Tampa Bay Lightning: 2020 Stanley Cup Champs
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the 2020 Stanley Cup champions, Victor Hedman wins the Conn Smythe Trophy, plus the latest on the Flyers, Blackhawks, Golden Knights and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning are the Stanley Cup champions after blanking the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, winning the series four games to two. Andrei Vasilevskiy turned in a 22-save shutout while Brayden Point and Blake Coleman were the goal scorers. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the Lightning for a well-deserved championship run under quarantine conditions in Toronto and Edmonton. The Bolts just get better as the playoffs progressed, using their deep roster and solid defensive play to defeat their opponents They never suffered consecutive losses during this postseason. Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov finished with 34 points to lead all playoff scorers while linemate Brayden Point was the goal-scoring leader with 14 goals.
Give the Stars credit for getting this far. They gave everything they had against a strong Lightning club in this series but seemed to run out of gas in Game 6.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Interim Stars coach Rick Bowness deflected questions during the post-game press conference over whether he’ll return as Dallas’ bench boss. However, he said he still has the passion to coach.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stars owner Tom Gaglardi and general manager Jim Nill said Bowness earned the right to return as their full-time coach next season. I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t. Bowness did a fine job guiding the Stars to their first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years.
SPORTSNET: For the ninth straight week, the NHL reported no positive COVID-19 tests.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Everyone involved in the NHL return-to-play plan deserves a big round of applause. Their collective goal was to stage a safe environment for a playoff tournament to crown a Stanley Cup champion. Mission accomplished.
TSN: NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr doesn’t expect to see all of next season played under playoff quarantine conditions. However, he suggested the possibility of a hybrid bubble to start next season.
Frank Seravalli reports the league and the PA will meet soon to begin discussions. One concept could be starting the season in four-to-six bubbles in various locations, preferably cities where fans can be allowed into the arenas. At least one bubble would be in Canada, given the current restrictions at the Canada-US border.
Seravalli said the plan could see teams start the season in hybrid bubbles and gradually progress toward teams hosting games in their home arenas and cities with limited capacity before hopefully ramping up to full capacity in time for the playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league and the PA won’t rush into anything. As they did with the return-to-play plan, they’ll take their time to evaluate all their options as they formulate a workable schedule for next season. They’ll also likely evaluate how the NFL and US college football handles their games with fans in the stands. As with the playoff tournament, player safety will be the priority.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers re-signed defenseman Robert Hagg to a two-year, $3.2 million contract extension. Hagg, 25, was a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. The Flyers also hired recently-retired forward Chris Stewart as a player development coach.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks traded forward Dylan Sikura to the Vegas Golden Knights for forward Brandon Pirri.
Steven Stamkos returns as the Lightning take 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final, the latest on a potential Patric Hornqvist-for-Mike Matheson trade, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Steven Stamkos scored in his return to action as the Tampa Bay Lightning downed the Dallas Stars 5-2 in Game 2 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Stamkos, who’s been dealing with a core-muscle issue that sidelined him since July, played only five shifts in the first period but scored the Lightning’s second goal, eluding Stars defenseman Esa Lindell and sniping a wrister past Anton Khudobin. He spent the rest of the game on the Lightning bench. In his post-game interview, Stamkos said he’s still working through the issue, adding it was too early to tell if he’ll suit up for Game 4 on Friday.
Victor Hedman had a goal and two assists, becoming the third defenseman in Stanley Cup playoff history to score at least 10 goals in a postseason. Only Paul Coffey (12 goals) and Brian Leetch (11) have more. Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat each had a goal and an assist.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos’ brief return in Game 3 still provided a big lift to his teammates. You could see it by the way they played and their reaction to their captain’s goal. They took control of the game in the second period, scoring three goals and outshooting the Stars 21-4.
Hedman, meanwhile, is making a strong case as the favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. In addition to his goal-scoring efforts, he’s been the Lightning’s leader during Stamkos’ absence, playing a strong game at both ends of the rink.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports a potential trade in which the Pittsburgh Penguins would send winger Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Mike Matheson could be falling apart over Hornqvist’s no-trade clause and concerns over whether his contract was covered by insurance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This deal could still go through if those issues are sorted out, but Friedman sounds skeptical. “One hurdle would be challenging enough…but two? Big problem.” If the deal goes through, the Penguins will have a surplus of left-side defensemen, meaning another trade could be likely.
TSN: Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion confirmed his club won’t be re-signing long-time goaltender Craig Anderson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The decline in the 39-year-old Anderson’s performance over the past two years made this inevitable. Nevertheless, it’s the end of an era between the pipes for the Senators. Anderson is their all-time leader in wins, losses, and games-played, and played a big role in their surprising run to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens re-signed forward Jake Evans to a two-year contract extension. The first year is a two-way deal paying him $750K at the NHL level. He’ll earn $800K in the second year.
TORONTO STAR: The Canada Revenue Agency alleges former Maple Leafs Shayne Corson and Darcy Tucker participated in a scheme to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The duo claimed millions in business losses related to foreign currency trading during their years with the Leafs, but the CRA alleges it was a sham to claim the losses to lower their taxable income. Corson and Tucker deny the allegations.