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St. Louis Blues undecided on goalie for must-win Game 6 against Vancouver Canucks – ESPN

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The St. Louis Blues have not decided on a goaltender for Game 6 as they face elimination on Friday against the Vancouver Canucks.

“I’m going to think about it still, so I have not made that decision yet,” coach Craig Berube said.

Jake Allen took the crease from Jordan Binnington in Game 3 against Vancouver and won two straight games to even their quarterfinal series 2-2. Allen gave up four goals on 30 shots in the Blues’ Game 5 loss on Wednesday night.

Allen has a .939 save percentage, stopping 124 of 132 shots in four games. In Binnington’s four games, which spanned the opening round-robin tournament and the first two games against Vancouver, he had an .862 save percentage and stopped 106 of 123 shots. Binnington’s minus-7.88 goals saved above average is the worst for any goalie in the 24-team postseason tournament.

But Binnington was the primary starter in the regular season and was the backbone of the Blues’ Stanley Cup championship last postseason. He won all three games last season in which the team could have been eliminated, with a save percentage of .965.

Berube said that playoff history is a factor in his decision. “You’ve got to look at what your goalie did in the past at certain times, and what he’s done this year at certain times,” he said. “Listen, we have faith in both of our goalies. I think that Jake Allen came in and did a real good job for us, and to me, Binner at the start of the playoffs here in the round-robin was excellent. But I’m not going to make a decision yet on it. I’m going to think about it a little bit today.”

If he does get the call again, Berube said Binnington is ready.

“He’s been fine. Every player wants to play all the time. They’re competitive people,” he said. “He’s worked hard in practice, and he’s stayed ready. That’s what we talked to him about: You’ve got to stay ready; things change. He stayed ready, worked hard in practice and cheered his teammates on.”

The Blues and Canucks face off in Game 6 at 9:45 p.m. ET on Friday.

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Potential Stamkos return would increase Lightning’s emotional drive – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — We can only imagine what this has been like for Steven Stamkos.

The Tampa Bay Lightning captain hasn’t spoken to reporters since before the playoffs started. But he’s spent 55 days living behind the fences inside the NHL bubble, away from his wife and son, and unable to play for even a shift of his team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

That would be difficult for any hockey player, but in the context of Stamkos’s career it seems downright cruel.

From the Stanley Cup Qualifiers to the Stanley Cup Final, livestream every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free, on Sportsnet NOW.

This is a guy who missed out on the opportunity to play for Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 because of a broken leg and was limited to just one game in Tampa’s run to the 2016 Eastern Conference Final because of a scary blood clot situation.

And while his list of career ailments also includes a torn meniscus, it’s not as if Stamkos is hurt all the time. It just seems to happen at the wrong times. He played all 82 games last season and got in 57 this year before undergoing core muscle surgery on March 2.

That procedure came with a six- to eight-week recovery timeline, which passed during the COVID-19 pause. Stamkos had resumed skating by the time the summer training camp came around in July and was still a regular participant in practice after the Lightning travelled to Toronto and joined the bubble.

Somewhere along the way he suffered a setback or a new injury. All we know for sure is that he’s been deemed unfit to play for all 19 Tampa playoff games so far and is unlikely to return for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Dallas on Saturday night.

“He’s still rehabbing, we haven’t ruled him out,” Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said Friday. “I don’t expect him in the lineup tomorrow.”

Under these circumstances, after everything Stamkos has been through, it would be quite something if he managed to get back playing with a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

You could see how much it meant to the 30-year-old just to be included in Thursday’s less significant presentation at Rogers Place. Victor Hedman, a teammate for 11 seasons and more than 700 games, made sure Stamkos joined the group that accepted the Prince of Wales Trophy from deputy commissioner Bill Daly after the Lightning won the Eastern Conference Final.

Stamkos and Hedman, the two foundational building blocks of this organization, have both reached the stage of their career where winning is all that matters.

Their professional existence is geared entirely around these precious moments. They’ve won individual awards and earned enough money to ensure future generations of their families are secure. They have built careers that will likely land both of them in the Hockey Hall of Fame one day.

The only thing that’s missing is now four wins away.

“Every year that passes that you don’t win, it’s another opportunity that’s gone by,” Stamkos told Joe Smith of The Athletic in September 2019. “I’ve dealt with a lot of things in my career in terms of injuries and have overcome that. But you never know what’s going to happen. You want to take advantage of playing on a team of this calibre.

“The search for that elusive trophy continues and you just want to do anything you can to win.”

You can be sure he’s doing absolutely everything in his power to get back in the lineup now. Stamkos has participated in a few recent Lightning skates here, and could be seen skating with determination and leaning into his patented one-timer during brief clips made available on the NHL’s media website.

It’s hard to imagine that he would be doing all that work for naught.

Even though the team has reached this stage without him, it’s not as though it can’t use him. The Lightning have relied heavily on Hedman and the top line of Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat for goals during these playoffs and saw its power play fall quiet for the last five games of the Islanders series.

Then there’s the fact that Point and Kucherov are each playing at something less than 100 per cent and are now entering Cup Final that will be contested in a more compressed manner than usual. The Lightning and Stars are due to play five games in the next eight days. The grind is becoming real.

Should Stamkos find his way back into the lineup at some point during that stretch, it would be an emotional shot in the arm for the group. They’ve been building towards this opportunity for a long time now and won’t want to let it slip through their fingers.

“You realize now all you want is to chase the Stanley Cup,” Stamkos told Smith last September. “The goals, the assists, the points: they’re nice. But our goal now, and [what it] should have been, is to bring home the team trophy.

“A lot of guys won individual awards last year, which is great on the resume at the end of your career. But everyone is judging you on championships. You’ve got to find a way to win them.”

Seeing him return to the lineup would help those efforts considerably.

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Lightning haven’t ruled out Steven Stamkos playing in Stanley Cup Final – Sportsnet.ca

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The Tampa Bay Lightning are back in the Stanley Cup Final and they’ve done it without captain Steven Stamkos appearing in any playoff games.

But the team still hasn’t closed the door on the star sniper appearing at some point in the championship series against the Dallas Stars — although it likely won’t happen in Game 1.

Stamkos was injured during Phase 2 skates before the NHL returned to play in late July and has been rehabbing his undisclosed injury in the bubble since, first in Toronto and now Edmonton. He was shut down before the season was paused in March after having core muscle surgery but was expected to play in the playoffs before this new injury occurred.

The Lighting have been carried offensively in the playoffs by Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Victor Hedman, but a healthy Stamkos would still be a big addition to the lineup. In 57 games this season, the 30-year-old had 29 goals and 66 points.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET/ 4:30 p.m. PT on Sportsnet.

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Stanley Cup Final storylines for Lightning vs. Stars – NHL.com

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The Lightning’s championship came in 2004. The Stars won theirs in 1999.

They will play the first Stanley Cup Final contested entirely at one neutral site in front of no fans. 

Game 1 of the best-of-7 series is at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

“It might be one of the hardest Cups to ever win,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Whoever raises this Cup, they’ll have earned this one, I’ll tell you that.”

Tampa Bay reached the Cup Final by defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins each in five games, and the New York Islanders in six games in the Eastern Conference Final.

The Stars defeated the Calgary Flames in six games, the Colorado Avalanche in seven games, and the Vegas Golden Knights in five games in the Western Conference Final.

Here are seven Stanley Cup Final storylines to follow:

Lightning trying to make history

Tampa Bay can become the first team in the NHL expansion era (since 1967-68) to win the Stanley Cup the season after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Tampa Bay lost four games to Columbus in the Eastern Conference First Round last season, becoming the first Presidents’ Trophy winner to be swept in the first round.

“We put that behind us,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. 

Video: TBL@NYI, Gm6: Lightning earn Prince of Wales Trophy

During the NHL Original Six era (1942-67), two teams won the Cup after being swept in the first round the previous season; the Chicago Black Hawks defeated the Detroit Red Wings in six games in the 1961 Cup Final after being swept in the NHL Semifinals (first round) by the Montreal Canadiens in 1960. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Canadiens in six games in the 1967 Cup Final after Montreal defeated Toronto in four in the semifinals in 1966. 

“You look at what happened last year, we took it on the chin, and rightfully so, we deserved to take it on the chin,” Cooper said. “But to counterpunch the way we have this year, good on the guys.”

Bowness’ big chance

Stars coach Rick Bowness, in his 45th year in professional hockey, the last 38 as a coach or assistant, is four wins from winning the Stanley Cup for the first time. To do it, he has to defeat one of his many former teams.

Bowness was an associate coach with the Lightning under Cooper from 2013-18. Cooper, who hadn’t coached in the NHL prior to 2013, credits Bowness for teaching him a lot about the League, including where the entrance was to all the arenas.

They helped the Lightning reach the Cup Final in 2015, when Tampa Bay lost to Chicago in six games. Bowness also went to the Cup Final as an assistant with the Vancouver Canucks in 2011, when they lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games.

Video: DAL@VGK, Gm5: Stars receive Clarence Campbell Bowl

This will be the first time a coach and his former assistant have faced each other as coaches in the Stanley Cup Final, according to the NHL Coaches’ Association,

“There’s no better satisfaction than what he’s living right now,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said of Bowness. “It’s because of hard work, how he treats people and who he is.”

Vasilevskiy against Khudobin

Barring injury, it appears a Russia-born goalie will win the Stanley Cup as a starter for the second time in NHL history, joining Nikolai Khabibulin, who won it with the Lightning in 2004.

Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is 14-5-0 with a 1.82 goals-against average and .931 save percentage this postseason.

Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin, who in the regular season was the backup to Ben Bishop, Vasilevskiy’s former teammate with Tampa Bay, is 12-6-0 this postseason with a 2.62 GAA, .920 save percentage and one shutout.

Vasilevskiy is the only goalie who played in the conference finals who started every game for his team in the postseason (19). He has allowed two or fewer goals in eight of the past nine games.

Khudobin wasn’t supposed to be the starter for the Stars, but Bishop has been unfit to play. Khudobin has won eight straight games when making at least 30 saves.

Big-game Benn

Jamie Benn is in the discussion for the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP.

Benn leads Dallas forwards with 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 21 games. The Dallas captain scored five points (three goals, two assists) in five games against Vegas, including a goal in each of the last three games.

Video: Breaking down Jamie Benn’s big performance in the WCF

Benn scored 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) in 69 games this season, the lowest single-season point total of his NHL career, excluding the shortened 2012-13 season, when he scored 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) in 41 games.

“He’s our leader and our captain, and whenever there are big moments he’s always the front-runner in changing the momentum or keeping the momentum,” Stars center Tyler Seguin said. “He’s playing the best that I’ve seen him, and I think he’s still got another level.”

Hedman against Heiskanen

Hedman was voted the Norris Trophy winner as the best defenseman in the NHL two seasons ago, was third in voting last season, and is one of three finalists this season. The 29-year-old is arguably Tampa Bay’s favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy through three rounds.

Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen likely will also become a perennial Norris Trophy contender, and the 21-year-old is a contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Hedman is averaging 26:31 of ice time per game in the postseason; Heiskanen is averaging 25:43.

Heiskanen leads defensemen with 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 21 games and is one of 11 defensemen in NHL history to score that many points in a single postseason. 

Hedman leads defensemen with nine goals, the first time a player at the position has scored that many in a single postseason since Brian Leetch scored 11 for the New York Rangers in 1994, when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup.

Maroon can join small club

Lightning forward Pat Maroon has a chance to become the fourth player in the NHL expansion era to win the Stanley Cup in back-to-back seasons with different teams.

Maroon won the Stanley Cup last season with the St. Louis Blues. He signed a one-year, $900,000 contract with the Lightning on Aug. 24, 2019.

“We’ve got to go for four more [wins],” Maroon said.

The last player to be a part of back-to-back Cup championships with different teams was Mark Hartigan, with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 and Red Wings in 2008. 

Hartigan’s name is not on the Stanley Cup, however, because he didn’t meet the games-played criteria either time (at least 41 games played in the regular season or one game played in the Stanley Cup Final).

Before that, Cory Stillman won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004 and the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. The Stanley Cup was not awarded in 2005 because of a work stoppage.

Claude Lemieux is the last player to play in the Cup Final with different teams in back-to-back seasons and win it each time. He did it with the New Jersey Devils in 1995, when he won the Conn Smythe Trophy, and in 1996 with the Avalanche.

Will Stamkos play?

Steven Stamkos hasn’t played in the postseason because of a lower-body injury he sustained before the Lightning reconvened in Tampa Bay for training camp in July. The forward has not played since Feb. 25.

But Stamkos has not been ruled out for the Cup Final, though he won’t play in Game 1; he was on the ice for the postgame celebration when the Lightning accepted the Prince of Wales Trophy as the Eastern Conference champions Thursday.

“Even though [Stamkos] is not playing he’s still the leader of this team,” Hedman said of the Lightning captain. “He’s such a good influence in the room, in practices, morning skates. He’s such a big reason why we’re here where we are.”

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