Rick Bowness has had his heart broken twice before and hopes it’s not a hat-trick.
The Dallas Stars head coach, an associate to Marc Crawford in Vancouver in 2011 and Jon Cooper in 2015 in Tampa, has made it to the Stanley Cup finals twice and come up empty.
With more games behind NHL benches than anybody else — if he envies Scotty Bowman and all of his rings, that would be understandable — he would love to have the silver mug in his hands.
“The Vancouver one stays with you every day of your life,” said Bowness, after the Bruins beat the Canucks in Game 7 after Vancouver was up 3-2 in the final. “Vancouver was the best team in the league. Aaron Rome was suspended, and we lost a couple of key guys. Boston deserved to win Game 7 but we’d love to have had another run at it.
“The team in Tampa wasn’t quite ready to win, so you learn from that. Chicago was the better team, they beat us because they had the experience and knew how to win (after two Cups). We had a bunch of young players (Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn and Andrei Vasilevskiy), learning how to win. Right now, that core group is still together in Tampa and a lot stronger.
“Anytime you get to the Stanley Cup Finals, and I’ve only done it twice, it stays with you the rest of your life. It’s painful,” Bowness said of the losses.
All this sitting around is fine for Dallas medically to get some hurt players healthier, but mentally they want to keep the ball rolling.
“We have some players banged up and needed the break because they’re tired,” said Bowness. “We skated for 30 minutes Wednesday and today they’re going to an arcade as a group, bowling, whatever else they have there.
“The guys are anxious to play again, you can see the light at the end of the bubble. We’re only going to be here so many more days or weeks,” said Bowness, whose team checked into the J.W. Marriott July 26.
HURT OR INJURED?
Sometimes a veteran at 70 per cent is better than a energetic but nervous kid at 100. So,with Brayden Point’s medical problem in Tampa, what does a coach do with his No. 1 centre?
“There’s a difference between being injured and hurt. There’s a difference between fighting through pain with an injury and it can’t get any worse or if you’re fighting through an injury and you do one wrong thing this could last longer and longer,” said Cooper.
“Guys can get hurt at any time but in the end, they all want to play. That’s when the team, the player, medical advice comes in. You also have to look at if it’s Game 25 in regular-season or Game 6 of the conference final, those are weighed differently. But, it’s the player we care about the most. If we’re going to put them in harm’s way, we won’t play them. But if we do, it’s justified because we’ve gone through all the steps.”
The Islanders’ goalie of the future, Ilya Sorokin, who was in the Kontinental Hockey League at 17 and led CSKA to the Gagarin Cup win in 2018-19, is with them in the bubble but as a spectator. The 25-year-old will be tag-team partner with fellow Russian Semyon Varlamov next season.
“Ilya is working with our goaltender coaches every day, he’s taking English lessons daily with a tutor and he’s getting English all day with our guys, hanging out with them,” said Isles’ coach Barry Trotz.
“From a stand-point of integration, there couldn’t be a better situation. There’s no pressure to play, we have two very popular goalies in Varlamov and (Tomas) Greiss and Ilya’s created zero tension,”
Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin, who Tyler Seguin says reminds him of Tim Thomas in their Boston days when they won the Cup in 2011, is unlike any other goalie in the bubble. He swims across the crease to make stops, he doesn’t let pucks hit him like the six-foot-four goalies. He’s five-foot-11 and acrobatic.
“Regardless of his style, you want the goalie to make the saves. Stop the puck, no matter what it looks like,” said Bowness, who was in Tampa obviously with Lightning starter Vasilievskiy too. “He’s a big goalie. Tremendous work ethic, tremendous person. I know how much the players love playing in front of him, same as ours with Doby.”
This ’n’ that: Could Buffalo, with tons of cap room, entertain Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has a $7 million cap hit for the next two years ($6.5 million and $6 million salary) for Carter Hutton, who has one year left at a $2.75 million cap hit? Fleury might have the Sabres on his 10-team list of teams he can’t be traded to but he’s a proud guy who wants to play. For a year Hutton could back up Robin Lehner, who’ll likely be getting that five-year deal in the $5 million neighbourhood … Vegas coach Pete DeBoer felt Lehner out-played Fleury coming into the return to play, and went with him almost exclusively. “We made a tough decision and I don’t regret it,” he said … The Golden Knights will have a captain next year and the betting is it’ll be winger Mark Stone, their best and highest-paid player.
On Twitter: @jimmathesonnhl
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