Tyler Seguin

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Stanley Cup Final: Blues, Bruins built without luxury of top pick

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The St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins have a lot of people to thank for reaching the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, and both organizations can probably start with their scouting and player development staffs.

When looking at the construction of both rosters they share a common trait in how they were built.

That trait is that neither team has a player on their roster that they selected with one of the first three picks in the NHL draft. Not a single one. The highest pick that either team used on a player was the Blues’ selection of defender Alex Pietrangelo with the No. 4 overall pick all the way back in 2008.

Their next highest selection after him: 14th overall.

It is worth pointing out that the Blues did have the No. 1 overall pick in 2006 (13 years ago!), which they used to select defender Erik Johnson. But Johnson was traded after just three seasons with the team for a package of players that included Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart. Neither player from that trade remains on the roster today. If you wanted to follow the trade tree from there, Shattenkirk was eventually traded to the Capitals two years ago as a pending free agent for a collection of assets that included a first-round pick. The Blues then used that pick as part of a larger trade for Brayden Schenn.

But that is really digging deep and they had to give up a lot of other assets to get Schenn.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Bruins, meanwhile, do not have a single player anywhere on their roster that was selected higher than 14th in any draft.

They did select Tyler Seguin No. 2 overall in 2010 (after acquiring that pick as part of the Phil Kessel trade with Toronto Maple Leafs) but he was traded after the 2012-13 season and they literally have nothing remaining in their entire organization to show for that trade. Today, it is as if that trade never even happened.

This is all pretty unheard of in recent NHL history as each of the past 10 Stanley Cup winners has had at least one top-three pick (a pick that they used on the player) playing on their roster.

The most recent one that did not have such a player was the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings.

Here is a quick look at every Stanley Cup winner dating back to the 1994-95 season and how many of them had at least one top-three selection on their roster.

Not only do almost all of them have a top-three pick, those players were among the best, most important, and most valuable players on their rosters.

Couple of things worth noting on the teams that had “none.”

  • The 2006-07 Ducks did not have a top-three pick of their own, but they did eventually acquire the Hall of Fame defense pairing of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, both of whom were top-three picks.
  • The 1997-98, 1998-99, and 2001-02 Detroit Red Wings also had no top-three selections of their own (Steve Yzerman at No. 4 overall was their highest pick) but did have Brendan Shanahan who had previously been a No. 2 overall pick by the New Jersey Devils.

So even though those teams didn’t have the luxury of making such a pick themselves, they still had top-three pick talents on their roster. If the Blues end up winning this series they would fall into this category as they have defender Jay Bouwmeester (No. 3 overall pick by the Florida Panthers in 2002) on their roster.

The only teams during that stretch that won the Stanley Cup without having a single player that was ever selected that high were the aforementioned Red Wings team in 2008, as well as the 1995-96 and 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche teams.

There is a reason why bad teams, and especially fans of bad teams, want to finish near the bottom of the standings and desperately hope for some luck in the draft lottery. You need superstar players to win, and the best and easiest way to get a superstar player is to get them at the top of the draft. That is where you get the true franchise-changing players, and that is especially valuable in the salary cap era where you get them under team control for so many years and so cheaply and below market value in the first few years of their career.

It was a little easier to win without those high picks in the pre-cap era because teams could, in theory, do what Detroit and Colorado did and acquire pretty much anyone they wanted as long as they wanted to spend the money. It is a little tougher to assemble that much talent today from outside your organization.

The Bruins are an especially interesting case because, again, the only top-15 picks on their roster are Charlie McAvoy (No. 14 overall in 2016) and Jake DeBrusk (No. 14 overall in 2015). Some of their best players were selected far later than you would expect franchise players to be drafted. Patrice Bergeron was a second-round pick in 2003. David Krejci was a second-round pick in 2004. Brad Marchand was a third-round pick in 2006. David Pastrnak was picked No. 25 overall in 2014. They also do not have a single player on their roster that was selected higher than 14th by any other team. They simply have zero top picks on their roster.

This probably is not a model that is going to be easily duplicated by anyone else, because not every team is going to be fortunate enough to find that many draft steals in such a short period of time. But the Bruins (and Blues) have made it work and found a way to take a slightly different path to the Stanley Cup Final.

Blues-Bruins Game 2 is Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET from TD Garden on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.

MORE BRUINS-BLUES GAME 2:
• 
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• 
Three keys for Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final 
• 
Blues expect to be a lot better
• Unflappable Binnington won’t be affected by Stanley Cup spotlight

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Stars capitalize on crazy sequence for tying goal

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Heading into Game 7 on Tuesday night our friend James O’Brien wondered if Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn would start to get some bounces that he has probably been overdue for against the St. Louis Blues.

Well, it wasn’t Benn that got the bounce in the first period, but the Stars did get a little bit of puck luck to go their way when Mats Zuccarello scored his fourth goal of the playoffs late in the first period to tie the game at one.

It came after a wacky sequence of events that included the following:

  • Blues goalie Jordan Binnington losing his stick after he was run into by Tyler Seguin.
  • Blues defender Joel Edmundson tripping over the lost stick as he attempted to position himself to accept a pass around the boards from David Perron and falling to the ice.
  • Perron’s attempted pass hitting the referee, bouncing off the side of the net, and then going right to a wide open Zuccarello in front of the net to score the goal.

You can see the play in the video above.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

There was some thought that the Blues might challenge the goal, arguing that Seguin had interfered with Binnington by knocking his stick out of his hand and preventing him from playing his position. But enough time had passed between that incident and the shot itself that it would have been really difficult to see it being overturned.

The Blues opted not to challenge and saved their timeout.

Sometimes you need a little bit of luck to win, and this goal definitely qualifies as luck for the Stars.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Stars splitting up top trio to jumpstart offense vs. Blues

Jim Montgomery admitted on Tuesday that breaking up his top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov is something he contemplates every game.

It appears as if the Dallas Stars head coach is going to go through with that thought for Game 4 (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live stream) against the St. Louis Blues. During Wednesday’s morning skate, Seguin was centering Jason Dickinson and Mats Zuccarello, while Benn and Radulov were together with Roope Hintz in the middle.

With the Stars facing the prospect of a 3-1 deficit should they lose Game 4, Montgomery is trying to inject some life into an offense that has mustered five even strength goals through three games. Only one of those 5-on-5 goals have come from a member of that No. 1 line (Seguin). Benn and Radulov each have a power play goal in the series.

“Both lines haven’t been possessing the puck enough,” Montgomery said after Wednesday. “Let’s change up the lineup and see if we can generate more offense and more possession time.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Stars’ top trio have combined for 18 shots at even strength in the series, but they haven’t all been good chances, according to Montgomery, and it’s definitely not been enough in his eyes. According to Natural Stat Trick, in a little over 33 minutes of 5-on-5 play together, they’ve done well possession-wise (53.52% Corsi) but have yet to combine for a goal. Montgomery is hoping the split will lead to improved results across his lines.

Dallas has been down this road before having fallen behind 2-1 to the Nashville Predators in Round 1 before reeling off three consecutive wins to advance. The games don’t get any easier at this points, and Montgomery is hoping the situation his players find themselves in leads to a better showing and result.

“We need to be more desperate,” Montgomery said. “That’s the one area where, it’s two games and both games that we’ve lost, we’ve played good hockey but haven’t played desperate hockey. I thought the Blues were significantly more desperate than us [Monday].”

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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.

Return home could be what Stars’ top line needs

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The Dallas Stars did what they needed to do in St. Louis by splitting the first two games of their Round 2 series.

That is always the goal when a team opens on the road because it swings home-ice advantage back in their favor.

What was perhaps most impressive about the Stars’ ability to take one of those two games is that they did it with almost no production from their top line that is centered by Tyler Seguin. That is the type of development that would have completely sunk their chances just a couple of months ago.

The trio of Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov combined for zero even-strength points in the two games (Benn did score on the power play late in Game 1) while it was the second line, driven by the surprising performance of Roope Hintz and the always underappreciated brilliance of Mats Zuccarello, that did the damage to even the series in Game 2.

The Seguin-Benn-Radulov line going two games without a goal isn’t really a huge deal on its own, especially after they were so dominant in Round 1 against the Nashville Predators. Your best players aren’t going to score every night, and in Dallas’ case they have carried more than their fair share of the weight throughout most of the 2018-19 season. Because of that nobody should be too concerned about how this series has started for them. But if the Stars are going to win the series and pull off another upset that trio is probably going to have to get going again. A return home might be just what they need to get going because of the matchup opportunities home ice creates.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Specifically, it might get them a little more time away from Ryan O'Reilly, the Blues’ top shutdown center.

O’Reilly was a huge addition for the Blues over the summer because he is one of the league’s better two-way centers.

He is not only a top-line scorer (he finished the season as the Blues’ leading scorer) but has a track record of being able to go against other team’s top players and not only limit their damage, but also play them tough without taking penalties. Put it all together and that is an enormously valuable asset that has been a franchise-changer for the Blues in the short-term.

In their head-to-head matchups season he has been a thorn in the side of the Stars’ top line, especially Seguin at the center spot.

Here is a quick look at Seguin’s head-to-head numbers against O’Reilly this season (regular season and playoffs included, via Natural Stat Trick).

Basically, when he has been on the ice against O’Reilly, whether it has been in St. Louis or Dallas, the Stars have spent more time defending in their own zone and giving up chances than they have attacking and creating chances.

That is not what the Stars want from that group.

Getting home ice and the last change could give Stars coach Jim Montgomery more of an opportunity to get Seguin’s line away from O’Reilly, which is something he did in their last home game against the Blues, when Seguin played only three minutes of 5-on-5 time against him.

The matchup game can be an important one in a best-of-seven series, and especially in any one individual game, but it can also tricky one because you don’t want to get so caught up in that you hold your top players back and keep them off the ice because you are afraid of a matchup.

Both players are probably going to play 19-22 minutes each game and it is a given that their paths, at some point, are going to cross. Especially during the flow of the game when teams are changing on the fly. The only time you can really dictate it is during faceoffs. But so far this season it has been pretty clear that O’Reilly has done his part to limit what Seguin and the Stars’ top line can do. If the Stars can avoid that matchup for even a few minutes each game in this series when they have home ice it might help create an extra goal or two that could swing the series in their favor.

MORE:
The Wraparound: Blues feel confident on the road
PHT Power Rankings: The most surprising scorers in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Ben Bishop on Miro Heiskanen: He is going to be a Hall of Famer

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Crazy first period sequence helps lift Stars to Game 2 win over Blues

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A two-goal effort from rookie forward Roope Hintz and a flawless performance by the penalty kill helped lift the Dallas Stars to a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues in Game 2 of their Western Conference playoff series on Saturday afternoon.

The Round 2 series is now tied, 1-1, as if shifts to Dallas on Monday night.

Hintz opened the scoring for the Stars at the 7:11 mark of the first period with his third goal of the playoffs, capitalizing on a great shift by him and linemate Mats Zuccarello.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Just a few minutes after that goal, the Stars and Blues combined for a crazy two-minute sequence during a four-on-four situation that saw the teams combine for three goals, scoring on three consecutive shots.

The Stars ended up getting the better of that sequence, scoring two goals on highlight reel tallies by rookie defender Miro Heiskanen and veteran forward Mattias Janmark.

Heiskanen’s goal was quickly followed by a goal from Blues defender Colton Parayko to cut the deficit in half. But the Stars quickly responded with Janmark’s first goal of the playoffs just 26 seconds later. Janmark’s goal ended up going in the books as the game-winner.

The Blues would again cut the deficit to a single goal early in the third period when Jaden Schwartz continued has recent goal-scoring binge with his fifth goal of the playoffs.

They were never able to get the equalizer.

They were gifted a great opportunity in the closing minutes when Hintz made the mistake of firing the puck over the glass in the defensive zone, resulting in a delay of game penalty. But the Blues’ power play, which struggled all day, including on a brief 5-on-3 advantage earlier in the game, was unable to score, even after pulling starting goalie Jordan Binnington to give them a 6-on-4 advantage.

Hintz ended up scoring an empty-net goal to put the game away after exiting the penalty box. He also recorded an assist on Heiskanen’s goal in the second period and is now up to seven points in eight games this postseason. His emergence, as well as the return of a healthy Zuccarello, has given the Stars a really strong second line that has perfectly complemented their top line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov.

Starting goalie Ben Bishop played a big role on all of the penalty kills and was once again outstanding in the Stars’ net, turning aside 32 of the 34 shots he faced.

This sprawling, desperation save mid-way through the second period was one of his finest plays of the day.

 

Game 3 of Blues-Stars is Monday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.