Jimmy Butler had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and the No. 8-seeded Miami Heat kept rolling after barely reaching the postseason, beating the New York Knicks 108-101 on Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

LAS VEGAS – “You’re our starter. You’re our starter. You’re our starter.”

The chant bounced around T-Mobile Arena, fans serenading Vegas Golden Knights goalie Laurent Brossoit between the applause during the third period of Game 5 against the Winnipeg Jets.

Although Brossoit’s shutout bid would be broken up at 14:22 of the third period, that goal ended up being nothing more than window dressing as the Golden Knights wrapped up the series with a convincing 4-1 win on Thursday that matched the margin of victory in the opening round matchup.

While depth has been the order of the day for the Golden Knights this season, Brossoit did more than just hold his own in his head-to-head battle with former crease mate Connor Hellebuyck, he won the battle outright.

That’s part of the reason the fans roared in unison – the other was in response to the chants of “You’re a backup” that Brossoit was subjected to in Winnipeg in Game 4.

Folks can talk all they want about sample size, but Brossoit’s emergence between the pipes is one of those fun stories coming out of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

A backup for the bulk of his career, the 30-year-old Brossoit never lost his belief that he could carry the mail and despite a rocky road this season coming back from hip surgery that included a significant stay in the minors with the Henderson Silver Knights of the American Hockey League, he eventually emerged from a group of five goalies to see action with the Golden Knights this season to earn the call in Game 1.

After giving up four goals on 30 shots in the series opener, a 5-1 victory for the Jets, some folks were wondering how long the leesh might be but Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy stood by Brossoit and was rewarded for that faith.

Over the next four games, Brossoit allowed nine goals – with three of those coming in the midst of a furious third-period rally by the Jets that forced overtime in Game 3, which ended with a Michael Amadio game-winner at 3:40 of the second OT that put the Golden Knights up for good. Brossoit finished the opening round with a 2.42 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.

“Of course,” Brossoit told reporters after Game 5, responding to a question about whether his up-and-down journey left him with a chip on his shoulder. “Especially starting the year in the minors with an injury, it feels like there are people who start doubting you – including myself.”

Getting his body right was a critical part of this process.

“I knew that it was health-related, but that’s never something you want to admit. You also don’t want the reputation of being injury prone or just making excuses all the time,” Brossoit, originally a sixth round pick of the Flames in the 2011 NHL Draft, told me before the series began. “So it was something you have to kind of battle on your own until you can get it figured out and then you reap the benefits. It’s nice that I’m seemingly there, but it’s a lot of work to stay there.”

Brossoit and Hellebuyck shared what appeared to be an emotional embrace in the handshake line before the two former teammates skated down their respective tunnels.

The reunion tour for Brossoit continues in Round 2, at least in terms of the team he’ll be facing, as the Golden Knights are set to host the Edmonton Oilers – who eliminated the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night in six games.

Brossoit won’t be going head-to-head with a former goalie partner this time, but has clear ties to the Oilers, who acquired him and minor league forward Roman Horak in a deal with the Calgary Flames for defenceman Ladislav Smid and goalie Olivier Roy in November of 2013.

Prior to this spring, Brossoit’s lone action in the Stanley Cup Playoffs came in mop-up duty in 2017, when he entered in relief of Cam Talbot and made six saves on eight shots in a 7-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks in Game 4 of the first-round matchup.

Safe to say he’s enjoying the extended spotlight a bit more this time around and for good reason.

Since being recalled from the AHL, Brossoit has lost one time in regulation in 15 starts (16 appearances), including the postseason.

Say what you want about sample size, Brossoit is doing the job effectively for a Golden Knights squad that has gone 26-5-5 over the past 46 games (including the opening round).

“The biggest thing for me is that he seems very calm and collected,” Golden Knights centre Chandler Stephenson told reporters after Game 5. “You can just kind of see the confidence he’s playing with right now. To start where he did and to see where he’s at has been awesome to see.”

Brossoit essentially had to leapfrog trade-deadline insurance policy and two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick on the depth chart with his play down the stretch.

“To come back and sort of get some traction when he got his opportunity, his mental mindset was obviously in the right place,” Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters on Saturday. “He had an opportunity to grab onto a starting job and he did.

“Good for him. Playoffs always create good stories. Good and bad, unfortunately, this is one of those good ones. He’s been nothing but a hard worker here and supportive of his other goaltenders.”

The Golden Knights’ depth isn’t limited to the goalie position.

They got contributions throughout the lineup in the opening round, including an outstanding series from Stephenson (four goals, eight points) and captain Mark Stone, who returned from a second back surgery in nine months and produced three goals and eight points in five games.

Stone’s expressive celebrations were on full display and his outstanding two-way play was evident throughout the series.

“No one is surprised. Even though he hasn’t played in a long time, he comes out and he’s this effective,” said Brossoit. “He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever seen. He sees the ice so well and creates so much. Obviously off the ice, he’s a big Energizer bunny for us.”

With the return of William Carrier for Game 5, Cassidy scratched NHL iron man Phil Kessel and with Brayden McNabb injured and Shea Theodore under the weather, the Golden Knights replaced their second pairing with Ben Hutton and Brayden Pachal and the team didn’t miss a beat.

They’ve got other players like forwards Teddy Blueger (who has 18 playoff games on his resume from his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins), Paul Cotter (13 goals, 18 points in 55 games this season) and Pavel Dorofeyev (seven goals, nine points in 18 games after he was recalled from the AHL) waiting patiently for an opportunity as well.

“For us, finding ways to win has been a motto for us all year,” Cassidy told reporters after Game 5. “I don’t think our stats show that we’re one of the best teams in any particular category, except wins – and that’s what you play for.”


Speaking of goalie stories, the move to Akira Schmid by New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff for Game 3 of the series with the New York Rangers swung the series momentum considerably.

But the second-year pro is facing a different kind of challenge on Monday as he will start his first Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs and he’ll do so after getting pulled in Game 6 – where he allowed five goals on 29 shots.

In the previous three wins, Schmid gave up only two goals on 82 shots on goal (including a 26-save shutout in Game 5).

That’s not to suggest Schmid was at fault in the elimination game, he was simply pulled to give him some time to reset for what will be the biggest start of his young career.

The Devils were full marks for winning three consecutive games after falling behind in the series 2-0, but they’ve got a couple of key contributors who are still looking for their first goal of this Battle of the Hudson.

Timo Meier has generated 26 shots on goal (second only to 30 for Jack Hughes) but has yet to record a single point in this series.

Does that mean he’s overdue in Game 7 or will the drought continue?

Meier has company in the slump department, as Nico Hischier (who had a career-high 31 goals and 80 points during the regular season), Jesper Bratt (who had a career-high 32 goals during the regular season) and Tomas Tatar (who had 20 goals during the regular season) have yet to find the back of the net.

Hischier has four assists in six games in the series and Bratt has three, while Tatar has no points so far.

For the Rangers, Artemi Panarin has yet to score (he’s been limited to two assists in the series) and Meier actually prevented him from scoring an empty-netter with a blocked shot late in the third period.

Rangers power forward Chris Kreider has been excellent in leading the way for the Rangers, delivering six goals (including five on the power play) and nine points in six games – including three points in Saturday’s elimination game.

Game 7 figures to be a fascinating one at the Prudential Center.


There was plenty of talk about how the Minnesota Wild were a team that was built for the Stanley Cup playoffs, given their physical, in-your-face style.

But ultimately, the loss of centre Joel Eriksson Ek (limited to one 19-second shift in the series) proved to be too difficult to overcome as the Wild were ousted in six games by the Dallas Stars in what was a high-temperature series.

The Stars got excellent goaltending from Jake Oettinger and some big-time contributions from their best players, including top-line Roope Hintz – who had five goals (including a Game 2 hat trick that helped even the series) and 12 points to lead his team in scoring.

The Wild got only one goal from team MVP Kirill Kaprizov, who never fully got on track after suffering a knee injury after getting tangled up with Jets defenceman Logan Stanley on Mar. 8.

Kaprizov missed a month of game action and then suited up in a pair of dress rehearsals in April.

After recording six shots on goal in Game 1, Kaprizov went mostly silent, recording just 11 shots on net over the final five games.

Now is not the time to overreact, Kaprizov completely changed the dynamic on the Wild after his arrival on the scene

It will be an interesting summer ahead for Wild GM Bill Guerin, who is likely to lose long-time defenceman Matt Dumba to unrestricted free agency.

The emergence of winger Matt Boldy was a big story in Minnesota, but Guerin is going to be on the hunt for some centre depth and must also be hoping that 2020 first-rounder Marco Rossi is ready to take on a bigger role this season after splitting time between the NHL (one assist in his first 19 NHL games) and the AHLs Iowa Wild (16 goals, 51 points in 53 games).

The play of goalie Filip Gustavsson during the playoffs also qualifies as something to celebrate, as his first taste of post-season action at the NHL level was very encouraging (2.33 goals-against average, .921 save percentage).

The Wild have not advanced past the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2015 and that’s something Guerin hopes to change sooner than later.


Sunday’s slate features a pair of Game 7s, one involving the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche and Seattle Kraken and the other involving the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers.

The Bruins are trying to avoid the Presidents’ Trophy curse, while the Avalanche are looking to advance to face the Stars in Round 2 after being pushed to the limit by a Kraken club that is playing with pace and getting excellent goaltending from former Avs netminder Philipp Grubauer.

Goaltending would have qualified as a question mark or the Kraken going into the series, but Grubauer has been rock-solid, amassing a 2.68 goals-against average and .919 save percentage ove six games (after posting a 2.85 goals-against average and .898 save percentage in 39 games during the regular season as he shared the crease with Martin Jones).

Despite being the underdog, the Kraken shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the stage, as they’ve got 10 players on the roster with Game 7 experience, including Yanni Gourde and Vince Dunn.

A total of 14 different players have scored for the Kraken in the series so far, while the Avalanche have goals from nine players, including Mikko Rantanen (who has six).

Can the Kraken pull off the upset on the road at Ball Arena or will the Avalanche show a steely resolve and survive the first-round scare?

Stay tuned.

Goaltending is another topic of conversation in the Bruins/Panthers series, where Paul Maurice made the move to turn from Alex Lyon to veteran Sergei Bobrovsky.

Bruins netminder Linus Ullmark, the favourite for the Vezina Trophy, has been up-and-down in the series, sporting a 3.33 goals-against average, an .898 save percentage.

At the Bruins morning skate ahead of Game 7, backup Jeremy Swayman was the first off the ice so he looks to be in consideration to start over Ullmark although head coach Jim Montgomery would neither confirm nor deny who would get the call.

The Bruins set an NHL record for wins in a season, but the big question going into the playoffs revolved around not facing much adversity through 82 games.

Adversity has definitely arrived on the doorstep and we’re about to find out how they’re going to handle it.


Colleague Luke Fox has the Toronto Maple Leafs first series win in nearly two decades covered here:

But what’s next for the Tampa Bay Lightning after bowing out in the opening round in six games?

Even after a speedy departure, it’s best not to bet against the Lightning, especially with a sterling track record that included three consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup final (and two banners).

But there are sure to be some changes on the horizon, with long-serving left-winger Alex Killorn among the six pending unrestricted free agents (fellow forwards Corey Perry, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Michael Eyssimont, defenceman Ian Cole and backup goalie Brian Elliott are the others).

Killorn has spent his entire career with the Lightning, appearing in 805 games during the regular season and another 140 during the playoffs.

Given all he’s gone through with Lightning head coach Jon Cooper at the NHL and the AHL levels, you’d expect there to be an opportunity to return but it could come down to the AAV Killorn is willing to accept (he had an AAV of $4.45 million during the past seven seasons).

Killorn is 33 but after producing career-highs in goals (27), assists (37) and points (64), you can be sure there will be teams lining up to try and sign him, especially when you consider his championship pedigree.


Veteran forward Paul Statsny was looking to join a contender when he signed a one-year deal for $1.5 million with the Carolina Hurricanes last summer and his team finished first in the Metropolitan Division, earning a first-round date with the New York Islanders.

But after several key injuries at the forward position, many (including this writer) observers saw the Hurricanes as a candidate to be upset in the first round.

Instead, guys like Stastny – who had been a healthy scratch on a few occasions this season – stepped up to help fill the scoring void while playing on the fourth line.

After chipping in nine goals and 22 points in 73 games during the regular season, Stastny scored three goals – including the series clincher at 6:01 of the first overtime that he banked in off the skate off Ilya Sorokin – to help propel the Hurricanes to the second round.

Statsny has a history of strong playoff performances, including runs to the conference final in 2016 with the St. Louis Blues, 2018 with the Jets and 2020 with the Golden Knights.

The 37 year old is up to 29 goals and 72 points in 109 playoff games (and counting) as he continues his chase for a first Stanley Cup.

“We probably don’t talk about it much because we don’t talk about him a heck of a lot,” Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour told reporters after Game 6. “How he’s handled this year. It’s really his first year that he’s probably put in this role. He’s playing power play and he’s doing some things, but nothing like he’s used to in his whole career and he couldn’t have a better attitude about it.

“That’s really been important. He’s a veteran guy, he knows how to play the game. He knows what it takes and his attitude has been spot on. We did a great job bringing that guy in.”