Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights: 5 things to know about their First Round series

The First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins August 11. Before the NHL postseason resumes play, PHT will preview each of the eight opening round matchups, including Blackhawks and Golden Knights.

1. Robin Lehner vs. the Blackhawks is a legit storyline …

… But not really because of awkwardness. Ultimately, the Blackhawks merely signed Lehner for a single season, and he only played (very well) for them in 33 games. That’s not exactly the equivalent to bumping into your ex-spouse and their new significant other after a turbulent, decades-long marriage.

Not that there’s anything wrong with playing it up for laughs.

Still, it’s a situation to watch, because the Blackhawks badly need to “get to” the goalie they’re facing, and it looks like Lehner will most likely be the starter.

2. … Because goaltending, thanks to Corey Crawford, is Chicago’s best chance

Look, the Oilers – Blackhawks series boiled down to controlled chaos. Chicago made fewer mistakes, and capitalized on many of those it got. Credit players like Jonathan Toews for surviving the onslaught from Connor McDavid to win that series.

Yet, as bright as McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can shine, their Oilers teammates frequently let them down. In the First Round, the Blackhawks face a far more frightening opponent. The Golden Knights boast high-end players that aren’t as far off of the McDavid level as one might think, as Mark Stone‘s two-way play makes up for much of the difference in McDavid’s all-world offense. Meanwhile, the Golden Knights possess the sort of debt where they can gladly merely tie the Blackhawks at best-on-best, and then roll over Chicago’s paltry supporting cast.

On paper (more on that in a moment), the Blackhawks simply cannot keep up. So they’re going to need a keyed-in Corey Crawford.

As great as Lehner was for Chicago, Crawford wasn’t that far behind him. It’s possible, then, that the Blackhawks can hold an advantage in net. That’s especially true if Vegas is impatient with Lehner, what with Marc-Andre Fleury waiting in the wings.

The dream scenario for Chicago would be a shaky game or two from Lehner, leading to a premature move to “MAF,” who simply may be beyond the point where he can dominate. That may be the most reasonable path for Chicago to pull off a bigger upset than knocking out McDavid & Co.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

3. On paper, Golden Knights hold a massive advantage over the Blackhawks

Pick a regular season team stat category at a site like Natural Stat Trick, and the Golden Knights are likely to be close to, if not at, the absolute top. They massively outchance their opponents, and not just “empty calories.” Vegas dominated in gaining high-danger chances, too. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks ranked in the bottom third, if not the bottom five, in just about every meaningful category.

About the only area the Golden Knights struggle is in finishing.

That’s especially true since, while the Blackhawks relying enormously on goaltending bailing them out in 2019-20, the Golden Knights … you know, traded for at least half of that equation in Lehner.

Chicago needs those bounces.

4. Peter DeBoer is still pretty new to the Golden Knights

Bafflingly, the Golden Knights fired Gerard Gallant despite strong underlying numbers back in January, replacing him with Peter DeBoer, once of the hated Sharks. While the pandemic pause gave DeBoer more time to acquaint himself with the Golden Knights, this is still a team that’s relatively new to him.

Now, there can be advantages to DeBoer being relatively new to Vegas. Maybe most importantly, he might not feel as obliged to start Marc-Andre Fleury if Lehner continues to look sharper. DeBoer also is an experienced coach in general, while Jeremy Colliton remains quite new to this.

But … hey, it’s unusual to be a top seed during the same season that you replaced your head coach, too. (Hockey, everyone.)

5. Prediction: Golden Knights in 5

The best-of-five nature of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers lent to higher upset potential, but going to best-of-seven only removes some of that randomness. Chicago has a new lease on life, and may feel pretty loose with a “We shouldn’t even be here” attitude. It’s also worrisome to see Max Pacioretty miss round-robin games after “Patches” enjoyed a sneaky-fantastic season.

Overall, though, the Golden Knights are going to be a beast to handle. Goaltending held them down at times last season, and now they have Lehner. (Let’s face it, too, Marc-Andre Fleury could be motivated to keep starting if he does get in on the action, or even surprisingly starts Game 1.)

Just about any team figures to struggle against the swarming Golden Knights. That’s especially true for a porous defensive team like the Blackhawks.

No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 8 Chicago Blackhawks

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Chicago at Vegas, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
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

*if necessary

MORE:
Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round 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.

Sharks name Bob Boughner head coach, finalize coaching staff

Sharks coach
Getty
Leave a comment

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

7 Comments

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

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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.