NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 16, 2019

Game recaps, Nazem Kadri and Joe Thornton receive suspensions, the Flyers hire Alain Vigneault as their new head coach, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Power-play goals by Auston Matthews and Andreas Johnsson gave the Toronto Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins to take a 2-1 lead in their opening-round series. Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen kicked out 34 shots. The Leafs were also playing without center Nazem Kadri, who was suspended for the remainder of this series for cross-checking Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk in Game 2. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  A much better team effort by the Leafs in this game after being manhandled by the Bruins in Game 2. They also did a fine job neutralizing the Bruins top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. Kadri’s suspension could be between three-to-five games, depending on how long this series goes. Seems like he was fortunate not to receive stiffer punishment. 

Warren Foegele and Dougie Hamilton each scored twice and goalie Petr Mrazek had an 18-save shutout as the Carolina Hurricanes blanked the Washington Capitals 5-0 to narrow the Capitals’ series lead to 2-1. It was a costly win for the Hurricanes as rookie winger Andrei Svechnikov left the game with an apparent head injury following a fight with Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and winger Micheal Ferland was also sidelined following a hit from Capitals right wing Tom Wilson. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Credit the Hurricanes for not getting rattled by losing two key forwards like Svechnikov and Ferland. They dominated the Capitals in this contest to pick up their first playoff victory since 2009. I saw some on Twitter scolding Ovechkin for knocking out Svechnikov but the youngster goaded Ovechkin and was a willing participant in that scrap. Here’s hoping he wasn’t seriously hurt and returns to action soon.

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon scored twice in a 6-2 win over the Calgary Flames in Game 3 of their opening-round series (Photo via NHL Images).

Nathan MacKinnon scored twice and rookie defenseman Cale Makar scored in his first-ever NHL game as the Colorado Avalanche thumped the Calgary Flames 6-2 to take a 2-1 series lead. Flames goalie Mike Smith made 50 saves in this one. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Credit the Avalanche for a strong effort in this one. They took control of this contest from the opening whistle in what was Calgary’s worst performance in this series. Giving up 56 shots in a playoff game is an unacceptable effort for a club that finished atop the Western Conference. 

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne made 40 saves to backstop his club to a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars and a 2-1 lead in their opening-round series. Mikael Granlund broke a 2-2 tie in the third period with a long wrist shot that eluded Stars netminder Ben Bishop. Before the game, the Predators announced Wayne Simmonds (knee) and Brian Boyle (appendix procedure) are listed as week-to-week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rinne was hot and Bishop was not in this contest. Granlund and Rocco Grimaldi’s goals were stoppable shots for Bishop, who’ll look to return to the strong form he displayed in the first two games in this series. The absence of Simmonds and Boyle could hurt the Predators checking-line depth as this series goes on. 

NBC SPORTS: San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton will miss Game 4 of his club’s opening-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights. He’ll serve a one-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Vegas forward Tomas Nosek. 

CBS SPORTS/THE SCORE: Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (undisclosed ailment) and winger Alex Killorn (undisclosed injury) could miss tonight’s crucial Game 4 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets hold a 3-0 lead in the series and could close it out with a win tonight. 

NBC SPORTS: The Philadelphia Flyers announced Alain Vigneault was hired yesterday as their new head coach. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vigneault brings plenty of experience behind the Flyers bench as a former bench boss of the Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks, and New York Rangers. He guided the Canucks and Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final (2011 and 2014 respectively) and is a former winner (2007) of the Jack Adams Award

TSN: Edmonton Oilers winger Milan Lucic suffered a leg injury following practice the day before their final game of the season against Calgary. He’ll be in a cast for two more weeks and the injury isn’t expected to affect his summer training program.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane was named the captain of Team USA at the upcoming 2019 World Championships. 

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 15, 2019

Blue Jackets and Islanders on the verge of sweeping their respective series, Golden Knights take a 2-1 series lead and the Jets get their first win in this year’s playoffs. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets are on the verge of winning their first-ever playoff series and eliminating the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning following a 3-1 victory in Game 3 of their opening-round contest. Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves while Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist. The Lightning played without Nikita Kucherov (one-game suspension) and defenseman Victor Hedman (undisclosed injury).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t have mattered if Kucherov and Hedman were in the lineup. The LIghtning has been consistently outplayed in this series by a Blue Jackets team that’s gaining confidence with each period. While many of the Bolts have been part of this roster since 2015 and experienced playoff difficulties before, they never faced adversity throughout their record-tying 62-win regular season. They’ve forgotten how to deal with this type of determined, hardworking opponent that never backs down. You can see it in their growing frustration as this series goes along. They have no answers because they never had this problem during the regular season. 

The New York Islanders are also poised to sweep their opening-round series as they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1. Isles goalie Robin Lehner kicked out 25 shots while Jordan Eberle scored for the third straight game. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has yet to tally a point in this series. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Speed was a significant weapon in the Penguins’ arsenal during their march to two straight Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. However, most of their best players are now in their early-30s and seem to be struggling to keep pace with the fleet-footed Islanders, who hold a 3-0 series lead for the first time since the 1983 Stanley Cup Final. Eberle, who was traded by the Edmonton Oilers over concerns of his postseason scoring, has silenced his critics with his timely offense in this series. 

Mark Stone tallied a hat trick in the Vegas Golden Knights’ 6-3 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 3 of their opening-round series (Photo via NHL Images)

Mark Stone’s hat trick powered the Vegas Golden Knights to a 6-3 win over the San Jose Sharks to take a 2-1 lead in their series. Paul Stastny also scored twice for the Golden Knights. Sharks center Joe Thornton could receive supplemental discipline for his headshot on Golden Knights winger Tomas Nosek. The Sharks also played without defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who suffered what appears to be a head injury in Game 2. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Slow starts and shaky goaltending plagued the Sharks throughout the regular season and were on display in this game. Stone, meanwhile, has been the Golden Knights’ best player in this series. 

Kyle Connor tallied twice, Patrik Laine scored for the third straight game and Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and an assist as the Winnipeg Jets downed the St. Louis Blues 6-3. The Blues lead the series two games to one. Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo played in this game after receiving seven stitches to close a cut on his right wrist in Game 2. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets were getting plenty of scoring chances in the first two games of this series but were thwarted by Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington. Having finally broken through in Game 3, expect the Jets to keep up the pressure on the St. Louis rookie. 

SPORTSNET: Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri will have an in-person hearing today with the NHL’s department of player discipline for cross-checking Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk in the head during Game 2 of their opening-round series. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: DeBrusk and teammate Torey Krug both traveled with the Bruins to Toronto for Games 3 and 4 of their series with the Leafs. No word if they’ll be skating in Game 3 tonight. 

BOSTON HERALD: The Bruins blueline depth is being tested with Krug, Kevan Miller, John Moore, and Connor Clifton sidelined or banged up. 

THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators provided no updates to the status of sidelined forwards Brian Boyle (illness) and Wayne Simmonds (knee). 

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche signed 2019 Hobey Baker Award winner Cale Makar to an entry-level contract. The young defenseman could make his NHL debut tonight in Game 3 of their opening-round series with the Calgary Flames. 

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 14, 2019

Capitals take 2-0 series lead over Hurricanes, Predators, Bruins, and Avalanche tie their respective series, Nikita Kucherov receives a one-game suspension, an update on Connor McDavid, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Brooks Orpik’s overtime goal gave the Washington Capitals a 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes and a 2-0 lead in their opening-round series. Orpik became the oldest defenseman in NHL history to score an overtime playoff goal. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and T.J. Oshie each collected two points for the Capitals.

Hurricanes winger Micheal Ferland was ejected during the second period for a hit to the head of Capitals forward Nic Dowd. Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton’s elbow to the head of Kuznetsov will be reviewed by the league’s department of player safety but it’s unclear if it’ll merit a suspension.

Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik is the oldest blueliner in NHL history to score a playoff overtime goal (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals haven’t had an easy time of it with the Hurricanes, who overcame an early 2-0 deficit to force the extra period. They lack the Capitals depth in experienced talent but they’re a plucky hardworking bunch with a bright future.

An overtime tally by Craig Smith enabled the Nashville Predators to edge the Dallas Stars 2-1, squaring their series at a game apiece. Rocco Grimaldi also scored for the Predators while Jamie Benn netted the Stars’ only goal. Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop made 40 saves. The Predators skated without center Brian Boyle (illness) and lost winger Wayne Simmonds after he took a shot off his left knee.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bishop was outstanding in this game and deserved a better fate. This performance is but one reason why I believe he should win the Vezina Trophy this season. No word yet on Simmonds’ status for Game 3. 

Brad Marchand had a goal and an assist and Tuukka Rask kicked out 30 shots as the Boston Bruins downed the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 to tie their series 1-1. The physical contest took a toll on both clubs.

Bruins defenseman Torey Krug left the game in the second period following a hit by Leafs blueliner Jake Muzzin. Leafs center Nazem Kadri, meanwhile, will have a hearing today with the department of player safety and faces a suspension following a match penalty for cross-checking the head of Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk.  Bruins winger Marcus Johansson missed the game with the flu.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins ratcheted up the physical play in this one and effectively neutralized the Leafs speed. Kadri was obviously still angry over a knee-on-knee collision with DeBrusk in the second period and allowed his emotions to once again boil over, just like in last year’s series between these two clubs. That time, he got a three-game suspension. He could get more for his latest infraction. 

The Colorado Avalanche evened their series with the Calgary Flames as Nathan MacKinnon’s overtime goal gave them a 3-2 victory in Game 2. Mikko Rantanen collected two assists while Philipp Grubauer made 35 saves for the Avalanche. The Flames’ Sam Bennett also had two assists.

SPORTSNET: Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov received a one-game suspension for boarding Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivaara in Game 2 of their opening-round series.

Speaking of the Lightning, defenseman Anton Stralman (upper-body injury) is uncertain when he’ll return to the lineup.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Jared McCann (upper-body injury) expects to be in the lineup for this afternoon’s game against the New York Islanders. The Isles hold a 2-0 lead in that series.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers center Connor McDavid has a small ligament tear in his left knee and will begin rehab almost immediately. He’s expected to be good to go for training camp in September.



NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 13, 2019

Blue Jackets, Islanders and Blues take 2-0 series leads, Golden Knights tie their series with Sharks, plus the latest on Connor McDavid, Todd McLellan, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets took a 2-0 lead in their opening-round series with the Tampa Bay Lightning with a convincing 5-1 Game 2 victory. Matt Duchene had a goal and three assists, Artemi Panarin collected two points, and Zach Werenski had a Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal, an assist, and a five-minute fighting major after scrapping with the Lightning’s Brayden Point. Tampa Bay right wing Nikita Kucherov will have a hearing today with the NHL’s department of player discipline for boarding Columbus defenseman Markus Nutivaara late in the game. 

Columbus Blue Jackets center Matt Duchene had a four-point performance in a 5-1 Game 2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: After blowing a three-goal lead to fall 4-3 in Game 1, the consensus was the Bolts let that game get away from them. They cannot use that excuse for Game 2, as they were outworked and out-hustled by a motivated Blue Jackets club riding a big shot of confidence from their come-from-behind victory in the previous contest.

As the game went on, the Lightning lost their composure, resulting in Kucherov’s ill-disciplined antics late in the third when the game was out of reach. With the series shifting to Columbus for Games 3 and 4, the Blue Jackets are riding high while the Bolts are struggling to cope with real adversity for the first time this season. 

Third-period goals by Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey lifted the New York Islanders to a 3-1 Game 2 victory and a 2-0 series lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Robin Lehner made 32 saves for the Isles while Eberle and Mathew Barzal each had two-point performances.  Erik Gudbranson scored for the Penguins. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A thoroughly entertaining and hard-fought playoff game that could’ve gone either way until Eberle broke the tie and Bailey put it out of reach. This is the first time since the 1983 Stanley Cup playoffs that the Islanders have taken a 2-0 lead in a playoff series. This year’s version has served notice to the veteran-laden Penguins as the series moves to Pittsburgh for the next two games that they’re a hungry bunch not satisfied with exceeding expectations during the regular season. 

Ryan O’Reilly scored the only goal in the third period as the St. Louis Blues edged the Winnipeg Jets 4-3 to take a 2-0 lead in their opening-round series. Oskar Sundqvist scored twice for the Blues while Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine tallied for the Jets. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both clubs were sloppy defensively but the Blues made the most of it. Jets goalie Connor Hellebucyk was not at his best in this one. Neither was Blues rookie netminder Jordan Binnington but he didn’t need to be as his teammates bailed him out.

Special teams made the difference for the Vegas Golden Knights in their 5-3 series-tying victory in Game 2 of their matchup with the San Jose Sharks. Colin Miller and William Karlsson tallied shorthanded goals and Mark Stone scored on the power play. The Sharks believed the game turned when Logan Couture’s apparent go-ahead goal in the second period with the score tied at three was waved off for goaltender interference. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sharks coach Pete DeBoer didn’t believe the call was goalie interference because Sharks goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was outside his crease and it wasn’t Couture’s intent to interfere with Fleury. Regardless, the call stood, the Golden Knights went on to win the game and the series is tied heading to Las Vegas for Games 3 and 4. 

SPORTSNET: The Edmonton Oilers sought second and third opinions regarding Connor McDavid’s leg injury while they formulate a recovery plan for their captain. While x-rays revealed McDavid didn’t suffer any broken bones, the exact nature of the injury remains publicly unknown. 

TSN/LOS ANGELES TIMES: Former Oilers coach Todd McLellan is no longer considered a candidate for the Buffalo Sabres’ head-coaching position. McLellan remains the leading contender to become coach of the Los Angeles Kings. 

WGR 550: Former Oilers coach Ralph Krueger could become a candidate for the Sabres’ job. 

NBC SPORTS: Center David Backes is expected to rejoin the Boston Bruins lineup tonight after being a healthy scratch from Game 1 of their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk skipped practice yesterday for a maintenance day after being shaken up in Game 1. 

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche prospect defenseman Cale Makar is the winner of the 2019 Hobey Baker Award. 

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 12, 2019

Leafs defeat Bruins, Capitals down the Hurricanes, and the Flames blanked the Avalanche in Stanley Cup playoff action. Recaps and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Mitch Marner scored the game-tying and game-winning goals (the latter on a penalty shot) as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Boston Bruins 4-1 in Game 1 of their opening-round series. It’s the first time the Leafs won the opening game of a playoff series since 2003. John Tavares had a goal and an assist for the Leafs. 

Mitch Marner’s two goals powered the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 4-1 series-opening win over the Boston Bruins (Photo via NHL Images)

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Definitely a better start to this series for the Leafs compared to a year ago when the Bruins blew them out 5-1. The Leafs had the better of the play for most of this contest, especially after Marner put them up 2-1 on the penalty shot. 

The Washington Capitals jumped to a 3-0 lead and held off the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 in Game 1 of their opening-round series. Nicklas Backstrom scored twice, John Carlson collected three assists and Alex Ovechkin tallied what proved to be the winning goal. Rookie Andrei Svechnikov scored both goals for the Hurricanes, who were making their first postseason appearance in 10 years. 

Speaking of the Capitals, they re-signed center Nic Dowd to a three-year, $2.25-million contract extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals’ special teams made the difference in this contest. They went two-for-four with the man advantage and killed off three Carolina power plays. Credit the plucky Hurricanes for not giving up after falling behind 3-0, they made a game of it in the third period before Lars Eller put it out of reach. 

Mike Smith turned in a 26-save shutout and Matthew Tkachuk scored twice as the Calgary Flames blanked the Colorado Avalanche 4-0. It was Smith’s first playoff game since 2012. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Smith showed the form in this game that powered the Arizona Coyotes to the Western Conference Final seven years ago. If he can stay healthy and maintain that high level of performance, it’ll erase much of the doubt about Calgary’s goaltending. The Flames also made the Avalanche pay on the power play, going two-for-five with the man advantage. 

NBC SPORTS: San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski had some dental work done yesterday after taking a puck in the mouth during his club’s Game 1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday. 

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets left wing Brandon Tanev (injured hand) could return to the lineup tonight for Game 2 against the St. Louis Blues. 

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 11, 2019

Blue Jackets rally to defeat Lightning, Islanders down Penguins in overtime, and Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen’s record-setting performance highlight the opening night of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets scored four unanswered goals (three in the third period) to overcome a 3-0 deficit to edge the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in Game 1 of their opening-round series. Seth Jones tallied the game-winner while Josh Anderson had a goal and an assist. Game 2 goes Friday night in Tampa Bay. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The first period was all Lightning as they rolled to a 3-0 lead and appeared poised to run the Blue Jackets out of the building. Credit the Jackets for not rolling over as they turned things around in the second with a much better effort, forcing the Bolts into costly turnovers and defensive breakdowns, especially on Anderson’s game-tying shorthanded goal and David Savard’s Orr-like tally that preceded it. The Bolts were also their own worst enemies, doing a poor job protecting their lead and failing to play with the same level of intensity that they showed in the opening period.

A breathtaking rush by Mathew Barzal set the stage for Josh Bailey’s overtime goal to give the New York Islanders a 4-3 Game 1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Barzal dipsy-doodled his way into a prime scoring chance with a backhander that clanged off the right post and right to Bailey who cashed in on the rebound. Isles goalie Robin Lehner made 41 saves and Jordan Eberle scored his first career playoff goal. Evgeni Malkin and Justin Schultz each had a goal and an assist for the Penguins. The two clubs clash again in Game 2 on Friday.

Dallas Stars rookie defenseman Miro Heiskanen had a record-setting performance in his club’s 3-2 victory in Game 1 of their opening-round series against the Nashville Predators (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That was a great individual effort by Barzal in overtime. Looks like he handled the heat of his first career playoff game just fine. 

Dallas Stars rookie Miro Heiskanen made history by scoring twice in a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their first-round series. The 19-year-old became the youngest defenseman in franchise history to score a playoff goal and the third teenage blueliner in league history to have a multi-goal playoff game. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No nerves for Heiskanen in his postseason debut, playing like a poised veteran in this one. The Predators did themselves no favors with their special-team play, going oh-for-four with the man advantage and giving up a power-play goal. 

Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic each collected two points to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 5-2 victory in Game 1 of their series with the Vegas Golden Knights. Evander Kane and Tomas Hertl each had a goal and an assist while captain Joe Pavelski scored the opening goal of the game with his face. He left the game but returned in the second period wearing a full-face visor. The two clubs meet again for Game 2 on Friday. 

Third-period goals by David Perron and Tyler Bozak enabled the St. Louis Blues to nip the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 in a physical opening game to their series. Blues goalie Jordan Binnington made 24 saves for his first career NHL playoff victory. Patrik Laine tallied the sole Jets goal. Game 2 goes Friday night in Winnipeg. 

Earlier in the day, Binnington had to address controversial tweets he made in 2013 and 2014 regarding women in burkhas and cab drivers who speak different languages. “I was a teenager and that’s what life’s about. You live and learn and you grow as a human so, you know, I’m just here to play a couple hockey games,” he said. League deputy commissioner Bill Daly released a statement that didn’t condone Binnington’s tweets but added there wasn’t any basis to address five-year-old tweets from a player who wasn’t part of the league at the time.

TSN: Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen will return to action in Game 1 of his club’s opening-round series tonight against the Calgary Flames. He’d been sidelined since March 21 with an upper-body injury. 

Boston Bruins forward David Backes will be a healthy scratch for Game 1 tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

SPORTSNET: The NHL Player Association has filed an appeal on behalf of former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov over his suspension for the 2019-20 season and 2020 playoffs.