In the 2020 NHL playoffs, you never know what you’re going to get. Game 1 of the Western Conference finals was a tight, 1-0 contest. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals was an offensive explosion — well, for the Tampa Bay Lightning, at least.
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The Golden Knights looked a bit lifeless in Game 1. Their power play is anemic as of late — 0-for-1 in Game 1, and 1-for-14 over the last four games — and they didn’t generate nearly enough high-quality chances. However, they do get a boost for this one, as Ryan Reaves returns after a one-game suspension for a high hit in the Vancouver series. “He brings physicality, but he brings energy to our group too,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “He creates a certain amount of room for people on the ice. He’s a big piece of our group. It’s not why we lost last night. I think it’s an easy excuse. I think guys have to be better and guys have to jump in and get the job done, and we know that.”
As for Dallas? The Stars may be bringing back their trap hockey ways, but if they play that sound defensively, one goal might be all they need to win games. The Stars could still use more from their stars; Tyler Seguin is scoreless in his past five outings.
Question of the day: Who starts in the net for Vegas?
Goalies have been a running storyline during the 2020 playoffs — backups and even third-stringers have been called into more action than a typical postseason — but the juiciest battle remains in Vegas. Both Robin Lehner (who has started 12 of 16 games this summer) and Marc-Andre Fleury (who got the surprise start in Game 1 and turned away 24 shots after allowing an early one) have proved they are capable.
“I knew we were going to want to be able to play both guys,” DeBoer said Sunday. “And they’ve allowed us to do that by how professional they’ve been.”
Lehner is probably still the preferred starter, and likely got the night off because of the quick turnaround from Game 7 of the conference semifinal series. But compounding matters: Fleury, historically, fares really well against the Stars. He is 11-5 against Dallas in his career, with a .926 save percentage. This could remain a guessing game for the rest of the playoffs.
About last night …
The Islanders had an emotional Game 7 on Saturday, flew from Toronto to Edmonton on Sunday, and played against Tampa Bay on Monday. The Lightning had nearly a full week off since they last played. It showed. Tampa Bay found its game much faster than the Isles did, and was incredibly efficient — the Lightning didn’t miss a shot on net until there were 67 seconds left in the game. The Islanders gave up eight goals, which is as many as they allowed in the entire five-game series against the Washington Capitals. “We know how they play,” New York forward Jordan Eberle said. “Just one of those games they get a chance, we made a mistake, they get a chance, it ends up in the back of our net. It’s a best-of-seven. This isn’t over. We’ll wash that one away and regroup.” Full recap.
Point was spectacular in a five-point (two goal, three assist) night. In his past seven games, he has 16 points. Per Natural Stat Trick, the Lightning are outscoring teams 12-2 when he’s on the ice at 5-on-5.
He was injured in Game 5 of the Bruins series and his status remained murky with no media access to practices in the bubble. Turns out, Kucherov is all right. He also had a five-point night (one goal, four assists).
One goal and two assists is usually good enough to earn first-star status. His goal, which put the Lightning ahead 2-1, came on a nasty shot.
A Hedman MISSILE! 🚀#GoBolts BACK on top.
— #StanleyCup Playoffs on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) September 8, 2020
Quote of the day
“You’ve got to take advantage of a tired team. Let’s be honest. This was a one-off.” — Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, keeping expectations modest.
NHL awards watch
Ryan, 33, entered the NHL/NHLPA players’ assistance program for alcohol abuse on Nov. 20 and missed nearly two months of the season. When Ryan returned in February, he vowed to share his story publicly, believing his transparency could inspire others. Ryan called his experience “the hardest thing I’ve had to go through,” but thanked the Senators for allowing him to leave the team to seek treatment; he also thanked the NHLPA and his family.
“If anybody out there is in need of answers or in need of a conversation, find a way to reach out to somebody who’s close to you that can give you that guidance and that conversation to get you started,” Ryan said. “Because every day gets a little bit better and a little bit easier to live.”
Up next: On Tuesday, the NHL will reveal the winner of the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. The finalists are Dampy Brar, Alexandria Briggs-Blake and John Haferman.