NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 25, 2023

by | Apr 25, 2023 | News, NHL | 40 comments

The Leafs rally to push the Lightning to the brink of elimination, the Golden Knights are in the driver’s seat in their series with the Jets and the Kraken and Devils tie their respective series at two games apiece. Details and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.


NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs overcame a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-4 in Game 4 of their best-of-seven first-round series. Auston Matthews scored twice to start the rally in the third period, Morgan Rielly tallied the tying goal and Alex Kerfoot scored the winning goal in overtime. Alex Killorn scored twice for the Lightning, who are now down 3-1 in the series and on the brink of elimination as the series returns to Toronto for Game 5 on Thursday.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tampa Bay was in full control of this game entering the third period but seemed to run out of gas against the Leafs’ determined push. The Lightning lacks the depth that carried them to three straight Stanley Cup Finals and two championships and it showed in that period.

Toronto was in this position two years ago but fell in seven games to an underdog Montreal Canadiens team. This year, however, I think it’s going to be a different outcome. This is a deeper, more mature Leafs roster with the presence of a proven playoff performer like Ryan O’Reilly (seven points in four games) making a difference in key situations.

Vegas Golden Knights forward Brett Howden scored twice in a 4-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Shea Theodore and Chandler Stephenson each collected two assists for the Golden Knights as they take a 3-1 series lead back to Vegas on Thursday. Blake Wheeler had a goal and an assist for the Jets, who also lost center Mark Scheifele with an injured hand in the first period. He’ll be re-evaluated on Tuesday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The injury-depleted Jets are in a deep hole against a healthier, deeper Golden Knights roster. Winnipeg defenseman Josh Morrissey is done for the series with a lower-body injury while winger Nikolaj Ehlers remains sidelined by an upper-body injury. Scheifele’s injury could be the final nail in their playoff coffin.

An overtime goal by Jordan Eberle lifted the Seattle Kraken over the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 to tie their series at two games apiece. The Kraken took a 2-0 lead on goals by Will Borgen and Daniel Sprong but Mikko Rantanen scored twice for the Avalanche to tie the game. Seattle forward Jared McCann left the game in the first period after a late hit from Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar, who claimed he was unsure whether the puck was still in play when he hit McCann. This series resumed in Denver for Game 5 on Wednesday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A weak attempt by Makar to explain away this uncharacteristic late hit on his part. The puck was going out of play when the incident occurred. The on-ice officials initially assessed a major penalty but changed it to a two-minute minor in yet another example of the plethora of puzzling calls in every series of this round.

The New Jersey Devils evened their series with the New York Rangers at two games apiece with a 3-1 win in Game 4. Jack Hughes, Jonas Siegenthaler and Ondrej Palat scored while Akira Schmid stopped 22 shots for the win. Vincent Trocheck replied for the Rangers. This series returns to New Jersey for Game 5 on Thursday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers seemed headed for a sweep after dominating New Jersey in the first two games. However, the Devils did a fine job shutting down the Blueshirts’ offense by limiting them to just two goals in the next two games. Schmid’s steady goaltending seems to be a calming influence on his teammates.


NHL.COM: The department of player safety fined Florida Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk $5,000.00 for cross-checking Boston Bruins forward Garnet Hathaway during Game 4 of their first-round series on Sunday.

Speaking of the Bruins, captain Patrice Bergeron could make his series debut in Game 5 on Wednesday. He missed every game thus far with an upper-body injury. Center David Krejci could miss his third straight game with an upper-body injury.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars winger Joe Pavelski resumed skating with several teammates on Monday for the first time since suffering a concussion in Game 1 of their series against the Minnesota Wild. There remains no timetable for his return to action.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Wild, meanwhile, needs more production from scorers Kirill Kaprizov and Matt Boldy. Kaprizov has scored only once while Boldy is still seeking his first goal of this series.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Will it be Stuart Skinner or Jack Campbell in goal for the Oilers in Game 5 tonight against the Los Angeles Kings? Skinner got the start in every game of this series but Campbell took over after the first period in Game 4 with his club down 3-0 and backstopped them to a 5-4 series-tying overtime win.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Campbell earned the start based on his solid play in Game 4 but they’ll probably return with Skinner for Game 5.

NEW YORK POST: The Islanders must do a better job of capitalizing on their scoring chances against the Carolina Hurricanes, especially on rebounds. The Isles are down 3-1 in this series and could be eliminated by the Hurricanes tonight.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames signed forward Walker Duehr to a two-year contract extension worth $825K.

NHL.COM: Justin Braun announced his retirement after 13 NHL seasons. The 36-year-old defenseman had 34 goals and 199 points in 842 regular-season games between 2010-11 and 2022-23 with the San Jose Sharks, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers. He also had three goals and 16 points in 119 playoff games and reached the 2016 Stanley Cup Final with the Sharks.

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


  1. As I posted yesterday … maybe in 5.

    When you blow a 4-1 lead with half a period to go and, supposedly, the best goalie in the league in your nets, that’s a sure indication that something is wrong in Mudville.

    • George, last week I made a joke about 4-1 being the scariest lead in hockey, but I’ve reconsidered. As Jim Ralph said last night Tampa blew the same lead with players better than James Reimer and Matt Fratten on the ice. Was nice to see Matthews turn that game around, he can play in the playoffs, they look different this year.

    • The leafs have not had any issues winning 3 games in a playoff series. It’s that 4th game that’s been there biggest issue.

      • True What the heck … but they just seem like a different collection this time around – a team ready to get that monkey off their backs winning game they should have lost (game 3), dominating in one, showing their ability to come back from 3-goal deficit with just over 10 minutes left in the 3rd, and winning in OT.

        And getting goals from their bottom 6 and D, with Samsonov – while perhaps not “great” at least being steady and making the stops he needs to – including a penalty shot.

    • George how’s the family liking it? They must be like most Leafs fans, mind blown. Talk about a game they had no business winning. They could complete passes or get shots on net. For most of the game if a Leafs player had the puck, there was always 3 TB players on them, if a 4th joined that party, one of them would possess the puck.

      I’m still trying to figure out what happened to TB. Thats 3 losses in a row now and to complete the comeback with about 10mins left to the game and down by 3 to TAMPA at home, it’s just unreal.

      I’ll celebrate after their next win, something past teams couldn’t do. That’s the real goal, the only thing that matters and something they have to prove they can do it. Will it be in game 5? I have no idea but if they lose that, they’ll have two more kicks at the can, but that can is gonna a lot be bigger and heavier each game they play after it. Slay that dragon! 🥳

      • Probably like a lot of long-time fans, Ron – on edge, with too many collapses – or so close but something always happened – still vivid in their minds to dare let out a huge breath of relief.

        And when they do win this series – and tomorrow is as good a time as any – just getting THAT 1st round burr out from under the saddle will act like a catalyst in their next series.

  2. WOW – What a game!

    To the hockey panel @ Spector


    George , I would have included you in this debate , but we have heard your input ! Perhaps U can recommend to Dorion to go hard after Bunting in the off season

    Will Leafs install Bunting back into the lineup for game 5 or if the series is extended ?

    Next question – Will Leafs renew Buntings contract or let him walk .He won’t last long on the open market , but will draw upwards of 4 million/ annum

    • Ken,

      If I were Keefe, I would not put Bunting back in. Knies looks good in the offensive zone, although the worry might be a rookie mistake defensively, like happened in game 3. And I seriously doubt Toronto resigns him, even at $2-2.5M. Keep McCabe instead, and promote Knies full time next year.

      Even though I am as far away from being a Leaf fan as possible, I picked them to win this series. I have seen Tampa dominated too often this season. And, as George pointed out, if you can’t protect a 3 goal lead at home with Vas in net in this situation, you cannot expect to advance against a good team. Tampa is now paying the price for their cap problems, having to give up on Palat and McDonagh because of it. They lost the last two games by making hockey 101 defensive mistakes….allowing ROR to get position netfront in game 3 for the late tie, and then again leaving Kerfoot unguarded in OT. Tampa is in deep trouble, both in this series, and in the future.

      • I’m not a fan of players like Bunting either, but hard to not put him in the lineup simply because he’s a better player than others who are in the lineup like Aston-Reese.

        You can leave Knies where he is and play Bunting further down the lineup.

        I know Leaf fans have some Kadri scar tissue, but that doesn’t mean Bunting will repeat those same mistakes.

      • I think the Lightning reload. Vasy is having a weak series after several years of strong ones and he’s in his prime. Point/Kuch/Sergechev/Cernak/Cirelli/Colton/Paul an OK core, 2 rookie defence emerging helps the cap immensely, and SYR was good this year. One more major loss (or hometown discount, Killorn).
        Retooling will need a couple of free agents, but Tampa is still a good destination for several reasons. IF things seem stale to JBB there are proven resumes that can bring good value in trades. Hedman & Stamkos roles will diminish, but they will still be very good for significant minutes.
        Assuming a long offseason for the first time in four years they may come back rested and ready for one more run, and will have been convinced to make needed changes.
        Heck, if father time treats the Bolts the way he’s treated Boston, this group may have four or five more shots.

      • Agree Richard, I think they can easily reload. The core is still there. Gonna need to shop in the bargain bin a little bit to fill some holes IMO. Which they can and will.

    • Hard to mess with a winning combination but Bunting will probably slide back in, probably in a bottom 6 role.
      I would imagine ZAR or Lafferty will make space, if I had to guess, it’ll be Lafferty.

    • I say no to both questions.

    • Hi Ken

      Nyet and Nyet

      Youngster doing fine; why mess with that; and Bunting’s cantankerous nature has it’s pluses and minuses… why gamble now in the series

      Re-up…. Leafs just st can’t afford him (Cap hit) on the roster

  3. Ken, I seriously doubt Keefe is going to upset momentum by re-inserting Bunting into the line-up. They don’t need him.

    Yea, he’ll probably draw some attention on the UFA market – 23g and 49pts in 82 gp will do that. But there’s no way the Leafs will give him anything close to $4 mil and if he does go to another team he won’t be playing alongside a Matthews or Marner or Tavares … and if his numbers drop off, his “approach” to the game will quickly wear thin.

    Dorion wouldn’t touch his type with the proverbial 10-foot pole.

    • Lol!!

    • I agree Ken. Bunting is the type of player who is a good complement piece who needs high-end talent to be successful.
      No one would expect Nuge or Hyman to put up the numbers they are not playing with Draisaitl or McDavid.

      • I meant I agree with George, not Ken. Sorry.

    • we all know Bunting is heading to the Oilers. Its tradition

      • The tradition is the Leafs losing free agents because of their cap issues. Not only to the Oilers but to Carolina (Andersen), Buffalo (Lyubushkin), Vancouver (Ilya Mikheyev) and Chicago (Petr Mrazek)

      • Kev, what cap issues? All good teams are close to the cap ceiling and the Leafs are just that, another good, top 5 team in the league, so I don’t understand this cap issue you speak of. It’s not like they are like Boston that next year will get tagged for those bonuses on those cheap contracts they signed. That is a cap problem, but honestly who cares especially if they win the cup. It would be what is commonly known as worth it!

      • Taz,

        Too funny! Very likely to happen! To all the Bunting haters out there give him a break. He screwed up yes but it’s the playoffs and he’s competing with a guy who’s 6’4” and 230 lbs. This feels like Kadri all over again. He’s a Toronto boy and if he’ll stay for a discount I’d sign him for term at 2.75 MM per.

      • When you have key players that you need to resign but are unable to because of the cap. Players line Berrie, Hyman, Andersen, Lyubushkin, Mikheyev, and possibly Bunting and Samsonov this season. That is the cap issue year after year.

      • KevJam that’s how good teams need to operate these days. Tor lost all of those players and are better now than they were then. Tampa loses big pieces of their roster every year, Colorado lost players last year, that’s the game. And Toronto has one of the guys who wrote the cap on staff as their cap guy. It’s the way the game is, they had 6 new players since the deadline and they’re good.

      • Wawman93, are you saying Bunting is stupid?

        Because if, as a UFA, someone offers him $3.5 to $4 mil but he signs, instead, with the Leafs for $2.75 because “he’s a Toronto boy” you’re right.

  4. the Rangers offensive ‘weapons’ being stifled by a defense led by castaways Marino and Graves+ a rookie netminder.
    tough watch

    • KevJam

      The Leafs don’t have Cap issues.
      They have a different way of utilizing their cap space.
      Call it the “Studs and Duds” approach. Star players have bigger impacts on game results than 4th liners.

      Look up and down the Leafs line up and tell me which player is overpaid. They know how to maximize the cap.

      • The top three paid players on the Leafs are overpaid. That certainly wasn’t hard. If you don’t have depth you aren’t going to get far in the playoffs

      • Kev you have a weird sense of value. We can agree that the playoffs is all that matters right? What’s Marner’s doing this post season? What about Matthews doing since he too is over priced? I guess Nylander making under $7 per is over paid too. Ohhhh JT the former 1st overall pick, ufa signing and consummate player and still about point per game player the one?
        Are their salaries high? Yes. Worth it? Honestly it would be dumb to say no. Unfortunate to have to pay is more likely.

      • The difference makers have been the players who came in at the deadline; that’s who broke the Lightning’s system and exposed our lack of depth; The Bolt’s bottom 6 and 5-6 pair are nowhere near what they had when Gourde/Goodrow/Coleman anchored L3 and McDonough was a second #1 defenseman. The Grinders enabled the stars; and scor3ed the gamewinners, damn it. The other difference is faceoffs – Leafs better on Key draws. The goals on tips are goals no goalie gets; its a skill (with a dollop of puck luck thrown in).

    • CO you’re a big NYRfan right, what’s your take on the Rangers? They looked great but not recently. Just a small mini slump or something else? I’d be shocked if they get eliminated. I’m not alone here right?

  5. Skinner should get the start tonight. He has been pretty consistent all season, and now isn’t the time to gamble on if Campbell has turned his game around.

    • Agree KevJam, Campbell showed his high ceiling last game but his floor is also much lower. Skinner can win you some games on his own too, and his floor is higher.

      Campbell’s season had too many games where he really struggled and you can’t afford that this time of year. Hopefully he’s past all that, but hope ain’t a solid plan.

      Play the more consistent guy IMO.

    • Yeah the goalie is a small part of their problems they need to fix. Their D looks like Swiss cheese right now. They won’t get too far playing like they do without the puck.

      • Outside of the tending Ron they have actually been significantly better than LA. That and they have received significantly less PP time than LA.
        Skinner hasn’t sucked but hasn’t been that good either Korpisalo was hot until last game.

        All the data matches what I have watched.

        They may have broken the seal on Korpisalo by going upstairs from outside home plate. We will see if it continues. Having said that they need to get to the blue. More goals and more PP time if they can do that IMO.

        Getting downright nasty now too, must watch TV!

  6. Down 4-1 with 10 mins to go…haven’t I seen this before?

    Also, 3-1 series lead? I’ve also seen this one before.

    For the love of God Toronto…prove me wrong !

  7. Makar should get fined for the hit. It was late. His excuse was just that. He was just trying to punish McCann for the breakaway.

    That said, McCann went limp before going into the boards. He knew Makar was there and he was trying to draw a penalty. Like a lot of forwards though, McCann underestimated how hard Makar hits.

    • I think McCann simply relaxed as the puck went out of play well before he was hit.
      He wasn’t expecting it and didn’t get set for it so his head bounced off the glass.

      Agree he should be fined.

    • went limp or knew he was not involved in the play any longer…you would expect a little roughing etc no one expected Makar to finish a check 10 seconds after the breakaway

  8. Great comeback 👍👍👍

    That’s the game; that’s the determination; that’s the gusto…. That every Leaf fan wants to see