NHL ProteauType: Despite Sunny Bumps, Lake Tahoe Outdoor Games Deserve Praise
A five-point performance by Connor McDavid, a four-point output by Auston Matthews, Sidney Crosby’s 1000th career game and a long delay in the outdoor game between the Avalanche and Golden Knights are the highlights in this edition of the NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid enjoyed a five-point performance as his club thumped the Calgary Flames 7-1. McDavid tallied a natural hat trick while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice. Oilers defenseman Slater Koekkoek and winger Kailer Yamamoto left the game with injuries.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid remains the early favorite to win the Hart Memorial Trophy this season. He leads all NHL scorers with 25 assists and 37 points.
Auston Matthews scored twice and set up two others as the Toronto Maple Leafs downed the Montreal Canadiens 5-3. Mitch Marner collected three points for the Leafs, who hold a five-point lead atop the NHL’s overall standings. Matthews now has a league-leading 18 goals on the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs feasted on the defensive miscues of a rusty Canadiens squad that hadn’t played in six days. Matthews tallied two of the Leafs’ three power-play goals.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby collected two assists in his 1000th career NHL game during a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders. Kris Letang tallied twice as the Penguins swept the two-game series. Before the game, the Penguins honored their captain with a silver stick and video tributes from current and former teammates and several NHL stars including Steven Stamkos and John Tavares.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Crosby on reaching another significant milestone in his long NHL career.
The Colorado Avalanche’s 3-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors game at Lake Tahoe was overshadowed by an eight-hour delay following the first period due to poor ice conditions. Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and two assists for the Avs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: What could’ve been an entertaining match-up against a beautiful outdoor backdrop became an embarrassment for the NHL. In fairness, the league has a solid track record staging outdoor games in various locations. I don’t fault them for staging this outdoor contest in that scenic location. Unfortunately, no one seemed to consider what might happen to ice conditions on a bright sunny afternoon at a higher altitude in Nevada.
The sunny conditions at Lake Tahoe forced the league to change the start time for today’s outdoor match between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers from 2 pm ET to 7:30 pm ET.
The Buffalo Sabres snapped a four-game losing skid by hanging on for a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Sam Reinhart scored twice for the Sabres, who lost defenseman Jake McCabe to an apparent right-knee injury in the third period. Before the game, the Devils announced Nico Hischier as their new team captain.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An update on McCabe’s status is expected later today. Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said he was very concerned about the blueliner’s condition.
Mika Zibanejad ended a 13-game goalless drought and Artemi Panarin collected two assists as the New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals 4-1. Igor Shesterkin made 26 saves for the win and Ryan Strome had two points, including his 100th career NHL goal.
Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jonathan Bernier’s 38-save performance carried his club to a 2-1 upset of the Florida Panthers. The Wings got second-period goals by Patrik Nemeth and rookie Mathias Brome as they held on for the win.
The Los Angeles Kings got two goals from Alex Iafallo as they doubled up the Arizona Coyotes 4-2. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty each collected two assists. The Kings have won four straight games.
Logan Couture’s game-winner in the third period gave the San Jose Sharks a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues. The Sharks blew 3-0 and 4-1 leads before Couture sealed the deal. Jordan Kyrou had a goal and two assists for the Blues.
Third-period goals by Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg lifted the Nashville Predators over the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2. Jarnkrok scored twice for the Predators while the Blue Jackets lost goaltender Elvis Merzlikins to an apparent arm injury in the third period.
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic made 24 saves for his first career NHL shutout in a 4-0 blanking of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov each had a goal and an assist.
Kevin Fiala scored twice as the Minnesota Wild rolled to a 5-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks. Fiala now has six goals in his last seven games. Teammates Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov each had two points. In a surprising move earlier in the day, the Ducks placed struggling veteran center Adam Henrique on waivers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt anyone claims Henrique. He’s in the second season of a five-year contract with an annual average value of $5.825 million.
TSN: Former NHL coach Mike Babcock has been named head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Men’s Hockey Team. He will lead the club on a voluntary basis for the next two years.
League commissioner Bettman weighs in on the upcoming season, Mika Zibanejad reveals COVID-19 diagnosis, Evander Kane files for bankruptcy, Mike Hoffman signs with Blues, Jay Bouwmeester retires, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is prepared to lose billions of dollars to play the 2020-21 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it’s important for the game to stage the season, the players and fans wanted it, and it might help provide people dealing with COVID-19 restrictions some sense of normalcy.
Bettman also said it would be cheaper for the league not to play the season, claiming they would lose money at the club and league level. “But the owners are unanimously OK with that because they know how important it is for our fans and for the game.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bettman’s remarks about financial losses isn’t sitting well on the players’ side. Player agent Allan Walsh observed the commissioner neglected to mention that, under the CBA extension, the owners will be made whole for their losses by the players because of the 50-50 division of revenue. Bettman sounds like he’s still sore over the player’s firm rejection of his request last fall for increased escrow claw-backs and salary deferrals.
The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell, meanwhile, pointed out the NHL wasn’t going to risk hurting its visibility and fan engagement by shuttering its season with other major professional sports leagues staging theirs during this pandemic. Campbell also noted it would’ve pushed the NHL’s expiring US TV contract ahead to 2022, depriving them of the opportunity of landing a more lucrative deal later this year.
The commissioner revealed players will wear decals on their helmets honoring the 63rd anniversary of Willie O’Ree playing his first NHL game and to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He also announced The NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe, featuring the Colorado Avalanche facing the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 20 followed by the Boston Bruins meeting the Philadelphia Flyers on Feb. 21.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers center Mika Zibanejad revealed he tested positive for COVID-19 prior to training camp. He missed the opening days of camp but now claims he’s feeling better. Zibanejad resumed skating with his teammates while consulting with doctors. Rangers coach David Quinn is hopeful Zibanejad will be ready for their season opener on Jan. 14 but the 27-year-old center wouldn’t confirm.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zibanejad isn’t the only player to test positive and won’t be the last over the course of this season.
THE ATHLETIC: Evander Kane has filed for bankruptcy with $26.8 million of debt and assets of $10 million. The filing also indicates the 29-year-old San Jose Sharks winger can terminate his contract or opt-out of playing this season because of the pandemic and the recent birth of his daughter. The NHL’s opt-out date was Dec. 24 while Kane’s bankruptcy filing was Jan. 9.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane could opt-out of this season rather than terminate his contract. While the league’s opt-out deadline has passed there could be an allowance here due to unforeseen circumstances. A precedent was set last summer when Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask left the club during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs to attend to a family medical emergency.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues yesterday signed Mike Hoffman to a one-year, $4 million contract. The 31-year-old winger was skating with the club on a professional tryout offer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was anticipated the Blues would formally sign Hoffman once they sorted out their salary-cap situation. That includes putting a couple of players on their taxi squad for cap compliance reasons and placing Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko on long-term injury reserve.
TSN: Speaking of the Blues, defenseman Jay Bouwmeester quietly retired after 17 NHL seasons. He hadn’t played since suffering a cardiac incident on the bench during a game with the Anaheim Ducks last February. Bouwmeester played 1,240 NHL games with the Blues, Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers, finishing with 424 points. He won a Stanley Cup with the Blues in 2019 and an Olympic gold medal with Canada in 2014.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Bouwmeester and his family in their future endeavors.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes have hired former captain Shane Doan as their new chief hockey development officer. Doan retired in 2017 after 21 NHL seasons. He began his career with the former Winnipeg Jets and moved with the franchise to Arizona in 1996.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: The Panthers claimed defenseman Noah Juulsen off waivers yesterday from the Montreal Canadiens.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars will return to the ice today after canceling practices and close its training facilities when six players and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
THE MERCURY NEWS: The San Jose Sharks will meet with Santa Clara County officials regarding when they can return to SAP Center at San Jose. They’re scheduled to play their first home game on Feb. 1 but the county remains under a strict stay-at-home order because of a high number of COVID cases.
SPORTSNET: NBC Sports announced former NHL coach Mike Babcock will be joining the network as an in-studio analyst. He’ll replace Mike Milbury, who was let go after 14 years. Milbury was suspended by the network last summer following a series of offensive remarks he made toward women, injured players, and Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The #NYI have officially filed the Martin, Greene, and Barzal contracts:
Barzal – $7M AAV
20-21: $3M base – $1M SB
Martin – $1.5M AAV
20-21: $700k base – $800k SB
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) January 12, 2021
The Islanders advance to the Eastern Conference Final, the NHL will begin announcing its award winners, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: For the first time since 1993, the New York Islanders are going to the Conference Finals. They shut out the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 in Game 7 of their second-round series and face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final in Edmonton.
Thomas Greiss made 16 saves for the shutout while Brock Nelson led the way offensively with a goal and two assists.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was a complete team victory by the Islanders. They stifled the Flyers’ offense with their defensive play and aggressive forecheck. Head coach Barry Trotz’s decision to start Greiss over Semyon Varlamov also paid off.
The lack of consistent production by the Flyers’ top scorers was a problem throughout the playoffs. It came home to roost in Game 7 against the Isles defense.
The NHL will begin revealing some of the winners of its individual awards from Sept. 6 to Sept. 13. Those to be announced include the King Clancy Memorial Trophy (Sept. 6), Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (Sept. 7), Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award (Sept. 8), Jack Adams Award (Sept. 9), Frank J. Selke Trophy (Sept. 10), Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (Sept. 11), Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award (Sept. 12), and the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award (Sept. 13).
A 30-minute program during the Stanley Cup Final will announce the winners of the Calder Memorial Trophy, the Hart Memorial Trophy, James Norris Memorial Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, and the Vezina Trophy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I like this format and I hope the league sticks with it going forward. Their annual award show in Las Vegas has a cringe factor comparable to “The Dundies” episode of The Office.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The Capitals have reportedly interviewed Mike Babcock and Gerard Gallant for their vacant head-coaching position.
SPORTSNET: The Arizona Coyotes have interviewed NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire for their vacant general manager job.
LAS VEGAS SUN: Vegas Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves received a one-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Motte.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed defenseman Juuso Riikola to a two-year contract worth an annual average value of $1.15 million.
SPORTSNET: A resolution has yet to be reached allowing the families of the players on the remaining four NHL clubs to join them in the playoff bubble in Edmonton. Discussions are ongoing between the league, the NHL Players Association, and the Canadian federal government.
Recaps of the second day of exhibition games, an update on John Chayka’s departure from the Coyotes, the Blackhawks announce initiatives to honor Native American culture, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
EXHIBITION GAME RECAPS
NHL.COM: The line of Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat combined for 10 points as the Tampa Bay Lightning blanked the Florida Panthers 5-0. Point led the way with two goals and two assists. Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up the shutout with a 26-save performance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky gave up five goals on 34 shots, but he was hung out to dry by his teammates. The Panthers must improve their defensive play before they face off against the New York Islanders in their qualifying round series.
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied twice and set up another to lead his club over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2. Capitals defenseman John Carlson left the game in the final 10 minutes as a precautionary measure after crashing awkwardly into the boards. An update on his condition is expected today. Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek gave up three goals on 16 shots before being replaced by James Reimer.
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck kicked out 37 shots in a 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Jets captain Blake Wheeler had a goal and an assist. Teammate Nikolaj Ehlers also scored, but left the game in the third period with an apparent lower-body injury. No word yet as to his status.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Looks like the long layoff had little effect on Hellebuyck’s performance. The Vezina Trophy finalist was on top of his game against the Canucks. Ehlers may have aggravated an ailment that nagged him throughout training camp.
Dominik Kubalik scored twice and added an assist as the Chicago Blackhawks blanked the St. Louis Blues 4-0. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford made 11 saves through two periods.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford looked sharp in this contest after missing most of the Blackhawks’ training camp when he tested positive for COVID-19. His performance against the Blues is a good sign as he and his teammates face the Edmonton Oilers in the qualifying round.
Colorado Avalanche forwards Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Joonas Donskoi were the goal scorers as their club edged the Minnesota Wild 3-2. Wild center Eric Staal had a goal and an assist. The Avs killed off seven of eight penalties.
Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss combined for 26 saves as the New York Islanders held off the New York Rangers 2-1. Anthony Beauvillier and Devon Toews scored for the Isles. Rangers defenseman Marc Staal left the game in the second period for precautionary reasons and isn’t expected to miss their qualifying series against the Hurricanes.
NEW YORK POST: Howie Kussoy cites multiple reports claiming former Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka’s relationship with the club’s ownership was irrevocably damaged when he lied about having a job interview with the New Jersey Devils, who then were uninterested in hiring him. Chayka resigned from the Coyotes last weekend as the club was preparing to head to Edmonton for Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan.
An NHL team approached Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo about a month ago seeking permission to speak to Chayka, which Meruelo rejected. Chayka then reportedly lied to Meruelo about the Devils’ interest, only to subsequently request his contract be terminated so he could pursue an opportunity within the Devils ownership’s sports portfolio.
Meruelo felt betrayed but wanted to wait until the season ended to discuss this with Chayka, but the latter felt that was unreasonable. The situation quickly deteriorated, culminating in Chayka’s departure from the team.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This has degenerated into a messy they-said/he said situation with each side blaming the other. If Chayka lied about the Devils interview, it could damage his reputation and his efforts to find employment elsewhere in the NHL.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks are taking steps designed to honor Native American culture. They’ve banned headdresses at their games and intend to incorporate Native American culture and education into their arena and the games there. The club has resisted calls to change its nickname and logo after the NFL’s Washington Redskins announced they were moving on from their nickname.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins re-signed forward Anders Bjork to a three-year, $4.8-million contract extension. The annual average value is $1.6 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Bruins now have over $65.1 million invested in 19 players for 2020-21. Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, and team captain Zdeno Chara are among the notables still to be re-signed.
TSN: Former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock has taken on a volunteer advisory role with the Vermont Catamounts coaching staff.
LA PRESSE: Montreal Canadiens winger Dale Weise denied a report out of Switzerland claiming he signed a contract with Swiss club HC Lausanne.