NHL Playoffs: These 10 Players Are Shining In The Stanley Cup Spotlight
The Stars and Islanders advance to the second round, Matt Niskanen gets a one-game suspension for a cross-check that fractured Brendan Gallagher’s jaw and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Denis Gurianov scored four times as the Dallas Stars overcame a 3-0 deficit with seven unanswered goals to crush the Calgary Flames 7-3, winning their opening-round series four games to two. Five of those goals came in the second period. Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen had a goal and three assists while teammate Joe Pavelski tallied one goal and set up two others.
— Spector’s Hockey (@SpectorsHockey) August 21, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A well-deserved victory for the Stars in this game and in this series. They’ll face the Colorado Avalanche in the second round. I was very impressed with Heiskanen’s performance in this series. The 21-year-old NHL sophomore is rapidly blossoming into an elite defenseman. Pavelski, meanwhile, continues to prove at 36 he’s still a reliable postseason performer. As for the Flames, some big changes could be coming after this meltdown.
Anthony Beauvillier scored twice, including the game-winner, as the New York Islanders blanked the Washington Capitals 4-0 to take their first-round series four games to one. Semyon Varlamov made 21 saves for the shutout.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A dominant performance by the Islanders, shutting down the league’s second-best offensive team. It was a master class by Isles bench boss Barry Trotz as he outcoached the Capitals’ Todd Reirden in this series. Two years following the Caps’ Stanley Cup championship, some changes could be in store for the roster and behind the bench.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The NHL Department of Player Safety handed a one-game suspension to Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen for cross-checking Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher in the face during Game 5 of their first-round series.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Niskanen’s cross-check fractured Gallagher’s jaw, sidelining the Canadiens winger for the remainder of this series and possibly longer should the Habs advance to the second round.
CBS SPORTS: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers suffered a slightly separated shoulder. He’ll be sidelined for the remainder of the Canucks’ series with the St. Louis Blues. Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli (lower-body injury) could be in the lineup for Game 6 tonight.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Former NHL coach Bill Peters has tested positive for COVID-19. The head coach of Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, Peters is reportedly asymptomatic.
The Maple Leafs rally to tie their series with the Blue Jackets while the Canucks, Canadiens, Blackhawks, Coyotes, and Islanders march on to the playoffs. Recaps and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Auston Matthews’ overtime tally capped a four-goal rally by the Toronto Maple Leafs to edge the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3, tying their best-of-five qualifying-round series at two games apiece. The Leafs were down 3-0 late in the third when they tied it on goals by William Nylander, John Tavares, and Zach Hyman, setting the stage for Matthews’ OT heroics. The fifth and deciding game will be played Sunday.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 8, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Until that rally, Toronto looked done and dusted. With the game and the series seemingly in the bag following a solid defensive performance, the Jackets were unprepared for the Leafs’ desperate push. Both teams are now even in third-period comebacks. The Vancouver Canucks are marching on to the playoffs after Chris Tanev’s overtime goal gave them a series-clinching 5-4 win over the Minnesota Wild in Game 4 of their qualifier. Tanev enjoyed a three-point performance while Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes, and Tanner Pearson each had a goal and an assist.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This series was a big step forward for the rebuilding Canucks. The Wild, meanwhile, enter an off-season that could lead to some significant roster changes. This game may have been the last one for long-time Wild captain Mikko Koivu.
Carey Price had a 22-game shutout as he backstopped the Montreal Canadiens over the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 in Game 4 of their qualifier, winning the series 3 games to 1. Artturi Lehkonen snapped a scoreless tie on a beautiful pass by Paul Byron late in the third period. Shea Weber put it away with an empty-netter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens out-worked and out-hit the Penguins, whose intensity seemed to wan as they struggled to put pucks past Price. The Habs goalie was outstanding in this series, silencing (for now) the critics claiming he was past his prime.
Dominik Kubalik snapped a 2-2 third-period tie to lift the Chicago Blackhawks to a 3-2, series-ending Game 4 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews collected two assists while Corey Crawford kicked out 43 shots for the win. Oilers captain Connor McDavid had two assists.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks had solid goaltending, veteran postseason experience, and scoring depth. The Oilers had McDavid’s line and not much else.
An overtime goal by Brad Richardson propelled the Arizona Coyotes to a 4-3 series-clinching win over the Nashville Predators. Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper made 49 saves, team captain Oliver-Ekman-Larsson collected two assists, and Phil Kessel tallied his first goal of the series.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kuemper was the difference throughout this series. Nashville dominated much of the play but couldn’t crack the Coyotes netminder. The Preds also didn’t get much secondary scoring in this series.
Anthony Beauvillier scored twice as the New York Islanders wrapped up their series against the Florida Panthers with a convincing 5-1 victory in Game 4.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers had little answer for the Islanders’ defensive system. Their lack of depth could lead to a front-office shakeup as a report claimed Dale Tallon could be out as general manager.
LAS VEGAS SUN: The top seed in the Western Conference is on the line as the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche face off today in round-robin action.
TSN: Steven Stamkos will miss today’s final round-robin game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Tampa Bay Lightning captain is still recovering from an undisclosed injury suffered during Phase 2 training. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Stamkos is considered to be out indefinitely for the time being.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers winger Jakub Voracek is unavailable to play in today’s contest with the Lightning. As per league protocols, the club cannot elaborate as to his condition. Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk returns to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Thursday’s win over the Washington Capitals.
MLIVE.COM: The Detroit Red Wings have loaned Filip Zadina to HC Ocelari Trinec (Czech) and Moritz Seider to Mannheim, his former German League club.
TSN: The NHL is continuing its investigation into allegations of pre-draft fitness testing by the Arizona Coyotes. A ruling could come on Monday.
NHL.COM: The Seattle Kraken named Everett Fitzhugh as their team broadcaster, making him the NHL’s first Black full-time play-by-player announcer.
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) August 7, 2020
With the #Coyotes moving on to the playoffs, the NJ #Devils will receive Arizona’s 2020 1st RD pick as part of the Taylor Hall trade. NJ now has 2 picks in the first RD of this years entry draft, and will have 3 picks if Vancouver advances later tonight.https://t.co/FoSKA6iIIw pic.twitter.com/uo6FsSfRdL — CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) August 7, 2020
Game recaps, stars of the week, the latest on possible NHL participation in future Winter Olympics, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Nikita Kucherov scored twice as the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 in overtime. With 77 points, the Lightning sits just three behind the league-leading Boston Bruins. The Jackets (70 points) hold the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Earlier in the day, they revealed defenseman Seth Jones is sidelined indefinitely with an ankle injury.
Milan Lucic had a goal and two assists to lead the Calgary Flames over the San Jose Sharks 6-2. David Rittich kicked out 34 shots for the win as the Flames (64 points) hold the first wild-card berth in the West. Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic (upper-body injury) returned to Calgary earlier in the day for further examination.
The Vancouver Canucks snapped a four-game winless skid by dumping the Nashville Predators 6-2. Jacob Markstrom made 36 saves, Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller each picked up two points and defenseman Quinn Hughes collected three assists for the Canucks (67 points), who remain atop the Pacific Division. With 59 points, the Predators remain four points out of a Western Conference wild-card berth.
Two first-period goals by Anthony Beauvillier powered the New York Islanders to a 5-3 victory over the Washington Capitals. Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each picked up three assists. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin remains two goals shy of 700 for his career. Washington (77 points) sits atop the Metropolitan Division, seven points up on the third-place Isles.
Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart made 30 saves to backstop his club over the slumping Florida Panthers 4-1. Hart was sidelined nine games with an abdominal strain. James van Riemsdyk scored a goal and collected an assist for the Flyers (69 points), who hold the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers, meanwhile, have dropped three straight and remain two points behind the Leafs.
The Arizona Coyotes overcame an early 2-0 deficit to nip the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. Jakob Chychrun tallied the game-winner with a power-play goal in the final minute of the third period, while teammate Derek Stepan had a goal and an assist. Canadiens center Phillip Danault left the game after being struck in the mouth by a shot from linemate Tomas Tatar. The Coyotes, meanwhile, played without goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who suffered an injury earlier in the day. The Coyotes (63 points) remain just outside the Western Conference playoff picture, while the Canadiens (61 points) remain five back of the Toronto Maple Leafs for third in the Atlantic Division.
Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, Winnipeg Jets winger Kyle Connor, and Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 9.
SPORTSNET: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid said his sore knee is unrelated to the more serious injury he suffered at the end of last season. He bruised the knee during Saturday’s game against Nashville and remains questionable for tonight’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins rookie defenseman John Marino underwent surgery on Monday to repair a facial injury. There is currently no timeframe for his return.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha will return to action tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. He’d been sidelined since Dec. 21 with a rib injury and a punctured lung.
TSN: NHLPA executive Mathieu Schneider called last week’s meeting with the International Olympic Committee as “really positive” and “a good gesture” on the IOC’s part. The news generated hope of future Winter Olympic participation involving NHL players, but league deputy commissioner Bill Daly struck a more cautious tone. “From an overall perspective, I would say we have a long way to go. I wouldn’t get overly excited,” he said. Collective bargaining talks between the league and the PA are expected to resume today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Daly further tamped down expectations in an email yesterday to the Associated Press. “We aren’t there yet. In fact, we aren’t even close to being there,” Daly wrote.”At this point in time, we continue to believe that the negatives outweigh the positives.”
Those “negatives” include the travel and insurance costs for the players, as well as allowing the league and the PA to access video and images to market their players. Until those issues are suitably addressed, the league won’t participate in future Olympic games.
ESPN.COM: The coronavirus could soon affect the NHL’s stick supply. 75 percent of the composite sticks are made in China, where the virus has reduced transportation and exports to a trickle.
With the 2019 Trade Deadline now history, find out what the future holds for the Canadiens, Islanders, Panthers, and Senators in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD THE CANADIENS PURSUE DUCHENE THIS SUMMER?
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Stu Cowan reports Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin wasn’t prepared to pay the high prices asked of the top rental players in this year’s trade market. He was rumored to be interested in Matt Duchene, who was shipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Noting Duchene is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, Cowan suggests Bergevin could take another run at him – or someone else – without giving up anyone from his roster or moving a first-round pick or one of his top prospects. The Canadiens’ improved performance this season could make them an attractive destination for free agents like Duchene.
SPORTSNET: Eric Engels reports Bergevin was trying to upgrade his depth at center and on defense before the deadline. However, he balked at the asking prices, which included rookie center Jesperi Kotkaniemi and top prospects like Ryan Poehling, Nick Suzuki, and Alex Romanov. “If I would’ve done what I was asked for, you would probably have called me an idiot,” Bergevin said.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens are exceeding expectations this season. By standing pat, Bergevin did the right thing. He’s keeping his focus on the long-term future.
With $62 million invested in 15 players next season and his core players under contract, Bergevin has the cap room to make a significant move or two via free agency like Duchene, though such players will be very expensive to sign. I wouldn’t be surprised if he attempts to weaponize that cap room by targeting teams with limited cap room looking to shed salary before next season. That doesn’t mean taking on overpaid underachievers or fading veterans but looking at promising young players on reasonable contracts.
ISLANDERS REPORTEDLY PURSUED DUCHENE
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Arthur Staple reports the New York Islanders are thought to have made an offer for Matt Duchene before the Senators traded him to the Blue Jackets involving their 2019 first-round pick and young forward Anthony Beauvillier. Staple also feels the Islanders could have a keen interest in Blue Jackets left winger Artemi Panarin if he hits the free-agent market this summer.
NEW YORK POST: Brett Cyrgalis believes the Islanders turn their focus toward forwards Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle, who are all on expiring contracts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sitting atop the Metropolitan Division, the Islanders are also doing much better than expected this season and didn’t have to make a big move at the deadline. They have over $47 million invested in 14 players for 2019-20, giving them plenty of room to re-sign their key UFAs (which also includes goalie Robin Lehner) and still pursue a top potential free agent like Panarin or Duchene this summer. I expect they’ll re-sign Lee and Lehner for sure but I’m not so certain Eberle and Nelson fit into their long-term plans.
PANTHERS EXPECTED TO BE ACTIVE IN SUMMER’S TRADE/UFA MARKETS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): George Richards reports Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon made “a substantial offer” to the Ottawa Senators for Mark Stone, who was subsequently traded to the Vegas Golden Knights yesterday. Tallon indicated he’s willing to re-sign pending UFAs Riley Sheahan and Troy Brouwer. Richards notes Tallon has plenty of draft picks and salary-cap space to be active in this summer’s trade and free-agent markets. They could be seeking a top-end forward, defenseman and a premier goaltender.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rumors were rampant leading up to the deadline suggesting Tallon was very keen to acquire Columbus Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Don’t be surprised if he’s among the suitors for both this summer via free agency.
OTTAWA SUN: In the wake of trading Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel, Bruce Garrioch reports the Senators will make decisions in the offseason to add some veterans but much of the roster will be made up of youth.
Don Brennan reports Senators general manager Pierre Dorion is happy to land promising defenseman Erik Brannstrom in the trade that sent Stone to the Vegas Golden Knights. Brennan notes Dorion is thrilled about the state of his team and its future but believes the Sens GM is in the dark or in denial over the unhappy mood of the fan base. Brennan also wonders how long the Senators will have defenseman Cody Ceci, a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators are well-stocked with draft picks, especially in the 2020 NHL Draft. As Brennan pointed out, however, they have a mixed record with their recent draft history, which includes busts like Jakub Klepis, Brian Lee, Jim O’Brien, Jared Cowen, and Curtis Lazar.
They’ll have plenty of salary-cap space for 2019-20, with $44 million invested in 13 players and a cap minimum expected to rise to over $60 million. However, their status as a rebuilding club with a cantankerous owner won’t make them a destination of choice for the top UFA talent or even for second-tier free agents.
As for Ceci, I think the Senators will try to trade him, probably in the week leading up to the NHL Draft in June. He frequently surfaced this season as a trade candidate and I expect we’ll see his name pop up again.
Rangers edged Sabres in 2018 Winter Classic, three stars of the week and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves while J.T. Miller scored in overtime to give the New York Rangers a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres in the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citi Field yesterday. Miller also collected an assist while teammate Jesper Fast returned from a strained quad that sidelined him since Dec. 21. Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner made 39 saves as Buffalo overcame a 2-0 deficit to force the extra frame, while teammate Kyle Okposo had two assists.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lundqvist now has more victories in outdoor games (four) than any other NHL goaltender. He also has a combined 1.98 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in those contests.
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, Vegas Golden Knights forward William Karlsson and Boston Bruins right wing David Backes are the three stars for the week ending Dec. 31.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a worthy honor for Hellebuyck. At this point in the season, he can be considered among the candidates for the Vezina Trophy. His record thus far this season stands at 21-4-5, with a 2.37 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.
LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber remains sidelined with a foot injury. He didn’t suffer a fracture but it’s uncertain when he’ll return to action.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Without Weber the Habs are suffering at both ends of the ice. The longer he’s on the shelf, the more their playoff hopes fade.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise is expected to make his season debut tonight against the Florida Panthers. He was sidelined by back surgery for nearly three months.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: The struggling Penguins could have defensemen Kris Letang and Justin Schultz back in the lineup for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Both were on injured reserve with lower-body ailments.
NEWSDAY: The New York Islanders demoted forwards Steve Bernier and Anthony Beauvillier to Bridgeport.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Beauvillier had a promising rookie performance last season (24 points in 66 games) but he’s struggled in this sophomore campaign after being relegated to bottom-six forward duties, netting just seven points in 31 contests.
THE ATHLETIC: Former NHL player Bryan Bickell has begun a second career as a multiple sclerosis spokesperson. The disease forced Bickell into premature retirement at the end of last season.
USA TODAY: Former NHL winger Brian Gionta will be the captain of the U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey team at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. Other former NHLers joining Gionta include James Wisniewski, Matt Gilroy and Mark Arcobello,