Around the NHL: Quick Start Paces Lightning to Game 2 Win

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Tampa Bay Lightning had three power plays in the third period of Game 1 and could not cut into the lead the Dallas Stars built over the first two periods. In the first period of Game 2, the Lightning had three more power plays, and they sure took advantage of that.

Three goals in the first period, including two on the power play, paced the Lightning to a 3-0 lead. The Stars again tried to find a rally, but fell just short, as the Lightning took Game 2, 3-2, to even the Stanley Cup Final at one game apiece on Monday night.

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Around the NHL: Khudobin, Unlikely Scorers Lift Stars to Game 1 Win

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Stanley Cup Final got underway on Saturday night, and it took just over five minutes for a surprise scorer to emerge. 

The Dallas Stars struck first, but the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to push back to tie the game after one, but a pair of goals late in the second set the tone for the Stars, as they were able to take Game 1 by a score of 4-1 thanks to some unlikely heroes and outstanding goaltending from Anton Khudobin.

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Around the NHL: Previewing a Lightning-Stars Stanley Cup Final

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

After a four and a half month pause and seven weeks safely playing inside the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles, two teams remain and the 2020 Stanley Cup Final is finally set. The series will begin on Saturday night between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars.

Tampa Bay has long-awaited this moment. After reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, the Lightning have been widely regarded as the team to beat in several seasons, none more than the 2018-19 season when they won 62 games in the regular season only to get swept in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Now, they are back again and have an even more talented roster poised to claim the Lightning’s second Stanley Cup in franchise history and first since 2004.

On the other side, the Dallas Stars were seemingly the forgotten team of the return-to-play in the West. Among the four Round Robin teams, they were the one that wasn’t given a shot. They played through multiple trials and tribulations throughout the regular season, then powered their way back within each series to find a way to reach the final. They are certainly a dangerous bunch that is also looking to claim the franchise’s second Stanley Cup and first since 1999.

Here is a preview of the series, including each team’s candidates for Conn Smythe, how they got to the Final and what they need to do to win the Cup.

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Around the NHL: Lightning Reach Stanley Cup Final with OT Win

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Stanley Cup Final is set. Two teams remain in the Edmonton bubble with a chance to capture the Stanley Cup.

The Tampa Bay Lightning advanced to the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night with a 2-1 win in overtime over the New York Islanders in Game 6, claiming the series, 4-2.

More on the Lightning’s Game 6 win, a look at the Stanley Cup Final schedule and news of an interesting trade from this week in our look around the NHL.

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Flyers Re-Sign Nicolas Aube-Kubel to 2-Year Deal

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The Flyers offseason is underway and GM Chuck Fletcher wasted little time bringing back one of the team’s rising depth players.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel has re-signed with the Flyers on a two-year deal worth $1.075 million annually, the team announced on Thursday.

 

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Around the NHL: Stars Advance to Final, Laviolette Joins Capitals

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Three teams remain in the bubble for the NHL as one team has punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Dallas Stars get the chance to play for the Stanley Cup after completing a series win against the Vegas Golden Knights in five games with a 3-2 overtime win on Monday night.

More on the close of the Western Conference Final, an update on the East and a new coaching hire in the Metropolitan Division.

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Vigneault: ‘We’re On The Right Track to Win a Stanley Cup’

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

When you play in a sports city as crazed as Philadelphia, expectations can soar pretty quickly. When you haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975, they can skyrocket in a hurry when a team feels like it is poised for a special run.

The Flyers won their first three games back from a four and a half month pause and claimed the number one seed in the conference for the playoffs, thus sending Philadelphia into a frenzy. After such a long pause with no sports at all, a team looked poised to win it all.

That’s when this young Flyers team found out just how hard the journey can be. After a grueling series against Montreal that was won in six games, the Flyers had to claw their way back into the second-round series against the Islanders, winning Games 5 and 6 in overtime to force Game 7. They lost Game 7, 4-0, and the season and those hopes came to an end.

It was a different feeling for the Flyers this time around. This wasn’t a team that was just happy to be there and part of the dance. This was a team that had sights set on a long run. Most notably, their head coach, in his first year with the team, had his sights set on the elusive victory he has longed for. It didn’t happen, but there was a lot of progress made in the eyes of the Flyers head coach.

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Flyers Offseason Primer: Expiring Contracts, Trade Targets and Free Agents to Watch

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The NHL offseason is usually hellacious enough. Within two weeks of the Stanley Cup being awarded, teams are gathered to make selections for the entry draft and then go into free agent frenzy a week later.

Of course, teams that don’t make the Stanley Cup Final usually have a bit more of a time advantage. 

But this offseason is anything but normal. For one, the Stanley Cup will be awarded likely in the early days of October, right around the usual time for the start of a regular season. At worst, the NHL Draft will likely be held two or three days after a potential Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final. Two days after the completion of the draft, free agency begins. No rest for the weary.

That said, it will be an interesting offseason for two reasons. One is the flat salary cap. Due to the pandemic, the NHL kept the salary cap frozen at $81.5 million. For teams that were expecting that usual bit of an increase to provide some relief, that is gone and teams will have to get very creative to make some changes to their roster, the Flyers being one of them.

Secondly, all this offseason activity will happen quickly after the 2019-20 season finally ends, but when does the 2020-21 season begin? When do new draft picks and free-agent signing actually get the chance to suit up for their new teams and how will that impact the usual speed of the offseason that is commonly in the early summer months?

Right now, there are no answers to when the next hockey games will be once this season comes complete. So for now, teams have to approach the offseason with that uncertainty in mind while working around a tight budget that has no room for flexibility in the immediate.

With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the things on the Flyers offseason agenda, areas they will look to address, the signings they have to make and some potential trade targets, trade options within the current roster, and free agents that could end up on their radar.

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Flyers Forward Sean Couturier Wins Selke Trophy

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

For several seasons, Sean Couturier’s name has come up among the top defensive forwards in the game. For the last couple of seasons, as the offensive side has come around, Couturier was getting recognized as one of the best two-way forwards in the game.

He finally has some hardware to show for that. Couturier was named the winner of the Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy, presented annually to “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game," for the 2019-20 season on Thursday.

Couturier becomes the third Flyer to take home the award, the first since Dave Poulin in 1987. Bobby Clarke won the award in 1983.

Couturier scored 22 goals and had 59 points in 69 games played in the regular season. He also led the NHL with a 59.6 winning percentage in face-offs. 

Couturier won the award impressively ahead of Boston forward Patrice Bergeron and St. Louis forward Ryan O’Reilly. Couturier received 117 first-place votes and finished with 1,424 total voting points. Bergeron was second with 884 total voting points and 21 first-place votes. O’Reilly was third with 11 first-place votes. Anthony Cirelli and Mark Stone rounded out the top five of voting.

Couturier was a finalist for the Selke in 2018, finishing second to Anze Kopitar, and finished sixth in voting last season.


Flyers Notes: GM Chuck Fletcher’s Exit Day Interview

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

As with everything else that has gone on since the return of the NHL, this wasn’t your normal exit from the 2019-20 season. Following the Flyers unceremonious 4-0 loss in Game 7 to the Islanders in the second round, many players did not even return to Philadelphia and just returned to their hometowns. There were no exit interviews with players and the last we will hear from Alain Vigneault came in the moments following Game 7.

GM Chuck Fletcher put the wraps on the 2019-20 season with his exit day media availability on Thursday afternoon, discussing a range of topics. The overwhelming theme: there’s not a lot of room for flexibility around the league and don’t expect much to change in the next few months.

The flat cap is going to hamper a lot of the usual offseason activity. It’s not a good year to be a free agent and teams are more likely to look through the avenue of trading to make any notable improvements.

The Flyers don’t really have that flexibility. Sure, they can explore options through trade, but they don’t have the cap space - like a lot of teams - and Fletcher’s overwhelming theme was not wanting to divert from the philosophy of continuing to develop young talent. 

Here is a rundown on some of the notes from Fletcher’s exit day media availability.

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