Barclay Goodrow

Presidents’ Trophy winning Bruins lose chance at East’s top seed

Leave a comment

The Bruins’ loss Wednesday to the Lightning in their round-robin game gave us a little clarity into their future.

They remain on zero points through two games with one to go (Sunday vs. Washington). That means the 2019-2020 Presidents’ Trophy winners can finish no better than the No. 3 seed in the First Round of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Tyler Johnson‘s goal with 1:27 to go broke a 2-2 tie and helped Tampa to another victory. For Jon Cooper’s charges, that means the No. 1 seed remains up for grabs between them, the Capitals, and the Flyers. In their favor is the fact that they control their own destiny after taking maximum points through two games. A win over Philadelphia on Saturday would wrap up the top spot in the conference.

Current East standings
Tampa Bay Lightning (2-0-0, 4 points)
Philadelphia Flyers (1-0-0, 2 points)
Washington Capitals (0-0-1, 1 point)
Boston Bruins (0-2-0, 0 points)

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Suspension coming for Goodrow?

Lightning forward Barclay Goodrow may have earned himself a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety.

Midway through the third period, Goodrow caught Anders Bjork from the blindside and made contact with the head.

A charging minor was the call on the play. Bjork remained in the game.

How many games will Goodrow sit? One seems likely.

Ritchie really wanted his tooth

Bruins forward Nick Ritchie lost a tooth during a scrum with Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Once he realized he was missing a chiclet, he had to get it back. Minutes later, he went back onto the ice — while the Zamboni was doing work — to retrieve it.

He even got some help in his quest from Jaroslav Halak.

The tooth fairy must pay exceptionally well these days.

Eastern Conference round-robin schedule

Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers 4, Bruins 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3
: Lightning 3, Capitals 2 (SO) (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Lightning 3, Bruins 2
Thursday, Aug. 6: Capitals vs. Flyers, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 8: Flyers vs. Lightning, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9: Bruins vs. Capitals, TBD

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

————

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.

Trade-deadline players aim to provide boost in NHL’s restart

Leave a comment

Vincent Trocheck was part of a wave of NHL players moved at the February trade deadline, jumping right into the lineup a day later for a learn-on-the-fly introduction to his new Carolina Hurricanes team.

Hardly an easy task.

”Obviously coming from a different team, you’re going to have a little bit of confusion,” he said. ”Different systems, different styles of play.”

Those new additions are in a different position as the NHL returns from its pandemic shutdown. They’ve had months to study film. They’ve had two-plus weeks of camp-style workouts to build chemistry with teammates. And that could provide a big boost for the teams that added them five months ago for a (delayed) run at the Stanley Cup.

”Anybody who got traded at the deadline for any team in this tournament, I think they’re going to benefit from it,” said New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz, whose team acquired center Jean-Gabriel Pageau from Ottawa.

That wasn’t the plan, of course, when teams made deals ahead of the Feb. 24 deadline, which saw a record 32 trades and a record-tying 55 players dealt that final day. The expectation for playoff-contending teams was for new arrivals to spend the final six weeks of the regular season carving out roles ahead of the postseason.

Instead, the coronavirus halted everything in March.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The league allowed teams to reopen facilities for voluntary workouts in June. Then came two weeks of training camp in July, leading to this weekend’s start of the playoffs featuring 24 teams divided between Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta.

Amid the shutdown, some injured players had time to heal. Coaches who took over during the season got their own fresh start. And trade-deadline acquisitions have had a chance to catch up, too, from Washington winger Ilya Kovalchuk to Vegas goaltender Robin Lehner.

Fittingly, it was one of those players – Conor Sheary, back with the Pittsburgh Penguins – who scored the first goal of the NHL’s restart in Tuesday’s exhibition loss to Philadelphia.

”Players come in, it’s at the end of the season, there’s probably a little bit of pressure to perform,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. ”You don’t know anybody. You’re unfamiliar with the coaches, with the system, your teammates – and then all of a sudden, you get four months kind of off.

”But that didn’t mean you were four months away from your coaches or your teammates. Now you’re in the group chats, you’re communicating with everybody. You know everybody personally a lot better. And then when you come back, it’s almost like: wow, it’s your second year with the team.”

Cooper’s Lightning – part of the Eastern Conference’s round robin for top seeds – acquired forwards Blake Coleman (from New Jersey) and Barclay Goodrow (from San Jose) in February.

Coleman said they were ”kind of thrown the kitchen sink as far as systems and trying to pick things up on the fly.”

”Obviously having a camp here has been great because I’m able to focus on the systems and really not have to worry about it in-game,” Coleman said. ”You kind of want that stuff to be just second nature and not have to think about it. I think it’s been good. It feels like I’m part of the team now and not just the new guy, and it’s exciting that we have this chance.”

The Hurricanes made three deadline-day acquisitions, including defensemen Sami Vatanen and Brady Skjei amid injury concerns about All-Star Dougie Hamilton, and fellow blue-liner Brett Pesce.

Trocheck, who had 31 goals two seasons ago with Florida, said the time off helped him more than his seven games with Carolina by providing time to study more film. Then came camp workouts with teammates to become ”100% acclimated.”

”I think they’re the ones that need the time the most,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. ”You put a system in place and you kind of expect all the guys to grasp it, but you realize quickly that you watch it 100 hours a day, four months, you know it inside-out.

”Players, that’s not how they get it. They get it from practicing the reps.”

In all, 29 players acquired on deadline day are on NHL playoff rosters, spread across 17 of 24 teams. Other teams, like reigning Cup champion St. Louis and Winnipeg, made moves earlier in February.

”It was almost like I forgot we traded for them because they just fit so well, fit in so nicely,” Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said of Cody Eakin and Dylan DeMelo. ”It feels like they’ve been part of the group from the beginning. And maybe it’s because you pause and you have the restart that we do here right now, that everybody’s on that even footing.”

NHL Stanley Cup Eastern Conference round-robin preview

Leave a comment

The NHL Stanley Cup round-robin begins August 2 as the Eastern Conference’s top four teams battle for First Round seeding. This week, PHT look at one question facing each of the top four seeds in the East and West.

Round-robin — TV schedule, start times, channels

Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers vs. Bruins, 3 p.m. ET – NBC
Monday, Aug. 3:
Capitals vs. Lightning, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 5:
Lightning vs. Bruins, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Thursday, Aug. 6:
Capitals vs. Flyers, TBD
Saturday, Aug. 8: Flyers vs. Lightning, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9:
Bruins vs. Capitals, TBD

Eastern Conference Round Robin preview: Questions facing Bruins, Capitals, Flyers, Lightning

Bruins: How will Pastrnak follow up career regular season?

David Pastrnak could have easily hit 50 goals and 100 points for the first time in his career if the pause hadn’t robbed him of 12 more games. He split the Rocket Richard Trophy with Alex Ovechkin and his next goal is to help the Bruins win a different kind of trophy a year after coming up one win short.

Pastrnak practiced with the full Bruins team Tuesday for the first time since Phase 3 began. Quarantine rules after arriving back in Boston from Europe prevented him from skating early on, and then he was deemed “unfit to participate” days later. Boston’s three round-robin games will be important for him to get the chemistry back with his linemates and settle him back into a goal-scoring groove.

The Bruins employ very good depth, one reason why they made it to the Stanley Cup Final last season. That depth helped them to the NHL’s best points percentage (.714) at the time of the pause. You still want your top players producing, and Pastrnak did that during the 2019 playoffs with 19 points in 24 games. Along with Brad Marchand, the duo will look to lead the offense yet again.

Capitals: What impact will Kovalchuk make?

After being acquired via a February trade, Ilya Kovalchuk only played seven times for the Capitals before the pause. He scored a goal and added three assists in limited time. The 37-year-old forward can become an unrestricted free agent in the off-season, so a big postseason could payoff with a nice (final?) contract.

Kovalchuk has featured mainly with Lars Eller and Carl Hagelin. But head coach Todd Reirden hasn’t been shy about powering up and putting him with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov to really put an opponent on their heels at 5-on-5. He can give the Capitals scoring depth and, if his play in Montreal is any indication, a bit of a spark once the First Round arrives. At even strength and on a second power play unit, the veteran was a low-risk gamble by GM Brian MacLellan that could pay off big time.

[2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule]

Flyers: Will Hart be the answer in net?

Since he made his NHL debut last season, a lot has been placed on Carter Hart‘s shoulders. He’s been dubbed the franchise goalie for a franchise that has a long history of that position being an Achilles’ heel. But in two seasons in Philadelphia the 21-year-old has played well. His .915 even strength save percentage since 2018-19 puts him top 10 among all netminders with at least 70 appearances.

The postseason is always a different animal, but the Flyers have exceeded many expectations in their first season under Alain Vigneault. Hart has handled the pressure of the position well and now he gets his first taste of NHL playoff hockey. He had some injury concerns during Phase 3, but said he feels fine now and the three round-robin games will be a good opportunity to get up to game speed.

Lightning: How will they handle the pressure to win?

Tampa was on pace for a third-straight 100-point campaign before the pause, cementing themselves as a Stanley Cup contender yet again. Last season’s 128-point campaign that put them as heavy favorites ended in a disastrous four-game sweep by the Blue Jackets. They responded with 92 points in 70 games in 2019-20 and the third-best points percentage in the NHL.

But as has been the case for several years now, the regular season is a warmup for the Lightning. It’s what they do in the postseason that will matter. GM Julien BriseBois bulked up, adding Pat Maroon, Blake Coleman, and Barclay Goodrow, while getting a bounce-back year from Kevin Shattenkirk and see Anthony Cirelli take big strides in his third season.

Does another playoff disappointment result in BriseBois, in his second full season as the team’s GM, making sweeping changes?

MORE:
NHL announces zero positive COVID-19 tests during second week of Phase 3
Power Rankings: Stanley Cup-less veterans to root for
A look at the Western Conference matchups
Previewing the Eastern Conference

————

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.

NHL Power Rankings: Six best playoff series of the decade

2 Comments

What things do you look for in choosing the best NHL playoff series of the past decade?

The nail-biting action of sudden-death overtime? Grudges that inspire handshake line death threats?

(Please don’t say “lots of neutral-zone trap.” Even Jacques Lemaire would probably rather go fishing or something than watch that.)

During the weekend, the NHL and NHLPA made some traction toward a possible return to play, according to Pierre LeBrun. Even so, it’s pretty clear that if the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs happen, it will require some juggling.

Would it all really be worth it? That’s an extremely fair question to ask. Even so, all of this free time and the possible resumption of play give us a chance to think about how great, baffling, and nerve-wracking playoff hockey can be.

Let’s look at the six best NHL playoff series of the decade. In no way am I combining certain ones and generally cheating, kind of making it more than six series. I would never do that.

6. Sharks, Golden Knights engage in one wild Game 7

Personally, I don’t think it’s out of place to put last year’s Golden Knights – Sharks series on this list. And, yes, it can make it on this list based on the strength of that bewildering Game 7 alone.

In a vacuum, that Game 7 already inspires wonder.

Cody Eakin got whistled for that controversial major penalty when he bloodied Joe Pavelski. In mere minutes, the Golden Knights’ 3-0 Game 7 lead vanished as the Sharks scored a ridiculous four power-play goals. Almost as remarkably, Jonathan Marchessault showed that Vegas wouldn’t just quit, sending it to overtime. Then barely-used Barclay Goodrow scored a tremendous series-winner:

Sprinkle in added context and that Game 7 gets spicier.

Both Eakin and Pavelski are now on other teams. The Golden Knights fired Gerard Gallant this season, replacing him with DeBoer, who Gallant called a “clown” during that series. Heck, even Goodrow is out of San Jose now.

5. Flyers complete “reverse” sweep against Bruins, Round 2 in 2009-10

It’s hard to believe it, but Pro Hockey Talk came into existence during the 2009-10 season, forming around the 2009-10 trade deadline. Let me tell you: the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs served as a playoff run that’s tough to top.

Beyond Patrick Kane‘s funky overtime goal becoming the first Stanley Cup-clincher for PHT, Jaroslav Halak and the Habs served up two stunning upsets to the Capitals and Penguins in respective seven-game series.

(The baffled face of Bruce Boudreau became quite the gift for meme enthusiasts.)

But the sheer chaos of the second-round series between the Bruins and Flyers takes the cake.

The Flyers became what was then the third (and now the fourth) NHL team to rage back from a 3-0 series deficit. Even according to those standards, Philly poured in extra drama.

It was almost a little too on-the-nose. Just like in the series, the Bruins took a jarring 3-0 lead in Game 7. Also like the series, the Flyers refused to roll over, eventually winning Game 7 4-3 in overtime thanks to a Simon Gagne goal.

4. Bruins torment Maple Leafs in Game 7’s, especially in 2012-13

Aside from a respectable first-round series loss to the Capitals in 2016-17, every Maple Leafs season since 2005-06 ended in one of two ways:

  • Missing the playoffs.
  • Or losing to the Bruins in a heartbreaking Game 7.

We didn’t know it yet, but the “it was 4-1” nightmare ended up being the most horrific part of a terrifying trilogy. After serving as the slasher movie villain who wouldn’t die in 2012-13, the Bruins kept hunting down the Maple Leafs in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

(Nazem Kadri definitely served as the horror movie character who investigates that strange noise. Or maybe he was the person who did something last summer? I can’t decide.)

That Game 7 on May 13, 2013 remains dizzying. The Maple Leafs were up 4-1 5:29 into the third period, yet that lead unraveled during a series of events that remains hard to believe. Ultimately, Patrice Bergeron ended the series at 5-4 with an overtime-winner.

Again, repeated Game 7 letdowns open up these old wounds, and create new ones for Maple Leafs fans. Ouch.

3. Another seven-game series between the Capitals and Penguins (2016-17)

How about we just cobble together all of the great series the Capitals and/or Penguins were in during the decade? When in doubt, go with Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin.

After all, they both faced the Lightning in seven-game series. For sheer brutality and inanity, you could absolutely argue that the Flyers beating the Penguins in six games in 2011-12 should be a top-five series. And, of course, it was epic when the Capitals finally slayed the Penguins dragon in 2017-18.

But in boiling down this list to a manageable size, let’s go with another series that went seven between these two teams.

A truly fantastic Capitals team seemed to “choke,” falling behind 3-1 in the series. It’s easy forget that they defiantly forced a Game 7, though, because the Penguins ended up winning 2-0. Some rare tough moments for Braden Holtby set the stage for that redemptive run to win the Stanley Cup in 2018.

2. A riotous 2011 Stanley Cup Final series between the Canucks and Bruins

For a long time, I thought this series should be number one. It tops the list if you weigh memorable moments most heavily.

No doubt, the riots in Vancouver after Game 7 were ugly. It was also hard to look away.

The messiness started before all of the property damage, though. Tim Thomas didn’t want to “pump Roberto Luongo’s tires.” Brad Marchand was, well, Brad Marchand to the Sedin twins. An Aaron Rome hit on Nathan Horton backfired for the Canucks.

There was just so much going on. And, going by my tiebreaker standards, the Canucks also finally beat the Blackhawks earlier in that postseason.

But the actual hockey was hit-or-miss, at least compared to the best-of-the-best. Just look at the anticlimactic Game 7 itself, which the Bruins won 4-0.

Still, that was some wild stuff.

1. Kings beat Blackhawks in best NHL playoff series of the decade (2013-14)

As tempted as I was to go with riots and deflated tires, the epic back-and-forth between two of the best teams of the decade ultimately swayed me.

From 2009-10 through 2014-15, the Blackhawks and Kings won five of the six Stanley Cups. That 2014 Western Conference Final ended up being the peak of that rivalry.

From a Game 5 that required double overtime, to a Game 7 that also stretched beyond regulation, the hockey was truly sublime.

No doubt, the Kings pulling off the fourth-ever “reverse sweep” helped sway me, too. Los Angeles didn’t just come back from a 3-0 deficit against the Sharks. They absolutely roared back, winning those last four games by a combined score of 19-5.

Drew Doughty claimed he saw fear in the eyes of his Sharks opponents. Can you blame him for saying that after such a rally?

It turned out that the Kings would not be denied that postseason, and I cannot deny that their battle with the Blackhawks was the best of a strong decade of playoff series for the NHL.

MORE POWER RANKINGS:
Teams with the best long-term outlook
Looking at the top 2020 free agents
Best 2019-20 free agent signings
The most underrated players
Our favorite classic Costacos Brothers hockey posters
How to spice up a possible virtual 2020 NHL Draft

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.

What is the Lightning’s long-term outlook?

Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning
Getty Images

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

The Lightning have been favorites to win the Stanley Cup for the past few seasons due to their cornerstone pieces at every level. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov lead the forward group and are the top two point scorers on the Bolts roster through the first 70 games. Victor Hedman is the most prominent name on a well-balanced blueline and Andrei Vasilevskiy was in the discussion for the Vezina Trophy.

In addition to the stellar building blocks, the Lightning also have secondary offensive firepower. Brayden Point is close to becoming a foundational player, if he is not there already. Alex Killorn was closing in on a 30-goal season, Anthony Cirelli, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde and others contribute in a meaningful way.

Tampa Bay also hasn’t seen the true impact of trade deadline acquisitions of Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman.

The Lightning have all the pieces needed to accomplish their goal of winning a championship but remain in limbo until society solves the COVID-19 pandemic.

Long-Term Needs

The wish list in Tampa Bay is quite short. The organization has accomplished a lot in recent years but still needs to get over the final hump and win a Stanley Cup. Ultimately, the Lightning’s regular season performance had little impact on the judgment of this team as long as they reached the postseason.

The long-term needs for the franchise are essentially the same as other teams that have a core in place and compete for a championship year in and year out. Find value in the NHL Draft process and continue to produce prospects that can contribute in one way or another to the varsity team. General manager Julien BriseBois also needs to manage the salary cap effectively and not fall into the trap of paying for past performances but rather remain focused on the future.

Long-Term Strengths

The best asset of the organization is their current core group of players. Hedman, Kucherov, Stamkos and Vasilevskiy are all locked up for the next several seasons. Point’s contract does not expire until the end of the 2021-22 season and is close to becoming an integral part of the team, if not already.

If the NHL season does not return, the Lightning will be one of the more fascinating teams to watch this upcoming offseason. Will they blow it up as if they didn’t achieve their goal? Does Jon Cooper remain coach? Or, do they take another shot at a championship next season and reevaluate at that time?

The pause in action created a murky situation for the future of several NHL teams and the Lightning are near the top of that list.

MORE ON THE LIGHTNING
• Looking at the 2019-20 Tampa Bay Lightning
• Lightning biggest surprises and disappointments so far


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.