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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 2 of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final

The New York Islanders scored the game’s first goal and dominated 40 minutes of play on Wednesday night– then they forgot that hockey is a three period, 60-minute, game because the Tampa Bay Lightning took a 2-0 series lead thanks to Nikita Kucherov’s game-winning goal with nine seconds left in the game.

Tampa won, 2-1, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 28-21.

This time it wasn’t all New York’s fault– well, except for some missed opportunities on the skater advantage, including a five-minute power play after Alex Killorn received a major and a game misconduct for boarding Islanders forward, Brock Nelson, early in the first period.

Game 3 is Friday night at 8 p.m. ET on USA Network in the United States and on CBC, SN, as well as TVAS across Canada.

1. Can anyone stop Victor Hedman from scoring?

Does Victor Hedman even play defense anymore (spoiler alert: he does)? But seriously though, Hedman has seven goals this postseason, which is a lot for a player coming from the point.

The Lightning defender has the second-most goals scored on his team– trailing Brayden Point’s eight tallies this postseason.

The next closest Bolts defender(s)? Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan McDonagh with one goal.

Both Hedman and Shattenkirk have played in 15 games this postseason, while McDonagh’s been limited to 12 games due to injury.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that Hedman has the second-most goals on the Lightning this postseason (and is a defender). That is all.

Oh, P.S., he extended his goal streak to four games and trails only Paul Coffey for the longest such run in a postseason among defenders. Coffey had a five-game goal streak in the 1983 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Now go warm the kettle.

2. Did the Islanders get to play their game?

If Game 1 was all Tampa, then Game 2 was all New York.

The Islanders limited the Lightning to 21 shots, but still found a way to lose like how they dropped three games one way or another in their seven-game Second Round series against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Don’t actually look those stats up to find out if I’m right or not, since the real point I’m trying to make here is that the Isles play a “boring” game that suppresses offense– sometimes to the point that they’ve prevented their own opportunities and let a close game slip away.

With some adjustments from Islanders head coach, Barry Trotz, and a full 60-minute effort from his players, New York looks poised to continue to pressure the Bolts to the utmost of their ability as long as they meet or exceed their compete level from Game 2.

The fact that the Lightning didn’t blow the Islanders away in two games in-a-row means that New York willed the game their way more, which can only be to their benefit.

Well, most of the time.

3. Can Nikita Kucherov be stopped?

Kucherov is doing his usual thing– scoring all the time, despite trailing Point in team scoring by a point.

Point has 8-15–23 totals in 15 games this postseason, while Kucherov had the game-winning goal at 19:51 of the third period to net his 22nd point in this year’s playoffs.

He has six goals and– a team leading– 16 assists in 15 games, which should be enough to remind even the most casual fans that Steven Stamkos is not the entirety of the Lightning roster.

It’s no surprise that Kucherov, Point and Hedman’s presence in their usual roles have led Tampa– along with their goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy– to greatness despite missing their captain in Stamkos due to abdominal muscle surgery since mid-March.

Maybe hockey is a collective action sport, you know, like a team sport.

Maybe you need a team. We’re a team.

Lightning players not named “Stamkos” are quoting Ottawa Senators General Manager, Pierre Dorion, on one thing that makes them great this [post]season.

4. Not bad, keep Semyon Varlamov in net.

Losing a game doesn’t sound great, but allowing two goals on roughly the usual amount of shots against by the end of two periods in a game isn’t the worst thing in the world and wasn’t indicative of Semyon Varlamov’s ability to bounce back after hitting a rough patch at the tail-end of the Second Round and the “Game 1 That Must Not Be Named” in Islanders lore.

Despite making 19 saves on 21 shots against on Wednesday, Varlamov’s goals against average dropped to a 2.21, while his save percentage remained stagnant at a .913.

He still has two shutouts going for him in his back pocket, which, once again, Vasilevskiy has yet to do strangely.

Is this one of those “only in 2020” things?

5. Isles in a “must win” scenario.

Going back to No. 2, let’s face it, the Islanders are in a “must win” scenario, otherwise they’ll practically be eliminated in Game 3.

One thing that has remained true throughout their franchise history is that whenever Tampa takes a 3-0 or 3-1 series lead, the Lightning will close things out in Game 4 or 5.

Even if New York splits the next two games it wouldn’t do them any good.

No team has comeback to beat the Lightning if Tampa has a 3-1 series lead and the Bolts have had a 3-1 series lead, what like, seven or eight times in their history– including approximately all of them against the Boston Bruins in the Second Round in two out of the last three postseasons.

The playoffs are all about momentum and, despite losing in Game 2, the Isles took some of the thunder out of the Lightning, but now they need to figure out how to make it rain in Games 3 and 4.

Lightning strike three times in Game 4, Bruins on verge of being eliminated

For the first time since 2018, the Tampa Bay Lightning are on the doorstep of making an appearance in the Eastern Conference Final after beating the Boston Bruins, 3-1, on Saturday in Game 4 of their 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round series.

The Lightning hold a, 3-1, series lead heading into Game 5 from Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Monday and can eliminate the Bruins with a win.

The last time Tampa made the Eastern Conference Final, they beat Boston in five games to get there. History repeats itself.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (9-3 in 12 games this postseason, 1.98 goals against average, .927 save percentage) made 29 saves on 30 shots against for a .967 SV% in the win for the Bolts.

B’s netminder, Jaroslav Halak (4-4 in eight games this postseason, 2.94 GAA, .900 SV%) stopped 23 out of 26 shots faced for an .885 SV% in the loss.

After Wednesday’s, 7-1, loss in Game 3, Bruce Cassidy made a few changes to his lineup for Saturday’s Game 4.

First, Cassidy went back to dressing 12 forwards and six defenders, then he re-inserted Karson Kuhlman and Connor Clifton into the lineup while taking Jeremy Lauzon and John Moore back out of the lineup.

Kuhlman took the right side of the third line with Charlie Coyle at center and Nick Ritchie on the left wing, while Clifton resumed his role on the third defensive pairing with Matt Grzelcyk.

Sean Kuraly (unfit to participate) was still out of the lineup on Saturday with an injury.

Boston’s long list of scratches included Anders Bjork, Zach Senyshyn, Moore, Maxime Lagacé, Kuraly, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jack Studnicka, Lauzon and Trent Frederic.

Jon Cooper kept his lineup the same for the Lightning, so once again Tampa’s scratches included Mathieu Joseph, Carter Verhaeghe, Ryan McDonagh, Jan Rutta, Mitchell Stevens, Steven Stamkos, Alexander Volkov and Scott Wedgewood.

Midway through the opening frame, Chris Wagner turned the puck over in the neutral zone, which led to an entry into the attacking zone for Brayden Point whereby the Lightning worked the puck deep.

Torey Krug made a great effort to breakup an initial scoring chance, but then the rest of his teammates were caught looking on as Ondrej Palat (3) snuck into the slot for a one-timer over Halak’s blocker, off the crossbar and in to give Tampa a, 1-0, lead at 8:59 of the first period.

Point (10) had the only assist on Palat’s goal as Palat extended his goal scoring streak to three games and is now one game shy of matching the longest goal streak in Lightning postseason history.

Stamkos (2015 and 2018), Vincent Lecavalier (2007) and Martin St. Louis (2003) hold the record with a four-game goal scoring streak in the playoffs for the Bolts.

A few minutes later, Brandon Carlo slashed Nikita Kucherov and was assessed a minor infraction at 11:44, yielding the game’s first power play to the Lightning.

Boston killed Carlo’s minor with ease and resumed 5-on-5 action until Cedric Paquette hit Kuhlman along the boards and Ritchie took exception to it– dropping the gloves, grabbing Paquette and delivering a few jabs while Paquette would not budge to defend himself.

Though a minor for boarding could have been called in the eyes of the Bruin, none of the refs’ arms were in the air for a delayed call and, instead, Ritchie was the only player on the way to the box for roughing.

The Lightning didn’t bring the thunder on the ensuing power play, however.

As the opening frame came to a close, David Pastrnak fought hard for a loose puck until the horn sounded and the period was over, which led to Erik Cernak promptly responding and picking up a two-minute minor for roughing at 20:00 of the first period.

Through one period in Saturday’s action, Tampa held onto a, 1-0, lead on the scoreboard, despite being outshot by Boston, 9-8.

The Bolts had the advantage in blocked shots (3-2), takeaways (2-0) and giveaways (5-4), while the B’s led in hits (21-17) and faceoff win percentage (69-31).

Tampa was 0/2 on the power play heading into the first intermission. Boston had yet to see any time on the skater advantage entering the middle frame.

Clifton cross checked Blake Coleman and was sent to the box to kick things off in the middle frame at 5:46 of the second period.

The Lightning did not score on the ensuing power play, however.

A little past the halfway point, though, the Bolts extended their lead when Palat (4) fired a one-timer that caught a piece of Halak’s glove and floated behind the Bruins goaltender.

Anthony Cirelli (3) and Kucherov (11) had the assists on Palat’s second goal of the game and Tampa led, 2-0, at 12:29 of the second period.

About a minute later, Ritchie hit Gourde from behind and received a five-minute major for boarding at 13:32, while Gourde took some time to get up off the ice and get his bearings.

Late in the ensuing skater advantage, Victor Hedman (4) sent a shot that deflected off of Par Lindholm while the Bruins forward was trying to block the shot, then took a wacky bounce up in the air and apexed over Halak’s blocker side before landing in the net.

Tyler Johnson (3) and Kucherov (12) tallied the assists on Hedman’s goal and the Lightning led, 3-0, at 18:04 of the second period.

Just 59 seconds later, Zach Bogosian was penalized for holding the stick and sent to the box at 19:03, but even with the skater advantage bleeding over into the final frame of regulation, Boston was powerless on the power play thus far in the action.

Through 40 minutes of play on Saturday afternoon, Tampa led Boston, 3-0, on the scoreboard and, 20-19, in shots on goal– including a, 12-10, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bolts held the lead in blocked shots (12-6) and takeaways (5-2), while the B’s led in hits (34-30) and faceoff win% (70-30).

Both teams had seven giveaways aside.

Entering the second intermission, Tampa was 1/5 on the power play, while Boston was 0/2 on the skater advantage.

Coleman hooked Pastrnak 54 seconds into the third period and presented Boston with a 5-on-3 advantage for 10 seconds before returning to a regular 5-on-4 advantage for the remainder of Coleman’s minor infraction.

The Bruins came up empty on both advantages.

Moments later, Ritchie and Barclay Goodrow exchanged fisticuffs in what was the third fight of the postseason for Boston (all against Tampa, including one in the Round Robin) at 4:01 of the third period.

A minute later, Luke Schenn hooked Pastrnak at 5:05.

In the dying seconds of the power play, Jake DeBrusk (4) slipped a shot through Vasilevskiy’s five-hole while Ondrej Kase acted as a screen in front of the Tampa Bay netminder to disrupt the shutout.

Coyle (2) and Grzelcyk (1) were credited with the assists on DeBrusk’s power-play goal and the Bruins trailed, 3-1, at 7:04 of the third period.

It was the last event on the scoresheet for the afternoon– save for Boston’s timeout during a stoppage with 1:23 remaining in the game after pulling Halak for an extra attacker with about 2:13 to go.

The Bruins couldn’t muster a pair of goals and the Lightning were unsuccessful at scoring on the empty net, but Tampa emerged victorious, regardless, at the sound of the final horn.

The Lightning had won, 3-1, and taken a, 3-1, series lead while finishing Saturday’s Game 4 effort with the advantage in blocked shots (16-13), hits (45-38) and giveaways (11-10).

Boston, despite finishing the afternoon for the first time in the series leading in the final total shots on goal, 30-26, faces being eliminated in Game 5 on Monday.

The Bruins also finished Saturday’s effort leading in faceoff win% (65-35) and went 1/4 on the power play, while the Bolts were 1/5 on the skater advantage.

Tampa is, 6-0, all time when leading a series, 3-1. Teams with a, 3-1, series lead are 284-29 all time in the best of seven format in NHL history.

With the loss, the Bruins fell to 2-4 when trailing after one and 1-5 when trailing after two periods in the 2020 postseason.

Fans in the United States can catch Monday’s Game 5 on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET, while those in Canada can tune to CBC, SN or TVAS.

Lightning rout Bruins, 7-1, in Game 3, lead series, 2-1

In a game that is ultimately meaningless, the Tampa Bay Lightning crushed the Boston Bruins, 7-1, in Game 3 of their 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round series at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

Prior to the game, while most other professional sports leagues witnessed their players go on strike against police brutality and systemic racism, the NHL had a “moment of reflection” and completely missed the mark– but what else is there to really expect from a sport that took 60 years from the time Willie O’Ree broke the game’s color barrier in 1958, until his election to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018?

Teams and players made statements intent to “learn and grow” in the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and many of those teams and players haven’t learned a thing.

You either make a whole hearted attempt (and struggle at times as learning can be a process) or you don’t make one at all and remain ignorant because ignorance is not bliss– it’s ignorance.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (8-3 in 11 games this postseason, 2.06 goals against average, .924 save percentage) made 23 saves on 24 shots against for a .958 SV% in the win for the Lightning.

Bruins netminder, Jaroslav Halak (4-3 in seven games this postseason, 2.92 GAA, .903 SV%) stopped 12 out of 16 shots faced for a .750 SV% in 31:18 time on ice in the loss before being replaced by Dan Vladar (0-0 in one game this postseason, 6.21 GAA, .800 SV%), who made 12 saves on 15 shots in 28:42 TOI.

The 23-year-old native of Czech Republic, Vladar made his NHL debut and became the first goalie to make his league debut in the playoffs since Jake Allen did so with the St. Louis Blues on April 30, 2012.

Vladar was also the first goaltender in B’s franchise history to make his NHL debut in the postseason.

With the win on Wednesday, Tampa takes a, 2-1, series lead heading into Game 4 on Friday.

With Sean Kuraly “unfit to participate” and seven defenders announced as part of Boston’s game plan ahead of the action on Wednesday, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, juggled his lines with his top-six serving in their usual capacity, while working Nick Ritchie and Charlie Coyle with a rotation of possible right wing options on the third line as Par Lindholm slotted into the fourth line center role for Kuraly.

On defense, Jeremy Lauzon and John Moore joined the fray for Boston, splitting time with the usual defenders in Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk.

Anders Bjork and Connor Clifton joined the long list of scratches for the Bruins, which included Zach Senyshyn, Maxime Lagacé, Kuraly, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jack Studnicka, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman on Wednesday.

The Bolts rolled forward with seven defenders for the second game in-a-row, while Jon Cooper’s list of scratches included Mathieu Joseph, Carter Verhaeghe, Ryan McDonagh, Jan Rutta, Mitchell Stephens, Steven Stamkos, Alexander Volkov and Scott Wedgewood.

McDonagh (unfit to play) missed his second game of the series with an undisclosed injury.

Carlo tripped Alex Killorn and was sent to the penalty box at 37 seconds into the first period, yielding the first power play of the game to the Lightning.

Tampa didn’t score on their first skater advantage, however, but it wouldn’t take them long before they got their special teams going.

At 12:17 of the first period, Ritchie slashed Kevin Shattenkirk and cut a rut to the sin bin.

The Bolts made sure to take advantage of the skater advantage the second time, however, as Ondrej Palat (2) sent a one-timer that deflected off of Chara’s stick and went past Halak’s glove side to give Tampa their first power-play goal of the postseason.

Mikhail Sergachev (2) and Nikita Kucherov (8) had the assists as the Lightning jumped out to the, 1-0, lead at 12:46 of the first period.

Prior to Palat’s power-play goal, the Bolts were 0/16 on the power play in the 2020 postseason.

Yanni Gourde (3) made it a, 2-0, lead 15 seconds after Palat opened the game’s scoring when he was able to break in free of any Bruins defenders, held onto the puck long enough for Halak to commit, then roofed it into the twine while Lauzon was inadvertently held up by an on-ice official near the blue line.

Blake Coleman (3) and Erik Cernak (2) tabbed the assists on Gourde’s goal at 13:01, as the Lightning set a new postseason franchise record for the fastest back-to-back goals.

Entering the first intermission, Tampa held a, 2-0, lead on the scoreboard, despite trailing Boston in shots on goal, 8-7.

The Bruins led in blocked shots (5-4), takeaways (1-0) and hits (19-18), while the Lightning had the advantage in giveaways (4-3) and faceoff win percentage (56-44).

The Bolts were 1/2 on the power play, while the B’s had yet to see any action on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Patrice Bergeron caught Palat with a high stick and was assessed a minor infraction at 1:18 of the second peirod.

Once again, Boston’s penalty kill was no match for the Lightning’s power play as Sergachev (1) crept in from the point to blast a one-timer from the slot over Halak’s leg pad, but under his glove hand to make it a three-goal game.

Kucherov (9) and Brayden Point (8) had the assists on Sergachev’s power-play goal and the Lightning led, 3-0, at 2:14 of the second period.

About a minute later, Zach Bogosian tripped Brad Marchand and was sent to the box– giving Boston their first power play opportunity of the night at 3:41.

On the ensuing power play, Krug sent an intentional shot pass in Marchand’s direction as Marchand (7) accidentally on purpose was in the right place at the right time for the deflection from the side of the crease to score Boston’s only goal of the night.

Krug (6) and David Pastrnak (7) had the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal and the Bruins trailed, 3-1, at 4:56 of the second period.

Moments later, McAvoy took things over the line with Kucherov and presented the Lightning with yet another power play while No. 73 in black and gold went to the box for roughing at 8:18.

Tampa’s skater advantage didn’t take long as Killorn (3) pocketed a rebound while falling as a result of a net front battle with Moore to give the Bolts a, 4-1, lead at 8:35.

Palat (4) and Kucherov (10) nabbed the assists on Killorn’s power-play goal.

The world feed from Toronto cut to Vladar dressed in full gear and ready to enter the game after Killorn’s goal, but Boston’s backup goaltender wouldn’t make his NHL debut until the next stoppage about a few minutes later.

Vladar didn’t get much support from his teammates after they had already let down one goaltender for the night.

Point (6) scored on a breakaway on the one chance Tampa had immediately after Boston mustered a rush the other way and made it a four-goal game as he extended the Lightning’s lead to, 5-1, at 15:23 of the second period.

Killorn (3) and Sergachev (3) had the assists on Point’s goal while Vladar made a desperate sprawling effort to stop the prominent young star for the Bolts, but came up a little bit short.

As soon as the puck was in the back of the net, Krug and Tyler Johnson were going at it in the other end exchanging fisticuffs and receiving fighting majors in what was Boston’s second fight this postseason and first since Krug dropped the gloves with Coleman on Aug. 5th in the Round Robin action.

As Johnson fell to the ice, he smashed face first and proceeded with caution down the tunnel, but eventually returned to the game’s action without issue.

A few minutes later, Killorn (4) notched his second goal of the game again on a rebound after Lauzon and Grzelcyk blew their defensive coverage in their own zone.

Gourde (4) and Bogosian (4) had the assists on Killorn’s goal and the Bolts led, 6-1, at 18:01 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action on Wednesday, the Lightning led, 6-1, on the scoreboard and, 25-16, in shots on goal– including an, 18-8, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bolts also led in blocked shots (10-9), takeaways (4-2) and faceoff win% (58-43), while the Bruins led in hits (37-31).

Both teams had five giveaways each after two periods.

Tampa was 3/4 and Boston was 1/1 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Kucherov (4) kicked things off in the final frame with a goal through Vladar’s five-hole to make it, 7-1, and tie Martin St. Louis’ franchise record for most playoff goals scored with his 33rd career Stanley Cup Playoff goal in a Lightning uniform.

Point (9) had the only assist on Kucherov’s goal at 3:58 of the third period.

Midway through the third, McAvoy and Kucherov got into another bit of a scuffle, but only McAvoy was penalized with a roughing minor and a misconduct at exactly 10:00 of the third period.

Boston killed Tampa’s string of three consecutive conversions on the power play and resumed even strength without any issues.

Late in the period, however, Bergeron sent the puck out of play and clear over the glass without any deflections, yielding an automatic delay of game penalty at 16:42.

Tampa’s ensuing power play was cut short three seconds into their advantage as Cedric Paquette was called for interference at 16:45.

While skating at 4-on-4, Coleman and David Krejci exchanged pleasantries, which yielded a 4-on-3 advantage for the Bruins after Coleman was hit with two roughing minors, while Krejci received only one roughing minor at 18:07 of the third period.

Krug received an early dismissal 15 seconds later after sending a puck with a little too much force in the direction of a linesman after an offside call at 18:22, and was given a misconduct, as well as a trip to the dressing room.

At the final horn, the Lightning had won, 7-1, and took a, 2-1, series lead in what was Boston’s worst deficit since losing, 9-3, in Buffalo against the Sabres on April 29, 1992 in the 1992 Adams Division Semifinal.

Tampa finished the game leading in shots on goal (31-24), blocked shots (15-12), giveaways (10-7) and faceoff win% (55-45), while Boston wrapped up Wednesday night’s action with the advantage in hits (50-40).

The Bolts finished 3/6 and the B’s finished 1/3 on the power play.

Boston fell to 2-3 when trailing after one period and 1-4 when trailing after two periods in the 2020 posteason.

Game 4 is scheduled for Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET at Scotiabank Arena in the Toronto bubble. Viewers in the United States can tune to USA Network to catch the action, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

Palat, Lightning strike Bruins with, 4-3, overtime win in Game 2, tie series, 1-1

Ondrej Palat scored the game-winning goal in overtime as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins, 4-3, in Game 2 of their Second Round series on Tuesday.

Palat scored almost five minutes into the overtime period at Scotiabank Arena inside the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference bubble in Toronto to tie the best-of-seven game series, 1-1.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (7-3 in 10 games this postseason, 2.15 goals against average, .921 save percentage) made 22 saves on 25 shots against for an .880 SV% in the win for the Lightning.

Bruins netminder, Jaroslav Halak (4-2 in six games this postseason, 2.50 GAA, .916 SV%) stopped 36 out of 40 shots faced for a .916 SV% in the loss.

Bruce Cassidy made no changes to Boston’s lineup from Sunday’s, 3-2, win in Game 1 to Tuesday night’s matchup in Game 2.

Zach Senyshyn, Par Lindholm, John Moore, Maxime Lagacé, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Lauzon, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman remained scratched for the Bruins.

With Ryan McDonagh (unfit to play, undisclosed injury) out of the lineup for the Bolts in Game 2, Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, dressed seven defenders– inserting Braydon Coburn and Luke Schenn on the blue line, while striking Carter Verhaeghe and McDonagh from the lineup.

Tampa’s list of scratches on Tuesday included Mathieu Joseph, Verhaeghe, McDonagh, Jan Rutta, Mitchell Stephens, Steven Stamkos, Alexander Volkov and Scott Wedgewood.

Stamkos remains out after core muscle surgery in March, then leaving practice in mid-July.

Patrice Bergeron surpassed Wayne Cashman for participating in the third-most playoff games as a Bruins player in his 146th career postseason game.

Only Ray Bourque (180 games) and Zdeno Chara (147) have played in more Stanley Cup Playoff games while wearing the spoked-B in their career. David Krejci is currently fifth in franchise history with 142 career postseason games with Boston.

Early in the game the Bruins had the puck down low in the zone and worked the puck out from behind the net on goal when Nick Ritchie (1) banked a loose puck off of Vasilevskiy’s leg and trickled one through the five-hole to give Boston the game’s first goal.

Anders Bjork (1) had the only assist as the B’s jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 3:14 of the first period.

Less than a couple of minutes later, the Lightning thought they had tied the game when Barclay Goodrow tipped a shot off of Halak’s mask and into the twine, but Cassidy used a coach’s challenge on the basis that the Bolts entered the offensive zone offside prior to the goal.

After review, the call on the ice was reversed as Brayden Point wasn’t fast enough to clear the zone before Tampa re-entered and had been offside before the goal was scored.

Boston still had the, 1-0, lead after the stoppage at 5:04.

About 30 seconds later, the two teams were struck with 4-on-4 action when Cedric Paquette and Matt Grzelcyk exchanged pleasantries after Halak froze the puck at 5:32.

Paquette went to the box with a slashing minor, while Grzelcyk was dealt a roughing infraction.

Midway through the opening frame, Zach Bogosian led Blake Coleman on a 2-on-0 rush after getting past Boston’s defense, subsequently feeding Coleman (2) for the redirection through Halak’s five-hole to tie the game, 1-1, at 12:42 of the first period.

Bogosian (3) and Goodrow (2) tallied the assists on Coleman’s first goal of the game.

About five minutes later, Alex Killorn caught Brad Marchand with a high stick and was sent to the box at 17:15, but the Bruins failed to convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.

Entering the first intermission, the game was tied, 1-1, despite Tampa holding the advantage in shots on goal, 11-9.

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (5-2), hits (22-16) and faceoff win percentage (55-46), while the Bolts led in takeaways (2-1) and giveaways (7-1).

Tampa had yet to see time on the skater advantage, while the Bruins were 0/1 on the power play heading into the dressing room after 20 minutes of play.

Early in the middle frame, Sean Kuraly cut a rut to the sin bin for slashing Nikita Kucherov at 6:40 of the second period.

The Lightning did not score on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Late in the period, Palat caught Connor Clifton with a high stick and was sent to the box at 14:14, yielding a power play to the Bruins.

Almost 20 seconds into the power play, David Pastrnak sent an intentional shot pass to Marchand (5) for a redirection from the side of the crease past Vasilevskiy to give Boston a, 2-1, lead at 14:33 of the second period.

Pastrnak (5) and Torey Krug (5) tallied the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal, but the B’s wouldn’t hold the lead for long.

Less than a minute after giving up a goal on the penalty kill, the Lightning scored at 5-on-5 to tie the game, 2-2, when Kucherov (3) tipped a shot from Kevin Shattenkirk past Halak’s blocker side.

Shattenkirk (3) and Point (7) nabbed the assists on Kucherov’s goal at 15:28.

Moments later, Victor Hedman was sent to the box for holding at 17:40, but Boston wasn’t able to muster anything on the ensuing skater advantage.

Through 40 minutes of play in Game 2, the game was tied, 2-2.

Tampa led in shots on goal, 23-16– including a, 12-7, advantage in the second period alone– as well as in takeaways (3-2), giveaways (9-5) and faceoff win% (52-48).

Entering the second intermission, the Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (11-6) and hits (35-29).

The Bolts were 0/1 and the B’s were 1/3 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Clifton was charged with an interference minor to kick off the final frame of regulation 35 seconds into the third period, presenting the Lightning with another power play, but the Bolts had no thunder on the skater advantage.

Midway through the third, Coleman (3) broke through Boston’s defense with Clifton on his tail and fired a shot that plunked its way through Halak’s five-hole and trickled over the goal line to give Tampa their first lead of the night at 10:40 of the third period.

Hedman (3) had the only assist on Coleman’s second goal of the night and the Bruins trailed for the first time on Tuesday, 3-2.

Almost six minutes later, Marchand (6) notched his second goal of the game on a setup from Kuraly’s one touch pass across the slot to Marchand at the doorstep for the one-timer over Vasilevskiy’s outstretched leg pad.

Kuraly (2) and Pastrnak (6) tallied the assists on Marchand’s goal– tying the game, 3-3, at 16:02.

At the end of regulation, the game was even on the scoreboard, 3-3, while the Lightning held the advantage in shots on goal, 31-24, despite both teams recording eight shots on net in the third period alone.

Boston led in blocked shots (23-18), while Tampa led in takeaways (5-4), giveaways (15-7) and faceoff win% (52-48).

Both teams had 43 hits aside, while the Bolts were 0/2 and the B’s were 1/3 on the power play heading into overtime.

From the drop of the puck in the extra frame, the Lightning dominated– a trend that had been apparent all night, despite whatever the scoreboard read.

After the Bruins botched several attempts to clear their own zone or work a pass to one of their own teammates instead of giving it away, the Lightning thundered their way to the crease and scored on a loose puck after Palat (1) found a rebound and pocketed the rubber biscuit over Halak’s pad on the short side.

Yannie Gourde (3) and Pat Maroon (2) had the assists on Palat’s game-winning goal at 4:40 of the overtime period as the Lightning came away with the, 4-3, victory in Game 2– tying the series, 1-1, in the process.

Tampa finished the night leading in shots on goal, 40-25– including a, 9-1, advantage in overtime alone– as well as in giveaways, 15-10.

Boston wrapped up Game 2 with the advantage in blocked shots (27-18), hits (47-43) and faceoff win% (52-48).

The Bolts finished 0/2 and the B’s finished 1/3 on the power play Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, all seven of Tampa Bay’s wins in the postseason have been by one-goal.

Tuesday’s victory gave Vasilevskiy his 22nd career Stanley Cup Playoffs win– establishing a new Lightning franchise record in the process, having surpassed the previous record set by Nikolai Khabibulin and Ben Bishop (21 career playoff wins in a Bolts uniform).

The Lightning improved to 3-0 in overtime this postseason, while the Bruins fell to 1-1, as well as 28-3 all time in the postseason when Marchand scores at least one goal.

Boston also fell to 2-2 when tied after one, 1-2 when tied after two and 1-1 when tied after three periods in the 2020 postseason.

Game 3 is set for Wednesday night with the Bruins designated as the home team at Scotiabank Arena. Puck drop is expected a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN to catch the action, while those in Canada can view the game on CBC, SN or TVAS.

Bruins roar to, 3-2, victory in Game 1 against Tampa

Brad Marchand had a pair of points– including the eventual de facto game-winning goal– as the Boston Bruins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2, at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Sunday night in Game 1 of their 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round matchup.

Jaroslav Halak (4-1 in five games this postseason, 2.23 goals against average, .921 save percentage) made 35 saves on 37 shots faced for a .946 SV% in the win for the Bruins.

Lightning goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy (6-3 in nine games this postseason, 2.09 GAA, .925 SV%) stopped 28 out of 31 shots for a .903 SV% in the loss.

For the first time since the Lightning beat the Bruins in five games in the 2018 Second Round, the two clubs meet once again in the Stanley Cup Playoffs– and it just so happens to also be the Second Round.

Both teams are 1-1 in all time postseason series’ against one another, as Boston defeated Tampa in seven games in the 2011 Eastern Conference Final prior to their five game ousting at the hands of the Bolts in 2018.

B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, re-inserted Anders Bjork and Nick Ritchie into his lineup– with Bjork to the right and Ritchie to the left of Charlie Coyle on the third line– while Jack Studnicka and Par Lindholm were scratched.

As a result of the “new” third line from Game 5 against the Carolina Hurricanes in the First Round to Game 1 against the Lightning in the Second Round, Sean Kuraly was once again in his usual role as the fourth line center.

Cassidy made no other changes to his lineup and opted to start Kuraly’s line against Tampa’s energy line.

Boston’s long list of scratches included Zach Senyshyn, Lindholm, John Moore, Maxime Lagacé, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Studnicka, Jeremy Lauzon, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman.

Tampa’s long list of scratches for Sunday’s matchup included Luke Schenn, Mathieu Joseph, Jan Rutta, Braydon Coburn, Mitchell Stephens, Steven Stamkos, Alexander Volkov and Scott Wedgewood.

Stamkos has not practiced since mid July and has been out of the lineup since having “core muscle surgery” in March. He was originally on track to be sidelined for six-to-eight weeks.

At puck drop, Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara took sole possession of the second-most playoff games in Bruins franchise history as he’s suited up in 146 career Stanley Cup Playoff games in the spoked-B– surpassing Wayne Cashman (145 playoff games in Boston), who’s now tied for third with Patrice Bergeron (who tied Cashman’s number of games on Sunday).

Ray Bourque is the all-time franchise leader with 180 career postseason games as a Bruin.

Less than a minute into the action, Chara was whistled for a cross checking infraction 29 seconds into the first period– yielding the game’s first power play to the Lightning.

Tampa couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however, and the officials returned the favor for what was otherwise a thing threshold with a makeup call that was also questionable at best.

Mikhail Sergachev cut a rut to the penalty box for holding Chris Wagner at 11:40, but the Bruins weren’t able to capitalize on their first power play of the night.

Late in the opening frame, however, Brandon Carlo rocketed a shot from the point that Coyle (3) redirected over Vasilevksiy’s blocker into the upper 90 to give Boston the game’s first goal.

Carlo (1) and Marchand (5) tallied the assists on Coyle’s goal as the B’s went ahead, 1-0, at 18:52 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 15-10.

The Bruins also held the advantage in takeaways (4-3), giveaways (4-0) and hits (18-10), while both teams had five blocked shots aside and were 50-50 in faceoff win percentage.

Each club was 0/1 on the power play after one period, as well.

Early in the middle frame, Victor Hedman tripped up Bjork and was sent to the sin bin at 3:08 of the second period.

While on the ensuing power play, the Bruins were moving the puck around the attacking zone with ease, but just hadn’t quite nailed the timing until David Krejci waited for the right passing lane to open up and fired a pass through the slot for David Pastrnak (2) to score on a one-timer from his usual spot at the faceoff dot to Vasilevskiy’s right side.

Pastrnak’s power-play goal gave Boston the, 2-0, lead and was assisted by Krejci (7) and Torey Krug (4) at 4:34 of the second period.

With the primary assist, Krejci’s ongoing point streak was extended to seven games– the longest since Bergeron’s seven-game point streak for Boston in the 2014 postseason.

About a minute later, Bergeron was sent to the box for holding, presenting the Bolts with a power play opportunity at 5:50 of the middle period.

Tampa didn’t score on the ensuing advantage, however.

Midway through the second period, Wagner was penalized for roughing against Tyler Johnson at 13:36, but once again the Lightning couldn’t muster any thunder on the power play.

Late in the period, Alex Killorn ran through Charlie McAvoy while the Bruins defender didn’t have the puck on his stick.

As a result, Killorn brought upon himself an interference minor at 16:46, but the Bruins didn’t score on the ensuing advantage.

Through 40 minutes of play Sunday night, the B’s led the Bolts, 2-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing Tampa in shots on goal, 28-22– including an, 18-7, advantage for the Lightning in the second period alone.

The Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (13-11), takeaways (9-7), giveaways (9-5), hits (29-23) and faceoff win% (59-41), however, as the teams returned to their dressing rooms for the second intermission.

Tampa was 0/3 and Boston was 1/3 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Boston’s first line worked the puck deep, Bergeron lifted a stick to free the rubber biscuit, then sent it to Pastrnak for a quick pass to Marchand (3) for the one-timer from point blank while free and clear of any Lightning defenders to make it, 3-0, for the Bruins.

Pastrnak (4) and Bergeron (5) notched the assists on Marchand’s goal at 1:17 of the third period and the B’s had a commanding three-goal lead.

Well, until midway in the third period, but not before both teams skated 4-on-4 for a couple of minutes after Ritchie and Zach Bogosian exchanged brief pleasantries resulting in roughing minors at 2:49 of the third period.

Hedman (2) jumped on a loose puck in the high slot and fired a shot under Halak’s glove while McAvoy inadvertently screened his own goaltender, cutting Boston’s lead back down to two-goals and putting the Lightning on the scoreboard, 3-1, at 8:50 of the third.

Brayden Point (6) and Ondrej Palat (3) tabbed the assists on Hedman’s first goal of the night.

Bolts head coach, Jon Cooper, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with about 2:29 remaining in the third period and Tampa was able to pull to within one when Hedman (again) fired a shot from the point off of McAvoy in front of his own goaltender while Pat Maroon acted as a screen for the Lightning.

Hedman (3) had his second goal of the night on a deflection off of McAvoy past Halak and the Lightning trailed, 3-2, at 18:46.

Kevin Shattenkirk (2) and Johnson (2) tallied the assists on the goal, but it was too little, too late for Tampa.

Despite vacating the crease for another extra attacker opportunity with one minute left in regulation, the Bruins worked a couple of chances in the offensive zone to hit the open twine, but missed, while the Bolts failed to send the game-tying goal past Halak at the other end.

At the final horn, Boston secured the, 3-2, win in Game 1 and took the, 1-0, series lead, despite trailing in shots on goal, 37-31.

The Bruins finished the night with the advantage in blocked shots (20-19), giveaways (10-9) and faceoff win% (59-42), while the Lightning completed the effort leading in hits (39-37).

Tampa finished 0/3 and Boston went 1/3 on the power play on Sunday, while Marchand tied Ken Hodge and Don Marcotte for ninth on Boston’s all-time postseason goal scoring list with his 34th career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal.

He also tied Bobby Orr for seventh on the team’s all-time list in postseason points with the Bruins with his 91st and 92nd career Stanley Cup Playoff points to aid his 1-1–2 totals in Game 1.

Game 2 is set for Tuesday night in the Toronto bubble with puck drop expected a little after 7 p.m. ET. Viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBCSN, while those in Canada can tune to CBC, SN or TVAS.

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*

DeBrusk leads B’s in, 4-3, comeback over Canes in Game 4

Jake DeBrusk had a pair of goals as the Boston Bruins scored four goals in the third period to erase a two-goal deficit and win, 4-3, in Game 4 of their 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Monday.

For the 11th time in franchise history, the Bruins rallied from a multi-goal deficit in the final period of a playoff game and won as Jaroslav Halak (2-1-0 in three games, 2.73 goals against average, .897 save percentage this postseason) made 16 saves on 19 shots (.842 SV%) in the win.

Hurricanes goaltender, James Reimer (2-1 in three games, 2.34 GAA, .934 SV% this postseason) stopped 29 out of 33 shots faced for an .879 SV% in the loss.

Once again, David Pastrnak (unfit to play) was out of the lineup for Boston ahead of Game 4 and missed his third game this postseason due to injury.

Carolina forward, Andrei Svechnikov (unfit to play), missed his first game of the series after sustaining a lower body injury in the third period of Game 3 last Saturday and is likely out for the rest of the First Round series.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no changes to his lineup from Saturday’s, 3-1, win in Game 3 to Monday night’s Game 4.

Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour, re-inserted Jake Gardiner on the defense in place of Trevor van Riemsdyk, while Ryan Dzingel was dressed in place of Svechnikov.

Brind’Amour opted for Jordan Martinook on the left side of Sebastian Aho with Teuvo Teravainen in his usual right wing role, while Dzingel fit in on the second line with Vincent Trocheck at center and Justin Williams on the right side.

On the third line, Brind’Amour began the night with Jordan Staal at center– flanked by Warren Foegele at left wing and Brock McGinn at right wing.

Meanwhile, Nino Niederreiter, Morgan Geekie and Martin Necas comprised the fourth line for the Canes.

On defense, Jaccob Slavin was paired with Dougie Hamilton on the first pairing, Brady Skjei suited up alongside Sami Vatanen and Gardiner was flanked by Haydn Fleury.

Boston’s list of scratches for Game 4 included Zach Senyshyn, Nick Ritchie, John Moore, Maxime Lagacé, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, Trent Frederic, Karson Kuhlman and Pastrnak.

The Canes were without the services of Joel Edmundson, Jake Bean, Max McCormick, Svechnikov, Roland McKeown, van Riemsdyk, Clark Bishop, Steven Lorentz, Anton Forsberg and Alex Nedeljkovic.

Dzingel caught Connor Clifton with a high stick and presented the B’s with the first power play opportunity of the night at 1:38 of the first period.

Boston wasn’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however, and found themselves on the penalty kill shortly after the Hurricanes killed off Dzingel’s minor.

Jack Studnicka cut a rut to the penalty box after slashing Skjei’s stick out of his hands and gave Carolina their first power play of the night at 4:55.

The Canes did not score on the resulting advantage, however.

Almost midway through the opening frame, Williams (1) fired a shot that had eyes through bodies from both teams in front of the net and clunked its way through Halak to give the Hurricanes the game’s first lead, 1-0.

Trocheck (2) and Gardiner (1) tallied the assists on Williams’ goal at 9:17.

Carolina took the, 1-0, lead all the way into the dressing room for the first intermission as neither team found its way onto the event sheet in goals or penalties after Williams opened the scoring.

The Hurricanes led in shots on goal (7-6), takeaways (4-0), hits (15-14) and faceoff win percentage (71-29) after 20 minutes of play, while the Bruins led in blocked shots (4-2) and giveaways (5-3).

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Teravainen hooked Studnicka and was sent to the box at 9:31 of the second period for the middle frame’s first action on the event sheet, but Boston wasn’t able to convert on the power play.

Less than a minute after Carolina killed off Teravainen’s minor infraction, Martinook (2) snapped a shot past Halak’s glove side on what otherwise looked like a preventable outcome.

Aho (8) had the only assist on Martinook’s goal as the Hurricanes extended their lead to, 2-0, at 12:08 of the second period.

Moments later, Martinook thought he had scored again when he deflected the rubber biscuit into the back of the twine, but his stick was well above the crossbar and immediately negated what would’ve been a three-goal lead for the Hurricanes.

Late in the period, Hamilton was guilty of holding Studnicka and cut a run to the sin bin for a pair of minutes that would extend into the third period at 19:37.

After 40 minutes of action Monday night, the Canes led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and shots on goal were even at 17 aside– despite Boston’s, 11-10, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Carolina led in blocked shots (12-11), takeaways (9-2), hits (27-23) and faceoff win% (62-38) after two periods, while both teams had eight giveaways each.

The Hurricanes finished 0/1 and the Bruins went 0/3 on the power play entering the second intermission, as there were no penalties called in the third period.

Almost midway through the third period, DeBrusk chased after a puck in the offensive zone while Reimer came out of his net to also make an attempt at the loose puck in the high slot before DeBrusk (2) scored a goal while falling in avoidance from a major collision with Reimer as Fleury also bumped into his own goaltender.

Ondrej Kase (3) and Clifton (1) had the assists on DeBrusk’s first goal of the game and the Bruins cut Carolina’s lead in half, 2-1, at 7:26 of the third period.

It was the first five-on-five goal for Boston in a little more than eight periods dating back to Game 2.

With about ten minutes left in regulation, Charlie McAvoy made a huge, clean hit on Staal that forced Staal down the tunnel and out of the game.

Seconds later, Clifton (1) rocketed a one-timer from inside the faceoff dot to Reimer’s left off of a setup by Joakim Nordstrom from behind the goal line to tie the game, 2-2.

Clifton’s shot sailed over Reimer’s blocker, while Nordstrom (2) and Chris Wagner (1) notched the assists on the goal at 10:10 of the third period– marking two goals for the Bruins in a span of 1:44.

Upon giving up two quick goals like that, Brind’Amour used his timeout to ease his team’s nerves and draw up a plan to take the lead back and defender it, but nothing went according to plan for the Canes in the final frame.

Shortly after returning to play, Torey Krug sent Brad Marchand (3) in on a breakaway, whereby No. 63 in black and gold stickhandled the puck as he strolled in, made Reimer open the five-hole and slipped the rubber biscuit through the gaping five-hole to put Boston in command for the first time in the game.

Krug (3) had the only assist and the Bruins led, 3-2, at 11:40.

Less than a few minutes later, DeBrusk (3) scored his second goal of the night from point blank thanks to a great setup from Kase to make it, 4-2, for the Bruins.

Kase (4) and David Krejci (5) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively, as Boston pulled ahead by two goals at 14:17 of the third period– having scored four unanswered goals in a span of 6:51.

With about 1:37 remaining in the game, Brind’Amour pulled Reimer for an extra attacker.

Seconds later, Teravainen (3) scored on a shot that looked like it might have intended to be a pass, but broke through a screen in front of Halak and slid right through the Bruins goaltender’s five-hole on the first shot of the third period for the Canes.

Skjei (2) and Hamilton (1) had the assists on Teravainen’s goal and Carolina pulled to within one, 4-3, at 18:33.

Despite pulling their goaltender again for an extra skater with about 1:10 remaining, the Hurricanes could not force overtime.

At the final horn the Bruins had won, 4-3, and taken a, 3-1, series lead as a result.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 33-19, and had a, 16-2, advantage in the third period alone.

Meanwhile, Carolina finished the night leading in blocked shots (18-15), giveaways (14-11), hits (37-36) and faceoff win% (53-48).

Boston improved to 27-2 all time in a postseason game when Marchand scores a goal, while Clifton earned his first career multi-point playoff game.

The Bruins have the chance to eliminate the Hurricanes and advance to the Second Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 5, which is set for Wednesday afternoon with puck drop set for a little after 4 p.m. ET.

Fans in the United States can catch the game on NBCSN, NESN or FOX Sports Carolinas, while those in Canada can tune to Sportsnet (SN) or TVA Sports (TVAS) for the action.

Bruins, Halak, bounce back in Game 3 with, 3-1, win

Charlie Coyle hit a home run and had an assist in the, 3-1, Game 3 victory for the Boston Bruins over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

Yes, you read that right. Coyle had a home run. He batted the puck out of mid-air for the game’s first goal and was named the 2020 Boston Red Sox MVP.

Anyway, back to hockey, Jaroslav Halak (1-1 in two games, 2.59 goals against average and a .915 save percentage this postseason) made 29 saves on 30 shots against for a .967 SV% in the win for the B’s.

Canes goaltender, Petr Mrazek (2-2 in four games, 2.08 GAA, .930 SV% this postseason) stopped 36 out of 38 shots faced in the loss.

With the win, the Bruins take a, 2-1, series lead into Game 4 on Monday.

David Pastrnak (unfit to play) missed his second-straight game of the postseason, while Par Lindholm, Jack Studnicka and Connor Clifton made their series debuts for Boston– replacing Nick Ritchie, Karson Kuhlman and Jeremy Lauzon in the lineup.

But none of those lineup changes were the biggest story heading into Saturday afternoon’s matchup between the Bruins and Hurricanes as Boston’s regular starting goaltender, Tuukka Rask, announced he was opting out of the rest of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs to be with his family.

“I want to be with my teammates competing, but at this moment there are things more important than hockey in my life, and that is being with my family.

“I want to thank the Bruins and my teammates for their support and wish them success.”

Statement from Tuukka Rask

Entering Saturday’s game, Halak was 6-6-1 in his career vs. Carolina with a .921 SV% and a 2.61 GAA, as well as two shutouts in that span. He was the goaltender for Boston in their, 2-0, shutout against the Hurricanes on Dec. 3rd and recorded 24 saves that night.

Bruce Cassidy moved Sean Kuraly to the left side of the third line with Coyle at center and Studnicka on the right side, while inserting Lindholm in Kuraly’s usual spot as the fourth line center– flanked by Joakim Nordstrom at left wing and Chris Wagner at right wing.

On defense, Clifton went in for Lauzon as Matt Grzelcyk’s partner on the third pairing.

With Rask heading home to be with his family, Dan Vladar served as Halak’s backup on the bench.

Meanwhile, Boston’s list of scratches for Saturday’s matinee included Zach Senyshyn, Ritchie, John Moore, Maxime Lagacé, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Lauzon, Trent Frederic, Kuhlman and Pastrnak.

Just 12 seconds into the opening frame, Brad Marchand tripped Sebastian Aho and was sent to the penalty box with a minor infraction, but Carolina did not score on the ensuing power play opportunity– the first of the afternoon for either team.

Vincent Trocheck was penalized for slashing Clifton at 4:27 of the first period and presented Boston with their first skater advantage of the game, but the Bruins did not capitalize on the power play.

Late in the first period, Anders Bjork took the first of three minor penalties on the afternoon with a slashing infraction against Teuvo Teravainen at 15:28.

Once more, however, the Hurricanes weren’t able to beat Halak and Boston’s penalty kill while on the power play.

With a little over two minutes later in the first period, the Canes thought they might have scored when the an errant puck trickled off the post and appeared to have just barely crossed the goal line after Halak covered it with his glove, but there was no goal called on the ice.

After reviewing multiple camera angles for a definitive look at whether or not the puck had indeed gone in, there was “no conclusive evidence to support that [it had] completely crossed the Boston goal line before the Referee blew his whistle to stop play,” according to the League’s situation room.

The score remained tied, 0-0, while Trevor van Riemsdyk caught former teammate, Joakim Nordstrom, with a high stick and drew blood at 17:58.

The B’s had a four-minute power play as a result of van Riemsdyk’s double-minor.

Entering the first intermission, Boston and Carolina were even, 0-0, on the scoreboard, but the Hurricanes led in shots on goal (15-7), blocked shots (8-2), takeaways (4-2), giveaways (7-2) and hits (13-10).

Meanwhile, the Bruins held the advantage in the faceoff dot with a, 58-42, faceoff winning percentage through one period.

The Hurricanes were 0/2 and the B’s were 0/3 on the power play entering the middle frame.

Coyle (2) found the back of the twine 14 seconds into the second period after Marchand made the initial shot that rebounded off of Mrazek and out in the slot where Coyle batted the rubber biscuit out of the air while keeping his stick under the crossbar for the goal.

Marchand (4) and David Krejci (3) recorded the assists on Coyle’s power-play goal and the Bruins led, 1-0.

Almost midway through the middle frame, Dougie Hamilton tripped Lindholm at 8:27 and presented the B’s with another power play.

This time, however, Boston would not convert on the skater advantage.

Moments after resuming even strength, it was the Bruins who found themselves guilty of the next penalty as Bjork slashed Nino Niederreiter and took his second trip to the sin bin that afternoon at 13:03 of the second period.

Carolina’s power play came to an end without any results to show on the scoreboard and was quickly met with some additional work for the penalty killing unit as Haydn Fleury bumped into Ondrej Kase without the puck at 15:49 and was guilty of interference.

Boston’s power play once more couldn’t score, though.

With 29 seconds left before the end of the period, Lindholm cross checked Brock McGinn and was assessed a minor penalty and a free vacation for a two minutes in the penalty box officially at 19:31 of the middle frame.

Carolina’s power play would extend into the third period, but it went unsuccessful nonetheless.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led the Canes, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 27-23, in shots on goal– including a, 20-8, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

The Hurricanes led in blocked shots (14-7), takeaways (10-3) and giveaways (12-4), however, while Boston led in hits (28-24) and faceoff win% (59-42) after two periods.

Carolina was 0/4 and Boston was 1/5 on the power play heading into the final frame of Saturday’s game.

While shorthanded, Kuraly (1) redirected an intentional shot pass from Coyle past Mrazek to give Boston a two-goal lead.

Coyle (1) and Charlie McAvoy (3) notched the assists on Kuraly’s goal and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 1:16 of the third period.

Moments later, Bjork cut his third rut to the penalty box for tripping Teravainen at 5:00, and presented the Canes with yet another power play.

This time, however, proved successful for Carolina at making things interesting after Halak misplayed the puck behind his own net while trying to clear it out of his own zone and errantly lobbing an aerial pass that was intercepted by Niederreiter (1) with his glove before pocketing the puck in the empty twine.

Niederreiter’s power-play goal cut Boston’s lead in half, 2-1, and was unassisted at 6:30 of the third period.

With 4:38 remaining in the game, Jaccob Slavin took a shot that Halak might have gotten a piece of before the vulcanized rubber caught referee, Kevin Pollock, and forced him out of the game.

Standby official, Trevor Hanson, entered the action, but not before Andrei Svechnikov was also tended to after a net front battle with Zdeno Chara resulted in Svechnikov toe-picking the ice with his skate and awkwardly falling before clutching around his knee.

No update was provided on Svechnikov’s injury status immediately after the game when Hurricanes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour, spoke with media members.

After a stoppage with 2:07 remaining, Brind’Amour used his timeout to rally his players and pull his goaltender for an extra attacker, but at 19:29 of the third period, Marchand (2) buried the puck in the empty net after receiving a flip pass from Krejci through the neutral zone to make it, 3-1, for Boston.

Krejci (4) had the only assist on Marchand’s empty net goal.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 3-1, and taken a, 2-1, series lead while finishing the afternoon with the advantage in shots on goal (39-30)– including a, 12-7, advantage in the third period alone.

Boston also finished the game leading in faceoff win%, 57-43, while Carolina finished Saturday’s effort leading in blocked shots (19-9), giveaways (13-7) and hits (35-33).

Both clubs went 1/5 on the power play in Game 3’s action.

Meanwhile, Marchand and Krejci each had two points in Saturday’s game, surpassing Cam Neely and Wayne Cashman for eight place (Marchand), as well as Patrice Bergeron (Krejci) for second place on Boston’s all-time postseason points list.

Marchand has 89 points as a Bruin, while Krejci has 109 points in a B’s sweater in their playoff careers.

Game 4 is scheduled for Monday night at 8 p.m. ET at Scotiabank Arena in the Toronto bubble. Viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN, NESN or FOX Sports Carolinas, while those in Canada can catch the action on CBC, Sportsnet (SN) or TVA Sports (TVAS).

Hamilton duels as Hurricanes storm Bruins, 3-2, in Game 2

No, he didn’t throw away his shot– Dougie Hamilton scored the game-winning goal with it in the third period of Thursday’s, 3-2, victory for the Carolina Hurricanes over the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of their 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round matchup in the bubble at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

James Reimer (2-0 in two games played, 1.50 goals against average, .959 save percentage this postseason) made 33 saves on 35 shots against for a .959 SV% in the win for the Hurricanes.

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask (1-3 in four games played, 2.58 GAA, .904 SV% this postseason) stopped 23 out of 26 shots faced (.885 SV%) in the loss.

Canes head coach, Rod Brind’Amour made a few adjustments to his lineup from Game 1 to Game 2 by replacing Jake Garidner, Joel Edmundson and Nino Niederreiter with Trevor van Riemsdyk, Sami Vatanen and Justin Williams as Williams and Vatanen made their return to the lineup after being “unfit to play” in the series opener.

B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a couple adjustments to his lineup after the Bruins announced that David Pastrnak was “unfit to play” in Game 2 about a half-an-hour before puck drop.

As a result, Anders Bjork was moved up to the right side of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the first line, while Karson Kuhlman drew into the lineup in Bjork’s spot as the third line right wing.

After the game, Cassidy informed reporters in his media availability that Pastrnak was deemed “questionable” for Game 1 and is expected to be dealing with a short term problem.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches on Thursday included Zach Senyshyn, Par Lindholm, John Moore, Maxime Lagace, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Jack Studnicka, Connor Clifton, Dan Vladar and Trent Frederic while Pastrnak was “unfit to play” (and therefore not a “healthy” scratch, technically speaking).

Midway through the opening frame, Jeremy Lauzon responded to a clean hit and received a minor infraction for unsportsmanlike conduct at 11:41 of the first period.

Carolina didn’t convert on their first power play of the night, however, and the Bruins made the kill on Lauzon’s minor.

Less than a minute later, Brady Skjei was sent to the penalty box for catching Ondrej Kase with a hook at 14:26.

Almost midway through their first power play of the game, Boston worked the puck to David Krejci (2) for a shot from the high slot that beat Reimer’s blocker side to give the B’s a, 1-0, lead at 15:41.

Marchand (3) and Torey Krug (2) tallied the assists on Krejci’s power-play goal.

The goal tied Krejci with Peter McNab for sixth place in Bruins franchise history among the most career playoff goals scored with 38 in his career– trailing Johnny Bucyk (40) and Bergeron (41) for fifth and fourth, respectively.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led the Hurricanes, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trialing Carolina, 7-6, in shots on goal.

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (7-5) and faceoff win percentage (54-46), while the Hurricanes led in takeaways (6-0) and hits (13-12).

Both teams had three giveaways each through 20 minutes of action, while the Canes were 0/1 and the B’s were 1/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

After colliding awkwardly with Charlie McAvoy along the boards, Andrei Svechnikov had to answer to Zdeno Chara, who expressed displeasure in seeing his defensive partner get rocked.

Cooler heads (kind of) prevailed and both Svechnikov and Chara received two minute minors for roughing at 6:57 of the second period.

Almost ten minutes later, Chris Wagner elbowed Skjei and was assessed an elbowing penalty at 14:56.

It didn’t take the Hurricanes long to convert on the ensuing skater advantage as Teuvo Teravainen (2) sniped a shot past Rask’s blocker side– tying the game, 1-1, in the process.

Svechnikov (3) and Sebastian Aho (7) collected the assists on Teravainen’s power-play goal at 15:13.

No. 37 in white and red put the Canes ahead, 2-1, with their first lead of the night 1:28 after Teravainen tied it.

Carolina kept the puck in the attacking zone and worked it to Svechnikov (4) on a zig-zag passing play while he caught the rubber biscuit and released a shot from the slot over Rask’s blocker side under the crossbar.

Martin Necas (2) and van Riemsdyk (1) had the assists on Svechnikov’s goal at 16:41 of the second period.

A couple minutes later, Teravainen was penalized for interference after inadvertently colliding with Krug at 18:18.

In the dying seconds of the second period, Marchand (1) redirected a shot pass from Bergeron to knot the game up, 2-2, at 19:55.

Bergeron (3) and Krejci (2) nabbed the assists on Marchand’s power-play goal and the two teams went into the dressing room for the second intermission tied, 2-2, on the scoreboard, despite Boston leading in shots on goal, 20-17– including a, 14-10, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bruins carried the advantage in blocked shots (11-10), giveaways (12-7), hits (30-24) and faceoff win% (51-49) through 40 minutes, while the Canes held the advantage in takeaways (8-2).

Carolina was 1/2 on the skater advantage, while Boston was 2/2 on the power play entering the second intermission.

Early in the final frame, Carolina thought they scored, but Wes McCauley quickly waved it off on the grounds that there was goaltender interference as Teravainen crashed the crease and pushed Rask with his forearm– impeding on Rask’s ability to reset and attempt to make a save on the followup shot.

This did not sit well with Brind’Amour, however– fined $25,000 for criticizing the league and its officials for a lack of calls and blown calls in Game 1– he used his coach’s challenge in effort to reverse the call on the ice.

After review, the call on the ice was confirmed– no goal– and play continued, much to the dismay of Brind’Amour.

As a result of the failed challenge, Carolina was assessed a bench minor penalty for delay of game at 3:32 of the third period. Ryan Dzingel served the infraction and Boston failed to capitalize on the skater advantage.

Almost midway through the final period, Dougie Hamilton (1) blasted a one-timer from the right point over Rask’s glove on the short side and put the Hurricanes on top, 3-2.

Necas (3) had the only assist on Hamilton’s goal at 8:30 of the third period and Carolina held onto the one-goal lead for the remainder of the action.

McAvoy hooked Warren Foegele at 9:30, but the Bruins dominated the ensuing shorthanded play by keeping the puck in the attacking zone and nearly evening the score before McAvoy was free from the box and the Canes let a power play opportunity go to waste.

With 1:16 remaining in the game, Cassidy pulled Rask for an extra attacker.

After a stoppage with 42.7 seconds to go, Boston used their timeout to draw up a last (less than a) minute plan, but Carolina held on for the, 3-2, win at the final horn and evened the series, 1-1, as a result.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (35-26)– including a, 15-9, advantage in the third period alone– as well as in giveaways (17-8), hits (43-35) and faceoff win% (57-43), while Carolina wrapped up the night with the win and the final advantage in blocked shots (18-15).

The Hurricanes went 1/3 on the power play in Thursday night’s action, while the Bruins finished 2/3 on the skater advantage.

Meanwhile, the game-winning goal for Hamilton was just the second game-winning playoff goal of his career– and his first in more than six years as his only other game-winning goal in the playoffs came with the Bruins in Game 3 of their 2014 First Round at Detroit.

The series shifts to Carolina (metaphorically speaking) for Games 3 and 4 from the bubble.

Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday at 12 p.m. ET and the two teams should have no issues waiting for ice time, as it’ll be the first game on the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule that day.

Viewers in the United States can tune in on NBC, while those in Canada can catch the game on Sportsnet or TVAS.