NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 16, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 16, 2021

Recaps of Thursday’s action include milestones for Tuukka Rask and Nicklas Backstrom, the Canucks’ Friday game is postponed plus the latest on Steven Stamkos and Jack Eichel in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Taylor Hall scored his first goal with the Boston Bruins and Tuukka Rask picked up his 300th career NHL victory after returning from injury in a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders. Brad Marchand scored twice for the Bruins, who sit fourth in the MassMutual East Division with 52 points. The Islanders are in second place with 58 points.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (NHL Images).

The Washington Capitals failed to widen their lead over the Isles as they were upset 5-2 by the Buffalo Sabres. Washington center Nicklas Backstrom picked up an assist in his 1,000th career NHL game. Anders Bjork had a goal and an assist for the Sabres. The Capitals remain atop the East with 60 points.

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin picked up his second straight shutout over the New Jersey Devils with a 4-0 victory. Artemi Panarin scored two goals as the Rangers (48 points) remain four points behind the Bruins and two ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Speaking of the Flyers, they got shootout goals from Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier to nip the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1. Carter Hart kicked out 31 shots for the Flyers. The Penguins are in third place with 57 points, one back of the second-place Islanders.

The Carolina Hurricanes moved into first place in the Discover Central Division by downing the Nashville Predators 4-1. Andrei Svechnikov and Vincent Trocheck each had a goal and an assist to give the Hurricanes 60 points in the standings. The Predators, meanwhile, are in fourth place with 49 points.

An overtime goal by Victor Hedman gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers. Alex Killorn had a goal and an assist for Tampa Bay. The Lightning also announced they placed captain Steven Stamkos on long-term injury reserve with a lower-body injury retroactive to April 9. Tampa Bay also has 60 points but sits second in the Central on the basis of games played while the Panthers are one point behind them.

Jakub Vrana scored his first goal with the Detroit Red Wings as they upset the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1. Troy Stecher also scored two goals for the Wings to extend their win streak to three games. The loss leaves the Blackhawks (45 points) four points behind the Predators.

The Dallas Stars kept their playoff hopes alive by dropping the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1. Denis Gurianov scored twice and collected an assist as the Stars are one point back of the Blackhawks.

Two-goal performances by Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connors carried the Winnipeg Jets to a 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto center Auston Matthews missed the game with an undisclosed injury and is listed as day-to-day. The Jets (57 points) moved to within three points of the first-place Leafs in the Scotia North Division.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks’ scheduled game tonight against the Edmonton Oilers was postponed because of player preparation concerns. The Canucks last played on March 24 and their schedule was postponed on March 31 by COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: There’s speculation Saturday’s game could also be postponed. It wouldn’t surprise me if it takes another week before the Canucks can safely ice a healthy roster. This latest postponement came about after the players raised concerns with the NHLPA that they hadn’t fully recovered in time for Friday’s contest with the Oilers.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams denied reports claiming team captain Jack Eichel would soon undergo surgery to repair a season-ending herniated disk in his neck. He said Eichel will continue to rehab the injury and he’ll be reevaluated in May.










Dynamic NHL Duos: Many Similarities Between Ovechkin/Backstrom and Howe/Delvecchio

Dynamic NHL Duos: Many Similarities Between Ovechkin/Backstrom and Howe/Delvecchio

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 8, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 8, 2021

Recaps of Sunday’s action plus the latest injury and COVID-19 updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Scott Laughton tallied his first career NHL hat trick while a returning Sean Couturier scored twice and added an assist as the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Washington Capitals 7-4. Joel Farabee collected three assists for the Flyers. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored twice and set up two others while Tom Wilson had a four-point game.

Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Laughton (NHL Images).

Before the game, Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim entered the league’s COVID-19 protocol list, resulting in rapid testing of both clubs. Once those tests returned negative the game was allowed to proceed.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL and NHLPA are reportedly looking into implementing more rapid testing league-wide in hope of flattening the rising COVID-19 curve among the teams. The Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils are currently sidelined because a number of their players are on the COVID protocol list.

A third-period goal by Chandler Stephenson lifted the Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Stephenson scored twice while teammate Zach Whitecloud tallied his first NHL regulation goal. Kings’ rookie Jaret Anderson-Dolan netted his first career NHL goal. The Kings played without forward Martin Frk as he was unavailable due to a lower-body injury.

Alex DeBrincat scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the Chicago Blackhawks edged the Dallas Stars 2-1. Patrick Kane had two assists and Malcolm Subban kicked out 31 shots for the win.

The Detroit Red Wings upset the Florida Panthers 4-1, handing the latter their first regulation loss of the season. Wings forward Givani Smith had a Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal, an assist and a fight with Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad following Smith’s hit to the head of Panthers’ blueliner MacKenzie Weegar. No word if Smith will face supplemental discipline. Wings forward Anthony Mantha was a healthy scratch from this contest.

A controversial offside call in the second period overshadowed the Carolina Hurricanes 6-5 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Officials overruled an offside challenge by the Jackets on a goal by Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck and assessed the Jackets a bench penalty. The officials subsequently decided the play was offside after all and waved off the final 45 seconds of the Hurricanes power-play but still allowed Trocheck’s goal to stand.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Usually outspoken Jackets coach John Tortorella declined to offer his opinion following the game. “You know what? I’m gonna let the league explain it,” said Tortorella. Jackets winger Patrick Laine, who scored twice in the game, didn’t shy away from expressing his view. “I think that’s the biggest joke I’ve ever seen,” said Laine.

HEADLINES

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres forwards Dylan Cozens, Curtis Lazar and Casey Mittelstadt joined teammates Taylor Hall, Rasmus Ristolainen, Brandon Montour, Tobias Rieder and Jake McCabe on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Minnesota Wild defenseman Brad Hunt joined teammates Nick Bjugstad, Nick Bonino, Ian Cole, Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno, Marcus Johansson, Jared Spurgeon and Nico Sturm on the COVID protocol list.

TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs winger Wayne Simmonds could be sidelined up to six weeks after getting hit in the hand with a shot during Saturday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks.

SPORTSNET: The Leafs signed forward Scott Sabourin to a one-year, two-way contract.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabourin signing is a further indication Simmonds could miss significant time.

SPORTSNET: The Edmonton Oilers activated goaltender Mike Smith off long-term injury reserve.

TSN: San Jose Sharks defenseman Radim Simek was fined $5,000.00 for spearing Anaheim Ducks forward Adam Henrique during Saturday’s game between the two clubs.

FOX SPORTS MIDWEST: The St. Louis Blues activated defenseman Robert Bortuzzo off injured reserved, placed winger Robert Thomas (broken thumb) on IR and recalled winger Jacob de la Rose.

NHL.COM: Former NHL forward Ralph Backstrom died Sunday at age 83 following a lengthy illness. Backstrom won the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year in 1959 and won six Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens. He tallied 278 goals and 639 points in 1, 032 NHL games with the Canadiens, Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks, as well as 214 points in 234 games in the WHA.

Backstrom went on to coach the University of Denver, scouted for the St. Louis Blues and founded the Colorado Eagles, now the AHL farm club of the Colorado Avalanche.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Backstrom lived a full, productive life in hockey and the game is better for it. My condolences to his family, friends, teammates and associates.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 16, 2020

Recaps of Saturday’s action, plus the latest on Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves backstopping the Boston Bruins over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 in Game 3 of their opening-round series. The Bruins lead the series 2-1. Charlie Coyle, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci each had two points for the Bruins.

Tuukka Rask left the Boston Bruins to return home for family reasons. (NHL Images)

Halak took over as the Bruins’ starter after Tuukka Rask released a statement before yesterday’s game indicating he was leaving the team and returning home for family reasons. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said the club supported Rask’s decision.

It was a costly loss for the Hurricanes as first-line winger Andrei Svechnikov left the game with an injured leg after jostling in front of the Boston net with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.

 

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That game had a surreal feeling, starting with the sudden news of Rask’s departure followed by Svechnikov’s injury. The latter prompted a crass, misinformed tweet by NESN’s play-by-play man Jack Edwards chiding the Hurricanes’ winger, in turn sparking an outpouring of criticism toward Edwards, including from several NHL TV analysts and pundits.

While Rask is expected to return to the Bruins next season, there is already speculation he may have played his final NHL game. I’ll have more on that later today in the Rumors section.

The Hurricanes could provide an update on Svechnikov’s status, but head coach Rod Brind’Amour suggested the injury looked “really bad” during his post-game presser. Losing their best winger would leave a big void in the Hurricanes’ lineup.

The Vegas Golden Knights have the Chicago Blackhawks on the ropes as they hung on for a 2-1 win in Game 3 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. Marc-Andre Fleury made his first start of this series for Vegas, turning in a 26-save performance. William Karlsson and Patrick Brown scored for Vegas while Olli Maatta replied for the Blackhawks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks had several good scoring chances but failed to cash in. The Golden Knights can complete the sweep later today.

Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper tied a career-high 49 saves carrying his club to a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of their opening-round series. The Avs lead the series 2-1. Taylor Hall tallied the game-winner late in the third period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes have been outshot and outplayed through most of their games in this postseason but Kuemper’s made the difference. He stole this game for the Coyotes, keeping them from falling behind 3-0 to the powerful Avalanche.

Victor Hedman’s second-period goal proved to be the game-winner as the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series. Lightning center Brayden Point also scored to extend his points streak to six games. Riley Nash had a goal and an assist for the Jackets, who were held to just seven shots in the second and third periods.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This has been a low-scoring grinder of a series. Unlike last season’s opening-round series, this year’s rematch shows the Lightning are willing to play that type of game. The Jackets have relied on strong goaltender and defense to get this far, but they need more goal production if they hope to upset the Bolts for the second time.

HEADLINES

RUSSIAN MACHINE NEVER BREAKS: Washington Capitals coach Todd Reirden said Nicklas Backstrom participated in practice yesterday but was reluctant to commit to the center’s status for Game 3 today against the New York Islanders. Backstrom was sidelined following a late hit from Islanders captain Anders Lee in Game 1.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reports Oilers defenseman Mike Green has retired.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No official word yet from Green or his representatives. It wouldn’t be surprising if the veteran blueliner has decided to hang up his skates. An unrestricted free agent at season’s end, the 34-year-old Green is coming to the end of his career. He opted out of return-to-play citing family reasons.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports there’s concern some of the top European prospects in the 2020 NHL Draft might not be permitted to play in the NHL in 2020-21 because of COVID-19. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of the European prospects were probably going to remain overseas for next season anyway. I don’t think it’ll adversely affect their standing in this year’s draft.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 14, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 14, 2020

Recaps of Thursday’s playoff games, Canadiens coach Claude Julien hospitalized, Dan Hamhuis retires, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

Vegas Golden Knights winger Reilly Smith (NHL Images).

  NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights edged the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 on Reilly Smith’s overtime goal in Game 2 of their first-round series, which Vegas now leads 2-0. It was goalie Robin Lehner’s seventh straight win in as many starts with the Golden Knights, who were without winger Max Pacioretty (unfit to play) in Game 2. His replacement, Tomas Nosek, left the game in the second period. Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane collected three assists.

 

    Dougie Hamilton’s third-period goal lifted the Carolina Hurricanes to a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of their series, tying it at a game apiece. Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov had a goal and an assist. Brad Marchand and David Krejci each had a goal and an assist for the Bruins, who were without winger David Pastrnak following an apparent leg injury suffered in Game 1.  

 

 

Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, meanwhile, raised eyebrows with his post-game comments comparing the atmosphere in this playoff bubble to playing exhibition games. “To be honest with you, it really doesn’t feel like playoff hockey out there,” said Rask. “There are no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rask probably isn’t the only player feeling that way, which could account in part for why some teams and notable players seem to struggle to regain their intensity in the early going. Those who adjust more quickly could have an advantage through the opening round.

Joonas Korpisalo made 36 savers backstopping the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in Game 2 of their first-round series, which now stands knotted at a game apiece. Oliver Bjorkstrand snapped a 1-1 tie in the second period, Alexander Wennberg put the game away with his third-period tally and Pierre-Luc Dubois picked up two assists. Nikita Kucherov scored for the Lightning.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the same story with the Blue Jackets. They get outshot by a big margin (37-22 in this game) but weather the storm and break your heart with their timely offense.

The Dallas Stars tied their series with the Calgary Flames at a game apiece as Jamie Oleksiak’s goal with 40 seconds remaining in regulation gave them a 5-4 victory. Stars blueliner Miro Heiskanen scored twice while teammates Alexander Radulov and Corey Perry each had a goal and an assist. Ben Bishop returned to the Stars net after being unfit to play in Game 1 while Taylor Fedun filled in for the sidelined Stephen Johns. Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk left the game following a third-period collision with Oleksiak and Jamie Benn.

HEADLINES

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens head coach Claude Julien was rushed to hospital after suffering chest pains following his club’s 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of their first-round series. His condition isn’t related to COVID-19. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said Julien won’t return for the remainder of the series. Assistant coaches Kirk Muller, Dominque Ducharme, and Luke Richardson will share the coaching duties in Julien’s absence.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin indicated he’d received some good news about Julien’s condition yesterday afternoon but didn’t elaborate. Here’s hoping the Habs bench boss makes a quick and full recovery.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is in concussion protocol and won’t take part in Game 2 against the New York Islanders later today. Backstrom was injured following a late hit by Islanders’ captain Anders Lee. Lars Eller will replace Backstrom after returning to the club following the birth of his son.

AZCENTRAL.COM: The Arizona Coyotes hope to have center Nick Schmaltz in the lineup for Game 2 against the Colorado Avalanche later today. He’s been absent since being injured during an exhibition game two weeks ago.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The low-scoring Coyotes could use Schmaltz’s offense against the Avs. He was their leading scorer during the regular season.

THE SCORE: Defenseman Dan Hamhuis announced his retirement after 16 NHL seasons with the Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks, and Dallas Stars. He played in 1,184 games, netting 356 points. Hamhuis played in two games of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final until a groin injury sidelined him for the rest of the series. He won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Hamhuis in his future endeavors. He was among the league’s best defensive blueliners during his playing prime.










Capitals Re-sign Nicklas Backstrom

Capitals Re-sign Nicklas Backstrom

The Washington Capitals re-signed Nicklas Backstrom to a five-year, $46-million contract extension. The 32-year-old center was slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. The annual average value is $9.2 million.

Washington Capitals re-sign Nicklas Backstrom to a five-year contract extension (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt anyone’s surprised the Capitals decided to keep Backstrom in the fold. Like Alex Ovechkin, he’s a key part of their roster core and leadership group. He’s also the second longest-serving active member of their roster next to Ovechkin. He’s their all-time assist leader (668) and a model of consistency, reaching or exceeding 65 points in 10 of the last 12 seasons. With 35 points in 39 games, he could do it again this season.

According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, the contract breakdown is as follows: “$6 million signing bonus and $6 million salary in 2020-21, $5 million signing bonus and $5 million salary in 2021-22, $3 million signing bonus and $3 million salary in 2022-23, $5 million signing bonus and $5 million salary in 2023-24 and $6 million signing bonus and a $2 million salary in 2024-25. In total, he will be paid $25 million in signing bonuses.”

Backstrom’s getting a nice pay raise over his current $6.7 million annual average value. Some will argue the Capitals are spending too much for too long on an aging asset. There is some risk involved, but with the Capitals still considered a Stanley Cup contender, it’s one management felt willing to take. If he can maintain a reasonably productive pace through most of that period, it could prove worthwhile.

This signing raises questions over how much it’ll cost the Capitals to keep Ovechkin, whose current deal expires at the end of 2020-21. He’s averaged over $9.5 million annually and remains among the league’s elite scorers. If he remains a Richard Trophy contender, It could cost over $10 million annually to keep Ovie in Washington.

With over $71 million invested in 16 players following Backstrom’s signing, the Capitals won’t have much salary-cap room to re-sign long-time starting goaltender Braden Holtby. Assuming the cap rises to $84 million, they’ll have around $13 million left with Holtby and Radko Gudas as their remaining UFAs. Unless Holtby’s willing to accept a hometown discount, this is probably his final season with the Capitals.