NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 18, 2021
Panthers, Avalanche games postponed by COVID past Christmas, Paul Maurice steps down as Jets coach, games recaps and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
LATEST NHL COVID-19 NEWS
NHL.COM: Rising COVID numbers have forced the league to postpone the Colorado Avalanche’s and Florida Panthers’ games past the upcoming Christmas holiday break (Dec. 24-26). The Calgary Flames’ postponements have been extended to Dec. 23.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on Saturday has been postponed due to the Bruins having seven players on the COVID protocol list.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom joined teammates Evgeni Kuznetsov and Garnet Hathaway in COVID protocol.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs forwards John Tavares, Jason Spezza, Wayne Simmonds and Alex Kerfoot went on the COVID protocol list yesterday.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Motte became the fifth player on his club to enter COVID protocol.
ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes forward Alex Galchenyuk joined Lawson Crouse and Jay Beagle in COVID protocol.
Defenseman Nick Borowiecki is the seventh Nashville Predators player to enter COVID protocol.
THE PROVINCE: Capacity at Rogers Place (the Canucks home arena) has been reduced to 50 percent until the end of January.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fans and pundits are taking to social media wondering if/when the NHL will pause its schedule because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said the league and NHLPA are in constant communication taking a team-by-team, case-by-case approach as they attempt to get through this wave of infections following medical guidelines. They’re hoping to avoid a league-wide pause which is considered a last resort.
MAURICE RESIGNS AS JETS HEAD COACH
WINNIPEG SUN: In a surprising move, Paul Maurice yesterday stepped down as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets. He’d been in the job for nearly eight years. During his press conference announcing the decision, Maurice felt the struggling Jets were a good team but needed a new voice behind the bench.
Assistant coach Paul Lowry takes over from Maurice on an interim basis for the remainder of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cynics will suggest Maurice jumped before he was pushed out of his job by management. Regardless, he handled himself well during his announcement yesterday. He praised the players and never felt they quit on him. Maurice acknowledged the club’s struggles on the ice this season and expressed his belief they could be reversed with someone new as head coach.
Maurice leaves with a solid record as Jets coach (315-223-62), guiding them to the playoffs five times and reaching the 2018 Western Conference Final.
NHL.COM: Speaking of the Jets, they lost their first game with Lowry as coach by falling 5-2 to the Washington Capitals. Alex Ovechkin scored to extend his points streak to seven games while goalie Vitek Vanecek picked up the win with a 40-save performance. Ovechkin is tied with Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid atop the scoring leader board with 47 points while the Capitals (43 points) regained top spot in the overall standings. The Jets (31 points) remain three points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think the Jets players were still coping with the surprising news of Maurice’s resignation earlier in the day. It could take a little time to adjust to their new coach.
An overtime goal by Tanner Jeannot lifted the Nashville Predators to their seventh straight win by downing the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2. The COVID-depleted Predators (39 points) were a perfect five-for-five on the penalty kill and sit one point behind the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild.
Jeff Carter’s overtime goal gave the Pittsburgh Penguins a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Kris Letang picked up two assists as the Penguins have won six straight. Sabres goalie Malcolm Subban kicked out 45 shots.
St. Louis Blues goalie Charlie Lindgren (26 saves) picked up his fifth straight win as he backstopped his club over the Dallas Stars 4-1. Vladimir Tarasenko scored two goals as the Blues (39 points) also moved within one point of the conference-leading Wild. The slumping Stars, meanwhile, have lost five straight contests.
The Arizona Coyotes squeaked past the Anaheim Ducks 6-5. Clayton Keller scored twice, including the winner in overtime. Hampus Lindholm tallied twice for the Ducks (39 points), who remain one point out of first in the Western Conference.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hands up everyone who thought the rebuilding Ducks would be jockeying for first overall in the conference at this point in the season. OK, put your hands down, you fibbers!
Seriously, though, I’m becoming more convinced to take this club seriously as a playoff contender with each passing game. Their special teams have been terrific thus far, sitting fourth overall on the power play and penalty kill.
Jonathan Marchessault’s shootout goal gave the Vegas Golden Knights a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers. The Golden Knights have won four in a row. Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider each had two points for the Rangers.
IN OTHER NEWS…
TORONTO SUN: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reduced the six-game suspension of Leafs forward Jason Spezza to four games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Spezza would’ve been able to return against the Vancouver Canucks tonight but he’s in COVID protocol.