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Stanley Cup Final down to a best-of-three thriller

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Stanley Cup Final down to a best-of-three thriller

News, notes and quotes as the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning return to Tampa with the Stanley Cup Final knotted at two wins apiece following the Blackhawks’ 2-1 win over the Lightning Wednesday night in Chicago. Game 5 will be played at Amalie Arena on Saturday [8 p.m., NBC]:

Happy Saad: Chicago forward Brandon Saad netted the game-winning goal at 6:22 of the third period, giving the 22-year-old Pittsburgh native his second third-period goal in as many games. Saad also scored the  go-ahead goal in Game 3 and now has eight goals in the playoffs. Saad's two goals in the 2015
Stanley Cup Final are tied with teammate Teuvo Teravainen and Tampa Bay's
Alex Killorn and Cedric Paquette for the most on both rosters.

Hold your breath: Is anything better than the final minute of a one-goal hockey game? The Lightning peppered Corey Crawford with several scoring chances, including a pair from in close by Steve Stamkos, leaving NBCSN play-by-play voice Mike Emrick breathless.
All four games in the Stanley Cup Final have been decided by one goal for
the first time since 1968, when the Canadiens swept the Blues, and for just
the third time in NHL history (1951, all five games).
Overall, nine of the past 11 games between the Lightning and Blackhawks
have been decided by one goal dating to March 9, 2011. The Lightning are 8-2-1; the Hawks 3-4-4.

When it matters most: Under coach Joel Quenneville the Blackhawks are 30-30 in Games 1 through 3 of the playoffs and 41-14 in Games 4 through 7. (7-2 this year).

Nail biters: All four games of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final have been tied or within one goal entering the final five minutes of regulation, as have more than half
of all games this postseason (54 of 87, 62.1 percent).

Best of 3: This is the fifth time in seven years the Stanley Cup Final is knotted at 2-2 after four games. The others:

2009 (Detroit, Pittsburgh tied 2-2)
2010 (Chicago, Philadelphia tied 2-2)
2011 (Boston, Vancouver tied 2-2)
2013 (Boston, Chicago tied 2-2)

United they stand: The Blackhawks improved their NHL-best home record in the 2015 playoffs to 8-2. They have outscored opponents 34-23 at United Center, with
their two losses coming in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final [2-1 vs. Anaheim] and Game 3 of the Final [3-2 vs. Tampa].

Nice company: Chicago forward Patrick Kane earned an assist on Brandon Saad's game-winning goal in the third period to move into fourth place on the Blackhawks' all-time playoff points list.

1. Stan Mikita (59-91—150)
2. Denis Savard (61-84—145)
3. Bobby Hull (62-67—129)
4. Patrick Kane (47-65—112)
5. Steve Larmer (45-66—111)

And then there’s Marian: Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa notched an assist on Jonathan Toews' game-opening goal in the second period, raising his career playoff totals to 49-95—144 (192 GP). Hossa climbed into a tie for 26th place on the NHL’s
all-time playoff assists list with Chris Pronger (95) and tied Chris Chelios (31-113—144) and Larry Robinson (28-116—144) for 31st place on the NHL’s  all-time playoff points list.

Mr. Captain: Hawks captain Jonathan Toews tallied his 10th goal of the playoffs when he opening the scoring at 6:40 of the second period. He’s now tied
Patrick Kane for the team goal-scoring lead and set a personal high for one
playoff year, surpassing the nine goals he scored in 2014.

Nice replacement: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy (17 saves) became the sixth goaltender in NHL history to make his first career playoff start in the Stanley Cup Final. At 20 years old, he’s also the youngest goalie to start a game in the Stanley Cup Final since Patrick Roy in 1986.
The three goaltenders younger than Vasilevskiy (20 yrs., 10 mos.) were Detroit's
Harry Lumley (18 yrs., 4 mos.) in 1945, Minnesota's Don Beaupre (20 yrs., 4
mos.) in 1981 and Roy (20 yrs., 7 mos.) in 1986.

Tampa starter Ben Bishop is questionable for Game 5 in Tampa but coach Jon Cooper said he will return to play in the Final. He’s just not sure which game. Game 6 is slated for Monday night in Chicago and Game 7, if necessary, will take place Wednesday night in Tampa.

The other Alex: Lightning forward Alex Killorn scored Tampa Bay's lone goal, tying the score 1-1 at 11:47 of the second period with his ninth goal of the Stanley
Cup Playoffs. Killorn, who notched 15 goals in 71 games during the regular
season, also scored Tampa Bay's lone goal in their 2-1 loss to Chicago in
Game 1 of the Final as well as the first and eventual game-winning goal in
Tampa Bay's 2-0 win over the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern
Conference Final.
Killorn has recorded 7-7--14 in his past 16 games dating to Game 2 of the
second round series against Montreal on May 3. He ranks third on the
Lightning in playoff goals (9) and points (18, tied) in 24 games.

Did you know?:

- After allowing 19 shots on goal in the first period of Game 3 -- the most
they have allowed in a single period during the playoffs
-- the Lightning allowed just two shots in the opening period of Game 4 --
the fewest the club has given up in this year's postseason. Their previous
low was the three shots given up to Detroit in the first period of Game 1
of their first round series.

- The Blackhawks scored first for the first time in the 2015 Stanley Cup
Final and improved to 10-1 when scoring the opening goal this postseason.

- Tampa Bay did not lead any point in the game for the first time in the
2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning have led for 38.5 percent of total playing
time in the Final, the teams have been tied for 51.1 percent, and the
Blackhawks have led for 10.4 percent. The clubs have been tied or separated by one
goal for the entire series.

MORE CAPITALS: For Blackhawks' Timonen, one last chance to win it all

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The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?

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USA TODAY Sports

The NHL salary cap numbers are in, what does it mean for the Caps?

The NHL released the salary cap range for the 2018-19 season on Thursday. That sound you hear is the general managers frantically typing numbers into adding machines to figure out which of their players they can afford and which they are going to have to let walk.

The cap ceiling will rise from last year's $75 million all the way up to $79.5 million with the cap floor set at $58.8 million.

So what does this mean for the Capitals?

Here's a look at the team's pending free agents:

Unrestricted free agents: Jay Beagle, John Carlson, Alex Chiasson, Tyler Graovac, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, Anthony Peluso, Zach Sill, Wayne Simpson

Restricted free agents: Riley Barber, Madison Bowey, Travis Boyd, Adam Carlson, Philipp Grubauer, Tim McGauley, Liam O'Brien, Devante Smith-Pelly, Tom Wilson

We will not know exactly who will make the roster, so to project how much money the Caps will have to work with, let's assume Nathan Walker makes the team and Shane Gersich goes to the AHL. That will give the Caps a little less than $14.8 million with which to work.

Considering the team will need to use about half of that number if not more to re-sign Carlson, that's not a whole lot to work with.

Is $7 million enough to re-sign Beagle, Kempny, Bowey, Smith-Pelly and Wilson? Probably not and that does not even account for prospects who will try to compete for the NHL roster such as Barber and Boyd.

Here's what the cap ceiling tells us:

  • The team's entire offseason will depend on if the team can re-sign Carlson and for how much.
  • Carlson's cap hit last season was just under $4 million. A $4.5 million increase in the salary cap ceiling doesn't mean much when Carlson is going to get a raise of $3 million or more.
  • Grubauer will almost certainly be traded because he is an asset and because there won't be enough money for the team to commit $1.5 million or more to the backup goalie like they did last season.
  • If Carlson returns, fan favorite Beagle has almost certainly played his last game as a Cap. Everyone wants him back, but he would have to take a severe discount for the Caps to fit him and even then, he would be taking away a roster spot from a young prospect ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Free agency opens July 1.

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Barry Trotz finds contract he was looking for, officially named New York Islanders new head coach

Barry Trotz finds contract he was looking for, officially named New York Islanders new head coach

Barry Trotz did not remain unemployed for very long.

Trotz, who led the Capitals to the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup title, resigned from his post less than a week after the team's championship parade in Washington, D.C.

But on Thursday, the Capitals' now former bench boss was officially named the head coach of the New York Islanders.

Trotz's contract was expected to expire at the end of the 2017-18 season, but upon winning the Stanley Cup, an automatic two-year extension was triggered, raising his $1.5 million yearly salary by $300,000. But Trotz wanted to be compensated as one of the top five coaches in the NHL.

While the terms of his deal have yet to be finalized, according to Elliotte Friedman, Trotz's deal could be in the 5-year, $20 million range.

With the Islanders, Trotz inherits a team that finished 35-37-10 last season under head coach Doug Weight, despite having John Tavares, one of the best centers in the NHL, and several young studs like Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, and Josh Ho-Sang. But Tavares enters the offseason as a free agent, and many teams will be looking to pay top-dollar for his services. 

Trotz will report to Lou Lamoriello, who was named the Islanders' president and general manager in May after spending three seasons in the same role with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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