5.1.19

Page 20

SPORTS

05.01.2019 • WEDNESDAY • M 1

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH • B3

Cards bullpen has high-end potential GORDON • FROM B1

PHOTOS BY J.B. FORBES • jforbes@post-dispatch.com

The Blues’ Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko and Tyler Bozak start to celebrate after goalie Jordan Binnington stopped the Colorado Avalanche in the shootout in a game in early April at the Enterprise Center.

Bozak, O’Reilly enjoying their first trip to second round BLUES • FROM B1

each time. That all added up to 18 playoff games over his career until now. The postseason had been even more scarce for O’Reilly. He made it as a rookie in 2009-10 with Colorado, and once again in ’13-14 with the Avalanche. And that’s it. Two series. Two first-round exits. Thirteen total games. Until now. After not getting a sniff of the playoffs in three years in Buffalo, one of the reasons O’Reilly was excited about the monster trade last July 1 that sent him to St.Louis was the opportunity to reach the postseason and perhaps make a Stanley Cup run. Ditto for Bozak,who signed with the Blues via free agency on July 1. “Absolutely. I’m not getting any younger, that’s for sure,” said Bozak, 33. “Winning was the No. 1 priority for me and obviously looking at the teams that I wanted to be a part of,St.Louis seemed to be the best fit, a team that I had played against a bunch and knew how hard it was to play against them and how good of a team they were.” Yes, the Maple Leafs have an exciting high-powered team, but once again they were one and done in the playoffs this season. Bozak is still playing. “It’s crazy how hard it is to get to this point,” he said. “It’s been a fun year obviously so far, and we want to keep it going.” For now, the family vacation with wife Molly and their two young children is on hold. “She’s having a lot of fun,” Bozak said. “It’s just being in the moment like this and still playing. Everyone’s still enjoying it. We want to do this as long as we can.” Granted, merely making the second round probably doesn’t qualify as a Cup run, but there can’t be anyone on the Blues roster happier to be in the midst of the Western Conference semifinals against Dallas than Bozak and O’Reilly. After a decade of waiting, they finally made it to Round 2. As for O’Reilly, Team Canada already has been formed for the Worlds,but this year the squad must do without him. “Playoffs are the best way to be a rink rat,” O’Reilly said.“It’s the best opportunity to do what matters most.” O’Reilly and Bozak hope to have only two games remaining in the second round, a premise that would mean the Blues win out and move on to the conference finals and more uncharted ice. “It’s exciting hockey,” O’Reilly said. “It was nice to start at home (in Round 2). To be in this situation is great, but at the same time, we need to — for myself — I’ve got to find a way to produce more and be more of a threat. “It is difficult. You can see it’s been a long process already and how you have to find a way to bring that jump and physicality every shift. Because when you don’t, that’s when they start to generate momentum. The intensity of it and the physicality of it is tough.” Be it Winnipeg in Round 1 or Dallas in Round 2, Blues opponents have focused on stopping the O’Reilly line, which includes Vladimir Tarasenko on right wing, and in some unusual line-juggling by interim coach Craig Berube, has included Brayden Schenn, David Perron and Jaden Schwartz

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Ryan O’Reilly shoots from his knees against Winnipeg in the first round of the playoffs.

SERIES STATISTICS BLUES 9 11.1 (1 for 9) 75 28 29.3 74 44.8 3/2/4

CATEGORY GOALS POWER PLAY PERCENTAGE PENALTY KILL PERCENTAGE PENALTY MINUTES SHOTS/GAME HITS FACEOFF WIN PERCENTAGE GOALS BY PERIOD

BLUES

STARS

Points (G, A): Parayko 4 (1, 3), Schwartz 3 (2, 1), Tarasenko 2 (2, 0), Bozak 2 (1, 1), Pietrangelo 2 (1, 1), Bouwmeester 2 (0, 2), O’Reilly 2 (0, 2), Fabbri 1 (1, 0), Maroon 1 (1, 0), Barbashev 1 (0, 1), Dunn 1 (0, 1), Perron 1 (0, 1), Schenn 1 (0, 1), Thomas 1 (0, 1). Penalty minutes: Bouwmeester 4, Dunne 4, Gunnarsson 4, Perron 4, Pietrangelo 4, Bortuzzo 2, Maroon 2, Parayko 2, Tarasenko 2. Shots (min. 6): Tarasenko 11, Perron 9, Pietrangelo 9, Schwartz 9, Bozak 6, Maroon 6, Parayko 6. Hits (min. 5): Schwartz 9, Maroon 8, Sundqvist 8, Schenn 7, Tarasenko 7, Barbashev 5. Faceoff win pct. (min. 10): Bozak 53.8 (21 wins, 18 losses), Barbashev 47.6 (10, 11), O’Reilly 44.3 (43, 54), Sundqvist 43.8 (7, 9), Schenn 33.3 (8, 16). Average time on ice (min. 17): Pietrangelo 24:49, Bouwmeester 23:17, Parayko 23:08, O’Reilly 21:57, Tarasenko 19:15, Perron 19:00, Schenn 18:52, Sundqvist 17:57, Gunnarsson 17:42, Schwartz 17:03. Save percentage: Binnington .915 (86 of 94).

Points (G, A): Hintz 4 (2, 2), Zuccarello 4 (0, 4), Benn 2 (1, 1), Heiskanen 2 (1, 1), Janmark 2 (1, 1), Spezza 2 (1, 1), Dickinson 2 (0, 2), Cogliano 1 (1, 0), Radulov 1 (1, 0), Seguin 1 (1, 0), Dowling 1 (0, 1), Klingberg 1 (0, 1). Penalty minutes: Benn 6, Comeau 6, Lindell 4, Polak 4, Faksa 2, Fedun 2, Hintz 2, Janmark 2, Klingberg 2. Shots (min. 6): Radulov 9, Seguin 9, Benn 8, Heiskanen 8, Klingberg 8, Zuccarello 7, Dickinson 6, Janmark 6, Spezza 6. Hits (min. 5): Lindell 9, Polak 9, Benn 7, Comeau 7, Faksa 6, Radulov 6. Faceoff win pct. (min. 10): Seguin 62.9 (39 wins, 23 losses), Faksa 58.5 (24, 17), Hintz 50 (16, 16), Benn 50 (14, 14), Spezza 47.8 (11, 12). Average time on ice (min. 17): Lindell 25:57, Klingberg 25:50, Heiskanen 24:14, Seguin 20:34, Radulov 19:46, Benn 19:06, Zuccarello 17:17. Save percentage: Bishop .898 (79 of 88).

on left wing over nine games this postseason. O’Reilly has two goals and four assists, so he has hardly disappeared in the playoffs. Then again, he brings new meaning to the phrase “his own harshest critic.” In this series, faceoffs have been an issue for O’Reilly, who led the NHL in faceoff wins during the regular season (1,086) and finished eighth in faceoff percentage (56.9). But he has struggled against the Stars, winning only 44.3 percent in the first three games. “I’ve been going up against (Tyler) Seguin a lot and he’s really good,” O’Reilly said. “He finds a way to put his skate in the dot a lot, which is tough to go against. No problem, I want to be on the ice and taking every draw that I can.”

As for Bozak, he has two goals and three assists this postseason. Flanked by wingers Pat Maroon and Robert Thomas, he’s centering one of the Blues’ most effective lines of the playoffs. “I think it’s a great balance with ‘Rig’ (Maroon) being so big out there, Bozy being so confident,” Vince Dunn said. “Obviously Robby likes to play with speed and skill. Bozy’s a very responsible player out there. He really supports everyone through the middle of the ice.” Even so, it’s not exactly a vacation out there.

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PREDICT HOW THE MLB PLAYERS WILL DO IN MAY

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campaigns. Paul DeJong has developed into a legitimate No. 3 hitter and, as always, Yadier Molina has stubbornly refused to age. The Cardinals are building big innings and posting crooked numbers on the scoreboard, as they did Monday night with their six-run outburst against the Nationals in the fifth inning in Washington D.C. They are running more, taking more tactical at-bats and relying less on the long ball. “It’s always fun to run around and see everybody taking good at-bats, hitting the ball the right way, keeping the line moving,” hot-hitting outfielder Jose Martinez said Sunday. “That’s what this team is going to do this year.” So the Cardinals should really take off once they get their typically good pitching. They head into May with the division’s second-worst team earnedrun average. April played out like extended spring training for the Cardinals rotation. Dakota Hudson failed to work at least six innings in all five of his starts. Mikolas failed to reach that standard in four of his six starts. Wacha completed six innings in just two of five starts, and Flaherty has gone three for six. The rotation did make incremental progress during a 7-2 home stand, capped by Flaherty’s seven-inning outing Sunday. “We’re going to start putting a couple of good starts together and start piggybacking with each other,” Flaherty said after that 5-2 victory. “It’s just indicative of what we’re capable of,” manager Mike Shildt said. “We saw it with Jack, we saw it with (Wainwright), we saw it with Miles. (Daniel Ponce de Leon) gave us a nice spot start in there. (Hudson has) been great last several outings, keep building, moving forward. It’s a good rotation.” Well, it’s getting there anyways. The same can be said for the bullpen, which got solid work from closer Jordan Hicks and near perfection from set-up men John Gant and John Brebbia early on this season. Middle reliever Dominic Leone was doing great until the weekend, when he got shelled twice. Geovanny Gallegos ate some innings as a fill-in, as did hard-throwing rookie Ryan Helsley. On the other hand, Miller has yet to settle in, and fellow lefthander Tyler Webb has looked like a placeholder. Still, the Cardinals possess high-end potential in the bullpen. At some point this summer they could line up seven or eight relievers capable of handling high-leverage work. Gregerson has a history of that sort of success and provided glimpses of that during his rehabilitation tour of the minors. Mayers should return for the second half of the season after rebuilding his shoulder strength. Helsley could be a big-time weapon after adds more polish back at Memphis. After training as a starter this spring, he has shifted his focus to relief work. Could he be the second coming of Hicks? Adding Carlos Martinez to the bullpen later this month could move the Cardinals even closer to lockdown mode. The organization is stretching out the star-crossed Reyes to start games later this season, so perhaps Martinez could remain in a relief role longer than he expects. After all, Ponce de Leon could also step into the rotation if needed. So could lefty Austin Gomber, who has been outstanding at Memphis this season. Jake Woodford has made encouraging progress as well at the Triple-A level, adding more organizational depth. By midsummer, the Cardinals should be winning the arms race again. That advantage and their improved offense should make them a serious contender. “It’s been a really good feeling knowing that we are in this situation and us as a staff probably hasn’t pitched as well as we wanted to,” Flaherty said. “Everybody knows we’re going to turn it around and start pitching better.”

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