For just the second time since the turn of the century, the NHL champion reigns for a second consecutive season. The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 in Game 5 at home on Wednesday night, cementing their back-to-back champion status after taking home the Stanley Cup in 2020 as well. Young Ross Colton scored the only goal of the game early in the second period, and his teammates played tough defense to keep Montreal off the board for a shutout win to seal it.
The 2020-21 season was far different for Tampa Bay, though. In 2019-20, the Lightning were a wire-to-wire favorite, leading the league in goals for and finishing second in goal differential, which earned them a share of the third-best record in the league. This year, the Lightning had their fair share of issues along the way, finishing only third in their own division and eighth overall in the league, falling to eighth in scoring and seventh in differential. Yet, in the postseason they were even better this time around than they were last year. In the 2020 playoffs, the Bolts recorded 3.08 goals for per game and 2.28 goals against per game, finished fifth in power-play and penalty-kill efficiency and required extra time to win seven games. This year, Tampa Bay notched 3.26 goals for per game and led the postseason with 1.96 goals against per game, finished third and fourth, respectively, on the power play and penalty kill, and did not need overtime to win a single game.
For the final time for the foreseeable future, all non-playoff teams were eligible to win the first overall pick in the NHL Draft Lottery. Beginning in 2022, a team can only move up a maximum of ten spots, meaning the teams who finish No. 12 through No. 16 in the final league standings cannot move high enough to take over the top pick.
Well, the lottery balls decided not to take a crazy bounce in their last opportunity to move a team from the middle of the first round all the way to the top. Instead, the draft order stayed virtually the same. The Buffalo Sabres, who held the worst record in the NHL this season and thus the top odds in the lottery, retained the pick. The expansion Seattle Kraken, awarded the same odds as the third-worst record in the league, moved up one spot, switching places with the Anaheim Ducks. Here is the official first-round draft order for the top 15 picks:
Kyle Connor scored a goal in the third overtime period to end the longest game in Winnipeg Jets history.
The Jets and Edmonton Oilers played a three-overtime game on Monday night in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series. The teams were playing on back-to-back nights after the Jets won 5-4 in overtime of Game 4 on Sunday.
Connor took a stretch pass and scored on a breakaway to clinch the sweep for the Jets.
The final three games of the series all went to overtime. In a four-game series, the teams played five overtime periods.
The Jets will face the winner of the Leafs-Canadiens series in the next round.
St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube has not been happy with the officiating during his team’s first-round playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche, and he made it known after a 5-1 loss on Friday night.
Berube was particularly frustrated about a perceived missed call involving defenseman Colton Parayko.
As the 2020-21 Stanley Cup playoffs get closer we are starting to get a sense for which teams are capable of seriously competing for a championship (the contenders), and which teams are not (the pretenders). Today we are going to take a look at each team that still has a realistic chance of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs and examining which category they fit in to. The criteria is simple: To be a contender you have to be a team that looks to have a legitimate chance to win a championship. Star power, depth, getting results with a strong process to back it up, having a manageable path through the playoffs with the right matchups. All of that is taken into account. See where your team sits.
This is an easy call. The defending Stanley Cup champions have the same core of players that won it all a year ago and have been the best team in the league for over six seasons now.
They have one of the best records in the league three-quarters of the way through the season, have great forward depth, an outstanding defense, and the best goalie in the league playing some of the best hockey of his career.
If that is not enough they added David Savard to their defense at the trade deadline and have yet to get a single game from their best offensive player, Nikita Kucherov, this season. He will be back for the playoffs. Easy contender. Definitely one of the top two or three contenders.
This is one of the best rosters in the league from top to bottom. They have three superstars at the top (Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog), really good secondary scoring, and a young defense that has already become the NHL’s best. It is only going to get better.
The big question for the Avalanche will be whether or not the goaltending perhaps up to par. Starting goalie Philipp Grubauer is currently on the COVID list, meaning Devan Dubnyk and Jonas Johansson will have to take over the starting job in the short term. How Grubauer plays when he returns will be a big factor for the Avalanche. This is still an extremely impressive roster that is set to compete for the Stanley Cup for the foreseeable future.
Simply one of the most consistent organizations in the NHL. Always at the top of their division, always near the top of the league standings. Adding Anthony Mantha at the trade deadline is a significant move to add another big, strong, skilled forward to a lineup that is already full of them. The big question will be the goaltending where Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek have been solid but at times a little inconsistent. The fact they are as good as they are with that level of goaltending should worry every team they encounter. If they get goaltending, look out.
The Hurricanes have been building something special for a couple of years now and are one of the league’s best teams. They have top-line star power at forward with Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Teuvo Teravainen, an outstanding defense led by Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin, and they even have the goaltending this season.
That has always been a struggle in Carolina, but Alex Nedeljkovic and Petr Mrazek have done a great job playing the crease this season. Together, they have one of the top-five team save percentages in hockey.
It remains remarkable that the Vegas Golden Knights have been a Stanley Cup contender from Day One of the organization’s existence. They are now in year four and might have their best team yet. Mark Stone is an MVP candidate at forward, they have two fantastic defensemen in Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore to lead their blue line, and Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner give them the best goaltending duo in the league.
They are every bit as dominant this season as Colorado at the top of the league. The problem: One of them is guaranteed to be eliminated by at least the second round given the divisional playoff format. The winner of that series might end up being THE Stanley Cup favorite.
What had been expected since Wednesday and then rumored on Thursday afternoon is now official.
The NHL has confirmed that the Vancouver Canucks will not return to play from their lengthy COVID-19 pause Friday night versus the Edmonton Oilers as originally hoped.
“The decision to extend the period prior to the team’s resumption of play was made to provide Club staff and Players with additional time for recovery and preparation following its recent COVID outbreak,” the league said in the prepared statement.
“Additional changes are being made to the Scotia NHL North Division schedule and it is expected that a revised schedule will be released by tomorrow.”
Vancouver hasn’t played since March 24 due to the COVID-19 outbreak that included at least 25 people testing positive for the virus, and players only resumed skating sessions and practices this week. Before Thursday’s announcement, the NHL intended to have the Canucks play 19 times in 31 days to finish all 56 scheduled regular-season games between Friday and May 16. That is no longer an option, and what it means for the all-Canadian North division remains up in the air.
According to the calendar on Vancouver’s website, the Canucks are still scheduled to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. Previous reports suggested that game will also be postponed.
The NHL said last weekend the other three divisions could begin postseason play in the United States as the North finishes regular-season action through mid-May, if necessary.
Canucks forward J.T. Miller openly told reporters on Wednesday he thought it was “dangerous” he and teammates were being rushed back into action so quickly as some were still recovering from setbacks linked with COVID-19 infections and others hadn’t yet had any real opportunity to reach required in-game fitness levels.
The San Jose Sharks won’t be hosting the Vegas Golden Knights at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, this coming Monday and Wednesday.
The NHL announced on Friday that both of those games have been postponed due to ongoing COVID-19 issues impacting the Golden Knights. The league previously scrapped Thursday’s showdown between Vegas and the St. Louis Blues after the Knights were without all their regular coaches for Tuesday’s loss to St. Louis.
As of Friday evening, three Vegas coaches and a fourth member of the team are isolating per the league’s coronavirus-related protocols. Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and an additional member of the coaching staff entered the protocol on Thursday. Vegas’ facilities are closed until further notice.
The Sharks were set to host Vegas in Glendale due to a Santa Clara County health order that prohibited team contact sports. That order has been lifted, however, and the Sharks are scheduled to return to SAP Center in San Jose on Feb. 13 against the Anaheim Ducks.
He has been close, finishing as the runner-up on two different occasions and sixth one other time, but has yet to actually win the MVP award. Could this be the year it happens? The Avalanche are going to be contenders and MacKinnon is a leading candidate to finish as the top scorer in the league, something that always puts a player at the top of the MVP discussion.
As long as he stays healthy McDavid is going to be a contender for the scoring title and the MVP. He has finished in the top-five of the MVP race in each of the past four years and in the top-two of the scoring race in each of those years. He already has one MVP award and is looking to join an exclusive club of players to win it again. Only 18 players have won it more than one time, and only two active players (Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin). The Oilers could be good enough to put him back in that discussion.
Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Zach Leach | Last updated 12/18/20
A resolution may finally be within reach for the league and its players on a format for the 2020-21 season. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports this evening that the NHL and NHLPA have reached a tentative agreement on the terms of season, which would include a 56-game regular season schedule.
Of course, no agreement between the sides can be finalized until it is approved by each independently first. On that note, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the NHLPA and its player reps are expected to meet tonight while the NHL Board of Governors will meet this weekend.
Among the details trickling in are as follows:
The league will start on January 13 as hoped, per TVA’s Renaud Lavoie. Lavoie adds that the agreed-upon plan does include an all-Canadian division, as expected, though concerns exist about the logistics of cross-province travel.
TSN’s Frank Seravalli echoes that January 13 start date, though he opines that all dates could be subject to change. That includes training camp start dates as well, which he expects to be December 30 for the seven 2019-20 non-playoff teams and January 3 for all others.
Seravalli also reports that rosters are expected to remain at 23 players, but that each team may carry a taxi squad of four to six players who will travel and practice with the team, but will be paid their AHL salaries and will not count against the salary cap.
Seravalli adds that all players will be given the right to opt out of the season for personal or familial health concerns and that teams will have the decision of whether or not to toll the contract.
Friedman notes that salaries will not be pro-rated despite the shortened season. He also confirms that thre will be no preseason exhibition games.
Colorado Hockey Now’s Adrian Dater reports that the tentative plan is for every team to play out of their home building this season, at least at the outset, rather than playing in hub cities as some had speculated.
With the league expected to be broken down into four realigned divisions without any conference alignment, Friedman reports that each division will produce four playoff teams and the postseason will be inter-division until four division winners become the semifinalists for the 2021 Stanley Cup.
Originally posted on Pro Hockey Rumors | By Gavin Lee | Last updated 11/10/20
For NHL teams looking to get their prospects back on the ice in a competitive situation, the ECHL may soon be an option. The minor league announced Tuesday that training camps will open on Nov. 27 for all the teams that are starting their season on Dec. 11. The ECHL has split their league into two groups, with 13 teams beginning on Dec. 11 and the rest waiting until Jan. 15. The training camps for the latter group will open on Jan. 1.
The teams that will begin things later this month are Allen Americans, Florida Everblades, Greenville Swamp Rabbits, Indy Fuel, Jacksonville Icemen, Kansas City Mavericks, Orlando Solar Bears, Rapid City Rush, South Carolina Stingrays, Tulsa Oilers, Utah Grizzlies, Wheeling Nailers and Wichita Thunder. They will play a 72-game season.
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