Training Camp Battles: Central Division

With training camps starting late this week or early next, we at Pro Hockey Talk couldn’t help but wonder: what are the biggest position battles going in? To give you the most specific answers possible, we asked team bloggers to give their take. After all, these men and women follow their teams almost as much as general managers, so they would know better than us.

(Actually, some of them might watch their teams more closely than GMs, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Previous entry: Northeast Division, Pacific Division

Current Entry: Central Division

kylebeachhawks.jpgChicago Blackhawks

Contributor: Dancing sensation Forklift from Hockee Night.

As everyone knows, between the $4 million in bonuses they had to pay, plus the new contracts for Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Niklas Hjalmarsson meant the Blackhawks had to jettison a lot of players in order to get cap legal. Now they’re at least $1.5 million under cap, and they managed to do it while not having to sacrifice any of their core group of players.

Goaltending is set with Marty Turco, and (presumably) Corey Crawford. They’ve got their 7 D-men, with the top 2 pairs set, and some sort of rotation of John “Murdersaurus” Scott, Nick Boynton and Jordan Hendry for the third pair. So it’s all happening up front.

The plum job will be on the second line with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. Hawks’ fans are tantalized by goal-scoring meathead Kyle Beach, and it remains to be seen how he’ll perform against NHL players after some nominal time during the AHL playoffs last year. Viktor Stalberg has a shot, due to his blinding speed. When I say “blinding speed”, I of course mean that he’s fast enough to blind you to the fact that he’s probably never met his own goaltender, his defense is that bad. Fortunately, playing on a line with two outstanding defensive forwards can cover a multitude of sins.

Bryan Bickell might get a shot, since he’s got some muscle, and QStache might look at him and see Troy Brouwer 2.0, but Bickell is not fleet of foot. Ryan Potulny will also get a look. Whichever of these players don’t pan out on the second line can either land on the third line with Dave Bolland and Fernando Pisani or on the fourth line with Jake Dowell. Beach might even wind up back in Rockford, where he can get more ice time than he’d get in a 3rd or 4th line role.

How well the forwards gel will determine how successful the Hawks’ Cup defense will be.

mikecommodorecbj.jpgColumbus Blue Jackets

Contributor: Matt Wagner from The Cannon.

With a roster mostly unchanged from last year’s 14th place finish, GM Scott Howson is hoping that the more offensive, puck-pursuit based system of rookie head coach Scott Arniel will be able to mold a young Jackets squad back into a playoff contender. Though much of the squad would appear locked in place, there are several key position battles as camp opens this Friday.

Key to the success of the team in the coming season could be the jostle for spots on the team’s blue line. Coach Arniel has said that he intends to put a system in place where defensemen will feel they have the coach’s backing to make plays, and he expects them to join the rush into the offensive zone, not simply make a pass or dump the puck and begin skating backwards. Can returning players like Mike Commodore, Jan Hejda, and Rusty Klesla adapt to this more aggressive style, or will they find their jobs threatened by 2009 first round pick John Moore and other prospects like Grant Clitsome, Cody Goloubef, or David Savard?

A related question is how this new defensive system will aid starting goaltender Steve Mason, who struggled after his Calder Trophy winning performance two years ago. Mason seemed to recover his game after the departure of former head coach Ken Hitchcock, posting a .934 save percentage and 2.23 GAA through the end of the season. After revamping his offseason conditioning, the Jackets are likely to go as far as Mason’s skill and performance can carry them.

Last but not least, the team has several forwards coming into camp hoping to earn a full time NHL spot, including 2008 first round pick Nikita Filatov, energetic rookie Matt Calvert, formerly of the Brandon Wheat Kings, and former Oilers Captain Ethan Moreau. If Filatov can regain the trust of the team after leaving for Russia early last season, look for him to play on the top six, putting utlity forward R.J. Umberger down to a third line spot next to veteran center Sammy Pahlsson, while players like Moreau, Calvert, Chris Clark, Derek Dorsett, Andrew Murray, and Jared Boll compete for positions on the third and fourth lines. Despite signing a new 2 year deal, it’s entirely possible that fan favorite Jared Boll could find himself in the press box, or worse, in the AHL, if he doesn’t step up his game to be more than simply an enforcer on the ice.

The team has bet on their youth, and they are depending on players like Russell, Mason, Filatov, Brassard, and Jakub Voracek to step up after a down year. In an increasingly cutthroat Central Division, it remains to be seen if Howson’s bet will play out, of if the team will end their 10th anniversary season with another early exit.

After the jump, Winging it in Motown on the Red Wings, On the Forecheck tackles the Predators and St. Louis Game time covers the Blues.


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Modano3.jpgDetroit Red Wings

Contributor: J.J. from Kansas from Winging it in Motown.

Detroit comes into this season with a much better set of problems than they carried into last year. With the return of Jiri Hudler and the addition of Mike Modano, the Red Wings are looking for guys to prove that they can score at or near previously established numbers, rather than hoping for career highs or breakout rookies, like they had with Ville Leino and Jason Williams last year. The top three lines are set in stone with Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Holmstrom back together at the top, followed by the formidable trio of Franzen-Filppula-Bertuzzi. The third line of Hudler-Modano-Cleary should give the Wings one of the most dangerous third lines in the league. With these top spots wrapped up, there should be no shortage of goal-scoring for Detroit in 2010-11.

The position battles for the forward spots are all in the depth areas, with five guys realistically battling for three spots at the #12-14 depth areas. Veterans Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby join youngsters Patrick Eaves, and Drew Miller along with rookie long-shot Mattias Ritola in fighting for the last winger spot on the fourth line with Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm. Detroit likely won’t have to rely on a promising young guy to step into third-line minutes with the established NHL-level depth they have waiting to take over in case the injury bug strikes again. They need grinders at the bottom of the chart and that’s what They have. If all of those guys should fail to earn that spot, then dark horse candidate and fan-favorite pugilist Aaron Downey might be able to make the most of his invite back to Red Wings Training Camp. Look for Draper’s locker room leadership to give him an edge in a group of people who are NHL-ready, but mostly interchangeable.

On the defensive side, experience and health at the bottom is a concern. Andreas Lilja’s agent talked him out of a contract with Detroit and Ken Holland replaced him with Ruslan Salei, who’ll fight Jakub Kindl, Doug Janik, and long-shots Derek Meech and Brendan Smith for the right to play beside Mr-Sophomore-Slump himself Jonathan Ericsson. If Niklas Kronwall goes down again for an extended period due to his recurring knee problems, there will be a lot of pressure on likely 7th D-man Kindl to step up in a big way and show that he really does have the potential to be a top-flight NHL defender. Look for Meech to be traded for a cup of coffee, as soon as Ken Holland can talk a Tim Horton’s manager into taking a $500k cap hit. However you slice it, this Detroit team has depth they’ve lacked in the last couple of seasons. Training camp this year will likely be a chance for Mike Babcock to make sure chemistry is good before the start of the season while making sure his veterans showcase for the youngsters the type of work ethic it will take for them to eventually crack the lineup with the big club.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for hornqvistscoresonkipper.jpgNashville Predators

Contributor: Chris Burton from On the Forecheck.

Which position battles are most crucial to Nashville’s success?
A tough question, because the Predators are heading into camp with some amazing depth. Pekka Rinne will get the lion’s share of the starts in goal, and your other typical spots for camp battles are filled up. Nashville’s bottom six forwards, for example, have at least ten legitimate NHL players contending for a place on the opening night roster. I’m tempted to tell you that its the 6th defenseman spot, but that wouldn’t really be accurate – Ryan Parent appears to be the only likely candidate for that role.

All that said, I’m going to go with 3rd defenseman. Everyone knows that Shea Weber and Ryan Suter will anchor the Preds’ top pair, but the waters muddy when you start to look deeper. In 2009-10, it was clearly Dan Hamhuis, but he left for Vancouver during free agency. Any one of Kevin Klein, Francis Bouillon, and Cody Franson could step into Hamhuis’ shoes. Hamhuis was counted upon to eat up minutes, play against top competition, and chip in on the penalty kill; so my vote will go for Kevin Klein. He just signed a new deal, and is better suited for more ice time than Bouillon while being a step ahead of Franson defensively.

Which positions are under the greatest amount of competition?
Now this one’s easy. As mentioned above, Nashville has an astounding amount of players competing to play on their bottom two lines and penalty kill. Players are as follows, from “stone cold locks” to “keep a foot on the bus”: David Legwand, Joel Ward, Jordin Tootoo, Jerred Smithson, Sergei Kostitsyn, Jonas Andersson, Cal O’Reilly, Nick Spaling, and Wade Belak. As you’re aware, there’s only six places and I’m not sure how Barry Trotz will juggle so many players on one way deals. If I had to guess, Spaling, O’Reilly, and Belak will spend considerable time in Milwaukee or eating nachos in the press box.

What is Nashville’s biggest weakness?
Goal scoring forward. Quite simply, there isn’t one. Patric Hornqvist came out of nowhere to score 30 last year, but who knows if he can do that again. Center Colin Wilson is the organization’s top prospect, although he’s regarded as more of a Joe Thornton-type player than a goalscorer. The Predators have 50-60 point forwards in abundance, but none of Martin Erat, Steve Sullivan, JP Dumont, or Matthew Lombardi are threats to continually light the lamp. There’s hope for Alexander Radulov coming back in 2011-12, which would greatly help an anemic power play. Till then, though, Nashville will have to rely on the scoring by committee approach once again.

Other Interesting Battle
Finally, the Predators’ backup goaltending situation bears watching. The departure of Dan Ellis means that for the first time in years, Nashville will be without a proven backup. Going into camp, the spot is wide open – each of Mark Dekanich, Chet Pickard, and Anders Lindback have a chance to start the year in the NHL. If none of them prove worthy, however, then expect David Poile to look outside the organization for help.

Thumbnail image for keithtkachuk1.jpgSt. Louis Blues

Contributor: Brad Lee from St. Louis Game Time.

With the Blues, the most interesting aspect of training camp will come down to the final defensemen on the roster. The breakdown is simple: a couple of overpaid veterans (Eric Brewer, Barret Jackman), a guy entering what the team hopes is the prime of his career (Carlo Colaiacovo), some younger players with experience (Erik Johnson, Roman Polak) and some kids fighting for the sixth defenseman spot and a possible seventh that doesn’t play every night (Tyson Strachan, Alex Pietrangelo, Ian Cole and Nikita Nitkitin). This group is kind of like a beef stew. Some bites you get a nice chunk of potato and tender beef, the backbone of a rib-sticking stew. Others, it’s just pees, corn and carrots – the junk your wife or mother insists putting in there to make it healthy but more often than not ends up left at the bottom of the bowl at the end of the meal. Blues fans hope there’s more meat than carrots in that player list.

The troubling part for most fans is that while the team addressed goaltending with the trade and signing of Montreal playoff hero Jaroslav Halak, the front office didn’t seem to make an effort to bolster the forwards, a group that is fairly young and still promising but will be missing veterans Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk, who while decrepit last season still scored more than 30 goals combined. In the Halak trade, the most mature forward in the pipeline, Lars Eller, was the main trade chip. So the cavalry is not on the way. If players like David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and David Perron don’t all make improvements, this team will be at home, out of the playoffs for two straight years.

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    2020 NHL Draft: Date, time, order of picks for all 31 teams

    2020 NHL Draft
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    The 2020 NHL Draft will be held virtually with Round 1 taking place on Tuesday, Oct. 6 beginning at 7 p.m. ET. Rounds 2-7 will be held Wednesday, Oct. 7 beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET. NBCSN will air coverage on both days.

    The Rangers won Phase 2 of the 2020 NHL Draft lottery in August and will select first overall. Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL) winger Alexis Lafreniere is expected to go No. 1.

    After that? It could go a lot of different ways. Quinton Byfield (Sudbury – C- OHL), Tim Stutzle (Adler Mannheim – C/LW – DEL), Lucas Raymond (Frolunda – LW/C – SHL), Jamie Drysdale (Erie – D – OHL), Marco Rossi (Ottawa – C – OHL), Cole Perfetti (Saginaw – C – OHL), Jake Sanderson (D – USNTDP) are among the top prospects expected to be selected early.

    The full 2020 NHL Draft order will be finalized at the conclusion of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

    2020 NHL Draft order

    Round 1

    1. New York Rangers
    2. Los Angeles Kings
    3. Ottawa Senators (from SJS)
    4. Detroit Red Wings
    5. Ottawa Senators
    6. Anaheim Ducks
    7. New Jersey Devils
    8. Buffalo Sabres
    9. Minnesota Wild
    10. Winnipeg Jets
    11. Nashville Predators
    12. Florida Panthers
    13. Carolina Hurricanes (from TOR)
    14. Edmonton Oilers
    15. Toronto Maple Leafs (from PIT)
    16. Montreal Canadiens
    17. Chicago Blackhawks
    18. New Jersey Devils (from ARZ)
    19. Calgary Flames
    20. New Jersey Devils (from VAN via TB)
    21. Columbus Blue Jackets
    22. New York Rangers (from CAR)
    23. Philadelphia Flyers
    24. Colorado Avalanche
    25. Washington Capitals
    26. St. Louis Blues
    27. Anaheim Ducks (from BOS)
    28. Ottawa Senators (from NYI)
    29. Vegas Golden Knights
    30. Dallas Stars or San Jose Sharks (from TB)
    31. Dallas Stars or San Jose Sharks (from TB)

    Round 2

    32. Detroit Red Wings
    33. Ottawa Senators
    34. San Jose Sharks
    35. Los Angeles Kings
    36. Anaheim Ducks
    37. Nashville Predators (from NJ)
    38. Buffalo Sabres
    39. Minnesota Wild
    40. Winnipeg Jets
    41. Carolina Hurricanes (from NYR)
    42. Nashville Predators
    43. Florida Panthers
    44. Toronto Maple Leafs
    45. Detroit Red Wings (from EDM)
    46. Chicago Blackhawks (from VGK via PIT)
    47. Montreal Canadiens
    48. Montreal Canadiens (from CHI)
    49. Arizona Coyotes*
    50. Calgary Flames
    51. Los Angeles Kings (from VAN)
    52. Ottawa Senators (from CBJ)
    53. Carolina Hurricanes
    54. Philadelphia Flyers
    55. San Jose Sharks (from COL via WSH)
    56. Detroit Red Wings (from WSH)
    57. Montreal Canadiens (from STL)
    58. Boston Bruins
    59. Ottawa Senators (from NYI)
    60. Los Angeles Kings (from VGK)
    61. Ottawa Senators (from DAL via VGK) or Tampa Bay Lightning
    62. Ottawa Senators (from DAL via VGK) or Tampa Bay Lightning

    *Coyotes forfeit pick No. 49 due to punishment for violating NHL pre-combine testing rules.

    Round 3

    63. Detroit Red Wings
    64. Ottawa Senators
    65. Detroit Red Wings (from SJ)
    66. Los Angeles Kings
    67. Anaheim Ducks
    68. Vegas Golden Knights (from NJ)
    69. Carolina Hurricanes (from BUF)
    70. Nashville Predators (from MIN)
    71. Ottawa Senators (from WPG)
    72. New York Rangers
    73. Nashville Predators
    74. Florida Panthers
    75. Colorado Avalanche (from TOR)
    76. Edmonton Oilers++
    77. Pittsburgh Penguins
    78. Montreal Canadiens
    79. Chicago Blackhawks
    80. Washington Capitals (from ARI via COL)
    81. Calgary Flames++
    82. Vancouver Canucks
    83. Los Angeles Kings (from CBJ via OTT via TOR)
    84. New Jersey Devils (from CAR)
    85. Tampa Bay Lightning (from PHI via SJ)
    86. Florida Panthers (from COL)
    87. St. Louis Blues (from WSH via MTL)
    88. St. Louis Blues
    89. Boston Bruins
    90. New York Islanders
    91. Vegas Golden Knights
    92. New York Rangers (from DAL) or Tampa Bay Lightning
    93. New York Rangers (from DAL) or Tampa Bay Lightning

    ++ Oilers have yet to announce whether they will give their 2020 or 2021 third-round pick to the Flames as part of the James Neal trade. If they give up the 2020 choice, the Blackhawks will get No. 76 as part of the Erik Gustafsson treads. If they give up their 2021 pick, the Blackhawks will get the No. 81 pick from the Flames.

    Round 4

    94. Tampa Bay Lightning (from DET)
    95. Ottawa Senators
    96. Calgary Flames (from SJ vis MTL via BUF)
    97. Los Angeles Kings
    98. Montreal Canadiens (from ANA)
    99. New Jersey Devils
    100. Buffalo Sabres
    101. Minnesota Wild
    102. Montreal Canadiens (from WPG)
    103. New York Rangers
    104. Anaheim Ducks (from NSH via PHI)
    105. Florida Panthers
    106. Toronto Maple Leafs
    107. Detroit Red Wings (from EDM)
    108. Pittsburgh Penguins
    109. Montreal Canadiens
    110. Chicago Blackhawks
    111. Arizona Coyotes
    112. Los Angeles Kings (from CGY)
    113. Vancouver Canucks
    114. Columbus Blue Jackets
    115. Carolina Hurricanes
    116. Philadelphia Flyers
    117. Colorado Avalanche
    118. Washington Capitals
    119. St. Louis Blues
    120. New Jersey Devils (from BOS)
    121. New York Islanders
    122. Toronto Maple Leafs (from VGK)
    123. Dallas Stars or Tampa Bay Lightning
    124. Dallas Stars or Tampa Bay Lightning

    Round 5

    125. Detroit Red Wings
    126. San Jose Sharks (from OTT)
    127. San Jose Sharks
    128. Los Angeles Kings
    129. Anaheim Ducks
    130. New Jersey Devils
    131. Buffalo Sabres
    132. Minnesota Wild
    133. Winnipeg Jets
    134. New York Rangers
    135. Nashville Predators
    136. Montreal Canadiens (from FLA)
    137. Florida Panthers (from TOR)
    138. Edmonton Oilers
    139. Pittsburgh Penguins
    140. Carolina Hurricanes (from MTL)
    141. Chicago Blackhawks
    142. Arizona Coyotes
    143. Calgary Flames
    144. Vancouver Canucks
    145. Columbus Blue Jackets
    146. St. Louis Blues (from CAR)
    147. Philadelphia Flyers
    148. Colorado Avalanche
    149. Washington Capitals
    150. St. Louis Blues
    151. Boston Bruins
    152. New York Islanders
    153. Toronto Maple Leafs (from VGK)
    154. Dallas Stars or Ottawa Senators (from TB)
    155. Dallas Stars or Ottawa Senators (from TB)

    Round 6

    156. Detroit Red Wings
    157. Tampa Bay Lightning (from OTT)
    158. Ottawa Senators (from SJ)
    159. Los Angeles Kings
    160. Anaheim Ducks
    161. New Jersey Devils
    162. Dallas Stars (from BUF via CAR via FLA)
    163. Minnesota Wild
    164. Winnipeg Jets
    165. New York Rangers
    166. Nashville Predators
    167. Colorado Avalanche (from FLA)
    168. Toronto Maple Leafs
    169. Edmonton Oilers
    170. Pittsburgh Penguins
    171. Montreal Canadiens
    172. Chicago Blackhawks
    173. Arizona Coyotes
    174. Calgary Flames
    175. Vancouver Canucks
    176. Columbus Blue Jackets
    177. Toronto Maple Leafs (from CAR)
    178. Philadelphia Flyers
    179. Toronto Maple Leafs (from COL)
    180. Washington Capitals
    181. Ottawa Senators (from STL via EDM)
    182. Boston Bruins
    183. New York Islanders
    184. Vegas Golden Knights
    185. Dallas Stars or Tampa Bay Lightning
    186. Dallas Stars or Tampa Bay Lightning

    Round 7

    187. Detroit Red Wings
    188. Montreal Canadiens (from OTT)
    189. Toronto Maple Leafs (from SJ)
    190. Los Angeles Kings
    191. Vancouver Canucks (from ANA)
    192. New Jersey Devils
    193. Buffalo Sabres
    194. Minnesota Wild
    195. Toronto Maple Leafs (from WPG via MIN)
    196. New York Rangers
    197. New York Rangers (from NSH)
    198. Florida Panthers
    199. Carolina Hurricanes (from TOR)
    200. Edmonton Oilers
    201. San Jose Sharks (from PIT)
    202. Philadelphia Flyers (from MTL)
    203. St. Louis Blues (from CHI via MTL)
    204. Arizona Coyotes
    205. Calgary Flames
    206. New York Rangers (from VAN)
    207. Columbus Blue Jackets
    208. Carolina Hurricanes
    209. Philadelphia Flyers
    210. Colorado Avalanche
    211. San Jose Sharks (from WSH)
    212. Toronto Maple Leafs (from STL)
    213. Boston Bruins
    214. New York Islanders
    215. Vegas Golden Knights
    216. Buffalo Sabres (from DAL) or Tampa Bay Lightning
    217. Buffalo Sabres (from DAL) or Tampa Bay Lightning

    NHL schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Final

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    The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue on Saturday, Sept. 19 in the hub city of Edmonton. Now that we are through the conference finals, the full 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule has been announced.  

    The top four teams during the regular season in both conferences played a three-game round robin for seeding in the First Round. The eight winners of the best-of-5 Qualifying Round advanced to the First Round.  

    Rogers Place in Edmonton will host 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final.  

    Here is the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule.

    2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)

    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)

    Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
    Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
    Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
    Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
    Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
    *Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

    *if necessary

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    CONFERENCE FINAL RESULTS

    EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
    Lightning beat Islanders (4-2)

    WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
    Stars beat Golden Knights (4-1)

    ***

    SECOND ROUND RESULTS

    EASTERN CONFERENCE
    Lightning beat Bruins (4-1)
    Islanders beat Flyers (4-3)

    WESTERN CONFERENCE
    Golden Knights beat Canucks (4-3)
    Stars beat Avalanche (4-3)

    ***

    NHL QUALIFYING ROUND / ROUND-ROBIN RESULTS

    EASTERN CONFERENCE
    Philadelphia Flyers (3-0-0, 6 points)
    Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, 4 points)
    Washington Capitals (1-1-1, 3 points)
    Boston Bruins (0-3-0, 0 points)

    Canadiens beat Penguins (3-1)
    Hurricanes beat Rangers (3-0)
    Islanders beat Panthers (3-1)
    Blue Jackets beat Maple Leafs (3-2)

    WESTERN CONFERENCE
    Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
    Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, 4 points)
    Dallas Stars (1-2-0, 2 points)
    St. Louis Blues (0-2-1, 1 point)

    Blackhawks beat Oilers (3-1)
    Coyotes beat Predators (3-1)
    Canucks beat Wild (3-1)
    Flames beat Jets (3-1)

    ***

    FIRST ROUND RESULTS

    EASTERN CONFERENCE
    Flyers beat Canadiens (4-2)
    Lightning beat Blue Jackets (4-1)
    Islanders beat Capitals (4-1)
    Bruins beat Hurricanes (4-1)

    WESTERN CONFERENCE
    Golden Knights beat Blackhawks (4-1)
    Avalanche beat Coyotes (4-1)
    Stars beat Flames (4-2)
    Canucks beat Blues (4-2)

    Kevin Shattenkirk finds redemption after unlucky bounce

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    As the Dallas Stars celebrated the tying goal with 8:25 remaining in the third period, Kevin Shattenkirk was experiencing a sinking feeling.

    Joe Pavelski’s shot from the faceoff circle was stopped by Andrei Vasilevskiy, but the puck deflected off Shattenkirk’s knee and into the Tampa Bay Lightning net. Tie game, and any momentum gained from Alex Killorn’s go-ahead goal five minutes earlier was gone.

    Despite the unlucky bounce, Shattenkirk was trying to keep a positive mind.

    “In my head, I was thinking I deserved some sort of good karma after that,” he said after Game 4.

    Karma would find him a little while later. 

    On the power play in overtime, Shattenkirk took a pass from Victor Hedman in the Stars’ zone. He then skated into the same face-off circle where Pavelski took his shot that led to the tying goal. With Dallas defenseman Jamie Oleksiak and Lightning forward Pat Maroon providing the screens, Shattenkirk wired home his second career playoff overtime goal to put Tampa on the brink of a second Stanley Cup title.

    “He’s been scoring some big ones for us all playoffs,” said forward Brayden Point. “He’s so steady for us. He works so hard. He’s great in the room. He’s a great leader for us, he keeps us even-keel. To see him bury one, it’s awesome.”

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    It’s been almost 14 months since Shattenkirk signed a one-year deal with the Lightning. He was on the free agent market after being bought out by the Rangers, who signed him to a four-year, $26.65M deal in 2017. The end of his tenure with his hometown team wasn’t how he originally pictured it. A bad knee affected his play and ultimately factored into the decision, but time became an asset.

    Time allowed Shattenkirk to get back to 100% health, and signing with Tampa put him on a blue line where he didn’t have to feel the pressure to produce or live up to a big contract. He scored eight goals and recorded 34 points during the regular season, his highest totals since the 2016-17 season. Carrying a chip on his shoulder kept his focus on a bounce-back season.

    “I never kind of forget what happened last summer,” Shattenkirk said after Game 4. “I’ve used that to fuel me and just not get comfortable.”

    Shattenkirk has two goals and four points in the Lightning’s three Cup Final wins. Friday night was his second game winner of the series after scoring Tampa’s third goal in a 3-2 win in Game 2.

    [3 Takeaways from Lightning-Stars Game 4]

    The universe has a way of evening out as Shattenkirk discovered this season. A year ago he was looking to get his NHL career back on track. Now he’s one win away from being a Stanley Cup champion.

    “We’ve got a job to do here, it’s still not finished,” he said. “Anyway that I can contribute, whether it’s scoring goals or playing solid defensively, whatever the team asks, that’s what I aim to do every night. It’s been a great team effort so far. Looking forward to tomorrow night because then it could all come really full circle.”

    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)

    Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
    Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
    Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
    Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
    Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
    *Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

    ————

    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    3 Takeaways: Penalty controversies, Seguin produces

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    Through the first three games of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, the adage “No lead is safe” felt a bit unsafe. Leads worked out pretty well for both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars.

    But Game 4 ended up being a wilder affair. Ultimately, the Lightning beat the Stars 5-4 in overtime of Game 4, leaving Tampa Bay one win from a Stanley Cup with the two teams turning around to play Game 5 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET on NBC: (livestream).

    1. Fans, we have some controversies

    Death, taxes, and complaints about penalties. When it comes to hockey, and really all professional sports, there aren’t many big games that go without fans griping.

    Even by those standards, controversies abounded in Game 4 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

    In what is probably the least surprising development ever, the Stars weren’t happy with the tripping penalty Jamie Benn got whistled for after tangling with Tyler Johnson. Joe Pavelski griped in the most entertaining way.

    Frankly, while Benn wasn’t guilty of tripping, it’s not outrageous to call some sort of obstruction penalty for that exchange.

    And, let’s also be honest: officials might have been looking for a chance to whistle a “makeup call.” Brayden Point drew what could have been an honest penalty for some, er, stick work on Corey Perry. Instead, officials made a very questionable embellishment call on Point to even things up. From there, Tyler Seguin drew a penalty call when Mikhail Sergachev obstructed him greatly, giving the Stars a power play that was one part 4-on-3, and one part 5-on-4 in overtime.

    Here’s the thing. When contests are as frenetic as Game 4 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final between the Stars and Lightning, you run into human limitations. Officials will miss things.

    2. Seriously, the Stars need to avoid the penalty box as much as humanly possible

    Look, if this style of play continues, hockey fans are in for a treat. Especially if the Stars can avoid being eliminated in Game 5.

    But you have to wonder if the Stars might want to settle down the pace of this series.

    On one hand, they’ve acquitted themselves nicely when things get wild during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Stars were able to hang with the Avalanche, and while they’re down 3-1, Game 4 was far from a certainty for the Lightning.

    Faster play can force you to hook someone to slow them down. Or reach for a a puck on a breakaway and instead trip up your opponent. Or merely look like you’re doing things.

    [NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

    To that end, you wonder if the Stars can somehow find a way to slow things down like they did for the first two periods of Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. During the opening 40 minutes, the Lightning didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity. The Stars actually won the shots on goal battle during that frame, opening Game 1 up 18-14.

    Of course, the Stars were rested, and the Lightning just finished slugging it out with the Islanders. It’s still worth chasing that if you’re Dallas, in my opinion.

    That’s because the Lightning are feasting on the power play. Going 0-for-3 like the Stars did in Game 4? That happens; it’s only disastrous when the other team manages a ridiculous 3-for-4 output. Kevin Shattenkirk‘s OTGWG was the killer, but the Lightning won Game 4 by dismantling the Stars’ PK efforts.

    There was some luck, yet the Lightning also moved the puck with confidence and a sense of danger.

    Bowness needs to go back to the drawing board and find a way to mitigate what’s been a massive advantage for Tampa Bay. That unit has now scored six goals during this three-game winning streak. Yikes.

    3. Tyler Seguin looked like Tyler Seguin again

    OK, so Tyler Seguin’s shooting percentage remains … almost tragic?

    It feels like his near-miss on a power play from Game 4 is the story of his playoff career, aside from winning a Stanley Cup with Boston when he was still wet-behind-the-ears.

    Despite lacking that coveted goal, Seguin was a force for the Stars in Game 4 against the Lightning. Seguin did just about all of the work to set up Corey Perry’s goal.

    It looked like Joe Pavelski’s 4-4 tally actually went off of Seguin, but instead it went off of Kevin Shattenkirk. But Seguin created some chaos to make that happen.

    Seguin also forced the issue for Mikhail Sergachev, drawing a penalty in overtime. The Stars couldn’t cash in, but that, some near-misses, and two assists all roll up into an argument that Seguin might have his groove back.

    (He’s probably dying to score that goal, of course. But at least Seguin looked alive for the Stars vs. the Lightning in Game 4 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.)

    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)

    Stars 4, Lightning 1. (recap)
    Lightning 3, Stars 2. (recap)
    Lightning 5, Stars 2. (recap)
    Lightning 5, Stars 4 [OT]. (recap)
    Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
    *Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
    *Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

    *if necessary

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.