NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 19, 2023

by | Apr 19, 2023 | News, NHL | 24 comments

Recaps of Tuesday’s playoff action feature the Kraken’s first-ever playoff win, Connor Bedard topping Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American prospects, plus the latest on Patrice Bergeron, Joe Pavelski and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: The Seattle Kraken made franchise history with their first playoff game win by upsetting the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche 3-1 in Game 1 of their best-of-seven first-round series. Eeli Tolvanen opened the scoring with the Kraken’s first-ever postseason goal, Alex Wennberg tallied the game-winner and former Colorado goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 34 saves against his former club. Mikko Rantanen replied for the Avalanche.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big win for the Kraken and one that was well-deserved. They took the early lead, didn’t get rattled when the Avalanche tied it, gained confidence from Grubauer’s solid play and Wenneberg’s tie-breaker, and worked hard throughout this contest.

New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider (NHL Images).

The New York Rangers spanked the New Jersey Devils 5-1 in Game 1 of their opening-round series. Chris Kreider scored twice to set a franchise record for most playoff goals with 36 while Adam Fox collected four assists to tie a franchise record for most assists in one playoff game. Devils forward Jack Hughes scored his first-ever playoff goal on a penalty shot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The young Devils got schooled in this contest by the experienced Rangers. The Blueshirts neutralized their opponent’s power play, successfully killing off four penalties. Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin was also sharp in this game, making several key saves.

Brayden Point scored twice, Nikita Kucherov collected three points and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 28 shots as the Tampa Bay Lightning thumped the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-3 in Game 1 of their opening-round series. Mitch Marner assisted on all three Leafs’ goals while goalie Ilya Samsonov got the hook after giving up six goals on 29 shots through two periods.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning got the win despite losing defensemen Victor Hedman and Erik Cernak and forward Michael Eyssimont to upper-body injuries. An update on their conditions could be announced today. Leafs winger Michael Bunting received a match penalty for an illegal hit to the head on Cernak and has a hearing with the league today which could result in a suspension for at least Game 2 on Thursday.

The Leafs crapped the bed in this contest. There’s no other way to put it. Yes, there were some questionable calls by the officiating (though the Bunting call was undeniably the correct one) but the Leafs were their own worst enemies once again. They have plenty of time to right the ship and win this series but another poor effort against the former champions in Game 2 could be devastating.

Winnipeg Jets winger Blake Wheeler had a goal and two assists in a 5-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of their first-round series. Adam Lowry scored twice while Connor Hellebuyck made 16 saves for the win. William Karlsson replied for the Golden Knights. Jets’ forward Morgan Barron received 75 stitches to his face after being accidentally sliced by the skate of Vegas goalie Laurent Brossoit but returned to finish the game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets’ best players have to step up if they hope to win this series and they certainly did so in this game. Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois staked them to an early 2-0 lead, Wheeler led by example and Hellebucyk was solid even though he faced a lighter workload. They also drew inspiration from Barron’s return from that gruesome injury. The Golden Knights seemed nervous in this one, making too many mistakes that proved costly.


NHL.COM: Regina Pats center Connor Bedard topped Central Scouting’s final rankings of the 2023 North American skaters. He finished this WHL season with 143 points in 57 games.

Hobey Baker Award winner Adam Fantilli of the University of Michigan and center William Smith of the USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (USNTDP) finished second and third among North American skaters

Center Leo Carlsson of Orebro in the Swedish Hockey League is ranked as the top international skater. Right wing Matvei Michkov of KHL club SKA St. Petersburg and center Dalibor Dvorsky of AIK in Sweden finished second and third.

The 2023 NHL Draft is scheduled for June 28-29 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bedard is considered the top overall prospect and expected to be chosen first overall in this year’s draft by whichever team wins the NHL Draft Lottery scheduled for May 8.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron (stomach flu, upper-body injury) remains questionable for Game 2 tonight against the Florida Panthers. The Bruins hold a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars head coach Peter DeBoer is uncertain if winger Joe Pavelski will be able to play in Game 2 tonight against the Minnesota Wild. Pavelski left Game 1 following a high hit by Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, who received a minor penalty and will not face supplemental discipline. The Wild lead the series 1-0.

CBS SPORTS: Los Angeles Kings forward Gabriel Vilardi declared himself good to go for Game 2 tonight against the Edmonton Oilers after missing the first game with an upper-body injury. The Kings hold a 1-0 lead in this series.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom turned down an invitation to play for Sweden in next month’s IIHF World Championships. He’s prioritizing his offseason training after missing half the season recovering from hip surgery.

THE PROVINCE: A broken foot suffered during last year’s World Championships hampered Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson this season, particularly his defensive game. It affected his offseason training, putting him behind schedule and limiting his mobility and agility. He’s looking forward to a healthier offseason and being in better shape for training camp in September.

DAILY FACEOFF: Former NHL winger Nigel Dawes has announced his retirement at age 38. He spent five seasons with the New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames, Atlanta Thrashers and Montreal Canadiens from 2006-07 to 2010-22, totaling 39 goals and 84 points in 212 NHL games.

Dawes went on to spend 10 seasons in the KHL, becoming one of the highest scorers in that league’s history, followed by two seasons with the Mannheim Eagles in Germany’s elite league.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Dawes in his future endeavors.


  1. 5 pp goals in the 2nd period !!

    When Nylander made it 2-3 midway through the 2nd with the Leafs’ second straight pp goal my initial thought was, here we go again with another TB fizz-out of the type that dogged them down the stretch.

    But then the Leafs began their parade to the penalty box and no matter who they put out there on the pk, they looked as lost as Samsonov.

    Now the question is, who starts tomorrow? Samsonov or the rookie Woll?

    In the end though, it’s just one game – shake it off – still lots of hockey left.

    • Oh I think Samsonov starts again. If he lays an egg one more time they will switch it up.

      They can blame goaltending as much as they want but that coaching for the Leafs was ATROCIOUS. Keefe seemed intent on trying to play a few chess moves ahead of Cooper instead of just sticking to his own strategy. He needs to settle down.

  2. As a Bruin fan I could not help but smile at the leaf loss mostly because of all the media hype for them 34 was invisible last night Samsonov had a bad night should get gm 2 to right ship.

  3. Some thoughts about the Toronto/Tampa game:

    I thought that there were some questionable ticky-tack calls made both ways that led to all the PP goals. The refs may have had a worse game than Toronto did. I expect game 2 to be different. But the call on Bunting was the correct one.

    I wonder how badly Hedmann and Cernak are hurt. Tampa’s chances are tied to their return to the lineup.

    I have no idea who starts in net for the Leafs in game 2 – although I am guessing Samsonov.

    Bunting will certainly be suspended for at least one game, quite possibly more. And will Keefe put him back in the lineup after he returns ?

    I was surprised how poorly Toronto played, but it is only one game. I expect much better play in game two.

    Six of eight higher seed home teams lose game one – I did not see that coming.

    • @Iago RE: 6 of 8 higher seeds lose game one.
      Last night 3 of the top 5 goalies in the league won. Sorokin has enough to steal a few himself and the Dallas-Wild series with Oettinger should go 7.

      At least Toronto can continue to blame the net for their playoff woes. and no Freddy did not lose that series for them

      • I agree ds – Freddy never lost anything for the Leafs. In fact, he had one of the best netminding seasons I ever saw. Toronto was giving up scoring chances like candy on Halloween, and Freddy singlehandedly kept them in games. But he was left hanging out to dry as the scapegoat.

  4. If Hedman returns healty, I honnestly think Tampa will take this series just like I did before it started and why ? Exactly because of this, the goaltenting, Samsonov and Woll are no match for Vasilevsky and as for the rest of the teams, TB doesn’t have much to envy from the Leafs. Yes the Leafs have better offence, but Tampa has a better D and G.

    Toronto fans might be in line for another bad surprise

  5. I thought the McCabe hit was questionable and worthy of a penalty.

    The call on Schenn, that was bad, no way was it a penalty.

    I was listening the The NhL on sirius xm and the guy says Toronto has better forwards and better defensemen then Tampa… I’m like better defense then TB….. who on Toronto d is better then Hedman, Cernak and Sergachev?

    I don’t think Toronto has the D or goaltending to beat Tampa.

    Is Bunting Kadri 2.0 good player but some times causes more harm then good.

    The Vegas game vs Jets, never really looked in jeopardy for Winnipeg. Winnipeg will win this series.

    Scary incident for Morgan Barron 74 stitches around his right eye. It could’ve been so much worst.

    after 1 game, home teams are 2-6 which home team(s) will not advance to the second round?

    Of course it’s not do or die tonight but this is an important game for the Oilers, will Phillip Danault continue to shut down McDavid?

    Playoff hockey, kinda got watch the Dallas, Minny game.

    • @caper
      yeah the minn-dallas is a great watch especially without a horse involved in the outcome.

      LA with 2 top 10 Selke centers

      • Ya, LA is good. But so are the Oil. I think McDavid has a game tonight. Kinda how he rolls of late. Oilers outplayed LA for 50 minutes in game one. Stay out of the box and should be OK. You just hate to “give one away”, which they did.

        Great to see WPG have a good start to the series, and it’s like they “stole” one, or it was won by the tender standing on his head.

        They outplayed them all over and all game. I thought they had a shot, but that was a thumping, which surprised me.

      • Ray, no Winnipeg didn’t steal one, they were just the better team.

        Winnipeg if all pulling in the same direction and putting in 100% effort. They will win this series.

        Up front Winnipeg has more high end talent; Vegas has more depth.

        Ray in the playoffs last year against the Kings shutdown McDavid, then the next game McDavid and the Oilers thumped the Kings 5-0. That series is far from over.

      • Correct Caper, I now see I typo’d that. Should have read “it’s not like”.

        At least I got the next paragraph right!

        Jets Oilers in WCF!

    • Bunting certainly seems to suffer from Terminal Brain Farts.

      • Khadri V.2.

  6. I would start Samsonov in game 2.
    Have a look at those first 3 goals.
    There is no way I blame the tender for those and you’re letting the rest of the team off the hook.

    Leafs lost the battles out front when they had TB outnumbered. How many rebounds and screened tips is he supposed to stop?

    One timer shelf, through a screen (maybe deflected?) from Kucherov?

    Too many goals went in, I get it, but blaming the tender who played well all year is exactly the wrong way to go. The team let him down, not the other way around. Back your guy.

    TB’s beat up on the back end, if the Leaf’s lose this time around?? Yikes.

    I think they wake up and take this series. If not, the soft label will be proven true.

    • Ray when the 4th line scores on you, you’re not doing your job or you’re doing it poorly. Skaters or goalie, poor play, sloppy and neither showed any purpose.

      I like what Keefe said regarding nerves or pressure in that, those don’t have anything to do with stopping a guy skate from behind the goal line to come out front for an eventual goal or controlling possession of loose pucks around the net.

      Bad game.

      Also last night, didn’t all the home teams lose their game ones? Weird stat if so.

  7. Watched the Toronto game last night and that McCabe hit should absolutely be reviewed as that was another hit to the head.
    I found myself chuckling a bit, I guess Lehkonen has inherited the job of “Accidently” running into goalies, as he flat took Grubauer out on one play.
    Amazing that the 2016 Lake Erie Monsters and Colorado Avalanche both had players who “Accidently” ran into opponents goalies.

    Good to see Grubauer was not injured.

  8. The goaltending was bad for sure but I also noticed how out coached the Leafs were. Keefe was so worried early on he forgot to get the big guns out. Also Tampa was a way deeper set of forwards .

    If Headman is out Leafs will win Tampa already very thin on D

  9. Not sure how Bunting’s hit was Game Misconduct, and Dumbo (yes, I spelled that right) was only a two minute minor and no further discipline. I get that it’s the head that was targeted by Bunting, but the “Close to late” ruling is BS

    • Dumba didn’t hit Pavelski in the head. Bunting targeted the head.

    • Starsfan it was a bit of a high hit but I don’t think it was intentionally dirty. I don’t think he was expecting the hit. There’s no way of knowing for sure but it seems like Bunting was taking the initiative to hit before getting hit (TB’s game plan when Leafs were in and around the net and lose pucks) which it seems to look like what his thinking was going to happen as both players were going to go after the lose puck.

      The McCabe hit was a thing of beauty, clean and the type of hits that should be allowed. The initial point of contact was the chest and unfortunately the whiplash caused by the hit made inconsequential contact to his head area.

      The refs needed to do a better job. Period. The Perry goal I can’t understand that call since on the replay, you see the puck between the post and the skate…the posts are where the goal line is so by logic, if it’s not past the post, it can’t be past the line. I guess the refs could still see the puck though the post hence no whistle to stop play allowing Perry to push it in? I don’t get that one…the rest of the calls made allowed TB to score 4 goals the exact number of goals they won by.

    • 3 games for Bunting – well deserved.

  10. The Tampa Bay Lightning just gave everyone a reminder. “we’re still here.”

    I seen and read all the predictions of how’s it Toronto time and they’re the better team.

    Toronto isn’t winning anything with that defense and goaltending.

    Toronto best hope is Hedman and Cernak injuries. And both teams to stay out of the penalty box.

    Don’t under estimate Tampa Bay they still have some high end talent.

    • That’s true Caper, it seemed like everyone forgot that TB is trying to make it 4 straight trip to the final dance. My favorite headline I saw was “ Maple Leafs, given reality check by the Lightning…” I don’t think or at least hope the Leafs weren’t buying all the media hype that I don’t think there was one that gave TB any credit but to say the Leafs got the reality check is a big old pile of hypocritical turd sandwich.

      All this teams now are so close to each other and the margins for error are tiny. This is where the adage of anything can happen in the playoffs has truth in most cases – it’s because the teams now are so closely matched.

      If the Leafs can’t do it this year and they won’t ever…especially if they continue to play like they have in game one, not against TB or anyone else.