NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 19, 2023
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.
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.