Corey Crawford dominates as Blackhawks blank Flyers

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Heading into Wednesday’s game, Corey Crawford‘s hot start to 2017-18 might have been slipping under the radar.

The Philadelphia Flyers are probably painfully aware now, if they weren’t already. Crawford was dazzling on Wednesday, stopping all 35 shots on goal as the Chicago Blackhawks won 3-0.

Again, this wasn’t Crawford’s first strong performance of the season. It was, however, his first shutout of this campaign. He came into the night with an already-stellar .935 save percentage, quietly cleaning up messes and maybe even obscuring at least a portion of Chicago’s rather worrisome issues on defense.

With a .918 career save percentage, Crawford probably already ranks as underrated, but he’s been so strong during the past few seasons that he deserves to get more “elite” mentions that he receives. Wednesday serves as a big, flashing arrow to that point.

The Blackhawks improve to 6-5-2 on the season, and there were some positives, including Jonathan Toews breaking a short slump with a breakaway goal against Brian Elliott:

Still, there were plenty of opportunities for the Flyers, even beyond that high shot count. Eddie Olczyk noted at least seven odd-man rushes during the contest, and there were some dangerous opportunities for the likes of surging Flyers scorer Sean Couturier.

Either way, the Blackhawks will take it. After a 4-1-1 start, Chicago was reeling, having gone 1-4-1 before tonight’s win. They face a challenging weekend back-to-back and then take on the Flyers in Philly in eight days.

The Flyers have to be at least a little frustrated, as they’re slipping a bit in their own right. This defeat leaves them 1-3-1 in their last five games. They merely tied Chicago with 35 shots on goal apiece, so they probably want to do a little work in their own end, too.

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 Power Rankings: Point, Hedman, Kucherov still lead Conn Smythe race

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The Tampa Bay Lightning need just one more win to capture the Stanley Cup for the second time in franchise history. If they are able to get it the Conn Smythe Trophy debate is going to be as close as it has been in years between their top-three players — Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Victor Hedman — as all of them have a great argument for it.

We take a look at the ongoing race for the Conn Smythe in our weekly NHL Power Rankings.

The Lightning have another chance to get that win on Monday night in Game 6 (8 p.m. ET, NBC; livestream) against the Dallas Stars.

Since the Lightning are the closest team to winning the Cup they definitely have the top-three favorites as of this moment, but a lot can change if the Stars win Game 6 on Monday.

Who all makes the Conn Smythe watch in our latest update?

To the rankings!

1. Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning. It is really difficult to differentiate between Point and Kucherov right now. They play on the same line, they are equally dominant, they are both deserving. Point gets the slight edge right now for the simple fact that he already has four goals and seven total points in the Cup Final, and going back to the earlier rounds of the playoffs has two overtime winning goals, including a series-clincher. He has an NHL best 13 total goals and 10 even-strength goals this postseason.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

2. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning. One of the finest postseason performances we have seen from a defenseman in years. He controls the game at an absurd level and enters Game 6 on Monday having already scored 10 goals in 24 playoff games. He is only one goal away from matching his regular season total that he reached in 66 games. But it is not just the goal-scoring that makes him so dominant. He is simply the most complete defenseman in the NHL right now for his ability to shut things down defensively, control the transition game, and be a major factor in the offensive zone.

3. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. In most years his performance would make him a slam-dunk Conn Smythe winner, and it a testament to the overall brilliance of Point and Hedman that it is even a debate at this point. It is not just the overall production that stands out, but the consistency as well.

4. Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars. I don’t know that he has been quite as dominant in the Cup Final as he was in earlier rounds, but he has still been the Stars’ best and most consistent player from the moment the postseason began. He is still their top scorer (as a defenseman!) and best overall player. A rising superstar in the NHL.

5. Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars. A big-time late push from the Stars’ big free agent acquisition. After a somewhat underwhelming debut regular season, Pavelski has proven to be exactly what the Stars wanted — and needed — in the playoffs to help balance out their offense, taking some of the pressure off of their top line. His 13 goals are tied for the league lead in the playoffs (with Point) and he already has four in the Stanley Cup Final. The biggest of those four was his game-tying goal late in Game 5 to send it overtime, setting the stage for Corey Perry‘s game winner.

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

6. Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars. After a slow start to the Cup Final, Khudobin came through in a big way in Game 5 to extend the series. Do you know what would rapidly make him get back closer to the top of this race? Two more dominant starts to pick up wins.

7. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning. It is still a little wild that Vasilevskiy has played every minute for the Lightning this postseason and has a .920-plus save percentage and is barely even an afterthought in the Conn Smythe discussion. But given the performance of the top-three Lightning players he just does not really have much of a chance. He has still be great. Just as he always is.

8. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars. It has been an incredible postseason for Benn and a nice reminder that he can still be a productive top-line player. But his offense has gone a little cold in the Cup Final and barring two massive performances to power a series comeback that will hurt him in the Conn Smythe race.

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 ‘turning the page’ after missing first chance to clinch Cup

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It was a missed opportunity, but the Tampa Bay Lightning still hold the series lead. Up 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Final, they get a second chance to hold a celebration at center ice inside Rogers Place Monday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC; livestream) against the Dallas Stars.

One thing that has defined this Lightning team in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs has been their ability to bounce back. Of the 24 games they’ve played inside a bubble this postseason, Tampa has only lost seven of them. Each loss has been followed up by a win, making them 6-0 since the Round-Robin after a defeat. The last time they posted consecutive losses was their two final games before the March NHL pause.

“The sting after a game, for both teams, whenever they lose, is usually that night,” said head coach Jon Cooper. “But the next day, I can only speak for our team, we’ve done a pretty good job of turning the page. When you are that close, you can sit here and say you can taste it, but in the end, we’re still up 3-2 in the series, and we feel pretty decent about our game, so let’s bring it [Monday] night and see what happens.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

In Tampa’s minds, Corey Perry‘s goal in double overtime Saturday night was just delaying the party. After Mikhail Sergachev scored early in the third period, the Lightning were 16:22 away from winning their second Cup in franchise history. Joe Pavelski had other ideas.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, knowing you were a goal away from winning it all. But there are still two games max to play, and Tampa holds has the advantage in the series.

“We can’t rewrite history,” Cooper said. “We can’t go back and say, ‘What if.’ There were so many times in these playoffs that we were like, ‘Holy cow, I can’t believe we did that, or we did this.’ So that’s happened way more than second-guessing a missed shot or a post here.

“We’ve got a plan. It’s gotten us this far and we fully believe it’ll get us through the end.”

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

MORE: Lightning rule out Steven Stamkos for rest of Stanley Cup Final

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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 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 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

[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)

The Wraparound: Stars try to force Game 7 vs. Lightning

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

• Lightning captain Steven Stamkos has been ruled out for the rest of the Cup Final.

Don’t expect a bubble situation for the 2020-21 NHL regular season.

MONDAY’S STANLEY CUP FINAL GAME

Game 6: Stars vs. Lightning (TB leads 3-2) – 8 p.m. ET, NBC (livestream): 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.

This was the first game this series in which neither team led by more than one goal at any point. Game 5 was the second straight game in which there was a lead change after zero such occurrences in the first three games this series.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The three oldest players on the ice in Game 5 were the difference makers as Perry and Pavelski scored all of Dallas’ goals and 34-year-old Anton Khudobin stopped 39 of 41 shots including all 11 faced in the overtime sessions. Perry and Pavelski, the two oldest players on the Stars, were long-time division rivals on their former clubs, and were signed the day free agency opened on July 1, 2019. Both were brought on to provide experience and although neither is the prolific goal-scorer they once were, the Stars got what they paid for with the timely scoring the two have provided in these playoffs. For Khudobin, a journeyman goalie starting in the postseason for the first time, he’s now two wins away from history and maybe a Conn Smythe Trophy.

Tampa became first team in NHL history to clinch all three series in overtime en route to reaching the Cup Final, but they were unable to win a fourth OT-series clincher, at least not yet. Head coach Jon Cooper compared his team’s situation now to the East Final, when they led the Islanders 3-1 and lost Game 5 in double overtime and then came back two days later and closed out the series in Game 6.

“We were in this spot before in the last series,” he said. “We had a 3-1 [series] lead, and coincidentally we lost in overtime in that one too. We’ve felt this feeling before, we’ve felt this sting, and then we’ve rebounded.”

The Lightning have yet to lose consecutive games this postseason – 5-0 following a loss since the First Round. They last lost consecutive games on March 8th and 10th – their final two games before the pause.

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