On Tap For Today — New York at Tampa Bay 8 pm EDT; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN
HAKSTOL CAN HACK IT: In somewhat of a surprising move, the Kraken named Dave Hakstol as the franchise’s first head coach, passing over other candidates such as Rick Tocchet and David Quinn. A seasoned veteran behind the bench, the 52-year-old has coached in some capacity for the last 26 years.
GOT THEIR MARK: NHL legend Mark Messier will join ESPN as a studio analyst for the 2021-22 season, inking a multi-year deal with the network. The Hockey Hall of Famer’s 694 goals are ninth-best in league history, while his 1,887 points place him third.
GOAL CAUFIELD: Canadiens rookie Cole Caufield notched his fourth goal of the playoffs, and became the second-youngest Montreal player to score in a potential series-clinching game — behind Henri Richard, who was 146 days younger when he scored.
THE PRICE IS (STILL) RIGHT: Canadiens goalie Carey Price stood on his head yet again, making 37 saves in Montreal’s 3-2 Game 6 overtime win over Vegas. OMEN ALERT: The Habs’ five overtime wins this postseason are second only to — you guessed it — their 1992-93 Stanley Cup Championship season, when they won 10 playoff games featuring an extra session.
With more than 150 writers across North America, The Hockey Writers offer something for everyone. While Pat, Kristy, Ben and I love bringing you content every morning, we wanted to spotlight some of our other writers. Below is a special contribution from one of our talented members.
2021 NHL Draft Should Not Be Ignored — Devin Little
Devin Little is a Western Michigan University alum whose passion for hockey knows no limits. A staunch Dr. Pepper enthusiast, he covers the Detroit Red Wings and serves as an editor with The Hockey Writers. Catch Devin and his fellow Red Wings writers’ YouTube show “The Hockey Writers Grind Line” which drops every Saturday.
Though this year’s draft class has the reputation of being a weak one, it still features plenty of talented players despite all the uncertainty that surrounds the class. From goaltenders with top-tier potential, to skaters that may very well develop into some of the best at their respective positions, there are plenty of reasons to not ignore the players coming out of this draft.
In contrast to most years, the top pick in this year’s draft is unlikely to debut in the NHL next season. Defenseman Owen Power, the presumptive top pick in the draft, revealed his intentions to play another year at the University of Michigan, and I wouldn’t be surprised if fellow Wolverines Matty Beniers and Kent Johnson follow suit. Fellow defenseman Luke Hughes is also committed to Michigan for the 2021-22 season, so there is even more incentive to follow the Wolverines next season! (Editor’s Note: Go Green!)
The best bet to make the NHL next season is probably forward William Eklund, who mock drafts have going anywhere from second to eighth overall. The Swedish forward has experience playing on both the left wing and down the middle, and his proficiency in both ends of the ice makes him a real Swiss Army Knife-type player. His well-rounded game could be what earns him a look in the NHL coming out of training camp. It certainly helps that he now holds the second-best scoring rate for a draft year player in the SHL (.55 points per-game) — placing him behind only Elias Lindholm (.63 PPG), who currently plays for the Calgary Flames.
Finally, the biggest remaining question is where top goaltending prospect Jesper Wallstedt will go. Some scouts have him ranked as a top-three talent in this class, but the stigma around selecting a goaltender in the early part of the first round will likely deter some teams from calling his name. He may be the only player in this draft class that has the potential to become a real “franchise player,” and I predict that he’s going to make a lot of teams look silly for passing him up. Some potential landing spots for him are the Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks.
Tampa Bay Doesn’t Take Well to Losing
Congratulations to the New York Islanders for shaking off an 8-0 blowout Game 5 loss and bouncing back with a dramatic, come-from-behind 3-2 overtime win to force a Game 7. Now, any hope of booking their spot in the Stanley Cup Final rest upon overcoming another daunting task — winning consecutive playoff games against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The defending champs simply don’t lose two straight. In fact, ever since their shocking 2019 first round sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets, they are a perfect 12-0 in the postseason when coming off losses. That type of resilience highlights the steady veteran leadership of captain and alternate captains Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn, and Ryan McDonagh, as well as the Jon Cooper-led coaching staff.
In digging deeper into the Lightning’s playoff performance coming off losses over that stretch, two clear trends emerge. For one, they come out strong — they have struck first in 8 of the 12 post-loss games, and potted a first period marker in 11 of those games. The aforementioned Game 5 drubbing — coming on the heels of a 3-2 loss — saw Stamkos score only 45 seconds in on the way to three first period goals by the Lightning.
The other constant has been Tampa Bay’s finish. Last season, three of its seven wins after losses came in overtime — including a five-overtime Game 1 marathon against Columbus. Against the very same Isles in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals, the Bolts dropped Game 3 and allowed Game 4’s first goal – before scoring twice in the subsequent 27 seconds en route to recording the final four goals of the game.
Now, having pushed the Lightning to their first Game 7 over these past two postseasons, New York must be aware of not letting their opponents follow the same blueprint they’ve successfully executed time and time again. A Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens depends on it.
Today in Hockey History — June 24
New Jersey Devils Clinch First Stanley Cup — Once upon a time the Devils were one of the most competitive teams in the league. On this day in 1995, New Jersey won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history after sweeping the Detroit Red Wings who were heavily favored to win the series. Devils forward Neal Broten scored two goals in the victory, including the game winner.
The Blackhawks Legacy Continues — In 2013, Chicago clinched its second Stanley Cup in four seasons by defeating Boston in Game 6. The Blackhawks stunned the Bruins by scoring two goals late in the third period to secure the win, as Bryan Bickell scored at the 18:44 mark to tie game at 2-2 and Dave Bolland scored the game-winning goal with less than a minute left in regulation.
Calgary Gets a Team — The Flames moved from Atlanta to Calgary on this day in 1980. Previously, the Flames had called Georgia home for eight seasons before the relocation up north. Their first game played in Calgary took place on October 9, 1980 against the Quebec Nordiques.
1st Overall Picks — Over the years the draft has landed on June 24th only four times. The first occurrence was in 2000 and Rick DiPietro was drafted first overall by the New York Islanders, while six years later, the St. Louis Blues drafted Erik Johnson. In 2011 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins went first overall and Auston Matthews was selected first in 2016 by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Please join us in a moment of silence for these recently eliminated teams — gone, but never forgotten. We can’t wait until we meet again (the 2021-22 season, of course!), but for now we’ll take this opportunity to reflect on a their brief — but memorable — playoff run.
Vegas Golden Knights
Dates Active: 1/14/21 – 6/24/21
Cause of Death: Wilting under pressure
Last Words: What happens in our zone, stays in our zone.