Two-sports star? Steven Stamkos spends summer playing beer league baseball

Ever wonder what some of your favorite superstars do to bide their time during the summer? Hockey’s offseason isn’t exactly too long when you consider when the Stanley Cup finals end and when training camp begins. That leaves players anywhere from three to four months off depending on how long their season extends in the playoffs.

For Tampa Bay’s Steve Stamkos, being one of the league’s best players and youngest superstars means doing things a little differently. Rather than cruising the world and being a jet-setter, Stamkos is throwing on the cleats, grabbing a glove and a bat, and playing some baseball with his buddies back home in Ontario.

That’s right, Steven Stamkos is a beer league baseball player. Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star tells the story.

NHL contracts prohibit players from partaking in a long list of sports not named hockey, including baseball, lacrosse, wrestling and boxing, without the club’s written consent. But consent, especially in the case of an all-world talent pursuing a near-and-dear hobby, generally isn’t denied.

“It’s a nice way to hang out with my old buddies,” Stamkos said.

His friends say Stamkos still slums it because, for all the endorsement deals and mega millions that have come his way as a pro, he’s still the same humble guy they’ve always known — except he’s been known to buy them gifts.

Last year he sprung for matching black-and-green cleats to match the team’s jerseys. (He took a ribbing when the shoes arrived with pink laces. “The laces looked white on the website,” Stamkos said.)

Better that he’s a baseball player than he is a fashion mogul, right?

It’s cool to see Stamkos take his swings in another sport like this but just how is he at baseball? Well…

Stamkos’s summertime presence isn’t exactly a secret in these parts. His stats are on the league’s website, where he is on record as a .608 hitter with eight home runs in 10 games.

Not too shabby. It’s also not quite the cutthroat kind of baseball you might’ve grown up watching on TV or playing in Little League. Think of it as the kind of baseball where the coach pitches to you and you take your swings. Easy living.

For you Lightning fans worried that perhaps Stamkos might ditch out on hockey to pursue a career with the Tampa Bay Rays instead, fear not, he’s not going anywhere especially after signing a five-year, $37.5 million contract this summer. For now, Tampa Bay fans can take pride in knowing that their best hockey player could do well taking his swings on their baseball team as well. He might not be Bo Jackson-like, but perhaps he’ll be Bo Jackson-like in video game form as the face of NHL 12.

(hat tip to The Big Lead)

Keep an eye on Oilers’ Slepyshev (the Ducks certainly should)

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The breaks and breakaways frequently went the Edmonton Oilers’ way as they eliminated the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of their first-round series. Those results have been more of a mixed bag for Edmonton against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 tonight, though.

Anton Slepyshev is a great example of those ups and downs.

In Game 6 against the Sharks, Slepyshev used his speed to score a breakaway tally that ended up being the game-winner. (See here for those friendly breakaways.)

Slepyshev’s been burning the Ducks with his speed on Wednesday, but the Oilers have been burned in the process. For one thing, John Gibson turned aside this big chance shortly after Ryan Getzlaf gave Anaheim a 1-0 lead:

Later on in that same second period, Slepyshev got a step on the Ducks defense again. This time, he didn’t just fail to score; he took a goalie interference penalty for bumping Gibson.

With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being among those hitting posts, it might feel like it’s all against the Oilers this time around, but crossbars/postsanother theme from Edmonton’s Game 6 win vs. San Jose – have more or less balanced out.

And, one break really went Edmonton’s way: a Ducks defender broke his stick on the Oilers’ 5-on-3 opportunity, opening the door for a crucial Mark Letestu goal:

The end result is a 1-1 tie, but give the Oilers credit for not getting rattled. If Slepyshev can keep up his efforts, his speed could be a factor in a series that looks like it could be a real tug-o-war.

Jake Allen takes blame for Predators’ game-winner vs. Blues

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Let’s be honest: the St. Louis Blues owe a lot to Jake Allen‘s work against the Minnesota Wild in that first-round series.

He probably bought himself a significant amount of goodwill for that outstanding work, but Allen isn’t resting on his laurels. He admitted that “a little mistake by me cost” the Blues the 4-3 decision against the Predators, leaving St. Louis down 1-0 to Nashville.

The goal in question was Vernon Fiddler‘s unlikely 4-3 tally, which came after an unsuccessful poke check attempt by Allen:

Now, to be fair, that wasn’t even the only failed poke check that turned into a goal, as Pekka Rinne also got beat after making such an attempt:

Then again, Allen is wise to score points with teammates for taking the blame. As far as his team, head coach Mike Yeo believes that it was the second period that really made the difference.

Regardless, Allen and the Blues hope to carry over the momentum from their third-period dominance in Game 1 to Game 2 to tie the series 1-1.

That contest airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)

Predators survive Blues’ big late push to win Game 1

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The Nashville Predators’ 4-3 Game 1 win against the St. Louis Blues makes it difficult to use “perfect.”

You could get away with using that word, mind you, as the Predators followed up their surprising sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks by going up 1-0 against the Blues in St. Louis. Still, the ride was so bumpy in the third period, it’s probably wiser to focus on the fact that Nashville is unbeaten.

Because, yikes, that third period was a roller coaster for Nashville.

via Natural Stat Trick

P.K. Subban scored a goal and two assists in the first 40 minutes to help the Predators bring a 3-1 lead into the final frame. The Blues absolutely dominated play in the third, however, briefly tying the game as they put immense pressure on Pekka Rinne & Co.

Ultimately, the Predators received a game-winner from an unlikely source in Vernon Fiddler, gaining a 1-0 series edge.

Even so, few will talk about “mystique” after that shaky finish.

For one thing, both Rinne and Jake Allen allowed goals that they’d like to forget. Also, both squads experienced lopsided periods; Nashville dominated shots in the second (15-8) while the Blues almost doubled-up the Preds in the third (11-6).

Nashville also seems likely to play without rising rookie Kevin Fiala, who was hospitalized after an absolutely horrifying crash into the boards.

It was a weird and often wild – sometimes nasty – contest, with the Predators ultimately coming out on top. There’s plenty of intrigue heading into Game 2, which airs on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Friday. (You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; here’s the livestream link.)

WATCH LIVE: Second round begins with Predators – Blues, Oilers – Ducks

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Update: With both games likely to run simultaneously, note that Ducks fans can watch on NBCSN in the Anaheim market while the game is also available via streaming links below.

In addition to that, Ducks – Oilers is slated to begin on NHL Network.

This tweet explains it in additional detail.

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The second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin on Wednesday, and the NBC Sports Group has you covered with wall-to-wall coverage.

We start with a battle of the hottest goalies in the postseason so far as Jake Allen and the Blues host Pekka Rinne and the Predators. The duo of Game 1’s wraps up when Connor McDavid and the Oilers take on Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks.

Here’s what you need to know:

Nashville Predators vs. St. Louis Blues

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)

Edmonton Oilers vs. Anaheim Ducks 

Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online)