Blake’s Takes: Lightning One Win Away

After everything that’s happened since the league paused for COVID-19 back in March, the Stanley Cup will be lifted this week. Tampa Bay won three straight games, but couldn’t close it out against Dallas in Game 5. They’ll face off again in Game 6 tonight with Tampa up 3-2 in the series.

The Stanley Cup Finals has provided its share of storylines, from the return of Steven Stamkos, the dominance of Joe Pavelski, and bad luck of Tyler Seguin.

Outside of the Stanley Cup, the other 30 teams have been busy handing out extensions and making trades.

You can find five of my favorite storylines below.

Also, here’s the best song I heard last week!

1. Dallas Fends Off Tampa for Game 5 Victory

Game 1 was the exception, not the rule. After watching Dallas dominate in Game 1, I honestly didn’t think Tampa Bay had a chance. Dallas took away everything they wanted to do and prevented quality chances. Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point looked out of sorts, Miro Heiskanen was flying around dictating the pace, and Anton Khudobin was a brick wall in net. That all changed in Games 2-4.

Tampa returned to their high-flying ways in the next three games. Although they only edged Dallas by one goal in two out of three games, they scored five goals in two of those games. Kucherov and Point have led the way with seven points each. Victor Hedman has also dominated, as he has all playoffs, scoring six points this series. Kevin Shattenkirk has also returned to form, scoring two of Tampa’s game-winning goals.

Dallas is fascinating to watch. They live off tip-ins and garbage goals. It’s fucking insane that they’ve made it to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals suffocating teams on defense and grinding out ugly goals. It’s hard to win a hockey game, and it’s harder when you don’t know where your goals are coming from.

Pavelski has been Dallas’ answer so far. He’s Dallas’ points leader with four goals and one assist. Pavelski also broke the record for most career postseason goals by an American, surpassing Joe Mullen’s record with his 61st career postseason goal.

However, Pavelski hasn’t been enough. If Dallas wants to win Games 6 and  7, they need to continue to play their game and prevent Tampa from getting the puck in high-danger areas. They’ve allowed too many juicy chances to a team with too much talent not to take advantage. I don’t think Dallas has enough gas in the tank to reel off back-to-back wins. But, I know now that I wrote it, it’s going to happen. Sorry Lightning fans.

2. Seguin Is Playing Better Than You Think

One of the major storylines of this playoffs has been Dallas’ success despite Seguin’s ability to score. Seguin has been one of the most dominant and consistent scorers in the NHL since he was traded to Dallas in 2013. Seguin only scored 17 goals this season, his lowest since his rookie year. He’s stayed cold in the playoffs, too, only scoring 2 goals in 25 games.

However, Seguin has posted 11 assists, which ties him for third on the team, tied with Jamie Benn. I’m not saying Seguin has lived up to the bill this postseason, but, I’m arguing he hasn’t been as bad as the numbers show. Especially in the last two games. All five of his assists in the Stanley Cup Finals were in Games 4 and 5.

If you look at his assists, many of them have been chances he’s worked hard to create but hasn’t been able to finish, yet still creating enough havoc for his team to feast on rebounds. The best example is this play he made in Game 4 resulting in a Corey Perry goal.

Seguin creates this entire play. If not for an incredible effort by Mikhail Sergachev, Seguin pots that puck in the net. He makes an unreal attempt to use Andrei Vasilevskiy as a backboard and ends up creating a fantastic chance for Perry to bury.

Perry has been especially fortunate for Seguin’s bad luck. Seguin has assisted on all three of Perry’s goals during the Finals. Many of the plays similar to the play above.

Again, Seguin has been disappointing this postseason. However, he looks to have found his groove. If that’s true, he may be Dallas’ only hope to create enough offense to stick with Tampa for another two games.

3. Stamkos Back in Action

The Captain returned.

Steven Stamkos finally made his postseason debut in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, scoring this goal on his first shot.

I’m obviously a huge Stamkos fan so I was stoked to see him snipe one past Khudobin. I think most hockey fans outside of Dallas were happy to see it too.

Stamkos has missed the entire postseason after sustaining a lower-body injury during voluntary workouts in training camp. This is after he had recovered from core muscle surgery back in March, just before the season was paused due to COVID-19.

Sadly, he was injured again during Game 3 and only played 2:47. He did not play in Games 4 and 5.

Stamkos has been snake-bitten by injuries and bad luck throughout his career. Regardless, he’s a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and his team is one win away from winning the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, he won’t be playing in Games 6 or 7. 

4. Jeff Petry Extended

Jeff Petry will stay in Montreal for another four years. The veteran defenseman and Canadiens agreed on a four-year extension worth $25 million and a $6.25 million AAV. The 32-year-old is enjoying the best three-year stretch of his career, posting at least 10 goals and 40 points each year. He also scored a few big goals for the Canadiens in this year’s playoffs.

My Spartan King got the bag! I’m a big fan of Petry has he played for my beloved Michigan State Spartans. In actuality, Petry has developed into a first-pair defenseman and power-play weapon. It’s taken him a long-time to do so, but it’s not uncommon for defensemen to age more gracefully than forwards.

This is a good deal for both sides. Petry gets a nice chunk of change and a contract that will guarantee him an NHL roster spot until he’s 36-years-old. For Montreal, they’re trying to ascend in the Eastern Conference. Petry bolsters Montreal’s backline and provides good offense. If he can stay healthy and avoids Brent Seabrook’s career trajectory, Montreal should reap the benefits of this contract. Thankfully for Montreal, Petry’s only missed significant time due to injury once in his career.

5. Hornqvist Dealt to Florida

In one of the more surprising trades this FALL (goodbye summer), Patric Hornqvist was traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Florida Panthers for defensemen Mike Matheson and forward Colton Sceviour.

Hornqvist of course was a key contributor to the Penguin’s back-to-back Stanley Cup victories. Hornqvist will join a Panthers team looking to compete for a playoff spot in a loaded Atlantic Division. Matheson and Sceviour will look to do the same in a crowded Metropolitan Division.

I actually really like this trade for both sides. And it seems to be a trade with more than money and contracts involved, which is a rarity in the NHL these days. It seems as if the Pens are selling high on Hornqvist. At 33-years-old, it seems as his career is entering its twilight. However, he can still produce and scored 17 goals and for 32 points last season. But, I’d assume the Pens aren’t weren’t too excited about the three years he had left on his contract with a $5.3 million AAV.

They give up Hornqvist but get Matheson and Sceviour. Matheson is a solid top-six defenseman that only carries a $4.875 million AAV. He’s also 26-years-old and has six years left on his deal. If he can improve the way I’m sure Pittsburgh hopes he can, he will be a steal at that price down the road. Sceviour seems to be just a throw-in. He’s a depth forward that has one year left on his contract with a $1.2 million AAV.

For Pittsburgh, they get younger and bolster their defensive corps. Forward has always been a position of strength for them, so Matheson is a welcome addition. And again, if Matheson develops, there is a ton of upside for Pittsburgh.

In Florida’s case, they are now much more flexible financially. Maybe they didn’t like Matheson’s upside and sold high? While his contract was team-friendly, six years is a long time. Hornqvist will provide guaranteed offense is will be off their books in three years. The question remains, what is Florida doing to improve today? But some things never change. ■

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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