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Erik Karlsson faces big pressure to live up to new contract

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the San Jose Sharks.

In some ways, the pressure is off Erik Karlsson.

Certainly, he can breathe a sigh of relief after the roller coaster that was last season.

Karlsson had to slug through most of the 2018 offseason surveying the wreckage of the Ottawa Senators, only being traded to the San Jose Sharks in September before the 2018-19 training camp. From there, he had to get used to new teammates and new surroundings, settling into a culture that’s already been established.

Oh yeah, he also had to hope that his body would hold up during a crucial contract year, which was a pretty significant gamble.

Now Karlsson is settled in. His contract is mammoth: eight years, $92 million, which means his AAV is $11.5M. To start, Karlsson receives $11M in a signing bonus, plus another $3.5M in base salary. That money, combined with previous career earnings, means that his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and so on should be taken care of. Karlsson even has a no-movement clause through the full extent of that contract, which runs through 2026-27.

So, from an existential standpoint, the heat is off.

But for a player whose critics have piled up along with his individual trophies, this contract also brings with it an exceptional portion of pressure.

[MORE: 2018-19 Review | Three questions | X-factor]

Karlsson, 29, is at an unclear fork in the road. Was 2018-19 a physical blip on the radar – did he just merely put off surgery, and he’ll be good as new? – or is his body breaking down after all of those years of carrying the Senators, not to mention after suffering injuries freakish enough that Eugene Melnyk wanted to order crime scene investigations? Will Karlsson be hobbled for the rest of his career, or will we at least be treated to a few more runs of Karlsson at his best, which ranks as some of the best work we’ve seen from a modern defenseman?

The Sharks are certainly paying him to play that role.

Karlsson carries the highest cap hit of any defenseman, easily outranking fellow Sharks star defenseman Brent Burns‘ $8M, which isn’t exactly cheap either. The closest comparable is Drew Doughty‘s, who received the same basic deal, only his kicked in a year earlier, at slightly lower rate of $11M.

The Doughty – Karlsson comparisons can be thorny, especially if you play into Doughty’s side, noting the two Stanley Cup rings and low-mistake peak, arguments Doughty hasn’t been shy to lean into himself. Conversely, you could use Doughty’s immense struggles in 2018-19, merely the first year of his current deal, and note that big defenseman contracts can become regrettable almost from day one.

As forward-thinking as the Sharks have been in letting an aging Joe Pavelski walk (and Patrick Marleau before him), San Jose still seems to be in something of a “win-now,” or at least soon, mode.

Burns is, somehow, 34 already. Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s lost many steps at 32. Logan Couture is 30, and Erik Karlsson himself is 29. As fantastic and in-their-primes as Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl are, the majority of the Sharks’ core players are guys who could hit their aging curves, hard. And maybe soon.

A possibly closing window, and all that money, puts the pressure on Karlsson. If the Sharks fall short, people will probably blame Karlsson much like they blamed Marleau and Joe Thornton back during their peak years with San Jose. Even if it’s really about goaltending.

Karlsson isn’t a stranger to pressure. He was the top guy in Ottawa, and someone whose mistakes were amplified for those who wanted to elevate a Doughty-type Norris usurper. Yet, even during those times, expectations weren’t often all that high for Senators teams — how often were they labeled underdogs? — and Karlsson was a relative bargain at his previous $6.5M cap hit.

Now he’s the most expensive defenseman in the NHL, and only $1M cheaper than Connor McDavid, the highest-paid player in the entire league.

Combine all of those factors, and you’ll see that Karlsson is under serious pressure in 2019-20.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Blackhawks-Golden Knights stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup First Round

Blackhawks-Golden Knights stream
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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Thursday’s First Round matchup between the Blackhawks and Golden Knights. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Blackhawks-Golden Knights stream at 5:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

While it was still unclear in the lead up which Vegas goalie would start Game 1, Robin Lehner ended up getting the nod against his former club, and was nearly perfect – letting in just one goal to remain undefeated since joining the Golden Knights at the February trade deadline (six wins).

Reilly Smith scored his first goals this postseason in Game 1 after netting a career-high 27 during the regular season. Smith is Vegas’ all-time leader in postseason points (33 in 31 games played) after leading the team in that category in the 2018 playoffs when the Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final.

The Blackhawks averaged 4.00 goals in their four-game series against Edmonton but could not get things going on Tuesday as Kane (127 career playoff points) and Toews (117 career playoff points) combined for three shots and zero points. Calder Trophy finalist Dominik Kubalik led the team with five shots. David Kampf, playing in his first postseason, had Chicago’s lone goal, his first playoff tally.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vegas Golden Knights
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Thursday, August 13, 5:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Brendan Burke, AJ Mleczko, Pierre McGuire
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Blackhawks-Golden Knights stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

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

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Golden Knights 4, Blackhawks 1 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Chicago at Vegas, 5:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
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

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

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 (TB leads 1-0)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Lightning 3, Blue Jackets 2 (5OT) (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Columbus at Tampa Bay, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN
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 (BOS leads 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Bruins 4, Hurricanes 3 (2OT) (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Carolina at Boston, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
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 1-0)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Golden Knights 4, Blackhawks 1 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Chicago at Vegas, 5:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
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 (CGY leads 1-0)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Flames 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Calgary at Dallas, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
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

————

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.

Hurricanes coach Brind’Amour ‘moving on’ after NHL fine

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TORONTO — Rod Brind’Amour wasn’t going to risk another $25,000 fine from the NHL.

The Carolina Hurricanes coach provided a short, four-word answer, Thursday, when asked if he had anything more to add a day after being fined for calling the league ”a joke” in criticizing an officials’ ruling on a goal challenge.

”Fortunately, nope. Moving on,” Brind’Amour said, during a Zoom conference call from his team’s Toronto hotel hours before the Hurricanes played Game 2 of their first-round series against the Boston Bruins.

Brind’Amour caused a stir a day earlier following a 4-3 double-overtime loss, after which the NHL fined him $25,000 for his comments, and issued him a conditional $25,000 fine for any similar comments he might make over the next calendar year.

Initially upset he wasn’t asked about the officials’ ruling during a post-game news conference, Brind’Amour later voiced his complaints to several publications which cover the Hurricanes.

At issue was how officials dealt with the Hurricanes challenging Charlie Coyle‘s second-period goal, which put Boston up 2-1.

The puck was batted by a Bruins’ player’s hand and fell into the crease, where Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek made an attempt to smother it. Coyle poked the puck loose and scored.

Brind’Amour told the Raleigh News & Observer that in preparing to make his challenge, referees Chris Lee and Francis Charron declined to reveal their on-ice ruling regarding the goal. That left Brind’Amour with having to make a decision over whether to challenge goalie interference or whether play should have stopped because of an illegal hand pass.

Brind’Amour’s challenge of an illegal hand pass was denied because Lee ruled Mrazek had possession of the puck even though play wasn’t stopped, leading to the possibility of goalie interference. Teams are only allowed one challenge per goal.

”They wouldn’t tell you. It makes no sense,” he was quoted telling the newspaper. ”This is why the league’s a joke, in my opinion, on these things. … That one is a crime scene.”

Though the Hurricanes were penalized for delay of game following the failed challenge, Brock McGinn scored a short-handed goal 11 seconds later to tie the game.

Blue Jackets-Lightning stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup First Round

Blue Jackets-Lightning stream
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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Thursday’s First Round matchup between the Blue Jackets and Lightning. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Blue Jackets-Lightning stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Game 1’s five-overtime thriller went down as the second-longest game in the modern era, and the fourth-longest game in NHL history (150:27 total game time). After Yanni Gourde tied things up at 2-2 just 23 seconds into the third period, it took over 110 minutes before Brayden Point beat Joonas Korpisalo midway through the fifth overtime.

Point’s 5OT winner was his second goal of the game – he also scored Tampa’s first goal, 6:27 into the game. There were 144 minutes of game play between Point’s two goals.

Last season, Columbus became the first team in NHL history to sweep a Presidents’ Trophy winner in the opening round when they beat Tampa Bay in four games in the First Round. In last year’s Game 1, Tampa led 3-0 in the first period before the Blue Jackets stormed back, scoring four unanswered goals (three in the 3rd period) to win. This year’s Game 1 went much differently for Tampa Bay, who persevered through Korpisalo’s 85 saves to win.

WHAT: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
WHERE: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto
WHEN: Thursday, August 13, 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Gord Miller, Mike Milbury, Brian Boucher
HOW TO WATCH: You can watch the Blue Jackets-Lightning stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 7 Columbus Blue Jackets (TB leads 1-0)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Lighting 3, Blue Jackets 2 (5OT) (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 13: Columbus at Tampa Bay, 3 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
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

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule