Ryan O'Reilly

John Kelly Blues donating plasma
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Blues announcer Kelly plans on donating plasma to help combat COVID-19

About five weeks after being declared COVID-19 symptom-free, Blues announcer John Kelly is doing his part to help others affected by the coronavirus. In his case, that means donating plasma in hopes that his antibodies could help others battling illness.

Blues’ Kelly plans on donating plasma to help those dealing with COVID-19

Kelly told the Blues website how the study came about.

“A friend of mine at Washington University reached out to me and said they were doing a study like they are at places all over the world, and they feel there’s a really strong chance that people with antibodies for COVID-19 can help others who are still battling it,” Kelly said. “You donate blood, they extract your plasma and inject that plasma into very sick patients. The studies show that a lot of people that are sick are getting better because they’re using a recovered person’s antibodies to fight off the virus.

“If I can make one person better, that’s fantastic.”

A recent Wired article notes that this is called “convalescent plasma therapy.”

” … it’s an old solution; doctors used it to help treat measles patients before a vaccine was developed and it has been used on Ebola, SARS, and MERS patients, as well as during the 1918 pandemic flu.”

Now, it’s unclear if taking plasma from Kelly and others will be effective in combating COVID-19. Medical experts believe that it’s unlikely to cause additional harm, however, so good on Kelly and others for donating plasma.

O’Reilly among others also chipping in

While Kelly was directly affected, other people involved with the Blues are also helping out. For instance, Ryan O'Reilly recently contributed 270 bottles of hand sanitizer to hospitals and retirement homes.

(You can learn more about that drive here.)

Robert Thomas also helped distribute hand sanitizer earlier in April, while Jordan Binnington pitched in to help people get masks.

Nice work from the defending champs.

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.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Biggest surprises, disappointments

Lightning surprises disappointments Shattenkirk Vasilevskiy
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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the surprises and disappointments for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Lightning disappointments were mostly mild ones

If there’s one overwhelming disappointment for the Lightning’s season, it’s that it came to a pause, and may not end. That’s the elephant in the room for any credible contender, really, but the Lightning rank among the teams with the biggest reasons to gripe about the pandemic interruption.

Otherwise, finding deeper Lightning disappointments requires some probing. Allow a few attempts:

  • The Lightning stumbled out of the gate, for sure. At least by their standards.
  • In struggling early, they ceded the Atlantic Division to the Bruins. Home-ice advantage could be significant if the two titans meet in a second-round series.
  • Some seemingly promising players struggled. Let’s begin with Mathieu Joseph.

While Joseph wasn’t spectacular in 2018-19 (13 goals, 26 points), he was a useful contributor, especially considering modest ice time. Those contributions dried up in 2019-20, to the point that he played almost half of his games in the AHL.

  • Yanni Gourde didn’t suffer to the same degree as Joseph. Even so, Gourde only managed 10 games so far in 2019-20 after scoring 25 and 22 during his previous two seasons.
  • Also, it was kind of disappointing that Jon Cooper benched Nikita Kucherov during the season. Personally, I never dig it when a star player seems to get scapegoated.
  • It would be a letdown if the Lightning didn’t get to take advantage of “rentals” in Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman, even if they’re extended rentals anyway (since both are under contract through 2020-21).

Lightning enjoyed some pleasant surprises in players exceeding expectations

Count me among those who really liked the Lightning making a low-risk signing with Kevin Shattenkirk. Even so, I didn’t necessarily anticipate Shattenkirk enjoying this strong of a rebound year.

Along with tying Mikhail Sergachev — another bet who’s paying off nicely — with 34 points, Shattenkirk provided all-around value for the Lightning. Consider where Shattenkirk ranks on this team GAR chart at Evolving Hockey:

Lightning surprises disappointments GAR

That above chart provides a quick rundown of other Lightning players who enjoyed better-than-expected seasons. Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat also enjoyed strong seasons, sometimes riding plenty of friendly bounces.

Cirelli, Vasilevskiy end up even better than expected

As mentioned earlier today, Anthony Cirelli makes his way on plenty of analytics-leaning Selke Trophy lists.

His potential candidacy is also starting to earn a bit more attention beyond those niche circles. Ken Campbell featured Cirelli’s Selke credibility for The Hockey News in March, for example.

Cirelli’s teammates notice, too. The Athletic’s Joe Smith reports (sub required) that Tyler Johnson said Cirelli’s nickname is “Selke,” and maybe only half-jokingly. Reigning Selke winner Ryan O'Reilly can see why Cirelli is turning heads, too.

“Oh yeah, you can see it playing against him,” O’Reilly said, via Smith. “Seeing the way he frustrates and skates and does little details. We don’t really see him enough. But I know the times we have played against him, definitely, he’s a very impactful player.”

Let’s roll out that Cirelli backchanging GIF one more time, huh?

Just as importantly, Andrei Vasilevskiy enjoyed another splendid season.

This marks Vasilevskiy’s fourth season of at least a .917 save percentage, which was his mark in 2019-20. But people sometimes chalked up Vasilevskiy’s successes mostly to the team in front of him before.

Lately, though, he’s been standing out nicely in advanced stats, such as various websites “Goals Saved Against Average” formulas.

Being that the Lightning face salary cap crunches in trying to keep their impressive assembly of talent together, Vasilevskiy faces credit in justifying his upcoming $9.5M AAV — even before that salary actually kicks in.

If you ask me, Vasilevskiy certainly made a strong argument for his value in 2019-20. That’s a promising development for the reigning Vezina winner, whether you rank that sparkling work among the Lightning surprises or merely expected it.

MORE ON THE LIGHTNING
• Looking at the 2019-20 Tampa Bay Lightning
• Lightning’s long-term outlook

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.

What is the Blues’ long-term outlook?

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the St. Louis Blues.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

Outside of top defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who would be the top free agent available this summer, pretty much every key player on the Blues’ roster is signed (or under team control) through the end of next season.

Ryan O'Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko are the two most impactful forwards on the roster and both have long-term deals through the end of the 2022-23 season at a combined salary cap number of $15 million. As long as they maintain their current levels of play (Tarasenko being a 30-35 goal winger; O’Reilly being a dominant two-way center) they are going to be the foundation of a contending team at a pretty fair price against the cap.

Things do get a little more complicated after next season when forwards Alex Steen, Jaden Schwartz, and Tyler Bozak, as well as BOTH goalies (Jordan Binnington and Jake Allen) will all be eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou also provide some nice long-term potential at forward, with Thomas being especially intriguing. The team’s first-round pick (No. 20 overall) in 2017 has already shown flashes of top-line ability and is one of their best play-making forwards at even-strength. Still only 20 years old, big things could be in his future. He still has one more season after this one on his entry-level deal. Given how good he has already been, the potential he still has, and his current contract status he could be one of the Blues’ most valuable assets next season.

On defense, Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk, Marco Scandella and Robert Bortuzzo are all signed to long-term deals, while Dunn is still under team control as a restricted free agent after this season.

Overall, it remains a top-tier team in the NHL in the short-term and should still be a Stanley Cup contender.

Long-Term Needs

Getting Pietrangelo re-signed would probably be at the top of the list.

He is their captain, their top defenseman, and if he leaves they do not really have another option to take over that role. With Parayko, Faulk, Dunn, and Bortuzzo there would still be a solid defense there, but none of those players really fills the No. 1 defender spot. It is also unlikely — if not impossible — they would be able to find anyone comparable to Pietrangelo on the open market.

Scott Perunovich is probably their top prospect, and he does have a lot of potential on the blue line, but he has yet to play a game of professional hockey and is a long way off from being able to fill a top-pairing or meaningful role.

Beyond that, their farm system as a whole is not the strongest and they have some fairly significant free agents over the next two years that they will need to do with — including the two goalies.

Long-Term Strengths

In the more immediate future they have an outstanding goalie with Binnington and Allen in place, and that is also probably the one position in their farm system that has some potential long-term options.

Their biggest strength, though, is simply the players they have at the top of their lineup.

Acquiring O’Reilly from the Buffalo Sabres before the 2018-19 season has turned out to be an enormous win for the organization. Not only because it gave them a bonafide No. 1 center that could drive play at both ends of the ice, but because it cost them almost nothing of consequence to get him. He scores at a top-line rate, is a sensational defensive player, and plays big, tough minutes against other team’s best players while being able to stay out of the penalty box. At a $7.5 million salary cap hit that is an enormous bargain.

Then there is Tarasenko.

He has been one of the NHL’s most dangerous goal-scorers for the past six years and can be a game-changing talent when he is on the ice. The Blues did not really get a chance to experience much of that this season due to injury, but he is a star and might be the one player on this roster that might (emphasis on might) have Hall of Fame potential if he continues on his current path.

MORE Blues:
Looking at the 2019-20 St. Louis Blues
Blues biggest surprises and disappointments 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.

St. Louis Blues: Biggest surprises and disappointments so far

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the surprises and disappointments for the St. Louis Blues

Vladimir Tarasenko‘s lost season

This might qualify as both a disappointment and a surprise.

The disappointment being that the Blues have had their most impactful and dangerous offensive player for only 10 games this season before he was sidelined due to injury.

The surprise is the way in which the Blues were able to overcome it.

Even with Tarasenko in the lineup the Blues were never really a dangerous offensive team (they were 15th in the league in scoring a year ago during their Stanley Cup season). When you remove him from the mix you are taking out one of the most prolific goal scorers in the league and not replacing him with anyone else. It could have been a pretty big obstacle to overcome. Instead, the Blues just kept rolling, did not really miss a beat offensively or in the standings, and are well position to make another run at a championship if/when the 2019-20 season resumes.

They will also almost certainly have Tarasenko back in the lineup, which will be a massive addition.

Moving on from Robby Fabbri

Not really a huge disappointment, but still a disappointment because of the way things just did not work out for them.

When Fabbri first broke into the league he looked like he had a chance to be a productive player that would be a part of the Blues’ core moving forward. But a run of devastating injuries completely sidetracked his development. He ended up signing a one-year deal as a restricted free agent this past summer and seemed to be getting one more shot to get things back on track.

He played in just nine games, scoring one goal, before being traded to Detroit.

It has worked out well so far for Fabbri with the Red Wings, but it is still a disappointment to see such a promising career in St. Louis end up the way it did.

Some surprising offensive contributors

With Tarasenko sidelined for most of the season the Blues needed some of their depth players to step forward and pick up some of that slack. Ryan O'Reilly remains a top two-way player, while Jaden Schwartz had the bounce-back season that should have been expected from him.

Those performances certainly helped. They were not the only ones.

They also received a great performance from winger David Perron who has been tremendous since returning to St. Louis for his third different stop with the team. He has nine game-winning goals and is on track for what could have been a career-year in the goal scoring department. Since returning to the Blues at the start of the 2018-19 season he has scored at a 30-goal pace per 82 games and been one of the Blues’ most reliable offensive performers.

Probably the biggest surprise, though, has been the goal-scoring production from Zach Sanford.

Entering this season the 25-year-old Sanford had scored just 12 goals in 99 career NHL games. In his first 58 games this season, he scored 16 goals. That is a 23-goal pace over 82 games and the type of secondary scoring they absolutely needed.

Evaluating Justin Faulk‘s St. Louis debut

Faulk was the Blues’ big offseason score, adding him from the Carolina Hurricanes and then immediately signing him to a long-term contract extension that begins next season. It will pay him $6.5 million per season through the end of the 2026-27 season.

I would not go as far as to say he has been a disappointment, but there has been a drop in his production from what we saw from him in Carolina. Especially as it relates to his offensive contributions. There is no question that some of that comes from a change in his power play usage, where he went from being one of the top options with the Hurricanes to a secondary option with the Blues. Less power play time (and less ice-time in general) per game can definitely cut into those numbers.

With that contract he is going to be part of the Blues’ defense for a long time, and depending on what happens with Alex Pietrangelo in free agency this offseason could take on an even bigger role in the coming seasons.

MORE BLUES:
• Looking at the 2019-20 St. Louis Blues
Blues’ long-term outlook

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.

Looking at the 2019-20 St. Louis Blues

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the St. Louis Blues.

St. Louis Blues

Record: 42-19-10 (71 games), first in the Central Division, first in the Western Conference
Leading Scorer: Ryan O'Reilly – 60 points (12 goals and 48 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves:

• Acquired Justin Faulk and a 2020 fifth-round pick from the Carolina Hurricanes for Joel Edmundson, Dominik Bokk and a 2021 seventh-round pick.
• Traded Robby Fabbri to the Detroit Red Wings for Jacob De La Rose.
• Acquired Marco Scandella from the Montreal Canadiens for a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick.

Season Overview:

If you expected the Blues to be battling a Stanley Cup hangover, you were wrong.

The defending champions have put together another impressive season in 2017-28. Not bad for a team that was bashing bodies on the ice until June. And it’s not like they didn’t have to face a little adversity along the way either.

For starters, sniper Vladimir Tarasenko went down after just 10 games (he collected 10 points in those contests). He had scored at least 33 goals in each of his previous five seasons. Losing that much offense would hurt any team, but the Blues found a way to keep pushing.

Did you expect the clock the strike midnight on Jordan Binnington?

Well, that didn’t really happen either. Sure, he didn’t replicate the incredible numbers he had last season, but he still found a way to help the Blues get to the top of the Western Conference standings. At the pause, he had a 30-13-7 record with a 2.56 goals-against-average and a .912 save percentage.

St. Louis’ key to success isn’t dependant on one player. So they can lose a Tarasenko and Binnington’s play can dip a little and they won’t miss a beat. This is a club that is reliant on their overall depth.

Their leading scorer, Ryan O’Reilly, has 60 points through 70 games. That’s not a remarkable amount for a team leader, but the numbers being posted by some of the players around him are pretty impressive.

David Perron (59 points), Brayden Schenn (57 points), Jaden Schwartz (57 points) and Alex Pietrangelo (52 points) all have at least 50 points. That’s pretty balanced. Had Tarasenko been healthy, he likely would’ve been right near the top of the leaderboard in this category, too.

The Blues, unlike a lot of the other top teams, don’t get the job done with one or two elite players. Head coach Craig Berube has something special here and it’s all about balanced scoring.

Now, there is a massive question mark heading into the off-season. Will they be able to retain Pietrangelo’s services? He’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and it doesn’t look like they have the money under the cap to bring him back.

General manager Doug Armstrong has made some bold moves the years, but getting his captain to accept a deal that’s team-friendly enough will be tricky.

Highlight of the Season:

There were so many memorable moments on and off the ice for the Blues in 2019-20, but the fact that they put together two eight-game winning streaks was so impressive.

MORE BLUES:
St. Louis Blues biggest surprises and disappointments
Blues’ long-term outlook

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.