NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 17, 2021

by | Mar 17, 2021 | News, NHL | 37 comments

Recaps of Tuesday’s action include Alex Ovechkin reaching two milestones,  the Sabres fire coach Ralph Krueger, plus the latest on Evgeni Malkin, Taylor Hall, John Gibson and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


NHL.COM: Alex Ovechkin scored his 718th career goal and reached his 1,300th career points as his Washington Capitals earned a 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders, snapping the latter’s nine-game winning streak. Nicklas Backstrom also had a goal and an assist for the Capitals, who moved ahead of the Isles into first place (42 points) in the MassMutual East Division. Ovechkin moved past Phil Esposito into sixth place on the all-time goals list and 34th on the all-time points list with 1,301.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin is now 13 goals behind Marcel Dionne, who sits fifth overall.

The Boston Bruins rode a 34-save debut by rookie goaltender Dan Vlader to a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Trent Frederic tallied the game-winner in the third period for the Bruins (34 points), who opened a three-point over the Philadelphia Flyers for fourth place in the East Division.

It was a rough game for both clubs, as Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (lower-body) and Bruins defenseman Jarred Tinordi (upper-body) left the game with injuries. Penguins forward Brandon Tanev was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for boarding Tinordi. Earlier in the day, the Penguins placed defenseman John Marino (undisclosed) on injured reserve and announced forward Teddy Blueger was sidelined longer-term with an upper-body injury.

A third-period goal by Miles Wood lifted the New Jersey Devils over the Buffalo Sabres 3-2, handing the latter their 12th straight loss. It was the Devils’ first home victory since Jan. 24. Sabres winger Taylor Hall left the game in the first period after being knocked to the ice by P.K. Subban and struck in the face by a shot from teammate Colin Miller but returned in the second to complete the game. Earlier in the day, the Devils announced captain Nico Hischier would be sidelined approximately three weeks following surgery to repair a sinus fracture.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hall was fortunate to escape serious injury. This season is the nadir of what’s been a decade of suck for the Sabres. Ownership and management seem uncertain over what to do, head coach Ralph Krueger has no solutions while the players seem to be growing more dispirited with each loss.


The Buffalo Sabres this morning fired Ralph Krueger and assistant coach Steve Smith. Don Granato replaces Krueger on an interim basis while development coaches Matt Ellis and Dan Girardi become assistant coaches. 

The Colorado Avalanche scored six unanswered goals to overcome a 4-2 deficit and double up the Anaheim Ducks 8-4. Nazem Kadri scored twice and set up two others and Devon Toews collected three assists while Philipp Grubauer got the win after replacing Hunter Miska following the first period. With 36 points, the Avs opened a three-point lead over the St. Louis Blues for third place in the Honda West Division. Earlier in the day, the Ducks announced goaltender John Gibson is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Minnesota Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen made 31 saves to shut out the Arizona Coyotes 3-0 and extending his winning streak to nine games. Ryan Hartman, Mats Zuccarello and Jared Spurgeon were the goal scorers as the Wild (37 points) sit two behind the first-place Vegas Golden Knights in the West Division.

The Tampa Bay Lightning blew a 3-1 lead but edged the Dallas Stars 4-3 on a shootout goal by Brayden Point, who also had a goal and an assist in regulation. Third-period goals by Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov forced overtime and the shootout. The win moved the Lightning (42 points) past the Florida Panthers into first place in the Discover Central Division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Quite the battle going on between the Lightning, Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes for the top spot in the Central. The rivalry between the two Florida-based franchises is getting more entertaining with the Panthers’ improvement this season.

Speaking of the Hurricanes, their eight-game win streak came to an end as they fell 4-2 to the Detroit Red Wings. Adam Erne tallied twice while teammate Filip Hronek had a goal and two assists for the Wings. Jonathan Bernier kicked out 35 shots for the win. The Hurricanes (41 points) are one behind the Lightning and Panthers in the Central. Earlier in the day, the Wings announced forward Bobby Ryan is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.


THE SCORE: Former Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford admitted he attempted to reacquire goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights during the offseason. He said one of the reasons behind the decision to buy out defenseman Jack Johnson was to clear cap space for Fleury.

Rutherford also said he inquired into Fleury’s availability while the Golden Knights were still in the playoffs. The trade discussions were never deeply involved because of the salary-cap difficulties in acquiring Fleury.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt we’ll see Rutherford’s successor Ron Hextall pursuing Fleury. The cap issues remain but Hextall wants to take the club in a different direction by focusing on younger players.

Speaking of the Golden Knights, they’ve activated goalie Robin Lehner off injured reserve. He’d been sidelined since Feb. 7 with a lower-body injury.


  1. Happy St. Patty’s day one and all ☘️☘️☘️☘️

    I was hoping going into these B2B games with Bruins that Pens would remain just as far ahead ; if not more

    Split of games…. 👍👍👍, 2 points each; so no change

    Kudos to Vlad …. great job…. .971…. looking good for Bruins future👍👍

    But DeSmith only had 2 on him; one was a PPG and both were screens and he was .939 on the night so very good as well👍👍👍

    Hope Gino not out for more than last two periods of last night🙏🤞🙏🤞

    Also hope Tinordi is ok…. tough awkward fall🙏🤞🙏🤞

    Without peeving off my Bruins colleagues here…. in no way was that a major

    Not by any stretch

    Once it is called; they can drop it to 2 ; but that’s it…. so 2 mins should have been it

    However…. should it have been called any penalty at all?

    I did some google searches just now

    Per NBC sports

    “the NHL generally uses a time period (usually around 0.8 seconds) for what it determines to be a late hit “

    so no late hit for sure


    “A boarding penalty can be issued for violently contacting defenseless player and forcing them into the boards typically deemed by
    * Back turned away from the play and contact with defenceless player within approximately five feet of the boards; and/or
    * Player no longer has the puck (usually after approximately 0.8 seconds of release”

    It was a body to body contact with Tinordi’s chest ; not from behind

    Per broadcast…. elapsed time was 0.53 seconds; and distance from boards when Tanev made contact… “just over 10 feet from boards”

    Now …. the 5 minute penalty resulted in no goals and actually bolstered a bit of confidence in Pens

    Had Bruins scored a couple of goals on the play I think there would have been a media sh%#^tstorm

    Again no bearing on game and Bruins outplayed (IMHO) the Pens and truly deserved the V…. no issues from me at all re outcome of game

    What irks me to no end is the refs reviewed the hit and got it wrong

    Remember, the closest ref , less than 10’ away , AND looking straight at the contact; looking RIGHT AT IT; did NOT call a penalty. The penalty was called from the ref who was 50’ away and at an angle

    Video review gave them an opportunity to reduce it to 2 mins (by rule they cannot overturn and make it no penalty) …. and they blew it, badly

    Again…. no impact on the game outcome…. but it certainly could have been

    Consistency is all the players ask for

    Consistency is not happening throughout the league; even within these new “mini-series” of 2-4 games; but even more so; inconsistency throughout individual games is rampant

    Hoping for the luck of the Irish for the rest of the season for both Leafs and Pens


    Go Leafs Go
    Go Pens Go

    • As a Bruins fan, I agree that the call against Tanev was bogus. The hit itself was something made in every game…it was unfortunate Tinordi’s footing wasn’t great and he went awkwardly into the boards.

      With that said, if Tanev had stayed in the game he still would have been a target for retribution. The refs may have saved him from a repeat of this…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GsRbKluIxg

    • Pengy for you:

      Rule 42 – Boarding 42.1 Boarding – A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards. The severity of the penalty, based upon the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee. There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the Referees. The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a vulnerable position and if so, he must avoid the contact. However, there is also a responsibility on the player with the puck to avoid placing himself in a dangerous and vulnerable position. This balance must be considered by the Referees when applying this rule. Any unnecessary contact with a player playing the puck on an obvious “icing” or “off-side” play which results in that player being knocked into the boards is “boarding” and must be penalized as such. In other instances where there is no contact with the boards, it should be treated as “charging.” 42

      • Hi Caper

        Yes read that and as they read it out last night and pointed out re

        “ The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a vulnerable position and if so, he must avoid the contact. “

        1) they said no onus on vulnerability as contact was made 0.53 seconds after puck release by Tinordi …. and rule of thumb is 0.8 Seconds… so N/A

        2) Not into boards (regular rule of thumb they quoted as 5’ and this was over 10 ‘ from boards) … so N/A

        3) Contact with boards was after Tinordi had hit the ice… then slid; so N/A

        The key point they kept making was that the closest ref … almost within arms length of the play, and looking straight at the hit did not see it as a penalty; the commentators didn’t see it as a penalty; and I concur with their assertion

        I am only looking at this objectively

        From that criteria… no penalty…. but once the major was called; it can only be reduced to a minor

        I don’t have issue with the new Pavelski rule….being safe; call a major; then review and have the risk of being wrong and wrongfully penalizing a team for up to 2 minutes

        Safety first… totally good with that

        What I do take issue with is the one far ref effectively bullying his call to over-ride the closer refs viewpoint AND maintain the major even though it wasn’t

        No harm no foul as it in no way made a difference in the outcome…. but could have (cite Pavelski craziness and Sharks advancing over a complete blown call)

        Consistency is all that the players want

        This game alone had two flagrant non calls and two phantom minors (1 of each for both Bruins and Pens)

        That is same game inconsistency

        Throughout this season very often B2Bs or sometimes 3 games in a row have same 4 men in stripes; and not consistent in each of those games

        Then big differences reffing crew to reffing crew

      • Pengy actually the rule is as written, i don’t believe you seen anything in there about time.

        So your reply is inaccurate.

  2. Re Jimbo and

    “ He said one of the reasons behind the decision to buy out defenseman Jack Johnson was to clear cap space for Fleury.”

    Ummmm … the only reason he should give is…. “JJ was bought out because he made the entire team worse and I made a stupendously brutal error in originally signing him and an even bigger error in not buying him out last year”

  3. Joe – better get that sniffer checked – that Boston-Pittsburgh game was as far from a 7-6 romp as one could be.

  4. Tanev shouldn’t have gotten a minor penalty for that hit never mind a major and a game.

    If anything the Bruins should have gotten a penalty for hunting down Tanev.

    Fighting is up 46% this year and while part of it might be the higher intensity/rivalry of the schedule, I have a strong feeling that referee and DOPS inconsistency is a bigger part.

    Sidney Crosby tends to be a whiner but he’s 100% correct in saying : “I hope (Tinordi) is OK. I hope as players we get some clarity on what’s a good hit and what’s not,” Crosby said. “It’s tough to really gauge when you’re out there. I know it’s fast, but right now, it’s really hard to know what is, in fact, clean and what’s not. And when you’re out there playing, it’s important that you do know that.”

    • habfan, back in the antidoluvian era of the 6 team league, when teams faced each other 14 times a season – often back-to-back – there were lots of fights as a result of “grudges” being dealt with. I think that’s part of why we’re seeing more now as you state.

      • The players may also be feeling “COVID Fatigue” like the rest of us.

        If my job allowed it, I’d probably punch people in the face at a much higher rate than normal right now, especially if my only punishment was to go sit quietly in a room for five minutes.

      • George,
        What you’re saying seems intuitively correct but stats show that fights per game were lower in the 6 team NHL than later on.

        Refs and linesmen were different in those days, commanding respect and strong enough to break up fights.

        I think Crosby said out loud what most players and fans are saying….what’s clean and what’s not

      • Thanks for that DM. Made my morning.

      • habsfan30 & George, I’m just guessing, but the reason for fewer fights back in the day might be that players weren’t wearing helmets and visors. I think you would find fewer “tough guys” sticking their nose in and taking liberties without that protection. If they had to deal with Reaves or Gudbranson without even a lid and risked getting punched in the face repeatedly and the back of your head bouncing off the ice, they might be less likely to take liberties with guys.

        I am not saying players shouldn’t wear helmets and visors, but perhaps just unintended consequences. Fights where a guy actually get pays a price like Khaira against Ritchie the other day, are rare.

        Hence the retaliation usually isn’t a big deterrent.

      • Ray Bark,

        Goalies were playing without masks, D men without helmets and visors were blocking shots , I seriously doubt they were afraid to fight.

        Fergy broke Nesterenko’s nose every year (exaggeration), Bobby Hull’s jaw, Ted Green was dangerous before his stick swinging fight with Wayne Maki (12 team league). Eddie Shack would fight anybody, the fights in those days frequently left blood on the ice.

        FYI in the 6 team NHL a fight didn’t end when one or both players went to the ice, they kept punching- not justifying or nostalgic for those days, but players weren’t afraid of getting hurt.

      • I think you just made my point for me habsfan30.
        I didn’t say the guys you mentioned were afraid so please don’t say I did. I was saying the opposite.
        I will try this again in case I didn’t communicate it properly:
        What I am saying is guys TODAY would be more hesitant to run guys or take liberties if they didn’t have the protection they have TODAY. If they had the same equipment as the guys you mention perhaps the guys TODAY wouldn’t run around and be willing to fight a guy when the other team tries to make you pay the price for your dirty hit.

        You said there were fewer fights then, I gave a theory as to why vs the refs were stronger and had more respect.

      • Ray Bark,
        As I said to George, intuitively one would expect more fights in the 6 team NHL.

        Rules were different, no third man ejection, bench clearing brawls were happening, teams had an assortment of tough guys and stars could fight.

        Gordie Howe famously beat the NYR enforcer Lou Fontinato and hospitalized him.

        Fighting did drop with the rule changes and suspensions but my point is that fighting is up 46% over last year.

        I’m looking at the disparity between last and this year and suggesting that the inconsistency is fomenting frontier justice.

      • Could be Habsfan, I think playing the same teams so often over the course of a short period of time is driving up nasty as well.

        Interesting trivia question is who had the most fights of the best of all time players – Howe, Orr, Gretzky, Lemieux. Most say Howe, but was actually Orr.

        Another reason for best of all time!

      • Ray Bark,
        Gretzky and Lemieux didn’t fight, Orr was challenged a lot in his early years, considered a pretty boy, but man could he fight.

        Look up Orr vs Pat Quinn, you’ll see Bobby pounding Quinn when he was on top of him on the ice. Different era, different kind of tough.

        Fully agree with you that Bobby was the greatest of all time.

    • Crosby has not been a whiner for many many years. Funny how his first couple of season has stuck through out his career.

      As far as the hit. I have a big problem with it. Tanev skated the width of the ice to deliver the hit.

      The absolute lack of response by any Bruin player on the ice is disgusting! I don’t care of you think it was clean or not; If i’m on the ice and i see a guy skating the width of the ice to hit an unsuspected teammate; I’m coming after you and no not to just grab your sweater.

      • Is there a limit to how far a player can skate before hitting a player who’s carrying the puck?

  5. Krueger fired

    • dont know enough about Krueger
      but seeing how he took over a bad Oilers team who got even worse when he left and handed a mess of a Buffalo squad i wonder how much is on him

      i forgot he coached Taylor Hall early on

      • He didn’t get much of a chance in Edmonton ds. It was the lockout shortened season. 45 pts in 48 games. But ya, they were a better team then the years before, and better than the 2 years following. The young guys made progress.
        Turfed him (by video conference) for Eakins who wasn’t ready and it got worse.

        What’s going on in Buffalo? I have no idea, but the culture obviously isn’t good. Where that responsibility lands? That’s the question.
        But when you change GM’s a few times, coaches a few more times than that, and it is still the same? Perhaps they aren’t the problem.

      • He was also a such a good coach of the Swiss team at the Olympics that Hockey Canada hired him for the 2014 Olympics. He also coached Team Europe in the World series of hockey where they over-performed before losing to Team Canada in the final. He also wrote a book on hockey and leadership, in German, which is well regarded in Europe.

        It is thus a shame he got fired but really, who could do better with the mess that is Buffalo? Tim Murray and Jason Botterill were disasters as GMs and once you get past them you have the Pegulas as owners. A poor team that gutted their scouting department. What more needs to be said about the Gong Show Krueger had to deal with?

  6. Plenty of unemployed coaches out there with long track records of success but I doubt the Sabres spend the money to bring one in. They still have Krueger on contract for another season.
    I’d love to see Bruce Boudreau behind the Leaf bench at some point but maybe we could lease him to Buffalo for a while.

    • If there was ever a man who deserved to be coach of the Leafs, it’s surely Gabby. One of my favorites of all time. I believe he’d do it for minimum wage.

  7. Makes no sense to hire a big name now. They’re out of it. As mentioned by ds, he had ties to Taylor Hall. Wonder how this effects his future in Buffalo. Probably moving on.

    • Hall moving on would be a good thing for Buffalo… so would Eichel, Skinner, Ristoleinen, Reinhart, Montour, etc. Reset needed with a competent GM calling the shots … Rutherford?

      Malkin didn’t want to play last night, the hit wasn’t that bad at all … and the earlier post is spot on, the only reason the refs decided to banish Tanev was that they didn’t want a war … and the Pens would have lost that battle for sure … Pens are as soft as mr. Whipple;s toilet paper …

  8. Dubais should resign and take on a Vice President, director of operations, GM, whatever in Buffalo , and have the owners full support ….
    Take Keefe with him ..
    I am sure he would do well .. He made far too many mistakes in Toronto , and I am sure he has learned from them …
    I believe he has a very large “ego” which in time , will humble with maturity ..
    Leafs have Mark Hunter ,chomping at the bit , to have his job in Toronto , and rightfully SO
    Hunter can bring in his own coach , as well ..,

    • Hunter was a disaster as a talent evaluator for Leafs. My mother would have drafted Marner. He crapped out on all drafts he was a part of. Thats why he still hasn’t made GM.

      Again, facts are important.

    • Hey Ken, unbelievably Wendel has a valid point for once, why hasn’t Mark Hunter been offered a GM gig since he was asked or left the Leafs? If his fans can shed light why clearly there are inferior GMs employed in the NHL and he hasn’t had even been offered or got one yet.

  9. No no no no Don’t fire Krueger until after the two Bruins game. Boston needs these easy wins, don’t need to play a team with an emotional lift.

  10. Caper -Lol

    Boston knocked off Pittsburgh last night, as U well know..
    Boston needs to tweak their lineup , Ekholm perhaps

    • Ken, Ekholm would be a nice add; however, i believe they need offense first.

      Debrusk for Virtanen, lets start there.

  11. Buffalo is a management issue apparently starting from the top down,

    CEO and President are out of their depth and its downhill from there.

    They are willing to spend money on players, witness the boatload of overpays.

    Clearly their professional scouting doesn’t exist though their organizational chart shows a boatload of scouts but its half the number of Habs and TML scouts.

    The largesse in spending on the players is matched with frugality in the management team

  12. Tanev being tossed saved him from getting his lights punched out by Frederic again.