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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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Six players who could have a significant impact on 2020 World Series – Sportsnet.ca

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In the brief time I was around Josh Donaldson, I managed to collect a few of “baseball-life” lessons that I squirrelled away in the back of a notebook as well as the back of the brain. Some of it was kind of rocket-sciency because, well, that’s how Josh talks hitting. He has a PhD in it: as in ‘Pretty Hard to Dispute.’ But there is one thing he told me after a loss in which he had grinded out – and I mean grinded – at bats in one of those stupid summer games where bugger-all is working for you.

“Fouled off some tough pitches,” I told him.

Because that’s a good thing, right? Battled like hell and didn’t give in etc., etc., etc. The honest tradesman grafting and grinding for every inch and then finally succumbing, secure in the knowledge he’d given it his all and that the baseball gods – with their sense of justice – would surely reward him on the morrow, that the game rewards those with a promise of a brighter tomo…

“Any idea how many of those I fouled off I would normally barrel up?” he said.

Translation: I was missing my pitch, you jackass.

OK, it’s not Camus – as in Albert Camus, the French philosopher name-checked by Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker in one of his recent post-season interviews – but it was a reminder that it’s always good to check your pre-conceived notions; that what you see when you watch a high-performance athlete isn’t always what they see.

So I thought of him (Donaldson, not Camus) as I watched the Los Angeles Dodgers foul off pitch after pitch after pitch in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series win over the Atlanta Braves — when they saw a simply stupid average of 4.6 pitches per plate appearance — and I started to question the accuracy of my sense that these Dodgers are less Hollywood and more hard-assed, that they’re something more than glamour boys. Resilient, as opposed to resplendent.

Watch every game of the 2020 World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers on Sportsnet and SN Now.

Nah. I’m giving in to the pre-conceived during this World Series. I just can’t get past the payroll thing. Yes, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman cut his teeth with the Rays and developed a keen understanding of the use of analytics but it still seems a bone of contention in L.A. as it is accepted reality with the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s almost like a front: the Dodgers the spoiled rich kids fiddling with analytics because they have the money to clean up the mess made whenever the thing blows a gasket; the Rays the poor kids who need to squeeze out every single, tiny, advantage.

And the fact is you’d be hard-pressed to take many of the Rays position players over their Dodgers counterparts, especially the way they’re hitting now. Pitching? Yeah, we can argue that chiefly because the Rays have much less warped history around their pitching than do the Dodgers – you know, Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen and all that stuff. But let’s be real: baseball people have felt for years – years! – that the Dodgers were destined to win a World Series.

The Rays? Destined to re-locate, maybe.

So, yes, while it is true that this is a meeting between the teams in each league with the best records, albeit over 60 games, and it is true that’s only the fourth time it’s happened since the wild-card format was born in 1995, it is still the Dodgers vs. the Rays. I called this matchup on Baseball Central when the pandemic ended and, yeah, I’m sticking with my predicted outcome. I hope J.D. understands.

With the World Series set to begin Tuesday, these six players could have a significant impact on how the series unfolds…

JEFF BLAIR’S PICK: Rays in six games.

SIX TO WATCH

1. Randy Arozarena, LF, Rays
Without him the Rays wouldn’t be in the World Series because, well, nobody else has hit. N-o-b-o-d-y. Brandon Lowe, Yandy Diaz and Willy Adames have combined to slash .109/.268/.124 — in the entire month of October. Austin Meadows is 4-for-35 (114) and Rays TV analyst Orestes Destrade thinks COVID-19 and injuries have turned this into a write-off for him: he looks heavier and that might be impacting his bat speed.

Since the wild-card era started in 1995, only the 2019 Houston Astros and 2016 Cleveland Indians had a lower team average coming out of their league championship series. Both ended up losing the World Series. Oh: the Rays are also hitless in their last 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

All Arozarena has done is lead all players in post-season runs (14), hits (21) and extra-base hits (11). The Rays have scored a total of 57 runs — he has scored or driven in 21 of them. No wonder he was named most valuable player in the American League Championship Series. I see Clayton Kershaw hanging a curve… I see Arozarena killing it. He’s .383/.433/.855 in 60 plate appearances this month, so let’s not do the Dave Roberts thing and out-think the narrative.

2. Mookie Betts, RF, Dodgers
Ooh, going out on a limb here, right? The guy who signed a 12-year, $365-million contract extension after his market-rattling trade from the Boston Red Sox has made shining defensive play after shining defensive play in right field and has a chance to – in his first year – write himself all over the franchise’s first World Series win since 1989.

It’s true that Betts’ offence in the post-season hasn’t matched that defensive excellence. He hit .269 in the NLCS and has been more consistent than exceptional – just kind of there compared to, say, Corey Seager. But he knows the Rays from his time in the AL East with the Boston Red Sox: he’s 7-for-23 with a home run against Blake Snell and 6-for-20 against Charlie Morton and 3-for-9 against Tyler Glasnow.

He’s won a World Series before and knows none of the sphincter-tightening fear of a Dodgers player in the post-season.

3. Ji-Man Choi, 1B, Rays
Look: I could just go Glasnow or Snell or Anderson or Franklin as Rays to watch and pretty much be done with it. Pitching, pitching, pitching. But, I don’t know: Choi seems to be having so much damned fun whenever the camera finds him, or at least always seems to be wearing some sort of bemused, confused or enthused facial expression.

He actually had a decent ALCS and his proficiency around first base is an important part of the tight defence that is a Rays calling card. He is the ultimate whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts player. And unlike some of his teammates he can handle velocity, especially from right-handers which will come in handy against Walker Buehler, Brusdar Graterol, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May — hell, maybe even Joe Kelly.

The Rays will need somebody other than Arozarena and it just kind of feels it might be Choi. Hope so.

4. Kike Hernandez, IF-OF, Dodgers
He might not be needed. He might hit .071 as he did in six games against the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2018 NLCS, when he struck out in half his 16 plate appearances. Or he’ll hit a homer. Or two.

Because, of Hernandez’s 24 post-season hits over 52 post-season games, one-third have been homers, and given the fact that the Dodgers have enough depth on their roster to play the matchup game you can see Hernandez lying in wait for Jose Alvarado or Aaron Loup or maybe even a Ryan Yarbrough cameo out of the bullpen. He’s like an add-on run lying in the bushes. Waiting. Shh… nothing to see here.

5. Julio Urias, LHP, Dodgers
See, here’s the thing about Dave Roberts: playing pin the tail on the relief pitcher isn’t really his strength, whereas for his Rays managerial counterpart, Kevin Cash, it’s the way he’s always done things. I mean, the Rays didn’t have a starter with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Or a reliever for that matter. So Cash is quite comfortable playing the long game using short relievers and his pitchers have bought into it because, well, they have no choice.

I have to think watching Urias toss three perfect innings of scoreless relief in Game 7, hitting 96 m.p.h., needing just 10 pitches to get his first three outs and then surviving a 10-pitch battle with Freddie Freeman in the eighth innings, left Roberts feeling all sorts of giddy. Four days earlier, Urias made the start in Game 4 and threw 101 pitches. Unlike the division and championship series, there are off-days baked into the World Series schedule – between games two and three and five and six – so Roberts might be less tempted to tap into Urias or Dustin May.

But the way this is setting up, with Kenley Jansen having pitched just well enough to put himself in position to break Dodgers hearts again? I can see Urias’ schedule getting hectic.

This season, Dan picks an issue, trend, news item or story from around MLB, and digs in on it with a guest. And he does it five times a week for about 15 minutes a day. Enough time to inform and entertain, but also get fans back to all the sports going on.

6. Ryan Yarbrough, LHP, Rays
The Dodgers had difficulty handling slop-tossing lefties this season – their OPS on soft pitches from southpaws was 17th in the Majors – and, well, they’re going to see a lot of 81 m.p.h. from Yarbrough, who doesn’t light up the gun like the Rays other starters but is in fact the embodiment of what they do: he can start, come on following an opener as a ‘bulk’ starter, or just relieve.

Plus? He’s dull as spit, his pitching velocity matched by opponents’ exit velocity – 82.6 m.p.h. this season, second slowest in the Majors among pitchers who yielded 50 batted balls. He loves his cutter and why not? He gets soft contact and lots of swings and misses.

If this series goes six or seven games my guess is we’re going to see him a great deal. Bring a pillow. Deal with it. As the hashtag says, #RaysUp.

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Murray leads as Cardinals cruise past Cowboys – TSN

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Maybe Kyler Murray will lose a game on the home field of the Dallas Cowboys one of these days.

It wasn’t going to be on a night when the Arizona quarterback watched the star running back of his hometown team have another night of fumble-itis.

Murray accounted for three touchdowns in his first game back home as a pro, Ezekiel Elliott set up the visiting team’s first two TDs with fumbles and the Cardinals beat the Dallas Cowboys 38-10 on Monday night.

The speedy quarterback who won three high school championships and a Big 12 title at the home of the Cowboys improved to 7-0 as a starter at AT&T Stadium, throwing for two scores despite a rough start through the air and rushing for 74 yards and a TD.

“That’s not easy when that’s what everyone has been talking about all week,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “He’s probably had this one circled on his calendar since it came out. But I thought he handled himself well.”

It was the “Monday Night Football” debut for Murray, a star in high school football-obsessed Texas while playing in the Dallas suburbs, and Kingsbury, who also had a happy first trip to his native Texas as an NFL coach.

“It was fun, brought back a lot of memories,” Murray said. “Felt like I’ve been playing there every Sunday honestly. It’s comfortable, felt good.”

Fired after six seasons at Texas Tech in 2018 without any winning records in Big 12 games, Kingsbury was hired by Arizona soon after and has the Cardinals (4-2) tied for second place in the tough NFC West. Arizona is above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2015, its most recent playoff year.

Andy Dalton had the rest of Dallas’ four turnovers with two interceptions in his first start for the Cowboys in place of injured star Dak Prescott, just down the road from where he had a standout career at TCU.

The nine-year starter in Cincinnati led a come-from-behind victory over the New York Giants in Week 5 after the gruesome-looking compound fracture of Prescott’s right ankle. There wasn’t anything resembling a rally this time.

While the Dallas offence didn’t look anything close to the NFL-leading unit it was with Prescott — and lost the fourth of its five projected starting offensive linemen in four-time All-Pro Zack Martin (first-quarter concussion) — Elliott’s miscues led to the fifth straight game in which the Cowboys have trailed by at least two touchdowns.

The Cowboys (2-4) overcame two of those deficits, which is why they were guaranteed to stay in first place in the woeful NFC East no matter what happened in the last of three straight home games — and a third straight road game for Arizona.

“The record, it is what it is right now, the division is what it is right now, but it’s still early,” Dalton said. “There’s a lot of football left to be played, and for us, we’ve got to improve as a football team.”

Elliott was benched briefly after the two-time rushing champion lost a second fumble in the same game for the first time in his career. He has five fumbles (four lost) already this season — one shy of his career high for an entire season as the NFL’s worst turnover margin dropped to minus-12 with four giveaways and no takeaways.

Murray was playing in the $1.2 billion stadium with the retractable roof and giant video board for the first time since leading Oklahoma over rival Texas there in the Big 12 championship game.

While the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner misfired on eight of his first 11 passes and finished 9 of 24 for 188 yards, Murray hit Christian Kirk in stride on an 80-yard touchdown for a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.

“It wasn’t as good as it should have been,” said Murray, who tied Jim Hart’s 1968 franchise season record for QBs with his sixth rushing TD. “Wasn’t as accurate as I should have been. Wasn’t up to par for my standards, so I’ve got to be better.”

Kirk opened the scoring on a 6-yard jet sweep that counted as a pass after the first fumble from Elliott. Kenyan Drake scored from the 1 after the second Elliott miscue, while Murray added a 1-yard TD run.

With the game out of hand in the final two minutes, Drake broke free for a 69-yard touchdown run, giving him 164 yards.

CAPTAIN KIRK

A former Texas A&M standout, Kirk came in with two 100-yard games and five touchdowns in three wins over Arkansas at the home of the Cowboys. Both of his catches in this game were for scores.

“When the bright lights come on, the cream of the crop rises,” Kirk said. “It’s something about big moments, the level of play always elevates. It’s just rising to the occasion.”

INJURIES

Martin was briefly injured and returned, then went out for good after taking a knee to the helmet. Second-year player Connor McGovern took his spot, leaving left guard Connor Williams as the only preseason starter still in the lineup.

PANDEMIC CROWD

The Cowboys have had fans at all four home games, with the biggest so far (barely) at 25,174 against the Cardinals. While it was the most coronavirus-friendly setting so far with the retractable roof open for the first time, TV shots showed plenty of fans without masks over their noses. Dallas is filling about 31% of the 80,000-seat stadium. The state allows up to 50%.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Seattle at home Sunday to start a stretch of three straight home games that is also scheduled to include the bye, meaning Arizona won’t be on the road for a month barring COVID-19 changes.

Cowboys: Washington on Sunday in the first of two consecutive road games against NFC East opponents.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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U.S., Britain call out Russian hacking spree, cyberattacks against Olympics – CNBC

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U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division John Demers speaks at a news conference at the Department of Justice, in Washington, U.S., October 19, 2020.
Andrew Harnik | Reuters

Britain and the United States on Monday condemned what they said were a litany of malicious cyberattacks orchestrated by Russian military intelligence, including attempts to disrupt next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

British and U.S. officials said the attacks were conducted by Unit 74455 of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, also known as the Main Centre for Special Technologies.

In an indictment unsealed on Monday, the U.S. Justice Department said six members of the unit had played key roles in attacks on targets ranging from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to the 2017 French elections. The charges covered four years of malicious cyber activity, from 2015 to 2019.

British officials said the GRU hackers had also conducted “cyber reconnaissance” operations against organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Games, which were originally scheduled to be held this year but postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The officials declined to give specific details about the attacks or whether they were successful, but said they had targeted Games organisers, logistics suppliers and sponsors.

Justice Department Assistant Attorney General John Demers declined to discuss the more recent attacks against the 2020 Games.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The GRU’s actions against the Olympic and Paralympic Games are cynical and reckless. We condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”

FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said: “The FBI has repeatedly warned that Russia is a highly capable cyber adversary, and the information revealed in this indictment illustrates how pervasive and destructive Russia’s cyber activities truly are.”

A poster showing six wanted Russian military intelligence officers is displayed before a news conference at the Department of Justice, on October 19, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Andrew Harnik | Getty Images

Russia was banned from the world’s top sporting events for four years in December over widespread doping offences, including the Tokyo Games which were originally scheduled for this year but postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The attacks on the 2020 Games are the latest in a string of hacking attempts against international sporting organisations that Western officials and cybersecurity experts say have been orchestrated by Russia since its doping scandal erupted five years ago. Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Britain and the United States said on Monday the hackers were involved in other attacks, such as the hack of the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in South Korea, which compromised hundreds of computers, took down Internet access and disrupted broadcast feeds.

The attack in South Korea had previously been linked to Russia by cybersecurity researchers but was made to look like the work of Chinese or North Korean hackers, Britain’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The attacks on the 2020 Summer Games are the latest in a campaign of Russian malicious activity against the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” it said.

“The UK is confirming for the first time today the extent of GRU targeting of the 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea.”

Other offensive cyber operations allegedly conducted by the GRU officers since 2015, according to the Justice Department, included the global cyberattack known as NotPetya.

In 2017, destructive NotPetya malware spread globally out of Ukraine, infecting and locking up thousands of computers belonging to major corporations. Experts say NotPetya caused upwards of $1 billion in losses. At the time, companies publicly affected by NotPetya included FedEx Corporation and pharmaceutical giant Merck.

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