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First-day teams take goalie decisions for Qualifiers down to wire

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“As far as the goaltender … there’s an old hockey movie called ‘Slap Shot,’ where somebody walks up to Paul Newman and asks him how his power play is,” Edmonton Oilers coach Dave Tippett said Friday. “And all he said was, ‘We’re working on it.’

“That’s my answer for the goaltenders: We’re working on it.”

New York Rangers coach David Quinn is among those still working on it, saying he would wait until game time to announce which of his three goalies would start Game 1 of the best-of-5 series against the Carolina Hurricanes at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto (Noon ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN, TVAS, FS-CR, MSG).

Igor Shesterkin allowed one goal on seven shots playing the first half of the Rangers’ 2-1 loss to the New York Islanders in an exhibition game Wednesday. Henrik Lundqvist played the second half and made 14 saves on 15 shots. Alexandar Georgiev was scratched.

Shesterkin is a 24-year-old rookie with 12 games of NHL experience who had a .932 save percentage this season. Lundqvist is second to Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights among active NHL goalies in playoff starts (140-128) and wins (78-61). The 38-year-old also helped the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. Georgiev had a .910 save percentage in 34 games this season but has never played in the NHL postseason.

Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour was unwilling to announce whether Petr Mrazek or James Reimer would start Saturday, in part because he hadn’t told the goalies prior to his media session Friday.

“I definitely have a plan but I don’t want to say it now when I haven’t told them,” Brind’Amour said. “I envision that both guys will probably get action here with the amount of games and how short a time frame there is between games. I think we’ll probably get both guys in there. I’m glad both guys look really good and feel good about their game, so we’re good either way.”

Mrazek allowed three goals on 16 shots playing the first half of the Hurricanes’ 3-2 exhibition loss to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, and Reimer made nine saves. Mrazek had a 2.69 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage in 40 games (38 starts) this season; Reimer had a 2.66 GAA and a .914 save percentage in 25 games (24 starts).

Calgary Flames coach Geoff Ward said he knows who their Game 1 starter will be against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Place in Edmonton (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV, CBC, SN), but also did not reveal it. The Jets are expected to start Connor Hellebuyck.

Cam Talbot allowed two goals on 21 shots playing the first half of the Flames’ 4-1 exhibition loss to the Oilers on Wednesday, and David Rittich allowed two goals on nine shots.

Rittich had most of the work early in the season, starting 32 of the Flames’ first 42 games, but after the break for the 2020 NHL All-Star Game, Rittich made 12 starts to Talbot’s eight.

“I’m not willing to divulge mostly because I haven’t told the guys yet,” Ward said. “We have a practice coming up shortly. I’ll be meeting with them after practice at some point, but we have made a decision.”

Islanders coach Barry Trotz would go as far as confirming that his team would have someone standing in the net when the puck drops for Game 1 against the Florida Panthers in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city (4 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV, SN1, TVAS, MSG+, FS-F). Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to start for the Panthers.

“We will have a goaltender, correct,” Trotz said.

Semyon Varlamov made 19 saves in two periods against the Rangers on Wednesday. Thomas Greiss allowed one goal on eight shots in the third.

 

Varlamov and Greiss alternated starts for the first 33 games of the regular season. Varlamov had a 2.62 GAA and a .914 save percentage in 45 games (39 starts) and Greiss had a 2.74 GAA and a .913 save percentage in 31 games (29 starts).

Greiss had a .944 save percentage in six games against the Panthers during the 2016 Eastern Conference First Round then an .890 save percentage in the second round against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Varlamov hasn’t played in the NHL postseason since 2014 with the Colorado Avalanche.

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan also was waiting one more day to announce whether Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry would start Game 1 against the Montreal Canadiens in Toronto (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS). It’s expected Montreal will start Carey Price.

Murray allowed two goals on 12 shots playing the first half of a 3-2 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday. Jarry allowed one goal on 10 shots.

Jarry said the unknown hasn’t affected his approach, with the series winners advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“It’s just taking it day by day, making sure our practice habits are staying where they need to be,” he said. “For Matt and I, I think it’s just preparing like we both would be playing, and whoever gets the call on Saturday, we’ll be ready.”

 

Murray has more experience, helping the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, but he had an .899 save percentage and a 2.87 GAA in 38 games (38 starts) this season. Jarry had a 2.43 GAA and a .921 save percentage in 33 games (31 starts).

“We’re fortunate to have both of these guys,” Sullivan said. “They’re both capable of being real good goaltenders and helping us win.”

The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t announced if their two-time Stanley Cup champion goalie, Corey Crawford, will start Game 1 against the Oilers in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN), but Crawford said he felt good after making 11 saves playing the first half of a 4-0 exhibition win against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday. Malcolm Subban made 10 saves.

Crawford practiced once during training camp after testing positive for COVID-19.

“I should be ready to go, unless something crazy happens last minute,” he said Thursday. “I should be all right.”

Tippett and his staff still are working on if Mike Smith or Mikko Koskinen would start Game 1 for Edmonton. Koskinen made 17 saves playing the first half of the 4-1 exhibition win against the Flames. Smith allowed one goal on 20 shots.

They split play during the season; Smith had a .902 save percentage in 39 games (37 starts), and Koskinen had a .917 save percentage in 38 games (34 starts).

Skaters around the NHL said that whoever their coach chose, they would be behind that goalie.

“The thing with our two goalies is, no matter who goes in there, we have so much confidence in them,” Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse said. “At this point we’ve played over 70 games, so when either guy goes in there you know what to expect. They’re both really, really good goaltenders that we’re fortunate to have.”

Source: nhl-com

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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

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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:

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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

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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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