Nick and Cam reminisce on the 2022 Stanley Cup Final and talk about Jim Montgomery, offseason plans and free agency reactions so far.
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
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*
Danton Heinen scored the eventual game-winner early in the first period and the Boston Bruins held on for a, 2-1, victory on the road against the Dallas Stars to kick off the 2019-20 season.
Tuukka Rask (1-0-0 record, 1.00 goals against average in one game played) made 28 saves on 29 shots faced for a .966 save percentage in the win at American Airlines Center for Boston, while Ben Bishop (0-1-0, 2.07 GAA, .900 SV% in one game played) turned aside 18 out of 20 shots against in the loss for Dallas.
Boston began their 96th season in franchise history, while Dallas kicked off their 27th season since relocating from Minnesota (53rd season if you include their North Stars days).
David Krejci (lower body), Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder) and Joakim Nordstrom (foot) were all out of the lineup for the Bruins.
Krejci was a game-time decision, per B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy.
Miller and Nordstrom were placed on injured reserve earlier in the week with Miller on track for a hopeful return to game action by mid-October.
Moore was placed on long-term injured reserve to start the season and likely won’t be back with the team until mid-November.
Prior to the start of the regular season, Boston placed Peter Cehlarik and Maxime Lagacé on waivers for the purpose of assignment to the Providence Bruins (AHL). Both players cleared and were assigned to Providence.
Others, like Anders Bjork, Trent Frederic, Cameron Hughes, Jack Studnicka and Jakub Zboril, were sent to Providence without having to clear waivers as part of Boston’s final cuts upon the conclusion of the preseason.
Joe Pavelski and Andrej Sekera made their Stars debuts, while Corey Perry remains out of the lineup due to injury.
In his first shift for his new team in his first game against his old team, Brett Ritchie (1) scored on his first shot of the season to give Boston their first, 1-0, lead of the season 69 seconds into the action.
Charlie Coyle (1) had the only assist on Ritchie’s goal at 1:09 of the first period, as the duo collaborated on the Bruins’ first goal of the 2019-20 season.
About a few minutes later, Stars forward, Alexander Radulov, was penalized for holding at 4:23 and presented Boston with their first power play opportunity of the season.
After receiving the puck from Matt Grzelcyk, Heinen (1) fired a wrist shot over Bishop’s blocker side to give the Bruins a two-goal lead at 5:59 of the first period.
Grzelcyk (1) and Charlie McAvoy (1) had the assists on Boston’s first power play goal of the season as Cassidy’s second power play unit converted on the skater advantage.
Late in the period, Radek Faksa caught Sean Kuraly with a high-stick and was assessed a minor penalty at 17:33.
The Bruins did not score on the ensuing power play.
Prior to the stoppage for the delayed call, however, Brad Marchand tried to chip the puck across the ice to a teammate and inadvertently deflected the puck off of Sekera’s stick into Blake Comeau’s face, leaving the Dallas forward with a bloody mouth.
After 20 minutes of play into the 2019-20 season, Boston led Dallas, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 6-4, in shots on goal.
The Stars led in blocked shots (9-3), takeaways (2-0), giveaways (6-5) and faceoff win percentage (58-42), while hits were even (7-7).
Boston was 1/2 on the power play and Dallas had yet to see time on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.
Early in the second period, Stars defender, Roman Polak, went to make a hit on Bruins forward, Chris Wagner, and pushed Wagner’s lower body with enough force to help spin the forward out of the way, but in doing so, exposing himself to the brunt of the boards– head first, right about at the back of his neck– as Polak tumbled into the corner.
He was stretchered off the ice and sent to a nearby hospital for further evaluation.
Roope Hintz (1) went top-shelf on Rask’s glove side to cut Boston’s lead in half, 2-1, a mere 51 seconds after the stoppage for Polak’s injury.
Mattias Janmark (1) and Pavelski (1) recorded the primary and secondary assists on Hintz’s breakaway goal at 7:55 of the second period.
The secondary assist was Pavelski’s first point with Dallas in his first game with the club since signing with the Stars in free agency on July 1st– leaving the San Jose Sharks (where he had played since the 2006-07 season after being drafted by San Jose in 2003).
Almost a couple of minutes later, Radulov tripped Bruins newcomer, Par Lindholm, at 9:30 of the middle frame and was assessed a minor infraction.
Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play.
After killing off Radulov’s second penalty of the night, Dallas found themselves shorthanded once again as Janmark was sent to the penalty box for interference at 16:00 of the second period.
During the resulting media timeout, the Stars tweeted that Comeau suffered a lower body injury, Jason Dickinson suffered an upper body injury and that Polak had been transported to the hospital for evaluation.
All three players would not return Thursday night’s game.
A little more than halfway into Boston’s power play, McAvoy was penalized for interference against Tyler Seguin at 17:12.
Both teams would play 4-on-4 for 48 seconds, then Dallas would have an abbreviated power play.
Neither team took advantage of the special teams opportunities.
Through two periods of play, the Bruins led the Stars, 2-1, on the scoreboard, while shots on goal were even (13-13).
Dallas held a, 9-7, in shots on goal in the second period, while the Stars also led in blocked shots (12-9), takeaways (8-1), giveaways (12-7) and hits (11-7) entering the second intermission.
Boston led in faceoff win%, 53-37, after 40 minutes.
The Stars were 0/1 on the power play and the B’s were 1/4 on the skater advantage heading into the third period.
Less than a minute into the third period, Zdeno Chara was penalized for interference. Dallas did not score on the ensuing power play, but went on to establish complete control of the stat sheet in the final frame of regulation.
Stars head coach, Jim Montgomery, pulled Bishop for an extra attacker with about 85 seconds remaining in the game, but Dallas couldn’t muster one past Rask.
Boston sealed the deal on the, 2-1, win for their first victory of the season, despite being outshot, 29-20, in the game.
The Stars held a, 16-7, advantage in shots on goal in the third period alone and led in blocked shots (18-16), giveaways (17-10), hits (15-12) and faceoff win% (53-47).
The Bruins finished the night 1/4 on the power play, while Dallas went 0/2 on the skater advantage.
The B’s improved to 1-0-0 on the season and continue their four-game road trip to kick things off with a stop in Arizona against the Coyotes on Saturday, before visiting the Vegas Golden Knights next Tuesday and the Colorado Avalanche next Thursday.
Boston makes their home debut at TD Garden against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 12th.
Chara began his 14th season as captain of the Bruins, trailing Ray Bourque for the most consecutive seasons as captain in franchise history (Bourque was captain for 15 seasons). Only Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic served as captains of their franchises for longer than Chara and Bourque.
Yzerman served as the captain of the Detroit Red Wings for 19 seasons and Sakic was captain of the Québec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche for 16 seasons. Both are now the current General Managers of the aforementioned clubs (Yzerman with Detroit, Sakic with Colorado).
Meanwhile, Patrice Bergeron remains the longest active tenured alternate captain in the league, having assumed his current role since the 2006-07 season.
43-32-7, 93 points, 4th in the Central Division
Eliminated in the Second Round by St. Louis
Additions: F Tanner Kero, F Joe Pavelski, F Corey Perry, D Andrej Sekera
Subtractions: F Erik Condra (signed with Colorado, AHL), F Ryan Hartman (signed with MIN), F Valeri Nichushkin (bought out), F Tyler Pitlick (traded to PHI), F Brett Ritchie (signed with BOS), F Jason Spezza (signed with TOR), F Mats Zuccarello (signed with MIN), D Niklas Hansson (SHL), D Ben Lovejoy (retired), D Chris Martenet (signed with Brampton, ECHL), G Philippe Desrosiers (signed with FLA)
Still Unsigned: D Julius Honka, D Marc Methot
Re-signed: F Jason Dickinson, D Gavin Bayreuther, D Dillon Heatherington, D Reece Scarlett, G Landon Bow
Offseason Analysis: Dallas Stars General Manager, Jim Nill, had one thing to do this offseason and one thing only– improve the offense.
Dallas’ defense is still growing into its own and will take care of itself as one of the better underrated blue lines in the league, plus Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin make a strong tandem in the crease.
While the additions of Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry are great on paper to the Stars’ offense, each comes with a price.
Pavelski is 35-years-old and tallied 38 goals in 75 games played last season– tying a career-high that he set in the 2015-16 season. Perry is 34-years-old and six goals in 31 games played last season.
The former was injured in the playoffs, but doesn’t seem to show signs of slowing down, even if he only scores 20-25 goals a season. Over the course of Pavelski’s three-year deal with Dallas, that’s not a terrible amount of offense, but if he deviates from the norm and regresses at all… well, he still carries a $7.000 million cap hit.
It’s a gamble considering the age factor, but it’s not the worst contract in the world.
Perry, on the other hand, has been oft-injured as of the last couple of seasons and looks like a shell of his former “Scorey” self.
The good news? Nill was smart and signed Perry to a one-year contract worth $1.500 million.
It’s a low-risk, high-reward– no foul– signing.
But with Pavelski, Perry and newcomer, Andrej Sekera, all added to the roster, Dallas’ average age across the board has only gotten older.
In a league that emphasizes youth, speed and hand-eye coordination, let’s just hope the Stars have discovered the Fountain of Youth and can beat the aging curve.
Other than that, head coach, Jim Montgomery knows what to expect out of his core and can depend on Pavelski to make something happen when Alexander Radulov falls into a lull from time-to-time.
Offseason Grade: C+
The Stars didn’t have to go out and land the biggest star in free agency, so they went out and got a modest harvest instead. Nill signed Pavelski at a steep price on what would otherwise be a bad contract if it were longer than three-years, but it’s really only as bad as when the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Patrick Marleau for three-years and over $6.000 million.
Something about ex-Sharks in the 35-plus category… Other general managers have learned from Toronto’s mistake to stay away– even if there’s a boost in the locker room for a season or two. At least Dallas had the room to make it work and has enough pending free agents in July 2020 to ease their salary cap concerns.
Nick and Pete discuss whether or not it’s worth pursuing Pavel Datsyuk this summer, the Adam Fox trade and what it means for the New York Rangers, as well as more Second Round musings in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Nick, Cap’n and Pete assess the Detroit Red Wings hiring of Steve Yzerman as General Manager and Executive Vice President, as well as recap the trio of Game 7s in the First Round and preview the Second Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.