BizNasty scores one for his mom

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Sure, Paul Bissonnette’s mom isn’t crazy about her son’s notorious Twitter account, but maybe she should attend a few more Phoenix Coyotes games. Yolande Bissonnette made what was about a 25-mile trip to see her son play in an NHL game for the first time in his career and he responded by scoring his first goal of 2011-12. Check out the goal below and read more about that cute story here.

 

Lightning vs. Stars: 2020 Stanley Cup Final preview

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There is a strong argument to be made that the Tampa Bay Lightning have been the NHL’s best team for six years now.

Since the start of the 2014-15 season they have more regular season and playoff wins than any team in the league, scored more goals scored than any team in the league, have reached the Conference Finals four times, and are now in their second Stanley Cup Final since then.

The only thing they are missing to help cement their status as the league’s most dominant team? Actually winning the Stanley Cup with this core and this roster.

They have a chance to accomplish that starting on Saturday night when they play the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC; livestream).

Given all of their success in recent years it is probably not a huge surprise to see them on this stage.

The Stars, though? They are a bit more unexpected, even though they were a Game 7 double overtime loss away from reaching the Western Conference Final a year ago. They started the season with a 1-7-1 record, went through an in-season coaching change, struggled to score goals, and were always overshadowed in the Western Conference by the likes of St. Louis, Colorado, and Vegas. Then they went and beat two of those three in the playoffs and punched their ticket to their first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years.

How do the two teams compare?

Let us take a look.

2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars

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

Offense

These two teams could not be more different in terms of playing style and offensive potential.

While the Stars briefly found an offensive surge in the First and Second Rounds against Calgary and Colorado, it is still a team that relies on defense and goaltending to win games. They showed they are capable of adapting and filling the net more often to win games, but that is not where their strength is. It’s not that they don’t have talent on the roster (they do), it’s just that they don’t really have many game-breakers at forward.

This is a team that has not ranked higher than 17th in goals scored since the 2015-16 season, while they have finished 28th and 29th the past two seasons.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, is absolutely loaded up front, even if Steven Stamkos is not available.

Nikita Kucherov is as good as it gets offensively, while Brayden Point has emerged as a top-line center. Add in complementary pieces like Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde, and the trade deadline acquisitions of Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow and there are not really many weaknesses up front.

The Lightning have been the top goal-scoring team in the league in four of the past six seasons, including each of the past three seasons.

Advantage: Lightning

Defense

Their star power up front really overshadows the fact that the Lightning also have an outstanding blue line. Victor Hedman is a beast and arguably the most impactful player on the roster, while Mikhail Sergachev, Ryan McDonagh, and Kevin Shattenkirk round out an extremely formidable top-four on defense.

The Lightning are not only one of the highest scoring teams in the league, they are also one of the best defensive teams.

Dallas, on the other hand, has quite literally been the toughest teams to score against for two years now.

Since the start of the 2018-19 season the Stars are allowing just 2.48 goals per game, which is the absolute lowest mark in the entire NHL, just narrowly ahead of the Boston Bruins (2.49) and New York Islanders (2.54). Those are the only three teams in the league that have allowed fewer than 2.65 goals per game over that stretch.

Is it a lot of that due to what has been an outstanding goalie duo? You bet it has been. But the fact the Stars also have two elite defenseman in Klingberg and Heiskanen plays a significant role in that as well.

Advantage: Stars

Goaltending

Andrei Vasilevskiiy has been a Vezina Trophy finalist three years in a row now and is clearly one of the league’s elite goalies.

Adding that to a team that has the best offense in the NHL and a stellar defense is almost unfair. But here we are.

On the Dallas side, Anton Khudobin has become one of the biggest stories of the playoffs for the way he stood on his head against the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final. That performance has put him in the Conn Smythe discussion, and a repeat of that against Tampa Bay in the Final might even make him a favorite.

The duo of Khudobin and Ben Bishop has been a massive part of the Stars’ goal prevention the past two years as they have formed one of the best tandems in the league. But Bishop’s health and status for the Stanley Cup Final is a bit of a mystery at this point, so the Lightning should still have the edge here.

Advantage: Lightning

Special Teams

There is actually not a lot separating these two units. The Lightning had the superior power play unit during the regular season, but Dallas still had a solid unit and it has excelled so far in the playoffs. That power play success was a big part of their goal-scoring surge earlier this postseason.

The two penalty killing units have been virtually identical in terms of their success rate during the regular season and playoffs, and that really should not be a huge surprise. Both teams have excellent defenses, good defensive forwards, and great goaltending. That is a pretty good combination to have.

Advantage: Push

Prediction

Lightning in six: I am not going to dismiss the Stars in this series. They have a goalie that is playing out of his mind, two No. 1 defensemen, a great top line, and improved forward depth from what we saw with them a year ago. They also just beat two of the best teams in the NHL (Colorado and Vegas) in back-to-back series by winning eight out of 12 games against them. They could absolutely do it again here. But Tampa Bay is going to be the best team they have faced and they have impact players at every level of the roster. They have been so close for so many years, this is going to be the year they win it all. Tampa Bay Lightning in six games is the pick here.

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.

Lightning vs. Stars: PHT’s Stanley Cup Final predictions

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It’s finally here! We’ve spent the last 49 days since the Qualifying Round began watching the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and we’ve now arrived at the Cup Final. It’s the Tampa Bay Lightning vs. the Dallas Stars.

Four of us had the Lightning in the Cup Final, three of which have them winning. The Avalanche and the Golden Knights were a popular pick, but none of us had the Stars here. Heck, only Jake had Dallas beating the Flames in the First Round. But Rick Bowness’ team has had quite the run through three rounds and are now four wins away from their first title since 2000. Will they do it? Or will Jon Cooper and Tampa win their first championship since 2004?

Give us your Stanley Cup predictions in the comments. Here are ours:

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Lightning in 7 (Conn Smythe: Brayden Point). Much like Brayden Point’s body, my plan to stick with my preseason picks as far as they’ll go feels pretty battered and bruised right now. Then again, it was still easier — and a more interesting thought experiment — to stick with that through thick and thin than, say, actually having to choose between the Bolts or the Bruins. I’m extremely uncomfortable with this because a) the Stars are far more rested, b) they’re quite good, and c) Point is far from 100%, but the Lightning seem willing to push through everything to finally win a Stamkos-Kucherov-era Stanley Cup. Maybe they can just have big ice packs for seats during the team plane ride out of Edmonton? (Could keep the adult beverages cold.)

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Lightning in 7 (Conn Smythe: Andrei Vasilevskiy). When Tampa got embarrassed last postseason, GM Julien BriseBois got aggressive and improved his roster over the following nine months. In came Pat Maroon, Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Zach Bogosian. They weren’t eyebrow-raising moves, but additions that solidified areas that needed a boost. Each of those players has played a vital role in this run to the Cup Final and Jon Cooper is getting Conn Smythe worthy performances from Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Those are all huge with Steven Stamkos remaining out of the lineup. The question is which Stars team will we see? The high-scoring one earlier in the postseason or the shutdown dynamos we’ve seen recently? Solving Anton Khudobin will be the first thing for Tampa to handle and, unlike what we saw from Vegas, finishing their chances will be important.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Adam Gretz, NHL writerLightning in 6 (Conn Smythe: Brayden Point). I just think this is their year. The Capitals finally broke through and got their championship two years ago, the Blues did it last year, and the Lightning are going to do it this year. They have made it this far and been this dominant without their captain and one of their best players playing a single game in the playoffs, and that is just remarkable to me. This team is so deep, so talented, and has so many different people that can beat you that I just do not know if the Stars can match that. The Stars have absolutely earned their spot here, and I do not think this is going to be a lopsided series by any means, but I just think Tampa Bay has too much.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Lightning in 7. (Conn Smythe: Andrei Vasilevskiy). I have picked against Dallas in the three previous rounds, and while I’m going against them once again, I think that it will be a close series with Game 7 possibly going into overtime. Tampa Bay is a stronger team all-around, even with Steven Stamkos on the sidelines. Victor Hedman has been outstanding in the playoffs while Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat have been a much better first line than whatever the Stars can throw at them. Anton Khudobin has stood on his head to get the Stars to this point and Dallas has the best young defenseman in the game in Miro Heiskanen. Dallas needs Tyler Seguin to start scoring if they are to send the Stanley Cup Final to its limit. It should be a great series as the Islanders really wore down the Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final. It should be a doozy of a Stanley Cup!

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Lightning in 6 (Conn Smythe: Andrei Vasilevskiy). When we published our Stanley Cup picks last month at the start of the 16-team playoff tournament, I had the Lightning as my champion in 6 games with Andrei Vasilevskiy as my Conn Smythe winner. While I got the West champion wrong (Vegas), I’m sticking with my original choice for Cup champ and playoff MVP. Tampa has cleared hurdle after hurdle in these playoffs, first by exorcising their Blue Jackets demons, then by toppling the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins, and most recently by securing their spot in the final with a gritty win over the pesky Islanders. This Lightning group feels determined and ready to finally break through. And it all starts with Vasilevskiy, who has played every minute of every game this postseason.

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

Watch the Lightning-Stars stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Roundtable: Stanley Cup Final X-factors, storylines

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Who will be the biggest X-factors in the series for each team?

James O’Brien, NHL writerBrayden Point and Joe Pavelski. For real, if Point’s functional — even if it means skipping a Stanley Cup Final game, or perhaps two — then that’s series-shifting stuff.

It’s been a delight to see Pavelski thrive after struggling so much during the regular season. That said, Pavelski slogged through a sluggish series against Vegas. It’s one thing to finish with a goal and an assist, but I’m a touch concerned that he wasn’t firing the puck much; the veteran finished with just three SOG in those five games after having no fewer than two and as many as six in each contest vs. Colorado. Naturally, pace of play matters, but I’d wager the Stars will need offense beyond the Jamie BennTyler SeguinAlexander Radulov combo. Since Bowness seems reluctant to unleash Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz, then it falls on players like Pavelski to pitch in.

Adam Gretz, NHL writerBlake Coleman and Anton Khudobin. I kind of want to say the entire Tampa third line, but if I have to narrow it down to one then I am going to pick Coleman. He has been such a big pickup, because he not only brings a shutdown defense element to their third line, but he can also chip in some offense and help give them another line that can beat you. They paid a steep price at the trade deadline to get Coleman and Goodrow (two first-round picks!) but it has proven to be worth it. This line has not only been their second best line in the playoffs, they are going to have it next year as well for an incredible price against the salary cap.

For the Stars, it kind of has to be Khudobin, doesn’t it? I expect that the Stars are probably going to give up a lot of shots, a decent number of scoring chances, and at times be on the defense against an incredibly deep Lightning team. The Stars, to their credit, have already gotten through two similarly built teams in Colorado and Vegas, and in the latter case it was largely due to Khudobin’s play. Tampa is better than each of those two teams, so it stands to reason that he is going to get tested again. If he plays well, the Stars are going to have a real shot. If he does not, well, that is a great Tampa team that can run away with it if it gets rolling. That potential swing in results based on the play of one player is pretty much the definition of an X-factor I would say.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Brayden Point and Anton Khudobin. Point seems to be laboring over the last couple of games and missed two of the Lightning’s last four games with his undisclosed injury. If healthy, he and Nikita Kucherov are far better than any Dallas twosome up front.

Khudobin is going through a stretch of outstanding playing time that he has never done before in the NHL. He has carried the Stars on his back throughout the post season and if the Stars get a similar performance in the Stanley Cup Final, then Dallas has a chance to lift the Cup and bring it back to Texas.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Victor Hedman and Anton Khudobin. The Norris Trophy finalist has shown his offensive flair this postseason (nine goals, 15 points) and his value on the blue line this postseason. When he’s on the ice, the Lightning have outscored opponents 22-4 and own nearly 60% of the shot share at even strength. He’s the leader of the NHL’s best defense in these playoffs and will find a way to neutralize the Stars’ biggest weapons more often than not this series.

Khudobin’s play is the main reason why the Stars are four wins away from a title. Since taking over for Ben Bishop, “Dobby” has a .929 even strength save percentage and a .872 high-danger save percentage, which tops Vasilevskiy’s .836. Dallas needed him to be their best player in the conference final and he’ll need to continue that elite form.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Steven Stamkos and Tyler Seguin. Tampa’s captain has been unfit to play this entire postseason, but we’re starting to see him more and more. He has been practicing in recent days, and he joined the team on the ice for the picture with the Prince of Wales Trophy. His ear-to-ear grin was such a welcome sight, and one can only imagine how amped up he would be to make his return in the Cup Final – especially given how much he struggled against Chicago in 2015 (0 goals, 1 assist in 6 games). An effective Stamkos could turn the Lightning into a significant favorite in this series.

When a proven scorer is on a 2-goals-in-20-games slump, that can either be cause for concern, or optimism. The Lightning will be Dallas’ toughest test, so if Seguin stays quiet, then the Stars could have a hard time outscoring the Bolts. Then again, given the Stars made it to this point without much production from Seguin, perhaps he’ll bring a welcome boost and make his team an even tougher out.

What is the biggest storyline for you entering this series?

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Perhaps I’m projecting here (let’s ruminate on a 12-month 2019-20 season, everyone), but fatigue. The hockey’s been so good for much of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs that we feel comfortable burying a player or team because of a bad couple of weeks. That would already be bad during normal circumstances — fear the playoff overreaction — yet it’s especially dangerous now. Sure, it’s understandable that the NHL wants to hand out the Stanley Cup as soon as possible (picture Gary Bettman walking away from an explosion like in an action movie). But you can really see the wear and tear building up. How much gas does Tampa Bay have left in the tank? Stars fans won’t love hearing about that if Dallas runs over the Lightning, yet it’s the elephant in the room, with bags under its eyes.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Honestly it has to just be the very fact that the Stars are even here. This team started the season 1-7 and looked awful while doing so, they went through a surprising mid-season coaching change, and then they beat two of the biggest favorites in the Western Conference while getting badly outshot and even outscored throughout the playoffs. As if that is not enough, they are doing it on the strength of an outstanding goaltending performance, but that performance is not coming from the goalie you would have expected it to come from at the start of the season (Ben Bishop). Everything about this team and its success is mesmerizing.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: The biggest story line has to be who is healthy and who is not. The NHL playoffs usually are at its best in the early rounds, while the Stanley Cup Final is usually a survival of the fittest. It always comes out after a team is eliminated that a bunch of players require surgery and it would not surprise me if the same thing happens in two weeks. There are definitely plenty of injuries that are undisclosed at this time(from blocking shots to absorbing big hits) with the guys just playing through them.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: How much more of an impact can Tampa’s third line make? Barclay Goodrow, Yanni Gourde, and Blake Coleman have been a trio that’s turned into one of the best lines this postseason. We know what Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point can do, but that shutdown line has been incredibly effective. Via Natural Stat Trick, the line has a 57 expected goals rate and have outscored opponents 10-5 at even strength when they’re on the ice. They face a new challenge if they get matched up against Jamie Benn, who’s been in “beast mode” this summer.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Can Anton Khudobin outplay Andrei Vasilevskiy? Vasilevskiy is the best goalie on the planet, and his play this postseason (14-5 record, 1.82 GAA, .931 SV%) gives Tampa the edge in goal … at least on paper. But Khudobin stole Dallas’ Conference Final series against Vegas, and he is having the performance of a lifetime in these playoffs. With Ben Bishop still unfit to play for the Stars, it will be up to Khudobin to continue his magical run and keep the high-flying Lightning at bay.

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

Watch the Lightning-Stars stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

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

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