Travis Green

Canucks-Golden Knights Game 7 stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Second Round

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Friday’s Second Round matchup between the Canucks and Golden Knights. Game 7 coverage begins at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Canucks-Golden Knights Game 7 stream at 9 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Vancouver was led by a pair of rookies in last night’s 4-0 Game 6 win over Vegas. Thatcher Demko made 48 saves and Quinn Hughes tallied a goal and an assist to help the Canucks force a winner-take-all Game 7 tonight in Edmonton.

Demko became the eighth goaltender in NHL history to earn his first two career postseason wins in games when facing elimination. Demko’s 48 saves are tied for the fourth most in a playoff shutout since 1955-56 and he recorded the first playoff shutout in Canucks history.

Calder Trophy finalist Quinn Hughes continues to shine for Vancouver. The 20-year-old picked up his 15th and 16th points of the 2020 postseason to pass Colorado’s Cale Makar for the most in a playoff year by a rookie defenseman. Hughes’ 14 assists this postseason are tied for the most by a rookie in a single playoff all-time.

Although Vegas is currently one win away from reaching the Conference Final for the second time in three seasons, the Golden Knights have struggled to close out series over their last two playoffs. They have lost six of their last seven potential closeout games, with their only win in that span coming in Game 5 of the First Round against Chicago.

In all three instances of failing to close out an opponent this postseason, Vegas has run into a spectacular goaltending performance (Corey Crawford stopped 48 of 49 shots in Game 4 of the First Round; Demko stopped 42 of 43 shots in Game 5 and all 48 shots in Game 6).

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WHAT: Vancouver Canucks vs. Vegas Golden Knights
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Friday, September 4, 9 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk, Pierre McGuire
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Canucks-Golden Knights stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

No. 1 Vegas Golden Knights vs. No. 5 Vancouver Canucks (VGK wins 4-3)

Game 1: Golden Knights 5, Canucks 0 (recap)
Game 2: Canucks 5, Golden Knights 2 (recap)
Game 3: Golden Knights 3, Canucks 0 (recap)
Game 4: Golden Knights 5, Canucks 3 (recap)
Game 5: Canucks 2, Golden Knights 1 (recap)
Game 6: Canucks 4, Golden Knights 0 (recap)
Game 7: Golden Knights 3, Canucks 0 (recap)

Game 1 of the Golden Knights-Stars Western Conference Final will be Sunday, Sept. 6, 8 p.m. ET on NBC and the NBC Sports app

MORE STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round schedule

Golden Knights won’t ‘overreact’ after failing to close out Canucks

The Vegas Golden Knights did almost everything you could ask of them in Game 5 to close out the Vancouver Canucks.

Dominate possession? Check.

Create more high-danger scoring chances? Check.

Own the 5-on-5 shot advantage? Check.

The one thing that they failed to do was win the all-important “goals scored” column. Vancouver’s 2-1 win Tuesday night extended their Second Round series with Game 6 Thursday night (9:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream).

Vegas’ missed opportunity won’t stay with them. They know they executed their game plan as well as they could. It was just Demko’s night. There won’t be any flashbacks to last postseason when the Golden Knights blew a 3-1 First Round series lead to the San Jose Sharks.

“Even without traffic we had some point-blank shots and we’ve got guys who can stick those in the net and we just didn’t tonight,” said Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer. “So you can’t overreact. There’s not many quarterfinal series like this, or conference semifinal series that end in five games. It just doesn’t happen. You’ve got two good teams going at it, and we’ve got a chance to win this in six and we’ll come back and regroup and get ready for that.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Demko, who was in goal because Jacob Markstrom was “unfit to play,” was story. He became the 15th goalie, and seventh rookie, in NHL history to win his first career playoff start with his team facing elimination. His 42 saves extended the Canucks’ season and also gave them a glimpse into what life might be like if they can’t re-sign Markstrom.

“That’s part of being a guy who’s the backup goalie,” said Canucks head coach Travis Green. “He’s also a young goalie in the League, but he knows any given time, he can go in the net. I said that earlier, he’s a good pro, he takes the job seriously. He understands when he gets in, what’s to be expected. Give him a lot of credit. That’s not an easy spot to go into, especially against a team like that. They shoot a lot of pucks to the net, they’re a good hockey team, and he stood tall.”

Unlike in their three losses, the Canucks did a good job at keeping the Golden Knights away from their crease for those high-danger scoring chances. Traffic in front leads to better opportunities, and no matter who’s in goal for Vancouver, Vegas knows they need to take away Demko or Markstrom’s eyes.

[NHL Second Round schedule]

There’s been no indication on who will start in goal for the Canucks in Game 6. If Markstrom is fit to play, should he get the start or will Green go back to Demko? Also playing into the coach’s decision is the fact that a potential Game 7 would be Friday night.

Advancing out of this series won’t be easy for the Canucks, but they’ve taken one step forward with plenty of confidence gained.

“Again, I say it a lot, I’ve got a lot of belief in our group,” said Green. “They’ll be ready to go [Thursday] one way or the other. I’m not going to guarantee that they’re going to play an unbelievable game, but they’re going to be there to win it.”

Golden Knights vs. Canucks (VGK leads 3-2)

Golden Knights 5, Canucks 0 (recap)
Canucks 5, Golden Knights 2 (recap)
Golden Knights 3, Canucks 0 (recap)
Golden Knights 5, Canucks 3 (recap)
Canucks 2, Golden Knights 1 (recap)
Game 6: Thursday, Sept. 3 – 9:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
*Game 7: Friday, Sept. 4 – TBD

*if necessary

MORE: NHL playoff grind showing value in having strong goalie duo

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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.

Canucks-Blues stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup First Round

Canucks-Blues stream
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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Friday’s First Round matchup between the Canucks and Blues. Coverage begins at 9:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Canucks-Blues stream at 9:45 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Canucks struck first in Game 5, with Tyler Motte’s slick move to get past the Blues defense and score a shorthanded goal. St. Louis responded with three straight goals, from Brayden Schenn, Ryan O’Reilly and Zach Sanford, to take a 3-1 lead. Vancouver refused to go away though and scored three unanswered goals of their own, as J.T. Miller and Jake Virtanen each scored to tie the game at three before Motte’s second of the night became the eventual game winner.

The Blues are hoping to avoid becoming the second straight defending champion to get eliminated in the First Round after the Caps fell to the Hurricanes in the First Round last postseason.

The Canucks are a win away from advancing to the Second Round for the first time since making the Cup Final in 2011.

WHAT: Vancouver Canucks vs. St. Louis Blues
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Friday, August 21, 9:45 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Kenny Albert, AJ Mleczko, Pierre McGuire
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Canucks-Blues stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

No. 4 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 5 Vancouver Canucks (VAN leads 3-2)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Canucks 5, Blues 2 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 14: Canucks 4, Blues 3 (OT) (recap)
Sunday, Aug. 16: Blues 3, Canucks 2 (OT) (recap)
Monday, Aug. 17: Blues 3, Canucks 1 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 19: Canucks 4, Blues 3 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 21: St. Louis at Vancouver, 9:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Vancouver at St. Louis – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

Canucks, Oilers are getting great goaltending so far

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When an NHL season is young, it’s easy to get fooled into thinking that “This is the year,” or that a great season is going to come tumbling down. Sometimes those assumptions end up being correct, but it’s often far too easy to be roped in by a strong sprint and forget how much of a marathon an 82-game season can be.

Well-oiled machine … running a bit on luck

The Edmonton Oilers came into 2019-20 with very low expectations, yet they’re off to a hot start, even after falling 1-0 in a shootout to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.

It’s been easy to focus on Edmonton’s skaters for much of the Oilers’ 7-1-1 start.

How could you not, really, with Connor McDavid looking even better than usual, Leon Draisaitl seemingly continuing to prove that he’s probably worth more than his $8.5 million AAV, and James Neal getting off to such a strong start that he’s already blown away his 2018-19 goal totals from that disastrous year with the Flames?

This strong start isn’t just about that, though.

Still-new head coach Dave Tippett made his reputation on insulating goalies with great defense, so he’s probably most excited about strong early returns in that area.

It’s too early to say that GM Peter Chiarelli should feel vindicated for the baffling final move of his run, as he signed Mikko Koskinen to a risky contract basically right before he got a pink slip. But there’s little denying that Koskinen is off to a strong start. The 31-year-old has a marvelous .934 save percentage and 4-0-0 record so far.

Tippett’s old buddy Mike Smith tended net on Friday, and produced what was likely the best game of his run with the Oilers. Yes, the Jets won 1-0 via a shootout, but Smith stopped all 23 shots he faced between regulation and a scintillating 3-on-3 OT period; 10 of those saves came on power play opportunities, as the Jets went 0-for-4.

Watch this sequence as Mark Scheifele makes a ridiculous move, Smith beats him, and Connor Hellebuyck stops Connor McDavid:

Smith is now at 3-1-1, and brought a .917 save percentage into Sunday, so he’s combined with Koskinen to help Edmonton be very stingy.

We’ve already seen Oilers scorers cool down ever so slightly from unsustainable paces, as McDavid sits at 17 points despite going pointless the past two games. Edmonton has to be delighted to manage three of four standings points during these rare pointless McDavid games, but it’s a reminder that they’re going to need more from other players.

Chances are, they won’t get this sort of elite goaltending over and over again, either. That said, if Tippett can figure out a way to get enough stops, the occasional grind-it-out win (or even “charity point”), and then ride some token “McDavid being five strides ahead of the world” games, Edmonton might just be able to make the most of this 7-1-1 start.

Canucks could also rise

After beginning the season 0-2-0, the Canucks have won five of their last six games, pushing their 2019-20 record to 5-3-0. That included a Sunday matinee win where they beat the Rangers 3-2 thanks to 38 saves by Jacob Markstrom.

Vancouver shares a promising development in common with Edmonton in net. Not only are both teams getting strong goaltending; they’re also getting great early play from two different goaltenders. In the Canucks’ case, it’s holdover starter Markstrom (2-2-0, but with a strong .926 save percentage) and potential goalie of the future Thatcher Demko (2-1-0 with a fabulous .943 save percentage).

While Markstrom’s .912 save percentage from 2018-19 won’t wow many, he managed those numbers on a team that really struggled in its own end, and you can see that he was a pretty good difference-maker from various metrics, including Sean Tierney’s goals saved above expectation chart, which uses data from Evolving Hockey:

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The Canucks and Oilers are riding some hot streaks right now, with Edmonton in particular profiting in the standings. We’re almost certain to see those goalies cool off, and even McDavid may not be able to score almost two points per game.

But can Travis Green and Dave Tippett manufacture above-average goaltending from their rotations for enough of 2019-20 to bring one or both of their teams to the playoffs? Stranger things have happened, and few positions in sports are as strange — and important — as goaltending tends to be in the NHL.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV 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.

Previewing the 2019-20 Vancouver Canucks

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(The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to look at all 31 teams. We’ll be breaking down strengths and weaknesses, looking at whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or worse: They are definitely better, it is just a question of how much better and if it is enough to matter. Hopefully a full season from Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson having a year of experience under his belt, the arrival of Quinn Hughes, and the offseason additions of J.T. Miller and Tyler Myers all add something to the team. Trading a future first-round pick for Miller is a risk, and Myers’ deal is yet another bizarre long-term contract for a veteran that isn’t a core player, but they are short-term upgrades. Whether that gets them closer to being a playoff team remains to be seen, and it all kind of makes you question what the long-term plan actually is.

Strengths: For all of their flaws, the Canucks do have a lot of young talent they should be able to build around assuming they don’t screw it up. They have had Calder Trophy contenders in each of the past two seasons (Boeser and Pettersson, the latter of which won it) and could have another one this season (Hughes).

Weaknesses: They lack quality depth at forward, they have holes on defense, the goaltending is probably average, and for a team that has been one of the worst in the league for the past four years and does not have a single player making more than $6 million per season they are somehow completely capped out and have no wiggle room to work with financially. They invested too much money and too many years in veteran, declining depth players and just don’t have enough around their top young players to seriously compete for a playoff spot. That all points to their biggest overall weakness: The front office.

[MORE: 2018-19 Summary | X-Factor | Under Pressure | Three Questions]

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): Travis Green has been the Canucks’ coach for two non-playoff seasons, but what does that mean? Do we know what kind of coach he is? What exactly has he had to work with here? Still, any time a coach is looking at the potential for a third consecutive non-playoff season you have to think their seat is at least a little warm. We will put him at a 7 out of 10.

Three most fascinating players: Pettersson, Hughes, and Thatcher Demko.

Pettersson is fascinating simply because he is the team’s best, and most exciting player and it is going to be interesting to see what he does in year two. His rookie season was great, but he cooled off considerably after the first month of the season when it came to scoring goals, and a lot of his goal-scoring success was the result of an incredibly high shooting percentage. Can he sustain that?

Hughes is an important player for the Canucks because they really need him to be an impact player simply due to the position he plays. They need someone on defense that can be a young, top-pairing defender and he definitely has that sort of potential. There are certainly going to be growing pains for him as a rookie, but the potential for stardom is absolutely there.

Jacob Markstrom has been pretty solid the past two years as the team’s starting goalie under less than ideal circumstances, but is he a long-term solution in net? He is an unrestricted free agent after this season and an already cap-strapped team has a big decision to make. That is where Demko comes in because he could be a long-term solution. Markstrom has earned the right to open the season as the starter, but Demko’s play when he gets his opportunities could create an opportunity for the Canucks to move Markstrom and turn the net over to their potential long-term goalie.

Playoffs or lottery: Even with their impressive young talent this is still not a playoff team. They are also not a team that is going to be bad enough to be one of the worst teams in the league. That leaves them in that messy middle ground that is really difficult to get out of.

MORE:
Boeser gets three-year bridge deal with Canucks
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• 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.