The St. Louis Blues have a chase for history on their hands, while the Boston Bruins are red hot in front of an incredible goaltending tandem.
It’s another day of rinse, wash, and repeat for the Bruins. After a couple of brutal slip-ups against Canadian teams last week, the NHL-leaders in points are right back on the horse with two big wins, including their 4-0 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday. Tuukka Rask was between the pipes for his fourth shutout of the season.
Rask made 25 saves in total, seven of them with the Islanders on the power play. The Islanders had 11 high danger chances (HDCF) and 2.53 expected goals (xG). But the Bruins commanded the game and never relinquished the lead that David Pastrnak gained with his 47th goal of the season in the fifth minute of the first period.
Rask, who is likely to be a strong Vezina Trophy contender at season’s end, didn’t act alone. After the game, Islanders’ captain Anders Lee explained what makes the Bruins so difficult to score against.
When we had our looks, we didn’t have second looks. We did a great job of creating some initial shots; it’s that second opportunity that we just didn’t find tonight on some of the power plays, and then a couple of others we had nothing going. The ones we did have going, we just didn’t have that secondary opportunity to put it in.New York Islanders Captain Anders Lee
Now that stifling defense and their extraordinary goaltender will have two days to prepare for their next game, a main-event quality showdown with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night. The Islanders will also play again on Tuesday, against the Montreal Canadiens.
Allen Approaching History
Blues’ goalie Jake Allen got the win in a shootout on Saturday night, making a significant save on Jamie Benn on a breakaway late in overtime to allow himself the opportunity. But the win was significant for another reason, as the Blues’ backup netminder is fast-approaching Mike Liut, perhaps the greatest Blues goalie, for the franchise lead in wins by a goalie.
Liut, who played for the Blues for parts of six seasons between 1979 and 1985, won 151 games in that time. He also leads the franchise in games played (347), saves (9165) and minutes (19,973), and has turned to player-representation since retiring. But Allen, whom the Blues drafted in the second round in 2008, won his 146th game, meaning the Fredericton, New Brunswick native needs just five more wins to catch the goalie-turned-agent.
But there’s fair reason to question whether he’ll get there. The Blues have just 16 games remaining this season. Allen is clearly the backup now. With his significant $4.35 million salary-cap hit and the Blues in a desperate need for cap space — especially if they want to re-sign Captain Alex Pietrangelo — he might make a logical trade chip in the summer.
Now, it’s simply a question of timing. If Allen plays out his contract with the Blues, he will certainly reach and surpass Liut. But if he needs to do it before the end of the season, he will need ample opportunities and perfect performance to make it happen.
Goalie Gram: Vezina Leaders
Speaking of Vezina Trophy Leaders, the NHL released a recent Instagram post addressing just that. They polled 18 NHL.com writers and had them rank candidates, giving their top choice five points and their final choice one. Rask is second on the list with 63 points.
Unsurprisingly, Andrei Vasilevskiy took the top spot with 75 points. He looks poised to repeat, which would make him the first goalie to do that since Martin Brodeur in the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons. He would also join Sergei Bobrovsky as the only active two-time Vezina winners in the NHL. Other goalies receiving significant votes according to the League’s Instagram account were Ben Bishop, Tristan Jarry, Connor Hellebuyck, and Jacob Markstrom.
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Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.