The Buzzer

Stanley Cup Buzzer: Binnington wins it all for Blues

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  • 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.

Stanley Cup Buzzer: Bruins, Blues are going to Game 7

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  • Don’t blame it on the jinx. Superstitions didn’t stump St. Louis; instead, it was superlative play from Tuukka Rask. He shut down the Blues while they really carried the play through the first 40 minutes of Game 6, and then the Bruins blew open what had been just a 1-0 game heading into the third period. Prepare for the agony and ecstasy of a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final, hockey fans.

Boston Bruins 5, St. Louis Blues 1 (Series tied 3-3; Game 7 airs at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday [NBC; stream here])

This one was a lot closer than it indicated, and not just because Zdeno Chara scored an empty-netter for Boston. While Jordan Binnington was the star of Game 5 for St. Louis, Rask stole one (or at least two-thirds of this one) for Boston, and the Bruins ran away with the final frame to sap any drama from the latter stages of Sunday’s contest. Really, if you step back and look at the series, it only seems fitting that this one is going the distance.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

1. Tuukka Rask

Even the one goal Rask allowed tells part of the story of his Game 6, as it initially looked like he made the save, by Ryan O'Reilly‘s attempt barely went over the red line.

Really, the Blues didn’t deserve to be shut out, not that goose eggs only happen by merit. They put forth a ferocious effort, although their special teams let them down at key times. Rask made 28 out of 29 saves in this one, although there was one close call that will really leave you scratching your head.

It’s tough to make a definitive argument for a specific Blues player to win the Conn Smythe, if they get it, as it’s been a team effort. The Bruins have enjoyed some nice performances from plenty of other cast members, but if a Boston player gets it, it’s going to Rask. He’s been dynamite.

[More on Rask’s big Game 6 performance.]

2. Brad Marchand

Consider this a collective award for “The Perfection Line.” Even with Patrice Bergeron failing to generate a point in Game 6, his effort was considerable, including six shots on goal.

It’s really a jump ball between Marchand and David Pastrnak, though, as both forwards ended Game 6 with a goal and an assist. For my money, Marchand’s goal was the most crucial of the contest. The Blues were really pouring it on, and the Bruins couldn’t squander a 5-on-3 power play opportunity. They didn’t, thanks to some great puck movement, and a nice finish by Marchand. That 1-0 goal wouldn’t serve as the game-winner, but Boston really needed it.

Marchand assisted on Pastrnak’s pretty 4-1 goal, which was a nice display of skill and poise, while throwing a bucket of ice water on any semblance of resistance after ROR shrunk Boston’s lead to a more tenable 3-1.

3. Charlie McAvoy

The second star basically went to two forwards, while the third goes to the overall Bruins’ defensive effort, personified most boldly by McAvoy.

Now, you could make an argument for Jake DeBrusk and the Bruins’ second line, as they made a difference in Game 6, with DeBrusk shining when things were tight. Other Bruins defensemen could jockey for the third billing; Chara scored that empty-netter and showed courage once again, while Brandon Carlo‘s bouncer was the GWG.

And, yes, a very cursory glance at McAvoy’s stats (zero points, what could have been a problematic penalty against Vladimir Tarasenko) wouldn’t impress.

If you dig deeper, you’ll realize how crucial McAvoy was. McAvoy really tilted the ice in his favor during his 25:22 TOI, including almost 21 minutes of tough five-on-five play. He was on the right end of the possession battle to an impressive extent; according to Natural Stat Trick, McAvoy was on the ice for 15 shots for and only six against at even-strength. McAvoy stands far above his other Bruins teammates in other, fancier measures, as well.

Oh yeah, and he also helped Rask keep that puck out – somehow – on that memorably batty play.

Hot take: the Bruins  better make sure they sign McAvoy, who’s a pending RFA.

Factoids

  • Being that the Blues had been swept in all of their previous Stanley Cup Final appearances, it’s redundant to say that this is new for them, and the Bruins have played in a Game 7 in a Stanley Cup Final. This is, however, new for Boston, as this is the first time the Bruins will host a Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final. Every other “Original Six” team has already hosted at least one Game 7 of a SCF.
  • Karson Kuhlman is the 21st different Bruins player to score at least one goal during this run. The Bruins have tied the 1987 Philadelphia Flyers for the record for most unique scorers during a single postseason. Clearly, Tuukka Rask needs to break the tie. (Sportsnet points out John Moore as a more realistic, less entertaining option.)
  • Speaking of Rask, Sportsnet notes that he has an absurd .966 save percentage on the road during his last seven road playoff games.
  • Torey Krug has six points during this Round 4 series. Only one other Bruins defenseman has generated more points during a Stanley Cup Final series: Bobby Orr scored eight in 1972 and seven in 1974.
  • The Bruins are now 25-1 in playoff games when Brad Marchand scores a goal. His seven goals in Stanley Cup Final games (19 games played) ties Marchand for second all-time among Bruins, with Orr (eight goals in 16 GP) and Johnny Bucyk (eight goals in 24 GP) tied for first. Marchand is currently tied with Wayne Cashman, who generated seven goals in 26 games.

How to watch Game 7

Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday (stream here).

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.

Stanley Cup Buzzer: Blues’ big stars beat Bruins

St. Louis Blues 2, Boston Bruins 1 (Blues lead series 3-2; Game 6 on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET [airing on NBC; stream here])

Criticisms of officiating will steal the headlines, yet Jordan Binnington stole Game 5 for the Blues. Boston’s power play sputtered to an 0-for-3 success rate, and 39-21 shots on goal advantage wasn’t enough for the Bruins to win on Thursday. The often-dominant Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak haven’t been able to produce, and Pastrnak hasn’t always been with those two veterans lately, in part because of that sputtering production. Whether the Bruins get more whistles or not, they need better play to avoid falling painfully short against Binnington and the Blues.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

1. Jordan Binnington

While the Blues were able to slow down the Bruins’ chances on the rush aside from a hot first period, St. Louis otherwise relied on Binnington to stand tall once again. And, as usual, Binnington delivered; it was almost as if he was hypnotized into believing that he was coming off of a loss.

Binnington stopped 38 out of 39 of the Bruins’ shots on goal, and allowed the Blues to “turtle” a bit in Game 5. Consider the odd periods of this one, as Boston generated SOG edges of 17-8 in the first and 14-7 in the third (along with 8-6 in the second), but only Jake DeBrusk could score against Binnington.

At the risk of sounds like a broken record, Binnington just seems downright unflappable for the Blues.

2. Ryan O'Reilly

If Binnington isn’t the hottest player in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, then that title goes to Ryan O’Reilly.

ROR generated the first goal of Game 5, and then set up David Perron for that controversial game-winner, giving him two points for the second consecutive game. Overall, O’Reilly is now on a four-game point streak with three goals and three assists for six points during that span.

You might expect the Selke-worthy center to show up nicely in other categories, and O’Reilly did just that in Game 5. ROR went 19-9 on faceoffs, had a +2 rating, three SOG, and even blocked three shots on Thursday.

3. Alex Pietrangelo

Consider Pietrangelo and the Blues’ defense as the third star, really. In particular, Jay Bouwmeester also deserves credit for logging a ton of minutes while keeping his head above water, which is shocking for an aging veteran who found himself (understandably) healthy-scratched at times this season. Colton Parayko also deserves a lot of credit.

But Pietrangelo gets the slight edge if you can only choose one defenseman.

The 29-year-old grabbed an assist (though Zach Sanford‘s pass was the highlight, and primary assist) in Game 5. Pietrangelo also had a +2 rating, three SOG, one hit, and two blocked shot in 27:55 TOI.

Generally speaking, the Blues’ top players are delivering in a big way, and Pietrangelo shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle.

Factoids

  • Binnington’s 38 saves ties for the second-most by a rookie goalie in a Stanley Cup Final. The most is 40 saves, shared by Rogie Vachon (1967) and Ron Hextall (1987). Binnington’s 15 playoff wins ties him for the most for any rookie goalie, so if St. Louis wins the Stanley Cup, there’s a strong chance that Binnington stands alone there. (Sorry, Jake Allen … but we’ll see?)
  • Pietrangelo notched his 14th assist of this postseason. The Blues’ single-postseason record is 15, owned by Bernie Federko from 1982, so Pietrangelo has a chance to tie or break that mark.
  • The Blues’ nine road playoff wins ties them for second all-time. They currently have 30 road wins between the playoffs and regular season, which only ties them for the most in 2018-19, as the Tampa Bay Lightning managed that in the regular season. In case you needed a reminder of how great that Lightning team was through 82 games (sorry Tampa Bay fans).

How to watch Game 6

Game 6 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday (NBC; stream here).

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.

Stanley Cup Buzzer: O’Reilly makes difference for Blues

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  • The Bruins were hanging in there, managing a 2-2 tie through the first 40 minutes of Game 4, even though the Blues were carrying much of the play. Ryan O'Reilly had a big night, however, scoring two goals (including the game-winner) as St. Louis dug deep to tie the series 2-2.

St. Louis Blues 4, Boston Bruins 2 (Series tied 2-2; Game 5 airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday [stream here])

While Zdeno Chara‘s mouth injury was more about an extremely painful and unlucky bounce as anything else, Chara’s far from the only player who probably feels worse for wear after Game 4. This was a physical contest, with the Blues finding a way to assert themselves with an aggressive, swarming forecheck. Overall, St. Louis was credited with 44 hits. Yet, for all the attention paid to brawn, don’t forget finesse. The Blues’ top players came up bigger than the Bruins’ first line on Monday, and that played a big role in sending this series back to Boston as a best-of-three.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Ryan O’Reilly

ROR scored the opening goal of Game 4 just 43 seconds in, then generated the game-winner by jumping on a rebound in the third period.

After going without a point in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, O’Reilly now has a three-game point streak going, as he had an assist in each of Game 2 and 3 before generating those crucial two goals in Game 4. O’Reilly provided a dogged effort overall, firing five SOG as he factored into the Blues’ high-effort win.

The St. Louis crowd was loud all night, but it didn’t hurt that O’Reilly ranked among those who gave fans plenty to cheer about.

2. Alex Pietrangelo

Pietrangelo’s two assists were primary ones, and you didn’t have to squint hard to catch his contributions.

First, Pietrangelo made a nice move to gain a little extra time and space (not to mention get the Bruins at least a bit more off balance) to create a rebound for Vladimir Tarasenko‘s goal. Then, on Pietrangelo’s second assist, he fired a hard shot that Tuukka Rask couldn’t handle too well, with O’Reilly firing home the loose puck for the game-winner.

Pietrangelo finished Game 4 with five SOG, a +3 rating, and a robust 29:37 TOI. This continues to be a star-affirming playoff push for Pietrangelo.

3. Brayden Schenn

Rask absolutely deserves some consideration for three star status, although as strong as he was in Game 4, he’d also likely wonder if he could have avoided allowing such fat rebounds on the two goals Pietrangelo assisted on.

Schenn deserves some credit for his all-around play, and to me, takes a slight advantage. (Third star goes to the winner?)

Schenn scored a goal and an assist in Game 4, which should leave Wayne Gretzky happy. Schenn did more than just score, too, as he went 12-6 on faceoffs and delivered five hits. When the Blues’ top scorers are hot, St. Louis is very tough to beat, and that was certainly the case on Monday.

Factoids

  • This was the Blues’ first-ever home win in a Stanley Cup Final.
  • Jordan Binnington now has 14 wins (one behind the record for a rookie goalie), and improved to 7-2 after losses. Sportsnet notes the larger trend of Binnington bouncing back, which extends to the regular season.
  • Brandon Carlo is one of just four players to score their first playoff goal as a shorthanded tally in a Stanley Cup Final. This is mentioned mainly because one of the other players was named Bucko McDonald, who did so in 1936. Also on the list were Serge Savard (1968) and Bob Turner (1962) … but only one on the list was named Bucko.
  • Tarasenko scored his 11th goal of this run, moving him up some historic ranks as far as Blues snipers go.
  • St. Louis Blues history shares an odd one: the Blues are 4-0 in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs when they’ve allowed a shorthanded goal.
  • Sportsnet also notes that Patrice Bergeron now is at 103 career playoff points, breaking a tie with Phil Esposito for second all-time in Bruins history. Ray Bourque is far ahead for first place with a whopping 161 points.

MORE ON GAME 4

How to watch Game 5

Game 5 airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday (stream here).

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.

Stanley Cup Buzzer: Bruins blow out Blues in Game 3

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  • To some extent, Game 3 felt over minutes into the second period. After Sean Kuraly‘s 3-0 goal stood, David Pastrnak made it 4-0 on the resulting penalty from the Blues’ offside challenge. Even when the Blues showed a modicum of life in making it 4-1, Torey Krug‘s power-play tally made it 5-1 about a minute later. We may not see much garbage time in this series, but the third period felt mostly like that, although the Bruins still managed to score against Jake Allen after he replaced Jordan Binnington. Yeah, it was that kind of night for the Blues.

Boston Bruins 7, St. Louis Blues 2 (Boston leads SCF 2-1; Game 4 airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Monday (stream here).

The Bruins’ power play supremely overpowered the Blues in Game 3. Boston went 4-for-4 on the man advantage on Saturday, and all four of those goals were scored in the first minute of those opportunities. Pretty mind-boggling stuff, and it made for a tough – and short – night for Jordan Binnington. When you lose 7-2, one thing can’t explain your struggles, and that was true here. Boston also dominated at even-strength, and scored the first four goals of Game 3, making you wonder how much St. Louis’ modest successes came from the Bruins merely taking their feet off the gas a bit. It would be surprising if we see more blowouts in this series, although the Bruins are playing at a level that continued dominance isn’t out of the question.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Torey Krug

Krug might have topped his wild, helmet-less hit from Game 2 with his Game 3 performance, as he managed an impressive one-goal, three-assist night. Krug’s four points is the most in a single SCF game in Bruins history.

The defenseman’s four points topped all players in Game 3, as he continues to be one of the leading catalysts of Boston’s peerless power play. His 5-1 goal killed any sense of momentum for the Blues, while all three of Krug’s assists were primary ones. Krug logged 22:09 TOI with an output that slightly outpaced other players, such as a strong secondary choice:

2. Patrice Bergeron

Bergeron scored an important 1-0 goal for the Bruins, beginning a dominant night for Boston’s power play. He also added two assists (though both secondary), and after some attention was drawn to Game 2 issues like relative struggles on draws, Bergeron went 11-8 in the faceoff circle on Saturday.

If you want, you can look at the top two stars as a collective award for the Bruins’ deadly power play in Game 3.

3. Charlie Coyle/Marcus Johansson

It would be too easy for the Blues to chalk everything up to special teams.

While Johansson scored his goal (and Coyle collected his assist) on a victory lap power-play goal to make it 7-2, the Bruins’ deadline duo also combined for a very nice goal to make it 2-0. Johansson provided a great setup, while Coyle showed great timing and precision in scoring that goal. So, each forward ended Game 3 with a goal and an assist.

You could make a decent argument for Tuukka Rask (27 out of 29 saves), Joakim Nordstrom (two assists), and maybe some others. That’s the nature of a 7-2 whooping. Coyle-Johansson deserve a mention for their great work, both on Saturday, and in general.

Factoids

How to watch Game 4

Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Monday (stream here).

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.