The Wraparound: Varlamov on cusp of Islanders playoff shutout record

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down all of the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

• Check out NHL Bubble Wrap to look back at all of Tuesday’s action.

Kasperi Kapanen heads back to Pittsburgh as the Penguins and Maple Leafs complete a six-player deal. 

• John Tortorella is $25,000 poorer today after cutting short a media availability last week.

The NHL pause served Semyon Varlamov well. Along with it giving the Islanders an opportunity in the playoffs, it allowed the goaltender to reset and focus on erasing the final two weeks of his regular season.

As the Islanders were in the middle of a slide that saw them drop 11 of their final 13 games, head coach Barry Trotz alternated between Varlamov and Thomas Greiss for their final seven games. Varlamov got four of those starts and allowed four goals in each, all defeats.

Time off helped the 32-year-old Varlamov. Once the NHL Return to Play began, he was given the No. 1 job in the Qualifying Round against Florida, helping the Islanders dispatch the Panthers in four games. The timely saves continued into the First Round against Washington, as the Capitals were eliminated in five games. In Game 1 against the Flyers in the Second Round, the Islanders opened the series with a second straight shutout.

Varlamov’s current shutout streak is at 136:20 and he can break the Islanders franchise playoff record if he keeps the Flyers off the scoreboard for at least the first 40 seconds of Game 2 Wednesday (3 p.m. ET,  NBCSN; livestream). The current Islanders record is held by Billy Smith, who set it during the 1980 Stanley Cup Playoffs over three games.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

“He’s been huge right from Day One since he came to us,” said Islanders forward Brock Nelson. “Not that we expect it, but obviously he goes out there and performs every night and is a backbone for us, so it’s nice knowing that we have him behind us. If there’s a breakdown or an error, he can bail us out.

“We’ve had good goaltending now for a while, [but] lately he’s been on it making big saves, timely saves. That can win you games at this time of year.”

After the rough end to the regular season, Varlamov has been the backbone of an Islanders defensive unit that’s shut down opponents on a nightly basis. Only twice in his 10 starts this postseason has he allowed more than two goals, the only two defeats on their playoff record so far. He’s tops among all goaltenders with a .968 5-on-5 save percentage and a 7.47 goals saved above average, per Natural Stat Trick.

Each layer of the Islanders team is boosting the other. Varlamov is helping the blue line, which has limited opponents to 25.6 shots per game, and the defense is bolstering the offense, which is averaging 3.4 goals per game, an increase from 2.78 during the regular season.

[Full NHL Second Round schedule]

“Anytime you have your goaltending playing well, it gives your team confidence,” Trotz said on Tuesday. “I think we’ve played pretty well in front of him, and he’s made some really good stops at key times, especially yesterday.

“I didn’t care for our game really [Monday]. I thought the first period was real strong, and then after that I thought we were very average. We’ve got a lot of work to do and help him out. But he’s made big saves at key times. That’s the key in goaltending, I think. You look at some of the great goaltenders in the National Hockey League, it’s not necessarily the numbers or anything like that, it’s do you make the save at the key time that allows you to win.”

NHL PLAYOFF GAMES TODAY

Game 3: Bruins vs. Lightning (Series tied 1-1) – 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN; livestream: Despite multiple setbacks in Game 2, the Lightning beat the Bruins 4-3 in OT to tie the Second Round series at 1-1. Ondrej Palat ended up scoring the overtime game-winner. The teams have little time to recover as Game 3 comes 24 hours later. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has yet to announce if he’ll stick with Jaroslav Halak in goal or turn to Dan Vladar, who’s yet to make an NHL start in his career.

Game 3: Avalanche vs. Stars (DAL leads 2-0) – 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN; livestream: After Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen assisted each other and put Dallas in a 2- 0 second-period hole, the Stars scored five unanswered goals, including four in a span of 9:20 in the second period, to win 5-2 and take a 2-0 series lead. Dallas has won five straight games since going down 2-1 in the First Round against Calgary. This is the Stars’ longest postseason winning streak since 1999, when they won six straight en route to winning the Stanley Cup. With MacKinnon’s goal and assist in Game 2, he extended his playoff point streak to 10 games – matching a franchise record

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

THURSDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE
Game 3: Islanders vs. Flyers, 7 p.m. ET – NBCSN (NYI lead 1-0)
Game 3: Golden Knights vs. Canucks, 9:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN (Series tied 1-1)

PHT’s 2020 Second Round previews
Bruins vs. Lightning
Flyers vs. Islanders
Stars vs. Avalanche
Golden Knights vs. Canucks
PHT predictions

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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.

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    Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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    CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

    The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

    The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

    The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

    Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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    ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

    The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

    The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

    Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

    The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

    Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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    TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

    The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

    “This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

    Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

    Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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    TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

    The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

    “Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

    The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

    Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.