NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 22, 2021

by | Jun 22, 2021 | News, NHL | 23 comments

The Lightning thump the Islanders to take a 3-2 lead in their semifinal series, updates on the Golden Knights and Canadiens, 18 players exempt from the expansion draft, the latest notable contract signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning are one game away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final after crushing the New York Islanders 8-0 in Game 5 of their semifinal series. Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn each scored twice, Nikita Kucherov collected three assists, Brayden Point scored to extend his goals streak to eight games, and Andrei Vasilevskiy turned in a 21-save shutout.

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (NHL Images).

Islanders center Mathew Barzal could face supplemental discipline from the NHL department of player safety after receiving a five-minute major and game misconduct for cross-checking Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta, who was shaken up and played just one shift in the third period.

The Lightning holds a 3-2 series lead and can wrap up the series in Game 6 Wednesday on Long Island.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That was the Lightning’s most dominating performance of these playoffs. It was also the Islanders’ worst effort of the postseason. The Bolts jumped from the gate early with three first-period goals, chasing Isles starter Semyon Varlamov from the net. Backup Ilya Sorokin didn’t fare any better, allowing five goals on 26 shots.

This loss isn’t all on the Isles goaltenders. Their teammates seemed caught off guard by the Lightning’s strong start and never really mounted much of a response.

Barzal’s frustration boiled over when he crosschecked Rutta. It could prove more costly to the Isles in Game 6 if his actions result in suspension.

LAS VEGAS SUN: The Vegas Golden Knights’ top forwards are struggling to score in their semifinal series with the Montreal Canadiens. Nicolas Roy has two goals, Mattias Janmark one, and that’s it for their scoring forwards. Their defensemen have accounted for the bulk of their offense.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens have done a good job thus far bottling up Vegas’ top scorers. They’ll have another opportunity to find a way to thwart the Habs’ tight-checking system in Game 5 tonight in Las Vegas.

TSN: Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher believes the longer this series goes the more pressure falls on the heavily favored Golden Knights. “As this series goes on, we get more and more comfortable in these situations and we’re looking forward to it. We’ve shortened this series to a best-of-three,” said Gallagher.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tonight’s game could determine the direction of this series. The winner will have a chance to close it out in Game 6 on Thursday in Montreal.

SPORTSNET: Mark Spector weighs in on the poor quality of officiating in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mark (no relation) isn’t the only pundit raising questions about the questionable calls and missed penalties in every series thus far. We can expect this issue to be raised by reporters during NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s annual postseason press conference prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma expressed concern over the recent positive COVID-19 tests of Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme and Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon. He suspects they contracted the coronavirus in Las Vegas, where transmission rates are six times higher than in Quebec as health guidelines in Vegas have gone from relaxed to non-existent.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regardless of where Ducharme and McCrimmon were infected with COVID-19, the league and the two clubs must ensure their health protocols for this series remain strictly enforced. An outbreak among the players could put their health at risk and derail their series.

CAP FRIENDLY: 18 NHL players are exempt from next month’s expansion draft due to injury or career-ending illness. They include Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler, Arizona’s Marian Hossa, Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg, Tampa Bay’s Marian Gaborik and Washington’s Henrik Lundqvist.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks re-signed forward Matt Nieto to a two-year, $1.7 million contract.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars re-signed forward Blake Comeau to a one-year, $1 million contract.

ESPN.COM: J.T. Brown has retired from professional hockey to join the expansion Seattle Kraken as a television analyst. He played seven NHL seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild from 2011-12 to 2018-19, finishing with 72 points in 365 games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Brown in his broadcasting career.

NHL.COM: Minnesota Wild assistant general manager Tom Kurvers passed away Monday from lung cancer at age 58. He was diagnosed in 2019 despite being a non-smoker.

Kurvers spent 11 NHL seasons as a defenseman with the Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, New York Islanders and Anaheim Ducks from 1984-85 to 1994-95, finishing with 421 points in 659 games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Kurvers’ family, friends, former teammates and associates, and the Wild organization.


  1. Good speech by Gallagher; but it wasn’t Montreal who shorten the series to a best of 5, it was Vegas down 2-1 and trailing in 1-0 in the third period of game 4.

    I expect 2 or 3 penalties in the early going of this contest; that if there is calls to be made.

  2. Barzal deserves a suspension given the other shenanigans having been ignored by DoPS it won’t be surprising to hear he gets nothing. The real suspensions required belong to the idiots responsible for the officiating league wide all season long. These guys need far better training and coaching. They are making a joke of the game. Something has to be done but the cowardly Uncle Gary will sweep it under the rug and distract everyone with phony promises and bs statements.

    • Thanks … Captain Obvious

  3. I cannot wait to watch any one of 5 or 6 Lightning players pummel that gutter rat Barzal …

    • doesn’t sound like you’re a big fan-

  4. The longer a series goes in any sport the more pressure there is on the favoured team.
    the underdog gains confidence and momentum while the “sure thing” questions themselves.

    Coaches and team leaders will determine which team will rise to the occasion.

    The awful officiating won’t determine the series, it’s how the teams will respond to it.

    VGK are getting more powerplay time with no goals and giving up shorthanded, while the Habs have a few powerplay goals.

    It doesn’t matter who VGK put in goal, Lehner has a glaring weakness that’s easy to exploit. A big body with less flexibility and lateral movement, he always leans in to get his paddle down to cover the 5 hole, making his blocker side wide open.

  5. Barzal crosscheck not any worse than about 100 other similar stickwork done this playoff that was not even called for 2

    • A lot does seem to be let go in the playoffs.. One penalty that was called was Brayden Point getting crossed check from behind by an Islanders defeseman at high speed in to the Islander goalie.
      Brayden Point got the penalty…what game are you watching ref !!!

  6. Re “We can expect this issue to be raised by reporters during NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s annual postseason press conference …”

    Oh it will be raised for sure. And quickly dismissed by the unctuous and nauseatingly smug Bettman. There will be as little change to the referees as there has been in so called Player Safety.

    • LJ,

      I think there will be huge change as a result of the new TV deals.

      Professional leagues in the USA have (willingly or not is debatable) have looked at player safety, the protection of star players more and more importantly as their value (cost) has risen.

      All pro sports continue to tighten up rules, including the NHL making illegal what used to be acceptable.

      While ALL pro sports tend to “let them play” more in the playoffs, the NHL has gone too far and surely the executives can see, hear and read the displeasure across the board.

      Old time hockey is just as passe as old time football, baseball and basketball.

      • I wish but doubt you are correct, Habsfan30. I point to one issue that suggests this will not be so: CTE concussions. The NFL reached an agreement with players in 2013. Yes, heavily criticize for racial bias and subsequently amended, but the key point is recognized by the NFL 8 years ago.

        The NHL in 2021? Still denying responsibility. Indeed, one of their defenses is that players could have done their own research and come to know the inherent dangers of concussion.

        One of the most sickening things I have seen Bettman do (and there is one long list) is shake his head repeatedly while answering questions under oath about CTE saying, in part “I am not a doctor.”

        Not much of a human being either. So I see little reason to think shame, honour, fairness or league reputation will move Bettman and the NHL owners any time soon, on this issue or things like piss poor officiating.

      • LJ and Ray Bark,

        The other side of the coin is that rules have changed since the early to mid 2000’s regarding head shots, boarding by the numbers and no touch icing. Fighting is discouraged now, last minute majors are costly for the player and the coach.

        You have to admit there have been major changes and my point is that it will continue on account of the new TV deal, they will demand it.

      • Do we know that cleaning it up or better officiating would improve ratings HF30? Not so sure it would.
        We didn’t realize this until the last few years, but it turns out that a significant portion of the population like being outraged, or last least keep going back for more.
        Works for Facebook, Twitter, Alphabet (Youtube), cable news etc. It’s how they keep you coming back and looking at the screen. The social media companies write algorithms to specifically do that.

        Not saying the NHL thinks that way, but it works in other media. Will be curious to see how the #’s look this year. Drama doesn’t hurt ratings IMO.

    • Maybe HF30, but I tend to agree with LJ and think it won’t change that much.
      This is the same conversation that has been had most of my life and I’m pretty old.
      Seems worse this year, agreed, but recency bias is a real thing too. Just how we are wired.
      I dunno, can’t remember.

  7. M-A Fleury the first goaltender off the ice in Vegas today.

    This usually indicates that he will be the starting goaltender for tonight’s game.

  8. While I agree that there’s been a lot of poor officiating in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, I doubt it’s worst than in most pro team sports. My complaint is as much with the players as with the officials. The increase in nasty stick work is especially prevalent. If the refs called every incident of such things as heavy whacks to the hands and other stick infractions, there would be a constant stream of players to the penalty box!

    There’s no easy answer – the return to one ref on the ice and the second ref watching from overhead, may work, with the latter only allowed to call major infractions that were missed. I just hope that the NHL never becomes as “clean” as pro soccer (football) where the refs tend to give a yellow card to anyone who as much as brushes against an opposing player or where players dive if someone touches their jersey!

    • The problem I see is they now will start calling everything and sometimes that is much worse than calling nothing.

    • Laurie, if there were a steady stream of penalties the players would stop taking them. PPs in the playoffs have increased impact. Players adjust: either by curbing their play, or as we have seen, getting pissed at being cross checked into the boards face first and then retaliating.

      One can’t expect perfect consistency but players get used to what is called in the regular season. Call the playoffs the same way.

      • Which would you rather have, a player getting away with an accidental high stick that cuts Perry open, or a brutal ticky tack call against Hedman with 1.5 minutes left and the tender pulled, down by a goal?
        2 different series and sets of refs. All judgement calls.
        Let the players decide means – don’t call anything short of egregious on an obvious scoring chance.
        Calling like the regular season means more penalties against that are ticky tack and calls that should not be penalties.
        We all see them all year.

        Which do you want?

      • Well, Ray, the alternative we have been presented with is egregious calls like the high sticking penalty on Perry and cross checks pushing players face first in the glass.

        As you are offering an either/or choice I choose calling the penalties that are called all year, into the playoffs.

        This comes with a couple of bonuses. Better player safety, and a few more power plays for both teams. IMO, a good trade off.

        And Ray, the after non called cross checks and punches to the head KK got called for one of those ticky tack penalties for a dubious stick to the hand infractions. So we seem to have the worst of situations: ticky tack calls and egregious non calls. Wonderful!

      • Fair enough LJ, and I haven’t watched every minute of each series, not even close. more than half of TB and less than half of MTL. Just the timing and B’s and Oil are out.

        If I had the answer I would give it I don’t. A guys upstairs making calls doesn’t solve the problem IMO. Different guys same judgement calls. I have always sided on let them play as in my mind it is the fairest way to do it as fewer calls means fewer mistakes just by the law of averages and it isn’t like teams don’t know what to expect going in.

        The games I watched earlier were different than regular season, but not different than was has been the case through history.

        As a B’s fan I think MTL has had the all the breaks for decades so no sympathy here!

  9. I do remember….Messier before, he became a soft soap salesman, flying off the bench at full tilt , crosschecking T Gradin in the face with no puck in sight , Gradin spitting blood and teeth, no penalty or suspension ,Gradin off to the oral surgeon for major repairs. Bobby Clarke , Ted Green and many others flailing about with their sticks drawing blood regularly and 50 % of the time nary a penalty. G Howe administering vicious elbows and crosschecks to the head of unsuspecting players as the puck was 100 feet away,,, all ignored,The league is doing a much better job of protecting the players ,,not perfect but better.