Five Thoughts on a Stanley Cup clinching night for Boston

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An incredible run, an incredible team effort, a set of incredible performances, and one Stanley Cup championship to last a lifetime. Give it up to the Boston Bruins who fought hard all playoffs and made the adjustments necessary to win and did what no other team could do this year. Boston’s 4-0 Game 7 win showed what they had all series long in that when they get rolling, they’re tough to beat. This year, they were the toughest to knock off.

1. What more can be said about Tim Thomas? A 37-save shutout on the road in Game 7 in the Stanley Cup finals is an unbelievable way to close out a season. A road shutout in Game 7 of the Cup finals is a first in NHL history. He’s also the oldest Conn Smtyhe Trophy winner in history and just the second American to win it. With the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy locked up, the only one left for him to win now is the Vezina Trophy. If/when Thomas wins that he’ll be the first goalie since Bernie Parent in the 1970s to sweep those three awards in the same year. That’s a pretty fantastic year.

2. A couple more fascinating tidbits on Thomas’ accomplishments this postseason brought to my attention by a friend of mine (Thanks Yuri). Thomas is the first American starting goalie to win the Stanley Cup since Mike Richter did it in 1994 with the Rangers. The other American Conn Smythe Trophy winner was Brian Leetch who also did that in 1994 for the New York Rangers. The Rangers opponent that year, of course, was none other than Vancouver.

If I’m on the Vancouver Canucks and my team makes a deep run in the playoffs again, I know I’d start rooting against teams with American goalies. Imagine the freakout that would ensue should the Canucks make the Cup finals against the Buffalo Sabres in the near future.

3. It’s pretty easy to make a scapegoat out of Roberto Luongo. He was solid, even great, in three games in this series. He was awful, terrible, and useless in three others. Tonight he wasn’t flawless and the Bruins took advantage of that. Of course there were other problems he had to deal with as well. Through seven games of the Stanley Cup finals Luongo had just eight goals scored in support of him and the Canucks were shutout twice themselves.

To give you an idea of how poorly the offense played here’s a fun stat: Roberto Luongo was tied for third on the Canucks in goals scored in the finals with zero. He was tied with 17 other players. That kind of offense, regardless of how well they played tight, defensive hockey in their three wins, is never going to get it done in a seven game series. Luongo will eat a lot of the blame, but there’s a lot of forwards in the Canucks locker room that have some soul searching to do.

4. How fun is it to be Patrice Bergeron? It’s got to be really awesomely fun to be that good at hockey. He’s won a gold medal at the World Junior Championships, an Olympic gold medal in 2010 with Team Canada, and now the Stanley Cup with the Bruins. For a guy whose career was put in doubt thanks to a major concussion years ago at the hands of then Flyers defenseman Randy Jones, Bergeron’s bounced back from that to be the Bruins’ most steady two-way forward.

He scores, he assists, he wins faceoffs, he defends against opposing team’s top centers. Having him score two goals, including the game-winner, in Game 7 was a perfect coda to what’s been a fantastic season for him.

5. And now for the sad side show that developed in Vancouver after the game as hordes of moron fans and non-fans alike decided rioting was the best way to grieve. When you mix loads of alcohol, a reported number of 100,000 people in the streets, and a soul-crushing loss in a city where fans are known to take things a little bit too personal when it comes to hockey you get what happened last night.

The observations that there were anarachist jerks mixed in with the crowd to help feed the ill feelings that lurk in the hearts of some fans is not shocking, especially if what CTV in Canada reported was true about some of those being the same band of cretins that stirred things up at the G20 summit in Toronto last summer.

I’d like to believe that the vast majority of hockey fans in Vancouver went home peaceably to drown their sorrows with their loved ones and friends, but the sheer number of jerks clad in Canucks gear caught on video and in photographs starting trouble is hugely disappointing. I’m sure all hockey fans are proud that this pack of punks helped give everyone in Vancouver and all over the NHL landscape a bad name.

NY governor says pro teams can resume training

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says teams in his state can return to their facilities for training after a pause of more than two months.

”Starting today, all the New York professional sports leagues will be able to begin training camps,” the Democratic governor said during a news conference Sunday.

The New York City area was one of the hardest-hit parts of the U.S. by the coronavirus pandemic, but COVID-19 deaths and new infections in the state have been trending downward.

Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL are discussing the resumption of their seasons with their players’ unions.

”I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena – do it! Do it!” Cuomo said. ”Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

WCHA’s Alabama-Huntsville cuts hockey program

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Alabama-Huntsville is dropping men’s hockey and men’s and women’s tennis as part of budget cuts in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

School officials said athletes in those sports who want to join another team’s roster will be released without penalty and free to transfer immediately. If they choose to stay, their current scholarships will be honored for the duration of their academic careers.

Alabama-Huntsville was one of the only southern schools to have a men’s hockey varsity program. The Chargers won Division II national titles in 1996 and 1998 and were Division II runners-up in 1994 and 1997 before making the move to the Division I level for the 1998-99 season.

Men’s hockey had been the lone Division I sport for Alabama-Huntsville. It competes at the Division II level in all other sports.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

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Canada’s NHL teams have offered season-ticket holders rebate or refund options in acknowledgment that no more 2019-20 regular-season games will be played in front of fans in their respective buildings.

In a four-day span May 13-16, all seven teams contacted their season-ticket bases with options and, in some cases, deadlines to make a decision, according to The Canadian Press.

“It has become increasingly apparent, that any possibility will not include any further games being played this season in front of fans at Bell MTS Place,” the Winnipeg Jets said in an email.

That admission may seem anticlimactic given leagues and teams around the world are either playing in empty stadiums, or trying to figure out a way to just resume play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But season-ticket money is a key element of NHL business. Clubs are loathe to part with it.

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money.

Toronto Maple Leafs season-ticket holders had to declare they wanted their money back by Victoria Day or a credit would be applied to their accounts.

Their Montreal Canadiens counterparts had to make a decision by Friday, while the Vancouver Canucks’ deadline is June 3.

NHLPA board approves 24-team, return-to play-format

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We have our first step towards resuming the 2019-20 season with the approval of the return-to-play format by the NHLPA Executive Board.

The 31 NHL team representatives voted and a majority gave the thumbs up to the 24-team, conference-based proposal.

According to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, the vote was 29-2 in favor.

Now the plan moves on to the Board of Governors for their approval.

From the NHLPA:

The Executive Board of the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) has authorized further negotiations with the NHL on a 24-team return to play format to determine the winner of the 2020 Stanley Cup. Several details remain to be negotiated and an agreement on the format would still be subject to the parties reaching agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.

If the BOG green lights it, the next steps would include figuring out proper safety protocols for all involved and how the hub city plan would work, among numerous other details.

Based on points percentage at the time of the March 12 NHL pause, the top four teams in each conference (Boston, Tampa, Washington, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas, Dallas) will receive a first-round bye. Round 1 will feature eight play-in matchups in a best-of-five series.

As the play-in round takes place, the eight conference leaders could potentially take part in a mini tournament that will determine the seeding for Round 2. Reseeding after the play-in round is another topic likely to be discussed.

Here’s what it might end up looking like:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND 1 BYES
• Bruins
• Lightning
• Capitals
• Flyers

PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Penguins
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Canadiens

(6) Hurricanes
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Rangers

(7) Islanders
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Panthers

(8) Maple Leafs
vs.                              — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Blue Jackets

WESTERN CONFERENCE

ROUND 1 BYES
• Blues
• Avalanche
• Golden Knights
• Stars

PLAY-IN ROUND
(5) Oilers
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 4 seed
(12) Blackhawks

(6) Predators
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 3 seed
(11) Coyotes

(7) Canucks
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 2 seed
(10) Wild

(8) Flames
vs.                                — Winner plays No. 1 seed
(9) Jets

Games would be played without fans with teams based in hub cities potentially located in both the U.S. and Canada. Columbus, Las Vegas, and Edmonton are a few of the cities that have shown interested in playing host to playoff games.

Since the 24-team format entered the rumor mill, it’s received a mixed reaction from players.

“Twenty-four teams sounds like a lot of teams to me,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson told Mike Tirico on Thursday. “You have to make sure there is some level playing field in terms of intensity…So while 24 teams sounds like a lot, maybe due to logistics, that makes the most sense.”

“I will say that when it comes to the format I think it is almost impossible to make everyone happy … the situation is what it is,” Lars Eller of the Capitals said via the Washington Post. “It is far from perfect. We are going to manage the best we can and I do think we will come together and find a solution regarding that. It is not going to be easy.”

Kris Letang told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that Penguins players voted “yes” on the proposal citing “greater good for everyone.”

“At the end of the day, nobody gets exactly what they want,” Letang said. “But, we all want what is best for hockey and to continue to grow the game.”

MORE:
Predators’ Duchene: ‘You don’t want to have a COVID Cup’
Our Line Starts podcast: Evaluating fairness of 24-team NHL playoff

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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.