Claude Julien’s had it with biting and taunting; Lapierre has no comment on being called “punkish”

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We know you can’t get enough of the talk about Alex Burrows and his bite of Patrice Bergeron. Since there’s been so much discussion of it thanks to the league not suspending or fining Burrows for it and then Burrows singlehandedly beating Boston in Game 2, it’s become a bit of a talking point at the Stanley Cup finals in Boston.

By “a bit of a talking point” we mean “thing everyone is losing their mind over.” Bruins fans are furious over the lack of action from the NHL while the Canucks are pointing at other things that went on during Game 2 to distract the officials for tonight’s Game 3.

Adding fuel to the fire was Maxim Lapierre openly taunting Patrice Bergeron by sticking his finger in Bergeron’s face mocking him for what happened. So much talk for things not actually playing out with shots and saves can make one go crazy or get really cranky. Consider Bruins coach Claude Julien as part of the latter.  Julien let it rip today during this morning’s press conference.

Q. The biting incidents have taken on lives of their own. I want to talk to you more about Max Lapierre taunting with the finger. What do you think it says about sportsmanship or lack of sportsmanship?

COACH JULIEN: I can’t really talk about their team. I’m going to talk about mine because I don’t handle those players. I don’t deal with those players on a one-on-one basis. It really isn’t up to me to I guess comment on it. If it’s acceptable for them, then so be it. Certainly wouldn’t be acceptable on our end of it. I think you know me enough to know that. Not much I can say on that.

The NHL rules on something. They decide to make a mockery of it, that’s totally up to them. If that’s their way of handling things, so be it. Again, we can’t waste our time on that kind of stuff. We really have to focus on what we have to do. The last time I looked, we’re down two games to none, and all our energy has to go towards that.

Lapierre’s taunting was enough to also make NBC’s Mike Milbury snap off at him during intermission of Game 2 referring to Lapierre as a “punk.”

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As for Lapierre’s take on being called that he was understandably muted.

“What am I going to say to that? I’ve got no comment about that,” Lapierre stated yesterday afternoon upon arrival in Boston.

I guess there’s not much to say when all the talking he’s doing is with his digits. As for Julien’s agitated take on things today, it’s understandable. After all, if you were answering questions all the time about things that had nothing at all to do with what’s going on on the ice that matter to the game, you’d get pretty annoyed as well.

The one thing this whole situation has brought about from the series is some spice. With both teams being as locked in and as focused as they are, the interviews and takes on the game aren’t exactly attention grabbing. For better or worse Burrows’ bite and the lack of response from the NHL followed by Lapierre’s antics have helped make the Canucks more of a heel in this final battle for the Stanley Cup than a hero.

NHL playoffs showcase Russia’s goaltending renaissance

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EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Nikolai Khabibulin wakes up in Yekaterinburg to watch NHL playoff highlights and beams with pride at the saves made by so many Russian goaltenders.

For the first time, there were three Russian starting goaltenders in the conference finals, with Anton Khudobin of the Dallas Stars, Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning advancing to meet for the title. Countryman Semyon Varlamov and the New York Islanders fell to Tampa Bay in overtime in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night.

”It’s actually quite interesting to experience this because it has never happened before,” Khabibulin said. ”I would’ve never thought this would happen, but it is happening.”

From Hall of Famer Vladislav Tretiak in the Red Army days to Khabibulin and Evgeni Nabokov last generation and guys now like Vasilevskiy, Varlamov and Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky, Russia’s hockey history is full of strong goaltending. After a several-year gap caused by the downfall of the Soviet Union, the nation is again producing some of the best in the world with young prospects Igor Shesterkin, Ilya Sorokin, Ilya Samsonov and 2020 draft-eligible Yaroslav Askarov making up the next wave of stars.

”It’s crazy now we have all those goalies because before that was our problem, but now we have so many great goalies,” Washington Capitals winger Ilya Kovalchuk said. ”It says that hockey system is growing in Russia. The goaltenders who’s retired, they help the system to grow those young kids as good players. It’s great to see that many guys come to the NHL like Vasilevskiy, Varlamov and all those guys, Bobrovsky. They’re all dominating. It’s great.”

Nabokov, who lead goalies born in the Soviet Union or Russia with 353 regular-season and 42 playoff wins, is helping that process as goalie coach of the San Jose Sharks. While he deals with professionals, he notices Russian and Finnish goaltending coaches back home teaching the position to very young players.

”It’s got a little bit more organized,” Nabokov said. ”Now each team have a goalie coach and tons of camps throughout summer where you can go and be well-detailed and they prepare kids technique-wise from early ages.”

The three Russian goalies who made it the furthest in the playoffs have very different techniques. Vasilevskiy is the 6-foot-3 reigning Vezina Trophy winner with the perfect blend of fundamentals and athleticism, Varlamov is the poised veteran who can make difficult saves look easy and Khudobin is the undersized throwback goalie who teammate John Klingberg joked is ”swimming all over the crease” and somehow stopping the puck.

As Khudobin said after a game a couple of years ago, ”I like to save the pucks.” Khabibulin called Khudobin a modern version of three-time Cup winner Martin Brodeur because he plays standing up unlike almost everyone else who relies on the butterfly position to make stops.

”I was looking at some highlights of him, and it’s somebody took a goalie from 1990 and put him in a time machine and got him into 2020,” Khabibulin said. ”But nevertheless he does the job.”

Maybe without Khabibulin’s invitation to take part in an online goalie school chat, Khudobin wouldn’t be one of the top performers in his first NHL playoff action at age 34.

”He was really losing interest, I guess, because of the pandemic and we started YouTube channel and started talking on Zoom with hockey players and just talk about hockey,” Khabibulin said. ”He was one of the guests. We had a great talk. We usually do it for about an hour, hour 15 and with him it was almost two hours.”

Since getting the starting job when Ben Bishop was injured, Khudobin has gone 12-6 with a 2.54 goals-against average and .921 save percentage and backstopped the Stars into the Stanley Cup Final. Two years after signing Khudobin to a two-year contract, general manager Jim Nill joked he wished it was five now.

The Islanders signed Varlamov last summer to a four-year deal to replace Robin Lehner, who was the only non-Russian goalie in the final four wit Vegas. Varlamov had never gone this deep in the playoffs before and is a major reason New York reached the Eastern Conference final for the first time since 1993.

”Semyon, he was a No. 1 goalie, then he was a little bit off, then he was No. 1 again, kind of like nobody really paid attention to him,” Khabibulin said. ”And now he’s there.”

That’s Russian goaltending in a nutshell, and postseason is evidence of that. Vasilevskiy, Varlamov, Khudobin, Bobrovsky and Shesterkin have combined for 37 wins with a 2.28 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.

Nabokov credits this success and Russia’s goalie renaissance to a mix of more coaching and pure talent that’s possible now in the decades since the fall of communism there.

”The country went through certain things and people just didn’t pay attention to hockey that much: You can’t run hockey schools, you don’t have enough coaches, you can’t hire enough coaches,” he said. ”Russian goaltenders always been good, but it’s been a window where it’s kind of dropped off a little bit and now it’s back because we always had good hockey minds.”

NHL schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Final

2020 nhl stanley cup final schedule
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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

Game 1: Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC
Game 2: Monday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*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)

NHL Bubble Wrap: Lightning get through to Stanley Cup Final

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  • The Tampa Bay Lightning are going to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in franchise history.
  • Anthony Cirelli helped them making history by winning another series with an overtime winner.
  • Brayden Point returned for Game 6 after missing Game 5 on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay Lightning 2, New York Islanders 1 (OT) (Lightning win series 4-2)

It was starting to look like it was not going to happen for them, but the Tampa Bay Lightning finally broke through in overtime on an Anthony Cirelli goal to win Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final and punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final. For the Lightning it will be their third trip to the final and the first since 2014-15 when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. They previously won the Stanley Cup Final during the 2003-04 season. For the second game in a row the Lightning failed to convert on an extended power play that carried over into overtime. This time, though, they were on the right end of a 2-1 decision. Victor Hedman scored the other goal for Tampa Bay, continuing what has been a magnificent postseason. The Lightning also had Brayden Point back in the lineup after he missed Game 5 due to injury. The Islanders played Thursday’s game without one of their top defenseman, Adam Pelech, who will need surgery according to coach Barry Trotz.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Anthony Cirelli, Tampa Bay Lightning. When you score the goal that sends your team to the Stanley Cup Final, you get top star honors for the night. Cirelli is one of the Lightning’s most underrated players, but remains a key part of their lineup. He is already one of the league’s best defensive forwards and is developing into a strong offensive player. He is the perfect complement to the superstar talent at the top of the roster.

2. Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders. Yeah, his team lost. But he is the only reason his team made it to overtime and the only reason it had a chance. He stopped 46 out of 48 shots on the night and did everything he could to single handedly keep the series going. The only other thing he could have done was actually score a goal himself.

3. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning. He only had to face 27 shots, but he made an absolutely massive save in overtime to stop Brock Nelson on a breakaway that could have sent the series to a decisive seventh game.

Highlights of the Night

Anthony Cirelli scores the game-winning goal.

Hedman’s goal to tie the game for the Lightning in the first period.

Devon Toews scored the only goal for the Islanders.

Factoids

  • Tampa Bay’s win on Thursday is already its sixth overtime win of the postseason. [NHL PR]
  • This is the sixth time in NHL history that both Stanley Cup Final teams advanced to that round with overtime wins. [NHL PR]
  • No team has played more overtime hockey in a single postseason than this year’s Lightning team. [NHL PR]

Stanley Cup Final Schedule

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars

Game 1: Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC
Game 2: Monday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Cirelli’s overtime goal sends Lightning to Stanley Cup Final

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Thanks to Anthony Cirelli‘s goal at the 13:18 mark of overtime, the Tampa Bay Lightning are on their way back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

It is there that they will play the Stars. Game 1 of the series takes place on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC) in Edmonton.

Cirelli’s goal ended a slugfest of a game that saw the Lightning pepper New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov with 48 shots and completely dominate territorially.

His goal had to be a massive relief for Lightning fans, not only because it sent their team to the Cup Final, but because this game was starting to take on an eerily similar feel.

One of the biggest issues the Lightning have had in the playoffs in recent years has been finishing series because of a slumping offense that could not convert on its chances. It happened to them in the 2015 Cup Final, and it happened to them in the 2016 and 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.

After scoring one goal in Game 5 and only one goal through 70 minutes of hockey on Thursday it looked like it might be happening again.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

It was also the second game in a row that the Lightning were given a four-minute power play at the end of regulation — this time due to an Andy Greene high-sticking call — that would carry over into overtime with a chance to clinch the series.

For the second game in a row they failed to capitalize on that opportunity.

Not only did they fail to score on that power play on Thursday, but Brock Nelson nearly ended the game for the Islanders on a breakaway only to have Andrei Vasilevskiy make his biggest save of the night.

Later in the period the Lightning were guilty of a too many men on the ice penalty that gave the Islanders a power play, but Tampa successfully killed the penalty by not allowing a single shot on goal. That successful kill set the stage for Cirelli’s overtime goal.

Cirelli had briefly exited the game in the second period after a collision at the blue line with Islanders captain Anders Lee.

Every series win for the Lightning this postseason has ended with an overtime goal.

2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars

Game 1: Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC
Game 2: Monday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.