Goaltending Becomes The Maple Leafs’ Weakest Link
Recaps of Friday’s action plus updates on Nikita Kucherov, Artemi Panarin, Henrik Lundqvist and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid became the first player to reach the 50-point plateau this season in a 6-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators. McDavid scored a goal and collected two assists while teammates Leon Draisaitl and Tyler Ennis each had a goal and an assist. With 36 points, the Oilers move four behind the first-place Toronto Maple Leafs in the Scotia North Division and two ahead of the Winnipeg Jets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With 51 points in 29 games, McDavid is seven points ahead of Draisaitl as the league’s leading scorer. He remains on pace to reach 100 points in 56 games.
Minnesota Wild rookie Kirill Kaprizov tallied his first career NHL hat trick in a 4-0 blanking of the Arizona Coyotes. Cam Talbot picked up the shutout with 25 saves while Mats Zuccarello collected three assists. Kaprizov leads the Wild and all NHL rookies with 10 goals and 23 points.
An overtime goal by Reilly Smith lifted the Vegas Golden Knights over the St. Louis Blues 5-4. Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury returned to the lineup after being taken off the league’s COVID-19 protocol list for a false positive test. The Golden Knights (35 points) sit two points ahead of the Blues and Wild in first place in the Honda West Division.
The Colorado Avalanche got a goal and an assist from Mikko Rantanen in a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Philipp Grubauer made 18 saves for the shutout while Kings netminder Cal Petersen made 44 stops. With the win, the Avs (32 points) opened a four-point lead over the Kings for fourth place in the West Division, sitting one behind the Blues and Wild.
San Jose Sharks goalie Devan Dubnyk kicked out 34 shots to shut out the Anaheim Ducks 6-0. Kevin Lebanc had a goal and two assists while Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane and Timo Meier each had a goal and an assist.
NEW YORK POST: Good news for the Rangers as Artemi Panarin is expected to return to the lineup for today’s matinee against the Boston Bruins. Panarin was absent for nine games as he dealt with an unsubstantiated accusation by a former KHL coach claiming he assaulted a young Latvian woman in 2011.
CBS SPORTS: Tampa Bay Lightning right winger Nikita Kucherov has begun skating and remains on track to rejoin the club in time for the playoffs. He will miss the entire regular season due to offseason hip surgery.
SPORTSNET: Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan isn’t ruling out a possible return of Henrik Lundqvist later this season. The 39-year-old goaltender is recovering from heart surgery and recently posted a video of himself on the ice taking shots less than two months following the procedure.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: MacLellan acknowledged it’s “probably unlikely” but he seems to be leaving the door open if Lundqvist receives medical clearance to return to action.
The New York Islanders yesterday announced team captain Anders Lee is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could put the Isles into the market for a forward leading up to the trade deadline depending on the severity of Lee’s injury.
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury and will be reevaluated today.
Speaking of the Leafs, they traded defenseman Mikko Lehtonen to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for goaltender Veini Vehvilainen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lehtonen was considered the best defenseman in Europe when the Leafs signed him. Maybe the “Finnish Bobby Orr” will have better luck in Columbus than he did in Toronto.
Game recaps, Leafs acquire Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford from the Kings, plus the latest on Mark Giordano, Anthony Mantha, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Charlie McAvoy’s overtime goal gave the Boston Bruins a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Sean Kuraly also scored for the Bruins (78 points), who picked up their fifth straight victory. They move one point ahead of the Washington Capitals into first place in the Eastern Conference and overall standings. Alex DeBrincat replied for the Blackhawks (58 points), who picked up a point to move within two of the Calgary Flames for the final Western Conference wild-card spot.
Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider scored six seconds apart in the first period as the New York Rangers downed the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3. Rangers winger Pavel Buchnevich had a goal and two assists. Auston Matthews scored twice for the Leafs (63 points), who remains two points out of an Eastern Conference wild-card spot and one back of the Florida Panthers for third in the Atlantic Division.
Following the game, the Leafs traded winger Trevor Moore, a third-round pick (originally from Columbus via Ottawa) in 2020, and a conditional third-rounder in 2021 to the Los Angeles Kings for goaltender Jack Campbell and winger Kyle Clifford. The Kings retain half of Clifford’s $1.6-million annual salary-cap hit. The 2020 third-rounder becomes a second-round pick if the Leafs re-sign Clifford, or Campbell wins six regular-season games and the Leafs reach the playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas had no choice. Starting goalie Frederik Andersen is day-to-day with a neck injury, Michael Hutchinson isn’t getting the job done as the backup, and third-stringer Kasimir Kaskisuo has limited NHL experience. With the Leafs spinning their wheels and in danger of missing the playoffs, Dubas had to shore up his goalie depth.
Campbell’s stats (8-10-2, 2.85 GAA, .900 SP) are better than Hutchinson’s. He’s also signed through 2021-22 at an affordable $1.65-million AAV. Clifford, meanwhile, should bring some welcome grit and veteran leadership to the Leafs’ lineup. Moore, 24, is a Southern California native who can be an immediate fit with the rebuilding Kings’ checking lines.
If this deal doesn’t pan out, it’ll stoke ongoing criticism of Dubas’ inability to suitably address his club’s depth between the pipes.
CALGARY SUN: No word yet regarding the status of defenseman Mark Giordano. The Flames captain underwent an MRI for a lower-body injury suffered during Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames were reportedly in the market for a top-six forward. Their priority could shift if Giordano is out long-term.
OTTAWA SUN: Bobby Ryan rejoins the Senators for the first time since entering the NHL’s Players’ Assistance program on Nov. 20. While medically cleared to resume skating, there’s no timetable when he’ll return to action.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Red Wings forward Anthony Mantha revealed he suffered a punctured lung after being slammed to the ice by Toronto defenseman Jake Muzzin during an altercation on Dec. 21. He also came down with the flu that week. Mantha estimates he could return to the lineup between Feb. 10 – 15.
NJ.COM: New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (laceration, left knee) and defenseman Sami Vatanen (lower-body bruise) will miss tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
THE WASHINGTON POST: Capitals rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov is listed as day-to-day with a head injury from a high shot taken by Alex Ovechkin during practice on Tuesday.