Under pressure: Mike Johnston

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The Pittsburgh Penguins fired coach Dan Bylsma because claiming division titles isn’t good enough for a franchise trying to win more than one championship while Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are still in their prime. Mike Johnston was hired to do better, but that’s not what happened in 2014-15. Penguins executive David Morehouse claimed that the team never seriously considered firing Johnston after that, but will that change if Pittsburgh fails to live up to expectations again?

Johnston’s Penguins were effective for much of the regular season, but a late season collapse nearly ended their playoff berth streak and they dropped four out of five games against the New York Rangers in the first round. Internally, injuries were reportedly viewed as a primary cause for the Penguins’ 2014-15 shortcomings and it certainly is true that they didn’t have Kris Letang or Pascal Dupuis during that first round series.

At the same time, the team’s scoring depth was a big problem too and it’s one GM Jim Rutherford hopes he addressed this summer with the additions of Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, Eric Fehr, and Matt Cullen. Adding a player of Kessel’s caliber in particular raises expectations, but it also emphasizes the immediacy of the Penguins’ window for a few different reasons.

First and foremost, the Penguins gave up a top prospect in Kasperi Kapanen and a conditional first-round draft pick to get him, further depleting their pool of prospects. Secondly, Phil Kessel will turn 28 in October and while that’s not old even by NHL standards, it is roughly in line with the ages of Malkin, Crosby, Letang, and Marc-Andre Fleury. Of that group, Fleury was the first to enter his 30s and as the rest of them follow suit, diminishing returns will become an increasing concern that’s compounded by the fact that they’re all signed to expensive long-term contracts that consume a lot of Pittsburgh’s cap space.

Which is to say that Pittsburgh can’t afford to be squandering seasons and if Johnston isn’t the guy to lead them to a Stanley Cup championship, then the Penguins have to make a change sooner rather than later. That’s not to suggest that Johnston shouldn’t be the coach in 2015-16, but it does mean that the pressure on him to deliver the best possible outcome couldn’t be higher.

NHL schedule for First Round of 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs

2020 nhl playoff schedule
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The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue on Tuesday, Aug. 11 in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto. The league has released the 2020 NHL playoff schedule for the First Round.

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. The losing teams from the Qualifying Round have been entered into Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery.

Below is the 2020 NHL playoff schedule.

Note: Teams are re-seeded after each round.

EASTERN CONFERENCE (Scotiabank Arena)

No. 1 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 8 Montreal Canadiens (PHI leads 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Philadelphia 2, Montreal 1 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 14: Montreal at Philadelphia, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: Philadelphia at Montreal, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
Tuesday, Aug. 18: Philadelphia at Montreal, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Montreal at Philadelphia – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Philadelphia at Montreal – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Montreal at Philadelphia – TBD

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets (Series tied 1-1)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Lightning 3, Blue Jackets 2 (5OT) (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Blue Jackets 3, Lightning 1 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 15: Tampa Bay at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 17: Tampa Bay at Columbus, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 19: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Tampa Bay at Columbus – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Columbus at Tampa Bay – TBD

No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 6 New York Islanders (NYI lead 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Islanders 4, Capitals 2 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 14: NY Islanders at Washington, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: Washington at NY Islanders, 12 p.m. ET – USA Network
Tuesday, Aug. 18: Washington at NY Islanders, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Thursday, Aug. 20: NY Islanders at Washington – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Washington at NY Islanders – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: NY Islanders at Washington – TBD

No. 4 Boston Bruins vs. No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes (Series tied 1-1)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Bruins 4, Hurricanes 3 (2OT) (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Hurricanes 3, Bruins 2 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 15: Boston at Carolina, 12 p.m ET – NBC
Monday, Aug. 17: Boston at Carolina, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Carolina at Boston – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Boston at Carolina – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Carolina at Boston – TBD

*if necessary

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WESTERN CONFERENCE (Rogers Place)

No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks (VGK leads 2-0)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Golden Knights 4, Blackhawks 1 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Golden Knights 4, Blackhawks 3 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 15: Vegas at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
Sunday, Aug. 16: Vegas at Chicago, 6:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Tuesday, Aug. 18: Chicago at Vegas – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Vegas at Chicago – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Chicago at Vegas – TBD

No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 7 Arizona Coyotes (COL leads 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Colorado 3, Arizona 0 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 14: Arizona at Colorado, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 15: Colorado at Arizona, 3 p.m. ET – CNBC
Monday, Aug. 17: Colorado at Arizona, 5:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Arizona at Colorado – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Colorado at Arizona – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Arizona at Colorado – TBD

No. 3 Dallas Stars vs. No. 6 Calgary Flames (Series tied 1-1)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Flames 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Stars 5, Flames 4 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 14: Dallas at Calgary, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: Dallas at Calgary, 2 p.m. ET – CNBC
*Tuesday, Aug. 18: Calgary at Dallas – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Dallas at Calgary – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Dallas at Calgary – TBD

No. 4 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 5 Vancouver Canucks (VAN leads 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Vancouver 5, Blues 2 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 14: Vancouver at St. Louis, 6:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: St. Louis at Vancouver, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Monday, Aug. 17: St. Louis at Vancouver, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Vancouver at St. Louis – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: St. Louis at Vancouver – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Vancouver at St. Louis – TBD

*if necessary

2020 nhl playoff schedule

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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.

NHL Bubble Wrap: Korpisalo, Heiskanen dominate; Golden Knights take control

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Columbus Blue Jackets 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 1 (Series tied 1-1)

Alexander Wennberg scored a highlight reel goal, Pierre-Luc Dubois had another big game with a pair of assists, and Joonas Korpisalo continued his magical postseason run as the Blue Jackets evened their First Round series with Tampa Bay in a 3-1 win. This was a great bounce back game for the Blue Jackets after losing that five overtime game earlier this week. It would have been easy for them to have nothing left, but they did what they have done all season and simply found a way to get it done.

Vegas Golden Knights 4, Chicago Blackhawks 3 (Vegas leads series 2-0)

The Golden Knights are 5-0 this postseason and new starting goalie Robin Lehner is 7-0 since joining the team at the trade deadline. Reilly Smith scored the game-winning goal in overtime to help the Golden Knights take a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Blackhawks. Vegas is looking like a force right now in the Western Conference and is 16-2-0 in its past 18 games dating back to the regular season.

Carolina Hurricanes 3, Boston Bruins 2 (Series tied 1-1)

Dougie Hamilton scored the game-winning goal against his former team late in the third period to help the Hurricanes even their first round series. Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen also continued their great postseason performances with goals, while James Reimer played great in goal to get the win. The big story in this one, though, was the fact superstar Boston winger David Pastrnak did not play. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game he will probably be a game-time decision for Game 3 on Saturday afternoon.

Dallas Stars 5, Calgary Flames 4 (Series tied 1-1)

This was probably the wildest game of the day. Jamie Oleksiak‘s game-winning goal with 39 seconds to play in regulation helped the Stars pick up a 5-4 win to even the series. That goal came just after the Stars had allowed a two-goal lead to slip away late in the third period. Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk was injured in this game after being sandwiched by Jamie Benn and Oleksiak early in the third period.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets. He is quickly becoming the story of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. After taking the tough-luck loss in a record-setting performance in Game 1, Korpisalo came back on Thursday and stopped 35 out of 36 shots in Columbus’ 3-1 win over the Lightning. In his six appearances so far this postseason he has a .962 save percentage.

2. Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars. The best player on the ice in the Stars’ big win. He scored a pair of goals, while the Stars held a commanding edge in shot attempts (19-10), shots on goal (14-5), and goals (3-0) in his 20 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time. The type of performance you want from a top defenseman in a playoff game. Games like this are why he seems to have a Norris Trophy in his future.

3. Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights. Smith was outstanding for the Golden Knights with an assist, five shots on goal, and the game-winning goal in overtime. He was one of their expansion draft steals and been one of their best players from the very beginning. He has been outstanding this postseason and already has seven points in their first five playoff games.

Highlights of the Night

This is the goal of the day to help the Blue Jackets put the game away against Tampa Bay.

It came in a losing effort, but Patrick Kane had a huge day for the Blackhawks with three assists including this insane pass to set up Dylan Strome late in the second period to tie the game.

Smith gives the Golden Knights the 2-0 series lead with this overtime goal.

Oleksiak finishes a beautiful pass from Corey Perry to give the Stars the Game 2 win.

Factoids

  • Kirby Dach became just the sixth teenager to score a playoff goal for the Chicago Blackhawks in franchise history. [NHL PR]
  • No goalie in NHL history has made more saves in the first two games of a playoff series than Korpisalo has for Columbus. [Sportsnet Stats]
  • Heiskanen is the fourth-youngest defenseman in NHL history to have a multiple goal Stanley Cup Playoff game. [NHL PR]

Friday Schedule

Game 2: Colorado Avalanche vs. Arizona Coyotes, 2 p.m. ET (Avalanche lead series 1-0)
Game 2: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Montreal Canadiens, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Flyers lead series 1-0)
Game 2: St. Louis Blues vs. Vancouver Canucks, 6:30 p.m. ET (Canucks lead series 1-0)
Game 2: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Islanders lead series 1-0)
Game 3: Calgary Flames vs. Dallas Stars, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Series tied 1-1)

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

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.

Stars win crazy Game 2 against Flames; Tkachuk injured

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The Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames wrapped up an exciting Thursday of playoff hockey with what was probably the wildest game of the day.

Even though they let a two-goal lead slip away with less than 10 minutes to play, the Stars were able to escape with a 5-4 win to even their series at one game each.

It was probably not the type of game you would have expected from these two teams given their offensive struggles throughout the season.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak scored the game-winning goal with less than a minute to play in regulation when he found himself alone in the Calgary zone, taking advantage of a blown line change. That goal came just minutes after the Stars had allowed the Flames to tie the game and was set up by a beautiful pass from veteran winger Corey Perry.

Perry also scored a goal of his own earlier in the game.

Oleksiak’s goal is a massive one because it helped the Stars avoid what would have been a devastating collapse that would have put them in a two-game hole in the series. It would have been extremely difficult to climb back out of it.

While leading by two goals with less than eight minutes to play, the Stars were on a power play with a chance to put the game out of reach. It was at that point that Tobias Rieder scored a shorthanded goal to bring the Flames within one. Just a few minutes later, the Flames tied the game on a Sam Bennett power play goal just after Dallas’ Alexander Radulov had been called for an offensive zone penalty.

At that point it appeared as if the game was going to overtime, until Oleksiak scored his winning goal.

He was not the only Stars defenseman that had a huge game on Thursday.

Miro Heiskanen was the best player on the ice for either team, scoring a pair of goals and looking like a future Norris Trophy winner on pretty much every shift.

The numbers paint a pretty striking picture as to how dominant he was in this game. With Heiskanen on the ice during 5-on-5 play (nearly 20 minutes), the Stars held a 19-10 shot attempt advantage, a 14-5 shots on goal advantage, and a 3-0 goals edge with Heiskanen himself scoring two of the goals.

This game also featured a little bit of controversy thanks to a disallowed goal early in the third period.

With the Flames trailing by two, they appeared to get back to within one when Andrew Mangiapane appeared to score a goal five minutes into the period. Upon further review, though, it was determined that Mangiapane had used to a distinct kicking motion to put the puck in the net. What made it such a controversial play is the fact he was being hauled down to the ice as his skate made contact with the puck. The officials saw it as a kick and took the goal off the board.

That play was especially damaging for the Flames because it also resulted in an injury to Matthew Tkachuk.

Just before the Mangiapane sequence, Tkachuk was sandwiched between Jamie Benn and Oleksiak on a play that left him clearly shaken up. He exited the game and did not return.

Game 3 of the series takes place on Friday night.

No. 3 Dallas Stars vs. No. 6 Calgary Flames (Series tied 1-1)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Flames 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Stars 5, Flames 4
Friday, Aug. 14: Dallas at Calgary, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: Dallas at Calgary, 2 p.m. ET – CNBC
*Tuesday, Aug. 18: Calgary at Dallas – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Dallas at Calgary – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Dallas at Calgary – TBD

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

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.

Hamilton’s late goal helps Hurricanes get even with Bruins

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Before Dougie Hamilton was injured earlier this year he was having the type of season for the Carolina Hurricanes that could result in a Norris Trophy.

When healthy, he is a difference-maker on the ice and his return to the lineup for the Stanley Cup Playoffs is a massive addition for a Hurricanes team that looks capable of going on another deep postseason run.

His goal midway through the third period on Thursday night was the game-winner in a 3-2 Hurricanes win as they evened their First Round series with the Boston Bruins at one game each.

Along with Hamilton’s third period tally, the Hurricanes also received a pair of quick goals from Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov just two minutes apart late in the second period.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Overall this probably wasn’t the Hurricanes’ best performance, but they were able to do enough to get the win out while also overcoming a few things along the way.

For one, Brad Marchand‘s game-tying goal with just three seconds to play in the second period could have been a backbreaker. The Hurricanes had just rallied to take the lead and were seconds away from going into the intermission with the lead.

In the third period, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour was unsuccessful on another coach’s challenge as a potential Hurricanes goal had been waived off due to goaltender interference. Brind’Amour challenged the play hoping to get the call overturned arguing that Bruins defense Torey Krug had pushed Teravainen into Tuukka Rask. The officials did not see it that way and upheld the call on the ice, sending the Hurricanes to the penalty kill. They successfully killed that penalty, setting the stage for Hamilton’s game-winning goal. Brind’Amour was extremely critical of a replay decision on Wednesday resulting in a $25,000 fine from the league.

Then, with just a few seconds remaining in regulation, Hamilton made what could have been a costly decision when he went for the empty net in the and was instead whistled for icing, giving the Bruins a late offensive zone face off. That face off ended up resulting in a prime scoring chance right before the buzzer that James Reimer had to turn aside.

Reimer, making his second start of the playoffs, stopped 33 out of 35 shots in the win.

The Bruins played this game without star winger David Pastrnak who was deemed unfit to play just 30 minutes before puck drop. He played 24 minutes in Game 1 of the series on Wednesday, scoring a goal and adding an assist in the Bruins’ double overtime win.

No. 4 Boston Bruins vs. No. 5 Carolina Hurricanes (Series tied 1-1)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Bruins 4, Hurricanes 3 (2OT) (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Hurricanes 3, Bruins 2
Saturday, Aug. 15: Boston at Carolina, 12 p.m ET – NBC
Monday, Aug. 17: Boston at Carolina, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Carolina at Boston – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Boston at Carolina – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Carolina at Boston – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

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.