NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 5, 2021

by | Feb 5, 2021 | News, NHL | 20 comments

Recaps of Thursday’s action, the league revises its COVID-19 protocols as more players are sidelined and more games are postponed, the 2021 Draft could be pushed back, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


NHL.COM: Alex Ovechkin scored his 709th career goal to move into seventh place on the all-time list but it wasn’t enough to prevent his Washington Capitals from dropping a 4-2 decision to the New York Rangers. Ryan Strome scored twice while goaltender Igor Shesterkin made 31 saves for his third straight victory. Ovechkin passed former Capital and Rangers Mike Gartner on the goal-scoring list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin is now eight goals behind Phil Esposito (717) who sits sixth on the list.

Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg (NHL Images).

Third-period goals by Roman Josi and Matt Duchene set the stage for Filip Forsberg’s overtime winner as the Nashville Predators rallied to edge the Florida Panthers 6-5. Forsberg had a five-point night with two goals and three assists while the Panthers’ Jonathan Huberdeau netted a hat trick and collected two assists.

Patrik Laine scored his first goal with the Columbus Blue Jackets as they nipped the Dallas Stars 4-3. Jack Roslovic also tallied his first goal with the Jackets. Both players were recently acquired from the Winnipeg Jets. Earlier in the day, the Blue Jackets placed goalie Elvis Merzlikins on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Ottawa Senators rookie Tim Stuetzle had a goal and two assists as his club upset the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. Matt Murray made 36 saves as the Senators snapped a ten-game winless skid.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators were the hungrier team in this contest. The Canadiens were playing their third game in four nights but they may also have been guilty of taking the struggling Senators too lightly.

Jason Spezza tallied his first hat trick since 2016 in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 7-3 victory over the floundering Vancouver Canucks. Auston Matthews scored twice to extend his goal-scoring streak to six games as the Leafs reclaimed first place in the North Division from the Canadiens. Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott left the game with a charley horse injury.

Two third-period goals by Alex DeBrincat lifted the Chicago Blackhawks to a 6-4 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, snapping the latter’s five-game win streak. Patrick Kane scored and added three assists for the Blackhawks while Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Dougie Hamilton each had two points for the Hurricanes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks blew a 3-1 lead but didn’t lose their composure and pulled off a big win. They also capitalized on the power play with three of their goals coming with the man advantage.

Antti Raanta kicked out 40 shots as the Arizona Coyotes held on to beat the St. Louis Blues 4-3. Christian Dvorak and Conor Garland each had a goal and an assist for the Coyotes while Mike Hoffman tallied twice for the Blues.

Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck made 23 saves for his franchise-record 153rd career victory backstopping his club over the Calgary Flames 4-1. Mason Appleton tallied twice and Mathieu Perreault had three assists for the Jets. Flames forward Sam Bennett was a healthy scratch, stoking speculation he could be traded soon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll have more about Bennett in the Rumors section.


TSN: The NHL has revised its COVID-19 protocols as the number of players on the protocol list grew to 40 while four teams have had games postponed in recent days. Glass panels have been removed from behind the team benches to allow for better airflow, players aren’t allowed at the arena until one hour and 45 minutes prior to game time (unless being treated for injuries) and all team meetings must be virtual. Players must also be seated six feet apart in the dressing rooms.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some players aren’t happy about the restriction on their time at the arena and intend to fight it. The league, however, could be unwilling to bend given the sharp rise of late in COVID cases among players and coaches.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger has tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, Jake McCabe became the fifth Sabre added to the NHL’s protocol list. The Sabres are among the clubs to have their games postponed.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche have had their games postponed until Feb. 11 after team captain Gabriel Landeskog was added to the COVID protocol list.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the NHL is considering pushing back the 2021 Draft to 2022 and perhaps staging back-to-back drafts, one for this year’s class of prospects and the other for the 2022 class. Dreger believes the general managers support this as would the majority of draft-eligible prospects as they’re not playing right now. That decision, however, would have to involve the NHLPA as it is a CBA issue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s also been talk of perhaps pushing this year’s draft to December. It wouldn’t be surprising if the draft date is changed considering the effect the pandemic is having upon hockey at all levels. The teams can’t scout players who aren’t playing while the players haven’t had an opportunity to develop their skills and improve their draft stock.

TORONTO SUN: Popular Maple Leafs usher Vic Braknis passed away at age 81. He worked in that role for Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment for 29 years. He also spent 17 years in the same role with the Montreal Canadiens and worked for the Toronto Blue Jays during their World Series years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Braknis’ family, friends and MLSE.


  1. What the hell was Quenville thinking

    If you get a chance… watch last 2 1/2 mins

    Up by two… Preds pull

    They Score 6 on 5

    Still two minutes left

    Quenville challenges high stick…. not on goal… but during play (which would result if successful challenge …. in time stop… thus no goal)

    If successful …. no goal… up by two

    If not… up by one, 2 mins left… and killing a penalty… and for sure they (Preds) will pull for 6 on 4

    So Quenville better be sure it’s a high stick

    He appeared to watch his monitor for quite a while…. then challenged

    Refs didn’t take long to ascertain that it wasn’t a high stick…and replay was clear that it wasn’t… so Panthers penalized; goaly pulled; 6 on 4…. score

    Goes to OT

    They lose in OT

    Quenville shouldn’t have challenged…. better chance at 6 on 5 …. and it’s 5 on 5 if you win the face-off after the goal and until you lose possession


  2. It’s always happy times when your league min, soon to be 38 year old bottom 6 player gets a hat-trick


    • Yup you can’t help but be happy for the guy. That’s smile on his face was priceless. Hope he gets to lift the cup…him and jumbo… couldn’t of think of two more deserving.

      Just something to note…the big four contracts with almost 25% of the season done, all four are at a point per game or more which honestly is the level of play that is expected at that price, it’s just unfortunate they are all on one cap controlled team which we all know is not the most ideal construction but we’ll see if they can do it. So far, all the numbers and eye test point to this team looking good. How good? I can’t tell. This season is too messed up to really tell.

      • Agree Ron

        Great look on Spezz

        Yes would love to see Jumbo Joe and Spezza win a cup ; but unfortunately unless they are traded; it just might not happen

        I don’t see Leafs bringing them back next year; and Leafs are not there yet for a cup. There is a chance that another team picks them up next year. Not sure if Jumbo Joe wants to play at 42

        For Leafs….. they first have to win the Div; which at this time, I see Habs as much stronger.

        Even if they miraculously get by Habs; Leafs are not better than Bruins, Bolts, Avs, Knights; and to win a cup this year; you have to win at least one series against that group; and almost assuredly, two series.

        There is a better than average chance Leafs meet Jets in round 1. Hellebuck if on game; can take that series by himself.

        Do Leafs have a shot…. anything is possible, but IMHO, the chances of Leafs winning the cup in a few months is likely in the 1-2% range

        Make a move in the off season that converts one of the top 4 Fwds to a top 3 D; AND creates more Cap space… then Leafs have a chance next year.

        The formulae of 1/2 Cap on 4 players is just not cutting it.

        They will not be moving AM and can’t move JT (his call).

        MM has too big a Cap hit; almost impossible to move him.

        It would have to be WW; and his return should be good. $7M Cap, but cash AAV remaining per year is averaging about $5M. With his numbers; that should get a 23-25 year old top 3 D at much less than $7M Cap. Cap savings help elsewhere on the roster.

        Leafs are in 1st now but they were two blown ref calls (opening game v Mont (JT) ; and in the Ed game(Hyman)) away from losing both in reg

        That would have Leafs in 4th

        We are not going to always get those calls and/or missed calls going our way; the season should balance out on calls.

        Habs are much much better defensively and in goal; and their much more balanced 4 lines as a forward unit are better than Leafs

        Fingers, toes and eyes crossed; but I’m thinking it is a long shot

      • Hey Pengy I respect your opinion as wrong as I feel it is. I think The whole league is a crap shoot to who will win. As for the Habs, I think they have a good team but not anything to really worry about. They have a lot of good players like a lot of teams do but nothing special or players that will win them games other than a Price if he’s in the zone, which in all honesty can be said about any goalie, like we’ve seen in the past.
        When looking at elite teams which I feel all nhl teams are the only thing that’s separates them is only a few percentage points and sometimes is as random as a coin flip.

  3. The NHL doesn’t do the rapid testing, their results are 24hrs later. This is being reconsider.

    Why they’re not using the NBA rapid testing, i can only assume the cost of these test must be considerably higher and with the NHL roster having more players then the NBA.

    Rapid testing might have saved some of these player from getting covid and saved the games as well.

    • Caper, yep.

  4. I worked with Vic back In the late 90’s at the ACC. Nice guy, my condolences.

  5. Cancel the 2021 draft entirely. Then raise the draft age to 19 for the 2022 draft. Drafting 18 year olds has turned the draft into a high risk guessing game. Drafting players a year later would allow scouts to get a much better handle on these kids. Remember, during the 1970s, the draft age was 20. And it served the league well,

    • Hi Howard

      Can’t agree more

      I’ve been advocating for the draft to be for 19 year olds (but having date as at 31/12 not 15/9) for a long time

      I think they might need to phase it in if they move to it

      First year…. 18 year olds (by 15/9) only in first 4 rounds
      2nd year …. 18 year olds (by 15/9) only in first two
      Then on 19 (by31/12)

      Some players are chosen already as 19 year olds in later rounds (didn’t get pick in their 18 yr old year)

      So if they combine next year…. 4 rounds of 18 year olds ; but instead of 7 rounds total… make it 9 (just for next year)

      • I think now is the perfect time to move it to 19. Given the fact that most of this year’s draft eligible may very well not play a game until the fall, it presents a perfect opportunity to hold their draft next year instead and raise the age. The last time this opportunity presented was 2005, after the season that was lost to lock-out. The problem was, that years top 18 year old was Sidney Crosby, the best prospect to join the league since Lemieux. At the time, the last thing the NHL needed from a PR standpoint was to push off Crosby entering the league another year.

      • Hi Howard

        The best draft class ever was ‘03

        The draft class was relative strong as it was on draft day but I truly believe that that group had great success because all but 4 players in that draft didn’t play in the NHL until they were20

        The next year was a lockout and Fleury, Staal, Zherdev (all late ‘84 B-days) got a couple of games in at the very start of ‘03‘04 just before their 19th birthdays. Horton was the only one to play all of his 03/04 games as an 18 year old

        Letting that draft class “develop” for 2 more years, IMHO ; strengthened their possibility of a successful NHL career; and it worked very well

        15 of that draft class have already passed 1,000 NHL games;

        18 still are under NHL contracts (all now over 35)

        That’s impressive

    • I’m fine with the 18 as only a handful of 18 yr olds actually play in the NHL. And ya, more of a crapshoot after the top 3 or so, depending on the year.
      If it was 19 I would be OK with that too. Just not a big deal for me.

      Question – if you combine the years (they won’t) but for arguments sake, how do you determine draft order? (which is why they won’t)

      I like the idea of postponing and having 2 separate drafts next June.

      • Excellent point Ray

        Pens missing so many picks in the “current” 21 draft…. I was just hoping 😄

      • I think that raising the age for the NHL Draft from 18 to 19 would invoke legal issues for the League in the Inited States re restriction of employment opportunity for nominal adults.

        I do not see that happening.


      • Don’t forget it’s a CBA issue, meaning the NHLPA must also sign off on it. I doubt we’ll see that happen.

      • Deep down, you must be hoping the current draft age sticks, The more of a crapshoot the draft is, the better the chances of top teams (like your Bruins) of getting a player who slips through the cracks. I think the better teams deserve that opportunity, It’s sort of a high-end version of the low-end draft lottery, which voids the guarantee that the worst team wins first prize for its organizational incompetence.

        Is there a chance that raising the draft age would cause the NHL to lose players to colleges, or that young players from poorer families and poorer countries would be forced into occupations other than hockey?

      • Good point Rattus, never thought of that.
        Francis, never thought of that either! But, ya, makes sense.
        B’s ain’t gonna be good forever.

    • Howard, while they’re at it, cut the draft from seven rounds to three. Seven rounds is ridiculous. Undrafted players become free agents. The teams with great scouts will sign and develop players who will become good pros.
      The teams with bad scouts will not.
      This would be a good thing.
      Maybe the Leafs would sign the hockey equivalent of Fred Van Vleet. If only………

  6. The Hamilton and Slavin pair was brutal last night. Slavin is not up to speed after being off for Covid protocol. He can normally cover for Hamilton’s defensive play but not right now. Even Gardiner out played both of them.