Steve Stamkos

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The Buzzer: Predators rally over Capitals, Laine carries Jets, Marleau’s big return

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Three Stars

1. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets. It is not a stretch to suggest that Laine’s 2018-19 season was a bit of a disappointment. Not necessarily a bad season, just not what anyone really expected from him. He is doing his best to make everyone forget about that so far this season. He continued his incredible start on Thursday with a four-point night (two goals, two assists) to help the Jets pick up a 5-2 win in their home opener against the Minnesota Wild. He now has three goals and 10 total points in the first five games for a Jets team that is now 3-2-0 despite having a woefully undermanned defense.

2. Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks. Is he the missing ingredient for the Sharks? That remains to be seen, but for one night he was by scoring two goals in a 5-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Maybe signing a 40-year-old veteran after an 0-4 start was a desperation move on the part of the Sharks, but he definitely made an impact in his first game back in teal. Read more about it here.

3. Ryan Johansen, Nashville Predators. Thanks to a four-goal third period the Predators were able to overcome a 4-2 deficit against the Washington Capitals to win for the third time in their first four games. Johansen played a big role in the win with a pair of goals, his first two of the season.

Other notable performances from Thursday

  • Brayden Point made his return to the lineup for Tampa Bay with three points as part of a huge 7-3 rout of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos also had four points each. Read more about all of their performances here.
  • The Edmonton Oilers are 4-0 for the first time since 2008-09 thanks to a great performance from Mikko Koskinen in net and James Neal‘s seventh goal in four games, already matching his season total from a year ago. Read more about the Oilers — and Neal’s — great start here.
  • Sidney Crosby scored a goal and added an assist to lead the Penguins to a 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks, handing the latter their first defeat of the season.
  • The Calgary Flames overcame a two-goal third period deficit to defeat the Dallas Stars. Johnny Gaudreau scored the winner in the shootout.
  • Anthony Mantha continued his fast start and helped the Red Wings win again as they topped the Montreal Canadiens.
  • Phillip Grubauer stopped 39 shots for the Colorado Avalanche and Andre Burakovsky scored his first goal with the team as they came from behind to defeat the Boston Bruins. The Avalanche had a little bit of luck on their side as two potential Bruins goals were wiped out by video review.
  • David Perron scored two goals and Ryan O'Reilly finished with four points as the St. Louis Blues rallied past the Ottawa Senators for their third consecutive win.
  • The Arizona Coyotes are on the board with their first win of the season thanks in part to a two-goal effort from Conor Garland. Barrett Hayton also recorded his first NHL point in his first ever game.

Highlights of the Night

This sequence by the Coyotes to take a 2-0 lead over the Vegas Golden Knights is really something to see.

Burakovsky’s first goal as a member of the Avalanche was quite the individual effort.

Gaudreau’s shootout winner was a pretty slick backhander.

Blooper of the Night

Pretty much the only thing that did not go well for the Tampa Bay Lightning during their big win over the Maple Leafs was this play here.

 

Factoids

  • Phil Kessel skated in his 777th consecutive game, moving him past Craig Ramsay for the seventh-longest consecutive games streak in NHL history. [NHL PR]
  • Marleau is only the 13th player in NHL history to score at least one goal in 22 different seasons. [Sportsnet Stats]
  • One more Marleau fact: His consecutive games streak extended to 789, the sixth-longest in NHL history. He is also the only player to appear in every possible game during his 30s, which is just incredible. [Ross McKeon]
  • No player in Oilers franchise history has scored more goals through the first four games of a season than James Neal’s seven. [NHL PR]
  • Alex Ovechkin scored two power play goals for the Capitals to move ahead of Luc Robaitaille for fourth place on the NHL’s all-time power play goals list. [NHL PR]
  • The Red Wings’ win against the Canadiens snapped a nine-game losing streak against Montreal. [NHL PR]
  • Sharks defenseman Brent Burns became the 23rd defenseman to reach the 200-goal mark. [NHL PR]

Scores
Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Toronto Maple Leafs 3
Detroit Red Wings 4, Montreal Canadiens 2
Edmonton Oilers 4, New Jersey Devils 3 (SO)
Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Anaheim Ducks 1
St. Louis Blues 6, Ottawa Senators 4
Nashville Predators 6, Washington Capitals 5
Winnipeg Jets 5, Minnesota Wild 2
San Jose Sharks 5, Chicago Blackhawks 4
Calgary Flames 3, Dallas Stars 2 (SO)
Colorado Avalanche 4, Boston Bruins 2
Arizona Coyotes 4, Vegas Golden Knights 1

MORE:
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Poll: Will Seabrook re-sign?

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In Chicago, conversation about the cost of keeping the team together never really ends.

Having just come off a summer in which Brandon Saad, Brad Richards, Johnny Oduya and Patrick Sharp all exited due to financial constraints, the ‘Hawks can now begin looking ahead to next July, when another prized player could go unrestricted:

Brent Seabrook.

Seabrook, 30, is heading into the last of a five-year, $29 million deal with a $5.8M cap hit. His resume is loaded — three Stanley Cups, Olympic gold, a ’15 All-Star Game appearance — and he’s coming off a postseason in which he led all defensemen in goals (seven), the same number that Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos potted.

So needless to say, he’d be coveted on the open market.

There are two sides to this discussion. The first is why Seabrook would want to stay in Chicago, and it’s a fairly easy sell — it’s the only team he’s ever known, having been drafted by the ‘Hawks in the first round in ’03. He’s since appeared in over 800 games in a ‘Hawks sweater during his 10-year career, and developed a dynamic pairing with fellow blueliner (and one of his best friends) Duncan Keith.

Seabrook also has, as mentioned above, achieved a boatload of success with the ‘Hawks.

But there are reasons why he’d leave.

Well, one big reason — the money.

Per war-on-ice.com, the ‘Hawks already have close to $60 million committed to 16 players after this season. While there aren’t many other noteworthy contracts on the horizon — Andrew Shaw will require a new deal in ’16-17, Teuvo Teravainen and Marko Dano the year after — there is a question of how much Chicago can pay Seabrook.

Do consider that, a few weeks ago, Calgary gave Mark Giordano — who’s a year older than Seabrook — a six year, $40.5 million extension that carries a $6.75M cap hit. Earlier this summer, TSN speculated that Seabrook “is due to earn at least Dion Phaneuf-type money, in the neighborhood of seven years and $49 million.”

Those are both pretty steep AAVs but, given the dearth of quality UFA defensemen that usually hit the market, they could be in Seabrook’s wheelhouse. Remember that Mike Green got $6M per from Detroit this summer, while Andrej Sekera got $33 million over five years from the Oilers.

If Seabrook doesn’t sign an extension prior to the season starting, you can expect this conversation to pick up steam as the year progresses.

But why wait for that? Let’s vote and discuss now.

Stamkos extension ‘No. 1 priority’ this offseason, says Yzerman

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Less than 48 hours after losing the Stanley Cup Final, Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman was already back at work.

During Wednesday’s end-of-year media availability, Yzerman told reporters he’d identified his top offseason priority — signing captain Steve Stamkos to an extension, which can be done by July 1 at the earliest.

The news doesn’t come as a huge surprise, given the Lightning don’t have many free agents to deal with. But it is the official start of what promises to be an intriguing negotiation.

Stamkos is heading into the last of a five-year, $37.5 million deal with a $7.5M average annual cap hit. Given he’s one of the NHL’s elite snipers and only turned 25 in February, it’s assumed he’s in line for a raise, with some suggesting he’ll be in conversation to become NHL’s next $10M cap hit, joining Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (their extensions kick in next season.)

But is Yzerman ready to commit that much money to one player?

If this postseason showed anything, it’s that Tampa has a slew of talented youngsters on the verge of becoming stars. Chief among them was Tyler Johnson, the leading playoff scorer — and while both he and Ondrej Palat are locked in through 2017 at $3.3M per, they’ll almost certainly be getting raises on their next deals.

And they’re not alone.

Nikita Kucherov, a bargain at $711,666 annually, is a RFA after next year. So too are Alex Killorn ($2,5M), Cedric Paquette ($633,333) and J.T. Brown ($950,000). Once Victor Hedman’s $4-million-per-season deal is up, he’ll almost certainly top Matthew Carle ($5.5M annually) as the team’s highest-paid defenseman.

Oh yeah, almost forgot — when Hedman’s deal is up in two year’s time, so too is Ben Bishop’s.

Any potential cap crunch could, of course, be mitigated by how badly Stamkos wants to stay in Tampa. It’s clear the team has the foundation to contend for years to come, meaning his decision could come down to the age-old question:

What’s more important, winning or money?

Do consider what Stamkos said today.

“This was one of, if not the best teams I’ve played on,” he said. “Not just skill wise, but how we got along.

“This was the most fun I’ve ever had playing the game.”

Cooper: ‘This is going to leave a scar, no doubt’

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CHICAGO — And then, there’s the losing side.

In the wake of their loss to Chicago in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, the Lightning were forced to do what the losing team does: watch someone else celebrate, listen to the cheers from the dressing room, and wait to field the questions.

Not just any questions, but those questions. The ones nobody likes to ask and even fewer like to answer.

How does it feel? What do you say? How much does it hurt? Can you describe your emotions?

Jon Cooper, credit to him, tried his best to respond.

“We’ve got a group of young men in there, but they’re kids at heart, and they’re crushed,” he said. “It was really hard to look at them and see how crushed they truly are. I’m crushed for two other people. I’m crushed for [assistant coach] Rick Bowness. I envisioned handing him the Stanley Cup. And I’m crushed for [other assistant] Steve Thomas because I envisioned doing the same thing. Guys have been in this league for a long time and you just want to see other people succeed and be a part of the success.

“Maybe we’ll look back weeks from now and somewhat treasure what we accomplished. But we’ve got unfinished business to do. The Montreal series last year stung, but that pales in comparison to what this feels like.”

The Lightning were visibly gutted following tonight’s 2-0 loss — the first time they’d been shut out in 19 playoff games. That lack of offense was a recurring theme over the final three games of this series, all Chicago wins; the Bolts only put two pucks past Corey Crawford through Games 4-6, with captain and former 60-goal man Steve Stamkos failing to find the back of the net all series.

“Ultimately, we didn’t score enough,” Cooper admitted. “If you would have told me at the beginning of the playoffs that we were going to be the team that scored one goal in the last two games, that wasn’t our MO.

“We were only giving up two goals a game. When this team only gives up two, we win a majority of those games. The pucks just didn’t go in for us. It was a tough time for us to go cold, have the well go dry, especially since we carried this on the whole year.”

Ultimately, this will serve as a learning experience for the Bolts. The team is young, talented and thanks to GM Steve Yzerman’s managerial savvy, well-positioned to remain a title contender in a salary cap world.

But that’s of little condolence on a night when their Stanley Cup dreams were dashed away.

“This is going to leave a scar,” Cooper said. “No doubt.”

Sweet home Chicago: Blackhawks are your 2015 Stanley Cup champions

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CHICAGO — They’ve done it again.

But this time, they did it at home.

For the third time in the last six years — and for the first time in Chicago since 1938 — the Blackhawks ascended to the top of the NHL, beating Tampa Bay 2-0 on Monday night in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, winning the series four games to two.

Tonight’s game was, like every game this series, a thrilling affair with little separating the two teams. While the final didn’t go the full seven games and failed to feature a single overtime, the Bolts and ‘Hawks combined for one of the most tightly-contested championship series the NHL’s seen in a long time.

Perhaps that’s why it took a special play from a special player to decide it.

Duncan Keith, the Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP, scored the winning goal late in the second period on a terrific solo effort, picking up his own rebound before firing past Ben Bishop. That Keith scored the winner was fitting and cemented himself in Blackhawk lore; with the goal, he became the first ‘Hawk to score a cup-winning tally at home since Carl Voss beat the Maple Leafs at the old Chicago Stadium 77 years ago.

Keith wasn’t the only hero on the night, however.

Corey Crawford, outstanding in the latter half of this series, stopped all 23 shots faced for his first-ever Stanley Cup Final shutout. Over the final three games, the two-time Cup-winning ‘tender allowed just two goals, finishing with a sparkling .975 save percentage.

But there’s another side to Crawford’s heroics.

For as good as he was, the Bolts will have their regrets about failing to beat him. The NHL’s highest-scoring team during the regular season struggled to generate offense as the series progressed, and were shut out in tonight’s elimination contest — the first time they’ve been blanked in 19 games.

And it’s not like the Lightning were without their chances. Captain Steve Stamkos, who’ll undoubtedly face criticism after failing to score in the series, hit the crossbar in the first period and had a breakaway spectacularly saved by Crawford in the second.

As for the ‘Hawks, tonight’s win officially cemented them as the closest thing we’ve seen to a dynasty in the salary cap era. Sure, the group is going look different moving forward, and some familiar faces will say goodbye, but this collection of players has left an unforgettable mark on the city.

And that’s something that’ll never change.

Notes

Patrick Kane finally snapped his scoring slump in the third period, notching his first goal of the series on a nice Brad Richards pass… Keith became the fourth player to log over 700 minutes in a single postseason (since the NHL began tracking in ’98), joining Nicklas Lidstrom, Drew Doughty and Chris Pronger… Keith also matched Chicago’s franchise record for most points by a d-man in a single season, drawing even with Chris Chelios (21 pts, 1992)… The ‘Hawks continued their impressive run of protecting leads tonight — a perfect 33-0-0 when leading after two periods this year, including a 8-0 mark in the playoffs… Ben Bishop finished with 30 saves on 32 shots.