Melker Karlsson

The Playoff Buzzer: Big night for Blues’ Binnington, Barbashev and Bozak

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  • The St. Louis Blues matched a franchise record for playoff wins in a single postseason.
  • Jordan Binnington was outstanding in net.
  • Ivan Barbashev picks a great time for his first goal of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

St. Louis Blues 2, San Jose Sharks 1 (Series tied 2-2)

The St. Louis Blues’ power play has been a big trouble spot this postseason but is finally starting to show some signs of life. It scored the game-winning goal on Friday night in a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks to even the Western Conference Final at two games apiece. After that goal, which gave the Blues a 2-0 first period lead, everything fell on the play of their defense and starting goalie Jordan Binnington, and all of them were up to the challenge to help them bounce back from Wednesday’s controversial overtime defeat.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues. He has been a little up-and-down throughout these playoffs and that has been especially true in the Western Conference Final series against the Sharks. He has had two tough games, giving up five goals in each, and two outstanding games. Friday was one of the outstanding games as he stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced in the Blues’ huge Game 4 win. It was also a night of milestones for him (more on that in a bit in the factoids).

2. Ivan Barbashev, St. Louis Blues. Barbashev picked a great time to score his first goal of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, scoring just 35 seconds into the first period to help get things started. A fast start is always important, but it was especially true for the Blues in this game after the way Game 3 went for them. Falling down early after that loss would have been a potentially crushing swing, but they were able to get out in front early and never look back.

3. Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks. This result wasn’t his fault. Not even close. Jones was actually one of the biggest reasons this game was still reasonably close early on as the Blues dominated the scoring chances early in the game and really carried the play at the start. Bozak’s game-winning goal was a fluky play that went in off of his teammates skate and he mostly played well enough to get the result. He was the tough-luck loser in Game 4. Sometimes it happens.

Highlights of the Night

This is the fast start the St. Louis Blues needed.

Sometimes you need a little bit of luck, and the Blues definitely got some here when Bozak was credited with the power play goal that turned out to be the difference in the game.

One of Binnington’s best saves of the night is this one as he casually snags Melker Karlsson‘s shot out of the air after Karlsson found himself wide open in front of the net.

Factoids

  • Friday’s win is St. Louis’ 10th of the postseason, tying a franchise record for most wins in a single postseason. [NHL PR]
  • Speaking of those 10 wins, Binnington has been in net for all 10 of them and is the first goalie in Blues franchise history to win 10 games in a single postseason. [NHL PR]
  • He is also the 10th rookie goalie to win 10 games in a single postseason. [NHL PR]

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.

The Wraparound: Can Thornton keep rolling?

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.

You’ve probably heard by now that Game 3 of the Western Conference Final between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues ended in controversial fashion, so you can understand why some of the in-game stuff has been overshadowed over the last couple of days. One of those standout performances came from slumping center Joe Thornton. Can he keep it going in Game 4? (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream)

Thornton scored two goals in the game and he also added an assist on Logan Couture‘s game-tying goal late in regulation. Not bad for a guy who had just one point in his previous eight games.

“This guy’s one of the greatest players of all time,” head coach Pete DeBoer said after Game 3. “I know he wasn’t happy with his last game. And that’s the response you get from a Hall of Fame player. We wouldn’t have a chance to win without him. The character, the response, the leadership.”

The Sharks managed to get to the Western Conference Final by leaning on top players like Logan Couture, Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Brent Burns, but getting added production from their third line could help propel them to the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins.

DeBoer made a subtle change to Thornton’s line heading into Game 3, as he replaced Marcus Sorensen with Melker Karlsson. The line, which was made up of Thornton, Karlsson and Kevin Labanc controlled over 60 percent of the shot attempts when they were on the ice and they created two goals. They have had 60 percent of the scoring chances when they were on the ice (all stats via Natural Stat Trick).

Getting continued production from that line may allow the Sharks to get a stranglehold on this series.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

THURSDAY’S SCOREBOARD
Bruins 4, Hurricanes 0 (Bruins win series 4-0)
The Buzzer has more on Thursday’s action

MORE:
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
PHT Conference Finals predictions

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Wraparound: Sharks ‘need everyone’ to start chipping in

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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.

The Western Conference Final between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues is tied at 1-1 heading into Game 3 tonight (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN). Despite not getting much production from their depth players, the Sharks found a way to split the first two games.

San Jose has scored eight goals in four games (six in Game 1, two in Game 2). Of those eight goals, seven have come from players on their top two lines. Here’s the breakdown: Logan Couture has scored half the goals, while Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier have also found the back of the net. Kevin Labanc is the only player in the bottom-six that has found a way to chip in through two games.

“In my opinion, that wasn’t anywhere near what we’re capable of, and I don’t think we’ve played up to our capabilities in a while now,” Couture said after Game 2. “… And it’s discouraging, it’s frustrating, because we’re going to need everyone here if we’re going to beat these guys, because they’re a very good hockey team.”

It’s difficult for any team to expect their fourth line to chip in regularly when it comes to offense. Barclay Goodrow, Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson just don’t have it in them so whatever you get from them in almost like a bonus. Where they need more offensive production is from the third line which is made up of Joe Thornton, Marcus Sorensen and Labanc.

Thornton and Labanc have just one point in their last eight contests, and Sorensen has no points in his last seven outings. That likely won’t be enough to get by the Blues (unless Couture continues carrying the team on his back). It also wouldn’t hurt to get some offense from Evander Kane, who has two assists in his last seven contests.

“We didn’t have enough participants across the board,” head coach Pete DoBoer said when asked about his third line’s lack of production. “I thought Logan Couture was pretty good, a couple other guys. But it’s tough to win this time of year if you don’t have everybody going, and I thought they got contributions from everybody like we did [in Game 1]. So we’ve been here before, and we know how to handle this.”

Can they get going in Game 3?

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

TUESDAY’S SCOREBOARD
Bruins 2, Hurricanes 1

The Buzzer has more on Tuesday’s action

MORE:
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• PHT roundtable
• Hurricanes/Bruins series preview
• PHT Conference Finals predictions

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Sharks’ Haley tries to pull Golden Knights’ Reaves off bench for fight

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Micheal Haley is a tough dude. There’s no question.

But wanting a piece of Ryan Reaves and go as far as trying to pull him off the bench to fight him? That’s ambitious.

Haley wasn’t happy after Reaves destroyed Melker Karlsson with a big hit right in front of the San Jose Sharks bench in the first period of Friday’s meeting with Reaves’ Vegas Golden Knights.

Reaves took a quick look at his handy work before going off on a line change. Haley, who was also on the ice, didn’t seem to care and went after Reaves, throwing a punch at one of the toughest — if not the toughest — men in the NHL.

Haley ended up taking a roughing penalty on the play. Reaves got a good laugh in, seeming quite amused at the whole ordeal.

This is a matchup that could feature in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and judging by this one, it would be a fantastic series.


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

Surging Sharks in perfect position

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While most of this year’s wild Western Conference flails about looking for the last wild card spot, the San Jose Sharks can smell blood in the water.

After throttling the Vancouver Canucks Monday night 7-2, the Sharks have now won six straight games – five of them on the road – and seized the top spot in the West. They’re averaging five goals per game during that stretch and they’ve done it all without Erik Karlsson.

San Jose’s depth has been exemplary. Fourteen of 18 skaters registered at least one point against Vancouver alone. Eleven different players on the Sharks have multiple game-winning goals this season, tied with the New York Islanders for most in the league. Led by Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns, their 166 points by defensemen leads the NHL. The Sharks are also the only team in the league to have five different players – Joe Pavelski, Evander Kane, Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier and Logan Couture – with 20 goals or more.

“If you look at the dynamics of this team, their secondary players are, a lot of times, their best players,” former Shark and current NHL on NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick told Pro Hockey Talk. “I say their secondary players being Hertl, Meier, (Melker) Karlsson played well (Monday) night. You have (Marcus) Sorensen who has just been an amazing work horse on that team that brings a lot of energy to that hockey club. (Joonas) Donskoi – these are all of their second-tier guys. A lot of the times, they’re the ones winning hockey games for them.”

That’s not to say the stars haven’t stepped up as well. Evander Kane has been red hot with 15 goals in his last 16 games dating back to Jan. 2, which leads the NHL during that span. He’s on pace for a career-high 37 goals, which is exactly what the Sharks envisioned when they signed Kane to a seven-year, $49 million extension last May.

“I talk to a lot of guys on that team and they say that if (Kane) prepared and got ready to play every single game and was consistent, he would be one of the best players in the National Hockey League,” Roenick said. “That’s saying something when it’s coming from your teammates.”

Next up for San Jose is a three-game homestand against three playoff contenders in the Capitals, Canucks and Bruins, followed by a four-game road trip in Pittsburgh, Columbus, Detroit and Boston. It seems like a two-team race between the Sharks and Flames for the top spot in the Pacific, and a four-team battle for the top spot in the west between San Jose, Calgary, Winnipeg and Nashville.

“There’s some good teams there,” Pavelski told reporters after the Vancouver win. “Being in first would help.”

On paper, Pavelski is right. The top seed in the West this season will have the pleasure of hosting one of the slew of teams gunning for playoff position. Since nine teams are currently within eight points of the final wild card spot, whichever team outlasts the others will have conceivably spent a lot of energy doing so over the stretch run of the regular season. That said, anyone that watches the NHL knows any team can make a run in April. The Sharks understand that all too well. After winning the Presidents’ Trophy in 2008-09 behind a franchise record 117 points, San Jose lost in the first round in six games to the Anaheim Ducks. Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Marc-Edouard Vlasic all played in that series. Given their history, it is unlikely the Sharks would take any opening round opponent for granted.

“I think this is a different team, a different focus of a team,” said Roenick, a member of that 2008-09 Sharks club. “One thing you have to really take into consideration is, is this going to be Joe Thornton’s last year? That’s going to be something that’s going to be talked about quietly around the locker room among the guys and I think the focus is going to be much greater game in and game out…(The Sharks) are the only ones that can beat themselves right now. When they play their style of game, they dominate pretty much every team they play against, road or home.”

As for Thornton, the Sharks legend had one assist on Monday to pass Gordie Howe for ninth on the NHL’s all-time assists list and tie Teemu Selanne for 15th in all-time points. The sure-fire Hall of Famer is in his 21st season, but has only had one crack at a Stanley Cup Final (in 2016). Whispers of Thornton’s potential retirement could be quite the rallying cry for the Sharks in the playoffs.

“I played for 20 years and maybe with the exception of Chris Chelios, I have never seen a player be loved or be so respected in a locker room than Joe Thornton,” Roenick said. “I can honestly tell you that there is not one person in that organization – player, trainer, upper management, office people – that doesn’t absolutely love Joe Thornton through and through. You can’t say that about a lot of people. That’s an amazing compliment to a guy who has had such a glorious and Hall of Fame career.”

Barring an astounding stretch in the final two months of the season, San Jose’s franchise record of 117 points is safe. But this could very well be the deepest team the Sharks have ever had and one that could do what no other San Jose team has: hoist the Stanley Cup.