Vladimir Tarasenko

Kadri’s buzzer beater gives Avalanche round-robin win over Blues

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It is going to be awfully difficult to top this finish in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Thanks to a literal buzzer beater from Nazem Kadri, the Colorado Avalanche were 2-1 winners over the St. Louis Blues in round-robin play on Sunday night.

Kadri’s goal — a power play goal — was scored with just 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock. It was so close that it required a lengthy review from the league to determine if the puck had actually completely crossed the goal line before the clock had hit zero.

The goal capped off a dominant power play performance by the Avalanche where they peppered Blues goalie Jordan Binnington with shots and chances, including a near-miss by Kadri just a few seconds earlier.

With the win the Avalanche pick up a huge win in round-robin play and take a big step toward the No. 1 overall seed in the Western Conference.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Kadri was one of Colorado’s big offseason additions, having been acquired in a blockbuster trade that sent defenseman Tyson Barrie to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He helped fill a huge need in Colorado’s lineup by improving their forward depth and giving them a legit second-line center to help take some of the pressure off of their All-Star top line.

Ryan Graves also scored for the Avalanche, tying the game earlier in the third period.

A few other takeaways from Sunday’s game…

  • This turned out to be a really strong goaltenders duel between Jordan Binnington (Blues) and Philipp Grubauer (Avalanche). Binnington takes the tough luck loss for the Blues in this one after stopping 36 out of 38 shots. Grubauer, meanwhile, stopped 31 shots allowing only a power play goal to David Perron in the first period.
  • Vladimir Tarasenko played his first game for the Blues since Oct. 24 and was eased back into action. He played 14 minutes and recorded a pair of shots on goals. Since there is no risk of the Blues being eliminated in this round there should not be any pressure to rush him back into action. At this point it is more important to get him back to game speed and keep him healthy.
  • There was one concerning moment for the Blues in this one when top defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was hit in the back of the leg by an Ian Cole slap shot in the game’s final minute. Pietrangelo immediately dropped to the ice and was slow getting back to the bench.
  • Nathan MacKinnon looked incredible for the Avalanche, playing 23 minutes, recording five shots on goal, and recording an assist on Kadri’s game-winning goal. His line dominated and carried the pace of play when it was on the ice. As it always tends to do.

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.

The Wraparound: Rask out for Bruins opener vs. Flyers

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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.

UPDATE: While Cassidy said Rask is feeling better, Jaroslav Halak will start Sunday. Dan Vladar will serve as the backup. “He’s not going to play today. Hopefully he gets back on the ice as early as tomorrow.”

The Bruins may be without Tuukka Rask for their opening round-robin game against the Flyers on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC; livestream).

Head coach Bruce Cassidy said that the netminder felt ill and did not join the team for practice on Saturday.

“He wasn’t feeling well, so unfit to participate today,” said Cassidy. “As an afternoon question tomorrow, the natural next question is ‘will he start?’ I’ll have to talk to Tuukka later and see where he’s at. If [he cannot play] then Jaro [Halak] will be ready to go.”

A fractured finger during summer training camp forces Rask to missed a handful of practices. Fortunately for the Bruins, they have Halak to fall back on in case their No. 1 can’t go. The two netminders combined to win the 2019-20 Williams Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed since they both played at least 25 games.

Because the Bruins have three round-robin games before the First Round begins, Halak was expected to get at least one start. Both goaltenders split time during Thursday’s exhibition game against Columbus. Boston’s next game will be Wednesday against the Lightning (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

As far as definite absences go with the Bruins, Ondrej Kase finally arrived in the Toronto bubble and will not be ready. Same goes for Nick Ritchie, who has been “unfit to participate.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

NHL GAMES TODAY

Game 1: Coyotes vs. Predators, 2 p.m. ET (USA Network; livestream): The Predators are in the playoffs for the sixth straight season – the longest active streak in the West and behind only Pittsburgh in the entire league. Arizona making the 24-team tournament is also notable as the Coyotes snapped what was the second-longest active postseason drought in the NHL. The Coyotes sat four points out of the final wild card spot when the season paused.

Round-robin: Blues vs. Avalanche, 6:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN; livestream): The defending champs will benefit from the return of forward Vladimir Tarasenko. The 28-year-old underwent left shoulder surgery in late October and was on pace to return for the playoffs even before the season was paused. He played just 10 games this season. The Avalanche were a banged up team before the pause, missing Mikko Rantanen, Andrew Burakovsky, Philipp Grubauer, Matt Calvert and Nazem Kadri. But the long break has allowed the club to heal up, and now the only forward missing is Colin Wilson, who’s been out since October.

Game 1: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs, (joined-in-progress) 9 p.m. ET (NBCSN; livestream): Toronto is the only Eastern Conference team in the Qualifying Round to switch coaches mid-season as they hope the move will produce similar results to the Blues last season, winning the Cup after Craig Berube took over in November. Last summer, the Blue Jackets lost four of their top players in free agency, with Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Sergei Bobrovsky all leaving Columbus. Despite losing those players, the Blue Jackets had the exact same point total through 70 games (81 points) as last season.

Game 1: Wild vs. Canucks, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN; livestream): Minnesota is back in the postseason after falling short last year following six straight playoff appearances from 2013-2018, while Vancouver is in the tournament for the first time since 2015. Neither of these teams have had much playoff success in recent years as the Wild have been bounced in the opening round in each of their last three postseason series. Likewise for the Canucks, who have lost three straight opening-round series since losing in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final to Boston.

MONDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 2: Rangers vs. Hurricanes, 12 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 2: Jets vs. Flames, 2:30 p.m. ET (NHL Network)
Round-robin: Capitals vs. Lightning, 4 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Round-robin: Stars-Golden Knights, 6:30 p.m. ET (NHL Network)
Game 2: Canadiens vs. Penguins, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 2: Blackhawks vs. Oilers, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

PHT’s 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifier 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

Why your team won’t (and will) win the Stanley Cup this season

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There are 24 teams in the NHL’s two hub cities for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and one of them is going to emerge as the winner.

That means 23 teams are going to fall short. The odds are not in your team’s favor.

The entire format (extra teams, a four-month layoff from the regular season, no travel, etc.) adds even more uncertainty and unpredictability to the playoffs and, quite honestly, probably anything is capable of happening this postseason.

With that in mind let us take a quick look at why your favorite team can, and can not, be the one team to win it all.

Arizona Coyotes

Why they won’t win: It is just hard to imagine a team without a true impact player at center winning the Stanley Cup.

Why they can win: When you have two outstanding goalies — and the Coyotes absolutely do in Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper — you will always have a chance.

Boston Bruins

Why they won’t win: They are still a fairly top-heavy team offensively and could eventually run into a deeper team that could cancel out their top line and win the depth game.

Why they can win: They have been the best team in the NHL this season and only lost 14 games in regulation.

Calgary Flames

Why they won’t win: They overachieved in the regular season a year ago and have regressed back to being what they truly are — a solid, but unspectacular team.

Why they can win: Johnny Gaudreau gets a fresh start after the four-month break and has a breakout postseason performance to carry the team.

Carolina Hurricanes

Why they won’t win: I just don’t know if I trust the goaltending situation. That could be their undoing.

Why they can win: Their defense is so good, especially if Dougie Hamilton plays, that it may not matter what their goaltenders do.

Chicago Blackhawks

Why they won’t win: They were on track for a third straight non-playoff season, have not won a playoff series in five years, were the 12th place team in a mediocre Western Conference, the 23rd overall team in the NHL, have a lousy defense, and put up the white flag on their season when they traded their pending free agents before the trade deadline.

Why they can win: There is always the possibility that Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Corey Crawford go on a two-month tear and leave a path of destruction in their wake.

Colorado Avalanche

Why they won’t win: Even though the duo of Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz has been really good this year, that might be the one question mark I have.

Why they can win: The roster is loaded and set up for sustained long-term success. They should be considered one of the top contenders in the entire league.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Why they won’t win: Great story this season, better team than anyone gave them credit for at the start and have overcome a ton. Part of it still feels like a mirage.

Why they can win: Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are studs on defense and can shut things down.

Dallas Stars

Why they won’t win: They simply do not score enough goals. On the other hand…

Why they can win: They simply do not give up any goals.

Edmonton Oilers

Why they won’t win: No depth. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can only do so much.

Why they can win: Nobody else in the league has the two aforementioned megastars and those guys are capable of greatness.

Florida Panthers

Why they won’t win: Absolutely no defensive structure on this team.

Why they can win: Sergei Bobrovsky slays his postseason demons and plays like the goalie they threw $70 million at.

Minnesota Wild

Why they won’t win: Nothing about this roster says “Stanley Cup team.”

Why they will win: Maybe 2020 is crazy enough for the Minnesota Wild to win it all.

Montreal Canadiens

Why they won’t win: They were the 24th place team in the league for a reason. One of those big reasons: They do not have enough finishers offensively.

Why they can win: Carey Price goes back in time to the 2014-15 season and channels his all-world self.

Nashville Predators

Why they won’t win: Goaltending and special teams have both been a season long issue. Those are bad issues to have.

Why they can win: If they can find a way to fix one (or both) of those issues this is still a great team on paper.

New York Islanders

Why they won’t win: They have been a painfully average team for most of the season and were a bit overrated last year.

Why they will win: Barry Trotz is a top-tier coach and I believe in his ability to squeeze the most out of a sub-par roster.

New York Rangers

Why they won’t win: By nearly every objective measure (shot attempts, shots on goal, scoring chances, expected goals) this is a truly dreadful defensive hockey team.

Why they can win: Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad are great, and they have a lot of really good goalies they can lean on.

Philadelphia Flyers

Why they won’t win: I still do not fully trust their defense.

Why they can win: This was a truly outstanding team this season and they finally have a goalie.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Why they won’t win: The goaltending will be their ultimate undoing.

Why they can win: The rest of the roster is loaded with a couple of Hall of Famers and a bunch of All-Stars.

St. Louis Blues

Why they won’t win: There is a reason almost no team repeats as champions in the NHL. It takes a ton of luck.

Why they can win: They are still a great team and are getting Vladimir Tarasenko back after not having him for most of the season.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Why they won’t win: Until this core actually does it there always be skepticism toward them.

Why they can win: It is the best team in the league on paper and the great teams eventually put it together.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Why they won’t win: The defense fails them again.

Why they can win: They have too much offensive talent to keep failing.

Vancouver Canucks

Why they won’t win: The bottom half of their lineup might be the worst of all 24 teams in the tournament.

Why they can win: They have a great young core of players that is worth tuning in to see every night.

Vegas Golden Knights

Why they won’t win: Marc-Andre Fleury struggles and they wait too long to turn to Robin Lehner (or do not turn to him at all).

Why they can win: When healthy and the goaltending is there this might be the best team in the West.

Washington Capitals

Why they won’t win: Braden Holtby can not get hot at the right time again and they have no Plan B behind him.

Why they can win: If Holtby does get hot this is still an elite roster.

Winnipeg Jets

Why they won’t win: The defense still has way too many holes.

Why they can win: Connor Hellebuyck can mask a lot of flaws.

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 Training Camp News Day 4: Pastrnak ‘unfit to participate,’ Stars’ do-over

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Thursday was a bit of a quiet day around NHL training camps. Many teams either used it to give players rest or had them do off-ice workouts. After four months off time will be needed to get players back up to speed. Given the short window of camp before heading to their respective hub cities, keep rosters healthy is of paramount concern. Let’s take a quick skate around camps with NHL Training Camp News Day 4:

Koivu still debating future

Wild captain Mikko Koivu is in the final year of his contract and isn’t sure what he’ll do next season. The 37-year-old played 55 games this season and saw his lowest ice time (15:34) since 2005-06, his rookie year.

“I feel really good,” he said. “As of right now, I’m just really trying to enjoy every minute of it on the ice and the preparation part. Once we get to Edmonton and start playing again, trying to take it as a new experience. I think we all realize right now that anything can happen, so you just want to have fun with it and at the same time prepare the right way and make sure that we do our part as good as we can.

“Once the games are done then I’ll look at the future and that’s going to be up to [how I feel] mentally, physically, and trying to do the right thing in my mind about the future. For the final decision, I don’t think it’s the time to make that call as of right now.”

When he spoke during the NHL pause, Koivu left the door open for a potential return home to Finland.

Stars with a do-over

Displeased with how training camp went in September, Stars interim head coach Rick Bowness sees this as a chance to get off on the right foot … or skate. Teams aren’t coming out of camp now playing lackluster October regular season games. Every game will be meaningful, something he’s trying to stress.

“You’re going right into it and you’re not going to have time to find your game,” Bowness said. “That’s why it’s important our practices are upbeat, our tempo is good, and we’re working on the things we know we have to work on. The players have to bring a good attitude every day and we can’t waste a day — there’s just not enough time.

The Stars play their only exhibition game on July 30 against the Predators before an Aug. 3 round-robin date with the Golden Knights.

‘Stache in he front, party in the back for Werenski

As training camp opened this week, Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski returned sporting a fresh look. How do you like the mullet and mustache combo?

Zach Werenski
Blue Jackets TV

John Tortorella noticed and was sure to volley a few chirps Werenski’s way. How did Werenski explain the new look?

“What’s there to defend, I like it,” he said.

It has a real 1980s action movie villain look.

Pasta missing from Bruins practice

A day after making his debut at Bruins camp David Pastrnak was nowhere to be seen Thursday. Head coach Bruce Cassidy deemed him “unfit to participate” and given the NHL’s new injury disclosure policy we have no idea what that really means.

Ondrej Kase, who’s yet to skate with the regular group, was also missing.

RELATED: More NHL training camp news

“Am I thinking ahead to being without those guys in the round-robin or playoffs? No. That would be speculating,” said Cassidy. “Obviously missing two guys that play up in your lineup and a guy like David that’s your League-leading [goal] scorer, you want him in there, you want him getting back into condition, you want him returning to the ice, and being with his teammates. But he’s not.”

Another issue to deal with was Tuukka Rask leaving practice early. The netminder was stung by a shot on Tuesday, but Cassidy was unsure if it was related to today’s exit.

Gritty break

Yana Tarasenko gets in on Vlad’s workout

Vladimir Tarasenko is healthy and ready to play again for the Blues after suffering an October shoulder injury. He’s been out since Oct. 24 and used the pause to keep in shape in case the NHL did resume.

It was during the break Tarasenko showed off a unique workout via his Instagram.

“Yeah, it’s like a special workout,” he said. “It’s something fun you have to do through quarantine. It’s not my everyday routine, but sometimes you can do this.”

Tarasenko was also asked about upcoming life in the hub city of Edmonton. He said he’s going there to focus on hockey, not feel like he needs to be at a vacation resort.

“I don’t need much to live,” he said. “I just need a bed and food.”

Waiting for Sorokin

Ilya Sorokin won’t be able to play for the Islanders against the Panthers, but the newly-signed goaltender can skate with the team and join them when they head to Toronto. For now, the 24-year-old and the team must wait on immigration paperwork to be filed in order to allow him to travel over from Russia.

“Ilya will come as soon as he’s allowed,” Sorokin’s agent, Dan Milstein told AMNY.

The Islanders were able to sign Sorokin this week six years after drafting him. One day after inking a deal to join the team the rest of the 2019-20 season, he signed a one-year, $2 million extension for next season.

Skjei’s motivation

Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei can’t wait to face his old Rangers teammates in their Stanley Cup Qualifier series. Following the February trade to Carolina, he’s eager to send them back home.

“I’ve got a ton of motivation,” he said Thursday. “I really enjoyed my time in New York and I loved every part of it. But now I have a ton of motivation, a little chip on my shoulder, going into this playoff series.”

Rod Brind’Amour did say on Thursday that the coaching staff planned to talked with Skjei to get information about the way the Rangers like to play.

“We’ll definitely use him as a resource here as we start dialing up more talking about our opponent,” he said. “Starting next week we’ll definitely pick his brain because he was just there, he’s been in their system a long time. It’s in the works.”

MORE: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

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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.

NHL training camps, day 2: Pastrnak not at practice; Golden Knights goalie battle?

Day two of NHL training camps took place on Tuesday, and with all of that, also news and speculation. (Click here to read about day one of NHL training camps.)

Keep in mind that these round-ups aren’t necessarily comprehensive, what with there being 24 NHL teams undergoing training camps.

Oh, and It’s probably fair to say that a more detailed schedule for the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers is the biggest hockey news for Tuesday. So check that out if you want to plan your viewing habits in late July and early August.

Bruins’ Pastrnak not yet practicing; others miss day two (or more) of NHL training camps

Look, it’s important to remember that NHL teams are keeping things unclear. They probably will up until the point that the 2020 Stanley Cup (ideally, safely,) gets awarded. So please keep that in mind anytime we note absences and players not fully participating.

With that out of the way (for now), a few notes:

  • For the second training camp day in a row, David Pastrnak didn’t practice with the Bruins. NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty reports that it seems like Pastrnak, as well as others like Ondrej Kase, are still going through the quarantine process after coming back from overseas. Pastrnak may not get to skate with the full Bruins group until Thursday.

“ … I don’t think they will be too far behind. I think some European players were in countries where they were free to skate earlier, so they might have had the benefit of skating while guys couldn’t here,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Pastrnak, via Haggerty.

  • In some cases, players are still self-isolating. Sometimes players aren’t skating with full groups, for what could be a variety of reasons. There was some rumbling about Shea Weber missing portions of Canadiens practice time, and skating by himself. Such hand-wringing might end up overblown.

As always, these situations can change.

  • Naturally, illnesses and injuries sabotage plans. There’s at least one planned absence, though: Capitals forward Lars Eller. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski reports that Eller will leave the Toronto bubble for the birth of his child. The Ellers expect the child to be born around Aug. 8, which would fall around the Round Robin for Seeding as part of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers. (Again, you can check out that schedule here.)
  • The Maple Leafs removed Timothy Liljegren from their return-to-play roster. Quite a bummer, as Liljegren could become an important part of their defensive future as the team braces for a cap crunch.

Golden Knights set for goalie battle? (And other bits)

Perhaps coach Peter DeBoer is merely being tight-lipped to the point of near-trolling, as seems to be the NHL way. Or maybe he really doesn’t know if the Golden Knights will tab Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner as their No. 1 goalie.

If you’re weighing loyalty most heavily, then the Golden Knights would go with Fleury. His strong play ranked as a big reason they appeared in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

But if you look at recent play, Lehner’s ranked among the NHL’s best goalies since 2018-19. Meanwhile, “The Flower” wilted a bit lately. Also, DeBoer is still-new to the Golden Knights, and thus might not feel the same obligation to Fleury that, say, Gerard Gallant might have.

So we’ll see. There are plenty of goalie training camp battles to watch, but others feel more like battles of lesser evils than the interesting opportunities Vegas has.

  • It’s dangerous to read too much into line combination experiments as early as day two of NHL training camps. That said, it can be entertaining to picture how they’d work.

In the case of Dallas Stars, we’re talking about extremes. The good: experimenting with a line that would combine Tyler Seguin, Roope Hintz, and Denis GurianovThe not-so-good: having Corey Perry (2020 Corey Perry) on the second line, while Alex Radulov and Joe Pavelski fester on the fourth. Seems like these Stars always titillate and frustrate, though.

  • Signings continue to trickle in. That includes the excellently named Jack Rathbone signing with the Canucks, and the Ducks landing an extension with Troy Terry (granted, you may disqualify the Ducks from this post since they aren’t among the 24 teams involved in the return to play).

More: Catch up on day one of NHL training camps.

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.