NHL Playoffs Today: Let the conference semifinals begin!

There’s little time to rest after the end of a thrilling first round, as the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs begins Saturday night when the Dallas Stars take on the Colorado Avalanche. The last time we saw these teams, they were each dropping seven goals on their opponents, the Avalanche knocking off the Arizona Coyotes and the Stars extinguishing the Calgary Flames. These two teams are loaded with star power, and this could be an exciting series to watch.Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues are on their way out of the bubble after suffering Game 6 losses Friday night. But don’t worry, Blues, we’ll can play “Gloria” for old time’s sake.Check out ESPN NHL Playoffs Today every day of the postseason until the Stanley Cup is handed out in October.Saturday’s gameGame 1: No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 3 Dallas Stars | 8 p.m. ETThe Stars were unbeaten against the Avalanche in the regular season, but much has changed since then. This postseason, the Avalanche have scored 3.88 goals per game and surrendered a miniscule 1.63 goals, both league bests. Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon is tied for the league lead with 13 playoff points, but Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen is right behind him with 12. On Heiskanen, Stars coach Rick Bowness said, “Every crucial situation, he wants to be out there, he wants to take charge of the game.” Pavel Francouz was in net for an Avalanche win against the Stars in the round-robin, but Philipp Grubauer started every game in the series against the Coyotes, sporting a .953 save percentage.Bet of the dayStars-Avalanche under 5.5 goals (minus -130). The Avalanche and Stars have faced five times this season, four times in the regular season and once in the round-robin. All five games have gone under.About last night …Philadelphia Flyers 3, Montreal Canadiens 2 (PHI wins 4-2)For the first time since 2012, the Flyers are advancing to the second round. They soared out to a lead 28 seconds into the game on a goal from Ivan Provorov and never looked back despite Montreal’s — and particularly Nick Suzuki’s — best efforts. The story here is that the Flyers were outshot 33-17 in the game, and 13-5 in the third period, but due to their pestering defense were able to stifle the quality of Canadiens’ shots. The Flyers are a perfect 7-0 when scoring first and will take on the New York Islanders next. Full recap.Vancouver Canucks 6, St. Louis Blues 2 (VAN wins 4-2)We won’t have a repeat Stanley Cup champion, after the Canucks rode a three-goal second period to knock out the Blues. Nothing went right for goalie Jordan Binnington, and he was pulled after allowing his fourth goal. “This whole season, we had different guys step up,” said captain Bo Horvat; five different Canucks scored goals in this one. Elias Pettersson had two assists and Tyler Motte had two goals, including an empty-netter. The Blues had previously won their last three games when facing elimination, including Game 7 of last year’s Stanley Cup Final, but that streak came to an end as this one was all Vancouver. The Canucks advance to the conference semifinals for the first time since 2011 and are the lone Canadian team remaining. This young team will take on the top-seeded Vegas Golden Knights next. Full recap.Three starsKevin Hayes, F, Philadelphia FlyersHayes snapped his goalless drought by scoring in the first period. The Flyers center also assisted on Provorov’s goal and finished plus-3 on the night. He has seven points in nine games this postseason.Jacob Markstrom, G, Vancouver CanucksMarkstrom led the way for the Canucks in their Game 6 win with 34 saves, extending his streak to five straight games with 30 or more saves. The 30-year-old is set to be an unrestricted free agent and has raised his stock with his work against the Blues, stopping 213 shots from the former champions.Carter Hart, G, Philadelphia FlyersHart had 31 saves in the clincher, with 13 of them coming during a third-period blitz by the Canadiens. Hart becomes the first 22-year-old goalie to have a series-clinching win since Matt Murray in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.Stat of the dayThe Flyers were outscored 13-11 in this series. It’s the first time they’ve won a playoff series while being outscored, according to ESPN Stats and Information.Social media post of the day— #StanleyCup Playoffs on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) August 22, 2020 Winning goalie Carter Hart shares a moment with his opponent, and childhood hero, Carey Price in the handshake line. Price told Hart that he’ll be watching him in the next round.Question of the day: Is this the end for Alex Pietrangelo in St. Louis?The Blues captain heads into unrestricted free agency after spending his 12-year career with St. Louis thus far. The Blues are in a tight situation with roughly $2 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly. That, combined with the uncertain offseason in the NHL due to the coronavirus pandemic, complicates Pietrangelo’s free agency. After all, St. Louis is not the only team facing a crunch due to the flat salary cap.

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