NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 19, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 19, 2021

The Lightning takes a 2-0 series lead over the Panthers, the Penguins and Golden Knights tie their respective series, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy nominees are announced, the Red Wings re-sign Jeff Blashill and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves to backstop the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Florida Panthers 3-1. Tampa Bay leads the series 2-0. Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat and Yanni Gourde scored for the Lightning while Mason Marchment replied for the Panthers. The series shifts to Tampa Bay for Game 3 on Thursday.

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vasilevskiy was the difference maker as the Lightning took an early 2-0 lead. The Panthers outshot the Bolts 24-13 over the second and third periods but could only get one shot past the former Vezina Trophy winner.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry made 37 saves as his club held on for a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders to even their series at a game apiece. The Penguins got first-period goals from Bryan Rust and Jeff Carter while Josh Bailey replied for the Isles in the second period. The series shifts to Long Island for Game 3 on Thursday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A solid bounce-back effort for Jarry following his shaky performance in Game 1. Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov looked rusty in the early going as he returned to action after missing a week with a lower-body injury.

Marc-Andre Fleury kicked out 34 shots and Alex Tuch scored twice as the Vegas Golden Knights tamed the Minnesota Wild 3-1 to tie their series 1-1. Jonathan Marchessault also scored for Vegas while the Wild’s Matt Dumba opened the scoring. The series moves to Minnesota for Game 3 on Thursday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Strong goaltending was the theme for the winning teams on Tuesday. Fleury also played well in his club’s 1-0 overtime loss in Game 1.

The Vancouver Canucks doubled up the Calgary Flames 4-2 in their second-to-last regular-season contest. Canucks netminder Thatcher Demko made 38 saves while Brock Boeser, Tyler Myers and Travis Hamonic each had a goal and an assist. The two clubs will play their season finale tonight.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel, Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares are among this season’s 31 nominees for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy.

MLIVE.COM: The Detroit Red Wings agreed to a contract extension with head coach Jeff Blashill. Details were not released. Blashill’s current contract was to expire at the end of this season. Meanwhile, the Wings announced captain Dylan Larkin is recovering from an undisclosed injury and is expected to be ready for the start of 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wings also revealed assistant coach Dan Bylsma won’t be back. Wings general manager Steve Yzerman believes the club’s improvement this season earned Blashill at least another year behind the bench.

SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the Vancouver Canucks have informed GM Jim Benning will return next season.

THE PROVINCE: There’s speculation former Canucks stars Daniel and Henrik Sedin could return to the club in front-office roles. Meanwhile, there’s still no indication if head coach Travis Green will receive a contract extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The news of Benning’s return won’t please his critics. Meanwhile, uncertainty remains over Green’s future in Vancouver. Benning signaled his intent in January to sign Green to a contract extension but he’s gone quiet in recent weeks about those negotiations.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Young Canadiens Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Alexander Romanov and Cole Caufield will be scratched from Game 1 of their upcoming series-opening game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme wants to go with a more experienced lineup to open the series but benching those kids isn’t sitting well with Habs fans on social media. Their unhappiness will grow if that veteran-laden lineup drops Game 1 to the Leafs.

Speaking of the Canadiens, the province of Quebec will be easing some COVID-19 restrictions later this month. As a result, the Habs could have 2,500 fans at the Bell Centre for Game 6 against the Leafs on May 29.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s assuming there is a Game 6. The Leafs are the heavy favorites in this series. Most experts predict they’ll eliminate the Habs in four or five games.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon will miss Game 3 tonight against the Washington Capitals with an injured hand. He’s listed as day-to-day. Blueliner Kevan Miller suffered a cut in Game 2 but will be in the lineup for tonight’s contest.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers have parted ways with Scott Gordon and Kerry Huffman. Gordon was head coach of their AHL affiliate while Huffman was the assistant coach.

THE QMJHL: The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League announced Guy Lafleur’s No. 4 will be retired across the league starting next season. Lafleur wore that number when he starred with the Quebec Remparts from 1969 to 1971 before becoming the first-overall pick by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1971 draft.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Former Canadiens defenseman and NHL player agent Gilles Lupien passed away yesterday from cancer at age 67. He won two Stanley Cups with the Habs in 1978 and 1979, playing 226 career NHL games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Lupien’s family, friends, former teammates and clients.










What Next For the Vancouver Canucks?

What Next For the Vancouver Canucks?

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 6, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 6, 2021

Recaps of Friday’s games, Brent Seabrook retires, Sabres GM speaks about his club’s poor performance and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Brad Marchand scored twice and set up another to lead the Boston Bruins over the Washington Capitals 5-1. Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom collected an assist to give him 700 for his career. Capitals winger Tom Wilson could face supplemental discipline after he drilled Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo in the head during the first period. Wilson was unpenalized on the play while Carlo left the game and was taken to hospital for his injury.

Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson has a history of questionable hits stretching back to 2015. His previous antics earned him four fines and three suspensions totaling 23 games.

A shootout goal by Philipp Kurashev lifted the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Alex DeBrincat scored twice, Patrick Kane collected two helpers and Malcolm Subban made 39 saves for the win.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks have proven to be a handful for the Lightning in this series compared to their previous one earlier in the season. It’s indicative of how much the Hawks have improved since the opening weeks of the schedule.

David Perron’s game-tying goal late in the third period set the stage for Mike Hoffman’s overtime winner as the St. Louis Blues edged the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. Perron scored twice while Ryan O’Reilly assisted on every Blues goal. The Kings have dropped four straight.

The Colorado Avalanche got an overtime goal by Valeri Nichushkin to nip the Anaheim Ducks 3-2. Avs center Nathan MacKinnon remained sidelined by an apparent head injury suffered during Wednesday’s game against San Jose. He received clearance to play but was a late scratch to avoid further injury. Head coach Jared Bednar believes MacKinnon could miss a couple of more games.

A three-goal first period powered the Minnesota Wild to a 5-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Jordan Greenway and Mats Zuccarello each had a goal and an assist while Kirill Kaprizov and Marcus Foligno both collected two assists.

Max Pacioretty scored in overtime as the Vegas Golden Knights downed the San Jose Sharks 5-4. Pacioretty scored twice and added an assist. Vegas goalie Oscar Dansk made 24 saves to pick up his first win since 2017.

HEADLINES

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook announced his playing career is over due to injuries. The 35-year-old blueliner’s last game was Dec. 15, 2019, after which he underwent surgery on both of his hips and right shoulder. He then suffered a back injury during the opening day of training camp in January. Seabrook finishes his career with three Stanley Cups (2010, 2013, 2015), an Olympic Gold Medal (2010) and 464 points in 1,114 games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Seabrook spent his entire 15-year NHL career with the Blackhawks and played a crucial role in their rise from league laughingstock to three-time Stanley Cup champion. He hasn’t officially retired, however, as he has three years and $15 million in actual salary remaining on his contract. He’ll remain on long-term injury reserve, which will provide the Blackhawks with a measure of salary-cap relief.

WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams expressed his unhappiness yesterday over his club’s poor performance. He called where the team was at this time “unacceptable”, criticized what he called a lack of competitiveness by the players, emphasized he has “full authority on hockey decisions,” indicated “everything is being evaluated” when asked about head coach Ralph Krueger’s status and claimed team captain Jack Eichel has not requested a trade.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Adams’ statement seemed to be the club’s attempt to mollify Sabres fans upset with the club’s lack of progress. Talk is one thing, action is another. The fans are more interested in what, if anything, the current management intends to do to end this team’s decade of mediocrity.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Former Canadiens goaltending coach Stephane Waite said the club expected starting goalie Carey Price would struggle in January and February as he adjusted to sharing his workload this season with backup Jake Allen. Price was expected to improve as the season wore on and saw more starts.

Waite also said the long-time Habs netminder isn’t at 100 percent physically but he can still play. “He’s not hurt but he has some stiffness. He has to learn to play with the pain and that’s why we need a very good backup and that’s what we have in Montreal right now.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This will further stoke debate among Canadiens fans over whether Price will ever regain his once-dominant form on a consistent basis.

THE SCORE: Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning said he’s not looking to make a coaching change. Bench boss Travis Green is in the final season of his contract but Benning believes Green and his staff “have done a good job with our group”. As for trades, the Canucks GM said his struggling team has to figure this out from within as new players would have to quarantine for two weeks and regain their conditioning.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: So, no Jake Virtanen to the Anaheim Ducks for Danton Heinen as rumored a week ago?

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers are breathing a sigh of relief as they learned goaltender Igor Shesterkin suffered a mild groin strain during Thursday’s win over the New Jersey Devils. He had to be helped off the ice at the end of the third period when he was unable to put weight on his right leg. He’s listed as day-to-day.

STARTRIBUNE.COM: Former 1980 Team USA forward Mark Pavelich, 63, was found dead in a Minnesota treatment facility. Pavelich helped Team USA upset the powerful Soviet Union squad on route to winning Olympic gold in 1980. He went on to spend six seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers, Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks, tallying 329 points in 355 games.

Pavelich was arrested in 2019 and charged with a violent assault on his neighbor but was found mentally incompetent to stand trial. Family and friends believe his condition was linked to head trauma suffered during his playing career. He was receiving treatment for his condition and was believed to be making progress at the time of his death.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Pavelich’s family, friends and former teammates.










Canucks On The Brink Of Collapse

Canucks On The Brink Of Collapse

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 22, 2020

Nikita Kucherov could miss the start of the season, Oscar Klefbom sidelined for 2020-21, the Coyotes sign Drake Caggiula, the latest on Canadian teams playing in Ontario and BC, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE ATHLETIC: Joe Smith reports a nagging hip injury could affect Nikita Kucherov’s status for the start of the season. The Tampa Bay Lightning winger received an injection after experiencing discomfort during offseason workouts. He was expected to skate on Monday to see how he felt. The Lightning and Kucherov’s agent declined to comment.

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The high-scoring Kucherov’s potential absence would be keenly felt by the Lightning. They could place him on long-term injury reserve if the injury is serious enough, providing salary-cap flexibility to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak. However, the Lightning would have to shed salary to become cap compliant when he returns to the lineup later in the season. It’s still believed they’ll make a trade or two to free up enough cap room for Cirelli and Cernak.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom will miss the entire season to a shoulder injury. He’s looking into surgery and hopes to be ready to return for 2021-22.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was widely reported Klefbom was unlikely to play this season prior to yesterday’s announcement. This leaves a big hole on the Oilers’ blueline. He and his $4.167 million annual average value will be placed on LTIR if the Oilers need the cap room to make any additions, such as perhaps a short-term replacement for Klefbom.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes signed forward Drake Caggiula to a one-year contract. Cap Friendly indicates it’s worth $700K, leaving the Coyotes above the $81.5 million salary cap by $3.47 million.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes will get cap relief by placing permanently sidelined Marian Hossa ($5.275 million) on LTIR. Caggiula has dealt with concussion injuries in the past. When healthy, he is an affordable depth forward who’ll bring some additional experience to the Coyotes’ checking lines.

TSN: Despite a province-wide lockdown beginning on Christmas eve, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said no decision has been reached yet regarding the province’s NHL teams hosting games in their own arenas. Discussions are ongoing between the province and the league.

SPORTSNET: Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning remains hopeful his club can gain the confidence of British Columbia’s health officials to receive clearance to stage home games in their own arena to start this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent reports suggest BC could be unlikely to sign off on the NHL’s plan for its Canadian teams to stage games in their home arenas. Ontario and Quebec seem to be leaning toward approval but that’s not a certainty. Plan B for the Canadian teams would be opening this season in a hub city such as Edmonton.

NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The NHL has a plan to compensate teams that might have to change venues during the season. The San Jose Sharks are one of them, recently announcing they’ll stage training camp and open the season in Arizona.

LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights will begin this season without fans in attendance but haven’t closed the door on allowing a limited number of fans as the season progresses and health restrictions ease.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’ll be the plan for every NHL club. So far, only three teams – Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning – could allow a limited number of fans when the season begins. The rest will make that decision based on restrictions in their areas over the course of the schedule.

TSN: Rick Westhead reports the NHL hopes to raise $15 million this season selling ads on players’ helmets. Rich clubs like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens are pursuing $1 million deals while small-market clubs will get much less.

Westhead cites a league executive saying some of that money will be given to sponsors to make good for empty arenas. The executive denies the league is being greedy here. “Do you know how much money we are going to lose without customers in arenas? We are hemorrhaging money and we need to find any possible option for keeping our people employed.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I’ve said before, purists hate the idea but this was inevitable. The pandemic merely hastened this decision. The league is losing a lot of revenue right now and must find whatever new streams it can to offset some of those losses. Fans got used to ads on rink boards and ice surfaces. They’ll get used to this.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 15, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 15, 2020

Players are returning to their respective teams as negotiations continue between the NHL and NHLPA on a format for the 2020-21 season. Check out the latest in the morning coffee headlines.

TORONTO SUN: Joe Thornton reportedly departed Switzerland yesterday on his way to joining the Maple Leafs. The 41-year-old center played with HC Davos in preparation for a shortened 2020-21 NHL season.

Joe Thornton has left Switzerland to join the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thornton is among a number of players reportedly returning to their NHL club over the last week or two. His return to North America is seen as another indication the NHL is making progress in its plans toward starting this season in mid-January. 

THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings center Dylan Larkin is looking forward to returning to the ice with his teammates for the first time since the pandemic derailed the 2019-20 regular season. Larkin found it tough mentally dealing with the uncertainty over when this season would begin.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Red Wings are among the seven clubs that missed the playoffs last season. Those teams are expected to begin training camp on Dec. 31, four days before the other 24 clubs.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks’ proposal for a 14-day group quarantine of their players returning from Europe and the United States has apparently been rejected by local health officials. “Everything I’m hearing is that they didn’t accept the group cohort quarantine,” said general manager Jim Benning.

The Canucks presented a training-camp style plan where those players would practice as a group at Rogers Arena with a professional athlete exemption, traveling only to and from the arena and their homes.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the NHL and NHLPA announced Monday they are making progress toward a 56-game schedule for this season. He indicates the majority of players are returning to their teams, especially those in Canada whose players must quarantine for 14 days before joining their teammates.

The focus remains playing in all 31 arenas but Plan B is playing in hub cities. An agreement on a format will have to reached by the end of this week to meet the timeline to open training camps in two weeks’ time.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran reports the NHL Players Association’s 31-member executive committee could vote as early as Wednesday on a wide-ranging plan for the ’20-’21 season. The NHL Board of Governors would vote on Thursday.

An industry source tells McGran the two sides are working “around the clock on transitional rules and return-to-play protocols, and working to firm up agreements for logistical issues.” Another source tells McGran he doesn’t see any issue that could derail negotiations. “It’s just a matter of how long it’s going to take. I don’t see any reason not to play a season.”

Issues still to be sorted out include the timing for the 2021 NHL Draft and the expansion draft, new dates for free agency if the 2021 playoffs stretch into July, and rules governing cross-border trades.

NEW YORK POST’s Larry Brooks reports players are being told to expect training camp to begin shortly after New Year’s Day. Teams have been told to expect the season to begin between Jan. 13 and 16.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: COVID-19 is a pretty good reason not to play but the team owners and the players want this season to take place. With the NFL season ongoing, the NBA opening their season on Dec. 22 and MLB spring training slated to begin on Feb. 27, the NHL doesn’t want to disappear from the sports calendar. The owners want to salvage whatever revenue they can while the players need to get paid.

ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes are expected to hire Cory Stillman as an assistant coach. A two-time Stanley Cup champion during his 16-year NHL playing career, Stillman has worked at the front-office level with the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers. He also spent two seasons as head coach of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves.