NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 9, 2019
Sharks eliminate the Avalanche and advance to the Western Conference Final, the Conference Finals schedules are released, plus updates on Brad Marchand, Antti Niemi, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski made a surprise return from injury to lead his club to a series-clinching 3-2 Game 7 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Pavelski scored the game-opening goal and set up his club’s second goal. The Sharks will face the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Final. This was Pavelski’s first game since suffering a concussion during Game 7 of his club’s previous series against the Vegas Golden Knights.
The game wasn’t without controversy as a game-tying goal by the Avalanche in the second period was overturned as team captain Gabriel Landeskog was deemed offside during a line change. Colorado star Nathan MacKinnon sprained his right shoulder after colliding with the boards in the first period but returned to action later in the frame.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sharks got a big lift from Pavelski’s return in this game, but it was their depth that proved the deciding factor in this series. It could give them an advantage over the Blues in the conference final.
The Avs have nothing to hang their heads over. They upset the heavily-favored Calgary Flames and pushed the Sharks to the limit. Led by MacKinnon, Landeskog and Miko Rantanen, they’re a talented young team with a bright future.
The NHL released its schedule for the Conference Finals. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes starts tonight in Boston. The puck drops on the opening game of the Western Conference Final on Saturday night in San Jose. Both stats are 8 pm ET.
The top-27 spots for the 2019 NHL Draft are now set, with the final four still to be determined.
NBC SPORTS: Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said the club will address Brad Marchand’s curt answers to the media in recent days. Marchand raised eyebrows with his taciturn attitude following his club’s elimination of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some in the media are rather upset with Marchand, with a few calling for him to be fined. Perhaps a better response would be to just ignore Marchand and instead speak with his teammates. Besides, most player interviews are boring. They merely spout cliches about giving 110 percent, getting pucks deep, everybody playing their role, blah blah blah. They rarely offer anything insightful or interesting.
CBS SPORTS: Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivarra suffered a muscle tear in his rib area. The injury occurred following an illegal hit by Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Canadiens backup goaltender Antti Niemi is expected to join Helsinki Jokerit in the KHL next season. Niemi is an unrestricted free agent this summer and won’t be re-signed by the Canadiens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This likely signals the end of Niemi’s 11-season NHL career. He backstopped the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup in 2010 and spent five seasons as the Sharks’ starting goaltender. His performance declined in recent years, relegating him to backup status as he bounced from the Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Canadiens since 2016-17. If his NHL playing days are over, the 35-year-old finishes with 242 wins in 464 games, with a career 2.57 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage and 36 shutouts.