🏒NHL Expansion Drafts explained
How it works: North American sports leagues use expansion drafts to build new teams’ rosters. As the NHL’s newest team, the Kraken will select 30 players from other teams. Only the Vegas Golden Knights, the league’s most recent expansion team, is exempt.
- By 10 a.m. ET yesterday, each team released a : a list of either seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie, or eight total players (forwards and defensemen) plus a goalie — who are undraftable.
- Players who have been in the league for less than two years are safe, too. The rest are available or “exposed.” The Kraken will select one player from each team, choosing at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies.
Who’s up for grabs: Because you can’t save ’em all, some big name players are vulnerable. The Colorado Avalanche chose not to protect their captain, Gabriel Landeskog, and with Seattle drafting from Colorado first, he’ll likely be their first overall pick.
- Montreal Canadiens star goalie Carey Price is exposed too, but since the Kraken will need to honor drafted players’ existing contracts, and , there’s a good chance he’ll get to stay with Montreal.
- Other big names include Montreal’s Shea Weber, Columbus Blue Jacket Max Domi, St. Louis Blue Vladimir Tarasenko and LA Kings’ two-time Stanley Cup–winning goalie Jonathan Quick. The fun starts Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and Sportsnet.
🏒Tampa Bay Lightning are Stanley Cup champions
How it happened: With a 1–0 win over the Montreal Canadiens in last night’s Game 5, the reigning champs went back-to-back to earn the franchise’s third Stanley Cup and second in less than 10 months. And this time, they got to do it at home, in front of their fans, just like .
- The Cup win is the second 2021 championship for the city of Tampa, after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl in February. Let’s see if Steven Stamkos and the boys can top .
What’s next: After an unbelievable run, the Canadiens will return to Montreal without a Stanley Cup, extending the Canadian championship drought to 28 years (more pain). The 2021 NHL Draft is set for July 23rd and the new season should return as usual in October.
🏒Stanley Cup Finals Preview
QUOTE OF THE DAY
One of the great rules of hockey is: On the Stanley Cup, all germs are healthy.
—New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey (pre-COVID-19, obviously).
🏒 The Stanley Cup Final
And then there were two. Sixteen of 31 (soon-to-be 32) teams emerged from the shortened but jam-packed regular season to compete in the NHL postseason six weeks ago, and now only two remain in the annual battle for the Stanley Cup: the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Having first been awarded in 1893, the Stanley Cup is the oldest league championship in North America and is also the most storied. It’s been used as a baptismal font, found at the bottom of a swimming pool, left on the side of a road and traveled the world.
- The only championship trophy with its own full time “keeper,” the Cup includes the names of every man and woman who have helped a team win it. And sometime in the next two weeks, a new cast of characters will join the Cup’s engraved history.
🏙🌆 A tale of two cities
The year was 1993. Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” was on the radio, Jurassic Parkwas in theaters, Justin Bieber hadn’t been born yet and the Montreal Canadiens were Stanley Cup champions.
- That win — a Game 5 victory over the Los Angeles Kings — was the Canadiens’ 24th championship and marks the last time a Canadian team won the Cup. The country that gave the world the Stanley Cup is itching for it to return home.
The year was 2020. No one was listening to the radio (because Spotify), nothing was in theaters (because pandemic), Justin Bieber was married and the Tampa Bay Lightning were Stanley Cup champs.
- The team’s second championship (the first came in 2004) was won in a pandemic-forced bubble in Edmonton, without live fans and the comforts of home. A repeat win would give the reigning champs the fanfare they mostlymissed out on in 2020.
🇨🇦 The underdogs
The journey: The Habs aren’t supposed to be here. After squeaking into fourth place in the North Division and ending the regular season on a five-game losing skid, they were supposed tolose in the first round to their biggest rivals and the North’s top team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Instead, they won the series in Game 7.
- They were supposed to lose to the Winnipeg Jets in the second round, after the Jets swept the Edmonton Oilers and the dream duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. But, the Habs swept the Jets.
- And in the conference finals, they were supposed to lose to the Vegas Golden Knights, a favorite to win the Cup before the season even started. The Habs won the series 4-2, setting up the underdogs for their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in almost 30 years.
Difference maker: Yes, hockey is a team sport, but a lot of the Habs’ success can be attributed to one guy: goalie Carey Price. Often the best player on the ice, the future Hall-of-Famer has an unreal postseason save percentage, superhuman reflexes and the coolness of a cucumber.
Impact player: The lack of a legitimate superstar means that the Canadiens’ front line players share the glory, but there is one future superstar: Cole Caufield. The rookie has made a name for himself thanks to defining plays like his overtime goal against the Maple Leafs.
Leader of the pack: Captain Shea Weber leads the Habs stoically from the blue line, and that strong defense has been one of the team’s keys to success during this postseason run. The Habs’ D has shut down scoring stars like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Mark Stone, largely due to Weber’s influence.
⚡️ The favorites
The journey: The Tampa Bay Lightning finished the regular season third in the super tight Central Division, setting them up for an intrastate round one against the Florida Panthers. The Bolts took the series 4-2, before completing a “gentleman’s sweep” of the Carolina Hurricanes in round two.
- Tampa's last series against the plucky New York Islanders was their toughest (and probably the most similar matchup to what they’ll face in Montreal). The Bolts won the series in seven games, including a 8–0 Game 5 win.
Difference maker: If anyone can give Carey Price a run for his money, it’s Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. He’s the best in the league, winning the Vezina Trophy (awarded to the season’s best goalie) in 2019 and has led ’tendy wins for three straight seasons.
Impact player: Brayden Point lives up to his name. He had a nine-game scoring streak over the last two series and has a knack for finding goals when needed (hence his “Mr. Clutch” nickname in the locker room).
Leader of the pack: Captain Steven Stamkos was one of those once-in-a-generation talents when he was drafted first overall in 2008. And although he’s struggled with injuries over the last few years, a second Cup would cement his place in the history books alongside peers like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. No pressure.
🏆 The series
As much as we’d like to predict a winner,the Canadiens have taught us to expect the unexpected. We think this series will feature the best goaltending of all time, we assume the Lightning will light up the scoreboard, we hopethe Canadiens can restore the faith of a nation in its national pastime. But we’re not putting money on it just yet. First, let’s watch some hockey.
- Both teams are on Eastern Standard Time, so the first six games of the series are all set for 8 p.m. ET (Game 7, if necessary, is a 7 p.m. ET start). Tune into Game 1 tonight on NBCSN in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada. We’re on the air!
🏒Montreal Canadiens Could Make History During Game 6
Montreal Canadiens vs. Vegas Golden Knights: The Canadiens are one win away from becoming the first Canadian team to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in a decade, and the setting could not be more perfect. It’s Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in Quebec — the province’s biggest holiday — and tonight’s Game 6 begins at 8 p.m. ET in Montreal.
- Thanks to a 4–1 win on Tuesday, the Habs lead the series 3-2, and if they can’t put it away tonight (fingers, toes and eyes crossed), they’ll try again in Game 7 on Saturday...in Vegas. In Carey we trust.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders: Speaking of Game 7, the Isles tied up the other semifinal series 3-3 with a 3–2 overtime win last night, redeeming their 8–0 (!!!) loss on Monday. Game 7 is set for tomorrow at 8 p.m. ET. Can the Lightning make it back-to-back?
🏒Stanley Cup Semifinals Series Tied on Both Ends
The series: The Golden Knights tied the series 2-2 with a 2–1 overtime (OT) win last night, proving that their decision to replace starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, after on Friday, with backup Robin Lehner was worth it.
- Though Montreal opened the scoring with , it was Vegas who had the last laugh, with Quebec-native Nicolas Roy just 1 minute and 18 seconds into OT. Tough. Game 5’s back in Vegas tomorrow at 9 p.m. ET.
- BTW, Habs’ head coach Dominique Ducharme will miss the rest of the series as he recovers from COVID-19, but we’re happy to watch assistant Luke Richardson lead the team while .
The other series: Meanwhile, the reigning Stanley Cup champs, the Tampa Bay Lightning, are facing their own pesky challenge in the New York Islanders. After the Isles won Game 4 on Saturday, the series is tied 2-2 heading into Game 5 tonight at 8 p.m. ET.