The St. Louis Blues are one win away from their first Stanley Cup, while the Boston Bruins seem to be getting beaten at their own game.
You can’t really say the Bruins were outplayed in Game 5. After all, they nearly doubled the Blues in shots (39-21). Also contrary to popular belief, they outhit the Blues 43-34 in this game. On paper, the Bruins are the more talented team.
However, the tables have turned on the Bruins, who are facing a team that can finally knock them around in the physical battles and get away with it. Not to mention a favorable call or two, which turned out to be the difference.
No one scored in the first period, but Ryan O’Reilly opened the scoring just 55 seconds into the second period. O’Reilly now has points in four consecutive games, with six points (3g-3a) over that span. He might be the Stanley Cup Final MVP so far, and he deserves some Conn Smythe votes should the Blues finish the job. A lot of attention has been given to the arrivals of Jordan Binnington and Craig Berube in the Blues’ incredible turnaround, but O’Reilly might have been their most crucial acquisition, as he has provided a much-needed upgrade for the Blues at the center position.
Check out the fancy pass from Zach Sanford, who now has assists in three consecutive games. Prior to that, he had not been in the Blues’ lineup since the first-round series against Winnipeg.
Then in the third period, the non-call that had everyone talking. Noel Acciari was clearly tripped by Tyler Bozak, with no call made. Just seconds later while the Bruins hesitated expecting the ref’s arm to go up in the air, David Perron made the score 2-0. Bruins’ fans were undoubtedly irate, as they should have been. As you might expect, this goal was followed by debris being thrown on the ice and fights in the stands (between Bruins’ fans, no less!) Also as you might expect, a salty Cam Neely firing his water bottle was followed by numerous Seabass Dumb & Dumber jokes on Twitter.
Lost in all the controversy was the fact that Perron ended a four-game stretch without a point. In other words, this was his first point in the Stanley Cup Final.
Jake DeBrusk got one back for the Bruins about three minutes after the controversial Perron goal. Many Bruins’ top-6 forwards have seen their production dry up in this series. DeBrusk entered this game without a goal in his last six games.
This was Binnington’s only mistake, playing the angle a little too far. In the end, he stopped 38 of 39 shots to earn the win. A narrative that for obvious reasons wasn’t discussed nearly enough was the fact that he might have stolen this game for the Blues, which is something that he would need to do in order to put the Blues in a position to win this series and the cup.
After the game, it was Bruce Cassidy’s turn to criticize the officiating in an attempt to negotiate the favorable calls next game.
Bruce Cassidy calls the officiating in Game 5 a "black eye" for the NHL. Adds it was "egregeous."
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 7, 2019
Honestly, there were a lot more penalty calls missed in this game than that one. In fact, it probably wouldn’t be discussed at all if it led to a goal. There were only four penalties in this game (three to the Blues). If this game had been called to the letter of the law, there would have been a lot more (a clear example was the Ivan Barbashev hit on Marcus Johansson). This is the Stanley Cup Final, where the referees tend to keep their whistles in their pockets.
To hockey fans, it’s not so much calling every penalty as it is on being consistent with what a penalty is. So it’s great that the head of NHL officiating responded in order to clear things up.
NHL officiating boss Stephen Walkom, to a pool reporter, on the missed Bozak call: "We don't make comments on judgment calls within games. There are hundreds of judgment calls in every game. The official on the play, he viewed it and he didn't view it as a penalty at the time."
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 7, 2019
Sure, hockey has gotten by for years with allowing human error to determine outcomes. However, the NHL loses serious credibility by trying to sweep these missed calls under the carpet (or providing a politician non-answer like the one above). Maybe an NHL Referees Twitter account, just like the NBA Referees Twitter account, is in order. Or at least statements that are more forthcoming and can admit error when it happens.
I would be remiss in not mentioning Zdeno Chara, of course, who because it’s Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final suited up in spite of the recommendations of most medical professionals. Wearing a full face shield, Chara played 16:42 while dishing four hits and blocking three shots. He seemed all right in this game, though the Bruins leaned heavily on Torey Krug (25:26) and Charlie McAvoy (24:06). Still no Matt Grzelcyk, who was a game-time decision. With the Bruins’ season on the line, I would think Grzelcyk suits up for Game 6.
A couple of under-the-radar signings by the Dallas Stars on Thursday:
Mattias Janmark has signed a one-year, $2.3 million contract extension. Janmark regressed in 2018-19, scoring just six goals and 25 points after scoring 19 goals and 34 points the season before. Much of that had to do with a 5.7 SH% compared to a 14 SH% his two seasons before. On a one-year “prove it” deal, Janmark should be in for some sort of rebound. It might not be enough to warrant consideration for your fantasy team, unless he’s able to squeeze in considerable icetime with Dallas’ big shooters (which he didn’t in 2018-19).
Roman Polak also signed a one-year contract worth $1.75 million. He isn’t going to move the needle fantasy-wise, but he did finish second on the Stars in both hits (191) and blocked shots (152) last season.
Someone recently asked me whether I would pick Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko if I could choose between the two.
Congratulations if you have “earned” the right to make that first overall pick. Maybe you did so by bottoming out in your league. Or the team names were put into a hat and yours won. Or maybe you were like the Colorado Avalanche and you made a savvy trade with a team that was a lot worse than they thought they were.
So, about that pick. Who will it be? Well, it’s a decision that could potentially affect my team for the next 15 to 20 years. And it’s difficult to know how the life of an 18-year-old will actually turn out by the time he’s 40. When I was 18, I won a playoff pool that included about a half-dozen people. However, I had no idea that I’d be writing fantasy hockey articles on the internet two decades later.
Okay, before I drift off any further into memory lane, let’s get back to this pick. If your league has an entry draft for draft-eligible prospects and you have the first overall pick, there are several factors to consider before you make your selection.
Single-season or keeper. Kakko looked like the more NHL-ready player at the recent World Hockey Championship. Yet Hughes might possess the higher upside. That’s the perception, although we don’t know that for sure.
Positional eligibility. If your league has a generic forward position, or if many forwards are both center and wing eligible, then you can’t go wrong with Hughes. If you’re locked in at one forward position and scoring wingers are in less supply, then Kakko might have the edge.
Points only vs. multicategory. I’m sure both will be much-desired in either type of league. That’s something else to consider, though.
Floor vs. ceiling. Do you want to know what the ceiling is for each player? Purchase your copy of the Fantasy Prospects Report.
Team situation and linemates. You probably don’t have to make that decision until after the draft, or even after free agency. So let the dust settle before you make your final choice (unless your league starts preparing for next season way too early).
If you have the second overall pick, then this decision is much easier. You can’t control who the team with the first overall pick chooses, so the other player will simply fall into your lap. We can’t say with 100 percent certainty that Hughes and Kakko will be the two best players to come out of the 2019 draft, but right now they would seem to be with the information we have.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.