NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 31, 2017

by | Mar 31, 2017 | News, NHL | 6 comments

The Montreal Canadiens salute their fans after clinching a playoff spot with a 6-2 win over the Florida Panthers.

Game recaps, updates on playoff race and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: The Montreal Canadiens clinched a playoff spot by crushing the Florida Panthers 6-2. Brendan Gallagher had a goal and three assists while Paul Byron scored twice for the Habs (97 points), who hold a six-point lead over the Ottawa Senators for top spot in the Atlantic Division. 

Nino Niederreiter scored twice as the Minnesota Wild thumped the Ottawa Senators 5-1. The Sens (91 points) played without captain Erik Karlsson, who’s listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury but could return to action on Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets. Meanwhile, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is being sued by a former team executive over breach of contract

Connor Brown had a goal and an assist as the Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Nashville Predators 3-1. The Leafs (89 points) moved within two of the Senators for second in the Atlantic. They remain a point up on the Boston Bruins for third place.  The Leafs are also reportedly on the verge of re-signing defenseman Nikita Zaitsev to a seven-year deal worth $4.5 million annually. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 25-year-old Zaitsev’s quickly established himself on the Leafs blueline in his first NHL campaign. The puck-moving rearguard’s tallied 34 points in 76 games and he’s led all Leafs blueliners in average ice time (22:16) per game and blocked shots (127) this season. While the term seems a bit lengthy the cap hit isn’t too bad. Should Zaitsev remain a vital part of the Leafs defense corps, this deal could be considered a bargain down the road. 

Tuukka Rask made 27 saves while Brad Marchand and Torey Krug scored the only goals as the Bruins blanked the Dallas Stars 2-0. With the win, the Bruins (88 points) hold a three-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Stars forward Curtis McKenzie left the game with a soft-tissue eye injury after being struck in the face by the stick of Kevan Miller. Fortunately, McKenzie reportedly didn’t suffer any damage to his eyeball. 

Ondrej Palat and Andrej Sustr each had two-point performances to give the Lightning a 5-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. The Bolts played without top scorer Nikita Kucherov (illness).  It was a costly loss for the Wings, as rookie forward Anthony Mantha fractured a finger in a fight with Luke Witkowski and is done for the season. 

Noah Hanfin’s overtime goal gave the Carolina Hurricanes a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Canes (84 points) extended their points streak to 13 games and are four points out of the final wild-card berth in the East. 

Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier each collected a goal and two assists to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 6-3 victory over the New York Islanders. The Isles (82 points) have fallen six points back of the Bruins while the Flyers are also six points out of a playoff spot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning and Hurricanes are both surging in the Eastern standings and could pose a serious threat to the Bruins for that final wild-card spot. Barring a significant turnaround by the Isles and Flyers, I don’t think they’re going to make it. 

Mark Scheifele scored in overtime as the Winnipeg Jets upset the Anaheim Ducks 4-3. With the loss, the Ducks (96 points) failed to widen their lead over the Edmonton Oilers for top spot in the Pacific Division.

Connor McDavid tallied a goal and an assist and Patrick Maroon scored twice to give the Edmonton Oilers a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks. With the win, the Oilers (95 points) moved one point ahead of the Sharks into second place in the Pacific. 


  1. I think the dollars are pretty solid for Zaitsev, on the basis that it leaves room for a guy to get paid decent money if they ever land a top tier #1 and you can still have a guy like Zaitsev at that price without it hurting the teams cap structure. I would be somewhat concerned about what you re-up Gardiner for in a couple of years, but if he slots in somewhere similar, the Leafs blueline would be well priced for what it is and allow flexibility.

    At the price points they have their D at, and the value placed on defensemen in the league, I don’t think a deal like this is risky enough to pass on, and honestly I don’t think a 6 year deal versus a 7 year deal really means a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, so if that got it done for a little less cap, likely worth it as Zaitsev will be just into his twilight years when the deal expires.

  2. I had a friend that discussed a very interesting take on what to do with shootouts in the NHL so I thought I would get people’s opinion, and see how other people felt since I think this is a divided topic.

    His suggestion was to ditch the loser point in OT. Keep 3 on 3, and either do 5 or 10 minutes if the PA allowed for it, but not get hung up if they vote it down. Then keep the shootout, but award not points, instead tracking shootout wins like we do ROW wins, and they only ever come up in tie-break situations in the standings.

    The rationale, no more points getting invented out of nowhere just because the game isn’t decided in regulation, teams from different divisions will no longer have an incentive to play is safe and take the guaranteed point without giving up a chance at 2, and with less pressure on the shootouts, players might take more chances in them. He figures by keeping them around at all, it will still solve that feeling of having some resolution at the end of the game, and it still can have relevance at the end of the year.

    Basically he likes watching the shootout rather than the game just end, but thinks if the NHL isn’t willing to count the goals scored in the shootout because they are scored in situations that aren’t like real hockey, how do you award a win for it?

    Anyway, I think something like this or a 3 point system should be in place, as I really hate the almost artificial playoff race it creates at the end of the year. Teams can be close in points, but I do find there are a lot of 3 point games late in the season, meaning its harder that it should be to make up points this time of year.

    It’s frustrating when you are watching a “playoff race” and you see two teams you are chasing play each other to a 3 point game. That combined with a year end schedule where the last 6-7 games for each team was a inter division gauntlet making the race very interesting and building some great rivalries going into the playoffs and future seasons.

    • The absurdity of the current points system, where some games are worth fifty per cent more than others, would be solved by making every game worth three points. A regulation win earns all three, overtime and shootout games would be divided with two for the winner and one for the loser. Overall points would then have some real meaning and the standings would be a reflection of teams’ achievements.

      • I agree. I can honestly get behind just about any system that involves having the same number of points awarded for every game played. The only suggested system I don’t like (but still prefer to the current set up) is just have all wins count as 2 and all losses as 0, including shootout. I just don’t love a shootout win deciding who gets all of the points, but again, probably better than what we have.

      • It’s simple…all games are worth 2 points. Games that end in a tie after regulation play, i.e. 60mins. the teams split the 2 points. The league thought well if a team came back to tie, well if the had a chance or two to “earn” the 2 points they can via OT or shootout. Just staying as a tie seems easier but I guess ties are hard to digest? Anyway teams have 3 chances to earn a win…why not drop points and just go by wins/losses. Sounds easier.

      • I don’t love having a shootout win or loss be the same as a regulation or OT win or loss, but to me I think most people can at least agree that having certain games just magically be worth more points is just silly.

        I would be willing for just about any reasonable solution.

        – 3 point reg wins, 2 points shootout/ot wins, 1 point shootout/ot losses, 0 point reg losses.

        – 10 minute 3 on 3, game ends in a tie after that.

        – 2 point games, ends in a tie, shootout completed just for standings tie-breaker.

        The more I think about the argument that if the NHL isn’t awarding goals to players who score in the shootouts because it skews things and it’s too gimmicky to count toward stats, then why they awarding wins, points and playoff spots soley based on that?