The Wraparound

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The Wraparound: Blues looking to seize opportunity, close out storybook season

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

The opportunity is there.

To lift the Stanley Cup in front of their hometown fans. To win the team’s first championship in their 51st NHL season. To go from the bottom of the NHL in January to the summit of the hockey world in June.

The storylines are seemingly endless. The only thing left for the St. Louis Blues is to end it.

And they’ll have that chance in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final vs. the Boston Bruins at Enterprise Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC; live stream).

“I try to as much as possible,” Ryan O'Reilly said of not envisioning holding old Stanley above his head. “I try to occupy myself with other things. Obviously, as a kid, it’s what you’ve been dreaming of. Every time you lace them up it’s the ultimate goal. It creeps in so often but it’s one of those things you have to shut down, see it for what it is and know you have to stay in the present and the process.

“It’s nice to be home and hang with my son and do other things to take my mind away from the game. But I love this position we’re in. We have a great opportunity here and if we do things the right way, we can do this.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Blues have seemingly done things “the right way” since they got curb-stomped 7-2 in Game 3. Since then, they’ve neutralized Boston’s vaunted power play and they’ve neutered the Bruins in 5-on-5 situations.

The Blues are 7-1 in Games 5-7 in these playoffs, including a perfect 3-0 record when handed the chance to close out a series.

“It’s a good spot we’re in, a spot we want to be in,” Colton Parayko said. “It’s exciting, obviously, for our group. We’ve just got to make sure that we come prepared and I think that we’ve done a good job of being prepared and making sure we go over our notes and our video. When we do that, we can be confident and we can feel good. Just making sure I think preparation is the biggest thing for us and that’ll try to obviously take away a lot of the nerves and stuff like that.”

Nerves are good, as Alex Pietrangelo explained to the media on Saturday.

“Means you care,” the Blues captain said.

Still, the Stanley Cup will be in the building, looming large over a game where the stakes couldn’t be higher — for either team.

I don’t think our group, if you talked to most of the guys, have strayed away from their mindset,” Pietrangelo said. “We’ve just been preparing the same way. [Cup] in the building or not, we know what’s at stake. We just have to go and play, got to win a hockey game.”

Do that, and St. Louis will be hosting America’s biggest party in the streets of the Gateway to the West in a few hours time.

MORE BLUES – BRUINS COVERAGE:

Pucks tell the story of Blues’ rollercoaster season
• Bruins’ Chara was more than just brave in Game 5
• Chara, Dunn join jaw-dropping club of playing through pain
• Bruins, Blues in familiar places heading into Game 6


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

The Wraparound: Bruins need more, especially from second line

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

With a few exceptions, namely Tuukka Rask, Sean Kuraly and Charlie Coyle, the Boston Bruins could use a lot more from some of their biggest names heading into a pivot Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC; live stream).

Rask has seen a pile of shots again. Coyle has scored in three straight games and is now tied for the team lead in goals with Patrice Bergeron at nine. And Kuraly? Well, he’s a welcomed addition to a fourth line, if we’re being fair, that’s been as solid as they come in the playoffs.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

As hockey is a team game and it’s often the sum of the parts that get the job done, the Bruins need better from some of their best.

We’ll start on the second line with Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and David Backes.

The line has been a bit of a ghost so far in this series with no goals thus far. DeBrusk has two points in the series – his only points in the last 6 games – while Krejci (four games) and Backes (six games) are both on point droughts.

“We got to sit down with them, obviously,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “They got to change the way they’re playing. It hasn’t worked so far to generate offense… We’re going to have to revisit it, sell some different ideas of how they can generate offense.”

The top line Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, meanwhile, need another dominant game, the type where they’re unstoppable and the Bruins are, thus, unbeatable.

We saw some of that in Game 3, where they combined for five points. It’d be better to see it 5-on-5, however. Game 3 sort of skews all the numbers given the lethality of their power play in that one.

A game where they produce in the seven to 10 point range as a line would be a welcomed sight for Boston fans.

The good news for Boston is they get to play Game 5 (and 7, if it’s needed) at TD Garden, where they’ve won seven of 11 in these playoffs.

NHL PR has a couple of stats regarding the Bruins and playing at home.

  • “The Perfection Line” of Bergeron (4-2—6),  Marchand (3-6—9) and Pastrnak (3-4—7) have accounted for more than one-quarter of Boston’s tallies through 11 home games this postseason (10 of 37; 27.0%).
  • Four Boston players are averaging at least one point per game following a loss this postseason: Marchand (4-6—10 in 6 GP), Pastrnak (4-4—8 in 6 GP), Bergeron (4-4—8 in 6 GP) and Torey Krug (2-6—8 in 6 GP).

Another good omen is Tuukka Rask’s ability to bounce back in these playoffs.

Like Jordan Binnington 200 feet the other way, Rask ups the ante following a loss. He’s 5-1 with a 2.01 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage in the game after a loss.

A couple of adjustments might just prevent one team from winning two straight for the first time in this series.

MORE BLUES-BRUINS:


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 @scottbilleckW

The Wraparound: Cassidy kept Bruins ‘on their toes’ during long layoff

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

We finally have some hockey to watch.

After a five-day break, the Stanley Cup Final is set to begin tonight in Boston (8 p.m. ET; NBC; live stream). If you thought five days between games was long, imagine how the Boston Bruins are feeling heading into Game 1. They eliminated the Carolina Hurricanes 10 days ago, which gave them more than enough time to get some added rest. But how much rest is too much rest at this time of year?

Over the last six years, the team with the longer layoff heading into the Stanley Cup Final has lost every time. That’s probably a stat the Bruins were aware of as soon as the Eastern Conference Final ended. So Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy decided to reach out to all the other teams in the city to get their perspective on how to approach a final after a long break.

“Listen, I’m going to keep that inhouse, but I spoke to both the football team and the baseball team, and I’ve had conversations with the basketball team, so I’ll let you figure it out from there … I don’t want to get into all our conversations, because that’s private,” Cassidy said. “But they’ve been very good to share whatever they can, very supportive. It’s been great for me.

“Listen, we practice differently than a football team. They’re typically used to having a week off [and] long stretches. They have that long window of preparation. For us it’s a little different. But at the end of the day, there’s a mental side of it I think is important. How to keep players on their toes and don’t let their mind drift and get their focus back. So I think that was more the discussion than anything. Even some ex-players in town, players that played in the Stanley Cup playoffs that had some time off. How did they react?”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

One thing the Bruins have going for them, is that they have a bunch of players with Stanley Cup Final experience. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Tuukka Rask have all been there before, so there shouldn’t be any surprises for them. That should definitely help calm the room down heading into Game 1. And they also held a scrimmage at TD Garden during their time off.

Whenever a new series begins, there always seems to be a feeling out process between the two teams. It’s rare to see a team come out of the gates flying to open series. It happens, but it doesn’t seem to occur very often.

Will the Bruins look rusty? Probably. The question is, how long will they look rusty for?

STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW
Who has the better forwards?
Who has the better defensemen?
Who has the better goaltending?
Who has the better special teams?
X-factors for Blues, Bruins
PHT Power Rankings: Conn Smythe favorites
How the Blues were built
How the Bruins were built
Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

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.

The Wraparound: Sharks in familiar waters ahead of Game 6 vs. Blues

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

The San Jose Sharks have been here before.

In Round 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Sharks faced elimination in three straight games after falling behind 3-1 in that series. They rallied, of course, including a 2-1 overtime win in Game 6 in hostile territory at T-Mobile Arena.

“We’re still alive,” said playoff leading scorer Logan Couture. “We’ve been in this spot before, going to Vegas down 3-2 in a very difficult building. St. Louis is similar, it’s a tough building against a good team. A structured team. We scored one goal in the last two games, that’s not going to cut it. We’re not doing enough around their net or creating enough opportunities on second chances.”

It may sound a tad odd, but the Sharks may have the Blues exactly where they want them ahead of a pivotal Game 6 matchup on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; live stream).

San Jose is a dreadful 0-6 when leading a series this postseason but is 10-3 when trailing or tied, including a perfect 4-0 record when facing elimination. We probably shouldn’t get this twisted — the Sharks tempting their own demise isn’t exactly ideal. But if anyone thinks the Sharks are dead in the water, their record speaks for itself.

And if you’re the superstitious-type, the Sharks lost 5-0 to the Golden Knights in Game 4 of Round 1 to be put on the verge golf-course duty and then never lost again in that series.

“We’ve been here before,” Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said. “Had to go on the road and win in Vegas in order to get to a Game 7. You’re never comfortable when your back’s against the wall like that, but we have been here before and found a way and I’m confident we can do that again.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

To “do that again” the Sharks will have to overcome their 3-5 record on the road in the postseason (St. Louis is 4-5 at home, conversely). More importantly, however, they may have to do it with some of their best stuck in the infirmary.

Erik Karlsson did what he could in Game 5, but could only play 10:32 with a groin injury that he aggravated in Game 4. With the way Game 5 went, and with the type of injury Karlsson has, resting him was the right choice but it’s still to be determined whether EK65 can do much — or anything — in Game 6.

Tomas Hertl took a hit to the head from Ivan Barbashev in the first period of Game 5 — one that went uncalled — and missed the entirety of the third period. His status, too, is up in the air.

And then there’s captain Joe Pavelski, who was hit by Alex Pietrangelo in the later stages of the third and he, too, left the game.

DeBoer offered no updates on the status of three of his best players on Monday, and we may not really know the status of the trio until pre-game line rushes.

Martin Jones didn’t have his best game last time out but has been a rock when the Sharks have faced elimination.

  • Round 1 Game 5: 30 saves on 32 shots
  • Round 1 Game 6: 58 saves on 59 shots
  • Round 1 Game 7: 34 saves on 38 shots
  • Round 2 Game 7: 27 saves on 29 shots

This all adds up to a 4-0 record with a 1.87 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage when the pressure is on.MORE: Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info


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

The Wraparound: Sharks step up to the plate in back-and-forth series

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

In a series where a loss has been met by a response from the team that most recently fell, it’s the San Jose Sharks turn to answer the bell.

The Sharks had their chance to put the St. Louis Blues on the ropes in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final, but as has been the case throughout this series, winning two straight hasn’t come easy and the Blues prevailed to make this series a best-of-three.

Game 5 goes Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. ET; NBC; live stream).

“Maybe the best I’ve felt about our game in the series so far, even though we lost. We put two goals in our own net off our own guys. Didn’t get the start we wanted, got on our heels the first shift, took a couple penalties … then not finding a way to get a couple more goals. I thought we did a lot of good stuff.”

The Sharks managed 73 shot attempts in the game, more than doubling the Blues output in that regard.

San Jose’s issue? Jordan Binnington. The rookie netminder stopped 29 en route to his 10th playoff win. And men flailing themselves in front of oncoming rubber: the Blues blocked 21 shots in the game. And then misfiring, given the number of shot attempts that never turned into bona fide shots: 22.

“We were trying to keep them to the outside as much as they can,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “We don’t want those guys up top shooting too. We were trying to limit the rebounds and second opportunities. I thought we did a good job of pushing their guys out.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Sharks are 0-6 in this postseason when leading a series, a number that hardly screams, “clutch.” What they are good at is finding wins when series are tied. They’re 10-2 when trailing or tied in a series, including winning two Game 7s along their journey to the penultimate round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

San Jose lost for the first time when allowed two goals or fewer in a game. Not in the playoffs, but all season. They entered Game 4 with a 39-0-0 record and left with their first blemish.

The Sharks, then, need to find some killer instinct if they’re going to advance to the Final. Martin Jones has given them a chance between the pipes, but he needs a few to start reciprocating.

Tomas Hertl, for instance, doesn’t have a point 5-on-5 in this series. Ditto for Joe Pavelski and likewise for Evander Kane. Kane doesn’t have a goal in his past nine games.

Those 73 shot attempts are encouraging, but they’re meaningless if you manage just a single goal. In wins, the Sharks have managed to score 11 goals in this series across both games. In losses? Just three.

The Blues have embraced the grind from the beginning. The Sharks need to figure out how to match it.

And they may have to go at it without defenseman Erik Karlsson.

Winners of Game 5 when a series is deadlocked 2-2 go on to win 70.3 percent of the time.

There’s no shortage of motivation for either team today.

MORE:
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
PHT Conference Finals predictions


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