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The definitive review of all 31 Reverse Retro jerseys

Adidas and the National Hockey League are trying something creative this season. It wouldn’t really be right to call it “new”, since most things are old anyway, but all 31 adidas Reverse Retro jerseys were revealed on Monday to mixed reviews by fans and jersey critics alike on social media.

In theory, “everything that’s old is new again” can be a reassuring nostalgic feeling, but it works best when you’re reuniting with friends you haven’t seen in a while and some of them haven’t changed one bit or something.

In reality, “everything that’s old is new again” is just a marketing ploy to sell jerseys and– to the dismay of my wallet– I’m sold. Somewhat.

Not every jersey is perfect, but some are unique, some are good looking and others are downright attractive.

Yes, it’s possible to be seduced by sweater threads. Ask any jersey collector.

Before we begin, there’s just one question left to ask– what, exactly, were the prerequisites for determining what could be considered “retro”?

There’s inconsistency across the board between all 31 teams, but that’s bound to happen since some have been around since before the league’s inception (see, Montreal Canadiens) and other teams are just entering their fourth season of existence (shoutout Vegas Golden Knights).

Alright, let’s grade some sweaters.

Editor’s note: Yes, adidas picked a single year that each jersey represents, but we’re going to present a more accurate timeline for when each original design was flying around the ice.

Anaheim Ducks (based on the 1995-96 alternate)

The Anaheim Ducks must have been browsing eBay one night, saw that the original “Wild Wing” (or “Mighty Wing”, if you prefer) jerseys often sell for double the price of a regular adidas authentic jersey these days and said to themselves “gee, we could make that money easily” without realizing that the sales on eBay do not– in any part– go to the Ducks themselves.

Nevertheless, this is a good plan B, but almost everything from the Mighty Ducks era is beloved except for one thing– whatever’s happening on this jersey.

For one season, it’s a good gimmick and a quick cash grab (especially for the drying up reserves due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic).

It’s standard for an NHL team to reach back in time, change a thing or two and sell a lot of “new” jerseys. Solid effort, Anaheim.

It shouldn’t come back out of the vault ever again.

Grade: C

Arizona Coyotes (based on the 1998-2003 alternate)

This is one of my favorite jerseys in the Reverse Retro bunch simply for the fact that the Arizona Coyotes took an already legendary concept from the 1990s and made it better.

Sure the original look wasn’t great (but also not as horrendous as you probably remember) back in the day, but this time around it looks much better with purple as the base color instead of green.

Why? Because the Coyotes’ moon logo is primarily purple and purple is featured more prominently in the crest logo on this jersey than the green ever was– plus is makes the saguaro inspired cacti design at the bottom pop.

Purple is the night sky of a desert sunset. It accentuates the mountains and rock formations in the lower third.

In simple terms, this jersey is art. It’s a masterpiece.

Grade: A

Boston Bruins (based on the 1981-95 design)

A simple remix of an iconic look that the Boston Bruins used for many years spanning the likenesses of Terry O’Reilly, Ray Bourque and Cam Neely in the “Big Bad Bruins”/”Lunchpail A.C.” era, this Reverse Retro redesign works well as a short-term implementation of the league’s fourth jersey rotation to Boston’s lineup.

Could it become something that sticks in the Hub for a while? Sure, but the franchise would be best to use this for a few seasons and work on an incredible new gold design.

Though it’s hard to argue not resurrecting the bear patch on the shoulders full-time. That bear has seen some things.

The Bruins last used a gold-based jersey in the 2010 Winter Classic and a gold-based third jersey in 1995-96 (the first year of the NHL’s official third jersey program). Prior to that, the B’s actually wore gold for select games from 1940-44, then again as a primary design from 1955-67, when the team was mostly irrelevant to the overall league standings.

It must be mentioned, however, that when Bobby Orr first laced up for Boston, he was wearing a gold uniform in his 1966-67 rookie season.

Simply put, the Bruins need a gold jersey in their rotation. This one works (for now).

Grade: A

Buffalo Sabres (based on the 2000-06 alternate)

The Buffa-goat is back. Kind of.

It’s on the shoulders and modernized with the current color scheme (so… Buffalo’s original colors), but the Sabres opted to cancel out one of their positive changes made in the offseason with a negative resurrection.

No, the two swords logo on the front isn’t bad, but one thing that never made me feel anything special for the original 2000-06 alternates was the fact that the city’s name appears in the lower striping pattern.

It’s neat, but is it necessary?

At least it looks better in traditional Sabres colors and the number font is just like “the good old days” when Buffalo dominated the league with players like Miroslav Satan, Maxim Afinogenov, Daniel Brière and others.

If the Sabres make the playoffs for the first time since 2011, then we’ll know the real reason why the franchise has been awful for about a decade. It all comes down to style points.

Grade: A

Calgary Flames (based on the 1998-2006 alternate)

Yes, folks, as the Calgary Flames’ tweet mentions– “Blasty” is back.

Now get off your high horse if you think this is truly a “Reverse Retro” jersey and not just an updated alternate/fourth sweater.

There was just one minor change to the eye in this design– aside from the white flaming “C” instead of how it looked originally on the shoulders in red– and it’s the striping pattern on the bottom.

There’s significantly less red to this jersey. It isn’t bad, but just… …not great. It doesn’t really “reverse” anything major, which discredits the basic foundation and understanding of the Reverse Retro ideology.

Had adidas gone in a different direction and made a white reversed version of the iconic “Blasty” look, then Calgary would be getting a better grade.

Grade: C

Carolina Hurricanes (based on the Hartford Whalers 1979-82, 1983-85 design)

Prior to the 2018-19 season, the Carolina Hurricanes introduced a Hartford Whalers Throwback jersey that they wore three times between 2018-20 (twice against the Boston Bruins in 2018-19 and once against the Los Angeles Kings in 2019-20).

Despite not playing in Hartford since relocating to North Carolina ahead of the 1997-98 season, Carolina made every effort to get into character– even dressing up PNC Arena in Whalers colors on the inside of the barn, but there was one thing missing from the look.

This time around the Canes have added “Pucky” to the shoulders of this second iteration of a throwback sweater.

It’s grey though, which isn’t so much of an inversion of the 1979 color scheme so much as it is a reversal of the 1992-97 final design before leaving Hartford.

At the very least the Hurricanes deserve credit for going all-in on the retro requirement and not coming up with any “fauxback” shenanigans using Whalers colors on a Carolina logo.

Grade: B+

Chicago Blackhawks (based on the 1940-41 design)

Well, this is… something.

Back in 1940, the Chicago Blackhawks only had the crest on their dark jersey with the white jersey simply having numbers on the front and back a la American football teams.

This is, in fact, a Reverse Retro with the overall design of the white jersey from the 1940-41 season now done in black, but the logo was understandably modified to make it… less racist than it was back then?

Sure the Blackhawks name itself was done in honor of both a military division and a prominent Sauk nation member, Black Hawk, and the club does (at best) more than other professional teams that have recently changed their name (see, Washington Football Team) to honor indigenous people, but the logo isn’t great.

The overall aesthetic is simplistic, but sharp. Why ruin it with a caricature?

Grade: D+

Colorado Avalanche (based on the Québec Nordiques 1991-95 design)

It’s hard to imagine what the Québec Nordiques would look like today– especially since they were rebranding for the 1995-96 season anyway had they not relocated to Denver, Colorado, but the Avalanche have provided a clear look at what wouldn’t have been a terrible idea if the Nordiques had decided to go with the rebrand in the ’90s, then settle back down from a period of throwing caution to the wind.

There’s nothing wrong with bringing something out of the closet once in a while, but someone might cry “jersey foul” if it’s exactly as things used to look before relocating.

That makes things difficult for Carolina and Colorado to do a Reverse Retro sweater without leaving someone feeling like they’ve had their team “stolen” once again.

But whatever, these are meant to make a profit off of nostalgic feelings and jersey collectors. Buy one or not, it doesn’t affect the feelings of the overall brand.

The fact that the Avs and Canes lay claim to the old logos helps them make it out alive in the grueling course of Reverse Retro critics, unlike the Minnesota Wild’s attempt at being the Minnesota North Stars without stepping on the Dallas Stars’ history too much.

Now the only question I have left for the Avalanche is should I get this in Nathan MacKinnon or Mikko Rantanen?

Grade: A

Columbus Blue Jackets (based on the 2000-01 design)

The Columbus Blue Jackets read the directions for the assignment and nearly got a 100% on the final exam. These jerseys are incredible– even if they remind you of the early days of the Washington Capitals (and Washington’s current alternate jersey).

Sure the original Blue Jackets logo is a bit out there, but Columbus set the bar in terms of doing something different and giving the fans in the heart of Ohio a red jersey for the first time in franchise history.

It shouldn’t become commonplace, since– you know– they’re the Blue Jackets– “blue” is literally in their name, but for an “outlandish” marketing standpoint, this jersey has everything.

Except for one thing. Stinger’s not on the shoulder patch.

For whatever reason, adidas decided to include Columbus’ current cannon shoulder patch/alternate logo on this jersey instead of following the guidelines of simply reversing their original look.

That’s why they almost got a “100” on their exam. Just a few points off for not including the most iconic thing about the franchise’s early years and current mascot.

Grade: A

Dallas Stars (based on their 1997-2006 design)

Adidas claims this jersey is based on Dallas’ 1999 Stanley Cup champion look, but the star based design for the Stars began as a third jersey in 1997, before making its way to the full-time grounds for the home and road uniforms from 1999-2006.

Since rebranding ahead of the 2013-14 season, Dallas has put an emphasis on one thing– being Dallas. Gone are the days of the Minnesota North Stars. By removing any semblance of gold from their jersey, the Stars fully completed their transition from pre-relocation to post-relocation.

As a result, this monstrosity happened.

It’s not that the star-shaped design isn’t appreciated– it’s that it shouldn’t be matched with white pants, white gloves, white socks and drained of any color or originality to begin with, since the crest is rather muted as a result of the change from gold to silver on a white background.

Had the jersey been black with a white bottom star-striping pattern then it’d be a different story.

Grade: D

Detroit Red Wings (based on their 1987-2007 design)

Once more, adidas claims that this Reverse Retro jersey harkens back to a championship winning year for the Detroit Red Wings back in 1998. In reality, the Red Wings wore the same look from 1987-2007, with the only difference being that since the 2003-04 season, the NHL deemed white jerseys to be the road set instead of the home uniform.

This jersey seems to borrow the silver from Detroit’s 2017 Centennial Classic jersey to give it a little more definition than a long-sleeved plain white shirt with a logo slapped on the front and red numbers with a nameplate on the sides and back.

If only they would’ve picked something from Detroit’s days as the Detroit Cougars or even the Detroit Falcons.

The Cougars had some designs unlike any other in franchise history, while the Falcons used yellow with the usual red and white format for the club– marking the only time the team has ever used more than just red and white on a regular sweater.

Reversing the Falcons colors would’ve been a hard sell, sure, but the Cougars, man. There was potential and it was left untapped.

Grade: F

Edmonton Oilers (based on the 1979-80 design)

It’s simple, clean and a nod to the team’s inaugural NHL season, while subtly paying homage to their pre-Edmonton Oilers days as the Alberta Oilers in the World Hockey Association (WHA).

Orange is more prominent in what would otherwise likely be a better companion to their home uniform as a road jersey than their current road set, but that’s just probably one of the reasons why the entire jersey wasn’t done in orange instead of white as the base design– because it already exists (sure, with the more modern shade of blue and traffic cone orange, but you get the point).

These aren’t bad, but the Oilers never really stray far from the formula.

Todd McFarlane at least had fun with the brand and nudged it towards the future with his 2001-07 alternate jersey– love it or hate it.

There are just… …fine. The logo wasn’t reversed like some had hoped, but whatever.

Grade: B-

Florida Panthers (based on the 1993-98 design)

The Florida Panthers have long had an identity crisis.

For some, the leaping panther is a better looking logo than today’s spitting image of current head coach, Joel Quenneville, despite the modern logo dating back to the 2016-17 season, which was prior to Quenneville’s arrival behind the bench last season.

Confused? That’s exactly how Florida feels.

This team has probably flipped from red to blue and back again as many times as the state has in U.S. Presidential elections in the last few decades.

Florida’s first dark based uniform was red, then added a blue alternate jersey to their rotation from 1998-2003, before swapping the red with the blue as their new home look from 2003-06, prior to de-arching the nameplates on the back of the jersey on an otherwise untouched design in 2006-07– which was prior to Reebok’s demands that the Panthers use a template with vertical piping centered between the underarms and crest from 2007-11.

Anyway, the Panthers need a blue uniform in their set and this one utilizes the current colors of the franchise (red, blue, tan and white) well in the inverted aesthetic of how the club looked when the team first hit the ice in South Florida after almost being named the Florida Block Busters upon expansion in 1993.

At this point anything else is just filler material to describe a masterpiece that doesn’t really need words to be observed.

Grade: A

Los Angeles Kings (based on the 1988-91 design)

Purple “Forum Blue” is back and the Los Angeles Kings have never felt more royal– except for that time they won the Cup twice in a three-year span in 2012 and 2014.

The timeless look of the Wayne Gretzky era jerseys were given a fresh paint job with old leftover colors, which begs the question “is this really a Reverse Retro look or something new entirely from recycled parts?”

Has marketing gone too far?

Probably not, since there’s no burgers involved this time around.

While the Kings could’ve come up with something different, Los Angeles played it safe and went with something that encapsulates the spirit of the city– trying to be the Los Angeles Lakers.

You might not know some of the struggling actors in Hollywood or if that really was just Anze Kopitar that walked by, but everyone can identity a favorite (or hated, if you’re a Boston Celtics fan) Laker.

Grade: C+

Minnesota Wild (based on the Minnesota North Stars 1978-79 design)

Whereas the Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche own and used some form of their old logo from prior to relocation for their Reverse Retro jerseys, the Minnesota Wild have no ties to the Minnesota North Stars because the North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993, so we’re left with the Wild logo as the crest on the front in 3-D and in North Stars colors.

By default, these jerseys should’ve been what the Stars used, but with the North Stars stylized “N” on the front of the jersey or Dallas could’ve just let Minnesota buy back that old logo or whatever, but instead we get this jersey that looks more appropriate for a local beer league team sponsored by Subway.

Some say the Wild should switch to these colors full time– especially with Dallas relinquishing gold from their palette ahead of the 2013-14 season, but those people should just move on like the North Stars did.

The Wild are here to stay and could’ve been really creative with a red or tan based primary color in a true Reverse Retro design based on their original look from 2000-03.

Besides, Minnesota could use a red jersey as an alternate, whether you like it or not. It is one of their team colors and it could go well with their more uniform approach to their jerseys since adidas took over ahead of the 2017-18 season.

Otherwise these are just fine. The yellow on green number font gives off a “Da Beauty League” vibe, which just isn’t very like the NHL to have fun.

Grade: C

Montreal Canadiens (based on the 1974-2007 design with 1909 elements, etc.)

While the Montreal Canadiens played it rather conservative with regards to their Reverse Retro look, the designers over at adidas really came up with something crisp, clean and hit it out of the park.

Montreal last had a third sweater in 2006-07, and it was really well done for being the one and only regular alternate jersey in franchise history.

Though the Habs have a timeless look that isn’t one to be messed with in any matter, there’s always an exception to every rule and this is it if the Canadiens are planning on using this blue jersey as an alternate in the long-term.

Then again, people from Montreal might feel weird about wearing what would otherwise be considered the Nordiques’ primary color, so there’s the “Battle of Québec” to consider.

If you’re a Habs diehard, maybe you don’t like this jersey. If you’re from Québec City and begrudgingly became a Habs fan after the Nordiques relocated to Colorado instead of joining the Boston Bruins fanbase north of the border or simply following the Avalanche, then perhaps this is the jersey for you.

Grade: A

Nashville Predators (based on the 1998-2001 design)

If the Nashville Predators had walked out onto the ice wearing these in 1998, it would’ve explained their evolution to the modern marigold jerseys a lot better than the simple reversal of the colors that they originally made ahead of the 2011-12 season before Reverse Retro became a thing for 2020-21 (and beyond?).

That said, Nashville’s original look inverted to a gold based jersey with the blue stripe separating the silver yoke that runs down the sleeves still looks fantastic– and with the old number and nameplate fonts too!

The one thing that’s not true to the original 1998 design (other than the slightly modified original crest), however, is the shoulder patch that originally debuted on the mustard yellow alternate sweater from 2001-07, but made its way to the home and road uniform’s shoulders from 2005-07.

Does that actually mean this look is really just based on the 2005-07 design and adidas doesn’t think that something as old as 15 years ago isn’t, you know, actually kind of old?

No big deal though, these jerseys are still great, since the Predators went with the better shoulder patch from their early days.

The guitar pick that’s been on their right shoulder of their regular jerseys since 2011 shouldn’t be afraid of going extinct.

Grade: A

New Jersey Devils (based on the 1982-92 design)

Italy! Great to see they finally got an NHL team.

The New Jersey Devils are paying homage to The Sopranos with these Italian flag inspired jerseys.

Actually, it’s just the inverted color scheme of their original road jersey and the Devils have a quality Reverse Retro jersey on their hands. If they plan on keeping the Heritage Jersey long-term, then this brings a fine balance to The Force.

If not, New Jersey should really design a black alternate jersey and roll with red, white, black and green as their main color scheme among the club’s four jersey options.

Now why do I have a craving for Sbarro?

Grade: A

New York Islanders (based on the 1978-84 design)

Was the Gorton’s Fisherman unavailable?

It doesn’t really look like the New York Islanders even tried at all, but upon further inspection you’ll notice that the orange and white are reversed on this jersey– and that’s besides the fact that the blue is a darker shade than how it looked back in the day (and nowadays too).

To the Isles’ credit, this jersey isn’t outlandish like most of their other attempts at creating a contemporary image for their club.

It’s uninspiring and, frankly, not that original, but it works. It just doesn’t offer much for the Reverse Retro vibes, however, which takes major points off overall.

At the very least it wasn’t oversimplified like their neighbors’ new threads in Manhattan.

Grade: D

New York Rangers (based on the 1996-98, 1999-2007 alternate)

Want to know how to kill a good thing? Make it a practice jersey.

These Statue of Liberty jerseys don’t scream “[g]ive me your tired “, but rather “I’m tired and I shouldn’t have been awoken. Now let me go back to sleep.”

The striping pattern on the sleeves would look better on a New England Patriots pro-shop sweater, which should probably unnerve New York Giants and New York Jets fans that are also New York Rangers fans.

It should’ve been red with blue, silver and white inverted stripes to truly make it “Reverse Retro”.

Instead, New York gave us this. Whatever this is.

Grade: F

Ottawa Senators (based on the 1992-93 design with the 1997-2007 crest)

Are you upset about the Ottawa Senators going back and modernizing an early version of their 2-D logo while casting off the red based home jerseys into the sunset? Well then here’s a red jersey for you!

It’s the reverse of the original black jersey, which is sort of back (there’s some minor differences in number font, striping, etc.) and it’s fine, but it just feels like something Sens fans have come to know and despise in recent years– it feels cheap.

Sure, Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, Matt Murray and Co. will look good in it, but introducing this jersey alongside the resurrected homage to the days of yore that the team currently has as home and road sweaters just makes this whole thing feel off.

That said, Ottawa does need a red jersey to complete their otherwise timeless set and it wasn’t like we’re going to get a reversed barber pole jersey anytime soon.

Usually something a little different is preferred, though, to make it feel like an alternate or at least a throwback to the original Senators franchise. This will work for now, however.

Grade: B+

Philadelphia Flyers (based on the 1984-97 design)

The inside of the neck of the jersey says it’s inspired by Philadelphia’s look in 1995, but the Flyers wore this design for much longer before, during and after the mid-90s.

Hell, the base of this design first emerged when “Cooperalls” were adorned, then promptly banned by the NHL because after two seasons they were found to be too much of a safety hazard (sliding on ice without any brakes became an issue because of the nature of the pants’ ability to act like a broom in curling and clear a path to the boards).

Anyway, the Flyers already have a solid set of jerseys to the extent that this one isn’t really necessary.

It might conjure images of Halloween, nightmares of Gritty or reminders of being sent down to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL) if you don’t perform well in them, but they’re fine, I guess.

Unnecessary, but fine.

Grade: C

Pittsburgh Penguins (based on the 1992-97 design)

The Pittsburgh Penguins became bold in the 1990s after winning their first Stanley Cup ring in franchise history.

First, in 1992, they introduced the “Robo-Penguin” crest to the world, then they made a jersey with diagonal lettering on the front as their road uniform.

Neither decision was very smart and only one of them was corrected on this Reverse Retro jersey, which– all things considered– doesn’t look that bad.

Sure the Penguin on the shoulders is free from his triangle like on their current alternate jerseys (former 2017 Stadium Series look), but the “Pittsburgh” letting seems to standout better on the white edition of this timeless classic (for better or worse).

More teams should experiment with diagonal alternates, but that’s not to say that every team can succeed– let alone barely get away with an acceptable look with just words on the front of their jersey.

There’s a lot of rich jersey history for the Pens though and some of that potential went untapped. It’s a shame, really.

Grade: C+

St. Louis Blues (based on the 1995-98 design)

Aside from the music, the St. Louis Blues are blue for a reason. Sure red is in the St. Louis city flag, but they’re the Blues. The BLUES.

This is almost as bad as the trumpet jerseys that were rightfully spited to the gates of the underworld.

It’d almost make sense to put the shoulder patch as the main crest on these, since then it’d at least make sense as an homage to what was almost the worst alternate jersey in the history of the league, but thankfully avoided due to Mike Keenan’s keen eye.

Some things are just better in concept, but in reality they’re not. As a fashion jersey, this is probably fine. As something the team has to wear on the ice for a game, well… …that’s different.

At least the team didn’t end up moving to Saskatoon back in 1983, right?

Grade: D

San Jose Sharks (based on the 1997-2007 design)

Adidas stipulates that this jersey harkens back to 1998, but the San Jose Sharks originally used this template as an alternate jersey back in 1997-98– the final season that San Jose wore their original uniforms since joining the league in 1991 as an expansion team.

The original Sharks logo is a timeless classic from the ’90s, while the fact that San Jose has already reached back and utilized their original setup to mark their 25th anniversary back in the 2015-16 season, it’s only fitting that they’d naturally move onto their second ever look for the subsequent nod to their franchise history.

In other words, ten years from now, you can probably expect an orange Reverse Retro jersey based on the 2007-13 design, because that’d keep the pattern going.

Anyway, these are fine. They’re nothing spectacular, since grey is a hard sell on a home uniform, but reviving an iconic look without murdering it by reversing it is exactly what the Reverse Retro jerseys are all about.

Grade: B

Tampa Bay Lightning (based on the 2001-07 design)

They really like pointing out when teams won Cups years ago with these jerseys, huh? Once again, adidas points out that this is from “2004” (as in “the year the Tampa Bay Lightning won their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history”), but the Bolts used this template from 2001-07 after originally debuting the frameworks of this jersey when they first hit the ice in 1992 as an expansion team.

Tampa refined the look over the years by changing the number and nameplate font to italics, changing the font altogether and finally landing on the look that they wore the last time they won the Cup before 2020.

As such, these Reverse Retro jerseys are a great nod to the Lightning’s history as a hockey market.

Though their current uniforms might be a bit plain, a blue version of what is essentially their original design adds a spark of life to their complete jersey set.

Teams sometimes go back to old motifs after a while and if these are popular enough, the Lightning would be smart to find a way to mix their current logo with this jersey template or something.

Grade: A

Toronto Maple Leafs (based on the 1967-70 design and 1970-72, 1973-75 design, etc.)

What were they thinking? Seriously, what were they thinking?

It’s one thing to pull out the old alternate Leaf logo on the shoulders from “the bad Leaf era” or whatever, but it’s another thing to use elements from the 1960s Toronto Maple Leafs jersey and slap it on the 1970s and 1980s jersey design.

Toronto introduced new jerseys for the 1967 Stanley Cup Playoffs and went on to win the Cup wearing the Leafs logo that was brought back for its appearance on this Reverse Retro jersey, but again, it’s a sin according to Leafs fans and historians to put it on the base design of some of the worst Maple Leafs hockey in franchise history.

Also, it’s a crime to put a blue maple leaf on a blue Maple Leafs jersey– and with blue numbers on the sides and back too!

There’s so much adidas could’ve done with Toronto’s lengthy history of jerseys and instead they went for the most bland design.

If they hadn’t used up the throwbacks to the Toronto Arenas and Toronto St. Pats over the last few years, then that would’ve been a great opportunity for a Reverse Retro look that was truly something special.

Even still, they could’ve gone with anything from 1927-67 or 1992-2011 for a better retro feel.

These are just insulting to the Leafs’ legacy.

Grade: F

Vancouver Canucks (based on the 2001-06 alternate)

Gradients aren’t usually something that look great in sports– especially on a hockey jersey. Yet, this time around the Vancouver Canucks have made significant strides in gradient technology.

When this template first hit the ice in 2001, Vancouver utilized a slow change from blue to maroon which– while being a little bit out there– didn’t look completely out of place for Canucks standards.

It wasn’t the greatest thing ever seen, but it also wasn’t the worst, since Vancouver’s previous gradient design was a horizontal change as opposed to the almost symmetrical vertical approach.

Plus, the Canucks had those “V” jerseys before, so it can’t possibly get any worse, right?

This time around, instead of maroon, the Canucks are using green and a sharper looking number font. Sometimes progress takes time, but when it’s allowed the time to grow, the end result is something pretty special.

These Reverse Retro threads get a seal of approval as one of the better nods to an organization’s more recent past.

Grade: A

Vegas Golden Knights (based on the Las Vegas Thunder 1993-98 design)

The Vegas Golden Knights were born in 2017, therefore making it pretty difficult to reverse something retro that hadn’t even been born yet.

If you were thinking “well, they could at least reverse the colors of their jerseys” then you must not have noticed the introduction of their gold alternate uniform this offseason, so that limits you further.

Unless you get creative.

“Sin City” used to have an International Hockey League (IHL) team known as the Las Vegas Thunder.

The Thunder had a primarily a 1990s looking teal, silver, black and white color scheme and used the template that Vegas based their Reverse Retro jersey on to design this red edition with the Golden Knights’ alternate logo on the front of it.

It works, but at what cost?

Vegas could use a red jersey in their overall selection of jerseys to choose from, but this one probably won’t be getting too much time in the spotlight.

Even for a place where “a bit much” is the standard, this jersey seems a bit too much.

Grade: C

Washington Capitals (based on the 1995-2000 road design)

The Washington Capitals hit a home run by digging out the eagle and updating it with their current colors. The only thing that should change if these become part of their jersey rotation is the name and number font.

It’s nice to see something from the past brought into the future, but it’d also be nice to see it get cleaned up a bit more than just the occasional dusting.

It’s an iconic look from the days of a questionable change in the direction of the franchise’s branding, but in the end it made the team that much better.

Or maybe this all just the nostalgia talking. Either way, it gets them an “A”.

Grade: A

Winnipeg Jets (based on the old 1979-80 Winnipeg Jets)

Like the Minnesota Wild and their relation to the Minnesota North Stars, the current Winnipeg Jets have nothing to do with the old Winnipeg Jets, but at least the Jets have the ability to use the old Jets logo.

They also have the ability to use the old Jets’ colors, which could’ve led to a unique red based Reverse Retro jersey, but we got something that looks like it was designed by Snow Miser instead.

Did it really have to be grey?

The Aviator Jersey is at least more colorful than this and did a better job inverting the color scheme than whatever’s going on here.

The logo is fine, the rest of the jersey is, well, it leaves something to be desired.

Grade: D-

Categories
Free Agency NHL Nick's Net

Motte re-signs with Canucks

Vancouver Canucks forward, Tyler Motte, re-signed with the club on a two-year deal worth $1.225 million per season on Friday as the NHL’s free agency period began.

The 25-year-old native of St. Clair, Michigan was originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the fourth round (121st overall) in 2013, and made his league debut with Chicago in the 2016-17 season.

He was later dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets with Artemi Panarin and Chicago’s 6th round pick (Jonathan Davidsson) in the 2017 NHL Draft (previously acquired from the N.Y. Islanders) for Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg and Columbus’ 2018 5th round pick (later traded to Arizona, Coyotes selected Michael Callahan) on June 23, 2017.

On Feb. 26, 2018, Motte was traded with Jussi Jokinen by the Blue Jackets to the Canucks for Thomas Vanek.

In parts of four seasons in the NHL, Motte has 22-16–38 totals in 187 career games for the Blackhawks, Blue Jackets and Canucks.

He had eight points (four goals, four assists) in 34 games with Vancouver last season and plays a vital role on head coach, Travis Green’s fourth line.

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Free Agency NHL Nick's Net

Report: Gudas on his way to Florida Panthers via free agency

Known for his on-the-edge play, Radko Gudas is taking his talents to the Florida Panthers defense on a three-year contract worth a reported $2.500 million per season.

The 30-year-old native of Prague, Czech Republic was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third round (66th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft and spent last season with the Washington Capitals after he was traded by the Philadelphia Flyers for Matt Niskanen on June 14, 2019.

Gudas had 2-13–15 totals in 63 games with the Capitals before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shortened the regular season and only had 40 penalty minutes without recording a single suspension last season.

A right-shot defender, he made his NHL debut with the Lightning in the 2012-13 season and spent parts of three seasons with Tampa before being traded to the Flyers on March 2, 2015, where he spent the next four years before being dealt to Washington prior to the 2019-20 season.

In eight NHL seasons, Gudas has 120 points (26 goals, 94 assists) in 479 career games for the Capitals, Lightning and Flyers.

He’ll bring some necessary upgrades in toughness and versatility to Florida’s changing landscape on defense in the wake of new General Manager, Bill Zito’s hiring and acquisition of Markus Nutivaara from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.

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NHL Nick's Net

2020 NHL Entry Draft: Round 1 Recap

Round 1 of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft was held virtually Tuesday night after the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic changed plans from hosting the draft at Bell Centre in Montreal to a properly socially distanced from home event.

Coverage of this year’s first round begins Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN in the United States, as well as SN and TVAS in Canada. Rounds 2-7 will be televised at 11:30 a.m. ET on NHLN in the U.S. and SN1 in Canada.

As always, there were plenty of surprises and (possibly) a lack of trades. Here’s how it all went down.

2020 NHL Entry Draft Round 1

1. New York Rangers–> LW Alexis Lafrenière, Rimouski Océanic, (QMJHL)

2. Los Angeles Kings–> C Quinton Byfield, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose Sharks)–> C/LW Tim Stützle, Adler Mannheim (DEL)

4. Detroit Red Wings–> RW Lucas Raymond, Frölunda HC (SHL)

5. Ottawa Senators–> D Jake Sanderson, USA U-18 (USHL)

6. Anaheim Ducks–> D Jamie Drysdale, Erie Otters (OHL)

7. New Jersey Devils–> RW Alexander Holtz, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)

8. Buffalo Sabres–> RW Jack Quinn, Ottawa 67s (OHL)

9. Minnesota Wild–> C Marco Rossi, Ottawa 67s (OHL)

10. Winnipeg Jets–> C/LW Cole Perfetti, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)

11. Nashville Predators–> G Yaroslav Askarov, SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)

12. Florida Panthers–> C Anton Lundell, HFIK (Liiga)

13. Carolina Hurricanes (from Toronto Maple Leafs)–> C/RW Seth Jarvis, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

14. Edmonton Oilers–> C/LW Dylan Holloway, Wisconsin Badgers (NCAA)

15. Toronto Maple Leafs (from Pittsburgh Penguins)–> LW Rodion Amirov, Tolpar Ufa (MHL)

16. Montreal Canadiens–> D Kaiden Guhle, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)

17. Chicago Blackhawks–> LW Lukas Reichel, Eisbären Berlin (DEL)

18. New Jersey Devils (from Arizona Coyotes)–> C/RW Dawson Mercer, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)

19. New York Rangers (from Calgary Flames)–> D Braden Schneider, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

20. New Jersey Devils (from Vancouver Canucks via Tampa Bay Lightning)–> D Shakir Mukhamadullin, Tolpar Ufa (MHL)

21. Columbus Blue Jackets–> RW Yegor Chinakhov, Avangard Omsk (KHL)

22. Washington Capitals (from Carolina Hurricanes via New York Rangers and Calgary Flames)–> C Hendrix Lapierre, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)

23. Philadelphia Flyers–> RW Tyson Foerster, Barrie Colts (OHL)

24. Calgary Flames (from Washington Capitals)–> C Connor Zary, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)

25. Colorado Avalanche–> D Justin Barron, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

26. St. Louis Blues–> LW Jake Neighbours, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

27. Anaheim Ducks (from Boston Bruins)–> RW Jacob Perreault, Sarnia Sting (OHL)

28. Ottawa Senators (from New York Islanders)–> C Ridly Greig, Brandon Wheat Kings (OHL)

29. Vegas Golden Knights–> C Brendan Brisson, Chicago Steel (USHL)

30. Dallas Stars–> C Mavrik Bourque, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

31. San Jose Sharks (from Tampa Bay Lightning)–> RW Ozzy Wiesblatt, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)

Trades made on Day 1 of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft:

  • The Columbus Blue Jackets traded F Josh Anderson to the Montreal Canadiens for F Max Domi and a 2020 3rd round pick (78th overall).
  • The Calgary Flames traded their 2020 1st round pick (19th overall) to the New York Rangers for a 2020 1st round pick (22nd overall from Carolina via NYR) and a 2020 3rd round pick (72nd overall).
  • Calgary later flipped their 2020 1st round pick (22nd overall from Carolina via NYR) to the Washington Capitals for a 2020 1st round pick (24th overall) and a 2020 3rd round pick (80th overall).
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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning shutout Stars in Game 6, win 2nd Cup in franchise history

For the first time since 2004, the Tampa Bay Lightning are Stanley Cup champions.

Gone are the days of choking in the 2015 Final, the 2016 and 2018 Eastern Conference Final or being swept in the 2019 First Round.

Open a window– make it a championship window– and see just how long the good times will last (there’s going to be some salary cap stuff to figure out for 2020-21 and beyond, but worry about that later).

For now, raise a socially distant glass on Zoom or whatever and celebrate responsibly as the Bolts downed the Dallas Stars, 2-0, in Game 6 at Rogers Place in Edmonton to win the series 4-2 and bring the Cup back to Tampa for the second time in franchise history.

Brayden Point’s power-play goal in the first period held up to be the game-winning, Stanley Cup clinching goal as Blake Coleman added an insurance marker in the middle frame.

Victor Hedman became the second player in Lightning franchise history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2020 postseason’s most valuable player.

Hedman’s also the third player from Sweden to win the Conn Smythe and the 10th different defender to win it in league history, joining Duncan Keith (2015), Scott Niedermayer (2007), Nicklas Lidstrom (2002), Scott Stevens (2000), Brian Leetch (1994), Al MacInnis (1989), Larry Robinson (1978), Bobby Orr (1970 and 1972) and Serge Savard (1969) in the process.

He also had 10 goals in the 2020 postseason, which were the most by a defender since Leetch had 11 in 23 games with the 1994 Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers.

Lightning goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy (18-7, 1.90 goals against average, .927 save percentage in 25 games this postseason) earned his first career Stanley Cup Playoff shutout in his 58th career postseason appearance– stopping all 22 shots faced en route to winning the Cup Monday night.

Dallas netminder, Anton Khudobin (14-10, 2.69 GAA, .917 SV% in 25 games this postseason) had 27 saves on 29 shots against (.931 SV%) in the loss.

Dallas interim head coach, Rick Bowness, didn’t change a thing from his lineup after winning in double overtime, 3-2, in Game 5 on Saturday to Monday night’s action in Game 6.

As a result, Radek Faksa, Blake Comeau, Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, Stephen Johns, Ben Bishop, Landon Bow, Taylor Fedun, Gavin Bayreuther, Thomas Harley and Ty Dellandrea remained out of the lineup due to injury or otherwise.

Prior to Game 6 on Monday, Steven Stamkos was ruled out of the rest of the Final by the Lightning on Sunday.

Tampa’s head coach, Jon Cooper, inserted Alexander Volkov on Stamkos’ slot on the fourth line right wing (where Carter Verhaeghe played in Game 5 after Stamkos returned for Game 4 before re-aggravating an injury forced him out of the lineup).

On defense, Kevin Shattenkirk was bumped up to the first pairing with Hedman, while Jan Rutta joined the list of scratches as Zach Bogosian took over Shattenkirk’s role on the third pairing with Ryan McDonagh.

Everything else was the same for the Bolts.

Tampa’s list of scratches on Monday included Luke Schenn, Mathieu Joseph, Verhaeghe, Scott Wedgewood, Rutta, Braydon Coburn, Mitchell Stephens and Stamkos.

Early in the opening frame, Andrew Cogliano tripped up Point and was assessed a minor infraction at 6:32 of the first period.

Tampa wasn’t able to convert on their first power play opportunity of the night, but soon found themselves back on the skater advantage at 11:58, after John Klingberg tripped Volkov.

Less than a minute into the ensuing power play, Point (14) gathered his own rebound and scored on the far side while Khudobin was caught thinking the puck was trapped between his arm and his body.

Nikita Kucherov (27) and Hedman (12) tallied the assists on Point’s power-play goal at 12:23 of the first period and the Lightning led, 1-0.

The goal was Point’s fifth of the series and set a franchise record for the most goals in one postseason by a Tampa player as Point surpassed Tyler Johnson’s previous mark of 13 goals in Tampa’s 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs run, which ended in a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup Final that year– the most recent time the Bolts made the Final before beating Dallas in six games on Monday night.

Kucherov’s primary assist on the goal also assured him of the fifth most assists (27) in a playoff year in NHL history, trailing Wayne Gretzky (31 assists in 1988), Gretzky again (30 assists in 1985), Gretzky for a third time (29 in 1987) and Mario Lemieux (28 in 1991).

Late in the first period, Hedman interfered with Stars forward, Corey Perry, and received a minor penalty at 18:36, but Dallas’ first power play opportunity did not go well.

Through one period of action in Edmonton on Monday night, the Lightning led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 11-4, in shots on goal.

The Bolts also held the advantage in takeaways (1-0), hits (18-12) and faceoff win percentage (60-40).

The Stars, meanwhile, led in blocked shots (8-5) and giveaways (7-5).

Tampa was 1/2 on the power play, while Dallas was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.

Almost midway through the middle frame, Coleman (5) received a pass through the high slot from Cedric Paquette and fired a one-timer past Khudobin to extend Tampa’s lead to two-goals.

Paquette (3) and Pat Maroon (5) notched the assists on the goal and the Lightning led, 2-0, at 7:01 of the second period.

About a minute later, Tampa defender, Ryan McDonagh was penalized for interference after colliding with Dallas forward, Tyler Seguin at 8:02.

Once more, however, Dallas’ power play was powerless and, in fact, cut shot when Perry bumped into Vasilevskiy yielding a penalty for goaltender interference at 9:22.

Tampa’s ensuing abbreviated power play after a little 4-on-4 action did not result in a difference on the scoreboard as both teams eventually entered their respective dressing rooms for the second intermission with the Bolts still in command, 2-0.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Lightning led in shots on goal, 21-8– including a, 10-4, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bolts also held the advantage in takeaways (3-2), hits (31-20) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Stars led in giveaways (9-8).

Both teams had 13 blocked shots aside after two periods.

Tampa was 1/3 on the power play, while Dallas was 0/2 heading into the final frame of regulation.

Not much happened in the final period as the Stars rallied to a, 14-8, shots on net in the third period alone advantage– despite ultimately failing to score and finishing the night trailing, 29-22, in total shots on goal.

Dallas played desperate and had one final chance to cut the lead in half on the power play at 15:27 of the third period when McDonagh tripped Joel Kiviranta, but the Stars just couldn’t get any offense on the board.

With 1:44 remaining in the season, Bowness pulled Khudobin for an extra attacker in an attempt to muster just about anything by that point to spur his team for one last chance at forcing a Game 7.

This time, their heroic comeback moment did not come as the Lightning bolted down their defense and struck the Stars with a, 2-0, shutout at the final horn.

Tampa emerged with the 4-2 series win and their first Stanley Cup championship since 2004– their second Stanley Cup ring in franchise history.

Dallas fell to 1-2 in three Stanley Cup Final appearances overall, having won in six games in 1999, against the Buffalo Sabres, and losing in six games in 2000, against the New Jersey Devils.

Six games is all it takes, apparently, for better or worse for the Stars in the Final.

Meanwhile, it’s all the Lightning needed to complete a redemption arc from losing in six games to Chicago in 2015, and the ensuing bouts of embarrassment since then until the stars aligned for Tampa on Monday.

Tampa finished Game 6 leading in blocked shots (22-16), hits (40-37) and faceoff win% (53-47), while Dallas exited the bubble with the advantage in giveaways (11-9) in their final game.

The Lightning finished 1/3 on the power play as the Stars finished 0/3 on the skater advantage.

As the Bolts skated around with Lord Stanley’s mug, Cooper had completed the achievement of winning a championship at every level of hockey that he has coached– a feat that is by no means easy to accomplish, even though he did so while only 53-years-old (which is relatively young for a head coach).

Tampa became the first team to win the Presidents’ Trophy and be swept in the First Round the year before winning the Cup in the following season as the Columbus Blue Jackets ousted the Lightning in four games in the 2019 First Round.

The Lightning, fun fact, overcame Columbus in five games in the 2020 First Round before defeating the Boston Bruins in five games in the Second Round and the New York Islanders in six games in the Eastern Conference Final to advance to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

Maroon became the eighth player in history– and first since former Lightning player, Cory Stillman– to win back-to-back Cups with different teams in consecutive seasons.

Stillman won the Cup with the Lightning in 2004, before winning it again in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes (the NHL had a lockout that canceled the 2004-05 season in between), while Maroon won the Cup last year with the St. Louis Blues– his hometown team– before raising the Cup again in 2020 with Tampa.

Vasilevskiy set an NHL record for minutes played by a goaltender in a postseason with 1,708:12 time on ice.

He also became the 10th different netminder since the league expanded prior to the 1967-68 season to appear in every game en route to the Cup, joining Corey Crawford (with Chicago in 2013), Jonathan Quick (with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012), Tim Thomas (with Boston in 2011), Martin Brodeur (with New Jersey in 2000), Ed Belfour (with Dallas in 1999), Grant Fuhr (with the Edmonton Oilers in 1988), Patrick Roy (with the Montreal Canadiens in 1986), Ken Dryden (five times with Montreal from 1971-78) and Bernie Parent (with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1974) in the process.

Bowness fell to 15-13 with Dallas in the postseason (all-time) as the Stars fell to 15-13 in the 2020 postseason as a whole, while Cooper improved to 54-29 behind the bench in the postseason with Tampa.

The Lightning finished 18-7 in the bubble in postseason action– capitalizing their longest postseason (25 games) with a Cup win.

Meanwhile, the NHL as a whole was able to award the Stanley Cup for the 2019-20 season amidst the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic with zero positive tests in Phase 4 of their Return to Play plan– which deserves a banner in its own right– having “administered 33,174 tests to club Personnel, including Players” from the beginning of Phase 4 through September 26th, according to a statement released by the league prior to the game on Monday.

Kudos to the NHL, NHLPA, Gary Bettman and all of the public health and local Canadian government officials that were able to make this happen.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

2020 Stanley Cup Final Preview

It’s not June, but it is the Stanley Cup Final. This year’s matchup will be between the Western Conference champion, Dallas Stars, and the Eastern Conference champion, Tampa Bay Lightning.

For the first time in recorded history, the Stanley Cup will be awarded in the month of September.

If you’re still in the bubble, congrats on making it this far!

If you were in the bubble, but were eliminated, you still went through a lot of things most of us will never get to know or experience.

If you have yet to be in the bubble– stay tuned for 2020-21 season announcements, because National Hockey League commissioner, Gary Bettman, indicated on Saturday that the 2020-21 regular season could start in mid-December or sometime in January with the expectation still set on a full-82 game schedule and a return to the usual 16-team playoff format.

The entire hockey world (well, those that care about the NHL anyway) shifts its focus to that of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

It’s time for one team to win four games before the other team and raise the Cup high over their heads– even though nobody quite knows what a postgame celebration might look like, let alone what travel plans might be in store for Lord Stanley’s mug as it usually ventures across borders for a day with each member of the winning team.

For the first time since 2000, the Stars are in the Final.

They last lost to the New Jersey Devils in seven games in their most recent Final appearance and Dallas has witnessed a generation pass, as well as players come and go between now and then.

For the first time since 2015, the Lightning are in the Final.

They lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in that Final– which was just their second appearance in franchise history– and Tampa hasn’t seen much change, save for the acquisition of youth and glue guys to go along with their “stick to the plan” regimen since then.

(2) Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-6, 92 points) vs (3) Dallas Stars (37-24-8, 82 points)

Tampa: 70 games played, .657 points percentage, 35 regulation wins.

Dallas: 69 games played, .594 points percentage, 26 regulation wins.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were led by Nikita Kucherov in regular season scoring with 33-52–85 totals in 68 games played prior to the shortened conclusion of the regular season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Steven Stamkos had the second-most points on the roster with 29 goals and 37 assists (66 points) in 57 games before missing all action since the league’s return due to injury. He had core muscle surgery in mid-March, skated in June, but was not cleared to play in Tampa’s exhibition, Round Robin or playoff matchups since then.

There is currently no known timetable for his return.

Meanwhile, Brayden Point (25-39–64 totals in 66 games) continue to emerge as a high-caliber center with the third-most points on the Lightning roster in the 2019-20 regular season.

Tampa rolled through the Columbus Blue Jackets in five games in the First Round– avenging Columbus’ sweep of the Bolts in the 2019 First Round in the process.

Then the Lightning made a repeated effort of their 2018 Second Round matchup with the Boston Bruins, eliminating the B’s in five games once again.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Bolts were met with their toughest opponent yet as the New York Islanders took Tampa to six games before succumbing to the almighty powers that exist for the Lightning.

Tampa advanced to their third Stanley Cup Final appearance in the process.

They have been almost untouchable past regulation, but they are beatable as the Islanders pointed out in double overtime in Game 5 of their series.

Kucherov (6-20–26 totals in 19 games played) leads the Lightning in playoff scoring, while Point (9-16–25 totals in 17 GP) is hot on his tail– as long as he is healthy and in the lineup.

Victor Hedman leads all defenders with the most goals this postseason with nine and has six assists to go along with 15 points in 19 games for the third-most points on Tampa’s playoff roster.

Ondrej Palat (13 points in 19 games) and Yanni Gourde (12 points in 19 games) round out the top-five in playoff scoring for the Bolts.

Meanwhile, after finishing as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy for the 2019-20 regular season, Andrei Vasilevskiy (35-14-3 in 52 games played, 52 starts, 2.56 goals against average, .917 save percentage and three shutouts in the regular season) has posted a 14-5 record in all 19 games for Tampa in the 2020 postseason.

Through he has yet to record a shutout in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs– let along in his entire postseason career- Vasilevskiy has accrued a 1.82 GAA and a .931 SV% without yielding time in the crease to his backup, Curtis McElhinney (8-7-3 in 18 games, 18 starts, 2.89 GAA, .906 SV% and one shutout in the 2019-20 regular season).

Head coach, Jon Cooper, leads the Lightning behind the bench, while General Manager, Julien BriseBois hasn’t had all that much to do during the season, save for the important acquisitions of Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow to add speed and grit to their bottom-six forwards.

The Dallas Stars were led by Tyler Seguin in regular season scoring with 17-33–50 totals in 69 games played before the 2019-20 regular season was cut short by the pandemic.

Jamie Benn had 19 goals and 20 assists (39 points) for the second-most points for the Stars in 69 games, while Miro Heiskanen had the third-most points for Dallas with 8-27–35 totals in 69 games in his sophomore campaign.

Dallas trailed, 3-0, within the first seven minutes of Game 6 of their First Round matchup with the Calgary Flames as a Game 7 was all but likely to be forced and some left scratching their heads regarding the Stars.

The Stars came back to win, 7-3, and eliminated Calgary in six games in the 2020 First Round thanks to a five-point night (including four goals) from Denis Gurianov.

After the Colorado Avalanche forced a Game 7 in their Second Round matchup with Dallas, Joel Kiviranta became the first rookie to complete a hat trick with a game-winning overtime goal in a Game 7 to send the Stars to the Western Conference Final.

From there, Dallas beat the Vegas Golden Knights in five games to advance to their fifth Stanley Cup Final appearance in history.

Sometimes it pays to be good. Sometimes it pays to be lucky.

Other times it pays to be good and lucky– and that’s how the 2020 postseason has gone for the Stars.

In the postseason, Heiskanen has emerged as Dallas’ best player with five goals and 17 assists (22 points) in 21 games played. Heiskanen is on track to setting some franchise records as long as nothing cuts his postseason run short.

Benn has the second-most points on the playoff roster with 8-10–18 totals in 21 games, followed by Gurianov (9-8–17 totals in 21 games) for the third-most, John Klingberg (3-13–16 totals in 20 games) for the fourth-most and Joe Pavelski (9-5–14 totals in 21 games), as well as Alexander Radulov (8-6–14 totals in 21 games) tied for the fifth-most points on the Stars this postseason.

Anton Khudobin (16-8-4 in 30 games, 26 starts, 2.22 GAA, .930 SV% in the regular season) is the de facto starting goaltender with Ben Bishop (21-16-4 in 44 games, 43 starts, 2.50 GAA, .920 SV% and two shutouts in 2019-20) out due to injury for most of the postseason.

Khudobin’s spectacular run to the Final at 34-years-old has come on the backs of a 12-6 record in 19 games (18 starts), as well as a 2.62 GAA, a .920 SV% and one shutout in that span.

Bishop made three appearances in the 2020 postseason, posting a 1-2-0 record with a 5.43 GAA and an .844 SV% in the process.

Meanwhile, Jake Oettinger made his NHL debut– the second goaltender to make his NHL debut this postseason, joining Dan Vladar of the Boston Bruins in doing so– to the tune of a 0-0-0 record in one relief appearance with a 0.00 GAA and a 1.000 SV%.

He had five saves on five shots against in 18 minutes of gameplay.

Rick Bowness took over as the interim head coach for the Stars on Dec. 10th after Jim Montgomery was fired due to unprofessional conduct (Montgomery entered rehab for alcohol abuse and has since rejoined the league as an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues).

Dallas General Manager, Jim Nill, hasn’t rocked the boat with any major player acquisitions during the season, but certainly added to the depth of veteran experience with the additions of Pavelski and Corey Perry in free agency.

The Stars went 2-0-0 against the Lightning in the regular season– having won both games in overtime.

Khudobin made 45 saves on 48 shots faced in his, 4-3, win at Amalie Arena on Dec. 19th, while Bishop earned the overtime win with 23 saves on 25 shots faced in a, 3-2, Stars victory on Jan. 27th at American Airlines Center.

Home ice means next to nothing in the bubble.

The Stars are this year’s dark horse team that went on a run that doesn’t seem to show any signs of stopping anytime soon.

That said, the Lightning are supposed to be the team to beat this year.

If it goes short, expect Tampa to be the team leaving Edmonton with the Cup, but otherwise the writing is on the wall for this year’s Final to go all seven games with the Dallas Stars emerging victorious with their second Stanley Cup ring in franchise history.

There’s just too much that they’ve already overcome to not be in their favor ultimately.

Regular season outcomes:

4-3 F/OT DAL at Amalie Arena on Dec. 19th, 3-2 F/OT DAL at American Airlines Center on Jan. 27th

Schedule:

9/19- Game 1 DAL @ TBL in Edmonton 7:30 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

9/21- Game 2 DAL @ TBL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

9/23- Game 3 TBL @ DAL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

9/25- Game 4 TBL @ DAL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

9/26- Game 5 DAL @ TBL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

9/28- Game 6 TBL @ DAL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

9/30- Game 7 DAL @ TBL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

*If necessary

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Take Five: Five takeaways from Game 3 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final

Matt Martin and Barclay Goodrow exchanged fisticuffs after a faceoff with 27.2 seconds left in the third period after the New York Islanders scored an empty net goal to seal the deal on a, 5-3, victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final.

In short, we have a series and the powder keg just might be ready to explode.

Oh yeah and Brock Nelson scored the game-winning goal late in the third period before Jean-Gabriel Pageau added an insurance goal with the empty net tally while he was hooked and slashed by Lightning forward, Nikita Kucherov.

Game 4 should contain a little bit of everything and a lot of excitement if things keep trending in the direction of a budding rivalry as Tampa leads the series 2-1. Puck drop on Sunday is set for a little after 3 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBC, while those in Canada can catch the action on CBC, SN or TVAS.

1. Can’t give Tampa an inch.

The Islanders have made a habit in the last couple of games where, despite playing more to the beat of their own drum, New York can’t seem to hold a lead on prevent defense alone.

If New York is going to win more games, they’re going to need more offensive outbursts like they had– if you can call it that– in Game 3.

The Isles are going to need their defenders to defend, their two-way bottom-six players to contribute 100% and their top-six forwards to outscore the Lightning who can, in fact, score from any position in their lineup.

Well, we haven’t seen Bolts goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy, score yet, but I wouldn’t put it past him.

Tampa is in the midst of one of those “anything is possible” postseasons and if New York wants to take control of that narrative– they can’t let the Lightning play their game.

2. Matchups.

A common theme from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the First Round to the Boston Bruins in the Second Round to, yes, even the Islanders in the Eastern Conference Final is that they simply don’t have the right matchups to go against the big scary, nasty, Lightning.

New York’s head coach, Barry Trotz, scratched Casey Cizikas and Andrew Ladd for Derick Brassard and Michael Dal Colle.

While Brassard’s (three hits, one blocked shot in 10:32 time on ice, 54 seconds of time on the power play) impact can be felt as a glue guy with a more well-rounded approach to today’s game– especially against Tampa– more so than a guy like Ladd, Trotz has kept Dal Colle’s time limited (9:54 TOI in Game 3).

Nonetheless, Leo Komarov centering the fourth line with Brasard and Dal Colle is a significant improvement in speed and mustering the puck where you want it to go while giving your top forwards some time to recover before going over the boards to generate more offense.

It should be ride or die with this fourth line for the time being.

3. More of the same, kind of.

The Islanders trailed the Lightning in shots on goal, 37-35, but stymied Tampa with some solid goaltending from Semyon Varlamov (10-5 in 17 games played, 16 starts, 2.26 goals against average, .913 save percentage, two shutouts) and the overall schematics interwoven in Trotz’s game plan.

New York really wore Tampa down as the game progressed and capitalized on their chances, but the backdoor was left open for large stretches of the game, which the Bolts took full advantage of– tying the game, 1-1, at 16:31 of the first period, courtesy of Mikhail Sergachev’s second goal this postseason and even pulled even after trailing by two-goals, 3-1, entering the third period.

Ondrej Palat (7) scored a power-play goal at 2:32 and Tyler Johnson (4) tied the game, 3-3, at 12:04 of the third period.

Now, it’s important to note that Game 3 was more of the same for New York until they realized they needed a 60-minute effort and that nothing about Game 3 was the same for Tampa, since Brayden Point was not in the lineup due to injury.

Yes, the Lightning did not have the services of their leading scorer and head coach, Jon Cooper, wouldn’t provide much of an update (if even an update at all, really) ahead of Friday night’s action.

4. Nikita Kucherov has his moments. Don’t take the bait.

Kucherov hooked and slashed Pageau while skating towards and immediately as/after he shot the rubber biscuit into the empty twine to secure the, 5-3, win for the Isles.

Pageau took exception to what Kucherov was already going to be penalized for had Pageau inexplicably missed the open net and caused a scrum instead of a proper goal celebration at 19:24 of the third period.

Kucherov has been suspended in the past– specifically for an illegal hit to the head last postseason– and shouldn’t distract the Islanders from stooping to his level when he crosses a line.

The goal should always be to get your revenge on the scoreboard– especially if the officials on the ice are making the right call in accordance with the rule book.

Otherwise, the Islanders don’t need to amass any retaliation penalties for what’s either an invite to the descent into an ugly outing or simply the overt frustrations of a player that has shown an intent to injure and should be reprimanded as such.

None of that takes away from Kucherov’s ability to score, as long as he isn’t out of the lineup due to his own on-ice behavior.

5. Is somebody getting the best, the best, the best of you?

Don’t let emotions get in the way of the game.

You could argue this goes hand-in-hand with the takeaway above, but 1) all five takeaways are pretty similar after Game 3 and 2) this one has more to do with the toughness of each team’s lineup.

For the Islanders, there’s no need to fear Tampa’s tough guys. New York didn’t need to add any toughness at the trade deadline– they already had Martin, Komarov and crew.

The Lightning did.

They got Blake Coleman and Goodrow, which makes them tougher, but cannot negate the cohesion that Islanders General Manager, Lou Lamoriello, has planned since day one.

As long as the Isles play their cards right, Tampa’s style might take them over the edge and into undisciplined turmoil.

As always, make them pay on the scoreboard and in good, clean, hits.

That goes for both teams, in case Lightning fans were thinking this was solely about New York.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Take Five: Five takeaways from Game 2 of the 2020 Western Conference Final

Paul Stastny opened the game’s scoring with the eventual game-winning goal as the Vegas Golden Knights shutout the Dallas Stars, 3-0, in Game 2 of the 2020 Western Conference Final to tie the series, 1-1.

William Karlsson and Tomas Nosek each had a goal in the win as the Golden Knights evened the series thanks to Robin Lehner’s second consecutive shutout– his fourth of the postseason overall.

So with Game 3 in mind on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS), let’s review some takeaways from Game 2 and where the series might go from here.

1. Now that we’ve seen Vegas respond, the obvious “will Dallas respond in Game 3?” must be asked.

Dallas came out flying in Game 1, despite only scoring one goal and winning, 1-0– Vegas looked flat to kick off the series.

Just like in 2018, however, the Golden Knights went full throttle in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, nearly scored four goals (Shea Theodore had a goal disallowed due to incidental contact with the goaltender courtesy of Max Pacioretty on the doorstep of the crease) and notched the shutout to tie the series.

Now, of course, how will the Stars respond?

Especially since they were outshot, 8-5, in the first period and, 19-7, in the second period alone. After 40 minutes, the Stars trailed the Golden Knights, 3-0, on the scoreboard (all Vegas goals were scored in the second period– traditionally what has been a better period for Dallas since their comeback over the Calgary Flames in Game 6 back in the First Round) and, 27-12, in total shots on goal entering the second intermission.

To Dallas’ credit, however, the Stars outshot Vegas, 12-5, in the third period alone.

In fact, the Golden Knights didn’t even have a shot on goal through the midpoint of the final frame, despite finishing with the advantage in shots on net, 32-24, at the final horn.

How will Stars interim head coach, Rick Bowness, respond to Vegas bringing out the big guns?

Especially since Ryan Reaves returned from his one-game suspension and suited up alongside William Carrier and Nick Cousins, which has been an effective shutdown fourth line thus far in the postseason.

2. Never tip your hand on a good future goalie.

Stars goalie, Jake Oettinger, made his NHL debut after Anton Khudobin was pulled prior to the third period.

The Boston University Terriers men’s hockey team standout amassed a league-leading .917 SV% among first year American Hockey League goaltenders in 2019-20 with the Texas Stars (AHL affiliate of Dallas).

Oettinger was the second goalie to make his league debut this postseason, joining Dan Vladar of the Boston Bruins as the other goalie to do so in the 2020 playoffs and marking the first time since 1937, that two goalies made their NHL debuts in the same postseason.

Whereas Vladar was fed to the wolves (a.k.a. the Tampa Bay Lightning) without much help in both ends of the ice, the Stars played better in front of their backup goaltender after clearly getting the message from Bowness– that they had let Khudobin down.

Oettinger only faced five shots and made five saves in 17:09 time on ice.

Yes, you read that right.

Despite Khudobin amassing 40 minutes played on Tuesday, Oettinger played less than a full period because Bowness pulled his netminder for an extra attacker with lots of time remaining in the game on the off-chance Dallas could score three quick goals and tie the game, at least.

They did not, but in the meantime, at least they didn’t rush Oettinger into any NHL action before it became absolutely necessary (though some watchful eyes of the minor leagues might wonder why Oettinger didn’t get a start earlier in the postseason to offset Khudobin’s workload while Ben Bishop is still injured and “unfit to play”).

Kudos to the Stars for not letting everyone else know about Oettinger’s impressive development thus far, though.

3. So… Robin Lehner the rest of the way?

This one should be obvious, but Lehner just had his fourth shutout this postseason (and second consecutive, if you didn’t read earlier).

Though Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves on 25 shots in Game 1, Lehner is the hotter goaltender right now– hands down.

Fleury’s 2.27 goals against average and .910 save percentage is fine. It pairs well with his 3-1 record in four games in the 2020 postseason.

But Lehner has a 1.84 GAA and a .924 SV% to go with the four shutouts, as well as a 9-4 record in 13 games played, which, if you’re wondering is better than Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Lightning in GAA and shutouts.

Vasilevskiy is 11-3 with Tampa so far in 14 games and has a 1.92 GAA, a .930 SV% and no shutouts in that span.

Yeah, this should be an easy decision for Golden Knights head coach, Peter DeBoer. It’s Lehner’s crease until the team advances or comes up short this year.

4. They scored a goal (at even strength)!

The Golden Knights entered Game 2 against Dallas without a goal from their forwards at even strength since the third period of Game 4 against the Vancouver Canucks in the Second Round.

Thankfully, Stastny put an end to Vegas’ misery at 5-on-5 (or 4-on-4) play with his third goal of the 2020 postseason at 4:53 of the second period.

Vegas added one more goal at even strength when Nosek scored his second playoff goal this year on a beautiful 3-on-1 rush to make it a three-goal game at 14:32 of the second period.

Prior to Stastny’s tally, however, the Golden Knights’ last four goals (dating back to Game 6 against Vancouver in the Second Round) included two empty net goals and a pair of goals from Theodore.

As long as the compete level from Game 2 doesn’t dissipate, Vegas looks to have snapped their even strength skid.

5. Shutouts galore!

Vegas’ last four games have all been shutouts.

The Canucks shutout the Golden Knights, 4-0, in Game 6 of their Second Round matchup as Thatcher Demko emerged as a playoff hero before the Golden Knights returned the favor with a, 3-0, shutout in Game 7– courtesy of Lehner.

To kick things off in the 2020 Western Conference Final, Khudobin had a, 1-0, shutout in Game 1 for the Stars, then Lehner returned the favor again with another, 3-0, shutout in Game 2 for Vegas.

Then there’s this to consider– Lehner is the first NHL goaltender to record four shutouts in a single postseason since Fleury did so in 2018 with the Golden Knights on their run to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in their inaugural season.

Only five goalies in league history have recorded more shutouts in a playoff year.

Lehner’s extended his shutout streak to 131:44 in the process, which is the second-longest postseason shutout streak by a Golden Knights goaltender since Fleury had a 144:04 shutout streak going in 2018.

And finally, with both teams earning a shutout through the first two games of the Western Conference Final, Dallas and Vegas joined the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets this season as the only teams to record shutouts in their first two games in a series this year.

The Stars and Golden Knights also joined a longer list in the process since the NHL’s Modern Era (since 1943-44) that includes the Lightning and New York Islanders in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, the Islanders and Ottawa Senators in the 2003 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, the Philadelphia Flyers and Senators in the 2002 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers in the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, the New Jersey Devils and Rangers in the 1997 Eastern Conference Semifinal and the Montreal Canadiens and Maple Leafs in the 1947 Stanley Cup Final.

Here’s to another shutout in Game 3 for either team to make more history, probably.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Take Five: Five takeaways from Game 1 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final

It seems everybody’s scoring points these days as the Tampa Bay Lightning won, 8-2, in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Final matchup with the New York Islanders on Monday.

Seriously, 11 different Lightning players had at least a point in Monday night’s series opener, while Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov each had five points in the victorious effort.

Tampa carries a, 1-0, series lead heading into Game 2 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS). Here’s five takeaways for the next game, as well as the series as a whole.

1. Can the Islanders actually contain Tampa’s offense?

Thomas Greiss allowed three goals on nine shots against in the first 10:46 of the game before being replaced by Semyon Varlamov, but that wasn’t the only reason why New York is behind, 1-0, in the series.

Neither the Columbus Blue Jackets, nor the Boston Bruins were able to limit the Lightning’s attacking zone time and possession, which was not only evident by the fact that each of their series matchups with Tampa only lasted five games– the scoreboard reflected it too.

At any point in time, the Bolts can strike fast and amass goals in bunches (as exhibited by their three goals in the first 10:46 of Monday’s game, plus the other five goals they scored afterward).

It’s that momentum swing that the Islanders (or any team that may face the Lightning if Tampa advances to the Stanley Cup Final) will have to be wary about and eliminate at all costs.

Simply put, the Lightning play with a surge in electricity.

2. Inconsistent shots for the Isles

Tampa outshot New York, 10-6, in the first period and finished the second period with an, 18-17, advantage before going on to finish the game with a, 34-24, total shots on goal advantage.

The Lightning went 58:53 without missing the net in Game 1. The only shot attempt that did not go on net for the Bolts came with 67 seconds left in the game off of Cedric Paquette’s stick blade.

Meanwhile, the Islanders– a team primarily built on a defense-first game plan– failed to record at least 30 shots on goal for the second-straight game after amassing 26 shots on net against the Philadelphia Flyers in their, 4-0, win in Game 7 of their Second Round matchup.

New York only allowed 16 shots against that night too.

In their, 5-4, double overtime loss to the Flyers in Game 6, the Islanders recorded 53 shots on goal and allowed 31 shots against.

Game 5 against Philadelphia resulted in a, 4-3, loss in overtime, while shots on goal were even at 32 aside.

The Islanders were outshot, 38-33, in Game 4, but won, 3-2. New York had a, 29-27, advantage in their, 3-1, win in Game 3, as well as a, 34-31, advantage in their, 4-3, overtime loss in Game 2.

Both teams had 29 shots on goal in New York’s, 4-0, win in Game 1 of their Second Round series with Philadelphia.

Without breaking down the quality of their shots for and shots against, a generalized remedy for the Islanders would be to get more pucks on net (duh) and prevent the Lightning from hitting the twine or whichever goaltender Barry Trotz starts in Game 2 against the Bolts.

3. Followup question, who should start in net for New York?

It’s not like Greiss had really made consecutive starts in the postseason before doing just that from Game 7 against Philadelphia on Saturday to Game 1 against Tampa Bay on Monday.

His 2-2 record in four games doesn’t really speak for his 2.02 goals against average and .929 save percentage in the 2020 postseason.

Plus he got most of the night off, so he should still be fresh enough, in theory.

Meanwhile, Varlamov’s decent 9-4 record in 15 games this postseason stands out on its own, but his goals against average is on the rise as of his last two outings to a 2.22, while his save percentage has dropped to a .913.

Still, the Islanders goaltenders have combined for three shutouts this postseason (Varlamov has two, Greiss has one), which are three more shutouts than what Andrei Vasilevskiy has so far (zero, in case that wasn’t clear).

As bad as Greiss’ .667 SV% in Game 1 sounds, Varlamov still allowed five goals against after Greiss gave up the first three in the, 8-2, loss, so Varlamov’s .800 SV% in Game 1 isn’t ideal either.

If anything, Trotz will have to adjust his matchups to curb the speed of Tampa’s rush and instruct his players on getting in passing and shooting lanes to ease the high danger workload of whichever goaltender he opts for in Game 2.

4. Just how many franchise records will Tampa…

In case you haven’t heard by now, the Lightning are good.

So good, in fact, they tied, broke and set some franchise records in Game 1, including:

— The most assists in a playoff year by a Lightning player (Kucherov had four assists in Game 1 to break Martin St. Louis’ previous mark of 15 helpers in 2004, and set the new franchise record with 16 in 2020).

— The first players in franchise history to record five points in a playoff game (Point had two goals and three assists, while Kucherov had one goal and four assists).

— Tampa’s eight goals matched their franchise record for the most goals in a playoff game (the Lightning had eight in what was also an, 8-2, win in Game 5 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Penguins).

Oh and the Bolts improved to 5-0 in their last five playoff games going back to Game 2 against Boston in the Second Round, while outscoring their opponents by a combined, 25-9, margin in the process.

Plus, Point and Kucherov are the second pair of teammates to each record five or more points in a Conference Finals game (since 1982).

Paul Coffey had one goal and five assists (six points), while Jari Kurri had three goals and two assists (five points) in Game 5 of the 1985 Clarence Campbell Conference Final with the Oilers.

5. Will the Lightning buck the trend?

In the last decade or so, the team that plays a longer Conference Final than their opponent in the Stanley Cup Final usually wins the Cup.

It happened just as recent as last year, when the Bruins swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final and had 10 days off before the 2019 Stanley Cup Final began.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Blues beat the San Jose Sharks in six games in the 2019 Western Conference Final and only had five days between the third and fourth round of the postseason.

The Blues, of course, won the Cup in seven games.

In terms of significant time off between one series to the next, the Edmonton Oilers had eight days off after beating the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in five games in the 2006 Western Conference Final, then lost in the 2006 Stanley Cup Final in seven games to the Hurricanes who had just come off of a seven-game series win against the Buffalo Sabres in the 2006 Eastern Conference Final.

The aforementioned Mighty Ducks had 10 days off after sweeping the Minnesota Wild in the 2003 Western Conference Final, then lost to the New Jersey Devils in the 2003 Stanley Cup Final in seven games after New Jersey had just three days off between their seven-game series win over the Ottawa Senators in the 2003 Eastern Conference Final and the Cup Final.

Obviously those few examples don’t cover the last decade, but fear not, let’s get that out of the way now…

The 2010 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks swept the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final, while the Philadelphia Flyers eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in five games in the Eastern Conference Final before losing in six games to Chicago in the Final.

O.K. that one didn’t fit the trend, but in 2011, the Vancouver Canucks ousted the Sharks in five games, while the Bruins beat the Lightning in seven games, then went on to beat Vancouver in seven games in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

In 2012, the Los Angeles Kings beat the Phoenix Coyotes in five games in the Western Conference Final, while the Devils overcame the New York Rangers in six games. Los Angeles beat New Jersey in six games to capture their first Cup in franchise history.

Wait, it happened again, didn’t it?

Well, in 2013, the Bruins swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the East, while the Blackhawks took five games to knockout the Kings in the West, then beat Boston in six games in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. A-ha! There’s one!

In 2014, the Rangers beat Montreal in six games in the Eastern Conference Final, while the Kings defeated the Blackhawks in seven games before Los Angeles won their second Cup in three years by defeating New York in five games.

In 2015, both Tampa and Chicago went all seven games in their respective Conference Finals matchups with the Rangers and Anaheim Ducks, respectively.

Chicago won their third Cup in five years in six games over the Bolts in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, though.

In 2016, the Penguins beat the Lightning in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final, while the Sharks beat the Blues in six games in the Western Conference Final.

Pittsburgh defeated San Jose in six games in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

In 2017, the Penguins edged out the Senators in seven games in the East, while the Nashville Predators beat the Ducks in six games in the West.

Pittsburgh went back-to-back as two-time defending Cup champions with their fifth title in franchise history after defeating the Predators in six games in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

And, of course, back in 2018, the Washington Capitals beat the Lightning in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final, while the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Winnipeg Jets in five games in the Western Conference Final.

Washington won the Cup in five games over Vegas in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

Back in 1993, of course, the Canadiens beat the Islanders in five games in the Prince of Wales Conference Final, while Los Angeles took seven games to eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Clarence Campbell Conference Final.

The Habs defeated the Kings in five games to capture the Cup in the 1993 Stanley Cup Final– what’s perhaps the most recent instance of a team amassing a week off between the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final and still winning the Cup despite all that time off.

Either that or it’s one more chance to point out that this year’s Cup will be awarded on Canadian sole, but for the 27th year in-a-row, it won’t be going to a Canadian based NHL club.

Assuming (since they won Game 1) that the Lightning go on to punch their ticket to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final in as little as four or five games and the 2020 Western Conference Final matchup between the Dallas Stars and Golden Knights goes six or seven games, then Tampa could be in trouble.

Then again, with the bubble in place and resulting lack of travel— as well as a condensed schedule due to the hopes of still having an 82-game regular season in 2020-21— the earliest the 2020 Stanley Cup Final could begin would be around Sept. 21st or 22nd, since the league already determined the Final must end by or on Oct. 4th— which would leave the Bolts with about a week off to scout their next potential opponent in person for as long as the West takes to decide their series.

For any Islanders fans that thought I forgot about them, the Edmonton Oilers had eight days off after sweeping the Minnesota North Stars in the 1984 Semifinals (the precursor to the modern Conference Finals round), while New York took down Montreal in six games and had four days off between the Semifinals and the 1984 Stanley Cup Final.

Edmonton won the series in five games in what is the Islanders’ most-recent Stanley Cup Final appearance.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final Preview

The calendar flipped to September and it’s time to gear up for preseason hockey— I mean the Conference Finals!

Yes, for the first time in recorded history, the National Hockey League is hosting both the Western Conference Final and the Eastern Conference Final in one hub city as Edmonton, Alberta plays host to the third round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as well as the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, but we’ll get there in a moment.

First, there’s a little leftover business to take care of and that’s figuring out which of the two Eastern Conference finalists will emerge victorious at Rogers Place and remain in the bubble to contend for what every NHL player dreams of– raising Lord Stanley’s mug high over their shoulders and going for a skate.

Though they were at first excluded from the bubble, some family members will be allowed to partake in the Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final festivities as long as they are Canadian citizens that are currently in Canada, but they have to self-isolate at home for seven days and produce three negative COVID-19 tests before traveling.

Then, of course, they’ll have to remain in quarantine in a separate hotel room in the bubble and produce four more negative tests before they can interact with the players.

The NHL is still waiting for clearance from the Canadian government, as well as the provincial government in Alberta, with regards to allowing citizens from outside of Canada into the Edmonton bubble and remains in ongoing discussions with the NHLPA, as well as the respective governments to work on a plan.

ESPN‘s, Emily Kaplan, goes into great detail to explain the precautions, plans and policies the entities are creating, working through and dealing with in the face of the pandemic with regards to allowing families into the bubble.

And no, none of the family members and/or romantic partners of any the players are a distraction.

If anything, they are a welcome sense of normalcy while the four remaining teams, staff and workers in the bubble have been isolated from the outside world for the last six weeks.

For now, let’s get back to breaking down the 2020 Eastern Conference Final and trying to predict a winner in some number of games.

(2) Tampa Bay Lightning (43-21-6, 92 points) vs (6) New York Islanders (35-23-10, 80 points)

Tampa: 70 games played, .657 points percentage, 35 regulation wins.

N.Y. Islanders: 68 games played, .588 points percentage, 24 regulation wins.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been Stanley Cup contenders for the last six or seven seasons, but have yet to capture their first Cup since 2004.

This year, as the Lightning make their sixth appearance in the Eastern Conference Final in franchise history, Tampa is poised for their best chance at winning the Cup despite not having the services of their captain, Steven Stamkos, since mid-March.

After avenging their 2019 First Round exit at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets in four games, the Bolts beat the Blue Jackets in five games in 2020. Then they had a repeat of their 2018 Second Round matchup with the Boston Bruins and ousted the 2019-20 Presidents’ Trophy winning team in five games– just like they did two years ago.

Now the Lightning are set to face the New York Islanders and their head coach, Barry Trotz, the one man with a masterplan that beat the Bolts in the 2018 Eastern Conference Final while he was then the head coach of the Washington Capitals.

Nikita Kucherov led Tampa in regular season scoring with 33-52–85 totals in 68 games played, while Stamkos amassed 66 points in 57 games and Brayden Point had 64 points in 66 games.

Kucherov and Point continue to lead the way for the Lightning, while trade deadline acquisitions, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow have brought Tampa’s game to another dimension.

Point leads the Lightning in postseason scoring with 6-12–18 totals in 13 games, while Kucherov is second on the roster with 16 points in 13 games.

On the blue line, Victor Hedman is tied with glue-guy, Ondrej Palat, for the third most points on the team in the 2020 postseason as each player has five goals and four assists (nine points) in 13 games.

Palat tied a franchise record with Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis for the most consecutive postseason games with at least one goal (four games), while Hedman had the game-winning, series-clinching goal in double overtime against Boston in Game 5 of their Second Round series.

In the crease, Andrei Vasilevksiy earned Vezina Trophy finalist honors for the 2019-20 season after amassing a 35-14-3 record in 52 games (52 starts) with a 2.56 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and three shutouts in that span.

Tampa’s backup, Curtis McElhinney, produced an 8-7-3 record in 18 appearances with a 2.89 GAA, a .906 SV% and one shutout this season.

In the playoffs, Vasilevskiy has been the only goaltender to appear in game action for the Lightning, yielding a 10-3 record in 13 games with a 1.91 GAA and a .931 SV% in that span.

For the first time since 1993, the New York Islanders are in the Eastern Conference Final. 27 years ago the Isles lost to the eventual 1993 Stanley Cup champion, Montreal Canadiens in five games, and no Canadian team has won the Cup since.

That trend will continue– even though the Cup will be awarded in Canada this year for the first time since 2011– as all four teams remaining in the Edmonton bubble are based in the United States.

New York finished off the Florida Panthers in four games in their best-of-five game Qualifier, then took care of the Washington Capitals in five games in the First Round before overcoming the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games in the Second Round to make this year’s Eastern Conference Final.

Mathew Barzal led the Islanders in the regular season with 19-41–60 totals in 68 games, while Brock Nelson (54 points in 68 games) had the second-most for New York in 2019-20.

Anders Lee (43 points in 68 games) and Josh Bailey (14-29–43 totals in 68 games) were tied for the third most points on the roster prior to the pandemic shortening the regular season.

Entering the Eastern Conference Final, Bailey leads the Islanders with 2-15–17 totals in 16 games, while Nelson has 15 points in 16 postseason games and Barzal has 13 points in 16 playoff games for the Islanders this postseason.

Anthony Beauvillier leads in goal-scoring for New York in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs with eight goals in 16 games as the Islanders play a more “defense first” mindset– shutting down and trapping star players from opposing teams to will the game the way of the Trotz’s plan.

Semyon Varlamov went 19-14-6 in 45 games (39 starts) in the regular season, amassing a 2.62 GAA, a .914 SV% and two shutouts in the process in the regular season, while Thomas Greiss went 16-9-4 in 31 games (29 starts) and had a 2.74 GAA, as well as a .913 SV% prior to the stoppage.

In the postseason, Varlamov has gotten more starts with a 9-4 record in 14 games and has a 2.00 GAA, a .921 SV% and two shutouts in the process, but Greiss earned the Game 7 win against Philadelphia and is 2-1 in three games (two starts) with a 1.08 GAA, a .960 SV% and one shutout in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Should Greiss get more action in the Eastern Conference Final?

It remains a possibility as Trotz hasn’t given any indication as to who he’s starting in Game 1.

New York went 2-1-0 against the Lightning this season, while Tampa was 1-2-0 against the Islanders in the regular season.

The Isles had 11 goals for in the season series and six goals against, despite the Bolts holding the combined shots on goal advantage, 97-68.

Greiss and Varlamov each had a win against the Lightning, while the Bolts opted to start McElhinney in their second matchup of the season, which resulted in a, 5-1, win for the Islanders on Dec. 9th at Amalie Arena.

It’s a good thing for the Lightning that Vasilevskiy likely won’t be getting chased anytime soon– unless the Islanders somehow muster enough courage to score more than enough goals to not have to fallback on “prevent defense”.

Nonetheless, Tampa is hot and when you’re hot, you’re… hot. Duh.

But if there’s one thing we learned about these playoffs, it’s that being hot doesn’t mean anything to the Islanders– they beat the Flyers after all, and Philly had the best stretch from February until the pause, then won the first seed in the East honors via the Round Robin tournament.

The Lightning are beatable, but they’re not easy.

It’ll be a long and grueling battle– a series that likely plays one way in one game and completely the opposite in the next.

Tampa is well rested, while New York just eliminated Philadelphia on Saturday.

The Bolts are also 2-0 all time against the Isles in postseason series matchups– winning in five games in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, as well as in five games in the 2016 Second Round.

The third time’s a charm, though, and the Islanders should pull off yet another upset in seven games and advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1984.

Regular season outcomes:

5-2 NYI at NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 1st, 5-1 NYI at Amalie Arena on Dec. 9th, 3-1 TBL at Amalie Arena on Feb. 8th

Schedule:

9/7- Game 1 NYI @ TBL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

9/9- Game 2 NYI @ TBL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS

9/11- Game 3 TBL @ NYI in Edmonton 8 PM ET on USA, CBC, SN, TVAS

9/13- Game 4 TBL @ NYI in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

9/15- Game 5 NYI @ TBL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS*

9/17- Game 6 TBL @ NYI in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS*

9/19- Game 7 NYI @ TBL in Edmonton 7:30 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

*If necessary