Blake’s Takes: Cup Finals Almost Set

After everything the NHL has been through since March, we’re a maximum of six games away from the Stanley Cup Finals. Both series are going into Game 5 with one team up 3-1. I’ll highlight each series as well as a few other notable storylines around the NHL.

P.S. I need the Stanley Cup Finals to start ASAP to take my mind off another soul-crushing Detroit Lions loss.

1. Stars One Game Away from Cup Finals

Who would have thought the Dallas Stars would be knocking on the door of the Stanley Cup Finals? Yes, they brought a good team into this season, but I don’t think anyone would have picked them to make it this far. Especially, with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn not putting up their usual spectacular numbers.

In this series, it’s been all about their defense and goaltending. Anton Khudobin has been lights out for the Stars. He’s 3-1 with a .952 sv%, and one shutout. He’s allowed 6 goals on 125 shots.

Offensively, the Stars haven’t done anything spectacular. Their leading scorer is Benn with four points in as many games. They’ve won each of their three games by one goal.

If they play Tampa in the Finals, I’m expecting Tampa to win. I don’t see the Stars being able to score enough goals to match the Lightning. If the Islanders end up coming back, it’s anyone’s guess who wins. If those two teams do meet in the Cup Finals, count on it being one of the most low-scoring series we’ve seen. I’ll still be watching, but I know it won’t interest everyone.

2. Lightning Go Up 3-1 on Islanders

Nikita Kucherov

The Islanders storybook season is hanging on by a thread as they’re down 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Isles just haven’t been able to hang with Tampa as they’ve allowed three or more goals in four of their five games, including an eight spot in Game 1.

For Tampa, they’ve been led by their usual suspects, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Victor Hedman are all having a fantastic series. If those three continue to play like this, I would be shocked if they didn’t win it all. Let’s not forget they have a former Vezina Trophy winner in net.

For Tampa fans, this seems to be their best chance to win a cup with their strong core. After losing to the Blackhawks in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals, they haven’t been back since. They’re my pick to win it all from this point forward.

Islanders fans should hold their heads high. They’ve outperformed expectations and proved that they can win playing their own style of hockey. Kudos to Barry Trotz who has transformed this team. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Islanders are right back in the Conference Finals next season.

3. Draft and Free Agency Dates Set

With COVID-19 altering the NHL calendar for this season and next, the NHL has released the dates for this year’s draft and free agency. The draft will be held virtually on Tuesday, October 6th, and Wednesday, October 7th. The draft was initially scheduled to be held in Montreal on June 26th and 27th.

Free agency will open on October 9th, two days after the draft ends.

There’s nothing too notable about the announcement of these dates. But, it is disappointing that the draft can’t be held in-person in Montreal. I know the draft is a celebration for players, front office members, and other NHL staffers. Montreal is a fantastic hockey city and city in general. I’m sure all players being drafted this year wish they could attend it in person and celebrate in Montreal. Sadly, those draftees won’t have that opportunity and will have to celebrate at home.

While it’s unfortunate there will be no in-person draft, I’m sure the New York Rangers won’t care as they have the opportunity to draft Alexis Lafrenière. For the rest of the teams, we’ll have to wait and see who gets picked after.

4. Lacrosse Style Goal Added to NHL 21

The goal made famous by Mike Legg, who went to a school I won’t mention, will be added to EA Sports’ “NHL 21.”

The cult-classic move was brought back into relevancy this season when ‘Canes forward Andrei Svechnikov pulled it off in a game. To my knowledge, that was the first time the move was executed successfully in an NHL game. Most didn’t have the guts to try it before Svechnikov did it. It became so popular it happened two more times this season. Once by Nashville’s Filip Forsberg and then Svechnikov went and did it again!

EA Sports’ NHL series has always been of its best titles. Over the years, they have added a lot of great features that continue to push the game forward. This includes adding moves and skills certain players have made famous. A few years ago they allowed players to pull off the move made famous by Peter Forsberg in the 1994 Olympics.

I’m definitely going to have to buy the game so I can try and pull off the move in a game.

5. Jake Allen Traded to Montreal

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Jake Allen is heading to the @canadiensmtl! ✍️

A post shared by NHL (@nhl) on

This trade happened a few weeks ago, but with everything going on in hockey and in the world of social justice, I wasn’t able to fit it into one of my columns. That being said, the Blues have traded their backup goaltender, Jake Allen, to the Montreal Canadiens for picks. Allen has spent his entire seven-year career in St. Louis and has backed up Jordan Binnington for the last two years.

Allen was called into action in this year’s playoffs when Binnington struggled. In five playoff games, he put up a 1.89 GAA and a .935 sv%.

For his career, Allen is 148-94-26, with a 2.50 GAA, .913 sv%, and 21 shutouts. Allen certainly won’t be expected to start as a guy named Carey Price is Montreal’s number one goalie. But, he’s a fantastic addition as a backup goalie.

This move definitely caught me off guard. I assume St. Louis wanted to move Allen as he only has one more year left on his deal. The Blues will now have to find a backup for Binnington in free agency. If they can, this trade will be a net positive for St. Louis. It’s tough to trade goalies mid-season, and if they hadn’t traded Allen now, he probably would have walked for nothing next summer. At least they were able to get a few picks for him. Not a bad move for the always-working Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong. ■

Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.

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