Zdeno Chara

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Bruins’ Chara had ‘multiple fractures’ to his jaw

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It was widely reported, and even assumed, that Boston Bruins defender Zdeno Chara suffered a broken jaw when he was hit in the face by a puck during the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues.

Chara confirmed all of those reports on Friday during the Bruins’ end of season media availability when he revealed that he had “several fractures” to his jaw.

The Bruins announced that the expected recovery time is 5-6 weeks.

Chara was injured when a shot deflected off his stick and struck him in the face during the Bruins’ Game 4 loss to the Blues. While he returned to the bench that night to watch the third period, he missed the remainder of the game as the Bruins were forced to finish with only five defenders for the second time in the series. They ended up losing both of those games.

He returned for Games 5, 6 and 7 of the series and played in a greatly reduced role. After averaging more than 22 minutes per game he logged just 16, 22, and 16 minutes in the remaining three games of the series. The Bruins ended up losing Games 5 and 7 on home ice, allowing the Blues to win their first ever Stanley Cup.

The 42-year-old Chara signed a one-year extension with the team earlier this season and finished with five goals and nine assists in 62 regular season games, before adding two goals and four assists in the playoffs.

Before he was injured in the Stanley Cup Final, he also sat out the series clinching Game 4 win of the Bruins’ Eastern Conference Final series against the Carolina Hurricanes with a lower-body injury.

Related: Bruins could have different look next season

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.

Stanley Cup Final: Blues make lineup change; Grzelcyk game-time decision

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It looks as if the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins will both be making some lineup changes for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC; Live Stream).

Let’s start with the significant news on the Boston side where the Bruins might have all of their top defenders in the lineup for the first time since the beginning of the series. After missing the past four games, Matt Grzelcyk has been cleared for action and is officially listed as a game-time decision. If he plays, and it seems extremely likely that he will, he would replace Connor Clifton.

Grzelcyk has been sidelined since early in Game 2 when he was on the receiving end of an illegal check from Oskar Sundqvist, resulting in a one-game suspension for the Blues’ forward.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

It remains to be seen how much of an impact he can make since he hasn’t taken any contact since the injury, but the Bruins have definitely missed his ability to move the puck.

“I think your adrenaline will carry you through,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy on Wednesday.

“The one thing about Matt if he does go in after missing some games is he’s been skating with us. It’s not like he just jumped on the ice yesterday. He’s been participating, albeit non-contact, so there is a little bit of a different animal there. At this time of the year you’re not into a lot of contact in practice anyway so he’s just going to have to understand, because he did obviously live the first whatever it was, game and a half with St. Louis, he knows they are physical. He’s been there. He’s been watching. He knows he’s gotta get back in a hurry, make good decisions with it, take a hit to make a play if that’s what is required, which it usually is against this team. That’s the challenge in front of him. We’ve had discussions with him about it and he’ll be ready for it.”

Two of the three Bruins’ losses in this series came in games where they were forced to finish with five defenders due to injury with Grzelcyk exiting Game 2 and Zdeno Chara being forced to miss most of Game 4 after being hit in the face with a puck. While Chara has not missed any further game action, Grzelcyk’s absence has been significant.

“If he’s able to come back and help us tonight, he’s an incredible puck mover,” said Bruins defender Charlie McAvoy. “He’s just kind of had that fire in his eye for the playoffs. He’s been playing awesome for us, and we’ve missed him terribly since he’s been out. He just gives us that extra jolt when it comes to breaking out. He’s a gifted puck-mover. If he’s back to night, I think he’ll do his job and help us out even more.”

On the St. Louis side, forward Ivan Barbashev will be returning to the lineup after missing Game 6 due to a suspension for an illegal check to the head.

He will replace rookie forward Robert Thomas on the team’s fourth line next to Alex Steen and Sundqvist.

That is not the only change the Blues will be making.

Coach Craig Berube also said that Joel Edmundson will be drawing back into the lineup in place of Robert Bortuzzo.

Why the change? With Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko playing so many minutes on the right side Berube wants to go with four left-handed defenders in his lineup.

“With Parayko and Pietrangelo on the right side, they’re just eating so many minutes up; there’s not a lot of minutes over there,” said Berube. “So, we decided to go with the four lefties, and what he can bring, he can bring a lot. I mean, he’s got some real good upside, shoots the puck well, big guy, big body, physical player, but he does do some things well in the offensive zone, so I like his shot.”

Edmundson played sparingly over the first four games of the series, recording zero points and finishing as a minus-3 in his limited minutes. Bortuzzo scored a goal for the Blues in Game 2 of the series in Boston and also scored a game-winning goal in the Western Conference Final series against the San Jose Sharks.

Edmundson will skate on the Blues’ third defense pairing alongside Vince Dunn.

“I played in I think three Game 7s now so this is going to be my fourth. None of them compare to this one,” said Edmundson. “Obviously it’s going to be the biggest game of my life. But everyone’s excited.”

Edmundson said his first reaction upon finding out that he would be in the lineup was to text his parents, who were already planning on attending the game. One member of his family not attending the game? His brother, Jesse, who has apparently been bad luck throughout the series.

“They were coming,” said Edmundson when talking about his parent’s plans. “My brother (Jesse) stayed back because he thinks he’s bad luck. He’s been bad luck throughout the series, so he stayed back, he’s taking one for the team.”

Whatever it takes.

More Blues-Bruins Game 7
• Blues vs. Bruins: Three keys for Game 7
• The Wraparound: It is all on line for Blues-Bruins 
• Which Blues, Bruins player will get Stanley Cup handoff?
• Conn Smythe watch
• Stanley Cup roundtable discussion

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.

Stanley Cup Final: Game 7 by the numbers

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It all comes down to one game.

Somebody is going to win the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night in Boston when the St. Louis Blues visit the Bruins in a winner-take-all Game 7 (8 p.m. ET, NBC; Live Stream) that will either produce a historic night for St. Louis (first Stanley Cup) or be a continuation of Boston’s recent professional sports dominance.

Here are some numbers and facts to help get you ready for the big night.

Game 7 Historical Numbers

• This will be the first Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final since the Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks during the 2010-11 postseason. It is only the fourth Game 7 in the salary cap era (starting with the 2005-06 season) and will join 2006 in Carolina, 2009 in Detroit, and 2011. The road team has won two of the previous three games. This will be the 17th Game 7 in Stanley Cup Final history. The home team has a 12-4 record in the previous 16 games.

• Wednesday’s game will be the first time the Bruins have ever hosted Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, and it is one of the most expensive tickets the city has ever seen for a sporting event.

• This is the sixth Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, making it the seventh time that the NHL has had that many Game 7s in a single year.

This will be the second time the Bruins have had to play at least two Game 7s in a single postseason, joining their 2011 championship season when they played in — and won — three different Game 7s.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will set an NHL record on Wednesday by playing in his 14th career Game 7, snapping a tie between him, Scott Stevens, and Patrick Roy.

Of the previous 16 Game 7s in Stanley Cup Final history, only two of them have required overtime. Pete Babando scored for the Detroit Red Wings to lift them over the New York Rangers in 1950. Four years later Tony Leswick scored again for the Red Wings to beat the Montreal Canadiens.

This will be the 28th Game 7 in Bruins history (most all time) where they own a 15-12 record. The Blues will be playing in their 18th Game 7 and are 9-8 in their previous games.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

How They Got Here This Postseason

• If the Blues are going to win the Stanley Cup they are going to have to win another game on the road, something they have been great at this postseason. So great, in fact, that they have been better on the road than they have at home. They enter Wednesday’s game with a 9-3 away record. They finished the postseason with a losing record (6-7) on home ice.

The biggest key for the Blues will be maintaining their discipline and staying out of the penalty box due to the strength of the Bruins’ power play. Boston enters Game 7 having converted on 32.9 percent of its power plays this postseason. No team in NHL history with a minimum of 20 playoff games has ever had a higher power play percentage in a single postseason. The next best team was the 2017-18 Washington Capitals who finished at 29.3 percent. After them no other team has had a mark higher than 27 percent.

One of the biggest factors in that power play success: Patrice Bergeron and his seven power play goals. Before this season he had scored just six postseason power play goals in his entire career.

Among goalies with at least 20 games played in a single postseason, Tuukka Rask‘s .938 save percentage is currently the sixth highest of all time. Jordan Binnington‘s mark of .912 is 44th.

With one point in Game 7 Ryan O'Reilly will set a new franchise record for most points in a single postseason. He enters the game tied with Bernie Federko, Doug Gilmour, and Brett Hull at the top of the list.

If Binnington and the Blues get the win on Wednesday he will become the first rookie goalie to ever win 16 games in a single postseason. He is currently tied with Patrick Roy, Cam Ward, Ron Hextall, and Matt Murray with 15 wins. Three of the other four (Roy, Ward, Murray) won the Stanley Cup in their seasons.

During 5-on-5 play the series has been mostly even, with the two teams separated by just a single goal. The Blues still have a slight edge in the shot attempts and scoring chance metrics, but it is very fitting that this series has required seven games given that the Blues and Bruins were two of the NHL’s best teams since the beginning of January. Since Jan. 1 they were second and third in points percentage (both trailing only the Tampa Bay Lightning) and were both in the top-seven in shot attempt differential and scoring chance differential.

More Blues-Bruins Game 7
Blues vs. Bruins: Three keys for Game 7
The Wraparound: It is all on line for Blues-Bruins 
Which Blues, Bruins player will get Stanley Cup handoff?
Conn Smythe watch
Stanley Cup roundtable discussion

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.

Chara all action, little talk in Stanley Cup pursuit

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BOSTON (AP) — Zdeno Chara didn’t say much to his teammates when he showed up, as usual, one game after a puck bloodied his face and knocked him out of the Stanley Cup Final.

And it wasn’t just because it was difficult for him to talk.

”He doesn’t need to say anything, really,” forward Charlie Coyle said on Tuesday, a day before Game 7 of the NHL championship. ”It’s already known.”

Nine days after Chara left Game 5 with blood dripping from his face, and three days after Boston won in St. Louis to force the series to the limit, the Bruins and Blues will bring the confetti down on another hockey season Wednesday night. Chara will be there for the 14th Game 7 of his career – an NHL record.

”It’s always fun to play Game 7s,” said Chara, who as captain would have the honor of being the first to skate with the Stanley Cup. ”Very intense. You’ve just got to realize you’ve got to lay everything on line and play your best game.”

A six-time All-Star and the winner of the 2009 Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, the 42-year-old Chara was still among the team’s leaders in ice time this season, his 21st in the league. So he left a huge, 6-foot-9 hole in the team’s lineup when he left Game 4 with blood dripping from his mouth after Brayden Schenn‘s shot deflected off Chara’s stick and into his jaw.

Chara returned to the bench, but did not play; coach Bruce Cassidy said he wanted to be there with his teammates. Chara was back for Game 5 in Boston, but alternate captain Patrice Bergeron did most of the talking to fire up the team before the game.

”We shared our responsibility,” Chara said after practice on Tuesday. ”It’s a great group of leaders we have, and it’s not that I’m going to be sitting at a desk and trying to figure out some speech. We all realize that it’s more about our actions than words.”

And Chara’s presence said it all. Cassidy said Chara is in a lot of pain, and he also has to adjust to playing with the full-face shield that limits his vision. (Although there have been reports that Chara broke his jaw, Cassidy has described it only as a ”facial injury.”)

The Boston fans gave the captain a lengthy ovation that he said caught him by surprise.

”I was overwhelmed by the response of the crowd,” he said on Tuesday in his most extensive comments since the injury. ”It’s very humbling, and I’m so honored to get that kind of a pregame crowd being involved and cheering us on. It just shows how passionate the Boston fans are. Very much appreciate it.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

PHT Power Rankings: Win or lose the Conn Smythe should belong to Rask

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This much should be obvious: If the Boston Bruins win Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET; NBC; live stream) starting goalie Tuukka Rask is going to be the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.

If that situation plays out, it is simply going to be his award.

Brad Marchand has been great. Patrice Bergeron has been outstanding. Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy have carried the defense. Charlie Coyle has turned out to be a huge trade deadline pickup. All of them would be a worthy contender (or winner) in any other season. But for as good as they have all been none of them have played a bigger role in the Bruins’ postseason success than Rask, and he has done it from the very beginning of the playoffs with a consistency and level of dominance that should have erased any doubts his harshest critics may have ever had about him as a big-game goalie.

He is the biggest reason the Bruins have reached this point and the single biggest reason the St. Louis Blues have not already won their first Stanley Cup.

His performance this postseason is as good as we have ever seen from a goalie, highlighted by a .939 save percentage that ranks among the NHL’s all-time best.

He is just the fifth different goalie in NHL history to play in at least 20 playoff games and have a save percentage higher than .935, and he is the only goalie that has done it twice.

In his 23 appearances this season he has recorded a save percentage below .912 just five times. He has had zero games with a save percentage below .900. Just for context on that, every other goalie this postseason has had at least one such, while 15 different goalies had at least two.

His Stanley Cup Final counterpart, St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington, has had eight such games.

His save percentages by series have been .928, .948, .956, and .924.

No matter the metric, whether it is in any one individual game or the postseason as a whole, he has been sensational.

So sensational that the Conn Smythe Trophy should probably be his whether the Bruins win Game 7 or not.

It is not completely unheard of for a member of the losing team to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as it has happened five times in NHL history with Detroit’s Roger Crozier (1966), St. Louis’ Glenn Hall (1968), Philadelphia’s Reggie Leach (1976) and Ron Hextall (1987), and Anaheim’s Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2003) all doing it. It is obviously extremely difficult to do, but it can happen when all of the right circumstances are in place.

It usually involves a goalie (as four of the previous ones were) putting together an incredible postseason where they help carry their team for the entire postseason and then loses to a team that does not really have a clear favorite of their own. That would pretty much describe the Blues if they win Game 7. Their success is not related to any one great individual performance that has stood out above the pack. At any given time it has been one of Ryan O'Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko, or Jaden Schwartz carrying the offense, but none of them have done it consistently throughout the playoffs. Their goalie, Binnington, has really only been okay with moments of brilliance surrounded by obvious flaws and some downright bad games.

If the Blues win history and all modern precedent suggests one of their players will end up winning the Conn Smythe, but if we are being objective about this the true MVP of the playoffs has been standing in Boston’s net all postseason. The outcome of Game 7 is not going to change that. Without him playing at the level he has played at the Bruins have not already been eliminated in this series, they may have very easily been eliminated in Round 1 (against the Toronto Maple Leafs) or in Round 2 (against the Columbus Blue Jackets).

In this week’s PHT Power Rankings we take one more look at the 2019 Conn Smythe race where Rask is rightfully at the top of the pack on a tier all his own. Everyone else is (or should be) fighting for second place.

To the rankings!

The favorite

1. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins. He has simply been the best and most impactful player on the ice in the playoffs and is probably the single biggest reason this series is still going on. His numbers are among the best we have ever seen from a goalie in a single playoff run and he has been so much better than everyone else that even if the Blues win Game 7 it should probably be his to take home. The chances of that actually happening are slim (there is plenty of precedent that says the series winner will get the MVP) but that doesn’t mean we can’t disagree.

[Related: Rask the rock steps up for Bruins in Game 6]

If the Blues win

2. Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues. He has probably done enough in this series to get the award if the Blues take Game 7. He may not have consistently been the team’s most productive player or top scorer in the playoffs, but he is still probably their best all-around player and for much of the Stanley Cup Final has beaten Boston’s Patrice Bergeron at his own game as a top-tier two-way center. It is supposed to be an award for the entire postseason, but recency bias takes over in the Stanley Cup Final and O’Reilly has been a monster for the Blues in the series with four goals and three assists. He goes into Game 7 on a three-game goal scoring streak.

3. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues. He played better than his numbers illustrated earlier in the playoffs, then he went on a white-hot run at the absolute best time for the Blues starting with Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. As mentioned above the Blues do not have a clear-cut favorite at this point but the way Tarasenko put the offense on his back over the past month (six goals, five assists over the past 12 games) would make him a worthy candidate.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The long shots but still worth a mention

4. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins. We have had Marchand at the top of the rankings for much of the playoffs, mostly because he has been awesome and probably their best overall player not named Rask. But we are dropping him down a few spots here for two reasons. First, he has had a quiet series against the Blues and that will no doubt impact voters when it comes time to cast their ballots (whether it should or not). Second, and most importantly, if the Bruins win Game 7 it just seems impossible to believe that anyone other than Rask will be taking home the MVP. That does not take away from the postseason Marchand has had, just that he has probably become a distant second on his team in the playoff MVP race.

5. Torey Krug, Boston Bruins. The Bruins’ defense was shorthanded for much of the regular season due to injury and that trend has continued at times in the playoffs. Zdeno Chara missed a game earlier this postseason and has played the past two games with a (reported) broken jaw. Matt Grzlecyk has been sidelined since Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. Charlie McAvoy missed a game earlier in the playoffs due to suspension. While all of that has been happening Krug has been the one constant on the team’s blue line in the playoffs, appearing in every single game and putting up huge numbers offensively. He is the team’s third-leading scorer entering Game 7 with 18 points, including six in the Stanley Cup Final against the Blues.

6. Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues. If the Blues win he would be a nice sleeper choice because of what he did prior to the series. He has gone quiet against the Bruins, but his hot streak in previous played a huge role in helping the Blues to reach this point. 

7. Charlie Coyle, Boston Bruins. After a slow start to his Bruins tenure after the trade from the Minnesota Wild Coyle ended up being everything the Bruins hoped he would be in the playoffs, adding a necessary secondary scoring boost to the lineup. Like Marchand and Krug (and anyone else on the Bruins) he has almost zero chance of taking the award away from Rask if the Bruins win, but he has still proven to be a huge addition that has helped drive the Bruins’ run.

MORE BLUES-BRUINS:
• Bruins push Stanley Cup Final to Game 7 by beating Blues
• Special teams an issue once again for Blues in Game 6 loss
• St. Louis newspaper gets roasted for ‘jinxing’ Blues before Game 6

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.