Should we have expected anything less? The Tampa Bay Lightning took it to the Montreal Canadiens in Game One of the Stanley Cup Final last night, topping them 5-1 and taking the first game of a Cup Final series in franchise history. Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, all the heavy-hitters for Tampa, were on top of their games and proved too much for Montreal. If the Canadiens are going to make this an interesting series, they are going to have to be much better than their Game One effort.
• But, before we got to Game One of the Stanley Cup Final yesterday, we heard from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. The two held their annual pre-Stanley Cup Final press conference, sort of to give the “State of the NHL” heading into the Final.
• A plethora of topics were covered, but the most pressing on most people’s minds in the hockey world was what Bettman would say about the lawsuits and allegations being brought against the Chicago Blackhawks in connection to sexual abuse and harassment incidents involving former video coach Brad Aldrich and two former players in 2010. Bettman spoke on behalf of the league, and made it sound pretty friggin’ soft.
"All options are available if there's something that warrants punishment. We need to wait and see the result of the investigation… Everybody needs to not get ahead of themselves. These are allegations that relate to a period of time that is quite some time ago."
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) June 28, 2021
• This statement from Bettman coming hours after the Blackhawks made their own announcement that they had hired a former federal prosecutor to lead an “independent review” of the allegations and incidents against Aldrich and the team.
• Bettman spoke about needing all the facts in the case. Which is true, of course, but it is important where those facts are coming from and who is providing them to the league and the public. The Blackhawks hiring their own “independent” prosecutor sounds like when college football teams “self-sanction” themselves over recruiting violations.
• So far, regarding all the stories, allegations, and reports involving Aldrich and the incidents in 2010 and beyond, everything has been corroborated by various former Blackhawks staff members and players. They all point in the same direction that what is being reported and what the Blackhawks and Aldrich are being accused of actually happened. We need to see the legal process play out, but from my standpoint, I don’t see any reason not to believe the eye-witness accounts.
• Bettman and the league NEED to do their own independent investigation into the allegations and into the Blackhawks. It truly seems like the only logical step. But this is the NHL, where logic means nothing.
• Bettman and Daly also spoke on a number of other non-Blackhawks and non-Stanley Cup Final topics.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is planning to return to a normal schedule next season, including the Winter Classic in Minnesota, the All-Star Game in Las Vegas, and the Stadium Series in Nashville.
— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) June 28, 2021
• Bettman and Daly also mentioned that the Winter Olympics and the possibility of NHL players participating in them has started to look less likely as time inches closer to February 2022. TSN’s Gord Miller with more details.
My sources in Europe say that while good progress was made during the @IIHFHockey meetings with the NHL at the World Championship, there are still “significant” issues that haven’t been resolved.
— Gord Miller (@GMillerTSN) June 29, 2021
• I’ll be legitimately bummed if we go another Winter Olympics without NHL players. It’s a damn shame for the league not to have the top players in the league on the global stage like the Olympics. They are a real opportunity to grow the fanbase of hockey and get more eyes on the NHL. We may actually go two Olympic Games without seeing Connor McDavid play for Team Canada or Auston Matthews play for Team USA. Seems crazy to me. Also, the 2022 Winter Games would likely be Patrick Kane’s last chance to play with Team USA. So that would also be a shame to miss.
• Speaking of Canada and the USA, it’s good to have friendly wagers happening again between the leaders of the two countries over the Stanley Cup.
— President Biden (@POTUS) June 29, 2021
• I think noted Blackhawks fan Phil Brooks (aka CM Punk) had a pretty good idea for what should be on the line in their bet:
Winner gives all citizens healthcare and cancels student debt! https://t.co/iOw4R8Gmx1
— player/coach (@CMPunk) June 29, 2021
• Hey, if that was on the line, I’d like our chances riding with Tampa Bay.
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) June 29, 2021
• If you had Erik Cernak getting the first goal of the series on your bet slip, go collect you gigantic winnings.
• Tampa was all over the Canadiens in Game One, putting the talent-gap fully on display between one of the top teams in the league and one of the bigger underdogs we’ve seen in the Cup Final in a couple years.
• The Lightning held a 2-1 lead heading into the third period, but that’s when the Nikita Kucherov show started.
• I mean, you don’t need to be giving him any favorable bounces.
• He can do it on his own just fine.
• Kucherov scored his sixth and seventh goals of the postseason and added an assist, all in the third period, to extend his lead in postseason scoring to 30 points in 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games this year. Remember, he missed the entire regular season due to a hip injury and is on pace to ride back into town and win the Conn Smythe. Unreal talent.
• And with that talent, he gets to be placed among other postseason heroes.
Only three players in NHL history have scored 30+ points in consecutive postseasons.
— Emily Kaplan (@emilymkaplan) June 29, 2021
• Oh, and the assist for Kucherov came on a Steven Stamkos powerplay goal in the third period. The first powerplay goal allowed by the Canadiens since the first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, it broke a streak of 32-straight penalties killed.
• Game Two is set for Wednesday night in Tampa. 7:00 p.m. CT puck drop at Amalie Arena with the Lightning holding a 1-0 series lead.
• Elsewhere around the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres head coaching search is progressing.
Word is the Sabres have begun letting coaching candidates know if they’re out of the running.
— John Vogl (@BuffaloVogl) June 29, 2021
• The Toronto Maple Leafs are bringing back Wayne Simmonds.
Wayne Simmonds signs a two-year extension with the #leafs carrying a $900,000 AAV.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 29, 2021
• The Edmonton Oilers are bringing back Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on a BIG deal.
Oilers and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins set to announce a new 8 year 41 million dollar deal today. Includes a no movement clause.
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) June 29, 2021
• Speaking of the Oilers, five years ago today, they were involved in one of the craziest 30-minute spans of hockey news that I think I’ve ever experienced.
— Mario Tirabassi (@Mario_Tirabassi) June 29, 2016
• Taylor Hall was traded from Edmonton to the New Jersey Devils, in a one-for-one deal that sent Adam Larsson back to the Oilers. Another one-for-one deal happening around the same time was P.K. Subban being traded from the Montreal Canadiens to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Shea Weber. Weber is now the Captain of the Canadiens and playing in the Stanley Cup Final. Also going on in that 30-minute timeframe, Steven Stamkos decided to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning and not explore free agency. He too is playing in the Stanley Cup Final as the Captain of the Lightning.
• What a full circle moment, eh?
• Tonight is the NWHL Draft, for those of you that did not know. Here is a full breakdown on what to expect in a draft that could be full of unexpected moves from Marisa Ingemi:
— Marisa Ingemi (@Marisa_Ingemi) June 29, 2021
• Traveling back to Blackhawks land, a few bits of news that were not related to the scandals surrounding the team. It appears that former Blackhawks Captain and Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios is heading to ESPN to be an in-studio analyst, according to Sean Shapiro.
• Today is also the day that, back in 1990, Chelios made his way to the Blackhawks organization.
— Mike Commito (@mikecommito) June 29, 2021
• In Blackhawks prospect news announced last night, USA Hockey named their 44-player roster for the upcoming World Junior Summer Showcase camp. Three Blackhawks prospects, Wyatt Kaiser, Drew Commesso, and Landon Slaggert, have been invited to the camp set to take play in Michigan at the end of July.
• Finally, ending on some positivity, former Blackhawk Stephen Johns continues his cross-country rollerblading trip to bring awareness to the importance mental health with his #MentalMiles journey. Here, Johns provides an update on the trip and what is to come from his tour.
— Stephen Johns (@stjohns28) June 29, 2021
• I highly recommend following his trip on social media, some of the scenes and places he has been and is going are amazing.
• I need to get outdoors more.
• That will do it for today. Enjoy your Tuesday!