The Wraparound: Goalie drama in Vegas; Stamkos not ready for Lightning
The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down all of the NHL playoff games on Sunday with the all-important television and live streaming information included.
• Check out NHL Bubble Wrap to look back at all of Saturday’s action.
• The Second Round continues on Sunday with the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. The latter is still without Steven Stamkos.
• The agent for Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury caused quite a stir on Saturday.
NHL GAMES TODAY
Game 1: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET; NBC (Livestream)
This is probably the best matchup of the Second Round on paper and what should be the closest, most evenly matched. These teams have been two of the league’s best over the past few years and both are perfectly capable of winning the whole thing this year.
While the Bruins will be without starting goalie Tuukka Rask, the Lightning are still without superstar forward Steven Stamkos who remains out of the lineup and is not yet ready to return.
He has been sidelined since February 25 and coach Jon Cooper announced on Saturday that he will remain unavailable for the start of the series.
Even without Stamkos the Lightning still boast one of the league’s most feared offensive lineups with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point up front. Both of them were outstanding in the previous round. They also have a new-look third line led by trade deadline acquisitions Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow that has played really well this postseason and given them some depth and an added dimension they did not have a year ago.
After beating the Columbus Blue Jackets in five games, the Lightning are 6-2 in the Return To Play and own a 4-1-0 record against the Bruins this season (including their Round Robin meeting).
[Full NHL Second Round schedule]
Game 1: Vegas Golden Knights vs. Vancouver Canucks, 10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN (Livestream)
There is at least one person that is not happy with Robin Lehner getting the bulk of the starts for the Vegas Golden Knights so far this postseason.
That person: Allan Walsh, the agent for Marc-Andre Fleury.
On Saturday Walsh created a bit of a ruckus by Tweeting, well, this...
That is a photoshopped picture of Fleury, impaled through the back by a bloody sword with the name of Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer on it.
Do you need me to explain the symbolism here? No? Okay, moving on.
That is probably not the way you want a postseason series to start when you might need both goalies at some point.
Walsh is always going to support his players (viciously if he has to) and this might be one of the more, let’s say, creative ways he has gone about doing that. The decision to send Fleury to the bench here is going to be controversial. He is the bigger name goalie, the face of the franchise, is climbing the NHL’s all-time wins list, has his name on the Stanley Cup a bunch of times (though, he only actually played in one of those Stanley Cup Finals where his team won) and backstopped his team (Pittsburgh and Vegas) to the Stanley Cup Final two other times.
He is also a wildly popular player, not just in Vegas or Pittsburgh, but across the entire league.
Seeing him on the bench in the playoffs might be a shock.
But here is the only thing that matters: Lehner has been the better goalie this season. When the Golden Knights acquired him at the trade deadline from the Chicago Blackhawks you had to know this was going to be a possibility, because you do not acquire a goalie of that caliber for the purpose of just keeping him on the bench. He was a safety net not only in case of injury to Fleury, but in case they wanted (or needed) an upgrade. It is entirely possible (maybe even likely) the Golden Knights go back to Fleury at some point, or stick with the rotation they have used since adding Lehner. But at the moment, the latter player has had the better season.
This is not the first time Fleury has been sent to the bench in the playoffs (it happened multiple times in Pittsburgh) and he has never shown any indication of rocking the boat. Sure, he probably wants to play. Probably always has wanted to play. But he’s also never publicly complained about it or been anything other than a great teammate.
So maybe this is Walsh just going rogue to support his client.
No matter the reason, it is a pretty wild way to start the Second Round.
[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
Monday’s NHL Schedule
Game 1: Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Islanders, 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Game 2: Colorado Avalanche vs. Dallas Stars, 9:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN