NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 5, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 5, 2021

Recaps of Thursday’s action, the league revises its COVID-19 protocols as more players are sidelined and more games are postponed, the 2021 Draft could be pushed back, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Alex Ovechkin scored his 709th career goal to move into seventh place on the all-time list but it wasn’t enough to prevent his Washington Capitals from dropping a 4-2 decision to the New York Rangers. Ryan Strome scored twice while goaltender Igor Shesterkin made 31 saves for his third straight victory. Ovechkin passed former Capital and Rangers Mike Gartner on the goal-scoring list.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin is now eight goals behind Phil Esposito (717) who sits sixth on the list.

Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg (NHL Images).

Third-period goals by Roman Josi and Matt Duchene set the stage for Filip Forsberg’s overtime winner as the Nashville Predators rallied to edge the Florida Panthers 6-5. Forsberg had a five-point night with two goals and three assists while the Panthers’ Jonathan Huberdeau netted a hat trick and collected two assists.

Patrik Laine scored his first goal with the Columbus Blue Jackets as they nipped the Dallas Stars 4-3. Jack Roslovic also tallied his first goal with the Jackets. Both players were recently acquired from the Winnipeg Jets. Earlier in the day, the Blue Jackets placed goalie Elvis Merzlikins on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

Ottawa Senators rookie Tim Stuetzle had a goal and two assists as his club upset the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. Matt Murray made 36 saves as the Senators snapped a ten-game winless skid.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators were the hungrier team in this contest. The Canadiens were playing their third game in four nights but they may also have been guilty of taking the struggling Senators too lightly.

Jason Spezza tallied his first hat trick since 2016 in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 7-3 victory over the floundering Vancouver Canucks. Auston Matthews scored twice to extend his goal-scoring streak to six games as the Leafs reclaimed first place in the North Division from the Canadiens. Leafs defenseman Travis Dermott left the game with a charley horse injury.

Two third-period goals by Alex DeBrincat lifted the Chicago Blackhawks to a 6-4 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, snapping the latter’s five-game win streak. Patrick Kane scored and added three assists for the Blackhawks while Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Dougie Hamilton each had two points for the Hurricanes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks blew a 3-1 lead but didn’t lose their composure and pulled off a big win. They also capitalized on the power play with three of their goals coming with the man advantage.

Antti Raanta kicked out 40 shots as the Arizona Coyotes held on to beat the St. Louis Blues 4-3. Christian Dvorak and Conor Garland each had a goal and an assist for the Coyotes while Mike Hoffman tallied twice for the Blues.

Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck made 23 saves for his franchise-record 153rd career victory backstopping his club over the Calgary Flames 4-1. Mason Appleton tallied twice and Mathieu Perreault had three assists for the Jets. Flames forward Sam Bennett was a healthy scratch, stoking speculation he could be traded soon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll have more about Bennett in the Rumors section.

HEADLINES

TSN: The NHL has revised its COVID-19 protocols as the number of players on the protocol list grew to 40 while four teams have had games postponed in recent days. Glass panels have been removed from behind the team benches to allow for better airflow, players aren’t allowed at the arena until one hour and 45 minutes prior to game time (unless being treated for injuries) and all team meetings must be virtual. Players must also be seated six feet apart in the dressing rooms.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some players aren’t happy about the restriction on their time at the arena and intend to fight it. The league, however, could be unwilling to bend given the sharp rise of late in COVID cases among players and coaches.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger has tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, Jake McCabe became the fifth Sabre added to the NHL’s protocol list. The Sabres are among the clubs to have their games postponed.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche have had their games postponed until Feb. 11 after team captain Gabriel Landeskog was added to the COVID protocol list.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the NHL is considering pushing back the 2021 Draft to 2022 and perhaps staging back-to-back drafts, one for this year’s class of prospects and the other for the 2022 class. Dreger believes the general managers support this as would the majority of draft-eligible prospects as they’re not playing right now. That decision, however, would have to involve the NHLPA as it is a CBA issue.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s also been talk of perhaps pushing this year’s draft to December. It wouldn’t be surprising if the draft date is changed considering the effect the pandemic is having upon hockey at all levels. The teams can’t scout players who aren’t playing while the players haven’t had an opportunity to develop their skills and improve their draft stock.

TORONTO SUN: Popular Maple Leafs usher Vic Braknis passed away at age 81. He worked in that role for Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment for 29 years. He also spent 17 years in the same role with the Montreal Canadiens and worked for the Toronto Blue Jays during their World Series years.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Braknis’ family, friends and MLSE.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 24, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 24, 2021

Recaps of Saturday’s action, the fallout from the Dubois-for-Laine trade, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price picked up his 350th career victory backstopping his club over the Vancouver Canucks 5-2. The Canadiens (4-0-2) sit atop the North Division with 10 points. Jonathan Drouin had a goal and an assist while Corey Perry scored his first goal for the Canadiens after being activated from their taxi squad on Friday.

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens completed a successful season-opening road trip with points in all six games. They’re also currently the league’s highest-scoring team with 29 goals.

Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron each scored twice and collected an assist to lead the Boston Bruins over the Philadelphia Flyers 6-1. Charlie Coyle, Nick Ritchie and Craig Smith each had two points for the Bruins, who’ve tallied 10 regulation goals in their last two games after managing just three goals in regulation time during their opening three contests.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big win for the Bruins, who played without sidelined defenseman Matt Grzelcyk as he remains hampered by a lower-body injury. It was a tough outing for Flyers goalie Carter Hart, who apologized following the game for breaking his stick in frustration following this contest. To be fair to Hart, he and backup Brian Elliott haven’t had much help from their teammates over the last three games.

Defenseman Torey Krug tallied his first goal with the St. Louis Blues as they doubled up the Los Angeles Kings 4-2. Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly and teammates David Perron and Robert Thomas each collected two points.

Winnipeg Jets forwards Mark Scheifele and Paul Stastny each had a goal and two assists while Andrew Copp scored twice to down the Ottawa Senators 6-3. Jets captain Blake Wheeler collected three assists in this contest. Earlier in the day, the Senators placed rookie Tim Stuetzle on injured reserve for an undisclosed minor injury.

First-period goals by Nick Foligno, Mikhail Grigorenko and Vladislav Gavrikov powered the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins made 30 save for the win.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets and Blue Jackets showed no ill-effects from yesterday morning’s blockbuster trade that saw the Jets ship Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic to the Blue Jackets for Pierre-Luc Dubois and a draft pick. None of the players involved in the deal have joined their new clubs yet. COVID-19 protocols could further delay their arrivals.

HEADLINES

SPORTSNET: The Canadian government will decide how long Dubois must remain in self-quarantine before joining his new teammates after traveling from Columbus to Winnipeg on Saturday. The standard quarantine period for travelers arriving in Canada is 14 days but the Jets are lobbying the federal government to have that period reduced by seven days. All seven Canadian clubs would prefer to have that seven-day period, which was similar to the one during training camp.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The rationale behind that request is NHL players live and work under stricter COVID-19 protocols than other international travelers. That includes the requirement for four consecutive negative COVID tests before joining their teammates. It will significantly reduce the wait time for Canadian teams that acquire players via trade or waivers from American clubs.

THE SCORE: Dubois didn’t reveal the exact reason behind his trade request during an interview with Sportsnet’s Ron MacLean on Saturday. However, he indicated Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella wasn’t a factor in his decision. Dubois acknowledged Tortorella is a tough coach to play for but praised his style and never took criticism of his play personally.

Meanwhile, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has already engaged in preliminary contract-extension talks with the Laine camp. “We’re going to try to build a long-term relationship with him,” said Kekalainen.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Building that relationship will depend upon how well Laine adjusts to playing for Tortorella and how much the Jackets are willing to invest in him. The 22-year-old winger is earning $7.5 million in actual salary this season and could seek around $10 million annually on his next contract.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars captain Jamie Benn missed Saturday’s practice with a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.

THE NEW & OBSERVER: Jesper Fast has been added to the Carolina Hurricanes’ COVID-19 protocol list, bringing that number to six players. The Hurricanes have had their past three games postponed and their training facility closed as they deal with this issue.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks will be playing the first two of their home games in Glendale, Arizona. They’d hoped to return to SAP Center in San Jose for those games but the ban on contact sports in Santa Clara County remains in place.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman report several NHL clubs are looking at moving the 2021 NHL Draft from July to December or January because the pandemic has made it difficult for draft-eligible players to be properly scouted. One solution could be staging a tournament this spring to showcase some of this year’s prospects for evaluation. Any changes to this year’s draft format require approval from the NHL and NHLPA.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 18, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 18, 2020

The seven Canadian teams could play all their games this season in the US, Henrik Lundqvist sidelined by a heart condition, Alexander Steen hangs up his skates, the Panthers sign Anthony Duclair, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Frank Seravalli reports the NHL and the seven Canadian franchises have been trying to work out protocols with the provincial health authorities but the latter has not yet signed off on them. The league’s preference is for its 31 teams to play their game in their own arenas. If that’s not possible, the Canadian teams could play in one hub city or play all their games this season in the United States. Seravalli said the league remains optimistic this can be sorted out.

Pierre LeBrun believes this information being revealed to the public could work to the NHL’s advantage, putting a little public pressure upon the provincial governments. If the seven Canadian franchise must play this season in the United States it would mean the end of the proposed Canadian division, forcing another temporary divisional realignment.

Seravalli also revealed the NHLPA wants to ensure the players decide whether they’ll receive COVID-19 vaccinations. He said it will be their choice.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports the provincial authorities must be comfortable with the league’s health protocols, which are still being negotiated with the NHLPA. Future talks are expected with the health authorities at the provincial and federal levels.

Johnston indicates moving the seven Canadian franchise this season to the US would follow the precedent set by MLB and the NBA. The Toronto Blue Jays played their 2020 season in the US while the Toronto Raptors will begin this season in Tampa.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran reports the plan for an all-Canadian division this season remains very much alive. League and PA sources indicate moving the Canadian clubs to the United States this season is one of the last options.

One source indicated the Canadian COVID restrictions “aren’t the sticking points,” adding they expected that “everything will be resolved to mutual satisfaction. Another said the topic was mentioned but hasn’t received much discussion. McGran said the Toronto Maple Leafs met with Ontario officials Wednesday and have another on Friday.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Pat Hickey reports the Canadiens are close to an agreement with Quebec officials allowing them to hold training camp at their practice facility in Brossard. Paul Wilson, the Canadiens vice president for public relations, said he was encouraged by Premier Francois Legault’s “enthusiastic” for an NHL return to action in mid-January.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The initial reports of the Canadian clubs possibly playing all their games in the US this season generated quite a stir on social media, creating the impression an all-Canadian division was doomed. However, this doesn’t appear to be a fait accompli.

A heart condition sidelined Washington Capitals goalie Henrik Lundqvist (NHL Images).

The league and the PA very much want to play their games in their home arenas. The difficulty seems to be coming up with protocols that will satisfy provincial officials. While this could still go off the rails, the league seems confident this can be worked out.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Henrik Lundqvist won’t be playing for the Capitals this season after all. The 38-year-old goaltender released a statement yesterday indicating he’s been sidelined by a heart condition for which he’s receiving treatment. Lundqvist signed with the Capitals as a free agent in October after being bought out of the final year of his contract by the New York Rangers.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports Lundqvist’s condition isn’t life-threatening and not related to COVID-19. Given the goalie’s age, however, he speculates this could mean the end of his playing career.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lundqvist didn’t say he was retiring so it’s possible the future Hall-of-Famer might return in 2021-22 with the Capitals or another NHL club. Here’s hoping he makes a complete recovery.

The Capitals will place him on injured reserve for the season as they try to determine how to replace him. I’ll have more about that in the Rumors section.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues winger Alexander Steen is hanging up his skates after being diagnosed with “multiple levels of degenerative herniated discs of his lumbar spine.” The 36-year-old began his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs but was traded early in the 2008-09 season to the St. Louis Blues, where he spent the remainder of his 15-year playing career. He tallied 622 points in 1,018 games and helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup in 2019.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Steen in his future endeavors. He became an invaluable core player and leader with the Blues. Because he’s not officially retired, he will be placed on long-term injury reserve. That will provide the Blues with some much-needed salary-cap wiggle room. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.

THE SCORE: The Florida Panthers signed Anthony Duclair to a one-year, $1.7 million contract. The 25-year-old winger became an unrestricted free agent after the Ottawa Senators declined to send him a qualifying offer. The signing leaves the Panthers with over $6.6 million in cap space.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Duclair will be an affordable replacement for the departed Mike Hoffman, though he probably won’t score with the same consistency. The Panthers could make another addition but it remains to be seen if they’ll invest that cap space in a trade or free agency or promote from within.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch reports the NHL is exploring the possibility of pushing the 2021 Draft to December 2021. The reason is most of the junior leagues haven’t begun to play yet because of COVID-19. Scouts are also limited in their ability to travel and scout prospects in North American and Europe.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Garrioch points out nothing is set in stone and this remains a concept. However, I agree that it could make sense. Current health protocols are making it difficult to properly evaluate prospects during this season. Moving the draft to December would buy them time to scout those prospects if things return to some semblance of normal when next fall rolls around.

SPORTSNET: The Vancouver Canucks signed forward Justin Bailey to a one-year, two-way contract.