October’s three stars: Steve Stamkos, Tim Thomas and Chris Stewart

The NHL handed out its three stars award for the month of October, with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steve Stamkos, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and Colorado Avalanche winger Chris Stewart earning the honor.

It’s tough to say if the NHL made the right call in choosing Stamkos over Thomas, considering the fact that the Boston Bruins goalie went on the kind of run that literally might not be topped for years (if not a decade). Still, the league made the right choices, even if the order is debatable.

Let’s take a look at each player’s outstanding month of play, with some help from the league’s press release and a pithy comment or too to boot.

1. Steve Stamkos

Stamkos led all players in scoring with 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 10 games as the Lightning (7-2-1) finished October with the top record in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history. The 20-year-old Markham, Ontario native, who last season became the third-youngest player in NHL history to claim the League’s goal-scoring title with 51, tallied points in nine of 10 games, highlighted by five multiple-point performances and a pair of game-winning goals. He also ranked among the League leaders in plus-minus, tying for second overall with a +9 rating.

His 23.7 percent shooting percentage indicates that he might have been a little lucky at times last month. Indeed, a near-goal-per-game pace is probably too much to expect from the sniper who looks like an ’80s teen comedy villain, but he has a fantastic chance to top his great 51-goal mark from last season.

Stamkos also has plenty of financial justification for continuing to play well. After all, his entry-level contract expires after this season; could he earn a Sidney Crosby-type salary by remaining dominant for the rest of 2010-11?

2. Tim Thomas

Thomas won each of his six starts in October, posting a League-leading 0.50 goals-against average, .984 save percentage and three shutouts. He allowed one goal or fewer in each appearance, becoming the first Bruins goaltender to start the season 6-0-0 since Hockey Hall of Famer Cecil ‘Tiny’ Thompson in 1937-38.

Read all about the amazing six-game start for Thomas right here.

3. Chris Stewart

It was a pretty good month for both of the Stewart brothers (Anthony Stewart of the Atlanta Thrashers also played quite well), but Chris really took the cake. Here is a little bit more about the budding power forward’s amazing month via the league’s press release.

Stewart ranked second behind Stamkos in October scoring, posting 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 11 games. He also tied for the League lead with three game-winning goals, helping the Avalanche (6-4-1) claim first place in the Northwest Division.

Anyway, those are the league’s choices for the best three players for the month of October. Do you have any quibbles with those choices? Let us know if you would have chosen someone else in the comments.

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    PHT’s Three Stars: Vasilevskiy, Callahan lead Lightning in Game 5

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    1st Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

    Vasilevskiy’s great play continued in Game 5 after a bit of a stumble to start the series. In making 28 saves, he helped the Lightning beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 to take a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final. He’s now stopped 100 of the last 106 shots he’s faced. Tampa can clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final with a win Monday night in Game 6 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

    2nd Star: Ryan Callahan, Tampa Bay Lightning

    Callahan had his biggest game of the playofs with a goal and an assist in the Tampa win. He first assisted on Cedric Paquette‘s opening goal 19 seconds into the game and followed that up with an early tally himself in the second period. His goal, which would end up standing as the game-winner, came just 33 seconds into the middle period.

    3rd Star: Dan Girardi, Tampa Bay Lightning

    The blue liner logged 19:34 during Game 5 and blocked a game high four shots, including one in the final minute on Alex Ovechkin to help preserve the lead.

    [Quick-striking Lightning on verge of Stanley Cup Final berth]

    Highlight of the Night:

    John Carlson might have nightmares about this save by Vasilevskiy with seconds to go:

    Factoid of the Night:

    Sunday’s schedule: Vegas Golden Knights at Winnipeg Jets, 3 p.m. ET, NBC, live stream (Vegas leads series 3-1)

    MORE:
    Conference Finals schedule, TV info
    NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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    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.

    Quick-striking Lightning on verge of Stanley Cup Final berth

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    You can’t spot a team a 3-0 lead and expect to win in the playoffs.

    And while the Washington Capitals tried desperately to not fall victim to their own undoing earlier in the game, they simply ran out of time in a 3-2 loss on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    The Lightning now lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 as the series shifts back to D.C. for Game 6 on Monday. Tampa is 7-0 all-time in Washington in the playoffs and has now won three straight in the series after falling behind 0-2.

    In the first period and into the second, the Capitals appeared to be the same old disappointing playoff team — they just delayed their arrival this season for an extra round.

    [PHT’s Three Stars: Vasilevskiy, Callahan lead Lightning in Game 5]

    This does look like vintage Capitals collapse, no?

    Giving their opponents a 3-0 lead in just over 20 minutes, including allowing goals at 19 seconds of the first period (Cedric Paquette) and 33 seconds of the second period (Ryan Callahan), isn’t a winning formula.

    Nor is your superstar getting exactly zero shots on goal for the first 58 minutes of the game.

    Sure, Alex Ovechkin hit the bar earlier in the third period, and once he did get shooting, he found twine on his second shot of the game with 1:36 left and the net empty, but it was all too late in the end.

    Tampa is now a team on the verge of a berth in the Stanley Cup Final and the Capitals on the brink of their yearly disappointing exit from the postseason.

    A silver lining: Evgeny Kuznetsov keeps producing. But you’re not winning a conference final riding on the back of one player, as Washington is figuring out.

    The urgency displayed in the third period from the Caps would be better used spread out over all three periods.

    But perhaps most concerning for the Capitals is how Tampa found their stride 5-on-5.

    They didn’t manage to win the puck possession battle (as per usual in this series) but they did have a nearly 3-to-1 edge on high-danger scoring chances for at 15-6.

    All three of their goals came at 5-on-5 and they didn’t have to rely on their power play to get their offense rolling.

    That will be interesting to watch in Game 6. Giving the Lightning a man-advantage was a death sentence. But if they’re scoring 5-on-5 as well, Washington is going to be in a world of hurt.

    This isn’t helping either:

    MORE:
    Conference Finals schedule, TV info
    NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    NHL Playoffs 2018: Conference Finals TV Schedule

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    The conference finals are now set with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals meeting in the East and the Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets facing off in the West. The round to determine who will play for the 2018 Stanley Cup will begin Friday.

    Here’s the full Round 3 schedule:

    Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals (Lightning lead series 3-2)

    Friday, May 11, 8pm: Capitals 4, Lightning 2
    Sunday, May 13, 8pm: Capitals 6, Lightning 2
    Tuesday, May 15, 8pm: Lightning 4, Capitals 2
    Thursday, May 17, 8pm: Lightning 4, Capitals 2
    Saturday, May 19, 7:15pm: Lightning 3, Capitals 2
    Monday, May 21, 8pm: Lightning @ Capitals | NBCSN
    *Wednesday, May 23, 8pm: Capitals @ Lightning | NBCSN

    Vegas Golden Knights vs. Winnipeg Jets (Golden Knights lead series 3-1)

    Saturday, May 12, 7pm: Jets 4, Golden Knights 2
    Monday, May 14, 8pm: Golden Knights 3, Jets 1
    Wednesday, May 16, 9pm: Golden Knights 4, Jets 2
    Friday, May 18, 8pm: Golden Knights 3, Jets 2
    Sunday, May 20, 3pm: Golden Knights @ Jets | NBC
    *Tuesday, May 22, 9pm: Jets @ Golden Knights | NBCSN
    *Thursday, May 24, 8pm: Golden Knights @ Jets | NBCSN

    MORE:
    PHT 2018 Conference Finals Roundtable
    PHT predicts NHL’s Conference Finals
    NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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    Sean Leahy is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    Paquette sparks quick-start Lightning in Game 5

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    It took the Tampa Bay Lightning all of 19 seconds to get themselves into Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Washington Capitals.

    Yes, the Lightning scored on their first shot on goal as Cedric Paquette took advantage of a neutral-zone giveaway and then some questionable defending by the Capitals in response (and a nifty play by Ryan Callahan).

    Tampa has been plagued by slow starts in this series, so getting a goal within the first thirty seconds of the game couldn’t have been scripted much better.

    Ondrej Palat scored later in the period to give the Lightning a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.

    Both of Tampa’s goals also came 5-on-5, which hasn’t exactly been their strong suit in the Eastern final.

    Neither team has won at home in this series, but Tampa took two big steps in the right direction in Game 5.

    • Stream here
    Series preview
    Capitals vs. Lightning: Three questions facing each team

    Capitals’ Burakovsky will be Game 5 scratch
    Lightning survive barrage to even series with Capitals
    • Baseball team to wear Washington Capitals-inspired jerseys (Photos)
    Capitals confident in ability to continue road advantage vs. Lightning
    Lightning power play, Capitals penalty kill will make or break series

    MORE:
    Conference Finals schedule, TV info
    NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck