Oilers, Smyth agree on two-year, $4.5 million deal

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Captain Canada has agreed to stay put — on Canada Day.

How apropos.

That’s the word out of Edmonton today as the Oilers announced they’ve re-signed Ryan Smyth to a two-year, $4.5 million contract. The deal comes roughly an hour before Smyth was set to hit unrestricted free agency, a scenario neither the club nor 36-year-old forward wanted to unfold.

It was last July when Smyth forced a trade to Edmonton — from sunny Los Angeles, no less — and famously stated “I bleed Oiler blue.” That suggested Smyth was primed to finish his career in his beloved Oil Country, but that (potentially) happy ending hit a snag when the two sides were unable to come to terms during May/June negotiations.

Funny what deadlines can do.

As for the contract, the price and term seem to suggest the Oilers brought Smyth back for his veteran leadership abilities rather than offensive output.

He registered just 46 points in 2011-12 — his lowest total in four years — and projects to be in a third-line role behind young guns Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky.

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: Steven Stamkos and Tyler Seguin. 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)

Stunning Numbers: Stanley Cup Final edition

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During the 2019-20 NHL season we will take an occasional look at some stunning numbers from around the league. Here is what has stood out to us so far as we start the 2020 Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC, Livestream). 

0 — This number represents the number of penalty minutes that Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen has taken in the playoffs (excluding the Round-Robin Phase) in 470 minutes of hockey.

Without any other additional context that number is impressive enough.

In that many minutes, over that many games, at that position, playing that role, you would have to think that at some point his stick would get in the wrong place, or he would get caught holding, or … just … anything. But he hasn’t.

What makes the number truly stunning is that he has spent most of that time playing against some of the league’s best players.

An absolutely sensational postseason.

61 percent — The percentage of Tampa Bay’s goals this postseason that one of Nikita Kucherov and/or Brayden Point has been on the ice for.

To break it down even further:

  • When both are on the ice the Lightning are averaging 5.37 goals per 60 minutes (all situations) and 4.51 goals during 5-on-5 play.
  • If only one is on the ice: it 3.75 goals per 60 minutes (all situations) and 3.45 goals during 5-on-5 play.
  • When neither is on the ice: 1.66 goals per 60 minutes (all situations) and 1.66 during 5-on-5 play.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

.950 — The save percentage for Stars goalie Anton Khudobin during the Western Conference Final. He allowed only eight goals in five games on 161 shots on goal.

9 — The number of goals scored by Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman this postseason. That is tied for the third-most ever in a single postseason for a defenseman, trailing only Paul Coffey (12 in 1984-85) and Brian Leetch (11 in 1993-94). Coffey reached his mark in 18 games while Leetch did so in 23 games. As of Saturday Hedman has played in 19 games this postseason.

9 (again) — The number of goals for Stars forward Denis Gurianov, tied for the team lead. He was also the Stars’ leading goal-scorer during the regular season. This number is stunning because he still only plays 14 minutes per game (after playing only 12 minutes per game during the regular season). If you break it down to a per-60 minutes basis, Gurianov’s 1.83 goals per 60 minutes during 5-on-5 play is the third highest total in the playoffs among the 297 players that have played at least 100 minutes. His 1.91 goals per 60 minutes in all situations is sixth highest. He has been one of the most efficient goal-scorers in the entire league.

185:17 — the number of overtime minutes the Lightning have played this postseason, the most ever for a single team in a single postseason. The previous record was 175:10 by the 1993-94 New Jersey Devils. The Lightning have played six overtime games this postseason with a 5-1 record. All three of their series were clinched with an overtime win in the deciding games (goals by Point, Hedman, and Anthony Cirelli). This stat via NHL PR.

4 — The number of game-winning goals for Stars forward Alexander Radulov in the playoffs. In 37 career playoff games before this season he had only two game-winning goals.

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.