Bruins Golden Knights win Game 1 Lightning Canucks NHL scores PHT bubble wrap Lehner MAF Halak Marchand
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NHL Bubble Wrap: Bruins, Golden Knights start Second Round strong

  • Marc-Andre Fleury asked his agent to delete that tweet about Peter DeBoer, and indirectly, Robin Lehner.
  • There was plenty of smack-talking between Ryan Reaves and Antoine Roussel. None of that outside drama made much of an impact on the Golden Knights’ dominance of the Canucks in Game 1, though.
  • The Bruins made a 3-0 lead count against the Lightning, even if they didn’t dominate their Game 1 like the Golden Knights did.

NHL Scores: Game 1 of Bruins – Lightning and Golden Knights – Canucks

Game 1: Bruins 3, Lightning 2 (BOS leads series 1-0)

Charlie Coyle showed off his hand-eye coordination once again in Game 1, this time giving Boston a late-first-period lead with a deflection. Despite 18 SOG by the Lightning during the second period, the Bruins scored the lone goal when David Pastrnak buried a nice pass by David Krejci. When Patrice Bergeron created a turnover for Brad Marchand to eventually bury, it seemed like this would be one-sided, at least on the scoreboard. However, Victor Hedman scored two goals (both, strangely, bouncing off of Charlie McAvoy) to give the Lightning a chance. Ultimately, it was too little, too late for the Lightning.

Lightning – Bruins playoff series schedule

Game 1: Bruins 3, Lightning 2
Game 2: Tuesday, Aug. 25, 7 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Game 3: Wednesday, Aug. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Game 4: Friday, Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m. ET – USA Network
*Game 5: Sunday, Aug. 30 – TBD
*Game 6: Tuesday, Sept. 1 – TBD
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 2 – TBD

*if necessary

Game 1: Golden Knights 5, Canucks 0 (VGK leads series 1-0)

Again, basically all of the drama surrounding Game 1 of Golden Knights – Canucks really didn’t have much of an impact on the ice. OK, you could say that Ryan Reaves and Antoine Roussel jawing at each other fired Vegas up. That’s subjective (although, to be fair, Reaves did deliver 10 hits). Also, if there’s any room for people to see Alan Walsh’s side of starting Marc-Andre Fleury (rather than, uh, stabbing MAF in the back?), it will need to happen later in this Second Round series. The Canucks rarely got many chances, and when they did, they were almost all from the perimeter.

Golden Knights – Canucks playoff series schedule

Game 1: Golden Knights 5, Canucks 0
Game 2: Tuesday, Aug. 25, 9:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Game 3: Thursday, Aug. 27, 9:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Game 4: Saturday, Aug. 29, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Game 5: Monday, Aug. 31 – TBD
*Game 6: Tuesday, Sept. 1 – TBD
*Game 7: Thursday, Sept. 3 – TBD

*if necessary

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars from Sunday in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs

1. Jaroslav Halak, Boston Bruins

If you look at the box scores alone, you’d argue that Robin Lehner deserves a spot on the top three, and maybe Lehner doesn’t deserve to be on it at all. After all, Lehner pitched a 26-save shutout, while Halak allowed two Victor Hedman goals.

But, honestly, those goals were funky, and Lehner didn’t need to do much (relatively speaking, for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs) to author his first NHL postseason shutout. Halak, meanwhile, was — in my opinion — the single person most responsible for either team winning on Sunday. Halak made 35 saves against the Lightning, providing some peace of mind for those who are still concerned about Tuukka Rask‘s absence.

2. David Pastrnak/Bruins top line

You might not get a better summary of what makes “The Perfection Line” of Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron so great than the 3-0 goal that ended up being the game-winner. Marchand created some havoc, then Bergeron stole the puck from Ryan McDonagh. Bergeron and Pastrnak then set up Marchand for a beautiful goal. Pastrnak also scored a big 2-0 power-play goal, one that would be key considering Tampa Bay’s second-period push.

3. Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights

Depth is one of the things that makes the Golden Knights so scary. Again, Lehner pitched that 26-save shutout. Smith, meanwhile, picked up the primary assist and also scored the 2-0 goal in the Golden Knights’ Game 1 pasting of the Canucks. Smith’s two points came earlier than a comparable one-goal, one-assist output from Mark Stone. Interestingly, Smith’s line also faced Elias Pettersson more often at even-strength than Stone’s did, according to Natural Stat Trick. The Golden Knights shut down Pettersson and other Canucks scorers as a unit, so your results may vary. (You may also prefer Alex Tuch, who also went 1G, 1A). I’ll give Smith the very slight edge on this night, though. Stone and Lehner aren’t really hurting for attention, anyway, right?

Game 1 Highlights: Bruins – Lightning; Golden Knights – Canucks

Again, what was a 3-0 goal and ended up being the game-winner was also a very pretty goal, if you need a single thing to latch on in Bruins – Lightning Game 1 highlights

Now that you got to see Bruins – Lightning highlights, here are the top moments from the Golden Knights’ win against the Canucks:

Factoids

  • Robin Lehner earned his first career playoff shutout on Sunday.
  • Via NHL PR, Brad Marchand now has 28 multi-point playoff games to his name. That’s third-most in Bruins playoff history, and just one behind Phil Esposito (29). Catching Ray Bourque won’t be easy, as Bourque managed 46 multi-point playoff games. In case you’re wondering, Patrice Bergeron ranks sixth with 25, while David Krejci’s one behind him in seventh with 24.
  • The Golden Knights are now 9-0-2 against the Canucks all-time, via Sportsnet stats. (Click here for more Golden Knights – Canucks stats.)

Monday’s NHL Schedule

Game 1: Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Islanders, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Game 2: Colorado Avalanche vs. Dallas Stars, 9:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round schedule

MORE STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
Stanley Cup Playoffs Second 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.

Marc-Andre Fleury wants to stay in Vegas, isn’t asking for trade

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The biggest question for the Vegas Golden Knights this offseason is going to be how they handle their suddenly complex goaltending situation.

Marc-Andre Fleury, the face of the franchise, remains under contract for two more seasons, while the team seems determined to try and re-sign Robin Lehner, who had taken over the starting job during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs after he was acquired at the NHL trade deadline.

While keeping both players would seem to be an ideal set-up (having two goalies capable of being a high level starter is a good thing!) the financial and logistical circumstances around it would seem to be incredible difficult.

Not only would it require a substantial salary cap commitment to a position where only one player can play at a time, there is also the delicate balance of playing time. Both goalies are starters, both will want to start, and both have earned the right to start. That has resulted in speculation that the Golden Knights could trade, or perhaps even buy out, Fleury this offseason.

There was also the school of thought that Fleury might ask for an exit given the way the goaltending situation unfolded this postseason.

That does not seem to be the case.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Fleury told The Athletic’s Jesse Granger this week that while he realizes the potential of a trade, he has no intention of asking the team for one this offseason and that he is still committed to finishing his career in Vegas.

Even if it means potentially sharing the net.

Via the Athletic (subscription required):

“I want to stay in Vegas,” he told The Athletic Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I’ve loved every moment since I got here.”

Fleury emphasized that he is not seeking a trade, and if it were up to him he would finish his career in Vegas.

“This team means a lot to me, and the city has been so good to me,” Fleury said. “The fans, and (owner Bill Foley) have been so awesome. It’s a great team, and I thought when I came here that maybe I could retire here. I wanted to end my career here.”

Fleury added that he gets along great with Lehner, and that while his goal is to not be just a backup, he said he intends to “practice hard, try to play well, and hopefully get some games.”

The problem here is if Vegas is successful in re-signing Lehner it would probably carry a price tag similar to Fleury’s. That would mean Vegas would have somewhere in the neighborhood of $14-15 million tied up in net. The only team in the league this season that is slated to spend that much on goaltending is Montreal with the newly formed Carey PriceJake Allen duo.

Montreal has the salary cap space to make that sort of a commitment to the goalie position.  Vegas, on the other hand, may not. Not unless it makes a drastic cut somewhere else on the roster.

Even though the Golden Knights do not have any other significant free agents to deal with, they still have a handful of RFA’s to re-sign and are already crunched against the cap. Even if were to shed salary elsewhere to keep both goalies it would still probably prohibit the team from making any other outside addition via trade or free agency. It is a very good team, one of the very best in the league, but they are still going to want to make some improvements to the roster. That may be difficult, if not impossible, with both goalies on the roster.

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.

Nikita Kucherov’s postseason defined by redemption, consistency

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Like pretty much every other player on the Lightning roster, the 2018-19 playoffs ended up being a very forgettable experience for Nikita Kucherov.

During their four-game loss to the Blue Jackets, Kucherov managed just two points (both in their Game 4 loss), zero goals, and even missed a game due to a suspension for an ugly hit late in their Game 2 loss. It was a dreadfully disappointing end to a season where Kucherov had put together one of the finest regular season performances of the modern era for a record-setting team. He finished the season with 128 points (the most points the league had seen in 23 years) and took home the Hart Trophy (MVP) and Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player as voted by the players) on a team that won 62 regular season games.

But because of their inability to win even a single playoff against the No. 8 seed, it will mostly end up being a footnote to the season.

All of them — from Kucherov on down the roster — had to redeem themselves this postseason and flip the script on a team that was starting to become more known more for postseason shortcomings instead of for what it actually is — one of the league’s elite teams, driven by some of the best players in the world.

Entering Game 4 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final Friday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC; livestream), Kucherov and the Lightning are in the process of getting that redemption.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

They hold a 2-1 series lead and have looked like the far superior team these past two games.

Kucherov has been at the center of most of it.

His playmaking was on display in the Lightning’s Game 2 win by setting up a pair of power play goals to help power their fast start. In Game 3, he pounced on a Miro Heiskanen turnover in the neutral zone and buried a quick shot behind Anton Khudobin on a breakaway to help open the floodgates in a 5-2 win.

For the playoffs, he is already up to 30 points (seven goals, 23 assists) in 22 games, which is currently tied for the fourth highest total in a single postseason over the past 20 years, trailing only Evgeni Malkin (36) and Sidney Crosby (31) in 2008-09, and Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov (32) in 2017-18.

It’s not just that he is generating points that stands out.

He is driving the most dominant line in the league this postseason alongside Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat. His underlying numbers are also off the charts. Of the 98 skaters that have logged at least 200 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey this postseason, Kucherov ranks second in total shot attempt share (63.6 percent), second in goals for percentage (76 percent), second in expected goals percentage (68 percent), fifth in scoring chance share, and second in high-danger scoring chances (67.9 percent). In most of those categories the only players that rank ahead of him are either Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman, or Palat, who is one of Kucherov’s current linemates.

Then we get to the consistency aspect of this, and just how steady his overall production has been.

There is no more overrated and overused word in hockey than “consistency,” at least as it relates to goal and point production. Every player in the league is inconsistent to a certain degree, and even the best players tend to score their goals and points in bunches. The season is a mountain range full of peaks and valleys. But Kucherov, for a few months now, has been residing on one of those mountains.

[Lightning vs. Stars: 2020 Stanley Cup Final schedule]

He has not gone more than two consecutive games without a point since the middle of January, and there was only one stretch of games this entire season where he went more than two games without finding the scoresheet — and even that was only a three-game stretch.

He also has eight multi-point games this postseason, and when you exclude the three Round-Robin games before the start of the playoffs that means he has recorded at least two points in more than 40 percent of his games this postseason.

That is a stunning level of production and dominance.

Just looking at recent Conn Smythe Trophy winners, Ryan O'Reilly had multiple points in only 20 percent of his postseason games for the Blues last season. Alex Ovechkin was at 33 percent in 2018. Sidney Crosby had multiple points in 33 percent (2016-17) and 20 percent (2015-16) in his most recent Conn Smythe seasons.

The Lightning have been one of the league’s best teams and Kucherov has been one of the best players for six years now. But because of the way their postseasons have ended there has always been that “yeah, but…” following them around, especially after last year’s dismal First Round showing.

They all needed to rewrite the story around themselves.

They are not exactly where they want to be just yet (they still have two more wins to get), but they have put themselves in a great position to finally accomplish their ultimate goal.

MORE: Conn Smythe Watch: Victor Hedman makes his move

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 (TB leads 2-1)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*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)

Conn Smythe Watch: Victor Hedman makes his move

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Thanks to a couple of fast starts, a bounce-back from their power play unit, and a brief appearance from captain Steven Stamkos the Lightning have been able to win back-to-back games and take a 2-1 series lead in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

It has been the usual suspects leading that charge for them as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, and top defenseman Victor Hedman, continue to pace their offense.

All three players find themselves at the top of our latest Conn Smythe Watch.

1. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning. Truly a dominant postseason in every possible way. He has already scored 10 goals (with 10 assists) in 22 games and completely controls every game when he is on the ice. He has played more than 434 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey this postseason, and during that time the Lightning are outscoring their opponents by a 24-6 margin and controlling close to 60 percent of the total shot attempts and expected goals (via Natural Stat Trick). With all due respect to Kucherov, Point, and a healthy Stamkos, he is pobably the best player on this team.

2. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning. He leads the league in assists and total points this postseason and has helped jumpstart Tampa’s power play in the Cup Final. His performance in Games 2 and 3 got the Lightning off to fast starts that helped them take the series lead.

3. Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning. Point had been emerging as the top Conn Smythe favorite for Tampa. His drop to the third spot is simply a testament to how good the other two guys currently ahead of him have been. Point and Kucherov have been unstoppable at times this postseason offensively and it is starting to get to the point where it is difficult to separate one from the other. They are great individually. Together they are a nightmare for the Stars. And every other team that has tried to slow down the Lightning.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

4. Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars. His first period turnover that led to Kucherov’s goal in Game 3 was the low-point of his postseason, and one of the few mistakes he has made this entire postseason. He has been the Stars’ best and most consistent player from the start of the playoffs and if they are able to win three of the next four games and win the Stanley Cup he will be one of the biggest reasons why. He is averaging a point-per-game offensively as a defenseman, is playing a shutdown role defensively, and still has not taken a single penalty in the playoffs even though he spends 20-plus minutes per night playing against the top players in the world. A stunning player.

5. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars. He has proved this postseason that he still has a lot left in the tank and can be a top-line offensive producer. He has been one of the Stars’ most productive forwards and come through in some huge moments for them.

6. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning. He has not only played every minute for Tampa in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles, he has done so at an incredibly high level. He enters Game 4 of the Cup Final on Friday (8 p.m. ET, NBC; livestream) with a .928 save percentage. On most other teams that sort of goaltending performance would be at the top of this list. But the rest of Tampa’s roster is so good, and so dominant that it kind of gets overlooked.

[Lightning vs. Stars: 2020 Stanley Cup Final schedule]

7. Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars. It would be unfair to say that he has been bad in the Cup Final, because he hasn’t been. He has also had some rotten puck luck work against him. But he also has not been as good as he was in the Western Conference Final. Dallas is going to need him to be.

8. Denis Gurianov, Dallas Stars. The most underrated player on this Stars team. Whenever he is on the ice, something good seems to happen for the Stars. He is one of their most productive and impactful players despite still only getting about 13 minutes of ice-time per game. He is averaging more than two points per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time. Play him more, Dallas!

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.