Zach Sanford

PHT Morning Skate: Stanley Cup Edition

2 Comments

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Blues win first Stanley Cup by bottling Bruins. (NBC Pro Hockey Talk)

• Ryan O’Reilly wins Conn Smythe Trophy. (NBC Pro Hockey Talk)

• Berube helped Blues find identity after early-season struggle. (NBC Pro Hockey Talk)

• Blues latest team erased from Stanley Cup drought list. (NBC Pro Hockey Talk)

Zach Sanford keeps late dad’s memory at heart during Stanley Cup win. (NBC Pro Hockey Talk)

• Blues finally deliver Stanley Cup to St. Louis.  (NBC Pro Hockey Talk)

Jay Bouwmeester finally gets his Stanley Cup. (NBC Pro Hockey Talk)

• Bruins, Blues factor into top Game 7 moments in playoff history. (NBC Pro Hockey Talk)

• Bruins’ Marchand calls Game 7 loss ‘by far’ worst of career. (NBC Pro Hockey Talk)

• Blues fan Laila Anderson gets moment with Stanley Cup. (NBC Pro Hockey Talk)

• Blues fans fill Busch Stadium, Enterprise Center for Game 7 watch parties. (NBC Pro Hockey Talk)

• NBA legend Charles Barkley pulling for Blues in Game 7. (NBC Pro Hockey Talk)

• Blues’ worst-to-first, Stanley Cup reversal unlike anything in NHL history. (Sportsnet)

• If Phil Kessel stays in Pittsburgh, who goes? (TSN.ca)

Corey Perry to the Edmonton Oilers? There’s some sense in it. (Edmonton Journal)

•  Cassidy and Berube deserve more credit for getting their teams to Cup final. (Montreal Gazette)

• I don’t really care about hockey. But St. Louis, my city, needed this Stanley Cup run. (Washington Post)

And if you’re interested in watching some videos this morning, we got you covered:

Game Highlights: Link
Pietrangelo Interview: Link

O’Reilly wins Conn Smythe: Link
O’Reilly Interview: Link
Binnington Interview: Link
Blues hoist Cup: Link
Berube Interview: Link
Maroon Interview: Link
Bouwmeester Interview: Link
Tarasenko Interview with family: Link
Parayko celebrates with Laila, interview: Link


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

Zach Sanford keeps late dad’s memory at heart during Stanley Cup win

3 Comments

BOSTON — Manchester, New Hampshire is about an hour minute drive north of Boston, so when Zach Sanford was growing up he was a die-hard Boston Bruins fan. He would watch the games on televison with his father, Michael, soaking in the experience of seeing his heroes playing on the Garden ice.

Michael Sanford worked at a restaurant, but when the hours cost him time to be a hockey dad. He decided to start his own furniture repair business, which allowed him to be around more with Zach as his youth career progressed, eventually leading to Michael becoming his coach.

Sanford’s father never got to see any of his son’s NHL games, and last September, Michael Sanford suffered a heart attack in his sleep and passed away at age 54.

When Sanford went home to attend the funeral, he couldn’t stop thinking about the final conversation he had with his father.

“It was just before our first preseason game in Dallas,” Sanford wrote on the Blues’ website in October. “Most of our conversations were pretty similar: How you doing? What’s new? What are you up to? And then came the typical dad pregame speech: Keep the feet moving and play hard. He was always coaching me, even until the very end. He may not have known the most about hockey – he never coached in the pros or anything – but he knew about hard work and how important that was in anything you do, whether it was selling newspapers, performing surgery or playing hockey. He said you had to go 100 percent all the time. That was probably one of the last things he told me.”

[RELATED: Blues win first Stanley Cup]

The 24-year-old Sanford experienced his first full season in the NHL in 2018-19, playing 60 regular season games and eight in the postseason, including five in the Stanley Cup Final. He made the most of his time in the lineup, exhibiting the work ethic his father instilled in him, by assisting on three goals earlier in the series — like the wild between-the-legs pass to Ryan O’Reilly in Game 5— and scoring the Blues’ fourth and final goal in Game 7. 

It was a perfect ending to a season that started off so somber.

“I don’t know if you could write it any better,” Sanford said following Game 7. “I think he helped us out a lot along the way, and me, especially. I miss him. I think about him all the time. I guarantee he’s smiling, cracking a nice cold beer up there.”

As the Blues made their march to the Stanley Cup Final, Sanford kept his father’s memory with him, thinking about him every day, using that energy as a positive during an intense time. It paid off, and he proved to be a valuable piece on the ice in the seven-game series.

Sanford scored with 4:38 left to play in Game 7. It was the goal that allowed the bench to breath and come to realization they were going to be champions.

Michael Sanford was definitely smiling down, so proud of his son.

“I couldn’t dream of scoring a goal in a game like this, let alone winning,” Sanford said. “I know that [my dad is] watching and how proud he probably is. All the effort he put in over the years along with my mom, too, driving me to practices, all that stuff, and making me the person and player I am. I owe it all to them.”

MORE BLUES STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
Ryan O’Reilly wins Conn Smythe Trophy

Jay Bouwmeester finally gets his Stanley Cup
Blues fan Laila Anderson gets moment with Stanley Cup
Berube helped Blues find identity after early-season struggle
Blues latest team erased from Stanley Cup drought list
Blues finally deliver a Stanley Cup to St. Louis

————

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: Binnington wins it all for Blues

2 Comments
  • For the first time since coming into the league in 1967, the St. Louis Blues are Stanley Cup champions. The Boston Bruins carried the play during what turned out to be a key first period, as even with that advantage in overall performance, the Blues went up 2-0 through the first 20 minutes. The Bruins never truly recovered, and the Blues were able to lock it down in Game 7.

St. Louis Blues 4, Boston Bruins 1 (Blues win series 4-3, thus winning their first Stanley Cup.)

Jordan Binnington was the star of this one, particularly when the level of play was especially lopsided early on. He was very close to pitching a shutout, allowing only a Matt Grzelcyk goal with about 2:10 remaining in the contest, when it was far out of reach. After holding onto that 2-0 lead through the first two periods, Binnington made a few other key saves, and the Blues turned Game 7 into more or less a blowout in the third. That allowed time for the shocking to sink in: the Blues were going to win it all, finally.

Three Stars

1. Jordan Binnington

Who else could it be?

Honestly, Binnington was so great in Game 7, there was the feeling that he might swipe the Conn Smythe.

That didn’t end up happening, and that’s fair, as Binnington had plenty of ups and downs. Those low moments don’t really matter now, and maybe most importantly, the tough times didn’t rattle Binnington. Yes, it was an almost-too-easy narrative that Binnington bounced back … but, again, it really says a lot that he didn’t blink as a rookie, no matter the stakes. Clearly. He was fantastic in a winner-takes-all situation.

Binnington finished Game 7 stopping 32 out of 33 Bruins shots. Really, Binnington was close to getting a shutout, and that would have made for an even better story. It doesn’t take away from his great performance, as he was clearly the top star.

2. Alex Pietrangelo

Picking the second-best player of Game 7 is a little tougher.

Let’s go with Pietrangelo, though. Much like the third star, Pietrangelo generated a goal and an assist in Game 7. Pietrangelo gets a slight edge for scoring the game-winner, and it was a nice one. Two goals proved to be too high of a mountain for the Bruins to climb, and for the goal to come in the waning moments of the already-frustrating first period was a killer.

Pietrangelo’s been splendid for much of this run, really. The Blues didn’t have an outrageously obvious top player of this run – though ROR is worthy – but they had a slew of really good ones, from Pietrangelo to Vladimir Tarasenko and beyond. Here’s hoping Pietrangelo and other top stars are remembered for standing out, even without the Conn Smythe.

3. Ryan O'Reilly

If you have any issues with O’Reilly being third instead of second, consider that ROR won the Conn Smythe Trophy. He’s doing well, and maybe letting an expletive or two or three fly.

O’Reilly deflected in the 1-0 goal, ending a considerable Blues shots on goal drought, and giving St. Louis a stunning lead. O’Reilly also generated a secondary assist on Zach Sanford‘s goal. About the only thing ROR “lost” was the faceoff battle, going 5-7.

Factoids

  • Again, the Blues ended a 52-year drought by winning their first-ever Stanley Cup. Check out the list of longest droughts now that St. Louis is no longer on it.
  • The Blues are the first team in 30 years, and only the fourth since 1943-44 to win a Stanley Cup without having a single previous champion on their roster. The 1989 Calgary Flames were the last ones to do it.
  • The Blues won the Stanley Cup after ranking last as late as January, but their accomplishment is rare for a team that would have been ranked last earlier. Sometimes you just have to soak it all in:

Yeah.

MORE FROM GAME 7

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.

To grandma with love: O’Reilly hopes to take Cup to big fan

2 Comments

BOSTON (AP) — Ryan O'Reilly should expect another email from his 99-year-old grandmother.

Congratulations from Deirdre O’Reilly are certainly in order after her grandson won the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the NHL playoffs. O’Reilly scored the opening goal for the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to help beat Boston 4-1 and give the franchise its first title in its 51st season.

”You dream of this for so long,” he said. ”As a kid, that feeling comes back to you of just what it means to win this thing. I still can’t believe this. I can’t believe I’m here right now and a Stanley Cup champion with this group of guys.”

O’Reilly made good on Doug Armstrong’s blockbuster trade to acquire him last summer – and the line he told the St. Louis general manager on that initial call: ”Let’s go win a Cup.”

O’Reilly was a major reason for that. He set a Blues record with 24 playoff points and became the first player since Wayne Gretzky in 1985 to score in four consecutive Cup Final games.

”His worth ethic and his production for us all year and then throughout the playoffs, he was just a relentless hockey player for a long time,” coach Craig Berube said. ”Never quits. Such a smart two-way player. He’s a special player.”

And O’Reilly did much of it after cracking a rib during the second round against Dallas and doing worse damage in the Western Conference final against San Jose. O’Reilly wanted so badly to excel in these moments that he played through the pain.

”There was a couple tough games, but once you kind of get going and the adrenaline takes over, I didn’t notice it,” O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly’s grandmother watches and emails him from Seaforth, Ontario, where he grew up playing hockey. She bought him multiple pairs of skates when he was a kid and has tracked his progress very closely.

”She’s obviously a big part of my career,” O’Reilly said.

The 28-year-old center’s career hit a new peak this season when he was a finalist for the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward and the Lady Byng for sportsmanlike and gentlemanly conduct. Then he raised his game even further.

After scoring just three goals in his first 22 playoff games, O’Reilly scored five in the past four to carry the Blues to the Stanley Cup.

”He looks energized to me a little bit more, more jump in his stride out there, and he’s finishing,” Berube said recently. ”He gets chances all the time, but he’s finishing right now.”

This is the time O’Reilly had been waiting for after several soul-crushing seasons in Buffalo. After getting a taste of the playoffs with Colorado in 2010 and 2014, he missed with the Avalanche in 2015 and with the Sabres from 2016-2018.

O’Reilly raised eyebrows on locker cleanout day in Buffalo 15 months ago when he said he’d “lost the love of the game” multiple times throughout a trying season and needed to get it back. The trade to St. Louis last summer changed everything, and now it’s back in every possible way.

”It’s very refreshing,” O’Reilly said. ”It just kind of helps remind you what it’s all about and why as a kid you play the game to have a chance to win a Stanley Cup and to be a part of a group like this, it just gave me a new life and reminder of how good and exciting this game can be.”

O’Reilly stated the obvious that winning is fun, losing is tough and ”it eats away at you.” It was fun for the Blues in coming back from 1-0 and 2-1 series deficits in the final in large part because O’Reilly helped lead the way.

Following a horrendous faceoff performance in a blowout Game 3 loss, O’Reilly won 43 of 70 faceoffs the next three times out to help the Blues control play and take it to the Bruins.

O’Reilly of course scored some big goals in the process, too. Throughout the season, he earned a ton of respect from his teammates, referring Patrick Maroon to his sports psychologist dad and pulling a team together that had six new faces.

”Off the ice, he’s an unreal guy,” linemate Zach Sanford said. ”Everyone loves him. He’s a good guy, he’s a nice guy. He’s always putting in the work. You see him after practice, leading all these drills on the ice and before games doing all these warmup drills and stuff. Obviously on the ice he’s a great player. He’s good offensively and defensively. There’s not too many guys that can do it at the level he does.”

That showed in the Stanley Cup Final that made all those years watching playoffs this time of year feel like they had a purpose.

”The Cup is the ultimate goal,” O’Reilly said. ”(I was) just trying to go out there and be the spark and try to make a difference.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Bruins vs. Blues: Three keys to Game 7 of Stanley Cup Final

There’s good news and bad news for hockey fans.

On one hand, you get to witness Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final between the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins. On the other hand, this is going to be the final meaningful game until October. So make sure you enjoy tonight’s game, because the off-season begins tomorrow.

Everything either team has done before now is absolutely meaningless if they don’t come away with a win tonight. The Blues and Bruins will have to put together their best effort if they’re going to win it all at TD Garden tonight.

What specific things do these two teams have to do to win? Let’s take a look.

• Depth players have to chip in

It would be shocking to see a wide-open Game 7 tonight. Expect to see both teams play a physical, tight-checking game, because every mistake will be magnified. That means that the star forwards on either team may not have much room to operate throughout the game. So, it might be up to some of the depth players on either side to decide the result tonight.

By now, you may have heard that Boston has 19 different scorers in these Stanley Cup Playoffs. The depth that they’ve displayed since the start of the postseason has been second-to-none. Can they squeeze a little more production out of Sean Kuraly, Joakim Nordstrom or Noel Acciari?

The Blues have had a strong fourth line of their own, and they’ll be getting Ivan Barbashev back after he was suspended for Game 6. Barbashev, Oskar Sundqvist and Alex Steen have been really good on the fourth line for the Blues, who have also received depth contributions from guys like Sammy Blais and Zach Sanford throughout this series.

• Game-6 Binnington can’t make another appearance 

Obviously, both teams need to make sure that their goalies don’t cost them the game, but the Blues have to make sure Jordan Binnington turns in a better performance than he did in Game 6 on Sunday night. Binnington has found a way to bounce back a number of times since taking over as the team’s starting netminder, so there’s no real reason to doubt him heading into the biggest game in franchise history.

As for Tuukka Rask, it would be shocking to see him drop the ball tonight. He’s clearly the front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy right now, and he’s come up huge whenever the Bruins have needed a big result. Down 3-2 in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he was there in Game 6 and 7. Down 2-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round, he was there, again. Rask has been in the zone all postseason and expecting anything else in Game 7 would be silly, right?

• Walk that fine line

It’s no secret that both teams need to play with a physical edge to be successful. They’re both loaded with skill, but that extra grit is what has carried them this far. That should continue to be the case on Wednesday night, especially for a Blues team that likes to keep the game simple when they’re on the road.

Here’s the issue: you have to be able to play that physical style without taking penalties. Neither team can afford to spend much time playing shorthanded in Game 7. It’s just too risky of a proposition. Yes, both teams have been able to generate goals or scoring chances while shorthanded at different points of the series, but they can’t take that gamble with everything on the line. Basically, unless it’s a puck-over-glass penalty or something that prevents a goal from happening, you can’t afford to sit in the box tonight.

So play with an edge. Just make sure you don’t force the officials to call a penalty.

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.