On Friday, The Tampa Bay Lightning held their last practice in Toronto before moving to Edmonton on Saturday for the Eastern Conference final. Their opponent for the next round is still not known, as the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Islanders will decide it tonight in Game 7. The first game of the ECF is scheduled on Monday.
During the yesterday’s media availability Jon Cooper promised to provide a new update on Steven Stamkos status before the ECF starts on Monday. Cooper also noticed that despite his absence on the ice, Stamkos has been a leader in the locker room, bringing the group together.
Coop on having a week between games, Stamkos staying involved even while not playing, and preparing for the trip to Edmonton. pic.twitter.com/ZeCkdSCRT1— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) September 4, 2020
Barclay Goodrow complimented Andrei Vasilevskiy and his puck handling skills, admitting that he didn’t realize how good he was.
Sergachev & Goodrow on what it's like playing in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy, taking pride in the penalty kill, and being able to better prepare now that travel plans are set. pic.twitter.com/Zx1DFMSYpv— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) September 4, 2020
Tyler Johnson was asked about similarities of the current team and the 2015 one, which reached the Stanley Cup final. The Lightning forward noted that the depth of the team is a little bit better now, although both teams are very skilled and competitive.
Killorn & Johnson on the importance of Brayden Point, staying sharp leading into the ECF, and changing bubbles. pic.twitter.com/kPXCQwUqEl— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) September 4, 2020
Ultimately, the Lightning’s success can be put down to two particular things; their defensive structure and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy has the fourth highest xFSv% so far in the second round. A higher xFSv% means that the opponent’s shots are less dangerous. Even with that defensive structure in front of him limiting the Bruins’ chances, he still came up big and exceed his xFSV%. He sported a 4.45 GSAA in the series and is the current leader for the second round (though there are some games left to play as I write this).
The Stars opened the score very quickly: Alex Radulov converted on the power play after Mikko Rantanen took a penalty just two minutes into the game. The Avalanche responded quickly with goals by Vlad Namestnikov and Andre Burakovsky and finished the first period with a 2-1 lead.
Each team allowed a goal in the second period: first Joel Kiviranta scored his first career playoff goal on a delayed penalty and two minutes later Nazem Kadri was first on the puck sending it past Anton Khudobin during the power play. Radulov tied the game in the third period, Namestnikov gave his team lead back three minutes before the end of regulation but just ten seconds later Kiviranta scored another goal, sending both teams to overtime.
The Avalanche were a little bit more dangerous in overtime but eventually fell to the Stars when Kiviranta completed hat-trick and clinched a Western Conference Finals spot for his team. For the young Finnish rookie it was just the first game since August 20 and the third game during this year’s playoff run.
The young goalie Thatcher Demko kept the Canucks in the game till 13:52 into the third period when Shea Theodore scored a long-distance shot through traffic in front of Demko.
The Canucks offense though wasn’t there to support the rookie goaltender: the Knights outplayed the opponent in all aspects of the game, including a huge lead in shot attempts (60-20 at 5-on-5) and 77.48% expected goal share.
Thatcher Demko’s rival in the opponent net Robin Lehner played a perfect game, stopping rare but dangerous shots by the Canucks players and recording the third shutout in the series. The Canucks tried to push late in the game but allowed two empty-netter from Alex Tuch and Paul Stastny and the Golden Knights advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the third time in the three years of their existence.
New York Islanders vs. Philadelphia Flyers – series tied 3-3
7:30 PM ET; NBC, TVAS, CBC
The winner of this game will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Flyers managed to comeback after trailing 1-3 in the series and might become the only team to advance to the next round after such gap. Whichever team wins they will have just one day to relax before the ECF starts on Monday, unlike the Lightning which haven't played since last Monday.
Other News and Notes
The Western Conference Final will start on Sunday.
The Boston Bruins had their exit interviews yesterday, which as usual revealed that many players were playing despite having health issues
Chris Wagner said he had an elevated heart rate in Game 4, kept playing, and got some tests done. He said he had an irregular heart beat and had to go to the hospital. That meant he left the bubble and was under quarantine for Game 5.— Amalie Benjamin (@AmalieBenjamin) September 4, 2020
David Pastrnak said that the LBI was bothering him every game.— Amalie Benjamin (@AmalieBenjamin) September 4, 2020
Reportedly the Arizona Coyotes were late on paying signing bonuses to their players, although the problem has been resolved
According to multiple sources, the Arizona Coyotes have been late on paying at least a few players their contractually-stipulated signing bonuses on time. My understanding is these have since been resolved, but it has raised some concerns.— Katie Strang (@KatieJStrang) September 4, 2020
This also might affect the Coyotes negotiations with pending UFA Taylor Hall, as Darren Dreger hinted, the Montreal Canadiens could be interested.