Contrasting Crosby, McDavid heading into Penguins – Oilers

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As you can see in the video above, NBCSN’s Mike Milbury and Keith Jones discussed the similarities and differences in the games of Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers meet for the last time in 2017-18.

(Assuming, of course, that they won’t face off in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.)

This seems like a fun opportunity to delve even a little deeper. To start, check out this piece about McDavid’s potential to create new hockey fans with his blistering mix of skill and speed.

More than just speed with McDavid

Sometimes it almost seems dismissive to talk about McDavid’s speed. Here’s the thing, though: there are plenty of NHL players who can haul. Some struggle to finish despite having great wheels to varying degrees: Mason Raymond rarely made it work, and Penguins forward Carl Hagelin‘s seen peaks and valleys in his career in that regard.

With McDavid, it’s that he can do such high-skill things and make such smart decisions while baffling defensemen.

Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts for Sportsnet keyed in on this drill, and that story also discussed how Crosby has adapted his techniques during faceoffs (so it’s worth your click).

Evolving games

The fun thing about star athletes is that they rarely seem content with the skills they bring to the table early in their careers. John Tavares ranks among the stars known for revamping his game in big ways, and other sports apply, with Lebron James being a fantastic example.

To little surprise, both McDavid and Crosby show that hunger to not just be the best, but to keep pushing the bar higher.

Crosby’s work in the dot is an obvious example, yet the two centers share an interesting parallel in their leanings on the offensive end. To be specific, both might be pass-first by nature, yet each player is working on becoming more dangerous shooters.

When you look at Crosby’s early scoring stats, his assists dwarfed his goals. That was especially clear in his ridiculous sophomore season back in 2006-07: he scored 36 goals and 84 assists for 120 points in 79 games. Obviously, 36 goals is fantastic, and also a reminder of how much tougher it’s become to score even in the last decade. But it’s interesting to note, nonetheless, that his goals-assist ratio is closer to 1:1 as time has gone on.

So far, Crosby has five goals and six assists. Last year, he generated 44 goals and 45 assists. His actual shots on goal metrics remain reasonably similar from a volume perspective, so a lot of that improvement comes from Crosby working on his shooting skills.

McDavid may follow a similar path, particularly if he parallels Crosby in being surrounded by linemates he needs to carry (so Leon Draisaitl‘s presence could influence this situation). Last season, McDavid scored 30 goals and 70 assists for 100 points, generating the sort of clean numbers that seem to only show up in prognostications.

At the moment, McDavid’s numbers are amusingly similar to Crosby’s: also five goals and six assists. (McDavid’s played three fewer games than Crosby.)

Those five goals aren’t pure happenstance, either, as McDavid’s firing four shots on goal per contest. He wasn’t shy last season, but this represents a full SOG extra per contest. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues all season long.

Frankly, even if McDavid’s shot is good-but-not-great, coaches generally should be delighted when star players are assertive and decide to “call their own number.” (At least, they should in the often excessively deferential NHL.)

Struggling teams

Edmonton (3-6-1) obviously has the more pressing headaches, but Pittsburgh’s suffered some humbling losses despite an OK 7-5-1 record.

Considering their stats, the Oilers can only ask McDavid to try to maintain his level of play, and the same is reasonable with the Penguins and Crosby.

Ultimately, Crosby and McDavid need the Draisaitls, Evgeni Malkins, and other players to win the big team awards that number 87 keeps piling up and number 97 is chasing. Even so, it’s a lot of fun to compare stars like these, and should only get more thrilling as their careers progress.

If their histories are any indication, we haven’t seen all of their tricks just yet.

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.

Hedman leading the way for Lightning in Stanley Cup Final

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Victor Hedman’s skill set as one of the NHL’s best defenseman is well-known. The Tampa Bay Lightning blue liner has been a Norris Trophy finalist in each of the last four seasons, winning the award in 2018.

He’s an all-world defender, one whose offensive game has flourished over the last seven seasons. Since 2013-14, Hedman has hit double digit goals ever year and averaged 55 points per season. Prior to this summer, he’d never scored more than four goals or recorded more than 14 points in one playoff. He’s blown both of those personal bests out of the water this postseason.

Through 22 games, Hedman has 10 goals. He’s currently tied with Bo Horvat, Joe Pavelski and Ondrej Palat for second in the NHL, only behind teammate Brayden Point (11). Only Paul Coffey (12) and Brian Leetch (11) have scored more goals in a single postseason among defensemen. (Hedman did not score in three Round-Robin games.)

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The increase in offense is a result of Hedman shooting more. Since 2015-16, he’s averaged over two shots per game, scoring 56 times over that period. This postseason he’s firing pucks at a 3.22 per game rate and has been held to one shot or fewer only three times.

“When he’s shooting the puck, we’re in a better spot,” Tampa head coach Jon Cooper said last week. “I think he realizes that and we’re definitely taking advantage of it.”

Hedman added to his total this postseason during Wednesday’s 5-2, Game 3 win over the Stars. It was a timely goal coming 54 seconds into the second period after Dallas had cut the lead to 2-1. It was also a power play marker, another sign that the once-struggling special teams unit was back on track.

But ask the 6-foot-6 Swede about his own exploits and he’ll give you the typical hockey player answer.

“I like to contribute offensively, but we’re not here for our personal stats, we’re here for one thing and that’s winning the Stanley Cup,” Hedman said after Game 3. “When I get the puck on my stick, I’ll make a pass or shoot for a goal. Obviously happy with the way things have been going, but at the end of the day it’s about helping our team win, and if it’s by a goal or a blocked shot, it doesn’t really matter to us. The end goal is still the same.”

[2020 Stanley Cup Final schedule]

How dominant has Hedman been this postseason? He is a favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy, but his defensive ability has been unrivaled. According to Natural Stat Trick, when he’s on the ice the Lightning have outscored opponents 24-6 at even strength since the start of the First Round. In all situations, he’s averaged 27:46 of ice time in his last 19 games.

“He’s a pretty determined player,” Cooper said. “He’s been nominated for four straight Norris Trophies, so he’s pretty damn good. His timing and uplifting us at these big moments when we need a boost — overtime winning goals, defensive plays he’s made — the timing of a lot of things he’s done has been remarkable. But I guess if you’re doing great things your timing is always going to be good.”

Timing is everything — whether it’s a goal to increase a lead or a great defensive play to deny a goal scoring opportunity. Denis Gurianov found that out in Game 3.

Hedman has developed the ability to carry his team when other stars are out of the lineup. This Lightning team is deep and can find its own way should he have an off night. But when he’s on, which is more often than not, life isn’t easy for opponents.

Said Tyler Johnson: “I’m pretty thankful he’s on our team.”

You can watch Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final Friday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC and the NBC Sports app.

MORE: Stamkos on Game 3 return: ‘It was a dream come true’

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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.

Lightning-Stars stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final

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NBC’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Thursday’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.

Boosted by the long-awaited and “inspirational” return of Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning got goals from all three of their first-line forwards, their top defenseman and their captain in a threee-goal win to move within two wins of the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. For the second straight game, Tampa jumped out to a multi-goal first-period lead before the Stars got on the board. The Dallas Stars cut the deficit to one entering the second period, but the middle frame was all Lightning, outscoring Dallas 3-0 in large part thanks to a 21-4 shot differential.

After Game 2, Kevin Shattenkirk said, “when we play our best game it’s hard for teams to win.” In Game 3, Tampa played one of its best games this postseason, getting major contributions from its usual suspects in the top line trio and Hedman and also a quantifiable (one goal from Stamkos) and unquantifiable lift from the return of its captain.

The top line of Palat, Point and Kucherov carried the day once again, combining for three goals and six points in Game 3, their second straight game with four-plus points. Point leads all players this postseason with 11 goals and with Palat and Hedman also reaching double-digit goals in Game 3, the trio make Tampa the first team in a decade to have three players with 10-plus goals in the same postseason.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Tyler Seguin has struggled mightily in the 2020 playoffs. The 28-year-old has now gone 12 consecutive games without a goal and has just one assist over that span (which was six games ago). His last goal came in Game 3 of the Second Round vs. Colorado

Along with Seguin, some of Dallas’ other forwards have been quiet recently as well:

Jamie Benn: Zero points this series after ending West Final on a three-game goal streak
Denis Gurianov: Zero points, three shots this series (OT goal and assist in series-clincher vs. Vegas)
Alex Radulov: Zero goals, three assists this series

Tampa can become the first team in the NHL expansion era (1967-present) to win the Stanley Cup the season after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Friday, September 25, 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 2-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

The Wraparound: Will Stars bounce back in Game 4 vs. Lightning?

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down Friday’s Stanley Cup Final game with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

Victor Hedman is the newest player atop the latest Conn Smythe Watch.

• The Penguins sent Patric Hornqvist to the Panthers for Mike Matheson and Colton Sceviour.

FRIDAY’S STANLEY CUP FINAL GAME

Game 4: Stars vs. Lightning (TB leads 2-1) – 8 p.m. ET, NBC (livestream): Boosted by the long-awaited and “inspirational” return of Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning got goals from all three of their first-line forwards, their top defenseman and their captain in a three-goal win to move within two wins of the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. For the second straight game, Tampa jumped out to a multi-goal first-period lead before the Stars got on the board. The Dallas Stars cut the deficit to one entering the second period, but the middle frame was all Lightning, outscoring Dallas 3-0 in large part thanks to a 21-4 shot differential.

After Game 2, Kevin Shattenkirk said, “when we play our best game it’s hard for teams to win.” In Game 3, Tampa played one of its best games this postseason, getting major contributions from its usual suspects in the top line trio and Hedman and also a quantifiable (one goal from Stamkos) and unquantifiable lift from the return of its captain.

The top line of Palat, Point and Kucherov carried the day once again, combining for three goals and six points in Game 3, their second straight game with four-plus points. Point leads all players this postseason with 11 goals and with Palat and Hedman also reaching double-digit goals in Game 3, the trio make Tampa the first team in a decade to have three players with 10-plus goals in the same postseason.

Tampa can become the first team in the NHL expansion era (1967-present) to win the Stanley Cup the season after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Tyler Seguin has struggled mightily in the 2020 playoffs. The 28-year-old has now gone 12 consecutive games without a goal and has just one assist over that span (which was six games ago). His last goal came in Game 3 of the Second Round vs. Colorado

Along with Seguin, some of Dallas’ other forwards have been quiet recently as well:

Jamie Benn: Zero points this series after ending West Final on a three-game goal streak
Denis Gurianov: Zero points, three shots this series (OT goal and assist in series-clincher vs. Vegas)
Alex Radulov: Zero goals, three assists this series

“They’ve got to figure it out, it’s as simple as that,” said Stars head coach Rick Bowness. “They’re our top-end guys. You’ve got to give them the ice time to get going, they’re getting that. They’ve got to figure it out. They need some help from other guys, but they’ve got to figure it out.”

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 2-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

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 (TB leads 2-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*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)