keep doing my job and keep bringing success to the St. Louis Blues organization.”

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Binnington, 26, will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the deal.

Binnington made his first career started on Jan. 7, posting a 25-save shutout. While it would have easy to blow it off as a flash in the pan, Binnington would go on to produce a 24-5-1 record to close out the year, with an impressive .927 save percentage and five shutouts as a rookie.

“We are pleased to have Jordan signed for two more years,” GM Doug Armstrong said. “His play was outstanding and we look forward to seeing him continue to be a major contributor for our team.”

Binnington’s run lift the Blues from the basement of the NHL, briefly putting them in first place in the Central Division near the end of the season.

While they’d have to settle for third, Binnington and the Blues dispatched the Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks to book their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.

They’d go the distance against the Boston Bruins, with Binnington making stopping 32 of 33 pucks sent his way in a 4-1, Stanley Cup-clinching win in Game 7.

Binnington became the first rookie goaltender in NHL history to record 16 wins in a single postseason. Binnington posted a .914 save percentage in 26 playoff appearances.

Binnington finished second in the Calder voting for the league’s top rookie.

Quick analysis: Bridging Binnington makes sense for both sides.

For the Blues, it comes with less risk than signing him long-term. If he turns out to be a flash in the pan and can’t re-create what he did last season, they only have to deal with it for a couple of seasons rather than the next six or seven.

For Binnington, it’s a chance for him to prove he’s the real deal (he sure seems to be) and cash in on a much more lucrative deal at the other end of it. He’ll be a UFA at the end of the deal, and teams will be lining up with truckloads of cash to entice if he only gets better from now until the contract expires.

Allen’s contract will come off the books at the same time, so a hefty raise against will be up for grabs.

It’s a win-win for both sides. Binnginton made just $650,000 last year. That’s a handsome raise for a half seasons’ worth of work.

MORE: Fabbri gets one-year deal from Blues, looks to get career back on track

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

Binnington’s next contract is a challenge for Blues

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As the champagne is still drying for the St. Louis Blues, let’s consider a good problem to have: how much will they pay Jordan Binnington, the 25-year-old goalie who emerged from relative obscurity to save their season, and then help them win their first-ever Stanley Cup? And for how long will they pay Binnington?

It’s a challenging situation, even if the NHL’s other 30 teams won’t spare the Blues a Kleenex.

Let’s break the situation down, including what’s going on around Binnington.

RFA, not UFA

One of the biggest factors to consider is Binnington’s RFA status.

As Puck Pedia notes, Binnington needs two more seasons of play to become an unrestricted free agent.

That’s a fascinating cutoff point, as Jake Allen – the former Blues starter Binnington dislodged – will see his $4.35 million cap hit expire after the 2020-21 season. Later on in this post, we’ll get to Allen and other contextual factors, as the Blues’ overall cap situation certainly impacts the situation.

One other key note is that Binnington is arbitration-eligible. That mitigates some of the advantage the Blues have with Binnington becoming an RFA, as Binnington checks some pretty big boxes that would likely stand out to an arbitrator:

Binnington’s numbers, and background

Despite already being 25, Binnington’s NHL sample size is small. Yet, what Binnington lacks in quantity, he makes up with brilliant quality.

In 32 regular season games (and 30 starts), Binnington managed absolutely splendid numbers: a 24-5-1 record and .927 save percentage. While his playoff save percentage was more modest (.914 in 26 games), Binnington was tremendous in Game 7 against Boston, and ended up finishing second in the Conn Smythe voting.

So, Binnington only had an abbreviated regular season, yet became a Calder Trophy finalist, then almost won the playoff MVP as he earned all 16 playoff victories during the Blues’ championship run. Yeah, that’s the sort of stuff you can lead with in contract negotiations, unless Binnington’s reps just want to show a Game 7 highlight reel, then lean back in a rolling chair.

(Contract negotiations should always include rolling chairs, right?)

No doubt about it, that’s still a small sample size, but Binnington isn’t directly comparable to a flash in the pan like Andrew Hammond. While Hammond’s stats at other levels weren’t very promising before his Hamburglar run, Binnington’s largely put up strong numbers at the AHL and other levels; he simply hasn’t always received opportunities to prove himself.

Also, Binnington has some decent pedigree as a third-rounder (88th overall in 2011), especially when you consider that goalies rarely go in the first round any longer.

Not a ton of comparable situations

A comparison to Matt Murray is probably the most natural. It’s not totally 1:1, mind you. Murray was younger, and the Penguins signed him to an extension heading into the season where his rookie deal was expiring. Also, while the Blues have an expensive veteran (Allen, $4.35M per year for two more seasons) and the Penguins had one (Marc-Andre Fleury), the situation is much clearer in St. Louis than it was in Pittsburgh. Binnington is The Man, and if Allen remains with the team through his current contract, it could be due to a lack of willing trade partners, not a belief that Allen is actually the real No. 1.

(If Allen ended up being that top guy after all — don’t forget, goalies are wildly unpredictable – he’d become the Craig Anderson to Binnington’s Hammond.)

Bridge or something longer?

There are reasons point to, but also away from, a shorter “bridge” contract.

To an extent, something in the two or three-year range would make sense for both sides. The Blues could mitigate the risks that come with investing in a goalie who has a limited sample size at the NHL level, while Binnington could salvage most, if not all, of his UFA years with a shorter deal. A brief contract might make it easier for Binnington to digest a smaller AAV; theoretically, he could really make the big bucks if he proves himself for a couple extra years.

Yet, there are reasons to chisel out a longer pact, too.

For Binnington, he’d gain the financial security that comes from getting hefty term, which is something that must really resonate with a player who’s had to fight to prove himself as a professional hockey goalie. Binnington might be OK with potentially leaving some money on the table for added peace of mind.

Let’s face it, too. The Blues have been looking for a go-to goalie for ages, particularly since Jake Allen hasn’t panned out as the guy, as they had hoped.

It will likely boil down to the details that maybe are only discussed behind closed doors, or perhaps occasionally leaked to the media. Will the Blues be tough negotiators, prompting Binnington to lean toward a shorter deal, as to get the added power of UFA status? How much more or less money would Binnington receive if the term went longer?

That all boils down to the priorities for both sides.

Cap considerations

Cap Friendly estimates that the Blues have about $18.73M in cap space heading into the offseason, with 16 roster spots covered. Again, the Blues may prefer to get Allen’s $4.35M off the books, but that’s likely easier said than done.

While the Blues have some choices to make as far supporting cast members with Patrick Maroon among their UFAs while Joel Edmundson and Oskar Sundqvist stand out among several RFAs other than Binnington, the other biggest decisions linger after 2019-20.

Alex Pietrangelo ($6.5M) will command a hefty raise. Brayden Schenn won’t be as cheap as $5.125M after his contract year, either, and Jaden Schwartz‘s friendly $5.35M cap hit expires after 2020-21. There are also quality young players who will get more expensive in the near future, from Vince Dunn to Robert Thomas.

So, Blues GM Doug Armstrong must weigh all of those considerations while pondering what to pay Binnington, and for how long.

***

Again, this isn’t a bad problem to have. And, if you look at the salary cap era, other teams have faced far more agonizing cap crunches than the Blues face this summer.

Still, just because this isn’t the most challenging situation, doesn’t mean that it isn’t a puzzle for Armstrong to solve.

MORE BLUES STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
• Jay Bouwmeester finally gets his Stanley Cup
• Blues fan Laila Anderson gets moment with Stanley Cup
• Ryan O’Reilly wins Conn Smythe Trophy
• Berube helped Blues find identity after early-season struggle
• Blues latest team erased from Stanley Cup drought list

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.

Lessons we should (and should not) learn from the 2019 St. Louis Blues

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Another NHL season is in the books and for the second year in a row it resulted in a long-suffering franchise and fan-base getting its first taste of the Stanley Cup.

This time it was the St. Louis Blues completing one of the most incredible in-season turnarounds we have ever seen, going from the bottom of the NHL standings in early January to the top of the NHL mountain in June.

Now that the newest champion has been crowned it is time to begin my favorite offseason activity: Dissecting how they won and figuring out how the rest of the teams in the league can attempt to model their success.

As always there are some valuable and meaningful lessons that can be taken from this particular champion.

There are also a few that lessons that teams should avoid getting lost in.

We need to talk about both types of lessons.

Your last place team next January is NOT going to win the Stanley Cup

By now you have no doubt heard the story.

In the first week of January the St. Louis Blues had the worst record in the NHL and fought all the way back to not only make the playoffs, but also nearly win the Central Division and then went on to win the Stanley Cup once they made the playoffs.

It sounds amazing, because it is amazing, and an incredible turnaround that is worthy of praise and celebration.

Here is what you should not do: Take this as a “all you have to do is get in” lesson, or that your team that is in last place at the halfway point of the NHL season is going to be capable of turning its season around in this same way. Chances are, it is not.

Of the bottom 14 teams in the league standings on January 1 this season only two of them ended up making the playoffs — the Blues, and the Carolina Hurricanes, who were in 22nd place overall in the league standings on that same date.

If you go back to the start of the 2005-06 season when the NHL introduced the three-point game there have only been three teams in the bottom-five of the league standings on January 1 that came back to make the playoffs in that season.

Those teams were the 2019 Blues, the 2008-09 Blues, and the 2007-08 Washington Capitals. While this year’s Blues team won it all, the other two were eliminated in the first round winning just three total games between them in the playoffs.

There is also this when it comes to the Blues: They were not your run of the mill bad team at that point in the season. They were one of the NHL’s best defensive teams a year ago, had that same defensive core in place, and spent heavily over the summer to address its offense by acquiring Ryan O'Reilly, David Perron, Patrick Maroon, and Tyler Bozak, a series of transactions that added nearly $19 million to their cap, sending them close to the upper limits of the league’s salary cap.

This team was built to compete and win this season.

They were also not a team that just simply got hot and flipped a switch at the start of April.

Their early season record was a mirage that saw an otherwise good team get absolutely sabotaged by horrific goaltending. From January 1 on, especially after they found a competent goalie, they played at a championship level in every meaningful metric that we have to project future performance (and this isn’t 20/20 hindsight knowing the results … it is why I picked them to come out the Western Conference at the start of the playoffs. Yes, I also picked Tampa Bay in the East, but, hey, you win some and you lose some).

If your team is in the bottom-five of the standings next January it is probably there because it deserves to be there, and if your GM or coach starts talking about looking to the Blues for inspiration it is probably a sign something bad is about to happen in the form of a roster transaction.

The Blues winning the Stanley Cup is not the fluke here. Their record in January was the fluke.

Goaltending will crush you … and also save you

This is kind of related to the previous point, and it is not just good goaltending that matters.

Bad goaltending matters, too, in the sense that it significantly alters what happens to a team. This is the biggest reason why the Blues were in the position they were in at the start of the season to set the stage for this storybook ending.

From opening night through Jan. 1 the Blues’ goaltending duo of Jake Allen and Chad Johnson combined for an all-situations save percentage of .892 save percentage, a mark that was the third-worst in the NHL at that point. Goaltending that bad is nearly impossible to overcome (at that point only other team in the bottom-10 in save percentage — the San Jose Sharks — occupied a playoff spot).

It was crushing what was, for the most part, still a very good defensive team and made everyone think they were worse than they actually were.

At this point the jury is still very much out on Jordan Binnington because he still has such a small sampling of work to go on. Maybe he will be good, and maybe his career peaked this season. No matter what direction his career takes from here he gave the Blues what they needed in the second half to at least give them a chance to compete.

Maybe he did not steal many games for them, but he did the next best thing — he did not lose many games.

If you think your team that is built to win is not winning, do not assume you are worse than you thought you would be. You should start by looking at the performance of your goalies before you make more changes than you need to make.

At the same time, if your team is performing better than you thought it would do not automatically assume it is better than you thought it would be. Just assume your goalie is bailing it out.

Yes, big money stars still matter

Take a quick look at this Blues roster and name the biggest superstar.

Or the slam-dunk Hall of Famer.

Is there one of either?

Vladimir Tarasenko is probably the closest one in either category, and while I would definitely consider him a star player he is probably far from a slam-dunk Hall of Famer, if he even is one at all.

This is a team whose whole was far greater than the sum of its parts, and while general manager Doug Armstrong did a fabulous job building a well-rounded, deep team, this is a roster construction that is going to be nearly impossible to duplicate on a championship level.

Earlier in the playoffs when all of the big-name teams were eliminated there was a narrative starting to surface about big-money players and how teams that were winning didn’t have a lot of them. This postseason was very much an anomaly in that regard, but the Blues’ success is still probably going to push somebody out there in hockey-land to argue that their team is better off shedding its big-money player to build a more well-rounded team.

If (or when) it happens, it is going to be a mistake.

Here’s the thing about this Blues team: Even though it lacked a traditional “superstar” or a $10 million per year player it was still a team that carried some big contracts at the top of its lineup. Their top-five cap hits this season totaled $33 million, or 42 percent of the league’s cap ceiling. While recent Stanley Cup winners in Washington and Pittsburgh had slightly higher percentages (46 percent in Washington in 2017-18; around 50 percent for the Penguins in 2016 and 2017) it is still roughly in the same ballpark.

You still need stars to win. The Blues may not be overflowing with household name superstars, but they still have their share of big-money, impact players on their roster.

If you get the best player in the trade you will almost always win the trade

This also relates to the previous point where quality is better than quantity.

One impact player is better than two decent players.

The biggest move the Blues made before this season was to acquire Ryan O’Reilly from the Buffalo Sabres, and while O’Reilly isn’t a superstar he is still an excellent No. 1 center. He is a 60-70 point player offensively, he is a shutdown player defensively, and he plays big minutes against top players and does not take penalties. He can be a force on the ice. When the Blues traded Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, and a first-round draft pick for him it was viewed in some places as being a lot to give up and a solid return for the Sabres. But it wasn’t.

The Blues were still getting what was by far the best player in the trade, and a player that even before this season carried more value individually than all four assets going the other way did combined.

For the Sabres to come out ahead in this trade in the future Thompson and the first-round pick are probably both going to need to become top-line players, and the chances of that happening are just laughably small. Thompson is an okay prospect, but did not really take a step forward this season, and the historical track record of players taken with the No. 31 overall pick (or in that general vicinity) is not exactly a promising one.

The Blues feasted on a team that seemed almost desperate to get rid of an impact player and got him for what amounted to a pile of spare parts. Is it really a surprise to see the direction both teams took on the ice this season?

Play! To! Your!  Strengths!

Every word needs emphasized because the Blues’ championship is going to result in a bunch of think-tank discussions about the future of the NHL, the way the game is played, and the way teams should be built.

The only logical conclusion that anyone should come to is that there is more than one way to win and more than one style that can work.

It just depends on what your team is good at and if your team is getting the right players to fit that style.

Some teams, like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Chicago Blackhawks, have found success with speed and skill over the past few years.

Some teams, like this year’s Blues, found success with a bigger, more physical roster that played better defensively.

The 2017-18 Washington Capitals were kind of a blend of both, as were this year’s Bruins (though they are not anywhere near as big or physical as the Big Bad Bruins moniker will have you believe).

The key is finding your identity and sticking to it.

If your team is built around speed and skill, don’t deviate away from that just because you think you have to get bigger and stronger (See: Penguins, Pittsburgh). It will not work.

If your team is bigger and better defensively, don’t just find a bunch of lightning quick speedsters that have frying pans for hands and can’t defend. It will not work.

The Penguins and Blackhawks styles worked because their skilled players could score and defend. They were not fast for the sake of being fast. They were fast and good.

The Blues’ style worked because their big, heavy players could also score and play. They were not big and physical just for the sake of being big and physical. They were big and good.

This should be obvious and common sense, but I have watched, followed, and covered enough NHL hockey over the years to know there is a team out there (or two … or three … or even more) that is already sitting in its scouting meetings as I write this and wondering how they can get bigger because they feel they need to get bigger, whether it makes sense for them or not. If you are a team like Pittsburgh, Toronto, Carolina, or Colorado don’t think you need to get bigger just because the Blues won playing this particular way.

The 2018-19 St. Louis Blues were a unique team in a lot of ways, and there are definitely some lessons that we should take away from their season that can be applied to other teams.

They just may not be the lessons most teams will attempt to take away.

MORE BLUES STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
• Jay Bouwmeester finally gets his Stanley Cup
• Blues fan Laila Anderson gets moment with Stanley Cup
• Ryan O’Reilly wins Conn Smythe Trophy
• Berube helped Blues find identity after early-season struggle
• Blues latest team erased from Stanley Cup drought list

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.

Pucks tell the story of Blues’ rollercoaster season

Scott Rovak / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS — Inside the St. Louis Blues dressing room in Enterprise Center hangs a mounted board on the wall near the entrance, a few feet to the left of Jake Allen’s stall. The six shelves filled with hockey pucks tells the story of the team’s wild ride during the 2018-19 NHL season.

As time expired in the Blues’ 2-1 Game 5 victory over the Boston Bruins, Alex Steen flipped the puck out the defensive zone. Hopping off the bench at the same time to celebrate with his teammates was David Perron, who scooped up the puck to add to the shelf. 

The win Thursday night was St. Louis’ 60th of the season. The shelves on the puck board have enough room to hold 60 of them. At the top of the board, above the I and S in St. Louis, is a spot for one more puck, which was added once they reached the Stanley Cup Final. That spot signifies the 61st win of the season — the win that will make them champions.

***

The origin of the puck board goes back in training camp when the Blues took a preseason trip to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. There they met with Admiral Wallace E. “Ted” Carter, who presented then-head coach Mike Yeo with his personal military coin. The coin features the emblem of the Naval Academy crest, Admiral Carter’s three stars, his signature and aviation call sign, which happens to be “Slapshot.”

Yeo had the coin mounted on the board featuring six shelves inside the dressing room in hopes that they could look back at the end of the season as a reminder of how that trip played a role in a successful year.

Blues legend Bob Plager put the first puck up on the board on Oct. 11.

Yeo is no longer behind the bench but the puck board remains, even though it took a while fill up.

Only three pucks were added in October, and four more in November before Yeo was fired. New head coach Craig Berube decided not to take down the sparsely-filled board. He did, however, take down the standings board that players saw on their way toward the dressing room at their practice facility. It was a reminder to not look back and only worry about the future.

The shelves started to fill up after Berube took over and then things really took off beginning in January when the Blues won 15 of 18 games, which was boosted by an 11-game winning streak. 

There are two pucks on the board that are meaningful to forward Ryan O’Reilly and signify a turn in the Blues’ season. They reside next to one another, marking wins No. 26 and 27. They’re from a February home and home sweep over the Nashville Predators.

“That was pretty monumental, just showed that we can do it,” said O’Reilly. “That was a very good hockey team that we beat two in a row that gave us significant points and pushed us ahead. Gave us some good belief that, hey, we’re an elite team here. We can do this.”

Now it’s June 9. The shelves are full with just that single slot ready to be filled. The puck board is a reminder for the Blues of how this season has gone and how, had there not be such a turnaround, the entire direction of the franchise could have been altered. How many core faces would have been traded away? Who would have been out of a job? All questions that no one has to answer any more.

“They all [tell a story],” said Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo of the pucks. “How long it took to fill it up and how quickly it started to fill up, that’s kind of the summary of our season. It was fun when those pucks kept going up after every game in that second half of the year. It was not fun to look at that board in the first half of the season not seeing any pucks up there.”

The Blues have two games to fill that final spot. They know the Bruins will give them their best and being able to earn that last puck will be a challenge.

“That’s the one we need,” said O’Reilly. “It’s not going to be easy.”

Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final will take place Sunday, 8 p.m. ET on NBC (live stream here)

————

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.

Stanley Cup Buzzer: Blues’ big stars beat Bruins

St. Louis Blues 2, Boston Bruins 1 (Blues lead series 3-2; Game 6 on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET [airing on NBC; stream here])

Criticisms of officiating will steal the headlines, yet Jordan Binnington stole Game 5 for the Blues. Boston’s power play sputtered to an 0-for-3 success rate, and 39-21 shots on goal advantage wasn’t enough for the Bruins to win on Thursday. The often-dominant Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak haven’t been able to produce, and Pastrnak hasn’t always been with those two veterans lately, in part because of that sputtering production. Whether the Bruins get more whistles or not, they need better play to avoid falling painfully short against Binnington and the Blues.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

1. Jordan Binnington

While the Blues were able to slow down the Bruins’ chances on the rush aside from a hot first period, St. Louis otherwise relied on Binnington to stand tall once again. And, as usual, Binnington delivered; it was almost as if he was hypnotized into believing that he was coming off of a loss.

Binnington stopped 38 out of 39 of the Bruins’ shots on goal, and allowed the Blues to “turtle” a bit in Game 5. Consider the odd periods of this one, as Boston generated SOG edges of 17-8 in the first and 14-7 in the third (along with 8-6 in the second), but only Jake DeBrusk could score against Binnington.

At the risk of sounds like a broken record, Binnington just seems downright unflappable for the Blues.

2. Ryan O'Reilly

If Binnington isn’t the hottest player in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, then that title goes to Ryan O’Reilly.

ROR generated the first goal of Game 5, and then set up David Perron for that controversial game-winner, giving him two points for the second consecutive game. Overall, O’Reilly is now on a four-game point streak with three goals and three assists for six points during that span.

You might expect the Selke-worthy center to show up nicely in other categories, and O’Reilly did just that in Game 5. ROR went 19-9 on faceoffs, had a +2 rating, three SOG, and even blocked three shots on Thursday.

3. Alex Pietrangelo

Consider Pietrangelo and the Blues’ defense as the third star, really. In particular, Jay Bouwmeester also deserves credit for logging a ton of minutes while keeping his head above water, which is shocking for an aging veteran who found himself (understandably) healthy-scratched at times this season. Colton Parayko also deserves a lot of credit.

But Pietrangelo gets the slight edge if you can only choose one defenseman.

The 29-year-old grabbed an assist (though Zach Sanford‘s pass was the highlight, and primary assist) in Game 5. Pietrangelo also had a +2 rating, three SOG, one hit, and two blocked shot in 27:55 TOI.

Generally speaking, the Blues’ top players are delivering in a big way, and Pietrangelo shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle.

Factoids

  • Binnington’s 38 saves ties for the second-most by a rookie goalie in a Stanley Cup Final. The most is 40 saves, shared by Rogie Vachon (1967) and Ron Hextall (1987). Binnington’s 15 playoff wins ties him for the most for any rookie goalie, so if St. Louis wins the Stanley Cup, there’s a strong chance that Binnington stands alone there. (Sorry, Jake Allen … but we’ll see?)
  • Pietrangelo notched his 14th assist of this postseason. The Blues’ single-postseason record is 15, owned by Bernie Federko from 1982, so Pietrangelo has a chance to tie or break that mark.
  • The Blues’ nine road playoff wins ties them for second all-time. They currently have 30 road wins between the playoffs and regular season, which only ties them for the most in 2018-19, as the Tampa Bay Lightning managed that in the regular season. In case you needed a reminder of how great that Lightning team was through 82 games (sorry Tampa Bay fans).

How to watch Game 6

Game 6 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday (NBC; stream here).

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.