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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Wrapup: Conference Finals sees new teams

PRESS RELEASE WRITTEN BY NHL PUBLIC RELATIONS; COURTESY NHLmedia.com

 

Final four have combined for seven Stanley Cups; Joe Thornton, Brent Burns and Jay Bouwmeester vying for first Cup; Veteran captains Zdeno Chara and Justin Williams aim for another title

 

UNPREDICTABILITY CONTINUES INTO SECOND ROUND OF 2019 PLAYOFFS

The 2019 Conference Finals are comprised of two of the top six teams from the regular-season – Boston (No. 3) and San Jose (No. 6), who finished second in their respective conferences – and two teams that ranked outside the top 10 – Carolina (No. 11) and St. Louis (No. 12).

* The Blues and Hurricanes’ journeys to the third round are each marked by strong performances in the 2019 calendar year – St. Louis ranked last overall in the NHL standings on Jan. 2 while Carolina also found itself among the bottom nine on that day.

 

* This marked the fourth time in six years under the current playoff format – and 14th time in NHL history – that the second round required multiple Game 7s. The two Second Round Game 7s garnered record in-market ratings for all four clubs involved.

 

* St. Louis advanced to the Conference Finals by winning the third Game 7 this postseason to require overtime – the most ever in one playoff year.

 

* There have been 15 overtime contests this postseason – five more than the entire 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs (10 of 84 GP).

 

* The Hurricanes won a pair of one-goal games to take a 2-0 series lead back to Raleigh, where they set a franchise record for attendance and completed their first-ever best-of-seven sweep. The score was tied or within one goal for 85% of the series (206:23 of 244:04), including each of the first 183:06 – Carolina took the first multi-goal lead of the series in the final minute of Game 3. Overall, the Hurricanes led by more than one goal for less than 40 minutes (37:41).

 

* The other three series in the Second Round also were tightly contested: the Bruins became the seventh team in NHL history to win each of their first two series despite trailing 2-1 in each; the Blues overcame a 3-2 series deficit to win for the fourth time in franchise history (also 1972 QF, 1991 DSF and 1999 CQF); after erasing a 3-1 series deficit in the opening round, the Sharks eliminated the Avalanche despite allowing them to tie the series three times.

 

* The competitive balance seen in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs has been characteristic of recent postseasons - 88% of all possible second-round games have been played since the current playoff format was introduced in 2014 (148 of 168). That represents a 7% increase from the final six years of the previous format (82%; 138 of 168).

 

More than half of games contested in the Second Round were decided by a one-goal margin (58%; 14 of 24 GP).  Overall, nearly half of all games played thus far in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs have been decided by one goal (49%; 34 of 70 GP).

 

* Prior to the Hurricanes this year, only one Wild Card team had reached the Conference Finals since the division-based playoff format was introduced in 2014. The Predators came within two victories of winning the Stanley Cup in 2017 as the No. 2 Wild Card in the Western Conference.

 

* Carolina, the No. 7-ranked team in the Eastern Conference, is the 20th team in NHL history to reach at least the Conference Finals/Semifinals after ranking outside the top six in its conference (since 1974-75 when conferences were introduced). Eight of the previous 19 clubs to do so advanced to the Final, with only one claiming the Stanley Cup – the 2012 Kings won as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

 

* Only 26 remaining brackets in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs Bracket Challenge presented by Jägermeister have selected the correct series winner in each of the first two rounds (0.0019%). Of those 26, there is an almost even split on who they have picked to win the Stanley Cup: San Jose (30.77%), Boston (23.08%), Carolina (23.08%), St. Louis (23.08%).

 

NEW TERRITORY FOR PLAYERS AND TEAMS

The four teams in the 2019 Conference Finals have won a total of seven Stanley Cups, including only four in the NHL’s expansion era (since 1967-68). Only 40 players on the remaining teams have played a game beyond the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with only 11 winning a Cup.

* A team in search of its first-ever Stanley Cup is guaranteed to reach the Final as the Blues (51st season) and Sharks (27th season) go head-to-head in the Western Conference Final. The Eastern Conference Final pits two teams that have a combined two Stanley Cups in the past 46 years (Bruins: 2011, Hurricanes: 2006).

 

* The Bruins roster features six Stanley Cup winners, the most among remaining clubs. Captain Zdeno Chara, goaltender Tuukka Rask and forwards Patrice BergeronDavid Krejci and Brad Marchand all won with Boston in 2011, while Joakim Nordstrom won as a rookie with Chicago in 2015.

 

* Boston’s opponent in the Eastern Conference Final brings as many combined Cups (6), the next-largest contingent of champions (4) and the only remaining Conn Smythe Trophy winner in Carolina captain Justin Williams (2014). Williams won his first championship in 2006 with the Hurricanesand is the only remaining player with three Stanley Cups (also 2012 and 2014 Kings); teammate Jordan Staal won with the 2009 Penguins, while forward Teuvo Teravainen and injured defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk won alongside Nordstrom with the 2015 Blackhawks.

 

* Every player to skate with St. Louis this postseason is vying to put his name on the Stanley Cup for the first time. Martin Jones is the only player on San Jose with his name on the prized trophy – he won a Cup with the 2014 Kings after playing 19 regular-season games and two playoff appearances.

 

* Only 40 players between the Blues (13), Sharks (12), Bruins (11) and Hurricanes (4) have skated in either the Conference Finals or Stanley Cup Final.

 

* While St. Louis has the most players with experience in the Conference Finals or Stanley Cup Final, they have the fewest combined games played in those rounds. Overall, the 40 players have a combined 471 games played past the second round (San Jose: 171, Boston: 148, Carolina: 80, St. Louis: 72).

 

^The above information is based on skaters who have played at least one game and goaltenders who have at least dressed in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Therefore, goaltenders Jaroslav Halak (BOS) and Jake Allen (STL) are included, but forward Jordan Nolan (STL) and goaltender Scott Darling (CAR) are not. Also, Oskar Sundqvist (STL) does not have his name on the Cup (he did not meet the criteria for either the 2016 or 2017 Penguins).

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD: 2019 WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL

The 2019 Western Conference Final will mark the 10th time that two teams will meet in the Conference Finals after both contesting a Game 7 in their previous series – with the Sharks and Blues also meeting in the last such clash.

San Jose Sharks (No. 2 Pacific, No. 2 West, No. 6 NHL)

* After equaling the highest point total in a series by a defenseman in 25 yearsBrent Burns (5-9—14) enters the Conference Finals tied for the League lead in points – matching three others including teammates Tomas Hertl (9-5—14) and Logan Couture (9-5—14). Burns (1,043 GP) is one of three remaining players with at least 1,000 career regular-season games in pursuit of his first Stanley Cup – teammate Joe Thornton (1,566 GP) and St. Louis defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (1,184 GP) are the others.

 

* Thornton (413-1,065—1,478 in 1,566 GP), who leads all active players in career assists and points, can join Ray Bourque (1,612 GP) and Dave Andreychuk (1,597 GP) as the third player to win his first Stanley Cup after skating in 1,500 or more regular-season games. Bourque is the only player in NHL history to win his first career Stanley Cup after recording 1,400 or more regular-season points.

 

* Though all but one player on San Jose is in search of his first Stanley Cup, the Sharks possess a deep roster that includes five players with at least 10 points and seven players with three or more goals. Couture and Hertl are the 11th set of teammates in NHL history to each score nine or more goals through the first two rounds of the playoffs – a feat achieved only one other time in the last 22 years (Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby with the 2018 Penguins; 12 GP).

 

 

St. Louis Blues (No. 3 Central, No. 5 West, No. 12 NHL)
* The Blues are led offensively by forward Jaden Schwartz (8-3—11) and captain Alex Pietrangelo (2-9—11) who share the team lead with 11 points apiece through 13 games. Only five players in franchise history have scored more goals in a playoff year than Schwartz, with Brett Hullholding the top two spots on that list (13 in 1990 and 11 in 1991). In his third season as captain, Pietrangelo needs one point to equal the Blues record for most in a playoff year by a defenseman – Al MacInnis was the last St. Louis blueliner to hit the mark (4-8—12 in 1999).

* Calder Trophy finalist Jordan Binnington has backstopped St. Louis to all eight wins in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs after earning 24 victories in the regular season (32 GP) – a franchise record for a rookie goaltender. Only seven rookie goaltenders in NHL history have earned eight or more wins in a postseason for an eventual Cup winner, including only four in the past 73 years: Matt Murray (2016 Penguins), Cam Ward (2006 Hurricanes), Patrick Roy (1986 Canadiens) and Ken Dryden (1971 Canadiens).

 

* St. Louis native Pat Maroon – the double-overtime hero in Game 7 of the Second Round – is looking to win his first Stanley Cup, likewise for each of his teammates. Maroon can become the second Missouri-born player in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup – Brandon Bollig (St. Charles, Mo.) won in 2013 with the Blackhawks.

 

* Rookie Robert Thomas, 19, assisted on both St. Louis goals in Game 7 against Dallas and has collected five points overall this postseason (1-4—5 in 13 GP). Only one teenager in franchise history has had as many points in a postseason: Rod Brind’Amour posted 5-8—13 during the 1990 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The only teenager to post more than 13 points in a postseason for any team is Brian Bellows, who had 2-12—14 with the 1984 North Stars.

 

 

LOOKING AHEAD: 2019 EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL

The two most veteran captains in the NHL will go head to head as 42-year-old Zdeno Chara leads the Bruins against 37-year-old Justin Williamsand the Hurricanes. Chara is aiming to become the fifth player to hoist the Stanley Cup at age 42 or older, while Williams vies for his fourth career Cup – a feat achieved by only one active player.

Boston Bruins (No. 2 Atlantic, No. 2 East, No. 3 NHL)

Tuukka Rask posted a 1.71 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage in the Second Round against Columbus – his third-best series in terms of save percentage behind the 2013 Conference Finals (.985 SV% vs. PIT) and 2014 First Round (.961 SV% vs. DET). One of five remaining Bruins who won with the club in 2011, Rask aims to become the fourth goaltender ever to win multiple Stanley Cups with Boston – Frank Brimsek(1939, 1941), Gerry Cheevers (1970, 1972) and Eddie Johnston (1970, 1972) are the only ones to do so. Rask (Savonlinna, Finland) also can become the second goaltender born outside of North America to capture the Stanley Cup multiple times – Dominik Hasek (Pardubice, Czech Republic) is the only one to do so.

 

* The Bruins are led on offense by Brad Marchand (5-8—13), David Pastrnak (6-5—11) and David Krejci (4-6—10) through their first 13 games of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. During their run to the Stanley Cup in 2011, Krejci led all NHL players in goals and points (12-11—23 in 25 GP) while Marchand paced all rookies with 11-8—19 (25 GP) – the third-most goals and points in a playoff year ever by a rookie.
* Eight different Boston players have accounted for its eight game-winning goals in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, including Charlie Coyle (5-3—8 in 13 GP) and Marcus Johansson (2-3—5 in 11 GP) who have played pivotal roles in the Bruins’ postseason success after both were acquired leading up to the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline.

 

Carolina Hurricanes (No. 1 Wild Card, No. 7 East, No. 11 NHL)

* Williams played with Carolina from 2003-04 to 2008-09 – winning a Stanley Cup alongside current head coach Rod Brind’Amour in 2006 – before departing for parts of nine seasons with the Kings and Capitals. Wearing the captain’s “C” for the first time this season, Williams aims to help the Hurricanes become the second team in League history to win the Stanley Cup after ranking outside the top six in its conference. He played a pivotal role for the 2012 Kings when they became the first NHL team to accomplish the feat, winning the Stanley Cup after entering the postseason as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

 

Jordan Staal enters the Conference Finals tied for second on the team with 4-5–9 this postseason, a stat line that includes the tying goal in Game 7 of the First Round and overtime winner in Game 1 of the Second Round. In his 13th NHL season and seventh with the Hurricanes, Staal aims to become the second member of his family to hoist the Cup with Carolina – brother Eric Staal won in 2006 and is the all-time franchise leader in playoff goals and points.

 

* It has been nearly 75 years since brothers won the Stanley Cup with the same franchise, but never together. Busher and Art Jackson are the only set of brothers to each win the Stanley Cup with the same franchise, but never to do so in the same season – Busher won in 1932 with the Maple Leafs and Art followed in 1945. Overall, 15 sets of brothers have won the Stanley Cup with the same franchise (regardless of when those titles came), with Scott and Rob Niedermayer the only ones to do so in the last 35 years – they were teammates with the 2007 Ducks.

 

* Brind’Amour is the first rookie NHL head coach to reach the Conference Finals since Guy Boucher did so in 2011 with Tampa Bay. The 48-year-old was named to his current role on May 8, 2018 after skating with the Hurricanes for 10 seasons (1999-00 to 2009-10), captaining the franchise to its first Stanley Cup in 2006. Nicknamed “Rod the Bod” during his playing career, Brind’Amour has been integral to each of the franchise’s four trips to the Conference Finals and now is eight wins from becoming the first in over 50 years to win the Stanley Cup as head coach after also doing so as a player.

 

* Overall, 14 individuals have won the Cup as both a head coach and player – including seven who have done so with the same franchise – with Toe Blake the last to do so in 1968 when he claimed the last of his 11 championships (3 as a player, 8 as head coach). Only two players have captaineda Stanley Cup winner and then led the same franchise to a championship as head coach: Blake with the Canadiens and Hap Day with the Maple Leafs. Eddie Gerard was captain of the original Ottawa Senators for three of his four Stanley Cups as a player (he also won with Toronto) and was coach of the Montreal Maroons’ championship team in 1926, but never won with the same franchise in both roles.