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NHL Bubble Wrap: Goalies rule the day, underdogs keep winning

  • Sunday’s action included a rare buzzer-beating game-winning goal
  • Some dominant goaltending performances
  • More underdogs getting wins

Arizona Coyotes 4, Nashville Predators 3 (Coyotes lead series 1-0)

Pekka Rinne‘s run of 89 consecutive playoff starts came to an end for the Predators on Sunday when Juuse Saros got the call against the Coyotes. It did not go well from the very beginning. A fluke goal off the stick of Oliver Ekman-Larsson opened the floodgates as Arizona stormed out to an early 3-0 lead. The Predators attempted to rally and make it a game late in the third period, but the early deficit was too much to overcome as the Coyotes took Game 1 of their qualifying round series. Predators coach John Hynes did not commit to a starting goalie for Game 2 on Tuesday.

Philadelphia Flyers 4, Boston Bruins 1

The Flyers were rapidly climbing the standings before the season was paused and they took a big step toward securing the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference on Sunday when they beat the Boston Bruins in the opening of round-robin play. The Flyers received goals from four different players (all depth players: Scott Laughton, Michael Raffl, Nate Thompson, and Philippe Myers) while Carter Hart stopped 34 shots in goal.

Colorado Avalanche 2, St. Louis Blues 1

Easily the best finish of the postseason (so far). Nazem Kadri‘s buzzer beater with just 0.1 seconds to play in regulation gave the Colorado Avalanche a 2-1 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues. It capped off a dominant power play performance to end the game.

Columbus Blue Jackets 2, Toronto Maple Leafs 0 (Blue Jackets Lead Series 1-0)

The worst possible start to the postseason for the Maple Leafs. Not only did they lose to the Blue Jackets, but they did not even score a single goal in a 2-0 loss. Even without fans in the stands the pressure on the Maple Leafs is going to be immense and that is only going to increase as they find themselves down in the qualifying round. Losing in the first round every year is bad enough. Losing in this round would be inexcusable.

Minnesota Wild 3, Vancouver Canucks 0 (Wild lead series 1-0)

Jared Spurgeon was outstanding for Minnesota on Sunday night by factoring into all three goals (scoring of them himself) and playing his usual steady game defensively. The Wild used a pair of power play goals and a rock solid defensive game to shut down the Canucks’ young stars and take an early series lead.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets. At the start of the season goaltending was the big question mark for the Blue Jackets. But the tag-team duo of Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins played a huge role in helping the Blue Jackets stay in the race, and on Sunday it was Korpisalo getting the shutout in his first career postseason start. He was definitely challenged a bit and had to make some big saves, and every single time he was up to the task.

2. Alex Stalock, Minnesota Wild. Goaltending was always going to be a big X-factor for the Wild this season, but the popular consensus was that it was going to be Devan Dubnyk backstopping the team to success. It has turned out to be Stalock that is giving the Wild a chance. His play during the regular season helped get them back into the playoff race, and on Sunday night he stopped all 28 shots he faced in a 3-0 win over the Canucks.

3. Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers. Hart is the player that could make the Flyers an absolutely terrifying team in the postseason. They have been waiting for a franchise goalie for decades in Philadelphia, and they might finally have one. He was brilliant on Sunday afternoon against Boston, stopping 35 out of 36 shots to help the Flyers stay white hot (carrying over their hot streak from the end of the regular season) to get two points closer to the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Highlights of the Night

Kadri’s buzzer-beater is (so far) the play of the postseason.

Korpisalo’s best save of the night was this robbery of Auston Matthews.

This is by far the flukiest goal of the day.

Factoids

  • Kadri’s buzzer-beating goal is just the second game-winning goal scored at the 19:59 mark of the third period in Stanley Cup Playoff history. [NHL PR]
  • Spurgeon is the first defenseman in Wild franchise history to have three points in a Stanley Cup Playoff game. [NHL PR]
  • Korpisalo is only the 14th goal in NHL history to record a shutout in his postseason debut. [NHL PR]

Monday Schedule

Game 2: Rangers vs. Canadiens 12 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Hurricanes lead series 1-0)

Round Robin: Capitals vs. Lightning, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN

Round Robin: Golden Knights vs. Stars, 6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN

Game 2: Canadiens vs. Penguins, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Canadiens lead series 1-0):

Game 2: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Blackhawks lead series 1-0)

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.

Sharks name Bob Boughner head coach, finalize coaching staff

Sharks coach
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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.