Pre-game reading: Is better ice the key to more scoring?

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— Up top, the resurrection of Alexander Radulov has been quite the story in Montreal.

Corey Crawford has an interesting theory on how to increase scoring in the NHL. It’s not smaller goalie equipment; it’s better ice. “I’ve always thought the real issue isn’t goalie equipment. The issue is ice. If you can make ice like the way it is in Colorado, the way it is in Washington, Edmonton — you make the conditions like that for every game in every rink, guys are going to score. … You watch a game where the ice is just horse[bleep] — it makes a huge difference. ” (Chicago Sun-Times)

— Speaking of horse[bleep] ice…the New York Islanders! Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News think the Isles need to see what they’ve got in youngsters like Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang. Kennedy writes: “Admittedly, I’ve only watched Bridgeport once this season, but I don’t think that giving them a couple of games in The Show would foment a sense of entitlement – think of it as motivation. A call-up in 2016-17 is no guarantee of a roster spot in 2017-18.” The Isles could certainly be an interesting team to watch as the trade deadline approaches. Veteran forwards like Nikolay Kulemin and Jason Chimera aren’t going to be part of the future. If Garth Snow can move their salary, or even part of their salary, it might be wise to do it. (The Hockey News)

Marian Hossa is the 10th-oldest player in the NHL. How has the 38-year-old winger maintained such a high level of play? The answer: Hard work. “He’s one of the best professionals, the way he carries himself, prepares every day,” teammate Ryan Hartman told Sports Illustrated. “He’s always here early, even after games he’s in the gym doing some type of stuff to keep his body in shape. The way he presents himself, it helps us young guys, for sure, to learn from him.” (SI)

— A profile of Nolan Patrick, the likely first overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft. Writes Postmedia’s Michal Traikos: “Some have called him the second coming of Anze Kopitar, because he has off-the-charts hockey IQ and already plays a mature, two-way game. With a dad (Steve) and an uncle (James) who both played in the NHL, Patrick understands the subtleties of the game. When he was 16, the Wheat Kings matched him up against Leon Draisaitl, who was two years older and already drafted, in the WHL final.” (National Post)

— Patrick was, indeed, the first overall pick in Adam Kimelman’s mock draft over at NHL.com. The second pick was another center, Gabriel Vilardi. The third was also a center, Nico Hischier. In fact, of Kimelman’s top 10 picks, six were listed as centers. While there may be no obvious, future superstar like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews in this summer’s draft, there’s still plenty of talent to be had — especially down the middle, apparently. (NHL.com)

Enjoy the games!

Khudobin, Stars bottle Lightning in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

Stars win Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final as Khudobin stifles Lightning
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The Dallas Stars beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 in Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. With the opening contest in the books, the two teams will lock horns in Game 2 on Monday (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN: livestream).

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Stars win Game 1 of 2020 Stanley Cup Final on the strength of strong second period

Both the Lightning and Stars got off to a pretty sleepy start to begin Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. Tampa Bay and Dallas combined for just nine shots on goal during the opening frame.

To start the scoring, Stars defenseman Joel Hanley scored his first career NHL goal — not just in the postseason, but regular season included. From there, Yanni Gourde received credit for a 1-1 goal that was a result of a series of bounces.

Considering the fatigue the Lightning brought from their punishing series against the Islanders, Tampa Bay probably wasn’t upset about entering the second period tied 1-1. It seemed like they had a little more “juice” during the middle frame, as well.

Unfortunately for the Lightning, that didn’t really bother the Stars. Jamie Oleksiak found all sorts of time to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy for his fifth goal of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, continuing an unlikely string of offense. To be fair, this was an impressive snipe by the towering former first-round pick:

Speaking of unlikely strings of offense, Joel Kiviranta also kept his magical run going. The winger got to his own rebound to score his fifth goal of this postseason with less than 30 seconds remaining in the second:

Khudobin shines during third period

You can look at the way the Lightning and Stars played during the third period of Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final in a variety of ways. Down 3-1, were the Lightning merely turning up the pressure? Conversely, could we charge the Stars with sitting on a lead?

Judging by how Anton Khudobin is playing, it’s getting tougher and tougher to blame the Stars if they believe the veteran can steal a period or three.

Khudobin certainly did that here, making some highlight-reel saves and holding the Lightning off the board despite some big late pushes. Both at even-strength and on the power play, the Bolts put a ton of pressure on the Stars.

Ultimately, only that funky 1-1 goal got by Khudobin (35 out of 36 saves). Remarkably, Jason Dickinson‘s empty-netter ended up being the only goal of the third.

After winning Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final vs. the Lightning, the Stars are that much closer to their second championship as a franchise, and Khudobin closes in on a possible Conn Smythe. For all the Lightning have been through, this marks the first time Tampa Bay has trailed in a series during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (DAL leads series 1-0)

Game 1: Stars 4, Lightning 1
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

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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 (DAL leads 1-0)

Game 1: Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
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)

Stanley Cup on display for Stars-Lightning Game 1 of final

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EDMONTON, Alberta — Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final got under way between the Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night with the trophy stationed rinkside inside the NHL bubble.

For all the usual tradition of the Cup only getting to the arena when a team has the chance to win it, playing without fans allowed the league to put it front and center for the players to literally see what they’re playing for.

Dallas last won it in 1999 and Tampa Bay in 2004. The Stars’ core is in the final for the first time and several Lightning players and coach Jon Cooper are back after losing in 2015. It’s the first time these teams have faced off in the final.

These teams are banged up but have most of their players on the ice. The Lightning are missing Steven Stamkos, but the injured captain could return later on. Winger Radek Faksa and defenseman Stephen Johns remained out for the Stars.

This is the first final in NHL history to feature two Russian starting goaltenders, with Dallas’ Anton Khudobin vs. Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. Cooper against Rick Bowness is also the first time a coach has faced a former assistant in the final.

Lightning-Stars stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final

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NBC’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Saturday’s Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Lightning and Stars. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch the Lightning-Stars stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Lightning have been one of the most successful teams in the NHL in recent years, but have been unable to win the ultimate prize. Over the past six seasons, Tampa has made at least the Conference Final in four of them, with this being their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in that span. On each previous occasion, the Bolts lost to the eventual champions.

Given the manner in which Tampa has lost in prior years, this 2020 squad has been clearing hurdles at every stage. In the First Round, the Lightning avenged last year’s sweep by beating Columbus in five games. In the Second Round, they got past the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins. And in the Conference Final, after multiple years of failing to close out East Final opponents, the Lightning outlasted the Islanders with a gritty series win.

Rick Bowness was named interim head coach on Dec. 10 after Dallas relieved Jim Montgomery of his duties for “unprofessional conduct.” Bowness, 65, was drafted by the Atlanta Flames in 1975 and has played or coached in the NHL almost every year since – including a stint working for Jon Cooper in Tampa. Bowness is the oldest head coach in the NHL, and has never been part of a Cup-winning team.

According to the NHL Coaches Association, this is the first Cup Final in history where the head coach on one team had previously served as the assistant of the other.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Saturday, September 19, 7:30 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

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