NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: City of Boston championship-bound ... again

 nbcsports.com  05/17/2019 20:20:00 

The Bruins came into Game 4 swinging, as they saw their opportunity to sweep the Hurricanes and advance to the Stanley Cup Final. They made the most of that chance and came out on top, putting on a show with a 4-0 win Thursday to sweep and take the Eastern Conference, putting themselves four wins away from their first championship since 2011.

The first period saw a lot of chances being exchanged back and forth, as Carolina led 13-11 in shots as both teams headed to the locker room scoreless.

However, the Bruins would start to gain their rhythm less than five minutes into the second period, when David Pastrnak crashed the net and tapped in a feed from Brad Marchand past Curtis McElhinney to make it 1-0 Boston. The Bruins would get another power-play tally later in the frame when Patrice Bergeron and Pastrnak started a give-and-go, on which Bergeron struck on a one-timer to make it 2-0.

About halfway through the third, Pastrnak and Bergeron would combine for yet another goal after Pastrnak picked up a loose puck and sent it across to a wide-open Bergeron, who buried the feed as McElhinney failed to get over in time. Marchand sealed the deal with an empty-netter to clinch the series for Boston.

This will be the Bruins' third Cup Final appearance in the last decade. In their last appearance in 2013, they fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. Zdeno Chara and the team elected not to touch the Prince of Wales Trophy; over the last three seasons, both Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin had picked up the trophy and went on to win the Cup. They'll face the winner of Sharks-Blues, who face off in Game 4 Friday at 8 p.m. EST on NBCSN.

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The offseason continues for Capitals players, but the job never stops for management. While the Caps dont have much money to work with under the salary cap this summer, general manager Brian MacLellan and staff are still watching the conference finals closely for players who might fit next years roster. 

With that in mind, heres a look at where the free agent stock of each pending unrestricted free agent in the Western Conference Final stands now through three games between the Sharks and the Blues. Game 4 is tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Network. 

NOTE: This list includes only UFAs.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

Joe Pavelski, F

Sharks captain isnt going anywhere. You cant imagine him playing for another team. He missed six playoff games due to a head injury and received a rousing standing ovation when shown on the scoreboard at the SAP Center. He has four goals and nine assists in 11 playoff games. At age 34 Pavelski is good where he is. Not the player he once was, but a true leader and the heart-and-soul of a San Jose team looking for its first Stanley Cup.  

Stock: Neutral

Joe Thornton, F

The long wait for a Stanley Cup has been brutal for Thornton, now a third-line center at age 39. Hes come so close so many times with the Sharks and this could be his final chance. He's still a force on the ice, though not the dominant offensive player he once was. Thornton has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in the playoffs. He will finish his career with San Jose. 

Stock: Neutral

Gustav Nyquist, F

Nyquist has been a playmaker on the top line at right wing with 10 assists and a goal in 17 games. He produces without a ton of power-play time and had a great regular season after being acquired from the Red Wings at the trade deadline on Feb. 25. Nyquist had a $4.75 million cap hit this season. In line for a raise at age 29, but probably too expensive for the depth scoring Washington needs.   

Stock: Up

Erik Karlsson, D

He will be one of the most sought-after defensemen on the open market after playing the final season of his contract with the Sharks. The long-time Ottawa Senators blueliner still has great offensive gifts at age 28. He showed that again by scoring the controversial overtime winner in Game 3 against the Blues. Karlsson has 15 points in 17 Stanley Cup playoff games. The Caps already have their Carlson (John) on the right side so this one is not an option for them. 

Stock: Up

Joonas Donskoi, F

A roller-coaster playoffs for Donskoi, who has scored 14 goals each of the past two seasons and been a fixture in the San Jose lineup for four. He was a healthy scratch the first three games of the first-round series against Vegas but returned to play three games before getting hurt in Game 6. 

Donskoi missed the next five games, but hes made an impact since returning in Game 5 of the second-round series against Colorado. His one goal this postseason was a huge one. It proved to be the game-winner in Game 7 against the Avalanche. Donskoi has played on the fourth line in every game of the Western Conference Final against St. Louis. Think of him as Washingtons version of Andre Burakovsky. His age (27), experience and versatility should entice teams looking for depth scoring this summer. Maybe the Caps?  

Stock: Up

Tim Heed, D

A depth defenseman who played in 37 NHL games this year and just two in the playoffs. Held his own in minimal ice time at even strength (20:01) and was on the ice for one San Jose goal. Not an impact free agent. At 28 just hoping to find a team in need of depth on the right side. 

Stock: Down

Micheal Haley, F

A rugged fourth-liner whose toughness got him in the lineup early in the Vegas series in the first round. Haley has appeared in nine playoff games. He doesnt have a point. On his second and probably last go-around with the Sharks. 

Stock: Down

ST. LOUIS BLUES

Patrick Maroon, F

A true hometown hero in St. Louis, where he was born, Maroon has three goals and three assists in the playoffs. A big man at 6-foot-3, 227 pounds, Maroon is tough to move from the front of the net. But hes also 31 and on his fourth NHL team and hes only topped 20 goals and 40 points once. He does have 63 games worth of playoff experience, though, so he could be a good fit on a third line somewhere. The Capitals probably want more speed than Maroon would provide. They already have enough big bodies (Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin) with more pure skill. Maroon scored the overtime game-winner in Game 7 of the second round series vs. Dallas, but its unclear he can get more than the one-year, $1.75 million deal he signed with the Blues last summer.

Carl Gunnarsson, D

Injuries limited Gunnarsson to just 25 games during the regular season. He has appeared in nine playoff games, but his time in St. Louis appears to be dwindling after five seasons. Gunnarsson played the final two games of the first-round series against Winnipeg and all seven games against Dallas in the second round before getting hurt in Game 7. He returns tonight against San Jose in Game 4 in place of the injured Vince Dunn. At best the Swede is a cheap depth defenseman this offseason at age 32.   

Stock: Down

Chris Thorburn, F

Tough year for a 13-year NHL veteran who played one game for the Blues and then was dispatched to the AHL for the rest of the season. He was recalled for the playoffs but has yet to appear in a game. Soon to be 36, his career is likely over. 

Stock: Down

Michael Del Zotto, D

Split 42 games between Vancouver, Anaheim and the Blues this season, but has not appeared in a playoff game. St. Louis picked up Del Zotto at the trade deadline on Feb. 25 for depth they havent needed. He turns 29 next month so he should still garner some interest in a similar role, but after signing consecutive two-year deals with Philadelphia and then Vancouver he likely wont get much more than a one-year minimum deal. The Caps could probably find a better option if they need a veteran No. 7 defenseman who wont play much. 

Stock: Down

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SPRINGFIELD  The sling is still a thing for Capitals forward T.J. Oshie. 

On April 19, Oshie underwent surgery on his fractured right clavicle following a shove into the boards from behind in the final minutes of Game 4 of a Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Oshie missed the final three games of that series and watched helplessly as Washington was eliminated in double overtime of Game 7. He still winces sometimes when bumped on the healing collarbone. The sling is supposed to serve as a warning to stay away, but that doesnt always work so well.  

But Oshie is looking forward. He took some time to decompress after the disappointing injury and the loss to the Hurricanes. His season really ended April 18, after all, so the fire to return to the ice is already there. Oshie has spent the past two weeks getting his legs back into shape. And while it will be some time yet before he can do upper-body work - no weights or gripping anything until about the middle of June - that still leaves a full summer to get ready for 2019-20 when the Capitals figure to be a contender again. 

Were about a month away from me being able to do full-body workouts, but Ill be flying on all cylinders when mid-September comes around said Oshie, speaking Thursday at a STRIVERS event at The St. James, a sports, wellness and entertainment facility in Springfield that was introducing its upscale lifestyle and performance apparel, gear and tech line. Redskins tight end Vernon Davis was also in attendance. 

Training camp seems like a long way away. But Oshie thinks the extra rest will be good for a team that never really had time off last summer after winning the Stanley Cup in 2018. The championship celebration, the parade, the loss of coach Barry Trotz, free agency and each players day with the Stanley Cup all blurred together. It seemed like they were all right back at MedStar Iceplex for the start of the new season. 

When we saw each other last year for training camp, it felt like Hey  good to see you. Been a couple of weeks, Oshie joked. It was longer than that, but its what it felt like. So the hugs were still kind of hugs of Were champions still. This year when we show up its gonna be hugs because of I miss you. Its been a while. Lets get to work and be ready to try to get a title again.

Oshie, unlike past years, will spend most of the summer in Washington with his wife, Lauren, and daughters, Lyla and Leni. He said hes keeping tabs on his former team, the St. Louis Blues. Thats where he spent the first seven years of his career before the 2015 trade to Washington. 

There are 10 players still with St. Louis from when Oshie was there. He sees the parallels between the Capitals 44-year wait for that elusive first Stanley Cup and Blues fans waiting 52 for the Cup. St. Louis is down 2-1 to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final after a controversial overtime loss in Game 3, but Game 4 is tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Network.

Theres a lot of guys there I went to battle with on a nightly basis, Oshie said. Its nice seeing them contend and fighting and clawing their way to the finish line.

The Blues are in a fight for Oshies affections, however. Marcus Johansson was a teammate for his first two years with the Capitals. After missing out last year following a trade from Washington Johansson will play in the Stanley Cup Final with the Boston Bruins, who clinched the Eastern Conference on Thursday night with a series sweep of Carolina. 

David Backes, also with the Bruins now, was a Blues captain during Oshies time there. He, too, will play for the Cup for the first time. Justin Williams also played two years in Washington with Oshie, still good friends with the man they call Stick but not quite over losing to Williams Hurricanes yet. 

I love Stick, but after Carolina beat us you kind of want to see them lose, Oshie said. But it will be exciting to the end&[St. Louis and Washington] Ive loved and one thing both didnt have was a championship. To see the way this city rallied around the Stanley Cup last year - theres more people here, but I imagine it would be pretty big there, too. And theres a lot of people in that [Blues] crowd that have had season tickets since Day One. It would be pretty special for them to hoist the Cup in St. Louis. 

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