Stanley Cup: Lightning One Win Away After Game 4 OT Victory
The playoff schedule resumes today, former Panthers GM under investigation for uttering a racial slur, plus updates on Andrei Svechnikov, John Tortorella, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The league has released its revised schedule for the resumption of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. Game 4 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins begins at noon ET, Game 3 between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders starts at 7 pm ET, and Game 3 between the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks begins at 9:45 ET. The Lightning holds a 2-1 series lead over the Bruins, while the Flyers and Islanders and the Golden Knights and Canucks are tied at a game apiece.
SI.COM/THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin wonders what steps the NHL will take in the wake of the recent player protest against racial injustice to ensure the fight for equality isn’t forgotten. He cites TSN’s Rick Westhead reporting the Hockey Diversity Alliance has requested the league to invest $100 million over 10 years to fund anti-racism, education, and grass-roots initiatives. That works out to just over $312K per team or less than half the minimum salary of one player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a reasonable request by the HDA. It’ll also be interesting to see if the NHL Players Association will be working alongside the league in this matter or if they’ll be taking their own steps.
SPORTSDAY: Dallas Stars president and CEO Brad Alberts said his club lost season-ticket holders over its support of Black Lives Matter and protests over racial inequality. He claimed it was a mix of individual and company accounts. “But I/we stand by our organization’s commitment and support our players 100% to express their views,” said Alberts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is the first report I’ve seen by a team regarding the loss of season-ticket holders over the players’ recent protests. Alberts didn’t specify how many season-ticket holders the Stars lost. It could’ve been a large number or a handful. He also said none of the club’s advertisers have pulled funding.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW(subscription required): George Richards reports the NHL is investigating whether former Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon used a racial slur while representing the team. Tallon has been accused of using racially-charge language at some point during the Panthers time in the Toronto playoff bubble.
Tallon denied the charge. “I am not a racist by any means,” he said. “I have never said anything of the sort. I am all for peace, am all for this alliance and what everyone is trying to do right now.”
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Aaron Portzline reports the $25,000 fine levied by the league on Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella is the 15th time he’s been punished by the league. Portzline estimates Tortorella has lost “well over $200,000” because of “his mouth and his temper.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think Tortorella is losing any sleep over those fines. While he’s mellowed a bit over the years, he remains outspoken and irritable.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov said he’d be ready to go if his club were still in the postseason. He was sidelined two weeks ago by a high-ankle sprain suffered in his club’s first-round series with the Boston Bruins. Svechnikov said he’s now feeling at almost 100 percent.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed defenseman Chad Ruhwedel to a one-year contract extension worth $750K.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings loaned defenseman Filip Hronek to Mountfield HK of the Czech League. He’s the fifth player the Wings have loaned to European clubs. All are scheduled to return to the Wings once NHL training camps later this fall.
THE PROVINCE: The death of popular Vancouver sportswriter Jason Botchford was revealed to be caused by an accidental overdose of cocaine and fentanyl. Botchford died suddenly last April at age 48. He covered the Canucks for The Province from 2005 to 2018.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s still a tragic, heartbreaking loss for Botchford’s family, friends, and the hockey community regardless of the cause of death.
The Rangers win the 2020 draft lottery, the Panthers formally part company with Dale Tallon, the opening round of the 2020 playoffs begin today and more in the NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The New York Rangers won Phase 2 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery yesterday, giving them the first-overall pick and the opportunity to select top prospect Alexis Lafreniere of the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic.
2020 NHL DRAFT ORDER
1. New York Rangers
2. Los Angeles Kings
3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose Sharks)
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Ottawa Senators
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Buffalo Sabres
9. Minnesota Wild
10. Winnipeg Jets
11. Nashville Predators
12. Florida Panthers
13. Carolina Hurricanes (from Toronto Maple Leafs)
14. Edmonton Oilers
15. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Hurricanes received the Leafs pick as part of the return in last June’s Patrick Marleau trade.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was 24 hours of suck for the Maple Leafs. They would’ve kept that pick had they won the lottery.
As a result of the Penguins acquiring Jason Zucker in February from the Wild, Pens general manager Jim Rutherford has seven days to decide if he’ll send this year’s first-rounder to the Wild or defer the pick to 2021.
SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers have parted ways with general manager Dale Tallon. He’d been with the club for 10 years, most of that period as GM. The club issued a statement indicating the decision was mutual. It’s believed they’ll look outside the organization for a replacement. Assistant GM Eric Joyce takes over on an interim basis.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers made little progress toward their goal of becoming a Stanley Cup contender during Tallon’s tenure. His replacement must build around the club’s core talent (Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad), addressing their weaknesses (such as their poor defensive play), and change the culture of losing that’s dogged this franchise for over two decades.
NHL.COM: The opening round of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs begins today with four games. The Columbus Blue Jackets face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning (3 pm ET), the Calgary Flames meet the Dallas Stars (5:30 pm ET), the Carolina Hurricanes square off against the Boston Bruins (8 pm ET), and the Chicago Blackhawks go up against the Vegas Golden Knights (10:30 pm ET).
SPORTSNET: Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins is sidelined indefinitely. As per league protocols, no information was revealed regarding his condition.
CBS SPORTS: Philadelphia Flyers winger Jakub Voracek (undisclosed) will be a game-day decision when his club faces off with the Canadiens in Game 1 of their opening-round series on Wednesday.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues winger Sammy Blais could miss the start of his club’s opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks. He suffered an apparent leg injury during Sunday’s round-robin loss to the Dallas Stars.
TSN: The NHL reported no positive COVID-19 tests in its first two weeks in their secure zones in Edmonton and Toronto.
NHL.COM: The Hockey Hall of Fame has postponed its Induction Weekend ceremonies (Nov. 13-16) because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rescheduling plans will be made during the board of directors meeting on Oct. 29.
TSN: Long-time NHL insider Bob McKenzie is scaling back his schedule in what he deemed a “soft retirement”. He’ll still appear in special events like the World Juniors and the NHL Trade Deadline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McKenzie is the best-connected man in hockey and the most trusted insider. Best wishes in his future endeavors.
The Blue Jackets eliminate the Leafs from the qualifying round, Blues and Bruins fall to No. 4 seeds in their conferences, the second phase of draft lottery goes tonight, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets advanced to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs by blanking the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0 in the fifth and deciding game of their qualifying-round series. Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo turned in a 33-save shutout while Zach Werenski, Liam Foudy, and Nick Foligno were the goal scorers. The Jackets face the Tampa Bay Lightning in a rematch of their 2019 opening-round series. Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie left the game with an undisclosed injury in the second period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A solid effort by the Jackets in withstanding the Leafs’ offense and avoiding a repeat of their Game 4 collapse. Foudy’s goal was the dagger as the Leafs visibly sagged after that.
Another disappointing end to another season sparked plenty of fan and pundit criticism of the Leafs management over how the roster was constructed. I’ll have more later this morning in the Rumor Mill. As for Barrie, that game was likely his last as a Leaf. He’s an unrestricted free agent and not expected to return.
Braden Holtby kicked out 30 shots as the Washington Capitals held off the Boston Bruins 2-1 in round-robin play. T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson scored for the Caps while Jake DeBrusk replied for the Bruins. The Capitals earn the third seed in the Eastern Conference while the Bruins slipped to fourth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins were winless in their three round-robin games. One reason is the “Perfection Line” (Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand) was anything but, collecting just one assist between them. The Bruins need more from their top line as they face off against the hungry young Carolina Hurricanes in the opening round.
The defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues dropped into the fourth seed in the Western Conference following a 2-1 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars in round-robin play. The Stars picked up the third seed following Denis Gurianov’s game-winning goal after Joe Pavelski tied it late in the third period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s interesting that last year’s Cup finalists didn’t play that well during round-robin play, looking nothing like their dominant selves during the regular season. Maybe beging guaranteed playoff berths had something to do with it. Perhaps they couldn’t get motivated for the round-robin after going through a four-round slog last spring. Maybe they need a little more time getting up to speed following a long layoff. Whatever the reason, they’d better rediscover their winning ways soon or their hopes for another shot at the Cup will be quickly dashed.
The opening-round match-ups and schedules were released last night. The first games begin Tuesday, Aug. 11. Each series is now a best-of-seven format:
Philadelphia Flyers vs Montreal Canadiens
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Columbus Blue Jackets
Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders
Boston Bruins vs Carolina Hurricanes
Vegas Golden Knights vs Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche vs Arizona Coyotes
Dallas Stars vs Calgary Flames
St. Louis Blues vs Vancouver Canucks
Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery goes tonight at 6 pm ET to determine which of the eight clubs eliminated from the qualifying round will win the first-overall pick. Each team as a 12.5 percent chance of winning the pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expect howls of outrage from some observers if the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, or Toronto Maple Leafs win that pick. I, on the other hand, will delight in the chaos and the possibilities that could arise if one of those teams wins the pick. Will they shop it to address their roster weaknesses, or keep it and instead trade away a current star? That will stir the rumor mill for weeks leading up to the draft in October.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Winger Max Pacioretty has joined his teammates in Edmonton for Game 1 of their opening-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Pacioretty had remained in Las Vegas during the round-robin to treat a minor injury suffered during training camp.
THE WASHINGTON POST’s Samantha Pell reports Capitals coach Todd Reirden hopes defenseman John Carlson will be ready for Game 1 against the New York Islanders. Carlson hasn’t played since being sidelined during exhibition play nearly two weeks ago.
CBS SPORTS: Arizona Coyotes center Nick Schmaltz was a full participant in practice yesterday. He’d been sidelined with an undisclosed injury suffered during exhibition play.
New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (undisclosed) returned to practice yesterday and could be ready for Game 1 against the Capitals. He’d been sidelined since suffering an apparent head injury in Game 1 of the qualifier series against the Florida Panthers.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu, 37, is uncertain if this season was his last with the Wild and in the NHL. He’s an unrestricted free agent but intends to weigh his options, including talking with Wild management to see if they’re interested in bringing him back next season.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings re-signed winger Evgeny Svechnikov to a one-year contract extension. Salary details weren’t disclosed.