Tag Archives: Rick Bowness

Perry, Stars force Game 6 with, 3-2, 2OT win in Game 5 against Lightning

The last time someone scored in double overtime in a Stanley Cup Final, Alec Martinez won the Cup for the Los Angeles Kings in five games against the New York Rangers in 2014.

This time, the Dallas Stars didn’t want to be on the losing end– at least not yet, anyway– as Corey Perry scored a pair of goals– including the game-winning goal in double overtime– to force a Game 6 with a, 3-2, win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta on Saturday.

Anton Khudobin (14-9, 2.72 goals against average, .917 save percentage in 24 games this postseason) made 39 saves on 41 shots against for a .951 SV% in the win for Dallas.

Bolts goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy (17-7, 1.97 GAA, .925 SV% in 24 games this postseason) stopped 30 out of 33 shots faced (.909 SV%) in the loss.

Despite the loss, Tampa leads the series 3-2 with a chance to win the Cup on Monday night (Sept. 28th).

With Roope Hintz, Radek Faksa and Blake Comeau out of Dallas’ lineup due to injury, Stars head coach, Rick Bowness, toyed with his forward lines starting Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov on the first line with Joel Kiviranta, Tyler Seguin and Perry rounding out Dallas’ top-six forwards.

Bowness opted to insert Justin Dowling in Hintz’s place on the third line with Mattias Janmark on the left side and Denis Gurianov at right wing.

Dallas’ fourth line trio of Andrew Cogliano, Jason Dickinson and Nick Caamano remained untouched since Caamano went into the lineup in place of the injured Comeau.

On defense, Bowness kept the same pairings.

Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, kept his lineup for Game 5 the same as it was in Game 4.

Meanwhile, Dallas’ list of scratches included Faksa, Comeau, Jason Robertson, Hintz, Stephen Johns, Ben Bishop, Landon Bow, Taylor Fedun, Gavin Bayreuther, Thomas Harley and Ty Dellandrea.

Tampa’s list of scratches for Saturday night included Luke Schenn, Mathieu Joseph, Zach Bogosian, Scott Wedgewood, Braydon Coburn, Mitchell Stephens, Steven Stamkos and Alexander Volkov.

For the first time since the 2009 Stanley Cup Final– and just the second time since 1955 overall– a pair of Stanley Cup Final games were played on consecutive days.

Additionally, Saturday’s Game 5 marked the first time in Stanley Cup Final history that games on consecutive days required overtime.

Early in the opening frame, Seguin tripped Brayden Point yielding the first power play of the night to the Lightning at 4:19 of the first period.

Tampa’s skater advantage wasn’t as functional as it was in Game 4’s win on Friday, however, as the Bolts weren’t able to muster a power play goal.

Late in the period, Perry jumped on a loose puck that had deflected off of Seguin’s stick while No. 91 in green and white struggled to settle the rubber biscuit.

Perry (4) wired a shot through Vasilevskiy’s arm to give the Stars a, 1-0, lead at 17:52 of the first period.

Seguin (9) and Jamie Oleksiak (4) had the assists as Dallas scored first for the second consecutive game in as many nights.

Entering the first intermission, the Stars led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, while the Lightning led in shots on goal, 10-8.

Dallas held the advantage in blocked shots (5-3) and takeaways (5-3), while Tampa led in giveaways (4-3), hits (22-17) and faceoff win percentage (55-46).

The Lightning were 0/1 on the power play, while Dallas had yet to see any time on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Ondrej Palat (11) tied the game, 1-1, as the Lightning forward received a pass from Nikita Kucherov on a rush into the attacking zone, brought the puck in deep towards the goal line, then cut towards the slot with a deke as Khudobin dove paddle-first in desperation while Palat slide the puck into the twine.

Kucherov (26) and Point (18) tallied the assists on Palat’s goal at 4:37 of the second period.

Midway through the middle period, Carter Verhaeghe slashed Miro Heiskanen and received a minor infraction at 12:33.

Dallas did not convert on the ensuing power play, however.

Through 40 minutes of action on Saturday, the score was tied, 1-1, while the Bolts led in shots on goal, 23-14– including a, 13-6, advantage in the second period alone.

Tampa held the advantage in hits (37-31) and faceoff win% (52-48), while the Stars led in blocked shots (13-11) and takeaways (7-6).

Each club had nine giveaways and was 0/1 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Khudobin’s 22 saves through the first two periods in Game 5 boosted his 2020 postseason totals to 700 saves in 24 games– becoming the fifth goaltender since 1955-56 (when shots on goal and saves began to be tracked) to record at least 700 saves in a single playoff year.

The other goaltenders to do so? Tim Thomas (798 saves) with the Boston Bruins en route to winning the Cup in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kirk McLean (761) with the Vancouver Canucks in the 1994 postseason, Tuukka Rask (715) with the Bruins in the 2013 postseason and Jonathan Quick (705) with the Kings en route to the Cup in 2014.

Upon the conclusion of Saturday night’s, 3-2, win in double overtime for Dallas, Khudobin has amassed 717 saves this postseason– good enough for the third-most in a postseason since 1955-56.

Mikhail Sergachev (3) put the Lightning ahead of the Stars on a one-timer from the point while Kucherov and Palat screened Khudobin at 3:38 of the third period.

Point (19) had the only assist on the goal as the Bolts pulled ahead, 2-1.

Midway through the period, Erik Cernak caught Pavelski with a high stick and was assessed a minor penalty at 11:06 of the third period– presenting Dallas with their second power play opportunity of the night.

The Stars failed to convert on the skater advantage, but caught Tampa in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Pavelski (13) collected the garbage on a rebound and tied the game, 2-2, at 13:15.

Benn broke up a clearing attempt from Kevin Shattenkirk, then Heiskanen fired a shot from the point that Pavelski ultimately snagged on a rebound and pocketed the loose change for his 61st career postseason goal– the most by any United States born player in NHL history.

Heiskanen (20) and Seguin (10) were credited with the assists on the goal as Heiskanen became the fourth defender in NHL history to record 20 assists in a single postseason.

Perry and Pavelski, in the meantime, became the eighth and ninth players in league history to score on consecutive days in the Stanley Cup Final– joining Justin Abdelkader (in 2009 with the Detroit Red Wings), Jean Beliveau (in 1955 with the Montreal Canadiens), Ted Lindsay (in 1952 with the Red Wings), Sid Abel (in 1950 with the Red Wings), Tony Leswick (in 1950 with the New York Rangers), Allan Stanley (in 1950 with the Rangers) and Harry Watson (in 1948 with the Toronto Maple Leafs) in doing so.

Additionally, both Perry and Pavelski became the first players aged 35 or older to score in consecutive games in the Stanley Cup Final (in general, not necessarily on consecutive days) since Mark Recchi did so in Games 2 and 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final with Boston.

At the end of regulation, the score remained tied, 2-2, despite the Lightning leading in shots on goal, 30-27.

Dallas had a, 13-7, advantage in shots on net in the third period alone and maintained a lead in blocked shots (19-13) and takeaways (10-7) heading into overtime.

Meanwhile, Tampa led in giveaways (21-16), hits (53-42) and faceoff win% (54-46).

The Bolts were 0/1 and the Stars were 0/2 on the power play entering the extra frame(s).

About nine minutes into the first overtime period, Tampa surpassed the 200-minute mark of overtime hockey in this postseason alone (extending their ongoing record).

Dallas had their first shot on goal in the overtime period at 17:53, while the Lightning looked like (and were) the more dominant team in the first overtime period.

Alas, without a game-winning goal, 80 minutes of hockey was not enough as the Bolts and Stars remained tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard, despite Tampa leading in shots on net, 37-29– including a, 7-2, advantage in the first overtime period alone.

Dallas maintained an advantage in blocked shots (30-14) and takeaways (14-10), while the Lightning led in giveaways (23-21), hits (62-53) and faceoff win% (51-49).

As there were no penalties called in either overtime period, the Lightning finished the night 0/1 on the power play, while the Stars went 0/2.

Midway through the second overtime period, John Klingberg let go of a shot that Perry (5) found on the rebound and scored the game-winning goal while Vasilevskiy dove glove-first in desperate attempt to prolong the Game 5 action.

Klingberg (17) and Seguin (11) notched the assists on Perry’s game-winning goal at 9:23 of double overtime.

Dallas finished the effort with a, 3-2, win and forced a Game 6 while trailing in the series 3-2.

Tampa finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-33, as well as in giveaways (24-23), hits (64-57) and faceoff win% (51-49).

The Stars finished Saturday night leading in blocked shots (33-18), while both teams managed four shots on goal apiece in the second overtime period.

Despite not scoring a goal in 13 games, Seguin managed to amass three assists as the Stars improved to 5-1 in overtime this postseason.

The Lightning fell to 6-2 in overtime in the 2020 postseason as a result of the Game 5 loss.

Meanwhile, Dallas became the fifth team in NHL history to win a multi-overtime game in which their opponent could have clinched the Stanley Cup.

It was also the second time that the Stars achieved the feat– having previously beaten the New Jersey Devils in Game 5 of the 2000 Stanley Cup Final (before losing the series in six games).

Dallas did, however, beat the Buffalo Sabres in Game 6 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final– winning the Cup in triple overtime that year– as a bonus fun fact.

Tampa has another chance to finish the Stars and win their second Stanley Cup championship in franchise history Monday night in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final from the Edmonton bubble at Rogers Place.

Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBC to catch the action, while those in Canada can tune to CBC, SN or TVAS.

Bolts take 2-1 series lead with, 5-2, win in Game 3 over Stars

Steven Stamkos returned to the lineup for the Tampa Bay Lightning as the Bolts scored five goals in the first 40 minutes to take a 2-1 series lead with a, 5-2, victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 3 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

Victor Hedman had the de facto game-winning goal early in the second period as the Lightning are now just two wins away from their second Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.

Tampa goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy (16-6, 1.89 goals against average, .928 save percentage in 22 games this postseason), made 22 saves on 24 shots faced for a .917 SV% in the win, while Dallas netminder, Anton Khudobin (13-8, 2.72 GAA, .918 SV% in 22 games this postseason), was chased after two periods and 24 saves on 29 shots against (.828 SV%).

Jake Oettinger (0-0, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV% in two games this postseason) made three saves on three shots in his relief appearance for the Stars– in just his second career National Hockey League game (both this postseason).

The series shifts to Game 4 inside the bubble on Friday night. Puck drop at Rogers Place is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET. Viewers in the United States can tune to NBC, while those in Canada have their choice between CBC, SN or TVAS for the action.

Stamkos returned to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 25th for the Lightning after having core muscle surgery in mid-March, skating in June, then missing most of the postseason until Wednesday night.

He had a goal in the effort, but also briefly went down the tunnel before returning to the bench and only amassed 2:47 of ice time in Game 3.

Meanwhile, Stamkos replaced Carter Verhaeghe on Tampa’s fourth line as part of Jon Cooper’s only change to his game plan from Game 2 to Game 3.

Stars interim head coach, Rick Bowness, replaced Blake Comeau with Nick Caamano on his fourth line due to Comeau being forced out of the lineup with an injury.

Dallas scratches included Radek Faksa, Comeau, Jason Robertson, Stephen Johns, Ben Bishop, Justin Dowling, Landon Bow, Taylor Fedun, Gavin Bayreuther, Thomas Harley and Ty Dellandrea on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Tampa’s long list of scratches for Game 3 included Luke Schenn, Mathieu Joseph, Verhaeghe, Zach Bogosian, Scott Wedgewood, Braydon Coburn, Mitchell Stephens and Alexander Volkov.

Nikita Kucherov (7) kicked off the game’s scoring with a breakaway goal off of a Miro Heiskanen turnover to give the Lightning a, 1-0, lead at 5:33 of the first period.

About a minute later, Stamkos (1) settled a rolling puck while entering the zone and snapped a shot over Khudobin’s blocker side to give Tampa a pair of goals in a 1:25 span on consecutive shots.

Hedman (9) and Jan Rutta (1) tallied the assists on Stamkos’ goal as the Bolts jumped out to a, 2-0, lead 6:58 into the opening frame.

Less than a couple of minutes later, Erik Cernak tripped up Caamano and presented the Stars with the first power play of the night at 8:13.

Dallas’ skater advantage was short lived, however, as Joel Kiviranta interfered with Anthony Cirelli at 9:34.

After an abbreviated span of 4-on-4 action, Jason Dickinson (2) one-timed a shot past Vasilevskiy on the short side between the blocker and the post to give Dallas a shorthanded goal and cut Tampa’s lead in half, 2-1.

Roope Hintz (11) had the only assist on Dickinson’s goal at 11:19.

Late in the opening frame, Alexander Radulov hooked Blake Coleman and was sent to the sin bin at 19:37 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, Tampa led, 2-1, on the scoreboard despite trailing Dallas, 16-8, in shots on goal.

The Lightning also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-2) and giveaways (7-6), while the Stars led in takeaways (2-0) and faceoff win percentage (71-29).

Both teams had 21 hits each after one period, while Tampa was 0/2 and Dallas was 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Hedman (10) sent a quick wrist shot past Khudobin on a rebound 54 seconds into the second period to put the Bolts ahead of the Stars by two goals once more, 3-1, as Cirelli (5) and Ondrej Palat (6) collected the assists.

Early in the middle frame, Radulov hooked Mikhail Sergachev at 4:31, but the Lightning weren’t able to convert on the ensuing power play.

Stamkos returned to the bench for the second period shortly thereafter, but he did not skate in any of the remaining action in the game.

Midway through the middle period, Brayden Point (11) scored on a 3-on-1 after Tampa caught Dallas on a line change with a forced turnover to make it, 4-1, Lightning at 12:02 of the second period.

Kucherov (23) and Hedman (10) tallied the assists on Point’s goal and the Bolts had a three-goal lead.

Tampa made it a four-goal lead late in the second period when Palat (10) backhanded a garbage goal from point blank on a rebound as Stars defender, Esa Lindell, hacked and missed at the loose puck.

Point (17) and Kevin Shattenkirk (9) notched the helpers on Palat’s goal and the Lightning led, 5-1, at 18:55.

Through 40 minutes of action on Wednesday, Tampa held a, 5-1, lead on the scoreboard and a, 29-20, advantage in shots on goal– including a, 21-4, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Tampa also led in blocked shots (8-6), while Dallas held the advantage in giveaways (15-8), hits (41-38) and faceoff win% (56-44) after two periods.

Both teams had three takeaways each, while the Lightning were 1/3 on the skater advantage and the Stars were 0/2 on the power play entering the second intermission.

Bowness opted to change goaltenders ahead of the final frame of regulation– replacing Khudobin with Oettinger and making history in the process as Oettinger became the first goaltender from Boston University to ever appear in a Stanley Cup Final game.

Almost a few minutes into the third period, however, Palat and Mattias Janmark exchanged pleasantries and received roughing minors at 2:58, yielding two minutes of 4-on-4 action.

Less than a minute later, Jamie Benn and Rutta went at it and received roughing minors as well as ten-minute misconducts at 3:38 of the third period.

By that point it became clear that the officials were trying to keep the temperature of the game down– it didn’t last for long.

Prior to another eruption of emotions, however, Heiskanen (6) sent the puck on goal with eyes as the rubber biscuit bounced its way around the Lightning goaltender and into the twine to cut Tampa’s lead to three goals.

Joe Pavelski (6) and Andrew Cogliano (2) recorded the assists on Heiskanen’s goal and the Stars trailed, 5-2, at 6:49 of the third period.

Less than a few minutes later, Shatternkirk slashed Kiviranta, but the Stars weren’t able to convert on the ensuing power play.

Dallas got one more chance to muster anything on the skater advantage when Sergachev tripped Hintz at 12:41, but once more Dallas didn’t score on the power play.

In the closing minutes of the game with the final result all but assured, Pavelski, Cedric Paquette, Barclay Goodrow, Pat Maroon, Dickinson and seemingly just about everyone else on the ice at the time exchanged words and more.

Pavelski was assessed a roughing minor as well as a cross checking minor, Paquette, Goodrow and Dickinson each received a roughing minor, while Maroon was handed a misconduct– ending all of the aforementioned players’ nights early at 18:05 of the third period.

At the final horn, Tampa secured the 2-1 series lead with a, 5-2, win in Game 3 on Wednesday.

The Lightning finished the night leading in shots on goal, 32-24, despite trailing the Stars, 4-3, in the third period alone.

The Bolts also finished the game leading in blocked shots (12-9), while the Stars wrapped up the effort lead in giveaways (21-14), hits (59-54) and faceoff win% (55-45).

Tampa finished 1/4 and Dallas went 0/4 on the power play in the effort.

When leading a playoff series 2-1, the Lightning are 10-3 all time.

Lightning even series 1-1 with Dallas in Game 2 win

The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three goals in the first period, then held on to a, 3-2, victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 2 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Monday.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (15-6, 1.89 goals against average, .929 save percentage in 21 games played this postseason) made 27 saves on 29 shots against (.931 SV%) in the win for the Lightning.

Stars goaltender, Anton Khudobin (13-7, 2.57 GAA, .922 SV% in 21 games played this postseason) turned aside 28 out of 31 shots faced for a .903 SV% in the loss.

Tampa’s head coach, Jon Cooper, chose not to dress 11 forwards and seven defenders and instead opted for the usual “full lineup” of 12 forwards and six defenders– replacing Luke Schenn and Zach Bogosian with Jan Rutta on the blue line and Carter Verhaeghe as the right wing on the fourth line.

Stars interim head coach, Rick Bowness, did not change his lineup from Game 1.

With the win in Game 2, the Bolts tied the series 1-1, while Cooper improved to 51-38 all time behind the bench with Tampa in the postseason.

Bowness fell to 14-10 in his postseason career with Dallas as their interim head coach.

Once more, Dallas was without the services of Radek Faksa, Nick Caamano, Jason Robertson, Stephen Johns, Ben Bishop, Justin Dowling, Landon Bow, Taylor Fedun, Gavin Bayreuther, Thomas Harley and Ty Dellandrea in Game 2, while Tampa did without Schenn, Mathieu Joseph, Bogosian, Scott Wedgewood, Braydon Coburn, Mitchell Stephens, Steven Stamkos and Alexander Volkov on Monday.

Early in the opening frame, Mattias Janmark caught Nikita Kucherov with a high stick and was assessed a minor penalty at 3:20 of the first period.

The Lightning did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the game.

Midway through the period, Joe Pavelski tripped up Anthony Cirelli and presented the Bolts with their second skater advantage of the game at 10:58. This time Tampa capitalized on the power play.

Brayden Point (10) sent a shot that deflected off of Stars defender Esa Lindell’s stick and floated past Khudobin on the glove side to give the Bolts a, 1-0, lead with a power-play goal at 11:23 of the first period.

Kucherov (21) and Victor Hedman (7) tallied the assists on Point’s goal.

Less than a couple of minutes later, Jamie Oleksiak held Tyler Johnson and cut a rut to the penalty box at 13:11.

Once more, Tampa scored on the ensuing power play.

The Lightning worked the puck around the offensive zone with ease as Ondrej Palat (9) received a pass, then took his time to fire a shot past Khudobin as the Dallas netminder stretched across the crease– leading with his blocker.

Kucherov (22) and Hedman (8) notched the assists on back-to-back power-play goals for the Lightning as Tampa took a, 2-0, lead at 14:22 of the first period.

Less than a minute later, Kevin Shattenkirk (2) rocketed a shot from the point into the twine to give the Bolts a three-goal lead.

Blake Coleman (8) and Cirelli (4) had the assists on Shattenkirk’s goal as the Lightning extended their lead, 3-0, at 15:16.

Moments later, Palat was penalized for interference against Stars captain, Jamie Benn, at 18:49, but Dallas wasn’t able to convert on the ensuing power play.

Entering the first intermission, Tampa led, 3-0, on the scoreboard and, 14-6, in shots on goal.

The Bolts also held the advantage in blocked shots (8-5), takeaways (2-1), giveaways (6-4) and faceoff win percentage (64-36).

The Stars led in hits (21-18) after 20 minutes of action, while Tampa was 2/3 on the power play and Dallas was 0/1 on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Blake Comeau was guilty of interference at 2:02 of the second period and presented the Lightning with yet another power play opportunity.

This time, however, the Bolts didn’t score because they took care of all of their goals in the first period alone– in addition to the fact that Tampa’s power play was short-lived, since Kucherov tripped Jason Dickinson at 3:47 and left Dallas with an abbreviated power play after both teams played a little 4-on-4 action.

Moments later, Yanni Gourde took a trip to the sin bin for cross checking Oleksiak at 6:26.

The Stars failed to score on the ensuing power play, but got another chance at 14:38 of the second period after Palat slashed Lindell.

Five seconds into the ensuing power play, Pavelski (10) redirected a shot– that originally came from John Klingberg– past Vasilevskiy to put Dallas on the scoreboard and cut into Tampa’s lead, 3-1.

Pavelski’s power-play goal was assisted by Klingberg (15) and Alexander Radulov (8) at 14:43.

Only Maurice Richard (11 goals in the 1958 Stanley Cup Playoffs) scored more goals than Pavelski aged 36 or older in a postseason. Meanwhile, Pavelski’s 10 goals this postseason tied him with Wayne Gretzky’s 1997 Stanley Cup Playoffs run with the New York Rangers and Brett Hull’s 2002 Stanley Cup championship run with the Detroit Red Wings.

After Pat Maroon bumped into Khudobin moments later, a scrum ensued and resulted in five minor infractions being handed out among both teams.

Corey Perry received a roughing minor against Hedman, while Hedman got two minutes for roughing against Perry at 16:58.

Meanwhile, Maroon picked up a goaltender interference infraction, while Cedric Paquette was also charged with roughing against Perry and Klingberg earned a roughing minor against Hedman.

With three Lightning players in the box to Dallas’ two players in the box, the Stars had a power play at 16:58 of the second period.

They did not convert on the advantage.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Lightning led the Stars, 3-1, on the scoreboard, despite trailing Dallas, 24-19, in shots on goal– including an, 18-5, advantage in the second period alone for the Stars.

Tampa held the advantage in takeaways (6-2) and faceoff win% (56-44), while Dallas led in blocked shots (12-11), giveaways (10-9) and hits (37-33).

The Lightning were 2/4 and the Stars were 1/5 on the power play entering the final frame.

Janmark (1) redirected an intentional shot pass from Klingberg while standing at the edge of the crease to bring Dallas to within one at 5:27 of the third period.

Klingberg (16) and Radulov (9) tallied the assists on Janmark’s goal and the Stars trailed, 3-2.

Almost four minutes later, Mikhail Sergachev thought he scored an insurance goal for the Bolts, but Bowness used a coach’s challenge to ask for a review to check if the Lightning were offside entering the zone prior to the goal.

Video review confirmed that Tampa was indeed offside at zone entry and thus overturned the call on the ice at 9:13– no goal.

The Lightning still led, 3-2, however and that’s how the final score would read as the Stars couldn’t muster a game-tying goal– even with Khudobin pulled for an extra attacker with about 69 seconds left in the game– and Tampa couldn’t score to extend their lead.

At the final horn, the Lightning had won, 3-2, and tied the series 1-1.

The Bolts finished Monday night’s action leading in shots on goal, 31-29– including a, 12-5, advantage in the third period alone– as well as in hits, 51-50, and faceoff win% (51-49).

Dallas finished the night leading in blocked shots (20-19) and giveaways (15-11).

Tampa finished the night 2/4 on the power play, while Dallas finished 1/5 on the skater advantage.

The two teams battle for a 2-1 series lead in Game 3 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night in the Edmonton bubble. Puck drop at Rogers Place is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET.

Viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS to catch the action.

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

Take Five: Five Takeaways From Game 3 of the 2020 Western Conference Final

For the first time in this year’s Western Conference Final, a goalie did not record a shutout. Instead, Alexander Radulov scored the game-winning goal 31 seconds into overtime to give the Dallas Stars the, 3-2, win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 3 and a 2-1 series lead.

That’s right, Dallas is two wins away from making the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2000.

The winner of Game 3 in a Conference Finals series that entered the game tied 1-1 holds an all time series record of 32-9. The Conference Final series format wasn’t introduced until 1982, if anyone’s wondering.

Now before the two teams tackle Game 4 on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), let’s review five takeaways from Game 3 that could impact Game 4 and/or the outcome of the series (or might not have to do with anything at all).

1. Folks, we’ve got a goalie battle on our hands.

If you’ve been watching either of the two teams in the Western Conference Final throughout the 2020 postseason, you’d already know about the goaltender “controversy” with the Golden Knights, but this has nothing to do with that.

No, instead, this is about how after the first period, while the game was still tied, 0-0, Vegas had a shutout streak spanning 137:24– dating back to John Klingberg’s only goal in Game 1 of the series at 2:36 of the first period.

Robin Lehner had a personal shutout streak of 151:44 that reached further back into the vault when the Golden Knights shutout the Vancouver Canucks, 3-0, in Game 7 of their Second Round series.

Once Jamie Oleksiak scored a breakaway goal to give Dallas the, 1-0, lead at 19:43 of the second period, Lehner’s shutout streak came to an end at 171:37, which surpassed Marc-Andre Fleury’s previous franchise record for the longest postseason shutout streak of 144:04 in 2018.

After Shea Theodore scored a power-play goal to tie the game, 1-1, at 3:49 of the third period, Dallas’s shutout streak came to an end at 157:17– dating back to late in the second period after the Stars allowed three goals against and lost, 3-0, in Game 2.

NHL.com‘s David Satriano went back and checked the numbers on those stats since he was the one that tweeted them out (maybe you should give him a follow if you’re into that sort of thing).

Oh and Theodore’s goal, by the way, was his seventh of the postseason and brought him to a tie with Tampa Bay Lightning defender, Victor Hedman, for the most goals by a defender this postseason.

Theodore has 7-11–18 totals in 18 games for Vegas, while Hedman has 7-6–13 totals in 15 games for the Bolts.

2. “Sin City” or “Saint City”?

The Golden Knights displayed some good discipline in Game 3 having only given up one power play opportunity to the Stars courtesy of Max Pacioretty’s roughing minor against Klingberg at 11:33 of the first period.

Vegas only had one penalty called against them, whereas Dallas was guilty of four minor infractions.

Who are the bad boys now?

Of course, Klingberg’s penalty at 1:33 of the third period was an automatic minor for delay of game (puck over glass) and interim head coach, Rick Bowness, lost a coach’s challenge at 12:46 of the final frame (Mark Stone’s deflection goal to tie the game, 2-2) and was assessed a bench minor as a result of losing the challenge.

3. Dallas’ defense is their best offense.

Some of you might be thinking this is about to be one of those “defense wins championships” explanations, but it’s not.

Rather, Dallas’ defense is their best offense in quite the literal sense.

Oleksiak scored the game’s first goal (depth!) and Miro Heiskanen recorded his league leading 17th assist this postseason on that same goal.

Only Brian Bellows and Mike Modano had more assists for the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise in one postseason. Bellows had 19 assists in the North Stars’ run to the 1991 Stanley Cup Final and Modano had 18 assists in Dallas’ run to winning the Cup in 1999.

Obviously this means one of two things– at least– that Heiskanen is really good and (two) that the Stars could very well make the 2020 Stanley Cup Final based on this trend.

In any case, Dallas’ defenders have been moving the puck out of their zone with precision and hitting the back of the twine when it matters most with some clutch performances this postseason.

4. Have you tried turning it “off” then back “on” again?

Vegas’ goaltending hasn’t looked bad so far in this series, but the rest of the team appears to have forgotten their legs at times and lacking in the “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps”/”dig deeper in the trenches” playoff mentality.

It’s not a major thing if it happens in a game or two, but the Golden Knights started to show signs of a crack in their foundation in the previous round against Vancouver and it’s not that the Stars are even exploiting it, so much as Vegas just hasn’t been playing their game.

One would expect the Golden Knights to come out a little harder and faster paced in Game 4 and especially try to capture a full 60-minute effort.

Then again, perhaps everything you just read after the fourth headline is actually a lie.

The Golden Knights had 12 shots on goal in the first period (Dallas had four), 10 shots on net in the second period (the Stars had 14) and 18 shots on goal in the third period (Dallas had four once again).

All in all, Vegas outshot the Stars, 40-23, but all it took was one shot in overtime– 31 seconds into the extra frame, I might add– by Radulov to end the game and steal the victory for the Stars.

So maybe the question “have you tried turning it ‘off’ then back ‘on’ again?” really pertains to “have you tried not hitting the goaltender and simply scoring more if you’re going to take a lot more shots a night than the other team?”

Because that’s been a bit of a problem for the Golden Knights at times this postseason and it can be frustrating as hell– not just for the players, but the fans watching at home too.

Kudos to Anton Khudobin, though, he’s on top of his game and getting a workout too.

That’s something not many of us can say in a pandemic. *nonchalantly puts down a bag of chips*

5. Have coaches become drunk with power with the “coach’s challenge” this postseason?

Bowness has made a couple of questionable decisions to use his coach’s challenge at times this postseason, but it seems more and more coach’s this year are quick to try to overrule the call on the ice.

Say what you want about the decisions made when Carolina Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour, went unsuccessful in the coach’s challenge department in the First Round or Jon Cooper’s odd petition on behalf of the Lightning in the Second Round, but nothing compares to Alain Vigneault’s three “what are you doing!?!” quality challenges this year in the playoffs.

Maybe it’s not the head coaches who are in too deep over their heads, but the video coach that has to scramble for to rewind the feed from multiple angles and make a split-second decision on what to advise their head coach to do.

Plus, of course, the officiating in the first place.

Sure, they’re human, but they’re always bound to make mistakes as a result and– in theory– a review system would get the calls right 100 percent of the time or something, but then again one team and their fan base is never going to be happy with the end result no matter what.

If anything, that gives us all 21 or older (18/19 or older basically everywhere else in the world) another chance to sit back, grab a beer and watch the hockey unfold.

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.

2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round Preview: Western Conference

The turnaround from the Qualifier to the First Round was too quick to get this out of the way (other than on the podcast), but at least the league and broadcasting partners gave us all a day or two between the First and Second Round– oh.

By the time that you’ll be reading this, the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars will likely already be well into the first period (at least) of Game 1 in their 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round matchup.

Once again, this postseason is unpredictable– and that’s besides whatever happens on the ice.

At any point in time things could be shutdown again, because– you know– of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The players, coaches, team and league staff, as well as broadcasting crews and essential arena/hotel employees have all been in the bubble for almost a month now.

There aren’t enough words to express how taxing on the mind the isolation really is, despite teammates being in the bubble together, etc.

None on the league staff or team staff will see their families, romantic partners, roommates back home, etc. until they’re either eliminated or heading home with the Stanley Cup in their arms *fingers crossed*.

Luckily, the league’s made it this far into Phase 4 with no positive tests for COVID-19 out of the thousands of tests they’ve conducted.

For one reason or another (TV broadcast deals, probably), they’ve decided to make the Second Round feature a multitude of “back-to-backs”– that’s two games in two nights, whereas normally by this point in the playoffs there’s always (except for extenuating arena availability circumstances) a day off between each game in a series.

Alas, being in two bubble cities (Edmonton and Toronto), the league can do whatever it wants.

For now, let’s focus on the Western Conference teams in the Second Round. We’ll get to the Eastern Conference later.

As a reminder, the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final will be held at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, if everything goes according to plan.

Sadly, families won’t allowed to join the players in the Conference Finals and beyond as was first anticipated at the beginning of the bubble.

(1) Vegas Golden Knights (39-24-8, 86 points) vs (5) Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6, 78 points)

Vegas: 71 games played, .606 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.

Vancouver: 69 games played, .565 points percentage, 27 regulation wins.

The Vegas Golden Knights took care of the Chicago Blackhawks in five games (4-1) in the First Round and (if you remember, they didn’t have to play in any Qualifier by virtue of being one of the best four Western Conference teams– seeding determined by a Round Robin tournament) are set to experience what it’s like to face the Vancouver Canucks in the Second Round.

Vancouver hasn’t been back to the Second Round since their 2011 Stanley Cup Final appearance, so good news for them– they won a series for the first time in nine years.

The Golden Knights were led by Max Pacioretty (32-34–66 totals in 71 games played) in the regular season, with Mark Stone (63 points in 65 games) and Reilly Smith (54 points in 71 games) rounding out the top-three scorers on the team.

Through eight games this postseason, Vegas has looked like their usual selves.

Sure, the goaltending is a hot topic these days, but the team can jump out to a quick, 1-0, lead or play a long-range game where the club takes absolute control of the third period and beats their opponent into submission– both on the ice and on the scoreboard.

Stone (four goals, four assists) and Smith (three goals, five assists) lead the Golden Knights with eight points each in eight games thus far in the 2020 postseason.

Shea Theodore (four goals, three assists) and Jonathan Marchessault (two goals, five assists) have the second most points thus far for Vegas– each of them have seven points in eight games.

Oh and William Karlsson– the other usual suspect for Golden Knights offense– has 2-4–6 totals in eight games.

In the regular season, Marc-Andre Fleury amassed a 27-16-5 record in 49 games (48 starts) for the Golden Knights with a 2.77 goals against average and a .905 save percentage in the process, as well as five shutouts.

Malcolm Subban played the role of the backup with a 9-7-3 record in 20 games (19 starts), a 3.18 GAA and an .890 SV% until he was traded at the deadline to the Blackhawks in a three-team trade that witnessed Robin Lehner exchange hands from Chicago to the Toronto Maple Leafs to Vegas.

Lehner, in the meantime, went 3-0-0 with a 1.67 GAA, a .940 SV% and one shutout for Vegas until the stoppage due to the pandemic.

Oscar Dansk also made one appearance in 2019-20 for the Golden Knights, amassing a 6.00 GAA and an .838 SV% to go with his 0-1-0 record.

In the playoffs, there’s a growing goalie controversy– no, not mentioning Fleury’s agent posting… …whatever that was— but Fleury’s posted a 2-0 record in two games (two starts) with a 2.50 GAA and an .886 SV.

Meanwhile, Lehner has amassed a 5-1 record in six games with a 2.44 GAA and a .904 SV% in the process.

Lehner’s had his moments, but he’s looked more confident and able to carry himself so far since returning after, what, five months off from the regular season to Phase 4?

Fleury, on the other hand, has let in some goals that are reminiscent of his pre-three Stanley Cup rings with the Pittsburgh Penguins days.

Is it his age or simply a byproduct of not being able to get quite restarted after a pandemic stoppage? Well, we may never know, because despite the “controversy” he still managed to win both games he was in and now– after more of a workload than Fleury– Lehner is regressing to some sort of standard trend for Vegas goaltenders this season.

At the other end of the rink, the Canucks broke through with their first series win since 2011, by beating the Minnesota Wild in four games (3-1) to make the playoffs, then defeated the St. Louis Blues in six games (4-2) to meetup with the Golden Knights in the Second Round.

J.T. Miller (27-45–72 totals in 69 games) led Vancouver in scoring, while Elias Pettersson (66 points in 69 games) had the second most points and Bo Horvat (53 points in 69 games) was third.

Pettersson leads his team through 10 games with 4-9–13 totals this postseason as Miller (5-5–10 totals) and Quinn Hughes (1-9–10 totals) each battle it out for second in Canucks playoff scoring.

Horvat (six goals, two assists) and Brock Boeser (three goals, five assists) each had eight points for the third most in offensive production for Vancouver thus far.

In the crease, Jacob Markstrom led the way in the regular season with a 23-16-4 record in 43 games (43 starts), as well as a 2.75 GAA, a .918 SV% and two shutouts in 2019-20.

Thatcher Demko put up a 13-10-2 record in 27 games (25 starts) and had a 3.06 GAA, as well as a .905 SV% as Vancouver’s backup, while Louis Domingue made an appearance this season while the Canucks were depleted due to injury and amassed a 4.08 GAA and an .882 SV% to go with his 0-1-0 record in one game.

In the playoffs, it’s been all Markstrom, who is 7-3 in ten games with a 2.44 GAA, a .929 SV% and one shutout in that span.

Golden Knights head coach, Peter DeBoer, usually makes it to at least the Conference Finals– if not Stanley Cup Final– in his first season/partial season with a new team after being fired by his old team.

Good news for Vegas fans, DeBoer is behind the bench.

Canucks head coach, Travis Green, has been a long-time coming coaching prospect turned annual “is he in the hot seat?”– but not really– extraordinaire that, with the help of youth, time and forward progress, has been presented a roster that can and will turn heads both in the now and near future.

Basically, these two teams met on Dec. 15th and Dec. 19th and each won a game.

Vegas beat Vancouver, 6-3, at T-Mobile Arena on Dec. 15th, while the Canucks took home a, 5-4, overtime win on Dec. 19th at Rogers Arena.

The Golden Knights had a combined 89 shots against the Canucks, who had a combined 63 shots against Vegas this season.

Neither team’s goaltending looked solid in their head-to-head matchups, but entering the Second Round, Markstrom clearly has the upper hand.

That said, Vegas has the powerful offense– with recent playoff experience to boot– and their tried and true defense that saw the addition of clutch playoff performer and underrated leader when it really counts, Alec Martinez, at the trade deadline from the Los Angeles Kings.

It’s their first time ever meeting and it’s likely one that will last longer than most fans might think– because, again, Markstrom is a huge factor. Whether or not he’s actually this good all the time doesn’t matter.

He’s a hot goaltender this year and he’s been consistent thus far since returning from the stoppage.

It won’t be easy, but the Golden Knights should advance, however, to the 2020 Western Conference Final in six games when all is said and done.

Regular season outcomes:

6-3 VGK at T-Mobile Arena on Dec. 15th, 5-4 F/OT VAN at Rogers Arena on Dec. 19th

Schedule:

8/23- Game 1 VAN @ VGK in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/25- Game 2 VAN @ VGK in Edmonton 9:45 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/27- Game 3 VGK @ VAN in Edmonton, 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/29- Game 4 VGK @ VAN in Edmonton, 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/31- Game 5 VAN @ VGK in Edmonton*

9/1- Game 6 VGK @ VAN in Edmonton*

9/3- Game 7 VAN @ VGK in Edmonton*

*If necessary

(2) Colorado Avalanche (42-20-8, 92 points) vs (3) Dallas Stars (37-24-8, 82 points)

Colorado: 70 games played, .657 points percentage, 37 regulation wins.

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

Both the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars were good enough in the Western Conference to participate in the Round Robin tournament while the Stanley Cup Qualifier was going on, after which, the Avs beat the Arizona Coyotes in five games in the First Round, while the Stars eliminated the Calgary Flames in six games.

Nathan MacKinnon led the way for Colorado in the regular season with 35 goals and 58 assists for 93 points in 69 games played. Rookie defender, Cale Makar, was second in team scoring with 50 points in an injury shortened 57-game season, while offseason acquisition, Andre Burakovsky amassed 20-25–45 totals in 58 games for the third most points on the team.

In the postseason, MacKinnon is still leading the way for the Avalanche with 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in eight games entering the Second Round. Nazem Kadri is a close-second with 11 points (six goals, five assists) through eight games, while Mikko Rantanen is third with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in eight games.

In the net, Philipp Grubauer split time with Pavel Francouz.

Grubauer amassed an 18-12-4 record in 36 games played (36 starts), while putting up a 2.63 GAA, a .916 SV% and two shutouts.

Francouz had a 21-7-4 record in 34 games (31 starts) and yielded a 2.41 GAA, a .923 SV% and one shutout in that span.

Meanwhile, Michael Hutchinson made one appearance and recorded a 1.00 GAA, as well as a .944 SV% in that game for Colorado after being acquired at the deadline.

In the playoffs, Grubauer’s carried the weight with a 5-0-1 record in six games, a 1.49 GAA, a .937 SV% and one shutout in that span, while Francouz has made two appearances with a 1-1-0 record, a 1.02 GAA, a .958 SV% and one shutout in that stretch.

Entering Game 1, Grubauer was likely to see more time in the crease (but that’s changed now with his lower body injury that he sustained).

Across the ice, the Dallas Stars advanced to the Second Round after ousting the Flames and were led by Tyler Seguin’s 50 points (17 goals, 33 assists) in 69 games in the regular season, while Jamie Benn (19-20–39 totals in 69 games) and Miro Heiskanen (8-27–35 totals in 69 games) also played major roles leading up to the pause.

Entering the Second Round, Heiskanen has emerged as a generational talent for Dallas’ blue line with three goals and nine assists (12 points) in nine games thus far. Free agent signing, Joe Pavelski, has paid off with his usual clutch playoff performance– eight points (six goals, two assists) in nine games so far.

Meanwhile, rookie, Denis Gurianov (6-1–7 totals in nine games) and John Klingberg (1-6–7 totals in eight games) are battling it out for the third most points on the roster thus far in the 2020 postseason.

Gurianov had four goals and an assist against Calgary in Game 6– tying Chicago’s Dominik Kubalik for the most points in a playoff game by a rookie this postseason with five– one shy of the NHL record (Mikko Leinonen had six points– all assists– for the New York Rangers in Game 2 of their Patrick Division Semifinal against the Philadelphia Flyers on April 8, 1982).

In net, Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin made a solid goaltending tandem for the Stars with Bishop amassing a 21-16-4 record in 44 games (43 starts), a 2.50 GAA, a .920 SV% and two shutouts while battling injury at times.

Khudobin, meanwhile, held things down with a 16-8-4 record in 30 games (26 starts), a 2.22 GAA and a .930 SV%.

In the postseason, Bishop has been “unfit to play” for the majority of Stars games, while managing to put up a 1-1 record in two games, with a 4.04 GAA and an .862 SV%.

As a result, Dallas interim head coach, Rick Bowness, has had to rely on Khudobin, who’s amassed a 4-3 record in seven games, with a 2.49 GAA and a .919 SV% entering the Second Round.

Now is where the fun begins.

Despite all of their dominance in the regular season, Jared Bednar’s Avalanche have yet to crack the code on the Stars.

Dallas won all four matchups with Colorado, with the Avs dropping a game in overtime and in a shootout to the Stars this season.

Colorado outshot Dallas, 162-137, in combined shots on goal in their head-to-head meetings in 2019-20, but they managed exactly zero wins with Grubauer in net for all four matchups.

Now, of course, with Grubauer hurt in Game 1, they’ll have to be bailed out by Francouz if all else fails.

But coming into the series, for all the mighty strength the Avalanche have in scoring depth, a youthful defense that moves the puck with speed and skill– there’s a very real possibility the Stars overtake them.

For the most part, Colorado has a mix of playoff experience, but Dallas experienced the heartbreak of losing in a Game 7 to the St. Louis Blues that went to double overtime.

That alone is motivation enough for the Stars to make quick work of the Avs and get back to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2008, when they lost to the eventual 2008 Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings in six games.

For Colorado, however, it’s been an even longer wait since their last appearance in the Western Conference Final. The Avalanche last made it in 2002, when they lost in seven games to the eventual 2002 Stanley Cup champion Red Wings.

But then there’s Colorado’s recent strides to improve from a First Round exit in 2018 to a Second Round exit last year to consider. There’s a chance they just keep marching forward and at least make it to the Western Conference Final in 2020.

Entering the series, the Avalanche would be a lock for eliminating the Stars in seven games.

But with the result of Game 1’s injury to Grubauer, it’s possible the Avalanche can’t get over the mountain and collapse.

Regardless, the Stars are riding the momentum of an emotional comeback from a three-goal deficit in Game 6 against the Flames in the First Round that it shouldn’t be/wasn’t a surprise that Dallas wins/won Game 1.

The regular season record means nothing– especially more so when the playoffs are five months after a shortened regular season due to a pandemic and completely isolated to two buildings (one per conference).

Colorado can get over the Stars if they first shoot for the moon and a seven-game series victory. It’ll be a good test for how they’ll measure up with the Golden Knights in the predicted 2020 Western Conference Final in this post.

And, boy, what a series that would be.

But first, it’s two teams that haven’t met since the 2006 Western Conference Quarterfinal, when the Avalanche won in five games– like they did in the 2004 Western Conference Quarterfinal.

The all-time playoff series between Colorado and Dallas is even at, 2-2, since the Stars initially beat the Avs in the 1999 and 2000 Western Conference Final– both years went all seven games.

Regular season outcomes:

2-1 DAL at Pepsi Center on Nov. 1st, 4-1 DAL at American Airlines Center on Nov. 5th, 3-2 F/SO DAL at American Airlines Center on Dec. 28th, 3-2 F/OT DAL at Pepsi Center on Jan. 14th

Schedule:

8/22- Game 1 DAL @ COL in Edmonton 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

8/24- Game 2 DAL @ COL in Edmonton 9:45 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS

8/26- Game 3 COL @ DAL in Edmonton 10:30 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS

8/28- Game 4 COL @ DAL in Edmonton 10 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS

8/30- Game 5 DAL @ COL in Edmonton*

8/31- Game 6 COL @ DAL in Edmonton*

9/2- Game 7 DAL @ COL in Edmonton*

New B’s help Bruins over Stars, 4-3

The Boston Bruins beat the Dallas Stars, 4-3, Thursday night at TD Garden in a game that had a little bit of everything.

Jaroslav Halak (17-6-6 record, 2.44 goals against average, .917 save percentage in 30 games played) turned aside 31 out of 34 shots faced for a .912 SV% in the win for the Bruins.

Stars goaltender, Ben Bishop (21-14-4, 2.49 GAA, .921 SV% in 42 games played), made 24 saves on 28 shots against for an .857 SV% in the loss.

Boston improved to 40-13-12 (92 points) on the season and remain in command of 1st place in the entire league, while Dallas fell to 37-21-6 (80 points) on the season, but remained in 3rd place in the Central Division.

The B’s also improved to 22-3-9 at home this season.

The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee) and Connor Clifton (upper body) on Thursday.

New acquisition, Ondrej Kase, made his Boston debut on the second line with David Krejci at center and Nick Ritchie at left wing.

As a result, Bruce Cassidy moved Jake DeBrusk down to the third line left wing with Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork– just like how he swapped DeBrusk and Ritchie during Tuesday night’s, 5-2, loss to the Calgary Flames.

Cassidy made no other changes to the lineup, while Joakim Nordstrom, John Moore, Anton Blidh and Karson Kuhlman served as Boston’s healthy scratches against Dallas.

Midway through the opening frame, Tyler Seguin tripped up Chris Wagner and was assessed a minor in fraction at 13:07 of the first period.

Boston did not score on the ensuing power play– their first skater advantage of the night.

Moments later, Matt Grzelcyk hooked Radek Faksa and was sent to the penalty box at 17:04.

Dallas converted on the resulting power play when John Klingberg snapped a shot from the point that looked was tipped in by Jamie Benn (19) for his 300th career goal.

Klingberg (25) and Joe Pavelski (16) had the assists on Benn’s goal, which made it, 1-0, for Dallas at 17:38.

Benn became the fourth player in Dallas/Minnesota North Stars franchise history to amass at least 300 career regular season goals, joining Mike Modano (557 career goals), Brian Bellows (342) and Dino Ciccarelli (332).

It marked the 18th time this season that Boston gave up the game’s first goal on home ice and the fifth straight game that Boston’s opponent scored first– regardless of the building.

Less than a minute later, Andrew Cogliano was punished for slashing Coyle and sent to the sin bin at 18:18.

While on the ensuing power play, Torey Krug sent a shot on goal from the point that rebounded off of Bishop and into Coyle’s strikezone whereby Coyle (16) batted the puck out of the air and into the twine for the home run power play goal.

Krug (35) and Brad Marchand (55) tallied the assists and the B’s tied the game, 1-1, at 19:44 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, the score was even at, 1-1, while the Bruins led the Stars in shots on goal, 10-9.

Boston also held the advantage in faceoff win percentage (53-47), while Dallas led in blocked shots (5-3), takeaways (3-1) and hits (9-8).

Both teams had three giveaways each.

The Stars were 1/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/2 on the skater advantage heading into the middle period.

Things came to a crescendo when Krejci and Pavelski dropped the gloves and exchanged fisticuffs at 11:24 of the second period.

The two players each received five-minute majors for fighting and play continued without any other major disruptions.

A few minutes later, Charlie McAvoy tossed a pass from about the goal line to Marchand (26) in the slot for a point blank one-timer.

McAvoy (24) and David Pastrnak (44) had the assists on Marchand’s goal and the Bruins led for the first time of the night, 2-1, at 14:44.

Less than a couple minutes later, Boston went up by two-goals as Ritchie (9) scored his first goal as a Bruin after snapping a shot from the high slot through net front traffic, off of Seguin and past Bishop.

Ritchie’s goal was unassisted and made it, 3-1, for the Bruins at 16:01 of the second period.

Late in the period, Wagner tackled Mattias Janmark after a whistle in defense of a teammate, but received a roughing minor for his retaliatory actions at 18:49.

Dallas didn’t score on the ensuing power play.

Through 40 minutes of action, Boston was in command of the scoreboard, 3-1, and in shots on goal, 22-19.

The Bruins also led in blocked shots (8-7), takeaways (4-3), giveaways (11-9) and faceoff win% (54-46), while the Stars held the advantage in hits (19-16).

Both teams were 1/2 on the power play heading into the third period.

Wagner wasn’t available to start the third period for the Bruins and later deemed “unlikely to return” to the game with an “upper body injury” by Boston’s media team.

Meanwhile, Dallas cut Boston’s lead in half, 3-2, after Esa Lindell fired a shot that deflected off of Denis Gurianov’s (19) stick, then off of Krug’s leg and past Halak at 1:18 of the third period.

Lindell (20) and Jason Dickinson (12) had the assists on Gurianov’s goal.

Boston responded with a goal of their own when Pastrnak broke into the attacking zone on a rush with Ritchie, sent Ritchie a pass, then received a shot that Pastrnak (46) intentionally redirected into the open twine.

Ritchie (12) and Jeremy Lauzon (1) notched the assists on Pastrnak’s goal and the B’s led, 4-2, at 3:53.

Stars head coach, Rick Bowness, pulled Bishop for an extra attacker with less than three minutes remaining in the game.

After Marchand missed the open net from just inside the blue line, Dallas charged down the length of the ice and sustained pressure in the attacking zone, while Boston was forced to defend.

Miro Heiskanen (8) ripped a shot that rebounded off of Halak, but clipped Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara’s, skate at just the right angle to bounce off of the Bruin and slip between the post and the Boston goaltender to make it a one-goal game.

Benn (18) and Seguin (33) tallied the assists on Heiskanen’s goal, but the Bruins still led, 4-3, at 17:36 of the third period.

Dallas pulled their goaltender once more with 1:58 remaining in regulation, but despite their best efforts, Boston’s defense wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice and held on to the, 4-3, victory at the final horn.

The Bruins won, 4-3, but finished the night trailing in shots on goal to the Stars, 34-28.

Dallas also wrapped up Thursday night with the advantage in hits (28-25) and faceoff win% (51-49), while Boston finished the game leading in blocked shots (14-9).

Both clubs had 11 giveaways and were 1/2 on the power play on Thursday.

The Bruins are now 12-2-6 when tied after one period and 25-1-6 when leading after two periods this season.

The Stars are 9-8-4 when tied after one period and 9-16-1 when trailing after two periods this season.

Boston wrapped up their two-game homestand (1-1-0) on Thursday and finishes the month of February on the road against the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon.