Playoffs Today: Penguins, Islanders look for series edge

42 Comments

We got back-to-back doubleheaders today, starting with two afternoon games on NBC before the action moves to NBCSN in the evening.

All of the games can be watched on NBC Sports Live Extra in addition to the channels mentioned below.

Game 3: New York Islanders host Pittsburgh Penguins (12:00 p.m. ET, NBC)
Series tied at 1-1

Sidney Crosby made his return in Game 2 on Friday and led the Penguins to a 3-1 lead through 20 minutes. Pittsburgh had already taken Game 1 by a score of 5-0, so it looked like they might be too much for the eighth seed Islanders. Instead the Islanders scored three unanswered goals in the last two periods to even the series.

“For us being in the playoffs and losing the 1st game the way we did, this game was a little bit of a statement game,” Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov said.

But can the New York Islanders build off of that victory? They were just 10-11-3 at home this season, including two losses against Pittsburgh. At the same time, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma doesn’t want to underestimate the boost the Islanders will get in Nassau Coliseum during the playoffs.

“Our players have not seen this building like the way it’s going to be tomorrow,” Bylsma said in a Newsday report. “It’s going to be loud and it’s going to be a pretty crazy building.”

Brian Engblom will join play-by-play commentator Dave Strader.

Game 3: Minnesota Wild host Chicago Blackhawks (3:00 p.m. ET, NBC)
Blackhawks lead series 2-0

Going into this season, we saw three of the last four Presidents’ Trophy winners get booted from the playoffs in the first round. So far the Chicago Blackhawks have managed to defy that trend.

They were dominant from start to finish in the regular season, winning frequently in both blowouts and one-goal contests. That ability to compete in all situations should serve them well in the postseason and it certainly has so far.

All the same, Wild coach Mike Yeo isn’t giving up hope.

“Because we’re down 2-0, it doesn’t mean this series is over,” Yeo said. “I’ve been a part of series where we’ve come back from being down 2-0 and I know there’s other people on our team who have as well.”

Analysts Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire will be on hand for NBC, as will play-by-play commentator Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick.

Game 3: Ottawa Senators host Montreal Canadiens (7:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Series tied at 1-1

This series has been emotional on and off the ice, from controversial hits to verbal brawling.

Both teams have taken a game, which means the Montreal Canadiens will need to win at least one game in Ottawa in order to advance past the first round.

Montreal has a fantastic 15-7-2 road record while the Senators might have some trouble keeping the Habs’ faithful out of Scotiabank Place.

Randy Hahn will be the play-by-play guy for NBCSN’s doubleheader and he’ll be joined by Brodie Brazil, Bret Hedican, and Drew Remenda.

Game 3: San Jose Sharks host Vancouver Canucks (10:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Sharks lead series 2-0

The Sharks took Game 2 in dramatic fashion with Patrick Marleau netting the tying goal with just 56 sec remaining in regulation time. Raffi Torres then completed the comeback at 5:31 of the overtime period.

“We’re a bunch of veterans,” Sharks’ captain Joe Thornton said. “All of us have played in so many playoff games, the calmness is scary sometimes.”

Thornton has never won the Stanley Cup before and he’s running out of chances, but the same can be said for Vancouver’s Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

The Canucks have the same veteran presence as the Sharks, both have been dominant forces in the regular season for years, and neither franchise has ever won the Stanley Cup. Neither team wants to see another year end in failure as their core players gradually head towards the decline of their careers.

NY governor says pro teams can resume training

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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

2 Comments

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

11 Comments

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

————

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.