Brad Richardson‘s goal 5:27 into overtime gave the Coyotes a 4-3 win Friday, sending Nashville out of the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round in four games.
The series win is Arizona’s first since 2012 when they beat the Predators in five games to advance in the Second Round.
As they’ve done in the series, the Predators dug holes that led to opportunities for Arizona. Continued mistakes in the defensive zone not only hindered their ability to create scoring chances (won by the Coyotes 27-26 at 5-on-5), but led to goals against.
There were some serious NHL Game 3 upsets, and even the way the upsets happened must have been extra-upsetting for the favorites.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Panthers live to fight another day.
Breaking the underdog trend, powerful round-robin teams the Avalanche and Lightning won. (Then again, the Presidents’ Trophy winners won’t be the East’s top seed, so maybe that underdog trend still tracks …)
For the first time in more than four years, the Panthers won a playoff game. They avoided being swept by the Islanders in the process, riding some quick strikes in the third period. Florida protected Sergei Bobrovsky reasonably well, and may feel a little more confident after Wednesday. Of course, it would help if Jonathan Huberdeau can play in Game 4 after being shaken up by a collision with a Panthers teammate.
Despite carrying much of the play — especially when the “JOFA” line of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson were on — the Predators could only beat Darcy Kuemper once. Kuemper bounced back from a bumpy Game 2 to hold down the fort for Arizona. Taylor Hall ended up scoring the insurance goal and added an assist to give the Coyotes a chance to advance in Game 4.
After losing their first two games of the Eastern Conference Round Robin, the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins won’t be able to secure the top seed in their conference. Tough break for the only NHL team to reach 100 standings points, but that’s the nature of the beast as COVID-19 disrupts both life and sports. The Lightning, meanwhile, won their first two of three round-robin games, so they have a strong chance to take the top seed.
Following a buzzer-beater win against the defending champion Blues, the Avalanche didn’t leave their second round-robin game to chance. Cale Makar kicked off the scoring with a power-play goal 3:19 into the game, and the Avalanche never really looked back. So far, the Avalanche look as speedy and scary as hockey diehards were hoping.
This time around, this wasn’t about Carey Price standing on his head (or nearly doing so). In a dramatic affair, the Penguins built a 3-1 lead early in the second period. That lead, and the Penguins themselves, would absolutely fall apart. The Canadiens surged back to win Game 3, and did so convincingly. Yeah, wow.
The Oilers and Blackhawks raise that “Yeah, wow” to … I don’t know, a “Super wowzers?” Wednesday featured some lower seeds stunning favorites, and while the Penguins carry far more clout than the Oilers, Edmonton still lost in a more staggering way. In another game of swings, Connor McDavid gave the Oilers a 3-2 lead in the dying seconds of the second period. The Oilers protected that lead for a decent portion of the third, until it all fell apart with two late Blackhawks goals. Just like that, Edmonton is on the brink of elimination. Hockey can be pretty wild, gang.
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)
Western Conference Round Robin Standings
Colorado Avalanche (2-0-0, 4 points)
Vegas Golden Knights (1-0-0, 2 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-1-0, 0 points)
Dallas Stars (0-2-0, 0 points)
NHL’s Three Stars from Wednesday
1. Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes
As Wednesday went along, NHL Game 3 upsets became a pattern, and the results became increasingly shocking. A higher seed Predators team falling to the Coyotes feels less jarring when you compare it to the other stunning NHL Game 3 upsets of the day.
Still, this was the standout effort.
Kuemper helped the Coyotes author a familiar version of this one, an upset far more typical than the Blackhawks and Canadiens more or less matching the Oilers and Penguins respectively. In the case of the Coyotes beating the Predators, much of the result had to do with a goalie standing on his head.
After a tough Game 2, Kuemper stopped 39 out of 40 shots to snare Game 3 from the Predators. Kuemper’s best work came early, as the Coyotes took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission despite Nashville managing a 19-9 SOG advantage.
You can definitely ding Weber a bit when he might have let up a bit during a delayed penalty, which would have been called on him if Patric Hornqvist didn’t bury a beautiful assist by Evgeni Malkin. But, overall, Weber was fantastic in Montreal’s flabbergasting 4-3 win against the Penguins. Along with scoring one goal and two assists for three points, Weber was stout defensively. That included two goals for and zero against at even-strength. Weber likely played a prominent role in the Habs making sure the Penguins’ third-period comeback attempt was generally, shockingly feeble.
If you feel like Jonathan Toews should get the nod, that’s understandable. Toews scored two goals, and played a big role in the Blackhawks’ win. (So did a torrent of deflections, but still, Toews was great.)
Toews will feel fine taking the win and being a victory away from the formal 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Yet, Leon Draisaitl looked like the 2020 Art Ross winner out there. Draisaitl factored into all three Oilers goals (two goals, one assist) and carried the sort of underlying stats he doesn’t always generate.
Hockey Twitter might want to “free Connor McDavid,” but some sympathy should be saved for Draisaitl, too.
2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers — top highlights from Monday
Honestly? It’s probably wise to plunk down those Oilers – Blackhawks highlights, wholesale:
If you need a single highlight, the decisive goal from Predators – Coyotes could do the trick. Derek Stepan made a fantastic pass, then Conor Garland completed the highlight-reel-game-winner by stupefying the Predators:
What a fabulous, unexpected breakout season from Garland …
By grabbing an assist in Game 3, Sidney Crosby broke a tie with Doug Gilmour and Joe Sakic for eighth all-time in scoring with his 190th playoff point. Telling him that after Game 3 would probably mainly earn you a frown, though.
Jeff Petry already has two postseason game-winning goals for the Canadiens. Via NHL PR, he’s the sixth Canadiens defenseman to generate at least two in a single playoff run.
The Coyotes denied a Predators comeback to take Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Qualifier series, 4-3.
Arizona came out flying in the first period, beating Juuse Saros three times in a span of 7:43. A fluky double deflection, a defensive zone turnover, and a power play would force Nashville to chase the rest of the game.
The momentum created as the Predators mounted a comeback was halted by penalties. They handed the Coyotes six power plays in Game 1, including one late in the third period while they continued controlling possession.
The Predators had their chances, but kept creating their own mistakes. Down 3-1, and on a power play late in the second period, Filip Forsberg‘s pass went right to Michael Grabner, who had plenty of space ahead for a shorthanded goal.
Saros getting his first career playoff start meant that Pekka Rinne’s 89-game postseason streak came to an end.
Rinne’s streak began in 2010 and is the fourth-longest for a goalie in NHL history behind Martin Brodeur (194), Patrick Roy (133), and Henrik Lundqvist (128).
Who was the last Predators goalie to start a playoff game before Rinne’s streak began? That would be Dan Ellis.
Now comes decision time. It’s hard to pin the loss on Saros’, but coaches are prone to overreaction. Would Hynes make the decision to switch in order shake up his team in an 0-1 hole in a best-of-five series? The head coach has faith in both.
“I feel very confident in both goalies,” Hynes said on Saturday. “As we’ve said, in training camp, they were both very competitive and both played well and it’s a unique situation. I feel that the way that they are together, the way the compete and support each other, it’s helpful.”
Hynes did say Sunday after Game 1 he liked Saros’ game but does not have a decision on a Game 2 starter right now.
(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Coyotes vs. Predators, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN Wednesday, Aug. 5: Predators vs. Coyotes, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN Friday, Aug. 7: Predators vs. Coyotes*, TBD Sunday, Aug. 9: Coyotes vs. Predators*, TBD
You can watch all the NHL playoff streams on the NBC Sports app.
Considering all of the hurdles, many wonder if the NHL is wise to embark on its ambitious return-to-play plan. Others simply miss hockey too much to shut the idea down. Wherever you may stand, if you love the sport, you’ll probably be entertained watching more than eight minutes of the best NHL goals from the 2019-20 season so far.
The video of the best NHL goals from the 2019-20 season mixes what you’d expect with what you may have forgotten.
Breaking news: Connor McDavid is amazing. Need proof? You could look at his stats. Or you could just watch McDavid in the video above. Fellow might have a future in the sport.
Considering his antics, people may sometimes need a reminder that Matthew Tkachuk is more than a mere “pest.” If the stats don’t do the trick either, watch some of the absurd goals Tkachuk scored — often in clutch situations.
David Pastrnak tied Ovechkin for the Maurice Richard, so it’s not surprising to see heaping portions of “Pasta.”
Sometimes you score amazing goals, then get traded. Blake Coleman did so with the Devils, and Sonny Milano managed a jaw-dropper for Columbus.
It’s good stuff overall, so check out the video. Which goal ranks as the best from the NHL’s regular season for 2019-20? Did any top candidates miss the cut?
Barring two very big names (which we’ll discuss in the next section), the Capitals have a lot of their name-brand players signed long-term.
It remains to be seen if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, depending upon how each integral player ages. Nicklas Backstrom is already 32, making a five-year extension with a $9.2M AAV pretty scary. Looking at other players with term, T.J. Oshie is 33, Lars Eller is 30, and John Carlson is 30.
Of course, Carlson looks like a steal at $8M so far, and those players have aged like fine wine — at least at this point.
If this group sustains reasonably well as they hit 30 and beyond, then the Capitals should be able to put puzzle pieces together to compete. At some point, you’d expect the run of division titles to end. Then again, like Alex Ovechkin scoring all of the goals, it just seems to keep happening.
Long-term needs for Capitals
I hesitated ever so slightly to put Ovechkin in the core section because, frankly, his future is a little bit unsettled.
The 34-year-old sees what felt like a lifetime contract end after 2020-21. Will the Capitals ask Ovechkin to take a pay cut from $9.54M? Would Ovechkin demand even more money? He’d certainly have options in the hard-to-imagine scenario where the situation gets sticky.
But there are certainly a number of scenarios where this plays out poorly for the Capitals and/or Ovechkin. Including if he stays, but steeply declines with an aging team.
The Capitals also need to settle their situation in net. It’s difficult to shake the impression that pending UFA Braden Holtby might be out. The 30-year-old’s best chance at a big payday likely lies somewhere other than D.C.
I mean … I think. The Capitals have shown an eagerness to keep key players together, sometimes producing some surprises. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with Backstrom, and I also was mildly surprised when they brought Oshie back. None of this is to say that the moves were foolish; it’s just sometimes difficult to tell when a team might make the painful, cap-forced decision to let a cherished player walk away.
Because the danger is that the Capitals might squeeze out a much-needed injection of youth if they try to wrangle everyone. At his current trajectory, 24-year-old Jakub Vrana sure looks like he’ll be in line for a massive raise from $3.35M after 2020-21.
Letting Holtby go — and maybe getting lucky to shake loose a problem contract to Seattle — might be key in replenishing the ranks.
The Capitals either need to get creative to stay younger, or they might need to search for the Fountain of Youth.
Long-term strengths for Capitals
No doubt about it, the aging curve worries me for Washington. That said, it might not be ominous at the “guillotine hanging over your head” level.
For one thing, players like Backstrom could conceivably age well. He distinguishes himself as much for his hockey IQ as he does for his talent, so maybe Backstrom will parallel, say, Patrice Bergeron over the years.
Ilya Samsonov also represents a possible solution. He could end up being better than Holtby going forward, and as a 23-year-old who would be an RFA after 2020-21, the Capitals may also be able to extend Samsonov for a team-friendly price.
OK, the Capitals might be forced into such a scenario by cap realities. But, when you look at, say, the Blue Jackets waving goodbye to Sergei Bobrovsky and getting a better deal with young, cheap netminders, it’s certainly not a given that Washington won’t come out of the situation as winners.
In all honesty, Capitals management has earned a solid level of trust.
But considering how infrequently they’ve picked even as high as the teens in drafts, they’ve been able to unearth some gems here and there. And Brian MacLellan isn’t even trading them away as perilously as the Capitals once did with Filip Forsberg.
My guess is that the “bill is coming” for years of win-now approaches, so maybe that shrewdness will only go so far. Still, this franchise has consistently found ways to stay in the picture, and there’s some reason to believe that the party might go a few years longer.