Canucks GM Mike Gillis explains Vancouver’s postseason injuries

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One of the grandest postseason traditions is the unveiling of each teams’ injuries after they’re eliminated from the playoffs. As we’ve already heard, the Bruins were able to survive the majority of the playoffs with a minimal amount of injuries. To win the Stanley Cup, teams need a fair amount of luck to survive the two month war of attrition. Luck on the ice—and luck in the trainer’s room.

On the other hand, Vancouver wasn’t as fortunate in avoiding the injury bug. We knew the Canucks were playing with a ton of injuries. Some of the injuries like Dan Hamhuis and Mason Raymond were obvious. Others players like Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler were battling through injuries that slowed them down just enough to make a difference (even though Kesler refuses to blame any injuries). Neither Sedin, nor Kesler looked like the superstar players Canucks’ fans had grown accustomed to over the course of the regular season. Something seemed wrong, but no one would know until after the playoffs. Well, the playoffs are over and to no one’s surprise, they were both injured.

Mike Gillis dropped the laundry list of injured players in his year-end conversation with the media:

“Dan Hamhuis suffered a serious abdominal injury.

Mason Raymond has a broken back.

Alex Edler has two broken fingers from a slash.

Kevin Bieksa has a bruised MCL from a slash.

Ryan Kesler has a hip problem that we don’t know the extent of yet.

Mikael Samuelsson is out… had an operation on his abdominal muscle tear.

Manny [Malhotra] was a warrior out there but he was operating at less than 100%. He hadn’t skated for 6-7 weeks because of the treatment he had.

Chris Higgins had a foot injury that continued to get worse throughout the playoffs.

Christian Ehrhoff had a shoulder injury that didn’t recover from the 2nd/3rd round onward.

Have I left anyone out? Is that enough?

Henrik (Sedin) had a back injury from being cross-checked in the 2nd round.”

To recap, five of their top nine forwards were dealing with injuries. Their top four defensemen were slowed by various ailments. Still, with all of the adversity, they were still able to come within a single victory of the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. Many teams can say things would be different if they were healthy, but the Canucks have the best argument of all. Who knows if they would have been able to break through Tim Thomas’ wall—but there’s a good chance they would have narrowed the 23-8 scoring gap in the Final.

Over the course of the offseason, Gillis and the Canucks will have a few decisions to make. Blueliners Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo, Christian Ehrhoff, and Andrew Alberts are all unrestricted free agents. Up front, depth forwards Chris Higgins, Raffi Torres, Tanner Glass, and Jeff Tambellini are all unrestricted; they also have to deal with restricted free agents including Jannik Hansen and Maxim Lapierre. Decisions have to be made.

If they had it their way, the front office would love another run at the Cup with the roster constructed exactly as it is. The only difference? Next time, they’d want everyone healthy.

Stamkos joins Lightning for Stanley Cup celebration

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After controlling Game 6 against the Dallas Stars, the Tampa Bay Lightning won their second Stanley Cup in franchise history. Beyond repeat Stanley Cup champion Patrick Maroon, winning the Stanley Cup was a first for every Lightning player. Considering the road the Lightning traveled to this Stanley Cup victory, should it be surprising that they decided to mix up the celebration, and create a great moment with Steven Stamkos in the process?

As Gary Bettman noted, the Lightning chose to take that group Stanley Cup celebration photo before the trophy was raised.

In an emotional moment, Lightning captain Stamkos ended up on the ice, becoming the first Lightning player to raise the Stanley Cup, prompting a jubilant celebration from teammates. It all makes that lone goal from Game 3 even sweeter for Stamkos.

Great stuff.

Following Stamkos, Conn Smythe Trophy winner Victor Hedman got his chance to raise the Stanley Cup. Some veterans took their laps, while eventually Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and others celebrated with the Stanley Cup.

Along with the players, Jon Cooper and GM Julien BriseBois received a chance to bask in the glory. Both played big roles in the Lightning getting this far (as did former GM Steve Yzerman, now with the Red Wings).

Watch highlights of the Lightning’s 2-0 win against the Stars in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final in the video below:

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB wins series 4-2)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Stars 3, Lightning 2 [2OT] (recap)
Lightning 2, Stars 0 (recap)

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.

Maroon becomes back-to-back Cup winner with Blues, Lightning

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EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Patrick Maroon didn’t get the chance this time to lower the Stanley Cup so that his son, Anthony, could kiss it before lifting it again over his shoulders.

Anthony stayed home in the U.S., as did fiancée Francesca as Maroon celebrated with the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night as he became a back-to-back NHL champion. A year ago on the ice in Boston, the St. Louis native won the Cup with the Blues, his family by his side.

Maroon had his phone out for the party on the ice in Edmonton after his key steal helped set up the second goal in the 2-0 win that sealed the title.

“Just celebrating with my future wife Francesca and then my family back home,” he explained. “I thought last year was something else, but this year was something special. I’ve been fortunate enough to be on so many good hockey teams, and to go back to back, most people don’t get the chance to play in a Stanley Cup Finals, I got to do it back to back, and win. I got the chills talking about this.”

According to NHL Stats, Maroon is just the eighth player to win the Cup in back-to-back seasons with different teams and the first since Cory Stillman in 2004 and 2006, sandwiched around the lockout year.

“It’s extremely different,” Maroon said before the final wrapped up, acknowledging the decision for his family not to join him in the bubble. “It’s kind of been a dream. I’ve been living in a dream, honestly.”

Maroon will be the first player since Claude Lemieux in the 1990s to get his name on the Cup in consecutive years with different teams, and only those two and Stillman have done it since the expansion era began in 1967.

“I’ve been fortunate to play on some really, really good hockey teams,” Maroon said before Game 5. “I’ve been fortunate to come back to the Stanley Cup Final, even though there’s a lot of guys that play in the league for 10-15 years that only get one opportunity at this thing. I’ve been fortunate to get two whacks at it.

“I’ve been blessed, and without my family and my teammates for all the support, I don’t think it happens.”

If the Blues don’t let Maroon go and the Lightning don’t sign him, maybe none of this happens. Tampa Bay is a different team with him after falling short many years in a row.

Maroon was a late-summer signing a couple of weeks before training camp in the summer of 2019. It was his second consecutive one-year deal, now with his sixth NHL organization, worth $900,000 — roughly half his St. Louis salary.

It has been a perfect fit, even if Maroon hasn’t been as prominent as he was in the Blues’ run, when he scored a series-clinching, double-overtime goal in the second round to eliminate the same Dallas Stars he and the Lightning defeated in the final. But along with trade deadline pickups Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman and free agent signings Zach Bogosian and Luke Schenn, Maroon has played a big role in bulking up the Lightning enough to get the job done.

“The M.O. on us and the Lightning over the last few years is that they’re offensive and they’re skilled and the way to beat them is to play them hard,” said Game 4 overtime hero Kevin Shattekirk, also a new addition. “Things have changed this year.”

Coach Jon Cooper knew Maroon had the potential to change the complexion of the team. He coached Maroon from 2005-07 with Texarkana and St. Louis Bandits of the North American Hockey League, kept in touch over the years and followed his career closely.

Cooper remembers Maroon going from an overweight 17-year-old who had to do extra work to get in shape to a dominant player at that level. Maroon grew into his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame as a player, grew up as a person and became an NHL regular.

In February, Maroon’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer — he told NBC she beat it and was healthy — and he was hoping to bring the Cup home to her.

“You never know when you’re going to come back, so you’ve got to take every opportunity and cherish it,” he said.

Maroon dressed in all 25 Tampa Bay games this postseason, providing some much-needed muscle and filling a vital role in front of the net on the power play.

“He’s a good teammate, and he knows his role, so he knows the minutes he’s going to get,” Cooper said. “I’d give guys roles and make sure they all know what they are, and he knows his. He’s got character, and he is a character. It’s two good attributes to have.”

Watching Maroon play elsewhere, Cooper often “sneakily” whispered to former Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, “Hey Steve, if we got the chance.”

It was new GM Julien BriseBois who got the chance and took it, and now they are all Stanley Cup champions.

Lightning win Stanley Cup by smothering Stars in Game 6

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For the second time in franchise history, and the first with this current set of stars, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup.

After the Stars survived elimination by winning Game 5 in double overtime, the Lightning absolutely locked the Stars down in Game 6, winning 2-0 to take the series 4-2.

Following the Lightning putting their own spin on the Stanley Cup celebration, Victor Hedman received the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Lightning win second Stanley Cup in franchise history after beating Stars in Game 6

When contests are as one-sided as Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final was, you can get into chicken-and-the-egg arguments.

How much blame do you put on the Stars for an effort that lacked much energy? The Stars only managed eight shots on goal through the first 40 minutes.

To be fair, there was a late push. The Stars ultimately reached 21 shots on goal when they found some energy down 2-0 in the third, but it was too little, too late.

For Stars fans, this was a painful way to watch a season end for a team that otherwise continuously found ways to dig deep during this surprising playoff run.

But it’s easy to point a finger at the losing team and forget what the winners accomplished.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Top players and supporting cast members shine for Tampa Bay

In knocking out the Blue Jackets, Bruins, and Islanders, the Lightning asserted their ability to handle tough defenses and small margins for error. As explosive as Tampa Bay is, Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final serves as textbook example of how strong a defensive team they can be.

The Lightning didn’t force the Stars to parade to the penalty box, but some key early calls ended up being all the Bolts needed. On their second power-play opportunity, Brayden Point flustered Anton Khudobin with an initial shot, and then cashed in on the rebound.

During the second period, Blake Coleman completed a pretty span of passing and transition hockey. As you may have heard, Coleman grew up as a Stars fan living close to Dallas, so scoring a big goal in the Lightning’s Stanley Cup-clinching game must feel surreal.

You know, especially since it happened close to October.

Redemption for the Lightning in impressive Stanley Cup win

After the heartache and humiliation from being swept by the Blue Jackets, the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in remarkably convincing fashion. You won’t see many teams win it all without facing elimination, but the Lightning did just that during this run.

Whenever the 2020-21 season begins, the salary cap will likely force some changes for the Lightning.

Many of the core players should be around, though, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the NHL. Nikita Kucherov was brilliant with Point and Ondrej Palat. Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s dominance went a bit under the radar because of the many other standpoint performances. And, finally, Victor Hedman asserted himself as possibly the best defenseman in the world.

The Stars likely aren’t happy with their efforts in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, yet it’s impressive that they got this far, including against the juggernaut Lightning.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB wins series 4-2)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Stars 3, Lightning 2 [2OT] (recap)
Lightning 2, Stars 0

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.

Dallas Stars come up short of Stanley Cup title

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All those old guys couldn’t get the Dallas Stars another Stanley Cup championship.

Rick Bowness is the 65-year-old interim head coach who has been behind NHL benches in parts of five different decades. Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry are the veteran forwards in the mid-30s who had spent their entire careers with their original teams before signing with Dallas in free agency last summer just for this chance.

Instead of a title for the aged after the best efforts of those grizzled guys to get the Stars this far, their season ended with a 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Dallas was finally undone by mounting injuries and the failure of primary front-liners Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov to score even a single goal in the final series. Perry and Pavelski combined for the last six goals scored by the Stars in this most unusual season.

The Stars allowed yet another power-play goal in the finale, and again were unable to convert. They were 0 of 3 with a man advantage Monday night, and 1 of 19 in the series — the only such goal came from Pavelski in the second period of Game 2.

A goal in double overtime of Game 5 by the 35-year-old Perry had extended the series. It was his second goal night night, with Pavelski getting a record tally when he scored the other goal in that 3-2 win.

Pavelski’s tying goal with 6:45 left in regulation Saturday night was his 61st career playoff goal, breaking a tie with Joe Mullen for the most ever by U.S.-born skater that he matched with two goals the previous game. That ties him for 29th on the all-time list with exactly half of Wayne Gretzky’s record 122.

Before his two goals in Game 4, Pavelski was tied for the second-most playoff goals for an American with Mike Modano, who was part of the Stars’ only Stanley Cup championship team in 1999.

After 14 goals in 67 regular-season games for the Stars, Pavelski had 13 inside the bubble — the most ever in a single postseason by a player 36 or older.

The scoring records are no consolation for Pavelski, who last summer wanted to sign with a team that would give him another chance to win a Stanley Cup. His two finalists were the Stars and the Lightning; he got a three-year deal from Dallas

“Keep it. Next question,” Pavelski said when asked about the records after Game 4, when his second goal that night tied the game with 8:25 left in that regulation.

Perry spent his first 14 NHL seasons with the Anaheim Ducks and was part of their 2007 championship in his second year. They bought out the forward’s deal before he signed a one-year contract with the Stars.

Pavelski’s only other trip to the Stanley Cup Final was five seasons ago when San Jose lost in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That was his first season as captain of the Sharks, for which he had played since 2006-07. His rookie season was the same year Perry got to raise the Stanley Cup at age 22.

Bowness, promoted by Dallas in December after Jim Montgomery was fired for off-ice issues, used to be the top assistant for now Stanley Cup-champion coach Jon Cooper in Tampa Bay. Bowness was part of the Lightning’s runner-up run in 2015.

The Stars went into the Stanley Cup Final off their longest break between games during more than two months inside the NHL bubble after they wrapped up the Western Conference Final in five games against top-seeded Vegas. They came out hitting against Tampa Bay to win 4-1 in Game 1, but allowed six power-play goals in losing the next three games.

Tampa Bay was 0 for 1 on the power play in Game 5, but went ahead ahead to stay when Brayden Point scored about 12 1/2 minutes in after John Klingberg’s tripping penalty. Blake Coleman, the 28-year-old center from Plano, Texas who grew up a Stars fan, scored the other Lightning goal.

Dallas finished the season with several injured key regulars, including forwards Radek Faksa, Blake Comeau and Roope Hintz. Ben Bishop, their primary goaltender most of the regular season, appeared in only three postseason games, the last Aug. 31 in as second-round game.