Welcome to the Pregame Skate, a Five Minute Major Upgrade to Your Inbox
|May 20||Public post|
What’s Happening: Jaden Schwartz scored his tenth goal of the playoffs early in the second period, and the Blues rode the momentum to a decisive 5-0 victory, putting them one win away from the Stanley Cup Final.
Tell Me More: Schwartz finished with a hat trick, Vladimir Tarasenko scored the first penalty shot goal in Blues playoff history, and Jordan Binnington made 21 saves in the win.
Long Time Coming: St. Louis and Toronto share the longest Stanley Cup droughts in the NHL (51 years)—the Blues have never won a Cup and haven’t made the finals since 1970. Starting in 1968, St. Louis played in three straight finals after joining the NHL, but they went 0-12 (!) in those games.
Growing the Game: It’s true, the Blues haven’t won hockey’s ultimate prize, but they have succeeded in growing the game of hockey thanks to 25 consecutive playoff appearances from 1979 to 2004. According to USA Hockey, the number of registered players in Missouri has risen from 3,382 to 7,604 since 1990. There are also eight Missouri natives in the NHL right now—including Blues forward Pat Maroon—and five players from St. Louis were taken in the 2016 draft.
Dig Deeper: Ben Shpigel, The New York Times
Elvis Has (Entered) the Building
What’s Happening: The Columbus Blue Jackets had a lot of shifting parts this season thanks to several moves at the trade deadline by general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. This was a huge risk given the fact that the three high profile players he acquired—Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, and Adam McQuaid—all have contracts that expire on July 1st. So what’s next in Columbus?
Love It or List It: Making matters worse, Columbus’ two other high profile unrestricted free agents are all but out the door. Artemi Panarin made a mid-season announcement that he would test free agency, and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky recently listed his downtown Columbus condo for $3.2 million.
Welcome to Miami: Panarin and Bobrovsky did what many NHL players do after the season—went on a vacation. Where to? Miami, where they both own property. We will have to wait and see if this trip holds any underlying significance, but Panarin has stated that he would like to live in a bigger city, and the Panthers are on the hunt for a new starting goaltender.
The Big Picture: But back to Columbus, where it’s clear that the future could be bleak. Ryan Dzingel, who played college hockey at Ohio State, is likely the only aforementioned player who will stick around. With that said, the Blue Jackets still have captain Nick Foligno, assistant captain Cam Atkinson, and talented young players like Josh Anderson and Oliver Bjorkstrand.
Elvis Has (Entered) the Building: The one glaring issue for the Blue Jackets is their goaltending situation, as it is not easy to replace a Vezina Trophy winning goaltender. Kekalainen is convinced they have the solution with Bobrovsky’s backup Joonas Korpisalo and freshly signed Elvis Merzlikins, who came over two months ago from Switzerland. The 25-year-old trained with goaltending coach Manny Legace as the Blue Jacket’s third goalie in the time since his arrival rather than playing in the AHL for the Cleveland Monsters.
Dig Deeper: Aaron Portzline, The Athletic
Hostess with the Mostess
What’s Happening: The Memorial Cup, which pits the best teams from Canada’s Major Junior Leagues against one another in a round robin style tournament, kicked off Friday in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The host Halifax Mooseheads joined the winners of the three leagues—the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Western Hockey League, and the Ontario Hockey League.
Hostess with the Mostess: Halifax started off strong in the tournament’s first game, as they skated to a 4-1 victory over Prince Albert of the WHL. The Mooseheads had the added advantage of 9,926 screaming fans behind them, but this hasn’t always helped the host teams who receive an automatic bid to play in the Memorial Cup. Just two of the last ten tournament winners have been the host team—the Shawinigan Cataractes in 2012 and the Windsor Spitfires in 2017.
One Moosehead to Watch: Halifax forward Samuel Asselin registered a goal and an assist Friday and added another goal in Sunday’s win over Guelph. Asselin was a key member of last year’s champion, the Acadie-Bathhurst Titan, as he was tied for the tournament lead with five goals in four games. The undrafted 20-year-old is looking to impress an NHL team at this year’s “Mem Cup” after a regular season where he led the QMJHL with 48 goals.
Did you know? Three Nova Scotia natives—two of whom played for the Mooseheads—came within one point of an incredible achievement this year in the NHL. Sydney Crosby, Brad Marchand, and Nathan MacKinnon, who all hail from the small Canadian province, had a shot at 100 points at the midway point of this season. Crosby and Marchand finished with 100 on the dot, but MacKinnon missed the mark by one, finishing with 99 points (not too shabby).
The Balanced B’s
What’s Happening: The Bruins punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals Thursday, returning for the first time since they lost to the Blackhawks in 2013. So what was the key to their sweep of the surging Hurricanes? A balanced attack thanks to a veteran core and and deep roster that was bolstered by some Don Sweeney trade deadline moves.
Tell Me More: Players like Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara who have been in Boston since their Stanley Cup win in 2011 have established the team culture, allowing youngsters like Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo to step in and contribute.
Deadline Steals: Rather than going after a high profile rental player like Kevin Hayes, the B’s decided to add discount depth forwards at the trade deadline. Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson had just three combined regular season goals after arriving in Boston, but the two have stepped up in the playoffs. Coyle is a reliable forward as evidenced by his +9 rating, but the surprising part has been his ability to find the back of the net—he’s third on the team in scoring with six goals.
Tuukka’s Fresh: Tuukka Rask has been fantastic for the Bruins—he leads the playoffs with a 1.84 goals against average and a .942 save percentage. Rask’s success has to do with his ability to handle criticism in stride, but backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak’s contributions to the Bruins this year cannot be understated. Halak played 40 games and gathered 22 wins, reducing Tuukka’s workload, ensuring that he would be fresh for the playoffs.
More Links from Rink
We all remember the missed hand pass call in Game #3 that sent the Sharks home victorious over the Blues. FanDuel Sportsbook recognized the missed call by sending out a refund on all moneyline bets made on the game.
Italy scored at the World Championships for the first time since 2017, ending a scoring drought of 447 minutes and 42 seconds.
Kaapo Kakko thinks the Devils should take him with the #1 pick in this June’s draft.
Monday May 20th Games
Tuesday May 21st Games
St. Louis Blues (C3) vs. San Jose Sharks (P2) Tuesday, May 21, 8:00 p.m.: Sharks @ Blues | NBCSN | Blues lead series 3-2