Best NHL Players You Didn’t Know Played For Your Favorite Team: Metropolitan Division
Game recaps, stars and rookie of the month for December and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights picked up their eighth consecutive victory by downing the Nashville Predators 3-0. Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 28 shots for his second shutout in three games while Reilly Smith, Shea Theodore and Jonathan Marchessault were the goal scorers. Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis was held scoreless in his season debut, returning to action after being sidelined by offseason knee surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With 56 points, the Knights sit three points up on the Los Angeles Kings and Winnipeg Jets for top spot in the Western Conference and four back of the Tampa Bay Lightning for first in the overall standings.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves for his second straight shutout (and league-leading sixth of the season) backstopping the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 2-0 blanking of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Nazem Kadri (whiplash-type injury) returned to action for the Leafs, who honored legendary goaltender Johnny Bower before the game. Bower passed away last week following a brief battle with pneumonia.
The Boston Bruins extended their points streak to nine games with a 5-1 victory over the New York Islanders. Brad Marchand and Danton Heinen each had a goal and an assist for the Bruins (50 points), who moved two points ahead of the Leafs for second in the Atlantic Division.
Alex Ovechkin scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the Washington Capitals edged the Carolina Hurricanes 5-4. It was Ovechkin’s 22nd career OT goal and his third this season. With 26 goals, he’s also the league leader in that category.
Four goals by Phil Kessel, Ryan Reaves, Conor Sheary and Tom Kuhnhackl within a four-minute stretch in the second period powered the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, snapping a three-game losing skid.
Carter Hutton made 24 saves while Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko scored in a shootout to give the St. Louis Blues a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
Two-goal performances by Matt Cullen and Eric Staal carried the Minnesota Wild to a 5-1 thumping of the Florida Panthers, ending the latter’s winning streak at five games. Wild winger Zach Parise went scoreless in his season debut.
Two third-period goals by Oliver Bjorkstrand lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars. Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky picked up his 200th career NHL victory.
Erik Johnson’s breakaway goal in the dying seconds of overtime gave the Colorado Avalanche a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Avs forward Mikko Rantanen had a three-point game while Blake Wheeler scored both Jets’ goals. Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien made his return to the lineup after missing 10 games with a lower-body injury.
The Edmonton Oilers fading playoff hopes took a hit with a 5-0 blanking at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings. Jonathan Quick kicked out 32 shots for the shutout while Dustin Brown scored twice. Oilers forward Patrick Maroon could face supplemental discipline after receiving a match penalty for a hit to the head of Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who left the game but later returned to action.
Former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller turned in a 31-save shutout performance against his former club to backstop the Anaheim Ducks to a 5-0 win. Ryan Getzlaf scored and collected two helpers.
Timo Meier scored twice as the San Jose Sharks beat the listless Montreal Canadiens 4-1, handing the Habs their fifth straight defeat.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens players held a players-only meeting following the game, but I don’t think that’s going to reverse their fortunes. Despite goaltender Carey Price’s heroics, they lack the overall talent to bolster their anemic offense or improve their lousy defense.
Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, New York Islanders winger Josh Bailey and Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov were the NHL’s three stars for December 2017.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Quite a bounce-back performance for Rask, who struggled earlier this season and at one point was briefly benched in favor of backup Anton Khudobin.
Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser was named NHL rookie of the month for December 2017. Boeser also took home that honor in November.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: At this point, Boeser has to be considered the front-runner for the Calder Memorial Trophy. If he maintains his current offensive pace, he could become the first Canucks to win the award since Pavel Bure in 1992.
The Chicago Blackhawks jersey (1958 to present) was voted the Greatest NHL Uniform by NHL fans.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Prospect Tyler Bertuzzi will be sticking with the Red Wings for the remainder of the season.
Coyotes announce that forward Emerson Etem has informed them he no longer wants to play in the AHL and is pursuing other options. The Coyotes have terminated his contract.
— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) January 2, 2018
Johnny Bower passes away plus injury updates on Cam Atkinson, Tyson Barrie and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
TORONTO SUN: Hall of Fame goaltender Johnny Bower passed away on Dec. 26 after a brief battle with pneumonia. He was 93.
Bower began his NHL career with the New York Rangers but spent 12 of his 15 NHL seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He backstopped the Leafs to four Stanley Cups (1962-64, 1967) and was a two-time winner of the Vezina Trophy. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bower was also renowned as one of the league’s most personable players. He was actively involved in charity work during and after his playing days and was beloved by hockey fans everywhere. Bower was well-respected by teammates and opponents alike. He didn’t reach the NHL until he was in his thirties and retired at age 45 following a knee injury. His perseverance served as an inspiration for players and fans. Rest in peace, China Wall.
SPORTSNET: Columbus Blue Jackets forwards Cam Atkinson (fractured foot) and Alexander Wennberg (back injury) will be sidelined four-to-six weeks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A difficult season for Atkinson and Wennberg just got worse. Both were struggling offensively prior to their respective injuries.
BSN DENVER: The Colorado Avalanche are still awaiting word on defenseman Tyson Barrie, who broke a bone in his hand after blocking a shot during Saturday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes. He could be out anywhere between 10 days to eight weeks.
NJ.COM: No update yet on the status of New Jersey Devils forwards Kyle Palmieri and Brian Boyle. Both left Saturday’s game against Chicago for precautionary reasons with undisclosed injuries.
PHILLY.COM: The Philadelphia Flyers activated goaltender Michal Neuvirth from injured reserve. He’s been sidelined since Nov. 27 with a lower-body injury.
THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks have granted center Alex Burmistrov’s request to be released from his one-year, $900K contract. He’s expected to join a Russian team in the KHL.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A first-round pick (eighth overall) by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010, Burmistrov struggled to play up to lofty expectations. He’s yet another example of the hazards of rushing a youngster into an NHL roster before he’s fully ready for big-league play.
SPORTSNET: Arizona Coyotes forward Zac Rinaldo waived his right for an in-person hearing yesterday with the NHL’s department of player safety. He will instead face a telephone hearing today to determine if he’ll receive supplemental discipline for sucker-punching Colorado Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard during’s Saturday’s game between the two clubs. Rinaldo received a match penalty for the incident. Girard left the game for examination and later returned to action.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rinaldo already has a lengthy NHL suspension history. Don’t be surprised if he’s hit with another.