The 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be unlike any other for a number of reasons. The games will be played without fans, in centralized hub cities and will feature a new play-in round. But one other important wrinkle to the proceedings will be the fact that almost every roster should be fully healthy.
Normally the playoffs begin only days after the grind of an 82-game season and every team is down a player or two (or more) with various injuries. Now, after a four-month layoff, many of those injured players are back at full strength and ready to help their teams compete for the Stanley Cup.
Before play gets underway, let’s take a look at some of the now-healthy impact players who will be giving their teams a big boost this post-season.
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
2019-20 season: 57 GP | 29 G | 37 A | 66 P | +14
Stamkos was on pace for his second-consecutive 40 goal season (and the sixth of his career) when he went down with a core-muscle injury in late February. The Lightning captain had surgery on March 2 and was originally expected to miss six-to-eight weeks.
Head coach Jon Cooper said in April that he expects Stamkos to play when the NHL returns.
“He improves every single day,” Cooper said, according to NHL.com. “I have no idea when things are going to get back together, but we have anticipated that all of our guys will be ready to go when that time comes. We know it’s not coming tomorrow and probably not next week, but when the time comes, we anticipate everyone will be ready.
“I know he’s worked hard to get back. A lot of it had to do with rest, which he’s been getting.”
Besides getting their star sniper back, the Lightning will also have 2018 Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman back on the blue line. Hedman missed the Lightning’s last two games before the pause with a lower-body injury but was considered day-to-day at the time.
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
2019-20 season: 10 GP | 3 G | 7 A | 10 P | -2
The defending Stanley Cup champion Blues start the return-to-play tournament as the top team in the Western Conference and they did it despite not having their top sniper for almost the entire season. But Tarasenko will be back when play resumes this summer, giving the Blues another weapon as they look to stay on top.
Tarasenko had scored at least 33 goals in each of the last five seasons before this one was lost to a shoulder injury in October. Last season in the playoffs, he had 11 goals and 17 points.