NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 1, 2023
The Panthers upset the Bruins and the Kraken stun the Avalanche to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Details and much more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers shocked the hockey world by defeating the Boston Bruins 4-3 to win Game 7 of their best-of-seven first-round series. Carter Verhaeghe tallied the winning goal in overtime, Brandon Montour scored twice and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 33 shots as the Panthers advanced to face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round with Game 1 starting Tuesday night in Toronto. David Krejci had a goal and two assists for the Bruins, who had won the Presidents’ Trophy with a record-setting 65 wins and 135 points in the regular season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to Sportsnet, the 43-point difference between the first-overall Bruins and the Panthers in the regular-season standings marks the biggest upset in Stanley Cup Playoffs history in a best-of-seven format.
The Bruins appeared to have this series locked up after taking a 3-1 lead in games. The Panthers, however, never gave up.
Switching to Bobrovsky following Game 4 helped to change the course of the series. “Bob” doesn’t have the best career playoff record but he was the goaltender for the Columbus Blue Jackets when they swept the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019 so he’s had some experience facing a heavily-favored Presidents’ Trophy winner.
This was a team effort by the Panthers but Montour and Matthew Tkachuk stood out for me in this series. Their timely production made the difference in this series as the Bruins struggled to contain them.
Tkachuk called this a legacy win for the Panthers. It’s certainly something to build on after struggling to reach the playoffs following a franchise-best regular season performance in 2021-22.
The Bruins, meanwhile, were in shock over the reversal of fortune in this series. Despite a stacked roster coming off a record-setting season, they failed to close the deal and seemed helpless to halt the change of momentum in the series.
This may have been the final NHL season for centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Bergeron skated with a herniated disc in his back suffered during the end of the regular season which caused him to miss the first four games of this series. He said he’ll take some time before deciding whether he’ll return next season.
Krejci, meanwhile, missed three games in this series with an upper-body injury. He skated last season in Czechia and could return there for good following this season.
Speaking of stunning upsets, there will be a new Stanley Cup champion this year after the Seattle Kraken beat the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 in Game 7 of their first-round series. Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice and Philipp Grubauer made 33 saves as the Kraken picked up their first playoff series win in franchise history. Mikko Rantanen replied for the Avalanche.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a major upset as most observers (including myself) gave the Kraken little chance of beating the Avalanche. Their hard work paid off with a well-earned series victory. They pulled it off with a steady defensive system, solid goaltending by Grubauer, and spreading their scoring throughout their lineup.
Avalanche stars Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen stepped up and did everything they could to carry their team over the finish line in this series. However, top defenseman Cale Makar appeared hampered by injury while other Avs struggled with consistency and possible injuries of their own.
Like the Panthers, the Kraken will have little time to savor this victory. They face off against the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of their second-round series on Tuesday in Dallas.
NHL.COM: The league released its schedule for Games 1 and 2 of the second round. As previously mentioned, the series between the Leafs and Panthers as well as the Kraken and Stars begin on Tuesday, May 2. The Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights will square off starting on Wednesday, May 3 as will the Carolina Hurricanes and the winner of the New Jersey Devils/New York Rangers series.
NEW YORK POST: Speaking of the Devils-Rangers series, New Jersey head coach Lindy Ruff won’t reveal whether it’ll be Akira Schmid or Vitek Vanecek starting in goal for tonight’s series-deciding Game 7. Schmid took over from Vanecek after Game 2 and won three straight but was lit up in a 5-2 loss in Game 6.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff confirmed Rick Bowness will return as head coach next season. Bowness’ scathing remarks about his players’ performance following their first-round elimination by the Golden Knights prompted speculation about his future.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bowness’ status is no longer a topic of conjecture but that won’t allay rumors of potential lineup changes this summer.
LA KINGS INSIDER: Kings captain Anze Kopitar hopes to spend the remainder of his NHL career with Los Angeles. He will be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Kings general manager Rob Blake is quite keen to discuss a contract extension for Kopitar.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: The Penguins recently signed forward Alex Nylander to a one-year, one-way contract extension worth $775K.