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Jake Allen re-enters the picture for the Blues

Jake Allen was once the future in goal for the Blues. His development remained steady as he finished junior and spent time in the American Hockey League. Finally, after splitting the workload for two seasons following his NHL debut, he was rewarded with a four-year, $17.4M extension and the No. 1 job in 2016.

Whether it was the weight of the contract, the expectations, or possibly the competition he faced with other goaltenders on the roster, Allen let loose his grip on the starter’s job. His 5-on-5 save percentage dipped from .919 in 2016-17 and 2017-18 to .912 last season.

Allen’s future in St. Louis was put into question when Jordan Binnington arrived and did what he did last season. Helping keep him in the fold, however, was the fact he still has contract carries a $4.35M salary cap hit and doesn’t expire until after the 2020-21 NHL season (not to mention the $5.2M in actual dollars he earned in 2019-20).

When Binnington took over as the starter, Allen could have handled the situation negatively. Instead, he chose to lend a helping hand because that’s what he would have wanted if he was in Binnington’s skates.

“I’m a realist, and I understand the business of this game,” Allen said after the Blues’ Stanley Cup win last season. “So probably mid-March [2019] I sat back and I took my role. I understood. I would be ready when called upon. I thought I had a really great second half of the season. It’s probably some of the best hockey I’ve ever played. But Binner, he’s just been unbelievable. He’s the best goalie in the league. And I just bit the bullet and said: ‘All right, this is something special.’ I knew we had a good group here. It’s been amazing.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

As Binnington emerged, Allen moved into the backup role. During the 2019-20 regular season, he made his fewest appearances (24) since he became an NHL regular in 2013. The workload may have been cut, but Allen’s play was better, as shown by his .932 ESSV% and helping the Blues to 12 wins, including two shutouts.

Allen won his last four starts before the pause, then found his spot on the bench as Binnington started the postseason. But a sudden 0-2 deficit in their First Round series against the Canucks opened the door for head coach Craig Berube to make a change. Allen was called upon in Game 3 and stopped 39 shots in an overtime win. He followed that up Monday night with 23 saves as St. Louis evened the series at two.

The waiting was the hardest part, but Allen has been prepared for this moment.

“Obviously, this year’s a unique situation,” Allen said after Game 4. “I knew I had to be ready. You don’t have 82 games to prep yourself for the playoffs. So it was just working hard, being ready. Got a chance and try to make the most of it.

“The guys have played really hard the last couple nights. Hats off to them. They made my job not overly difficult, and got us right back in the series here. So it’s good to be battling with the guys. It’s been a while but it’s been fun.”

[MORE: Tarasenko leaves bubble to get shoulder examined]

“The way he practices, the way he works with Binner and [goalie coach David Alexander],” said Alex Pietrangelo. “We’ve got two guys that are great goalies and [Game 4] was another prime example of it. I think everyone knows the stories of what Jakey did last year to help Binner. So you’ve got two guys that are pros that are pushing each other. It’s not easy. He hasn’t played. But to step in and play the way he’s playing, it’s fun to watch. We’re confident in both of those guys. It’s good to have that tandem because I know they push each other as well.”

The decision to go to Allen wasn’t a difficult one for Berube. The team knew what they had in him and the confidence was there despite a change in the pecking order. There was little time between Games 3 and 4, but the head coach went with a “gut feeling” to stick with him in a back-to-back situation.

We’ve seen other teams like Carolina and Vegas use both of their goaltenders when playing back-to-back days, and in St. Louis’ case it worked. Allen had only started consecutive games twice since Jan. 7, 2019 — Binnington first NHL start — and he hadn’t played two days in a row since March 30-31, 2018.

Allen has taken advantage of this second chance when the Blues needed him the most. Right now it’s his net again and his teammates have rallied for him.

“We saw how great of a teammate Jake was last year, the way everything happened, and even so this year,” said David Perron. “It’s great to see Jake the way he is right now.”

 Game 5 of Blues-Canucks is Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN (livestream).

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

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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.

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.