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NHL announces zero positive COVID-19 tests during first week in bubbles

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The NHL announced on Monday afternoon that it has had zero positive COVID-19 test results since its 24 playoff teams reported to their bubble cities of Toronto and Edmonton.

There were more than 7,000 tests administered since fourth phase of the league’s restart plan began on July 26 through August 1, when play resumed with the start of the qualifying round.

The league is testing all 52 members of each team’s traveling parties (including players, coaches, front office, team staff) on a daily basis and will continue to do so as long as the teams remain in their hub cities.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Previously, the NHL had announced that there were 43 positive tests results during the Phase 2 portion of the league’s return (which involved small groups of individual players skating at team facilities), and two positive tests that it was aware of during the first week of training camp. The league announced zero positive results during the second week of training camp and zero positive results when the teams arrived in their bubbles.

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 Bubble Wrap: Kubalik, Price, and Slavin star in NHL’s playoff opener

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  • The NHL’s 2019-20 postseason kicked off on Saturday with five games.
  • The Jets lost two key forwards to injury.
  • The Penguins and Canadiens played the first overtime game of the postseason in a game that featured a great goaltending performance, two penalty shots, and a slick winner from an unlikely source.

Carolina Hurricanes 3, New York Rangers 2 (Hurricanes lead series 1-0)

Henrik Lundqvist did everything he could for the Rangers on Saturday afternoon but it was not enough in their Game 1 loss to the Hurricanes. After being relegated to third goalie duty for much of the second half of the season, Lundqvist got the surprise start on Saturday when Igor Shesterkin was deemed “unfit to play.” The Hurricanes pounced all over a sluggish Rangers team early in the game and jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Rangers finally started to get going. Jaccob Slavin and Sebastian Aho each had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes in the win, while Martin Necas‘ goal midway through the third period proved to be the winner.

Chicago Blackhawks 6, Edmonton Oilers 4 (Blackhawks lead series 1-0)

Wow was this ugly for the Oilers. Do not let the reasonably close final score fool you into thinking this was anything other than a complete meltdown from the start for Edmonton. Starting goalie Mike Smith was pulled after giving up five goals while playing behind a porous defense that did not have an answer for Dominik Kubalik, Jonathan Toews, and the rest of the Blackhawks. Chicago snuck into the qualifier round as the 12th team in the West and based on the first game it could not have been given a better matchup. The Oilers may have two elite, MVP caliber players in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but the rest of the roster remains badly flawed.

New York Islanders 2, Florida Panthers 1 (Islanders lead series 1-0)

The big story to come out of this one is the Islanders losing defenseman Johnny Boychuk after he was on the receiving end of a huge hit from Mike Matheson. Boychuck did not return, and there was no immediate update on his status from the team after the game. You can be sure the NHL is looking at the hit for potential supplemental discipline (Matheson was initially given a five-minute major, but it was reduced to two minutes after review). The Islanders scored on the ensuing power play when Anthony Beauvillier scored to give them a 2-0 lead. That goal would prove to be the game-winning goal.

Montreal Canadiens 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2 (Canadiens lead series 1-0)

The Canadiens stunned the Penguins in Game 1 thanks to a 39-save effort from Carey Price, some big goals from Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki, and an overtime winner from defenseman Jeff Petry. The Penguins’ power play let them down in a big way by going 1-for-7 on the night, including a missed opportunity on an extended 5-on-3 and an overtime power play. Conor Sheary also missed a penalty shot with three minutes to play in regulation.

Calgary Flames 4, Winnipeg Jets 1 (Flames lead series 1-0)

This was a brutal game for the Jets. Not only did they lose their opening game, but they also lost two of their best forwards to injury as Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine were both injured. Scheifele’s injury appears to be the most serious after he was kicked in the back of the leg by Matthew Tkachuk early in the first period and was unable to put any weight on his left leg. Jets coach Paul Maurice felt it was an intentional, dirty play. This is sure to be the storyline of this series. As for the Flames, after not scoring a goal in each of his past two playoff appearances Johnny Gaudreau found the back of the net while Andrew Mangiapane recorded a pair of points in the win.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks may have had a miserable regular season, but they have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs thanks in part to a very favorable qualifying round matchup against a very flawed Oilers team. Kubalik was the big star on Saturday in their 6-4 win thanks to a five point effort in his playoff debut. He was one of the bright spots for the Blackhawks during the regular season, coming out of nowhere to be a finalist for the rookie of the year award.

2. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens. Price stopped 39 shots in Montreal’s Game 1 win over Pittsburgh, and while all of those saves were important he played some of his best hockey in the first 10 minutes of the first period. It was at that point that the Penguins carried the play and recorded 10 of the game’s first 12 shots but were unable to get one by Price. That helped set the tone for Montreal’s win. If the Canadiens are going to advance they are going to need more efforts like this from their franchise goalie.

3. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes. The bad news for the Hurricanes is they did not have Dougie Hamilton for Game 1 of their series against the Rangers. The good news? Even without him they still have a bonafide top-pairing defender on their roster in Slavin, and he was a force on Saturday. He played a game-high 24 minutes for the Hurricanes in their 3-2 win over the Rangers, scoring a goal (the first goal just one minute into the game), adding an assist, and playing his usual rock-solid game defensively.

Highlights of the night

Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba kicked off the postseason with a powerful speech against racism.

“Hockey is a great game. But it could be a whole lot greater. And it starts with all of us.”

The first overtime goal of the 2020 postseason belongs to Jeff Petry and it was a beauty.

Factoids

  • The Penguins-Canadiens game was just the second Stanley Cup Playoff game (and first since 1923) to feature two penalty shots. [NHL PR]
  • Kubalik is the first rookie in NHL history to record five points in their postseason debut. [NHL PR]
  • After scoring in his regular season debut with the team, Jean-Gabriel Pageau added a goal in his first playoff game with the New York Islanders. [NHL PR]

Sunday’s schedule

Game 1: Arizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators (2 p.m. ET, USA)
Round-Robin: Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers (3 p.m. ET, NBC)
Round-Robin: St. Louis Blues vs. Colorado Avalanche (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Game 1: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (joined in progress 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Game 1: Minnesota Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

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.

Islanders top Panthers in Game 1, lose Johnny Boychuk

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The Islanders edged the Panthers, 2-1, in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Qualifier series.

After a pair of opening games that featured plenty of goals and action, Islanders-Panthers was a tight-checking, low-scoring affair. Not surprising that a Barry Trotz team was involved.

New York struck first midway through the opening period when Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored his third goal as an Islander. A defensive zone turnover by Panthers defenseman Riley Stillman allowed Derick Brassard the time and space to find a streaking Pageau.

Islanders lose Boychuk

New York played the final 28 minutes without Johnny Boychuk after the defenseman took a high hit from Mike Matheson in the second period. The original call on the ice was a five-minute major, but officials reviewed the play and reduced it to a two-minute illegal check to the head minor.

The Islanders did get a measure of revenge 55 seconds later as Anthony Beauvillier‘s one-timer beat Sergei Bobrovsky.

Trotz did not have an update on Boychuk immediately after the game.

“When I looked at it, I thought at first Johnny’s head was down and I thought [Matheson] got him pretty good with the hit on the head,” Trotz said. “They looked at it, and they reviewed it. I trust their judgement. I won’t agree with it because of the fact I want to protect my players. I thought it was borderline. I trust the referees. They looked at it and they have a lot more experience at refereeing than I do.”

Florida started the final 20 minutes with a surge as Jonathan Huberdeau cut the lead to 2-1 just 23 seconds in. But any thoughts of a comeback was put to bed by Semyon Varlamov, who finished with 27 saves, and the Islanders as a whole after limiting the Panthers to just five shots in the third period. Bobrovsky matched his counterpart at the other with 26 saves, including 15 over the final two periods.

“Bob was really good tonight,” said Huberdeau. “He’s going to be good the whole series. We just have to put the puck in the net.”

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

(7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida Panthers (Islanders lead series 1-0)

Tuesday, Aug. 4: Panthers vs. Islanders, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Islanders vs. Panthers, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders vs. Panthers*
Sunday, Aug. 9: Panthers vs. Islanders*

You can watch all the NHL playoff streams on the NBC Sports app.

————

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.

Islanders-Panthers stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Saturday’s Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup between the Islanders and Panthers. Coverage begins at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Islanders-Panthers stream at 4 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

This matchup features two clubs that needed a break as much as any when the league paused in mid-March. From the All-Star break through the final regular season games on March 11, only the Red Wings earned fewer points than the Panthers and Islanders.

The Islanders swept their three-game regular season series against the Panthers. New York held high-scoring Florida to four total goals throughout the sweep.

Florida last made the playoffs in 2016 and entering this season had made just two postseason appearances in the last 18 seasons. Since the Panthers entered the league for the 1993-94 season, they have only won a playoff series in one postseason – 1995-96 when they reached the Stanley Cup Final and were swept by Colorado.

This matchup pits two teams with opposite styles against each other. The Panthers were one of the highest-scoring teams in the league but were leaky in defense, while the Islanders were a top-10 defense but struggled to find the back of the net.

WHAT: New York Islanders vs. Florida Panthers
WHERE: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto
WHEN: Saturday, August 1, 4 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
ON THE CALL: Gord Miller, AJ Mleczko
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Islanders-Panthers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

(7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida Panthers

Saturday, Aug. 1: Panthers vs. Islanders, 4 p.m. ET – NBCSN (Livestream)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Panthers vs. Islanders, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Islanders vs. Panthers, 12 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders vs. Panthers*
Sunday, Aug. 9: Panthers vs. Islanders*

You can watch all the NHL playoff streams on the NBC Sports app.

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

Bettman: ‘Safety is paramount’ in NHL Return to Play, 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers

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Gary Bettman stressed that “safety is paramount” while discussing the NHL Return to Play/2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers with Liam McHugh.

In the lengthy segment you can watch above, Bettman also sheds some light on the process. He explains that the NHL discussed some best-of-five series for the opening round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs (after the field of 24 in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers shrinks to the typical 16), but the players wanted best-of-seven series.

While Bettman seems optimistic about the bubble covering the safety bases during the NHL Return to Play, he also warns that players and others shouldn’t “take anything for granted” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

• NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup-less veterans to root for
• 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers 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.