Ben Bishop

Flames Stars Game 1 Calgary wins Tkachuk Perry Khudobin
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Flames grind out Game 1 win against Stars

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When the Flames went up 2-0 in Game 1 against the Stars, it looked like it would be a blowout, or at least a flat, one-sided contest. Instead, the Stars made Game 1 close, but the Flames managed to hang on to win 3-2 and take a 1-0 series lead.

Flames beat Stars in Game 1; Tkachuk – Perry fight

Did the Stars sleepwalk a little into Game 1, or was this a matter of the Flames merely taking control? Either way, Dillon Dube dominated much of the early proceedings, scoring both of Calgary’s first-period goals, including a beauty for the 2-0 tally:

(That is not the sort of goal a defensive-minded team like the Stars can easily stomach.)

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Dube wasn’t always at the center of good things, mind you, as he delivered a bad cross-checking hit on Jason Dickinson in the first period. But Dube was buzzing early, and could really make the Flames dangerous if he’s a regular threat.

Speaking of threats, there was a bit of a pest war during the first period. Matthew Tkachuk fought with Corey Perry, almost acknowledging a passing-of-the-pest-torch:

(Frankly, the Stars would take the trade-off of both Perry and Tkachuk being off of the ice for five minutes each and every time.)

If nothing else, the Stars showed that they’re not just going to roll over. They tied things up with two goals just nine seconds apart during the middle frame:

Rasmus Andersson regained the Flames’ lead with a goal five minutes later, however.

From there, it was a grindy affair between the Flames and Stars. On most nights, you could call that the Stars’ type of game, but it wasn’t as useful in Game 1, being that the Flames never trailed. It’s not the greatest sign for the Stars that:

  • They kept Calgary’s top stars off of the board.
  • There weren’t many penalties in the game.
  • And they still couldn’t really muster much of an attack in the third period.

Dallas has to hope for a sharper start to Game 2, which takes place on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Actually, the Stars might want a shaper finish, too. Maybe find a way to clone that second period effort? It will also be interesting to see if Ben Bishop can shake off whatever’s keeping him unfit to play, although Anton Khudobin was far from the Stars’ problem in Game 1.

No. 3 Dallas Stars vs. No. 6 Calgary Flames (Calgary leads series 1-0)

Tuesday, Aug. 11: Calgary 3, Dallas 2
Thursday, Aug. 13: Calgary at Dallas, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 14: Dallas at Calgary, 10:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Sunday, Aug. 16: Dallas at Calgary, 2 p.m. ET – CNBC
*Tuesday, Aug. 18: Calgary at Dallas – TBD
*Thursday, Aug. 20: Dallas at Calgary – TBD
*Saturday, Aug. 22: Dallas at Calgary – TBD

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.

The Wraparound: Maurice still steamed at Tkachuk for hit on Scheifele

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

• Take a look back at Sunday’s NHL Return to Play action, which included a buzzer-beater and upsets aplenty.

• Wild defenseman Matt Dumba spoke about his speech on Saturday afternoon and why he regrets not taking a knee for the Canadian national anthem after doing so for the U.S. anthem.

• Blackhawks forward Drake Caggiula has been suspended for Game 2 following an illegal check to the head of Tyler Ennis.

There’s a bit of positive news on the Mark Scheifele front ahead of Game 2. (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream). According to TSN’s Sara Orlesky, the forward’s injury is not believed to be long-term. Even with that, it’s likely the Jets will be without him and Patrik Laine against the Flames Monday afternoon.

Scheifele’s injury set off his coach following Game 1. Paul Maurice took aim at Matthew Tkachuk in his postgame press conference calling the play a “filthy, dirty kick to the back of the leg.”

Maurice double downed on Sunday.

“I would stick by every word that I said,” he said.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

“I don’t know, if you sin once, are you a sinner? Sin 10 times?,” Maurice continued. “I don’t think he came off the bench and said, ‘Hey I’m going to see if I can go stab the back of Mark Scheifele’s leg with my skate.’ I think he got to that point, and I think that’s exactly what he did. But I don’t think he’s skating across the ice thinking that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I think he plays at a level, he’s on the edge. He crosses it sometimes, and he crossed it — in my mind — clearly. That’s exactly how I feel about it.”

Tkachuk called the play “unfortunate” and ” an accident.”

The NHL decided against punishing the Flames forward, but even though Tkachuk fought Blake Wheeler soon after the incident, the bitterness on Winnipeg’s end remains. Despite the increasing tension, the Jets will be without two of their best players in an important Game 2. Focusing all of their attention on getting revenge won’t serve them well.

Officials haven’t been shy about calling penalties through the opening two days of the Qualifying Round. This game will likely be called tighter given the storyline coming out of Game 1. Winnipeg has to be more concerned about avoiding falling behind 0-2 in the best-of-five series.

NHL GAMES TODAY

Game 2: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream – (Hurricanes lead series 1-0): Jesper Fast will not play after taking a hit from Brady Skjei in Game 1. As for the goalie? Igor Shesterkin was on the ice for practice on Sunday but it is not known whether he will dress for Game 2. David Quinn wasn’t sure if the netminder would be ready.

Round-robin: Capitals vs. Lightning, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream: Steven Stamkos likely won’t play against Washington. He’s been nursing an injury since summer training camp opened. Head coach Jon Cooper said they’ve been hopeful he would play in the first game, but not playing was always likely. “We never really in any of our plans had him playing in this first game, so not sure any of that’s really changed,” he said. “We’re always hopeful.” John Carlson, meanwhile, will be a game-time decision for the Capitals.

Round-robin: Stars vs. Golden Knights, 6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestreamRobin Lehner will get the start for Vegas, while the Golden Knights remain without Max Pacioretty. The forward did not travel with the team to the Edmonton bubble, but has rejoined them but is still “unfit to play.” Rick Bowness would not reveal if Ben Bishop or Anton Khudobin would start Dallas’ first round-robin game.

Game 2: Canadiens vs. Penguins, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream – (Canadiens lead series 1-0): The power play was a big factor in the outcome of a number of the games on Day 1 of the playoffs, including this series. Pittsburgh went 1-for-7 with the man-advantage and failed to score on a 5-on-3. Sidney Crosby scored his 67th career playoff goal in Game 1 to move into sole possession of 19th place on the all-time playoff goal scoring list. He trails Gordie Howe by 1 goal (68) for 18th place.

Game 2: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream – (Blackhawks lead series 1-0): During the regular season, Edmonton was first in power play (29.5%) and second in penalty kill (84.4%). Chicago, meanwhile, was 28th with the man advantage (15.2%) but converted three of six opportunities in Game 1, perhaps none more important than Kubalik’s first goal of the game. Dave Tippett said Mike Smith‘s play wasn’t the issue, but did not divulge if he would turn to Mikko Koskinen Monday night.

TUESDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 2: Panthers vs. Islanders, 12 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 2: Coyotes vs. Predators, 2:30 p.m. ET (NHL Network)
Game 2: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, 4 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 3: Flames vs. Jets, 6:45 p.m. ET (NHL Network)
Game 3: Hurricanes vs. Rangers, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 2: Wild vs. Canucks, 10:45 p.m. ET (USA Network)

PHT’s 2020 Stanley Cup playoff previews
Eastern Conference top seed round-robin preview
Penguins vs. Canadiens
Rangers vs. Hurricanes
Islanders vs. Panthers
Maple Leafs vs. Blue Jackets

Western Conference top seed round-robin preview
Jets vs. Flames
Oilers vs. Blackhawks
Predators vs. Coyotes
Wild vs. Canucks

Predictions for 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers
Why your team won’t (and will) win the Stanley Cup this season
NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup-less veterans to root for
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

Stars season already strange before virus, now shot at No. 1

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FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Stars still have a chance to be a No. 1 seed in the NHL playoffs even though they haven’t won a game in five months.

That can only make sense in an unprecedented season like this, one that was paused in mid-March because of a pandemic. Now the NHL is going directly into the postseason without finishing its full 82-game regular season schedule, and the Stars went winless in the last six games they played.

”It’s definitely been a bizarre season in terms of everything that’s kind of happened,” veteran center Andrew Cogliano said. ”We got out of it what we needed to do in terms of making the playoffs, and getting ourselves to this situation.”

This was a surreal season for the Stars long before the upheaval the coronavirus brought to sports and everyday life in March.

There was that miserable 1-7-1 start back in October for a veteran team coming off an encouraging playoff run. Then after the Stars were consistently winning again, there was an unexpected coaching change for issues off the ice. They were still on a pretty good roll until going 0-4-2 those last six games.

”I think we’re like every other team right now. Every team goes through ups and downs during the course of 69 games. Everyone’s fresh right now. Everyone’s rested,” interim head coach Rick Bowness said. ”What’s happened in the first 69 games, you put behind you.”

Dallas is 20-13-5 since Bowness’ promotion in December after second-year coach Jim Montgomery was fired and later went to alcohol rehabilitation. The 65-year-old Bowness has coached in a record 2,266 NHL games, 501 as a head coach, and has now been on a bench in five different decades.

As one of the top four teams in the Western Conference standings, the Stars (37-24-8) got an opening bye for the postseason play that begins Aug. 1. They instead will play St. Louis, Colorado and Vegas in a round-robin in Edmonton to determine the order of the top four playoff seeds.

”The break started and our season, I guess, ended at a pretty good time,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. ”It gave our group a chance to get healthy and rejuvenate.”

Any playoff run will be pretty short if they play like they did to start or finish the truncated regular season.

”I think you’re going to see pretty close to playoff hockey as usual,” Benn said. ”We’re all out there for the one reason, and that’s to try to win the Stanley Cup, and win series. So I think it’s going to be a lot different from the start of the year.”

The Stars, whose only Stanley Cup title came in 1999, won in the first round of the playoffs last season and then went to seven games in the Western Conference semifinals before losing in double overtime to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blues.

Dallas had a comeback win over Nashville in an outdoors game at the Cotton Bowl stadium on New Year’s Day, when 85,630 fans made up the second-largest crowd ever to see an NHL game. That was in the middle of a six-game winning streak.

That six-game slump they have now been mired in for more than four months included consecutive shutout losses to the Predators.

”I don’t think the way we finished is in anyone’s mind,” forward Blake Comeau said. ”We had a tough stretch to start this season and then we turned things around. And it just so happened that right before the break, we were going through a little bit of a tough stretch then.”

Before the Stars were able to get back on the ice together at their practice facility, Comeau was part of a group that worked out at Benn’s home, joining Tyler Seguin and goaltender Ben Bishop. And he saw a refreshed captain.

”Jamie brings so much more than just goals or assists. He’s our emotional leader in the locker room. He’s a guy that everybody looks up to. He’s got a respect from all of the guys,” Comeau said. ”He’s more than just somebody who puts up goals. Obviously we need him to do that, along with Tyler, but he’s a huge part of our locker room.”

NHL goalies scrambling to regain groove after 4-month break

With no ice time available during the NHL’s four-month pandemic-forced break, Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry had little choice but to let his game go to the dogs.

Diesel and Kitty, his two English mastiffs, to be specific.

“That was something I did almost every day, take the dogs downstairs and play street hockey with them,” Jarry said.

“We didn’t really have anyone to shoot on us over the break and I was just playing catch with my girlfriend at home and playing with the dogs. … That was all we could mimic” he added. “I usually would just stick-handle around, and they would chase me around and try to grab the ball.”

The dog days are most certainly over for Jarry and his counterparts. The Penguins are among the 24 teams entering their second week of training camp in preparation for the league’s expanded playoff format that will be played in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, starting on Aug. 1.

And goalies, with varying degrees of on- and off-ice preparation, are playing catch-up to regain their groove.

“As a shooter, you don’t really need a goalie to work on your shot,” Toronto’s Frederik Andersen said. “But I think as a goalie, you definitely need someone to shoot at you.”

Skaters could practice their shots in driveways, patios or basements. Goalies had no way to replicate facing a 100 mph slapshot, the speed of the game, angles and dealing with the jostle of bodies in front of a net.

“It’s probably all of the above, but I think the one major thing obviously is speed and traffic, people in front of you, the ability to find the puck,” Dallas Stars goalie coach Jeff Reese said. “Would we like them to be in midseason form? That would be great. But compete is going to make up a lot for that. And we’ve got two veteran guys that certainly compete hard.”

Reese was referring to starter Ben Bishop, who was able to hit the ice almost daily in Dallas, and backup Anton Khudobin, who had limited ice time while spending most of the break in his native Russia.

Khudobin worked out regularly instead of taking time off to rest as he would during a normal offseason.

“To me, it was like I would be on injury and the guys would be playing hockey,” said Khudobin, who managed to get some ice time with former NHL player Alexander Semin. “And I would just be getting back into shape and keep working, working, working, and whenever I’m cleared to play, here we go.”

Some coaches may lean more on their goalie tandems. That will be especially true for each conference’s top four teams, who can ease in their goalies during a three-game round-robin series to determine first-round playoff seeding.

Assured a first-round spot is a plus for Avalanche coach Jared Bednar, who will take his time choosing between Philipp Grubauer, who hasn’t played since being sidelined by a lower body injury in mid-February, and Pavel Francouz, who went 7-2-2 in taking over the starting job.

“I like the options that we have.” Bednar said. “I think both guys are potential starters for us, and we’ll make our decision as we enter Game 1 of the playoffs and not before then.”

Columbus coach John Tortorella doesn’t have the luxury of time, given the Blue Jackets open their best-of-five series against the Maple Leafs in Toronto.

“I don’t profess to know or want to know about goalies. I just want them to stop the puck,” Tortorella said of having to decide between Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins, who have both missed time due to injury this season. “We’re going to wing it.”

Staying fit and sharp was a concern for Merzlikins, who spent much of the pause holed up in his Columbus apartment.

“It was kind of weird and boring,” he said. “Just stretches and maybe go out for a run. And still I didn’t want to risk it and go run.”

Tampa Bay starter Andrei Vasilevskiy had a far different experience. He kept active by regularly getting out to fish off the Florida coast before having to trade his rod and reel for a blocker and pads.

“I even caught a small shark a few weeks ago,” Vasilevskiy said. “I know it’s a tough time, but at least I had some happy moments during this quarantine.”

NHL lore is filled with stories of goaltending achievements, ranging from the likes of Detroit’s Terry Sawchuk going 8-0 and allowing five goals in 1952 to Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup championship as a rookie in 2016.

Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden, who won six championships in eight seasonss with Montreal in the 1970s, said he has no concerns about members of his fraternity overcoming this year’s challenges.

“Goalies will be ready,” he said.

Rest vs. rust for top four West teams in Round Robin

[UPDATE – JULY 10: NHL announces full schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers]

It’s time to break down how the top four teams in the West should approach the NHL’s Round Robin for Seeding. Earlier on Wednesday, PHT examined similar “rest vs. rust” debates for the East’s top four teams in this format.

Debates for West top four teams heading into NHL’s Round Robin for Seeding

St. Louis Blues

Compared to some of the East’s aging teams, the Blues are reasonably spry. Yes, Alex Pietrangelo is 30, and David Perron is 32. There are some veterans to watch, but the larger picture is a team heavy on mid-prime players.

That said, the Blues should monitor a few situations.

Most obviously, they need to keep an eye on Vladimir Tarasenko. All signs point to Tarasenko being good to go, but it’s unclear if he’ll need to be managed after shoulder surgery.

If the Blues are being proactive, they also might want to keep an open mind with their goalies. Sure, it seems like the top job is Jordan Binnington‘s to lose. But it should be noted that Jake Allen enjoyed a shockingly redemptive season, besting Binnington in save percentage (.927 to Binnington’s .912) and more advanced stats (Allen GSAA: 11.23; Binnington: 3.31).

As defending champions, the Blues enjoy a certain “honeymoon phase,” especially since they broke the franchise’s Stanley Cup curse. Combine that with the wear-and-tear on players like Pietrangelo and 29-year-old Ryan O'Reilly, and there should be a push to rest the top-ranked West team in the Round Robin for Seeding.

Colorado Avalanche

On one hand, the Avalanche rank as one of the youngest contenders in recent memory. Scarily so, if you’re a team preparing to jostle with them in the West over the next few years.

That said, the Avs suffered from a notable number of injuries, including late in the eventually paused season.

Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, Philipp Grubauer, and Andre Burakovsky suffered injuries of varying severity in February. Nathan MacKinnon got a little dinged up in March.

Colorado persevered through some pretty significant injuries late in 2018-19, as well, so the Avalanche must be thrilled by the possibility of entering the West Round Robin for Seeding healthier than usual.

Ideally, at least. Managing this might come down to a mix of luck (those players healing up on time) and caution (not getting too greedy in this three-game format).

Vegas Golden Knights

Normally, the concern would revolve around insulating 35-year-old goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Instead, the Golden Knights should think long and hard about nudging the starting job toward Robin Lehner. NHL teams rarely are so bold, though, so we’ll assume “MAF” is the guy. Maybe Lehner allows Vegas to be more fast-and-loose with “The Flower.”

If you want another way to summarize the strangeness of this season, consider that the Golden Knights could grab the top seed in the West despite firing their coach. On that note, is Peter DeBoer truly comfortable with the team he has in front of him? It will be necessary to supplement the West Round Robin for Seeding with makeshift training camp, but sometimes you get the most “intel” with something on the line.

And, despite only being in their third season, the Golden Knights face stakes.

After shocking the hockey world, the Golden Knights have stocked up with the likes of Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. With that in mind, the Golden Knights are closer to the Blues than the Avalanche when you’re considering the age of go-to players.

Many of those players probably benefited from this break. Pacioretty and Stone ranked among those nursing injuries. It’s not certain, yet this seems like a situation where Vegas might get Alex Tuch back, too.

Vegas basically falls in the middle of the pack as far as the “rest vs. rust” debates go in the Round Robin for Seeding, in the West and overall.

Dallas Stars

Aside from a youthful defense, the Stars stand out as one of the teams that should really be careful with veteran players.

Size is one of the factors that helps Ben Bishop (33) dominate, yet that also likely heightens his injury risk. On the bright side, Anton Khudobin (34) stands right there with him as two goalies who deliver. They’re also both on the old side, though.

The forward group is up there as well. As much has been made about Tyler Seguin (28) and especially Jamie Benn (30) losing a step or two, it’s the supporting cast that’s dancing with Father Time. Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry are both 35, while Alexander Radulov and Andrew Cogliano are both 33.

(At least there’s 23-year-old Roope Hintz and a few others to add some youth to that mix.)

It’s important for Rick Bowness to read the room here.

While there’s an argument that this interrupted format might benefit high-scoring teams, it’s also possible that a stingy group could make a run. Maybe that lack of crowd noise will suffocate offenses that much more?

The Stars aren’t favorites, so it wouldn’t be bleeping horsebleep if this didn’t work out. It would be if the Stars fall short because of self-inflicted wounds, though.

MORE ON NHL PLAYOFFS, ROUND ROBIN FOR SEEDING:

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.