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Wednesday Night Hockey: Blackhawks need shake up in goal

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

For the first time in a long time, the Chicago Blackhawks came into a season with a goaltender that could push Corey Crawford or at least fill in for him if he were to sit out for an extended period of time. Bringing in Robin Lehner was smart because he makes them better at the position and he came with a low-risk, one-year contract. But what do they do between the pipes after this season?

Both Lehner and Crawford are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on July 1st. That means that the Blackhawks can blow up the position and go in a totally different direction this summer if they want to do that. That could be a tempting way to go.

It’s not surprising to see Crawford’s play has dropped off quite a bit over the last couple of years. He’s missed so much time with concussions and vertigo that it was only normal that he was going to start to dip at some point. Also, he’s 34 years old so this is natural regression too. His expiring contract will free up $6 million on the cap.

As for Lehner, he was unable to find a long-term contract when he hit the market last July, so he opted to sign a one-year, $5 million deal with the Hawks in free agency. Overall, he’s put up much better numbers than Crawford and he’s been more consistent.

But the reality is, if the Blackhawks decide to go in a completely different direction between the pipes next season, they’d be able to free up a significant amount of salary. Sure, they’d have to find and pay two other goalies, but they’d likely be able to do so at a much lower cost.

Obviously, they could also decide to bring back one of the two, which would make sense from their perspective. As of right now, you’d have to believe that if they bring one guy back, it should be Lehner. The 28-year-old is younger than Crawford and he has a 7-6-4 record with a 2.87 goals-against-average and a .924 save percentage. On the flip side, Crawford owns a 6-9-2 record with a 3.08 goals-against-average and a .908 save percentage.

Every team was reluctant to commit to Lehner last summer. Will that change next July?

Lehner’s proven to be a solid goaltender. He can get the job done. But given where the Hawks are as a franchise right now, it might make more sense to just go in a different direction completely. They haven’t made the playoffs in years, they’re in the basement of the Western Conference standings as of right now and they just seem stuck as a franchise.

What’s the best option(s)?

They could always opt to sign someone in free agency, they can draft and develop someone until their ready to takeover, or they can make a trade to land a new body.

If you look at the potential free-agent list for 2020, Braden Holtby‘s name jumps out at you right away. He’s a former Stanley Cup Champion, he’s 30 and he’s going to be expensive. Holtby is older than Lehner, but he’s a much more proven commodity. If the Capitals can’t find a way to get their starting netminder under contract, Chicago would have to be considered a landing spot for him. But again, the Blackhawks just aren’t very good. Does committing to a player like Holtby make sense?

Instead of drafting someone and waiting for them to develop into a starter, they could also just make a move for a young goalie that’s being groomed in a different organization.

For example, Cayden Primeau in Montreal would be a perfect candidate for the Blackhawks. The Canadiens already have Carey Price, Primeau is two years removed from being drafted, he’s already in the professional ranks, and he’s been reliable during his first AHL and NHL stints.

This seems like the best way to go.

It doesn’t necessarily have to Primeau, but the Canadiens have been scouting the Blackhawks and their farm team quite a bit over the last few weeks, so this is the example that makes the most sense in this case.

Can general manager Stan Bowman pull something like that off?

Kathryn Tappen will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones and NHL insider Darren Dreger. For the first time, NBC Sports will feature two ‘Inside-the-Glass’ commentators on this week’s Wednesday Night Hockey broadcast, as Eddie Olczyk will join analyst Brian Boucher to call the action from ice-level. John Forslund will handle play-by-play duties from United Center in Chicago, Ill.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Sharks name Bob Boughner head coach, finalize coaching staff

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The San Jose Sharks finalized their coaching staff on Tuesday by announcing that Bob Boughner has officially been named the team’s head coach, removing the interim tag that he had in the second half of last season.

Boughner replaced Peter DeBoer as the team’s head coach in mid-December.

With Boughner behind the bench the Sharks finished the season with a 14-20-3 record.

They had been 15-16-2 with DeBoer.

Along with the official hiring of Boughner, the team also announced that it has added former Rocky Thompson as an associate head coach and long-term NHL forward John Madden as an assistant coach.

“Bob did a tremendous job last season, getting our group back to playing with an identity and structure that we need in order to be successful,” said general manager Doug Wilson in a statement released by the team. “We saw a marked improvement in our play in several key areas during the second half of the season, before losing some key players to injury.

“We’re also very pleased to add Rocky and John to our staff. Both come with a wealth of experience, both in playing the game and as teachers and leaders. With a healthy and motivated group of players, we are confident that this staff will do a terrific job leading our group in the coming years.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Sharks were one of the most disappointing teams in the league during the 2019-20 season, going from the Western Conference Final a year ago to the bottom of the NHL standings.

Making matters worse, they did not even have a lottery pick having traded it to the Ottawa Senators two years earlier for defenseman Erik Karlsson.

Injuries certainly played a role in their decline, but they also struggled to replace forwards Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi after they left in free agency, while also doing nothing to fix their goaltending issue.

There is still a lot of talent on the roster, but some of their core pieces are getting older. They also still have to address the goalie situation.

This is Bougher’s second head coaching job in the NHL. He was also the head coach of the Florida Panthers for two seasons.

He joined the Sharks as an assistant prior to the 2019-20 season.

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.

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 (Series tied 1-1)

Game 1: Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Game 2: Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
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)

Hockey Culture: Gary Bettman, Kim Davis on plans for diversity in the sport

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Welcome to Hockey Culture, the NBC Sports multi-platform content offering dedicated to bringing equality and inclusion to hockey. Led by NBC Sports’ Anson Carter, Hockey Culture addresses contemporary topics within the sport, aim to promote diversity around the game , and increase community engagement.

This week, Anson talks with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Kim Davis, the league’s senior executive vice-president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs. They discuss why the players and league agreed to take a two-day pause in August to stand in solidarity with the fight against racial injustice, the importance of zero tolerance at hockey’s youth level, and the approach the expansion Seattle Kraken have taken to create a diverse organization.

Bettman and Davis also give their vision of what progress in these areas looks like in five years.

Be sure to also check out Anson’s piece in the virtual Stanley Cup Final program, “All Aboard: Making Hockey Truly For Everyone.”

Subscribe to NBC Sports on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/nbcsports

You can watch previous episodes featuring Ryan Reaves, Darnell Nurse, Kelsey Koelzer, Harnarayan Singh, and more by clicking here.

Parade to penalty box could prevent Stars Stanley Cup parade

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EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — There is no telling what a championship parade might look like in a pandemic. If the Dallas Stars don’t stop taking so many penalties, they won’t have to worry about that.

It’s hard to win a hockey game taking three penalties in the first 13 minutes, especially against a dangerous power play that can snap the puck around with ease.

That is exactly what the Stars did to open Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, digging themselves a hole too deep to climb out of and allowing the Tampa Bay Lightning to tie the series with two crucial power-play goals in a 3-2 win.

”That’s where we lost the game,” said Stars forward Mattias Janmark, who took the first penalty of the game. ”We don’t want to take penalties. We have taken way too many throughout the playoffs. But then, I think, when we get them, we’ve just got to go out and kill them and we didn’t manage to do that today and I think that’s where they won the game.”

At 5-on-5, Dallas is outplaying Tampa Bay and may only have its lack of discipline to blame for not being up 2-0. Penalty trouble is finally hurting the Stars, who have taken by far the most minors this postseason and must fix the problem to keep their title hopes alive.

”We need to stay out of the box. It helps,” veteran forward Joe Pavelski said. ”When we stay out of the box, we’ve showed it so far that we’re a good team.”

Dallas has defied convention by committing so many penalties and reaching the final. The penalty kill led by goaltender Anton Khudobin deserves credit for that.

Forward Jason Dickinson conceded Sunday the Stars ”take a lot of penalties in the playoffs.” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer in the last round pointed out his team was facing the most penalized team in the playoffs, so he expected a lot of calls against Dallas.

It’s now 106 to be exact, 104 of them minors compared with 86 for Tampa Bay. The Stars got away with three penalties in quick succession in the third period of Game 1 because of Khudobin, but they didn’t in Game 2.

Just 25 seconds after Pavelski was whistled for tripping, Brayden Point scored on a perfect one-timer. When Jamie Oleksiak was called for holding, Ondrej Palat finished a perfect passing play and scored a goal Khudobin had almost no chance of stopping.

”The penalties got us in trouble,” interim coach Rick Bowness said. ”It was an even game until we started taking penalties.”

Tampa Bay’s power play had been ice cold with a drought of 14 in a row and just one goal in its last 18. But from Victor Hedman up top to top-liners Point, Palat and Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn in front, there is too much talent on the Lightning power play to stay off the board for long.

”I think just scoring that first goal is big,” Point said. ”I don’t know if it’s a sense of relief – just happy to get a goal.”

There might be more goals in the future for a power play coach Jon Cooper called ”streaky.”

Consider that injured captain Steven Stamkos seems on the verge of returning. He hasn’t played since February because of core muscle surgery and various setbacks, but if his main purpose is simply to stand in the faceoff circle and fire one-timers, that makes the Lightning power play all the more dangerous.

”Immediately you’re concerned with the impact he’ll have on their power play,” Bowness said. ”He changes the whole look on the power play. So that’s a big factor. We take three penalties like we did one period (Saturday) night, they’re going to do some damage with Steven out there and his ability to one-time the puck.”

And this series is building up some dislike quickly, which will only increase the penalty numbers in Game 3 on Wednesday night and beyond. After a heated scrum late in the second period Monday, there was no room for all three Lightning players to sit in the penalty box.

The box is a place the Stars want to avoid as much as possible the rest of the series. If they succeed and win it, they can take the Stanley Cup there to celebrate.