The Chip ‘n’ Chase: Enough with all the shootouts, imagining an all warm-market Stanley Cup Final, and more!

34 Comments

Every Wednesday we publish a little back-and-forth we have via email. We call it the Chip ‘n’ Chase. Yes, it’s a terrible name. Enjoy.

Jason Brough: Hey buddy, so you know how they say it’s important to have a purpose in life? I’m excited to say that I think I found mine. Something that will get me out of bed every day. Something that will drive me every hour I’m awake. And that something is…KILLING THE SHOOTOUT. Or, at the very least, making sure it’s not deciding so many games. Because it really is getting ridiculous. Did you know that one of the teams we’ll see tonight on NBCSN, the Washington Capitals, has gone to the shootout 14 times this season? That’s almost a third of their games being decided by hockey’s version of the home-run derby, or basketball’s version of the 3-point contest, or golf’s version of the long-drive competition, or football’s version of…I dunno…what do they do at the Pro Bowl — surfing? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the actual act of the shootout, which can be quite entertaining. I just have a huge problem with so many valuable points being awarded to the winner of a competition that proves nothing about the quality of a hockey team.

Mike Halford: Not to be ageist, but that made you sound super old. Like, there’s a good chance you dictated that for your grandson to type out, then wrote him a $13 check for his birthday. I just don’t get what the big deal is. I’ve yet to hear a coach or player from a non-playoff team say, “Our downfall this year? Shootout, 100 percent.” And what’s the alternative? While I greatly respect the opinions of you and John Tortorella, saying you hate something without suggesting a viable alternative is a bit like complaining about the weather. What instead of the shootout — 4-on-4 followed by 3-on-3, then 2-on-2, then bubble hockey?

JB: Like I said, if shootouts can’t be eliminated outright, I would settle for fewer of them. Five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime, if it’s not settled 4-on-4, would accomplish that. Is 3-on-3 still gimmicky? Yeah, maybe a bit. But at least it involves all the elements of hockey, like skating, passing and defending. And while I’m at it, I’d also like to see a different points system, one that gives teams more of an incentive to win in regulation. Give them three points for getting the job done in 60 minutes. Just imagine how fun that would be down the stretch. Picture a team that needs to climb the standings going all out to get the full three points. Am I holding my breath waiting for that to happen? Nope, because that sort of system could lead to a wider gap in the standings between the haves and have-nots. The NHL’s worked so hard to achieve its parity; it probably doesn’t want to be like the English Premier League, where three points are awarded for a win and — let’s see here — after 21 games, first-place Arsenal has three times as many points as last-place Crystal Palace. As an English football announcer might say in his English-football-announcer way, all hope is surely lost now for Palace.

MH: There might be less parity in the NHL than you think, old boy. Anaheim is on 75 points, top of the league, while Buffalo sits bottom of the table with 31. Meanwhile, can Florida escape the relegation zone? One thinks they’ll have to be busy in the transfer window to make a push. (We should write more in English-football-announcer speak. You could call me Nigel if it helps.) Anyway, let’s steer this back towards hockey — well, sort of hockey. Have you seen what they’re putting in Dodger Stadium for the outdoor game between the Kings and Ducks? An ice rink, a street hockey rink, a beach volleyball court, two music stages and a bunch of palm trees. Here’s a rendering:

source:

The NHL also booked KISS as the headline act. KISS! That’s pretty indicative of how much the league is thriving now compared to a few years ago when, y’know, it had Chaka Khan doing the awards show.

JB: I absolutely love the planned set-up at Dodger Stadium. It’s basically a huge middle finger to everyone back east struggling through awful weather. They should have a tanning area too. And girls walking around in bikinis. Everyone always rips the warm-weather markets for not being true hockey markets anyway. Might as well embrace it. Get a load of the forecast for Jan. 25, the day of the game:

source:

Sunny with a high of 73 and a low of 54. Just a nice comfortable day. Aaaaaaaand cue all the terrible jokes about the ice melting. The game isn’t until the evening, so I’m pretty sure it’ll be fine. And if the ice does melt, oh well, everyone can just hang out and drink some margaritas.

MH: Now take it a step further and imagine an all warm-market Stanley Cup Final. Because if there’s a year for it to happen, this might be it. The California contingent is obviously in the mix — all three are in the NHL’s top seven — and Tampa Bay has played really well since the Stamkos injury (16-10-4). I think we should be talking much, much more about the Lightning. This is a team that’s played nine rookies and remains neck-and-neck with Boston for second place in the conference. It’s not by fluke, either. According to those fancy nerd stats you’re always droning on about, the Bolts rank pretty high.

JB: Oh man, Canada would lose its collective mind if there was an all warm-market final. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the last time a Canadian team won the Cup was 1993, when Montreal beat Gretzky and the Kings — since then, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Anaheim, and L.A. have each celebrated championships, and a team from Canada has lost in the final five times. I agree with you about Tampa Bay, by the way. The Lightning might be the most underrated team in the NHL. If I had to vote for a coach of the year right now, it would be Jon Cooper. And if I had to vote for the Vezina, it would be Ben Bishop. I was also pretty surprised Sweden left Victor Hedman off its Olympic roster. True, Pittsburgh and Boston probably have a better shot of coming out of the East than T-Bay, but does any Canadian squad have a better chance of making the final out of either conference? You could argue Montreal or even Ottawa in the East, but I don’t think so. Tom Sestito’s Vancouver Canucks are still probably the best Canadian team out of all seven, but their chances in the West look awfully grim.

MH: Even with Tom Sestito?

JB: Even with Tom Sestito.

Lightning vs. Stars: 3 keys to Game 6 of Stanley Cup Final

Stanley Cup Final Game 6
Getty
Leave a comment

The Tampa Bay Lightning have another chance to win the Stanley Cup on Monday night when they take on the Dallas Stars in Game 6 (8 p.m. ET, NBC, LiveStream) of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

The Stars were able to extend the series on Saturday night with a double overtime thriller in Game 5 that was capped off with Corey Pery’s overtime winner.

Will they be able to keep the series going one more game?

Or will the Tampa Bay Lightning win the Stanley Cup for the second time in franchise history and for the first time since the 2003-04 season?

We find out tonight.

Here are the three keys to watch for going into Game 6 on Monday.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

1. Penalties

It really is pretty simple for the Stars right now. Stay out of the penalty box, give yourself a chance. Keep taking penalties, watch the Lightning skate around with the Stanley Cup.

The Stars were penalized just one time in their Game 5 win on Saturday, a major shift from what we saw from them in Games 2-4 of the series when early penalty troubles helped put them in a hole they could not climb out of.

The Lightning power play is too dangerous to keep putting on the ice, and that is especially true for the Stars right now as they are still dealing with injuries to three of their top penalty killing forwards (Radek Faksa, Blake Comeau, Roope Hintz). The Lightning still have the superior talent throughout their lineup, but if the Stars can keep things 5-on-5 it certainly increases their chances of tying things.

Even though the Lightning have controlled the possession, scoring chances, and expected goal numbers, the Stars actually have a slight 12-10 goals advantage during 5-on-5 play in the series.

Special teams have been the difference on the scoreboard.

2. Tyler Seguin

The Stars’ top line was under the microscope earlier due to their scoring slump.

Seguin in particular was having a difficult stretch as he was in the middle of a 12-game stretch where he recorded just a single a point (an assist in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final).

He still has not scored a goal in 14 consecutive games, but he has started to make a far more noticeable impact over the past two games of the Stanley Cup Final. It is during that stretch that he has an assist on five of the Stars’ eight goals, including each of Joe Pavelski‘s game-tying goals in the third period to send each game to overtime.

The Stars are getting some big contributions right now from Pavelski and Corey Perry, but getting something from their top players (including Seguin and Jamie Benn) would be a really significant boost.

3. Lightning top line

They are one of the keys to the game because they are quite simply a key to every game this postseason.

Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point are both leading the Conn Smythe race, while Ondrej Palat has been a perfect complement to the superstar duo.

When that trio is on the ice during 5-on-5 play in this series the Lightning are controlling more than 70 percent of the total shot attempts and have outscored Dallas by a 6-3 margin in just over 71 minutes of hockey, and it has not mattered who the Stars have tried to use against them in an effort to slow them down.

No one has been able to do it.

Just as no one on any team has been able to do it this postseason.

Point is tied for the league lead in playoff goal scoring.

Kucherov is leading the league in total points and has at least one point in 18 of the Lightning’s 24 games, including nine multi-point games.

At least one of those two has been on the ice for 48 of the Lightning’s 77 goals (62 percent!) this postseason, while the two of them have been on the ice together for 37 of those goals (48 percent), while they have also posted dominant shot and possession numbers.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-2)

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)
Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

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.

 

Pavelski signing paying off when Stars needed it most

Joe Pavelski Stars
Getty
Leave a comment

If the Dallas Stars have been known for anything during the Jim Nill era it has been their willingness to make a big splash every offseason.

Since Nill was hired as the team’s general manager in 2013 they have consistently been one of the big “winners” of the offseason.

Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, Alexander Radulov, and Ben Bishop have been just some of the notable players the Stars have acquired under Nill’s watch. They were at it again this summer when they signed free agents Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski.

The hope was that they could serve as the missing pieces for what was an incredibly top-heavy team that was one game away from the Western Conference Final a year ago.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Both players have made a significant impact in the Stanley Cup Final as the Stars attempt to pull off another stunning upset in the 2020 playoffs.

Perry was the Game 5 hero on Saturday night by scoring a pair of goals, including the game-winner in double overtime to send the series to Game 6 on Monday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, LiveStream).

Perry’s deal was always a very low-risk move because it didn’t really require the Stars to make any kind of a significant investment. It was a one year contract for $1.5 million, and if he turned out to be washed up it was not really costing them anything. He didn’t make a huge impact during the regular season, but he has been more noticeable in the playoffs, including his Game 5 heroics on Saturday.

Pavelski was the more significant addition.

As well as the bigger risk.

During his peak, Pavelski was one of the league’s top goal scorers and a cornerstone piece in San Jose. Even though he was entering his age 35 season was still coming off of an absolutely massive 38-goal performance for the Sharks a year ago and still seemed to have a little something left in the tank. Even if he did not duplicate that success — and no one should have expected him to — he still figured to add some much-needed balance to a Stars lineup that was only getting consistent offense from one of its lines a year ago.

The Stars landed him with a three-year, $21 million contract in free agency.

In the beginning, things were not working out all that well.

[Lightning vs. Stars: 2020 Stanley Cup Final schedule]

In his first 13 games with the Stars Pavelski had managed just two goals, an assist, and was barely averaging more than one shot on goal per game. There was almost no impact. Given the contract and the expectations, he was probably one of the most disappointing players on what had been a wildly disappointing start for the Stars.

But starting in February he really started to catch fire and play like the impact forward Dallas was hoping to acquire, finishing the regular season with six goals and 12 total points over his final 17 games.

That improved production has continued into the playoffs.

Entering Game 6 on Monday, Pavelski is tied with Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point for the postseason lead in total goals (13) and even-strength goals (10), and has been especially hot in the Stanley Cup Final. He has already scored four goals in the first five games of the series, including a massive, season-saving goal late in the third period to tie Saturday’s game and send it to overtime. That overall production, as well some of his big moments (a hat trick in the First Round, for example) have helped put him on the Conn Smythe watch list.

Maybe Pavelski won’t be a $7 million player in the third year of his contract. Maybe he’s not even one right now. But the bottom line for the Stars is this: They were a Game 7 double overtime loss away from being in the Western Conference Final a year ago despite only having one line that presented itself as a serious scoring threat. They needed somebody else to make an impact to help get them over the hump and get closer to a championship.

They paid Pavelski to make an impact in these games. And he has. Exactly when they needed him to make an impact. If he helps them get two more wins and complete an absolutely improbable postseason run to a championship, through what would be an absolutely remarkable series of teams, no one in Dallas is going to care what the salary cap hit is.

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-Stars stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final

Leave a comment

NBC’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Monday’s Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Lightning and Stars. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch the Lightning-Stars stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Facing elimination for the second time this postseason, the Stars overcame a third-period deficit and won the first Cup Final double-overtime game since 2014 to deny the Lightning the title and force Game 6. In what was the second set of a back-to-back, two aging offseason signees were the difference for Dallas as 36-year-old Joe Pavelski tied the game with 6:45 remaining in regulation and 35-year-old Corey Perry ended the second overtime game in as many days with his put back 9:23 into the second extra session.

Pavelski has now scored 13 goals, tied with Brayden Point for the most in these playoffs. He’s one shy of his total in the 2016 playoffs (14) when he led all players in the only other postseason he reached the Cup Final. That series against Pittsburgh, Pavelski had a goal in 6 games – his only point in the series. In this Cup Final, he has four goals in five games (all in last four games).

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

In two games facing elimination this postseason, Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin has stopped 79 of 85 shots, with both wins coming past regulation. With a win in Game 6 he will have the second-most victories in a single postseason in franchise history.

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper announced Sunday that captain Steven Stamkos will not appear the rest of this series, meaning if Tampa wins the Cup it’ll be the first time since the Flames in 1989 that a team has a captain not play in the Cup-clinching game.

Historically, a 3-1 series lead in the Cup Final has almost guaranteed an eventual Cup victory, with teams converting 33 times in 34 total tries. The only time a team blew a 3-1 lead in the Cup Final was in 1942, when Detroit lost to Toronto after leading the series 3-0.

WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Monday, September 28, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
ON THE CALL: Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Stars stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-2)

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)
Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

NHL announces ninth straight week with zero positive COVID-19 tests

NHL Covid-19 Tests
Getty
Leave a comment

As the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars get closer to the crowning of a new Stanley Cup Champion, the NHL reported that it has gone a ninth straight week with zero positive COVID-19 test results from their postseason bubble.

The league said on Monday it has conducted 33,174 tests since the Phase 4 portion of its Return To Play plan began in late July with zero positive test results coming back.

That includes the 774 tests that were conducted during the week of September 20 through September 26.

The NHL’s postseason featured 24 teams reporting to two hub cities (Toronto and Edmonton) in late July with strict mask and social distancing measures in place. Each team was permitted to carry a 52-member traveling party with them into the bubbles, with each person undergoing daily testing.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The league has not had a positive COVID-19 test result since mid-July when it had two positive results during Phase 3 (full training camps) of its return. Prior to that there were 43 positive tests during the Phase 2 (small group workouts at team facilities) portion.

The Eastern Conference played it Round-Robin, Qualifying Rounds, and First-and Second Rounds of the playoffs in Toronto, while the Western Conference played its games in Edmonton.

The Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final have been played in Edmonton.

If the Lightning win Game 6 on Monday night it will wrap the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the bubble experience. If Dallas wins they will have one more game on Wednesday night.

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.