Pro Hockey Talk’s own Jason Brough and Mike Halford (or is it Halford and Brough?) tackle some of the biggest issues of the week, including the steadily improving Vancouver Canucks, John Tortorella’s fine and the many suspensions. Feel free to marvel at their remarkably similar outfits if you’d like, as well …This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
The Vancouver Canucks are moving on.
They eliminated the Minnesota Wild on Friday night with a 5-4 overtime win that saw them come-from-behind on three different occasions.
Defenseman Chris Tanev scored the series-clinching goal just 11 seconds into overtime, giving the Canucks their first series win since the 2010-11 season.
That goal is tied for the second-fastest OT goal in NHL postseason history (Brian Skrudland scored nine seconds into overtime in a 1986 game for the Montreal Canadiens).
The overtime winner!
— #StanleyCup Qualifiers on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) August 8, 2020
The win for the Canucks now sets the eight-team playoff field in the Western Conference (Vegas, Colorado, St. Louis, Dallas, Calgary, Vancouver, Arizona, Chicago) while the actual matchups will be determined when the round-robin phase is concluded this weekend.
Tanev’s goal on Friday is the first postseason goal of his career and capped off a massive game that saw him finish with three points (goal, two assists) in 24 minutes of ice-time.
Along with the game-winner, he also assisted on Bo Horvat‘s game-tying goal with just under six minutes to play in regulation.
At one point the Canucks trailed this game 3-1 and quickly erased it thanks to a pair of goals from Brandon Sutter and Quinn Hughes just 84 seconds apart midway through the second period. Hughes, one of the finalists for the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year and a significant part of the Canucks’ young core, was one of the Canucks’ most impressive players on Friday by logging a team-high 27 minutes of ice time and recording a pair of points. Keep in mind he is still only 20 years old and along with Horvat, Brock Boeser, and Elias Pettersson gives the Canucks a wonderful quartet of young stars to build around.
As for the Wild, this has to be a brutally disappointing result.
When the 2019-20 regular season was paused they were one of the hotter teams in the Western Conference and making a strong push for a playoff spot. It was far from a given that they would play their way in, but they at least gave themselves a chance. Then they opened this series by shutting out the Canucks in Game 1, giving themselves an early edge in the series. They were unable to build on that thanks to a couple of clunkers in Games 2 and 3, and then Friday’s game where they allowed multiple leads to slip away with their season on the line.
It is entirely possible that this game will be the last time Mikko Koivu, one of the finest players in franchise history, suits up for the Wild.
Next for the Wild: Phase 2 of the 2020 NHL draft lottery on Monday where they will have a 12.5 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick.
(7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (10) Minnesota Wild (VAN wins series 3-1)
The Toronto Maple Leafs were four minutes away from being completely buried.
Four minutes away from having the longest offseason this core of players had ever had to deal with in terms of criticism and scrutiny.
Four minutes away from maybe dealing with the possibility of major changes coming to a team that — to this point — has been unable to get over the hump in the postseason.
That is when the madness started.
Just 24 hours after blowing a three-goal lead to lose in overtime, the Maple Leafs flipped the script and erased a three-goal deficit with four minutes to play in regulation to force overtime. It was there that they completed one of the most improbable comebacks in postseason history when Auston Matthews scored a power play to give the Maple Leafs a 4-3 win.
And with that, everything comes down to a winner-take-all Game 5 on Sunday for the right to advance to the field of 16 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It really cannot be understated as to how insane all of this was, and the perfect confluence of events that needed to happen for Toronto to win this game.
For 56 minutes the Maple Leafs were unable to solve Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins, and when Boone Jenner scored with under seven minutes to play in the third period to give his team a three-goal lead everything seemed over in Toronto.
But with Frederik Andersen pulled for the extra attacker, Toronto started to chip away.
William Nylander started the comeback with 3:57 to play when he scored a goal that — at the time — seemed to be pointless window dressing.
When John Tavares scored less than a minute later to cut the deficit to one, things really started to get interesting.
Even then Toronto needed some extra help to go its way.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, the Game 3 hero for Columbus, had an opportunity to put the game away with an empty-net sitting in front of him, only to have his shot hit the outside of the net. Just a few moments later, Gustav Nyquist failed to gain the red line with the puck when he could have taken a shot at another empty net and gave the puck away, giving Toronto another chance.
The Maple Leafs did not waste the chance. With just 23 seconds to play in regulation Zach Hyman scored the game-tying goal to send the game to overtime. Matthews scored midway through the period, capitalizing on a Nick Foligno tripping penalty.
With that, Toronto now has a chance to salvage what could have been a disastrous postseason appearance. And who knows, if they lose Game 5 on Sunday all of the things mentioned up at the top (the criticism, the scrutiny, the potential changes) could still happen. This is, after all, a team that is supposed to compete for a Stanley Cup. Losing in the play-in round after three straight Round 1 exits would be awful for the perception of this core. But this win gives them a chance to fight another day and change the narrative around this team. If they do manage to do that and go on a postseason run from here, those four minutes are going be talked about for years.
As for Columbus, well, this has the potential to be the stuff of nightmares.
They had this game — and the series — all but won. If you go buy the win probability stat, they had a 99.3 percent chance of winning this game with five minutes to play.
Columbus had a 99.3% chance of winning pic.twitter.com/HhKciF6CzT
— Evolving-Hockey (@EvolvingHockey) August 8, 2020
All they had to do was avoid a meltdown, and they would have been a giant slayer for the second year in a row. But the meltdown happened.
The Blue Jackets were never supposed to be in this position this season after losing Sergei Bobrovsky, Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene to free agency, and then dealing with a season-long run of injuries. No one would have blamed them or given it a second thought if they badly regressed or fell off the map. If they are unable to bounce back in Game 5 on Sunday this is going to be the game that will be impossible for them to shake. It was right there. They had it.
Now it all comes down to Sunday.
Honestly, it is the perfect game — and perfect series — for the unpredictable mayhem that the 2019-20 season has been.
(8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (9) Columbus Blue Jackets (Series tied 2-2)
Sunday, Aug. 2: Blue Jackets 2, Maple Leafs 0 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Maple Leafs 3, Blue Jackets 0 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Blue Jackets 4, Maple Leafs 3 [OT] (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Maple Leafs 4, Blue Jackets 3 [OT]
Sunday, Aug. 9: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs (if necessary), TBD
NBCSN’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Friday’s Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup between the Canucks and Wild. Coverage begins at 10:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Canucks-Wild Game 4 stream at 10:45 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
After being shut out in Game 1, Vancouver responded with a 4-3 win over Minnesota in Game 2 and followed that up with a 3-0 victory in Game 3 on Thursday. Now the Canucks will look to win on back-to-back days and clinch their first playoff series win since 2011, when they made it to the Cup Final.
“Our players need to gain experience in these type of games, but we’re not just here to get experience,” said Canucks head coach Travis Green. “We want to win the games.”
Minnesota missed the playoffs last season and is now in danger of losing in the opening round of the postseason for the fourth time in the last five years.
WHAT: Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Friday, August 7, 10:45 p.m. ET
ON THE CALL: Chris Cuthbert, Louie DeBrusk
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Canucks-Wild live look-in stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.
(7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (10) Minnesota Wild (VAN leads 2-1)
Sunday, Aug. 2: Wild 3, Canucks 0 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Canucks 4, Wild 3 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Canucks 3, Wild 0 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Canucks vs. Wild, 10:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Wild vs. Canucks*, TBD
The Oilers put up a good fight with their season on the line in Game 4, but the way it ended was still quite embarrassing as the Blackhawks advanced with a 3-2 win. With that, the 12th-seed Blackhawks advance to the First Round via a 3-1 series win.
For the most part, the Oilers avoided the sort of stinker of an effort to end their season that, say, the Penguins were guilty of. Yet, with the way things ended, the Oilers still ended their season with frustration and embarrassment.
With their season on the line, the Oilers were whistled for a too many men on the ice penalty with 2:02 left in the third period. Edmonton had been pushing Chicago pretty hard to try to tie what was a 3-2 game, but that became a tougher task when emptying the net merely made the final moments even-strength.
Toews, Kubalik, Crawford make it happen for Blackhawks vs. Oilers in Game 4
To start the series, Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik outgunned Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and the Oilers. They repeated some of that magic in Game 4, including Toews setting up Kubalik for the game and series-clinching goal.
Game 4 of Blackhawks – Oilers started wildly enough that it seemed like this would be another one of those video-game-style scoring fests. Connor McDavid set up Josh Archibald for a 1-0 goal just 45 seconds into Game 4, and it was 2-2 mere minutes in the second period.
Consider a big mistake averted the possible turning point.
Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat took an egregious boarding penalty when he hit Oilers defenseman Ethan Bear. Edmonton would get a major power-play opportunity for the trouble, but couldn’t cash in. That happened in part because Darnell Nurse took a penalty during that opportunity, yet it was still the sort of moment you highlight if the game ended up being close.
And it was largely up to Corey Crawford to turn a Game 4 of trading haymakers into something the Blackhawks could manage.
Crawford finished Game 4 with 41 saves, including all 18 during a frantic third period. While goaltending was a mess for the Oilers whether it was Mike Smith or Mikko Koskinen in net during this series, Crawford stood tall at key times for Chicago.
Now all the Oilers have going for them is second-guessing moments like squandering that major power play. Oh, and hearing a lot of NHL Draft Lottery jokes between now and Monday’s drawing.
(5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (12) Chicago Blackhawks (CHI wins series 3-1)