Blues’ white-hot run matches history with 10th straight win

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Who amongst you is going to stand up and beat the St. Louis Blues?

*crickets*

At the moment, no one can stop the mighty Blues, who seem to score all the goals these days and let few, if any, by them. And it’s a run that has now matched a franchise record for wins in a row with 10 — a mark they set 17 years ago in 2002 — after a 4-0 win against the Minnesota Wild on Hockey Day In America.

The success is startling.

The Blues were 31st — dead last — on Jan. 3. Now, they’re third in the Central Division with 67 points, four points clear of the Dallas Stars and six points back of the second-place Nashville Predators with three games in hand on their division rivals.

And there are no signs of slowing. Like, zero.

The Blues came into Sunday having shutout the Colorado Avalanche 24 hours earlier with Jake Allen between the pipes. Two days before that, Jordan Binnington, a rookie sensation who has now won eight straight starts (a record for the longest winning streak by a Blues goalie), posted a 21-save shutout against the Arizona Coyotes.

Binnington to stopped all 30 shots he faced in the game for his fourth shutout of the season, and third straight game where the team has shutout the opposition.

Consider this: Binnington didn’t start his first game this season until Jan. 7 — ironically a shutout performance.

He’s now 12-1-1 in 15 appearances and has a save percentage north of .930.

As good as it’s going in the crease, it’s going just as well 200-feet yonder.

Vladimir Tarasenko has erased all memories of his slump earlier in the year and now has points in 12-straight, a career-long points streak that has seen 11 goals and 11 assists now after a three-point performance in Sunday’s win over the Wild.

The Wild, meanwhile, looked flat and disinterested.

Earlier this week, coach Bruce Boudreau promised, defiantly, that his squad would make it into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. At this point, that appears to be wishful thinking in Minnesota.

Two nights after they blew a 4-1 lead to lose 5-4 in overtime to the lowly New Jersey Devils, the Wild put up their latest dud.

The Wild are still (barely) holding on to the second and final wildcard spot in the Western Conference, but they have several teams hot on their heels. The loss of Mikko Koivu has proved detrimental to their cause, and neither of their goalies is doing much to help out their sputtering offense.

NBC Sports is celebrating Hockey Day in America with an NHL Sunday tripleheader on NBC and NBCSN, as well as a collection of stories and features which explore hockey’s impact and influence across the U.S.

Remaining NBC Hockey Day in America schedule:
Philadelphia at Detroit – NBCSN –  6 p.m. ET (Watch live)


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

Tarasenko hat trick leads Blues to season-high sixth straight win

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Every lengthy winning streak has a special performance or two that contributes to its extension. Vladimir Tarasenko provided just that on Sunday afternoon.

Tarasenko’s hat trick was highlighted by an overtime winner just 16 seconds into the extra frame, this after helping the Blues open up a 2-0 lead in the second period and then putting St. Louis up 4-3 in the third after they blew a 3-1 lead after two periods.

The win, a 5-4 final result, was St. Louis’ sixth straight win — a season-high — and their second straight against the Nashville Predators, whom they triumphed over 3-2 on Saturday in the first game of their weekend home-and-home series.

At one point, not long ago, the Blues were the floor mat in the Western Conference. That’s remarkable, given they’re now one of the hottest teams in the NHL and sitting pretty in a playoff spot.

The Blues look refreshed these days, a team motivated to turn around a season that once looked lost. The coaching change from Mike Yeo to Craig Berube didn’t begin well, but it’s paid off over the course of the past few weeks and, combined with the log jam of lackluster teams in the Western Conference, the Blues have begun to distance themselves with great goaltending and equally as good team play.

And that’s why the Blues have strung together six wins in a row.

Sunday’s game wasn’t without its drama. The Blues watched as Roman Josi and Viktor Arvidsson, who finished with two goals in the game, wiped out their two-goal advantage in the third. After Tarasenko’s goal, Filip Forsberg put on an individual clinic to tie the game right back 4-4.

Jake Allen got his first start since Jan. 17 and looked solid through two periods. Some gaffes defensively allowed the Predators back into the game, but Allen made 40 saves in the end to grab the win.

The net is firmly Jordan Binnington‘s these days given his impressive run, but the Blues will need Allen to play — and play well — down the stretch.

The Predators, meanwhile, aren’t in trouble despite dropping both weekend games to the Blues. The point they picked up help put them level with the Winnipeg Jets on 71 points for top spot in the Central Divison, but they’ve missed an opportunity to regain top spot in the Central Division.

The Jets (who are in Buffalo Sunday) have lost two straight and have two games in hand on the Preds. A couple of different results against the Blues would have erased a big chunk of that advantage.

The Blues moved into the first wildcard, leapfrogging the Minnesota Wild with both teams level on 59 points. The Blues get some breathing room, with a two-point advantage over the Vancouver Canucks, who are on 57 points but have played two more games.


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

WATCH LIVE: Blues, Predators finish home-and-home on NBC

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Predators host the Blues at Bridgestone Arena less than 24 hours after the two clubs met at Enterprise Center in St. Louis, where the Blues prevailed 3-2. Ryan Johansen gave Nashville some life by scoring with just over a minute to play in regulation moments after St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz missed an empty net. But the Blues managed to close things out to continue their hot streak. Rookie Mackenzie MacEachern’s second goal of the season stood up as the game-winner.

Once left for dead in last place in the NHL as recently as the morning of Jan. 3, the Blues are now one of the hottest teams in the NHL, riding a season-high five-game winning streak. They enter today in the second wild card spot in the Western Conference and just four points behind the Dallas Stars for third in the Central.

In the expansion era, only six teams have made the playoffs after occupying last place in the League after their 20th game of the season: the 1976-77 North Stars, 1979-80 Oilers, 1982-83 Maple Leafs, 1987-88 Kings, 1987-88 Maple Leafs and 1996-97 Senators.

Johansen has been red hot of late for the Predators with 12 points (3G, 9A) in the last 11 games. He also on pace for 69 points this season, which would be his highest point total as a Predator (his career-best was 71 points in 2014-15 with Columbus).

Nashville made two moves this week, acquiring Brian Boyle from the Devils for a second-round pick and Cody McLeod from the Rangers for a seventh-round pick. Both seem to be moves of foresight for the playoffs, as the Predators appear to be on a collision course with the physical Winnipeg Jets for the second straight year.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET – NBC]

What: St. Louis Blues at Nashville Predators
Where: Bridgestone Arena
When: Sunday, Feb. 10, 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
Live stream: You can watch the Blues-Predators stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLUES
Brayden Schenn – Ryan O’Reilly – Vladimir Tarasenko
Jaden Schwartz – Tyler BozakAlex Steen
Zach SanfordOskar SundqvistPatrick Maroon
MacKenzie MacEachern – Ivan BarbashevRobert Thomas

Joel EdmundsonAlex Pietrangelo
Jay BouwmeesterColton Parayko
Vince DunnRobert Bortuzzo

Starting goalie: Jake Allen

PREDATORS
Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin FialaNick BoninoCraig Smith
Colton SissonsKyle TurrisCalle Jarnkrok
Cody McLeod – Brian Boyle – Ryan Hartman

Roman JosiRyan Ellis
Mattias EkholmP.K. Subban
Dan HamhuisMatt Irwin

Starting goalie: Juuse Saros

John Forslund (play-by-play), Joe Micheletti (analyst) and McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass analyst) will have the call from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. McHugh, Milbury and Jones will anchor studio coverage.

NHL on NBC: Predators look to get back on track vs. Blues

NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Predators have a comfortable cushion ahead of the teams below them in the Central Division as they chase the Winnipeg Jets for the top spot, but losses like they had on Saturday could catch up to them if they don’t quickly get back on course.

Having won five of their last seven, they don’t have to worry about the hard-charging Blues yet being 13 points ahead of their Sunday opponents and nine points up on the Dallas Stars, who sit in the third place in the division with two games in-hand. But with St. Louis on a roll, evening out their weekend home-and-home series following the Blues’ 3-2 win on Saturday will help them leapfrog Winnipeg should the Jets fail to get a win in Buffalo.

“Not good,” said Predators head coach Peter Laviolette after Saturday’s loss. “They were faster. We didn’t play the game fast enough, didn’t have enough attitude in the game, and not enough guys on the rope either. It just wasn’t good; wasn’t a good day.” 

St. Louis jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes and added a third midway through the second period.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET – NBC]

“The effort in the first two periods was not good enough,” said defenseman Mattias Ekholm said. “They were dicating the play, they were all over us. [Sunday], we need more like we played in the third. I thought we stepped it up a little bit and we were more on the attack. We were skating harder, we were more physical, and that’s something that we need to do more [Sunday].”

Nashville won’t have much time to sit and stew about their effort with Sunday’s 12:30 p.m. ET matinee. They likely won’t be facing red-hot Jordan Binnington, so that’s a bonus for their chances, and they’re already eager to exact some revenge.

“Pekka kept us in that game, but our first 40 minutes were just not good enough,” said Predators forward Ryan Johansen. “The good thing is we are right back at it [Sunday] against the same team, and the work we brought in the third period is what we need tomorrow for the whole game.”

John Forslund (play-by-play), Joe Micheletti (analyst) and McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass analyst) will have the call from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. McHugh, Milbury and Jones will anchor studio coverage.

WATCH LIVE: Bruins take on Capitals

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Washington has won 14 straight games against Boston. That represents four straight season sweeps (this game would make five), with the Bruins’ last win over the Capitals coming on March 29, 2014. Braden Holtby has been in net for 12 of the wins during the current streak, and is 16-2-0 in his regular season career vs. the B’s.

Without Alex Ovechkin (served 1-game suspension for skipping All-Star Game), the Capitals came up with a much-needed win on Friday, defeating the West-leading Flames 4-3 to snap their seven-game losing streak. It was their first win since beating Boston on Jan. 10.

On Thursday, the Bruins surrendered 1-0 and 2-1 leads before losing to the Flyers 3-2 in overtime. Boston has now lost both of its games since the All-Star break, three in a row, and five of its last six overall (1-2-3 record). Head coach Bruce Cassidy was critical of his defensive group, and his captain in particular, after the most recent defeat:

“Listen, he’s the captain of the hockey club. He won a Stanley Cup here by being a defensive stalwart, one of the best penalty killers in the league, so yes, he’s part of that group, and the biggest part of it. He’s a terrific leader. The next game, he [needs to] understand what makes us successful. We’ll have a conversation about it. But he is the leader back there. [Chara has] got to get Charlie [McAvoy] to buy in, got to get [Brandon] Carlo, he has, and that has to continue. Kevan Miller, I put him in that group too. They have to lead back there and understand what it takes to be successful right now for us. Right now for us [that] is team defense.”

This will be the 999th game of Patrice Bergeron’s career. Number 1,000 will come on Tuesday at home against the Islanders. At age 33, the four-time Selke Trophy winner is having the best offensive season of his career, averaging 1.26 points/game (44 points in 35 games). If Bergeron stays healthy (already missed 16 game so far), he could top his career high of 73 points, set in 2005-06 at age 20.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET – NBC]

What: Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals
Where: Capital One Arena
When: Sunday, Feb. 3, 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
Live stream: You can watch the Bruins-Capitals stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Peter Cehlarik – David KrejciJake DeBrusk
Joakim Nordstrom – Trent Frederic – David Backes
Sean KuralyNoel AcciariChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Kevan Miller

Starting goalie: Tuukka Rask

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas BackstromT.J. Oshie
Jakub VranaEvgeny KuznetsovTom Wilson
Dmitrij JaskinTravis BoydBrett Connolly
Andre BurakovskyChandler StephensonDevante Smith-Pelly

Michal KempnyJohn Carlson
Dmitry OrlovMatt Niskanen
Brooks OrpikJonas Siegenthaler

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

John Forslund, Mike Milbury, and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass analyst) will have the call from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Kathryn Tappen will host studio coverage alongside Eddie Olczyk and Keith Jones.