Central Division

Longtime St. Louis Blues broadcaster John Kelly, jr. during the St. Louis Blues victory parade
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Blues broadcaster ‘symptom free’ after self-quarantine

The quarantine strategy medical professionals have urged society to use have proved effective once again.

John Kelly, a broadcaster for the St. Louis Blues, tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and is now symptom free after being self-quarantined for 14 days.

The St. Louis Blues released the following statement earlier Friday.

The St. Louis Blues are confirming that play-by-play announcer John Kelly has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

John has been in self-quarantine since March 13. We are thrilled to report that John is now feeling strong and symptom free.

The health and safety of the entire Blues family remains our core focus during these unprecedented times. We wish John well as he continues his recovery at home.

Follow this NBC News live update thread for more on the coronavirus pandemic.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Avalanche hold off Sharks as Colorado keeps close to Blues

The Avalanche were able to hold off a late push from the Sharks to win 4-3 on Sunday.

San Jose received a late opportunity after Evander Kane was struck by a high stick, and while the Sharks narrowed Colorado’s lead, the Avs ultimately won. With that, the Avalanche remain within striking distance behind the Blues (90 to St. Louis’ 92 points) while holding a game in hand.

[Read up on the Blues’ win here]

As is often the case, Colorado’s top guys delivered for the win.

MacKinnon, Landeskog key in Avalanche finding a way to hold off Sharks

Nathan MacKinnon looked especially dangerous while generating one goal and two assists. Gabriel Landeskog matched that production (1G, 2A), too. It’s not easy to push too much optimism about Mikko Rantanen being injured, but if Vladislav Namestnikov (1G, 1A) can fit in with MacKinnon like he once did with Nikita Kucherov in Tampa Bay, the Avs might be onto something. J.T. Compher also collected two assists, including on Joonas Donskoi‘s game-winner.

To some surprise, the Avalanche have enjoyed strong goaltending this season, even as Philipp Grubauer is on the mend. In Sunday’s case, Pavel Francouz merely needed to survive, getting the win while making 22 out of 25 saves.

If you need to sprinkle in some dopey humor into your Sunday night/Monday, consider that Joe Thornton reached the often unspoken milestone of 420 goals in this loss. The puns, they’ll probably be a little hazy.

Those who observe the Avalanche being powered by the usual suspects may believe that the team hasn’t come that far in 2019-20. On the contrary, they’ve shown quite well in rolling with various punches, and could be quite impressive if Rantanen can return close to full speed.

But, yes, make no mistake about it: MacKinnon is still the high-horsepower engine that still runs this team, and few moments in hockey are as exciting as when he’s in the driver’s seat.

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.

Blues sweep season series vs. Blackhawks for first time

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For the first time in franchise history, the Blues managed a sweep of their season series against the Blackhawks.

In Sunday’s case, the Blues beat the Blackhawks 2-0 on Sunday to complete that sweep. Jake Allen made all 29 saves, earning his second shutout of 2019-20 and the 21st of his career. Allen already came into Sunday with a quietly strong season, considering a .925 save percentage that improved that much more.

Following this post about the Blues’ underrated defense, blueliners provided both of St. Louis’ goals. They were both from the same angle, more or less, as Robert Bortuzzo and Alex Pietrangelo beat Corey Crawford. Here’s the game-winner (click here for Pietrangelo’s goal):

Winning this game improves the Blues’ chances of holding off the Avalanche for the Central Division crown. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks’ hopes look dimmer and dimmer.

Blues – Blackhawks broadcast features first all-female crew

Kate Scott and A.J. Mleczko called the action on Sunday, while Kendall Coyne-Schofield provided analysis between the benches “Inside the Glass.” Meanwhile, producer Rene Hatlelid and director Lisa Seltzer handled game production.

[PHT Q&A with Kate Scott]

This served as a first-of-its-kind broadcast, which fell on International Women’s Day. Coverage also included features and other coverage involving NBC’s “On Her Turf” brand.

Scott Mleczko Blues Blackhawks
Kate Scott (L) and A.J. Mleczko (R) (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

In a Q&A with PHT, Scott spoke of how she hopes the broadcast inspires others.

“I’m hoping that they take away that they can do this. That calling a game, analyzing a game, directing a game, producing a game, shooting a game, I’m hoping that they turn off the television on Sunday night thinking, ‘Wow, that was never something I thought I could do before, but I think I can do that.’ That’s one of the reasons, in my opinion, that we are still seeing such slow growth when it comes to women calling and analyzing sports because it starts when you’re a kid,” Scott said. “You go to most of the college radio and television stations around the country and they’re still predominantly male because you’ve got to see somebody doing what you want to do when you’re a kid and have that seed planted early on to be able to go and then learn the skills early enough in life to then be prepared to call moments and games like Sunday.”

From here, it looked (and sounded) like a great success, and hopefully represents merely another step toward greater progress.

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.

Blues’ eight-game winning streak ends vs. Devils

Blues see eight-game winning streak end vs. Devils
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The Blues saw their eight-game winning streak end in an unlikely place: New Jersey. St. Louis saw its run close out after the Devils beat them 4-2 on Friday.

Takeaways after Blues see their eight-game winning streak end vs. Devils

  • Sometimes the unlikely happens. Sometimes that includes unlikely successes from players with unlikely names. Dakota Mermis, an undrafted 26-year-old defenseman, scored his first NHL goal in New Jersey’s upset win. In doing so, he proved that he doesn’t just exist in the rough draft in a Hollywood script. (I’m thinking “rushed sequel to Point Break.”)
  • Jesper Bratt made a pretty sound argument that he likely deserves more ice time.
  • I mean, unless … you know, the Devils actually want to lose more often.

On that note, they might want to ponder some contrived ways to keep Cory Schneider on the bench and in a baseball cap more often.

Schneider began the 2019-20 season on the trajectory that’s become all-too-uncomfortably-familiar lately: as someone who might not be an NHL goalie, let alone a $6M one. He was 0-6-1 with a hideous .852 save percentage through Jan. 18.

Lately, Schneider’s looked like a new goalie, though. He’s now 3-0-1 over his last four starts, stopping 31 out of 33 shots against the Blues. At this rate, the Devils might heat up enough to see their draft lottery odds sink below those of the slipping Sabres.

(Also, Schneider nabbed an assist on that Mermis goal. Strange game, indeed.)

Blessing or curse for New Jersey to heat up?

Seeing the end of an eight-game winning streak leaves the Blues with precious little room to breathe against the Avalanche for the top spot in the Central. St. Louis only holds a two-point edge (90 to 88), while Colorao has one game in hand after also losing on Friday (67 games played vs. 68 for the Blues).

  • Circling back to that earlier draft lottery point, the Devils are also 6-2-2 over their last 10 games.

Inevitable(?) Taylor Hall joke: does Hall’s draft lottery luck count when he’s no longer playing for a team, but the pick involved was related to a Hall trade? Asking for a rather Coyote-like friend.

  • Either way, the Devils’ relative competence will inspire another round of existential debates about tanking.

Should the Devils be happy to grab some wins while closing out a disappointing season? Is this round of too little too late also going to be self-destructive?

Maybe Schneider isn’t the goalie you want to drive that tank. Consider that, in 2018-19, he was terrible before the All-Star break (strangely, the same .852 save percentage in the same number of games [9] as this latest pre-All-Star run) and then caught fire after (.921 save percentage during his last 17 games of 2018-19).

It’s too small of a sample size to say anything for sure, but maybe the Devils and/or Schneider linger as upset threats? They certainly did so on Friday, as the Blues saw their eight-game winning streak come to an end.

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.

Memorable All-Star Game moments abound as Pacific dominates Central

The Central Division couldn’t provide a crowd-pleasing victory, but that second game should leave hockey fans with fun memories. It also sets the stage for a fascinating All-Star Game final featuring a Battle of the Tkachuks. Ultimately, the Pacific advanced by dominating the Central 10-5.

Memorable All-Star moments

Leon Draisaitl said he’d just try to get off the ice if he shared surface with nemesis Matthew Tkachuk as a teammate. Draisaitl had to make himself scarce after Tkachuk set him up with a nice feed for a goal, then:

Rivalries don’t just add spice to the All-Star Game for players. Fans sometimes enjoy awkward-funny moments, too. It doesn’t get much better than St. Louis fans cheering for Patrick Kane helping the Central, then realizing it was Kane and resuming their boos:

Blues fans experiencing mixed Kane feelings stands as one of those things you’ll remember years from now. Even if it means feeling icky.

Pacific cruises against Central

This game featured a lot of energy, but it was one-sided.

Tomas Hertl enjoyed maybe the best performance of the first round of ASG contests. He scored four goals, shaking off that Bieber blunder. Just about all of his goals were pretty.

That said, David Rittich is in the running. He played a big role in the game being so lopsided, as Rittich stopped nine out of 10 shots. Much has been made about Rittich enjoying himself this weekend, and he performed well too.

Matthew Tkachuk had a good game (2G, 2A) alongside frenemy Draisaitl (3G, 1A). Unlike in the earlier game, the Pacific got to such a high goal total without empty-netters.

Kane probably had the best game of any Central players with two goals. Roman Josi (2A) was in the running, too, as were Mark Scheifele and Tyler Seguin (both with 1G, 1A).

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.