David Backes has captained the St. Louis Blues through three consecutive first-round playoff exits, and as the team’s captain he no doubt felt as though he was in part responsible for the team’s shortcomings. But this season, St. Louis made a playoff breakthrough, first with a series win over the Chicago Blackhawks and then getting by the Dallas Stars in the second round.
The Blues’ run towards a potential Stanley Cup final, which was the deepest they had been since the 2000-01 playoffs, ended Wednesday night with a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks. And post-game, Backes, who has potentially played his final game in St. Louis, got choked up talking about the commitment to each other that this Blues team had.
It was especially difficult for Backes to get through a story about Game 5. Backes had watched from the bench for most of Game 4 after suffering an unspecified injury, but the Blues captain was back in the lineup and played 16-plus minutes in Game 5 thanks to some help from teammate Steve Ott. Backes could barely get through the story: Read more
Let’s be honest: we could rhyme off several Conn Smythe Trophy candidates from the San Jose Sharks before we get to goaltender Martin Jones. It’s nothing against Jones. It’s just that he hasn’t been too busy. Entering Game 6 of the Western Conference final against the St. Louis Blues, Jones had faced 26 or fewer shots in every game, though he was pulled in one of those.
The Blues managed just five shots in the first period of Game 5 as they faced elimination, and they’d fallen behind 2-0 by the 5:02 mark of the second period. They gained momentum later in the second, however, managing 11 shots on Jones. They finally tested him, none more than center Jori Lehtera, who had a 10-bell chance in the slot on a one-time feed from Robby Fabbri halfway through the period. Watch Jones’ smooth pad save:
Picking the Stanley Cup before the playoffs start — let alone before the season begins — isn’t an easy feat.
That’s especially true for this post-season. Of the final four, the Pittsburgh Penguins were hot coming into the playoffs but without their starting goaltender, the Tampa Bay Lightning were without the services of Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman, the San Jose Sharks were up against the possession-juggernaut Los Angeles Kings in the first round and the St. Louis Blues had to get past the defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks before a meeting with the division-champion Dallas Stars.
Suffice to say, a lot of brackets were busted early, and that’s even without including the upset that saw the Anaheim Ducks exit in Round One at the hands of the Nashville Predators.
But amidst all the busted brackets stood one famous face, Will Arnett, actor and host of the 2016 NHL Awards, who had a foolproof strategy for picking the Stanley Cup winner. Take a look: Read more
If Brian Boyle hadn’t already shown his worth to the Tampa Bay Lightning in terms of being a checking-line center, he’s showing this post-season that he also has the ability to make things happen offensively and that he can even add a little flair.
In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final, the Lightning were trailing 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins heading into the final frame. Tampa Bay carried the play from the outset of the third period in an attempt to get anything going offensively, and eventually it was Boyle who would break through, although fortuitously as his shot from the right wing boards would deflect off of Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel and into the net.
But for as lucky as Boyle’s first goal was, his second tally made Boyle look like a bonafide sniper. Again on the right wing, Boyle managed to pick up a bouncing puck that was thrown cross-ice by defenseman Slater Koekkoek, settle it and fire home a seeing-eye shot that went perfectly into the top corner. And then Boyle gave us the best celebration of the post-season, blowing a kiss to the Tampa Bay bench. Seriously: Read more
In the 78 career post-season games St. Louis Blues winger Troy Brouwer had played heading into the 2015-16 playoffs, he had always performed well but he wasn’t exactly a consistent goal scorer or frequently found on the scoresheet. Through the six playoffs that Brouwer had played in, he had scored seven goals and 19 points. Not bad, but not great.
This season’s playoff run has been different, though, and through 19 games Brouwer is having the post-season of his career.
Heading into Game 5 of the Western Conference final, Brouwer had scored seven times, matching his career output over the course of one single playoff. And it took only 15 minutes of play in Monday’s contest for Brouwer to get goal No. 8, and the tally came in style.
As the Blues rushed into the offensive zone, a shot from Paul Stastny was turned aside by San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones. But Jones’ attempt to turn the puck aside and into the corner caused it to go into the air into the path of an oncoming Brouwer. As he came toward the puck, Brouwer took aim, swatted it out of mid-air and into the cage behind Jones: Read more
The Blues may have won Game 4 of the Western Conference final, but the victory didn’t come without a cost. Both David Backes and Robby Fabbri were knocked out of the contest and finished the game watching from the sideline, and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is doing his best to dance around confirming whether one, both or neither will be St. Louis’ Game 5 lineup.
When Hitchcock was asked about the status of Backes and Fabbri for Monday’s game, he would offer only that the Blues’ warmup lineup will be the same as it was during the previous game’s warmup, which is to say Backes and Fabbri will take part in the brief pre-game skate but there’s no answer beyond that.
“We’re going to dress the same lineup for warmup that we did the last game,” Hitchcock said, precisely wording his response. “We had two extra forwards, one extra D. No changes. All those players are there. They’ll dress for warmup and then we’ll run a further evaluation after warmup. Same 23 guys are dressing.” Read more
Players from the Tampa Bay Lightning would have been the first to tell you that they started Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final flat. Late in the first period they surrendered the opening goal to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and midway through the first frame they trailed 2-0 in Sunday’s game.
With less than seven minutes left, however, the Lightning found their first goal of the contest, and it came on an absolutely gorgeous shot by winger Alex Killorn on what appeared to be a nothing play.
Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr won a board battle on the half wall of the Penguins’ zone and, with seemingly no offensive options, he simply played it in behind the Pittsburgh goal. His pass ricocheted off the back wall and around the left wing boards onto the tape of Killorn, who picked up the puck, took a look towards the goal and fired a seeing-eye shot that found the mere inches of daylight over the shoulder of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. It might be the most perfect shot of the post-season: Read more
Canada will have a chance at repeating as gold medalists at the World Championship for the first time in more than a decade, and they’re heading to the gold medal game following a thrilling 4-3 victory over the rival United States.
In what has become a staple of international competition between the men’s national teams on the world stage, the Canadian and American squads turned in a one-goal contest that left one club heartbroken. And this time around, in the semi-final of the World Championship, it was the U.S. squad that left the ice with a bit of heartbreak. However, the American side, which boasted far fewer big-name NHL stars, should be proud of an effort that nearly had their Canadian heading to Sunday’s bronze medal game.
In the first frame, Canada and the U.S. traded chances back and forth, but the only goals in the opening period came from Canadians Brendan Gallagher and Brad Marchand. The 2-0 lead after 20 minutes may have made it appear as though Canada could stomp out any hopes the American club had, but the young team — led in scoring by top prospect Auston Matthews, Dylan Larkin and Frank Vatrano — answered back in the second. Read more