2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Getty Images

NBCSN’s Hockey Happy Hour: Golden Knights win first-ever Stanley Cup Final game

This week’s Hockey Happy Hour on NBCSN (5-7 p.m. ET) will feature four notable milestone and record performances.

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final marked the first-ever Stanley Cup appearance for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. The high scoring affair featured a Cup-record four lead changes throughout the game. Behind two goals by Tomas Nosek, the Golden Knights won their first-ever Stanley Cup game, 6-4.

Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire called the Stanley Cup matchup from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.

Tuesday, May 19 on NBCSN
NHL’s Who Wore It Best? (Episode 1) – 5 p.m. ET (Live stream)
• Capitals vs. Golden Knights (2018 Stanley Cup Final, Game 1) – 5:30 p.m. ET (Live stream)

Wednesday, May 20 on NBCSN
#HockeyAtHome: Meet & Greet – 5 p.m. ET (Live stream)
• Stars vs. Canucks (2007 Round 2, Game 1) – 5:30 p.m. ET (Live stream)

Thursday, May 21 on NBCSN
NHL Player Gaming Challenge – 5 p.m. ET (Live stream)
• Lightning vs. Blue Jackets (2019 Round 1, Game 4) – 6 p.m. ET (Live stream)

Saturday, May 23 on NBC
• 2014 Olympics Men’s Preliminary Round: USA vs. Russia – 3 p.m. ET

NHL’S WHO WORE IT BEST? – TUES., 5 P.M. ET, NBCSN
NHL’s Who Wore It Best? will feature hockey writers, broadcasters and insiders debating the best players to wear each jersey number in NHL history. The five-week series will air on NBCSN every Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET. The premiere episode features NBC Sports’ Pierre McGuire who takes part in debating the following jersey numbers: 92, 91, 88, 81 and 77.

#HOCKEYATHOME: MEET & GREET – WEDS., 5 P.M. ET, NBCSN
NBC Sports’ Kathryn Tappen will co-host a 30-minute program that features Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl and Torey Krug of the Bruins meeting fans virtually during the league’s hiatus in a memorable digital experience.

NHL PLAYER GAMING CHALLENGE – THURS., 5 P.M. ET, NBCSN
NBCSN will present the final broadcast of the NHL Player Gaming Challenge at 5 p.m. ET, between Philadelphia vs. Toronto. The competition features James van Riemsdyk representing the Flyers against Zach Hyman of the Maple Leafs. The month-long initiative pit NHL players from all 31 clubs facing off against each other in EA Sports NHL 20.

Following the hour-long program at 5 p.m. ET, a matchup between Thatcher Demko and Adam Gaudette of the Canucks and Ryan Reaves and Alex Tuch of the Golden Knights will be available on NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and the NBC Sports YouTube channel.

TEAM USA-RUSSIA (2014 OLYMPICS) – SAT., 3 P.M. ET, NBC
Team USA and Russia faced off in the preliminary round at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. Tied at two, the Americans selected forward T.J. Oshie to participate in six shootout attempts, including the shootout-winner in the eighth round.

Emrick, Olczyk and McGuire called the preliminary round game in Sochi. The 3-2 Team USA shootout victory ranked as NBCSN’s most watched hockey game ever at the time.

The enhanced presentation of this matchup will feature NBC Sports’ Liam McHugh interview with shootout hero Oshie about his memories on the historic game. NBC’s broadcast will also feature a special Memorial Day essay penned by Emrick.

Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Happy Hour can be found here.

NBCSN’s Hockey Happy Hour: Guetzel’s four goals push Penguins past Flyers

Getty Images

NBC Sports’ Hockey Happy Hour continues this week with memorable playoff comebacks.

In a high-scoring affair between these rivals, a player on both teams recorded hat tricks. In a losing effort, Sean Couturier of the Flyers scored three goals, while Jake Guentzel of the Penguins scored four straight goals, helping Pittsburgh turn a 4-2 deficit into an 8-5 victory, which led them to the Second Round.

John Forslund, Eddie Olczyk, and Pierre McGuire had the call from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.

Thursday, April 16 on NBCSN
Our Line Starts podcast – 5 p.m. ET
• Penguins vs. Flyers (2018 Round 1, Game 6) – 5:30 p.m. ET

OUR LINE STARTS THURSDAY AT 5 P.M. ET ON NBCSN
A 30-minute episode of NBC Sports’ weekly NHL podcast, Our Line Starts, hosted by Liam McHugh, will feature an interview with Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet.

Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Happy Hour can be found here.

Capitals vs. Penguins on NBCSN: Kuznetsov’s overtime series clincher

Hockey Week in America continues Saturday with memorable playoff performances in the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

In 2018, the Capitals and Penguins met in Round 2 for the third straight postseason. Pittsburgh won the previous two series en route to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. But this time Washington would have its revenge. Evgeny Kuznetsov would score in overtime of Game 6 to help the Capitals advance as they went on to win their first championship in franchise history.

You can catch Game 6 of the 2018 Penguins vs. Capitals playoff game Saturday night on NBCSN beginning at 12:30 a.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SATURDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2018 playoffs) – 12:30 a.m. on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

Stanley Cup clinchers on NBCSN: Capitals end championship drought

Hockey Week in America continues Thursday with some notable Stanley Cup clinchers.

This series pitted the expansion Golden Knights in their first season facing the Capitals, who were trying to end their infamous championship drought. Behind a goal from Alex Ovechkin, and the Cup-clinching goal from Lars Eller, the Capitals overcame a third period deficit to beat the Golden Knights 4-3 to win their first-ever Stanley Cup. Ovechkin was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy.

You can watch the Ovechkin and the Capitals finally capturing the Cup and more Stanley Cup clinchers Thursday night on NBCSN beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

THURSDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Capitals vs. Golden Knights (Game 5, 2018 Stanley Cup Final) – 9 p.m. ET
• Penguins vs. Red Wings (Game 7, 2009 Stanley Cup Final) – 11 p.m. ET
• Blackhawks vs. Flyers (Game 6, 2010 Stanley Cup Final) – 1 a.m. ET

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

————

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.

Since losing ’18 Cup Final, Golden Knights look more like Caps

Almost 18 months since the Vegas Golden Knights’ improbable inaugural season ended, they look much more like the team that vanquished them in the Stanley Cup Final.

If you can’t beat ’em, be more like ’em.

Once a ragtag group relying on more will than skill, Vegas is beginning to resemble the Washington Capitals they faced in the 2018 final. The Golden Knights don’t have carbon copies of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom, but they added some serious skill in forwards Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone and could easily follow the Capitals’ championship model.

“They’ve done a great job,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “I think they’ve added another layer. I thought when we beat them, we were a little bit deeper team, especially up front. Then adding Stone, adding Pacioretty, signing Stastny – those are three really good players, so they have a whole new layer of offensive, really solid players on their team. In theory, I think they’re a better team than they were.”

The Golden Knights who went to the final in their expansion season had a first line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith and leaned heaviest on defensemen Nate Schmidt, Shea Theodore and Deryk Engelland. All those players remain but have the pressures eased off them, given internal promotions and external additions.

Forward William Carrier, one of more than a dozen players left from the 2018 final, said this is a better team.

“Right now, we’re a more talented team,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “It’s a different team. We’re a more skilled team than we were back then. But back then we had that air about (us) – we were the hardest working team in the league. I want us to get back to that. We were a fast team, we were a quick team that first year and everything went our way. We had a lot of puck luck and a lot of good things that happened that first year.”

Those good things stopped when the Capitals wore down the Golden Knights with their depth and won the series in five games. Then, last spring, Vegas got knocked out in the first round when a blown call in Game 7 against San Jose snowballed into a disastrous third period.

Bouncing back from two tough playoff exits is another lesson the Golden Knights can learn from the Capitals, who kept getting stopped in the second round or earlier before breaking through and winning it all.

“We’ve had some disappointments,” said Kelly McCrimmon, who took over for George McPhee as Knights GM last summer. “That’s your ultimate opportunity to evaluate and to learn and to assess where you need to be better. … There’s things you need to do to get you to the playoffs, there’s things you need to do to get you through the playoffs. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve been a playoff team both years, we’ve gained that experience.”

Capitals winger Tom Wilson looks at Vegas as a team built for the playoffs because of its size, skill and toughness. It’s almost like gazing into a mirror.

“They have a really stable team – they can establish all four lines and roll,” Washington’s Jakub Vrana said. “They play hard, and they work hard for every inch of the ice. That’s what’s been winning them games. We do the same thing.”

Blending the work ethic and the grittiness that got Vegas into the final with the talent that could get it over the top is now the challenge. Gallant doesn’t shy away from the comparison to the Capitals, who perfected that mix.

“The work comes before the skill, and when you get your talented guys and your skilled guys working real hard, then that’s when you’re going to have the right team,” Gallant said. “I think the team in Washington, that’s what they do. They’ve got some real talented hockey players, but when they work hard, they’re a great team.”

The next stage in becoming a consistently great team is integrating homegrown players, like Cody Glass and Nicolas Hague, who were picks from the Golden Knights’ first draft in 2017. Vegas is at the salary cap like the NHL’s best teams and isn’t afraid of the big expectations that come with that.

“We don’t feel or act or believe we’re an expansion team,” McCrimmon said. “We’re in Year 3 as a franchise, and like every other team, always trying to get better, always trying to win more games, always trying to be a playoff team and have success.”

FIRST TIMER

Lifelong Maple Leafs fan Ron Ruckstuhl, 52, was diagnosed with Lewy dody disease three years ago and told he had five to seven years to live. In August, son Joshuah sent a tweet to retired NHLer Paul Bissonnette hoping his dad could attend a game in Toronto for the first time.

“I’ve waited 52 years for something like this,” Ron said.

As part of the “NHL First Timer” video series, the league surprised Ruckstuhl at his house earlier this month and took him and sons Joshuah and Ryan to the Leafs’ game Nov. 5 against Los Angeles.

“I’d never seen my dad smile and laugh (like that),” said Joshuah, 28, who is his father’s full-time caregiver. “For a little bit, you didn’t realize he was sick. You could see him forget about being sick for just a little bit.”

The league is releasing video of the occasion Wednesday to mark World Kindness Day.

“This is what it’s all about,” NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer said. “To be able to put joy in somebody’s life like Ron’s and to be able to show his story to the world is quite an honor and it makes me proud to be a part of the NHL.”

NO LONE WOLF

Phil Kessel is fitting in just fine with the young Arizona Coyotes and has come a long way from playing in the shadow of – and winning two titles with – Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin in Pittsburgh.

“He fed off those guys in Pittsburgh really well,” said coach Rick Tocchet, who also was an assistant with the Penguins. “Sometimes he was under the radar, and he’d come up with some big goals because (opponents focused on) Malkin or Crosby. Now there’s a little bit more focus on him.”

Tocchet said Kessel has done more leading because he recognizes, at 32, he should. It’s working.

“Phil, the young guys love him and he’s taking pressure off guys,” Tocchet said. “When some guys aren’t scoring, to be honest with you, the media are not on the guy as much because Phil takes that pressure off. So he does take the pressure or the burden off some guys if they’re not scoring.”