NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 26, 2021

by | Feb 26, 2021 | News, NHL | 34 comments

Recaps of Thursday’s action, Jeff Skinner’s status with the Sabres concerns his agent, updates on Auston Matthews and Henrik Lundqvist, some notable injury news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


NHL.COM: The New York Islanders tallied five unanswered third-period goals to upset the Boston Bruins 7-2. Semyon Varlamov made 34 saves while teammates Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee and Adam Pelech each had a goal and an assist for the Islanders. The Bruins have dropped three of their last four games.

Three straight third-period goals lifted the Washington Capitals over the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2. Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller each had a goal and an assist. Tom Wilson tallied the game-winner and also received a two-minute minor penalty for injuring Penguins forward Mark Jankowski with a late hit in the first period. Earlier in the day, the Penguins placed winger Jason Zucker (lower body) on injured reserve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson has a history of questionable hits but it doesn’t appear as though he’ll receive supplemental discipline for this one.

The Tampa Bay Lightning scored twice in the third period in a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Yanni Gourde netted the game-winner as the Lightning won their third straight over the Hurricanes, moving into second place in the Discover Central Division with 27 points.

A three-goal third-period rallied the Florida Panthers over the Dallas Stars 3-2. Sergei Bobrovsky made 37 saves while Aleksander Barkov, Anton Stralman and Frank Vatrano tallied for the Panthers, who sit atop the Discover Central Division with 28 points. Stars forward Roope Hintz missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury.

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane is playing his way into the Hart Memorial Trophy conversation (NHL Images).

Patrick Kane tallied his 399th career goal and Malcolm Subban made 26 saves for his first shutout with the Chicago Blackhawks in a 2-0 blanking of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Carl Soderberg also scored for the Hawks, who sit third in the Central with 26 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks keep finding ways to win thanks in part to Kane’s production and leadership. He’s moved into a tie with Toronto’s Auston Matthews (31 points) for third place in the NHL scoring race and continues to be considered among the early favorites for the Hart Memorial Trophy.

The Ottawa Senators are on their first three-game win streak of the season after upsetting the Calgary Flames 6-1. Matt Murray made 29 saves, Colin White scored twice and Drake Batherson scored for the fourth straight game.

Earlier in the day, the Senators placed center Derek Stepan on injured reserve among reports he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. They also placed little-used forward Filip Chlapik on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out his contract. Meanwhile, the Flames placed goaltender Jacob Markstrom (upper body) on injured reserve.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators’ improvement throughout February is due in part to giving more ice time to their younger players. They still have more rebuilding to do but they’ve served notice in recent weeks that they’re no longer an easy two points. The Flames, meanwhile, have dropped five of their last six.

An overtime goal by Pavel Zacha lifted the New Jersey Devils over the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. The Sabres made winger Jeff Skinner a healthy scratch for the third straight game, prompting his agent to contact general manager Kevyn Adams to express his concern over his client’s status. Sabres captain Jack Eichel was a late scratch with a lower-body injury while goalie Linus Ullmark left the game following the first period with an undisclosed injury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner’s poor production this season is cause for concern for the Sabres but critics question if he’s being properly utilized by head coach Ralph Krueger. It’s yet another issue for a team whose playoff hopes are fading while raising questions about Eichel’s future in Buffalo.

Sam Gagner tallied his third career hat trick as the Detroit Red Wings downed the Nashville Predators 5-2. Jonathan Bernier made 37 saves for the win.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The mounting losses for the Predators continue to stoke speculation they’ll become sellers at the Apr.12 trade deadline. I’ll have more in today’s Rumor section.

Blake Wheeler had a goal and two assists while Kyle Connor scored twice as the Winnipeg Jets overcame 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-3. The Habs dropped their fourth straight, spoiling the debut of interim head coach Dominique Ducharme. Canadiens winger Josh Anderson left the game in the first period after an apparent slew foot by Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo. He’ll undergo more tests but Ducharme said his injury isn’t considered to be too serious.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ducharme declared a clean slate for his players before this game. What he got was a strong start undone by more shaky goaltending from Carey Price, sloppy defensive play and a collapse of confidence as the game rolled along. The Habs (22 points) still hold a playoff spot in the Scotia North Division only because the Flames and Vancouver Canucks are playing worse than they are. Speaking of the Canucks…

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith turned in a 32-save shutout in a 3-0 victory over the Canucks. Alex Chiasson, Jesse Puljujarvi and Connor McDavid were the goal scorers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks have only two victories in 13 games this month.


TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said center Auston Matthews has been dealing with a wrist injury for most of this season. Matthews appeared to aggravate the injury during Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Flames but Keefe feels it hasn’t gotten worse.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews was scoring at a goal-per-game pace prior to Wednesday. He has a shot at becoming the first player since Brett Hull in 1991-92 to score 50 goals in 50 games.

NEW YORK POST: Henrik Lundqvist returned to the ice earlier this week after undergoing open-heart surgery seven weeks ago. However, the 39-year-old goaltender said it will be months before he can reach a decision on whether he’ll continue his playing career.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Saturday’s game between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues will continue as scheduled after the Sharks announced no new positive COVID-19 tests. Thursday’s game between the two clubs was postponed after Sharks forward Tomas Hertl tested positive. He’s expected to miss some time as he remains on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.

TSN: The number of players on the league’s protocol list shrunk to seven players with three of those being members of the Philadelphia Flyers.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets are preparing to increase the number of fans attending their home games after Ohio governor Mike DeWine announced indoor sports and entertainment events in the state to 25 percent capacity. The Jackets currently have a plan approved by the state that allows 10 percent capacity.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins will soon welcome fans back to TD Garden as the state of Massachusetts will allow 12 percent capacity starting on March 22.


  1. My God, Halak looked off last night. Props to the Islanders though. Fantastic forechecking game. I liked the hug by Martin at the end. Take his advice Freddy. Timing is everything.

    • The last players I would blame on the Bruins are their goalies but someone tell me why Rask is not playing more.The season is only 56 games long.Why does he sit after playing a game on Sunday 3 days ago.I know they go back to back with nyr tonight but he should be playing more with less travel.And he is one of the highest paid goalies in the league.

      • Steve R Rask will play tonight and Sunday.

        Generally they never start the same goalie in back to back.

      • Why can t he play the first one against the tougher opponent,then have Halak play the 2nd game.

      • Maybe Halak wanted to play against his former team or Cassidy thought that was the better matchup…hard to say.

        It’s not like Halak has been a dumpster fire this season. No one could have predicted they would score 7 against him.

      • I didn’t realize it but I just checked the Bruins goalie stats. Even after last night, Halak has a slightly better GAA and Save% than Rask.

        I’m certainly not arguing that Halak is a better goaltender, just that the difference isn’t so great that I fault Cassidy for starting him last night.

  2. Part of the reason that the Senators are becoming a not-so-easy 2 points – in addition to finally letting the best of the young prospects learn on the job, so to speak – is that the D and F have slowly developed some cohesion and their goaltending has tightened up.

    That it took this many games to do so shouldn’t be surprising in light of the fact almost 50% of the roster had never played together as a team, most of them hadn’t played a meaningful game in close to a year when the season kicked in, and there was virtually no training camp to speak of including no exhibition games.

    No, they won’t become a threat to make a playoff spot – but they are going to make it a lot tougher for some of their opposition down the stretch to do so as well.

    Having said that, to be fair to the Flames that was their 3rd game in 4 nights and you could see the legs just weren’t there. This is the team that recently shut out the Leafs once and came close to doing it again before losing 2-1 in OT. They will come out a lot better tomorrow night and Monday.

    This aberration of a season, with most normal activity ceased, is going to weigh heavily on ALL teams at some point and each will experience slumps like we’re seeing with Boston and others.

    • Very good points about the Sens George. I thought they would be a bit more competitive this year but no matter how much talent you have it’s hard to compete without time to develop chemistry etc…

      Last night’s embarrassing loss aside, the Bruins are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. You know you are a strong team when people are calling that a “slump” haha.

      • Heh. I get your point DoubleMinor. Some teams would kill to suffer “slumps” like that. But losing 3 of their past 4 – at what point does that become a slump. One more loss? Two?

        For a good team like Boston I would think they themselves see it as a slump – albeit a mini one at this stage.

      • Solid points George. I was a little worried with all of the games that the Bruins had postponed that it would affect them since they were on a really good roll.

        The flipside of course is that Boston is, overall, an older team and the extra rest can be a benefit. Catch-22 I suppose.

    • Exactly, George. The schedule is a bit like junior hockey at times with two, three and even four game series. David Rittich was terrific in the games against the Leafs but he must need a break. Markstrom’s injury really hurts the Flames.
      Wish we could see the Sens more often – they are improving every week.

    • George, there is little pressure on them aswell. They are able to play and have fun. Good recipe.

      The opposite can be said about the Habs. Price looks like he has checked out. The D was sloppy, Petry just standing around. Chiarot and Weber taking dumb penalties.

      CP looks like he wants out but, who will take him at that salary and age?

      • I have no ideal what the the reason for Price’s abysmal play is, FD, but it isn’t that he has checked out.

        No pro is going to do that, and correct no one is going to take him now with his salary, age and most importantly, age. So if he were wishing he were on another team it (maybe right now his team mates wish that) it isn’t going to happen.

        But you are right that part — just part — of the reason his gaa average is atrocious is poor defensive play. In the games I have seen recently the D has consistently made bone headed play after bone headed play. Why? A cluster F&%$ patch of bad luck? I can’t explain it.

        Another issue is the performance of their centers. They aren’t scoring, and they aren’t winning face offs. Means that the Habs start most plays trying to catch up.

        I think I will stop listing the problems there. Getting deflating …

      • Show me a coach on the hot seat and I will show you a struggling goalie.

        Agree LJ, Price hasn’t checked out, at least doesn’t seem like that kind of guy.
        He has taken extended breaks between starts in the past and it has served him well, and they have Allen. Let Price work on things in practice for a couple weeks, get the muscle memory, go back in.

        Smith has been hot for Edmonton, but even last year when he or Koskinen was hot they rotated them 2 on 2 off for the most part. This year he is rolling with Smith for a few in a row. Makes me think Koskinen is working stuff out in practice as well to find his game.

      • That’s exactly what the Habs should be doing with Price, Ray.

    • George, before the season started I said I liked the moves the Sens made and thought they would be a handful. Their # 1 line has really stepped up and so has Murray.

      Yes, the Flames had a tough go with the schedule, and it is fair minded of you to note that. But every team has a crappy schedule of game upon game. The Flames issue is that they improved with Markstrom but not with their forwards.

      • Oh yeah, LJ, I didn’t mean to imply that the Flames were the only ones with a crappy schedule. Ottawa had a couple of those early in the season (3 in 4 nights) and with the lack of cohesion at that stage, it was inevitable that they’d get their butts kicked.

        Still, with the deviation from what has become a regular routine during normal times, teams on the road – essentially shut up in their rooms when not playing – it has to wear on them and when you add in the 3rd in 4 … well, that’s the time to take the underdog in any betting line.

  3. Cam Neely scored 50 goals in 44 games in 1993-94.

    • The NHL doesn’t officially count it because a player must score 50 goals in or prior to his team’s 50th game. Neely scored his in his club’s 66th game of the season.

      • I see..I hadn’t considered that aspect of it.

        Imagine how many goals Neely would have scored if healthy!

        The world would be a better place if Ulf Sameulsson had never been born.

      • Matthews has been hampered by a wrist injury all season. He might be pretty good when he heals.

      • Lyle, I’ll put it this way Cam Neely scored 50 goals in his 44th game of the season.

        The fact the NHL doesn’t want to recognize that amazing accomplishment is solely on them.

      • I didn’t suggest that it didn’t. I’m merely pointing out that the NHL doesn’t officially count it because their definition of 50 goals in 50 games means in the team’s first 50 games of the season.

  4. Lost respect for the Oilers last night as nobody retaliated against that scum spot picker Roussel …

    Sens have an extremely bright future … if Dorian doesn’t screw it up.

    • THAT’S the possible fly in the ointment Ed. He’s made some good trades when there were no other options and his hand was forced. But he’s also made a few puzzling ones – like the Stepan deal.

      O recall back when Murray was the GM (and before he became ill) whenever talk arose about his possible successor, the general consensus among our group locally was “please … not Dorion.” Great scout – but possessing no credentials (then) to become a GM.

      Of course, it could have been worse – they might have tabbed Chiarelli as the eventual successor.

      Right now, Dorion has the full confidence of Melnyk. Good or bad? Only time will tell.

      • Only time will tell…that time should be after the next two seasons. If this team is still a wild card team then you’ll have to reassess this rebuild adjust accordingly reset and try again. To praise them this early is a silly as praising the Habs being tops in the division before 10 games played.

        Yours truly, a fan of a perpetual retooled/rebuilding team.

      • Lol. Well put Ron. A lot of fingers crossed at this stage. On the other side of the coin, if they ALL start producing as hoped, the GM quickly finds himself in a cap crunch and hard decisions to make come contract negotiating time. As happened with that perpetual retooled/rebuilding team.

    • Ed, my guess is JP will gets some practice scrap reps in during practice. Kassian can work with him on technique, or local boy Strudwick can work with him as a consultant. I would bet $$ Puljujarvi has never been in a fight, so might be a little uncertain. Just gotta give it a go I guess.
      That way he can take care of his own sh** out there.

      Problem is, the Oil want Roussel on the ice and the Canucks would rather not have JP on the ice, which is also a consideration.

      But ya, this has to be eating JP, my guess is he gets his revenge.

    • Hey Ed, This was discussed ad nauseum on Edmonton forums and talk radio before the game yesterday and the general consensus was that the best way to hurt Roussell and the Canucks was to make him play.

      It was Roussel who took a penalty that lead to the Oilers second goal, which was scored by Puljujarvi . That was either good strategy or great karma.

      Sometimes if payback is the number one thing on a team’s agenda. they forget that they still have to play hockey, and lose the game, I’ve seen it happens many times, Nevertheless, if the game had gotten out of hand I have no doubt there would have been retribution.

  5. Bang on article in Sportsnet app yesterday by Justin Bourne. He summarizes why Julien was fired when it should have been Bergevin. He said they were suffering from an acronym he called:

    L.O.F.T. which he says stands for Lack Of *expletive* Talent. A must
    read for LJ lol.

    • In 2010 – 2011 the Bruins Cup win.

      Milan Lucic and David Krejci tied for the team lead in points with 62.

      That put them in a tie for 39th place in the NHL overall point leads

      D. Sedin finished with over 100pts to lead the league.

      Not a single player in the top 38 and still good enough to win the cup.

      Everyone talks about elite talent, sometimes you can win with team talent and outstanding goaltending.

      • And terrific team defense.

        Chara and Seidenberg were lights out during that cup run.

  6. Yelp im still stuck in 2015.

    Last night watched two games.

    Matt Barzal flying around the ice and picking up a goal and assist.

    Then watched Kyle Connor score his second of the night and 10th on the season.

    Think to myself what could’ve been.

    Bruins were brutal last night and while its just one game the thing that bother me the most was the lack of push back.

    Anders Lee flat out flatten McAvoy great clean hit.

    Greene decks Pastrnak another excellent clean hit.

    My issues isn’t retribution but atheist get emotionally evolved.

    Team is taking liberties with two of your best players and you show no jam, no response and absolutely no care.

    Doesn’t need to be a fight or dirty hit.

    But for holy smack go make some clean hits, instead of standing there and saying ” Well gezz bye, that was a nice hit there eh bye.”

    • Caper,

      Now you know how Leaf fans feel!