NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 22, 2022
The Avalanche take a 2-1 series lead over the Blues but each club loses a key player to injuries, the Penguins sign Bryan Rust to a contract extension, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Colorado Avalanche regained the lead in their second-round series with the St. Louis Blues with a 5-2 victory in Game 3. Artturi Lehkonen scored twice, including what proved to be the game-winning goal in the second period. Nazem Kadri and Mikko Rantanen each collected two points while Ryan O’Reilly had a goal and an assist for the Blues.
Each team lost a key player to injuries during this contest.
Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard is out for the playoffs after suffering a broken sternum early in the first period when he was checked into the boards behind his own net by Ivan Barbashev.
Later in the period, Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington left the game with a suspected knee sprain following a collision with Kadri. Ville Husso replaced him and made 19 saves on 23 shots. During a post-game interview, Kadri accused Binnington of throwing a water bottle at him.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kadri has earned suspensions for undisciplined play in recent postseasons. In this instance, however, there was no intent to injure or to run Binnington and no penalty call on the play. He was driving for the net and reaching for the puck when he inadvertently collided with Binnington and Blues defenseman Calle Rosen.
Losing Binnington could be a big blow for the Blues. He won four of his last five starts and played a key role in his club’s first-round elimination of the Minnesota Wild and their bounce-back win in Game 2 of this series.
The Avalanche will feel Girard’s absence. He had three points in seven games this postseason while playing on their second defense pairing.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Bryan Rust won’t be testing this summer’s unrestricted free agent market. On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Penguin announced they’d signed the 30-year-old winger to a six-year contract extension worth an annual average value of $5.125 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rust has flourished skating alongside Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel on the Penguins’ top line. He’s reached or exceeded 22 goals in the last three seasons and netted over 50 points in two of the last three.
Rust was earning $3.5 million annually on a four-year deal. His raise is a reasonable rate that reflects market value, though the six years is a little long for a 30-year-old forward with an injury history. Cap Friendly indicates this signing leaves the Penguins with $58.5 million invested in 15 players for 2022-23 with Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang as their notable remaining unrestricted free agents.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers need more from their best players, especially on the power play, if they hope to overcome their 2-0 series deficit to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The rivalry between the Panthers and Lightning hasn’t generated much passion or heat between the fan bases of both clubs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I chalk that up in part to what’s been a disappointing series thus far in terms of excitement compared to when these two clubs tangled in the opening round of last year’s playoffs. The Lightning has successfully shut down the Panthers’ vaunted offense with a grinding defensive style that has also sucked much of the life out of this series.
THE ATHLETIC’s Joe Smith reports Lightning coach Jon Cooper said center Brayden Point (lower body) will remain sidelined for Game 3 today against the Panthers. He’s uncertain if Point will return for this series. He suffered the injury in Game 7 of their first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
CALGARY SUN: Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom promises to improve his performance as his club’s second-round series against the Oilers shifted to Edmonton for Game 3 on Sunday. The Vezina Trophy finalist allowed 11 goals in the first two games, compared to allowing that many during the entire seven-game opening-round series against the Dallas Stars.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s not just Markstrom who must be better. The Flames’ usually solid defensive game vanished during those two games against the Oilers.
NEWSOBSERVER.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes’ third defense pairing of Brendan Smith and Ian Cole have made their presence felt in their club’s second-round series against the New York Rangers.
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers hope to open up their offense more in Game 3 to avoid falling behind 3-0 in the series against the Hurricanes. They’ve been limited to just one goal thus far.