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Conn Smythe Trophy candidates –



There are 24 teams with a chance to win the Stanley Cup in a tournament that begins Saturday. That means there are, at minimum, 24 players with a chance to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is given to player voted most valuable for his team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Here is one contender from each team:


Boston Bruins: Tuukka Rask, goalie

The Bruins were the best team in the NHL this season (44-14-12, 100 points) largely because of Rask, who was first in save percentage (.929) and goals-against average (2.12) among goalies who appeared in at least 35 games. He was 26-8-6 in 41 appearances, all starts. He is 50-39 with seven shutouts, a .927 save percentage and 2.19 GAA in 89 playoff games.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Andrei Vasilevskiy, goalie

The Lightning will run into opponents that will be able to limit their high-powered offense. That’s what makes Vasilevskiy so important to their success. He led the League this season with 35 wins and finished with a .917 save percentage and 2.56 GAA. When the Lightning reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2018, losing in Game 7 against the Washington Capitals, Vasilevskiy started every game and had a 2.58 GAA and .918 save percentage.

Washington Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom, center

Backstrom is as important to the Capitals as left wing Alex Ovechkin because he’s often the one setting Ovechkin up for his shot. Backstrom has been one of the League’s dominant two-way centers for years. He had 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists) this season and has 106 points (36 goals, 70 assists) in 123 career playoff games.

Philadelphia Flyers: Sean Couturier, center

Couturier is arguably the Flyers’ most important skater because of his two-way game. He’s a finalist for the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward. He scored 59 points (22 goals, 37 assists) in 69 games. He led the NHL in face-off winning percentage (59.6 percent) among players who took at least 500 face-offs. He won 59.5 percent of his draws in the defensive zone. He also had a 56.1 shot-attempts percentage and plus-21 rating. He had nine points (five goals, four assists) in five playoff games in 2018.

Video: CAR@PHI: Couturier scores 26 seconds after Aube-Kubel

Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin, center

Malkin, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2009, had what by all accounts was an excellent training camp in advance of Phase 4. He’ll try to build on a strong regular season, when he had 74 points (25 goals, 49 assists) in 55 games, two more points than he had last season in 13 fewer games.

Carolina Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho, center

The Hurricanes’ strength is in their defensive game, but Aho is a huge part of making that work because he’s one of their most effective two-way centers and penalty killers. He’s also their leading scorer after finishing this season with 66 points, including a career-high 38 goals.

New York Islanders: Mathew Barzal, center

Similar to the Hurricanes, the Islanders’ strength is in keeping the puck out of their net. But to advance deep in the postseason, they’re going to need production from their best offensive player. Barzal led the Islanders with 60 points (19 goals, 41 assists) in 68 games.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Frederik Andersen, goalie

The Maple Leafs are much like the Lightning in that their high-powered offense might be able to carry them at times, but they won’t go anywhere without elite goaltending. Andersen was 29-13-7 with a 2.85 GAA and .909 save percentage in 52 appearances, all starts, this season. Toronto was 7-12-2 and allowed 3.89 goals per game when Andersen didn’t play.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Seth Jones, defenseman

Jones has to play 25-plus minutes and be a force on both ends of the ice for the Blue Jackets to have a chance against Toronto in the Qualifying Round. If Columbus goes on a run this postseason, it will be on the backs of players like Jones, who had 30 points (six goals, 24 assists) in 56 games this season before breaking his ankle on Feb. 8.

Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov, center

Barkov is in the same mold as Couturier, Backstrom and Aho in that he’s the most important two-way player on his team. He had 62 points (20 goals, 42 assists) in 66 games this season, playing 20:01 per game and winning 54.3 percent of his face-offs.

New York Rangers: Mika Zibanejad, center

Zibanejad was the hottest player in the League when the season was paused on March 12, leading the League with 23 goals and 36 points in 22 games from Jan. 31-March 11. He plays in all situations and will have to pick up where he left off for the Rangers to have a chance at going on a playoff run.

Video: WSH@NYR: Zibanejad scores five goals, OT winner

Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price, goalie

The Canadiens will go as Price goes and hope that it’s enough. If he plays well, they’ll have a chance to defeat the Penguins in the qualifying round and go on a run after that. Price was 27-25-6 with a .909 save percentage and 2.79 GAA this season.


St. Louis Blues: Jordan Binnington, goalie

Binnington was among the top candidates to win the Conn Smythe Trophy last season, when the Blues won the Stanley Cup; he had a 2.46 GAA and .914 save percentage in 26 starts (16-10). Blues center Ryan O’Reilly won the Conn Smythe Trophy. Binnington followed his playoff heroics this season by going 30-13-7 with a 2.56 GAA and .912 save percentage.

Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon, center

If MacKinnon is scoring, the Avalanche are typically winning. He’s a finalist for the Hart Trophy after finishing the regular season with 93 points (35 goals, 58 assists) in 69 games. He scored at least one point in 53 games. The Avalanche went 34-12-7 when he had at least one point, but were 7-8-1 when he didn’t.

Vegas Golden Knights: Mark Stone, right wing

Stone is arguably the NHL’s best and most versatile two-way wing. He scores because he’s a part of the offense and he creates his own with his defense. Stone had 63 points (21 goals, 42 assists) in 65 games. He was also tied for second in the League in takeaways (78) and alone in second in takeaways per 60 minutes (3.70) among players who appeared in at least 15 games.

Dallas Stars: Ben Bishop, goalie

The Stars are a defensive-oriented team that relies on Bishop to keep the scores low. That makes him a prime Conn Smythe Trophy candidate if Dallas is able to go on a run. Bishop was 21-16-4 with a .920 save percentage and 2.50 GAA this season. The Stars led the Western Conference and were second in the League in goals-against per game (2.52).

Video: NJD@DAL: Bishop fends off Simmonds, Hughes in tight

Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid, center

McDavid had 97 points (34 goals, 63 assists) in 64 games. His teammate, center Leon Draisaitl, led the League with 110 points (43 goals, 67 assists) in 71 games and could easily be Edmonton’s Conn Smythe Trophy favorite too. But McDavid is still the most feared player in the game and the one who leads the Oilers.

Nashville Predators: Roman Josi, defenseman

Josi has to play a shutdown role and an offensive role for the Predators to have success; he did each so well this season that he’s a Norris Trophy finalist. He led Nashville and was second among all defenseman with 65 points (16 goals, 49 assists) in 69 games. He averaged 25:47 of ice time per game, the most of any skater on the 24 teams competing for the Cup.

Vancouver Canucks: Jacob Markstrom, goalie

The Canucks can score and play with pace, but they won’t go anywhere if Markstrom is just ordinary. He was 23-16-4 with a .918 save percentage and 2.75 GAA. The Canucks allowed 33.3 shots on goal per game, fourth most in the League.

Calgary Flames: Johnny Gaudreau, left wing

Gaudreau’s production was down this season from last season. He averaged 0.83 points per game (58 points; 18 goals, 40 assists in 70 games) after averaging 1.21 points per game last season (99 points; 36 goals, 63 assists in 82 games). Of all the Flames players, though, Gaudreau is the one most likely to get hot enough to carry the team.

Video: Gaudreau fires it off the post and in

Winnipeg Jets: Connor Hellebuyck, goalie

Hellebuyck was arguably the best goalie in the League this season, and even with the Jets’ ability to score in bunches, he’ll have to be their difference maker in the playoffs. Hellebuyck had a .922 save percentage, fifth among goalies who appeared in at least 30 games, despite facing the most shots in the League (1,796). The four goalies ahead of him in save percentage averaged 938 shots against.

Minnesota Wild: Ryan Suter, defenseman

Suter is the definition of minute-muncher (24:38 per game this season) whose overall play makes a difference. He won’t wow anyone with offensive numbers, though he was ninth among all defenseman with 48 points (eight goals, 40 assists) this season. It’s his overall game — playing in a shutdown role against top lines and playing in all situations, including power play and penalty kill — that make him the Wild’s most impactful player.

Arizona Coyotes: Darcy Kuemper, goalie

Of the 14 teams this season that averaged fewer than 3.00 goals per game, the Coyotes and Stars were the only two that scored more than they gave up (2.71-2.61). The big reason was goaltending, especially when Kuemper was playing. He was limited to 29 starts because of injury, but he had a .928 save percentage and 2.22 GAA. The Coyotes were 16-11-2 in his starts.

Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane, right wing

Kane, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2013, had 84 points (33 goals, 51 assists) in 70 games this season. If the Blackhawks are going to go on a run, Kane will likely be their leading scorer, with several multipoint games.

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Canadiens to face Flyers in first round of playoffs – Montreal Gazette



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The Price is right:When the plans for the NHL Return to Play tournament were unveiled, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the Pittsburgh Penguins were wary of having to face Carey Price in a short series.

As it turns out, their concerns were justified.

Price played some of the best hockey of his career as the Canadiens won the best-of-five series in four games. He had a career-best .947 save percentage and finished with a 1.67 goals-against average after blanking the Penguins 2-0 in Game 4 Friday.

“I don’t want to pump his tires too much because he’s sitting here, but he’s the backbone for us,” defenceman Shea Weber said during the postgame video conference.  “He’s so solid every night and that allows us to play with confidence, and not worry about giving up chances.

“Obviously, we want to maintain the structure (and) we kept a lot of stuff to the outside. But having him back there, the way he plays the puck on bounces, his rebound control in the series helped not only the back end, but everybody.”

Price and Sidney Crosby engaged in some trash-talking and the occasional clash of sticks in the final. After one save, Price tossed the puck in Crosby’s direction.

“It’s just two guys caring about what they’re doing,” Price said. “A lot of the guys in front of me were the guys giving him the gears. It’s just part of the game.”

Crosby had goals in each of the first two games and an assist in Game 3. His fellow superstar, Evgeni Malkin had a series-high 21 shots on goal, but was limited to one secondary assist.

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NHL Playoffs Daily 2020 – Win or go home for Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets – ESPN



The Round of 16 matchups in the 2020 NHL playoffs are coming into focus. After the No. 1 seeds were determined on Saturday — the Philadelphia Flyers in the East and the Vegas Golden Knights in the West — Sunday’s two round-robin games will give us the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds, with the Boston Bruins taking on the Washington Capitals and the St. Louis Blues facing off against the Dallas Stars.

Meanwhile, we have one last elimination game in the qualification round. Tonight, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs will battle for their playoff lives.

Check out the ESPN Stanley Cup Playoffs Daily every day of the postseason until the Cup is handed out in October.

Sunday’s games

Note: All times Eastern

Round robin: No. 1 Boston Bruins vs. No. 3 Washington Capitals | 12 p.m.

The No. 3 seed — and a matchup against the No. 7 New York Islanders — is on tap for the winning club, while the losing team draws the No. 6-seeded Carolina Hurricanes next. Neither of these teams feel great about their round-robin play so far. “We had hoped that we could have a great start and use this game as a maintenance game if need be,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said on Friday. Instead, Boston wants a win to gain confidence into the next round — and save the embarrassment of falling from the top seed to fourth. Meanwhile, Washington coach Todd Reirden said he “expects more from everybody” after the team’s last loss, against Philly. The Capitals are expected to start Braden Holtby, meaning he will have played all three round-robins games. A friendly reminder that Holtby is a pending free agent this offseason.

Round robin: No. 1 St. Louis Blues vs. No. 3 Dallas Stars | 3 p.m.

Neither of these teams have fared well in round-robin play, each going 0-2. The winner of this game gets the third seed in the West, and a date with the Calgary Flames in the next round. The loser finishes fourth, and plays the Vancouver Canucks. St. Louis was without two of its best forwards — Vladimir Tarasenko and Robert Thomas — last game, but both are expected back for this matchup. Jake Allen gets the nod in net, giving Jordan Binnington some rest. Look for the Stars, a bit lackadaisical to begin the tournament, to pick up their intensity. “I think our mindset this last game is trying to approach it like it is a do-or-die,” forward Blake Comeau said. “We want to go in, when we do start our playoff series, feeling good about where we’re at.”

Qualification round Game 5: No. 8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets (Tied 2-2) | 8 p.m.

This is the final elimination game left in this part of the tourney, in what has arguably been the most entertaining series of the qualification round. The Blue Jackets have proved that they have a blueprint for forechecking and smothering their way past Toronto’s high-octane offense, but Columbus needs to regain confidence after a third period meltdown on Friday night where they allowed three goals in the final five minutes. It looks like the Blue Jackets are likely without defenseman Zach Werenski — injured in the third period of Game 4, awaiting MRI results — which would be a huge loss. The winner of this game faces the Lightning in the next round, which is a juicy matchup for either team. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a second to appreciate just how wild this Blue Jackets-Maple Leafs series has been so far:

About last night…

Vegas Golden Knights 4, Colorado Avalanche 3

Raise your hand if you’d see these two teams play a full seven-game series. They went at it on Saturday with the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference on the line, and both were playing at full tilt. Vegas held a late lead, which it almost blew when J.T. Compher tied the game with 1:02 remaining in regulation. However, Alex Tuch scored his second goal of the game in the waning seconds of overtime to give the Golden Knights the win and the No. 1 seed in the West. The Avalanche will play the Arizona Coyotes in the next round, while Vegas draws the Chicago Blackhawks. Robin Lehner, who had 32 saves on Saturday, seems to have earned the Game 1 start — setting up some nice drama considering he’ll face the Blackhawks, the team that traded him away at the trade deadline. Full recap.

Philadelphia Flyers at Tampa Bay Lightning

Are the Philadelphia Flyers a wagon? Philadelphia has come into this tournament as hot as they were before the season was paused, and quite frankly look like the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Philly’s top players have showed up, but the Flyers really flexed their depth in Saturday night’s win. Another positive sign: Shayne Gostisbehere drew into the lineup, and almost looked like the dynamic 2018-19 version of himself again. Philly draws the Montreal Canadiens in the next round. The Lightning played the entire round robin without Steven Stamkos, and now they’re in for a scare as Victor Hedman left the first period after an awkward fall. Hedman is typically very mild-mannered, so to see him react like this definitely raised alarm. As the No. 2 seed, Tampa Bay gets the winner of tonight’s Maple Leafs-Blue Jackets game in the next round. Full recap.

Three stars

Alex Tuch, F, Vegas Golden Knights

The 24-year-old scored two goals on Saturday, including the gorgeous game winner with 15.9 seconds remaining in overtime, to seal the No. 1 seed for Vegas:



Alex Tuch buries the winning goal in overtime to defeat the Avalanche 4-3, giving the Golden Knights the West’s top seed.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel, F, Philadelphia Flyers

The rookie had just seven goals in 47 career NHL games entering Saturday’s game. He scored two against the Lightning — and reigning Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy — to pace the Flyers to a huge win.

J.T. Compher, F, Colorado Avalanche

The third-line center is proving to be a valuabel net-front presence for the Avs. He had two goals on Saturday, including one that tied the game with 1:02 left in regulation.

Social post of the day

Here’s how Robin Lehner feels about playing against the Blackhawks, with whom he played prior to being traded at the deadline:

Motivational speaker of the day

The Canucks definitely carried some J.T. Miller energy into their series-clinching win over the Wild:

Bubble content of the day

The Islanders seem to take their ping pong tournament very seriously (or maybe just Jean-Gabriel Pageau does):

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Coach Jon Cooper, Lightning have 'to circle wagons' after losing defenseman Victor Hedman to injury in round-robin finale – ESPN



TORONTO — Tampa Bay Lightning star defenseman Victor Hedman left the team’s round-robin finale Saturday night, after it appeared he twisted his right ankle midway through the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Following the 4-1 loss that secured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference for the Lightning, Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper didn’t have an update on Hedman’s status or how much time he might miss, though he acknowledged his potential loss would create a notable hole in the Lightning’s lineup.

“It’s a little frustrating because we feel like we’re going in the right direction and to lose some of the star power we have,” said Cooper, noting the Lightning are also without captain Steven Stamkos and played Saturday minus Hedman’s defensive partner Jan Rutta. “We’ve got to circle the wagons.”

Hedman went down untouched as he spun around to skate backward at the Tampa Bay blue line with the Flyers’ Tyler Pitlick driving up the right wing. The NHL’s 2017 Norris Trophy winner got up slowly and broke his stick while heading down the tunnel to the locker room.

Stamkos has yet to play after sustaining a lower body injury before the start of training camp last month.

The Lightning, last season’s No. 1 seed in the East, will play either Columbus or Toronto in the first round. The Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs will play a deciding Game 5 on Sunday to conclude the qualifying round.

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