Five Aging NHL Players Exceeding Expectations This Season
Recaps of Wednesday’s games and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs thumped the Edmonton Oilers 6-1 to sweep their three-game series. Jimmy Vesey scored two goals, Jason Spezza collected three assists and Fredrik Andersen made 26 saves in his return to action after missing four games with a lower-body injury. Auston Matthews also returned after missing two games with a wrist injury but was held scoreless.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs outscored the Oilers 13-1 in their three games, including back-to-back shutouts. They held Oilers captain Connor McDavid scoreless while Leon Draisaitl managed just one assist.
The Vegas Golden Knights picked up their fourth straight victory by taming the Minnesota Wild 5-1. Marc-Andre Fleury made 36 saves while Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Alex Tuch and Colin Stephenson each had a goal and an assist. Wild winger Zach Parise was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career with the club owing to an overextended shift during Monday’s overtime loss to Vegas.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury has bounced back well from last season’s inconsistent performance. He’s among the league leaders with 11 wins, a .939 save percentage, 1.71 goals-against average and three shutouts. The 36-year-old netminder could become a Vezina Trophy finalist if he can maintain that level of play.
Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog each had four-point performances as the Colorado Avalanche blanked the San Jose Sharks 4-0. Philipp Grubauer made 26 saves for the shutout. It was a costly win for the Avs as center Nathan MacKinnon left the game in the third period after a hit to the head from Sharks winger Joachim Blichfield, who received a match penalty and could face supplemental discipline.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Avs coach Jared Bednar said MacKinnon seemed to be doing okay following the game. We should find out today or tomorrow if he avoided serious injury.
A shootout goal by Jakub Vrana lifted the Washington Capitals over the Boston Bruins 2-1. David Pastrnak scored for the Bruins while Lars Eller replied for the Capitals. The Bruins honored former captain Zdeno Chara with a video tribute as he returned to Boston for the first time since signing with the Capitals in the offseason. Before the game, the Bruins announced center Charlie Coyle was placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 list.
The St. Louis Blues got power-play goals from Oskar Sundqvist, Brayden Schenn and Zach Sandford to hold the Anaheim Ducks 3-2. Blues goalie Jordan Binnington kicked out 27 shots. The Ducks have dropped eight straight games.
Arizona Coyotes netminder Antti Raanta stopped 40 shots as his club nipped the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. Two goals 40 seconds apart in the second period by Nick Schmaltz and Johan Larsson gave the Coyotes the win. The Kings have dropped three straight.
IN OTHER NEWS…
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said his decision to fire goalie coach Stephane Waite during Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Ottawa. He said he consulted interim head coach Dominique Ducharme beforehand but not with netminder Carey Price, who learned of the move following the game. The Habs hired Sean Burke as their new director of goaltending.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin said the move was made to help Price improve his performance, which has fallen off over the past four seasons. The Habs GM is not expected to make any further organizational changes this season after firing coaches Claude Julien and Kirk Muller last week. However, Bergevin could face losing his job if his moves fail to improve the Canadiens,
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Nino Niederreiter was fined $5,000.00 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros on Tuesday. Saros is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
CBS SPORTS: Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jason Zucker (lower body) was placed on long-term injury reserve yesterday.
TSN: Frank Seravalli reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said league revenue for 2021-22 could be affected by Canada’s slow vaccine rollout. While admitting it is premature to make predictions, Daly hinted it could affect everything from revenue to competition, including division alignment, travel and trades. He also said the league remains optimistic that its trajectory remains on pace toward a normal work environment for next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadian government maintains the COVID-19 vaccines will be available to all its citizens who want one by September. Recent reports suggest the distribution of those vaccines could speed up in the coming months. Nevertheless, we won’t know for certain until the start of next season what the effect will be on Canadian teams and league revenue.
Recaps of Tuesday’s games, the stars of the month, plus injury updates, game postponements and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Joe Pavelski scored twice and collected two assists as the Dallas Stars defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-3. Stars captain Jamie Benn had a goal and two assists while Patrik Laine was held scoreless in his first game with the Blue Jackets since getting traded last month from the Winnipeg Jets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The 36-year-old Pavelski is off to a strong start, with 14 points in his first seven games of the season.
Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber collected an assist as his 1000th career NHL game ended in a 5-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Habs winger Tyler Toffoli continues to terrorize his former club by scoring twice while Josh Anderson also tallied two goals. The Canadiens (16 points) vaulted over the idle Toronto Maple Leafs into first place in the North Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eight of Toffoli’s nine goals this season have been against the Canucks.
The Carolina Hurricanes edged the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 on a shootout goal by Andrei Svechnikov. Jordan Staal and Warren Foegele each had two points for the Hurricanes. Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat and defenseman Nicolas Beaudin rejoined the lineup after being on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list.
Vince Dunn scored and set up another as the St. Louis Blues hung on to nip the Arizona Coyotes 4-3. The Blues have won four straight games. Christian Dvorak tallied twice for the Coyotes, who played without forwards Christian Fischer (upper-body injury) and Lawson Crouse (upper body).
The Winnipeg Jets tallied three first period goals and held on to down the Calgary Flames 3-2. Matthew Tkachuk scored two goals for the Flames.
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves backstopping his club over the Minnesota Wild 2-1. The Avalanche were playing with superstar Nathan MacKinnon, who’s listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury. Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon left this game with an upper-body injury. No post-game update was provided on his status.
The Anaheim Ducks snapped a three-game losing skid with a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Nicolas Deslauriers scored and added an assist while Kings rookie Arthur Kaliyev tallied his first career NHL goal.
Jesse Pulujaarvi scored his first two goals of the season as the Edmonton Oilers doubled up the Ottawa Senators 4-2. Connor McDavid and Tyson Barrie each collected two assists while Senators rookie Tim Stuetzle netted his third goal of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators have dropped nine straight games since their season-opening win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. They weren’t expected to be a playoff contender but it was assumed they would be more competitive after a busy offseason shoring up their roster with some veteran additions. None of those moves, however, have improved the Senators, who are on track for one of their worst seasons in franchise history.
NHL.COM: Pavelski and McDavid were among the NHL’s top stars for the month of January 2021, joining Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and Philadelphia Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk.
WGR 550/NEW YORK POST: The Buffalo Sabres’ scheduled games against the New York Islanders on Tuesday and Thursday were postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. Sabres forward Taylor Hall and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen were added to the protocol list following the club’s recent series of games against the New Jersey Devils.
NJ.COM: Speaking of the Devils, they now have 14 players on their COVID-19 protocol list. Jesper Bratt, Jack Hughes, Damon Severson, Ty Smith and Matt Tennyson were added to the list yesterday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bear in mind this doesn’t mean those players have all tested positive for COVID-19. Players can be added to the list if they’re a suspected close contact.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers forward Morgan Frost will undergo potentially season-ending shoulder surgery later this week. Center Sean Couturier (costochondral separation) is expected to return within seven-to-10 days.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings forwards Robby Fabbri and Adam Erne will rejoin their teammates today after missing several games on the NHL COVID-19 protocol list. Sam Gagner, Jon Merrill and Filip Zadina are also off the protocol list.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Several sticks ordered by the Capitals for defenseman Zdeno Chara were instead delivered to a New Jersey man. The total order was worth over $5,000.00.
Recaps of a busy Saturday, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM:Connor McDavid scored twice, including the winner in overtime, to lead the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Leon Draisaitl and Tyson Barrie each collected two assists while John Tavares had two assists for the Leafs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McDavid’s end-to-end power-play goal in the second period is my candidate for goal of the year. I realize it’s very early in the season and lots of great goals are coming but it will be difficult for McDavid – or anyone else – to top that tally.
Jack Eichel tallied the only goal in a shootout as the Buffalo Sabres edged the New Jersey Devils 4-3. Sabres winger Taylor Hall collected two assists. Devils defenseman Ty Smith scored to move into a tie with Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov (seven points) for the rookie scoring lead.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal lifted his club to a 5-4 win over the New York Rangers. Rookie defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph had three assists for the Penguins, who lost blueliner Kris Letang to a lower-body injury. Rangers center Colin Blackwell left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An update on Letang’s status could be coming later today. The Penguins already have four regular defensemen on the shelf with injuries.
The Philadelphia Flyers edged the New York Islanders 3-2 on an overtime goal by Scott Laughton. Carter Hart kicked out 26 shots for the win. It’s the Islanders’ fourth consecutive defeat.
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored in overtime to nip the Boston Bruins 4-3. It was Ovechkin’s first game since being placed on COVID-19 protocol list a week ago. Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and two assists. This was Zdeno Chara’s first game against the Bruins since signing with the Capitals. Bruins winger David Pastrnak collected an assist in his first game of the season following his recovery from offseason hip surgery.
The Carolina Hurricanes beat the Dallas Stars 4-1 to hand the latter their first loss of the season. Vincent Trochek scored twice for the Hurricanes, who chased Stars goalie Anton Khudobin after he gave up four goals on 16 shots. Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek left the game early in the first with an upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Khudobin didn’t get much help from his teammates in this contest. The defense was sloppy, giving up three power-play goals.
A four-goal second-period outburst carried the Tampa Bay Lightning over the Nashville Predators 4-3. Lightning rookie Callan Foote tallied his first NHL goal while Steven Stamkos scored the eventual game-winner. Filip Forsberg had two assists for the Predators.
Aleksander Barkov had a goal and an assist while Aleksi Heponiemi scored his first career NHL goal in overtime to lift the Florida Panthers over the Detroit Red Wings 3-2. The Panthers extended their season-opening points streak to five games (4-0-1).
The Calgary Flames blanked the Montreal Canadiens 2-0 to hand the latter their first regulation loss of the season. Jacob Markstrom kicked out 37 shots for the shutout while Johnny Gaudreau and Mikael Granlund were the goal scorers as the Flames halted their three-game losing skid. Canadiens winger Josh Anderson left the game following the first period with flu-like symptoms. He tested negative for COVID-19 but will be retested today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flames winger Dillon Dube got away with a blindside headshot on Canadiens center Jesperi Kotkaniemi. It’s unlikely he’ll receive supplemental discipline. Kotkaniemi was shaken up but returned to action.
Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Brandon Saad, Andre Burakovsky, and Samuel Girard each collected two points as the Colorado Avalanche downed the Minnesota Wild 5-1, handing the latter their third loss in their last four games. Wild defenseman Matt Dumba left the game with a leg injury in the third period. Earlier in the day, the Wild revealed prospect Marco Rossi returned to Austria to rest due to complications from COVID-19. He’s expected to return to the Wild sometime in March.
The St. Louis Blues scored their fastest three game-opening goals (2:06) in franchise history on route to a 6-1 thrashing of the Anaheim Ducks. Jordan Kyrou scored two of those three goals. Ducks goalie John Gibson was pulled after giving up those three goals on just six shots.
Brock Boeser scored twice to lead the Vancouver Canucks over the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 for their fourth straight win. Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko made 23 saves for the win while Jets netminder Connor Hellebucyk turned aside 35 shots.
Recaps from another busy night of action and more in the NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Patrice Bergeron scored two goals as the Boston Bruins defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 to sweep their two-game series. The Bruins have now won four in a row. Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was forced to leave the game with a lower-body injury.
2020 first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere’s first career NHL goal came in overtime as the New York Rangers snapped their five-game winless skid by downing the Buffalo Sabres 3-2. Artemi Panarin had a goal and an assist for the Rangers while Sabres winger Sam Reinhart also had a goal and an assist.
The Philadelphia Flyers swept their two-game series with the New Jersey Devils with a 3-1 victory. Goaltender Carter Hart made 33 saves for the win while teammate Claude Giroux netted his first goal of the season.
John Carlson scored the game-winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat the New York Islanders 6-3. Conor Sheary scored twice and Zdeno Chara tallied his first goal with the Capitals as they extended their points streak to eight games. Islanders captain Anders Lee played his 500th career NHL game while teammate Josh Bailey (872 games) tied Clark Gillies for fourth on the Islanders all-time list.
The Carolina Hurricanes nipped the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 on an overtime goal by Martin Necas. It was the Hurricanes’ first game since Jan. 18 after several players wound up on the club’s COVID-19 protocol list.
A shootout goal by Alexandre Texier lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Florida Panthers 3-2, snapping the latter’s three-game win streak. Max Domi and Mikko Koivu each tallied their first goals with the Jackets.
The Montreal Canadiens remain unbeaten in regulation (5-0-2) after doubling up the Calgary Flames 4-2 in their first home game of the season. Tyler Toffoli tallied a shorthanded goal while Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jonathan Drouin each had two assists.
A three-goal first period powered the Minnesota Wild over the Los Angeles Kings 5-3. Marcus Johansson had a goal and an assist while teammate Kevin Fiala was ejected for boarding Kings defenseman Matt Roy, who left the game and was still being evaluated by the game’s end. Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty each had two points for the Kings.
The Dallas Stars are 4-0-0 to start the season after defeating the Detroit Red Wings 7-3. Goaltender Jake Oettinger made 20 saves for his first career NHL victory. Miro Heiskanen and Denis Gurianov each had three-point performances for the Stars. Wings goalie Jonathan Bernier left the game in the second period following a collision with teammate Anthony Mantha.
Philipp Grubauer’s 21-save shutout performance backstopped the Colorado Avalanche over the San Jose Sharks 3-0. Nazem Kadri scored twice for the Avalanche.
The Arizona Coyotes nipped the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 thanks to a two-goal performance by Christian Dvorak.
Braden Holtby turned aside 36 shots to give the Vancouver Canucks a 4-1 victory over the slumping Ottawa Senators to sweep their three-game series. Brock Boeser scored twice and set up another for the Canucks. The Senators have dropped seven straight games.
Auston Matthews snapped a 3-3 tie with a power-play goal as the Toronto Maple Leafs held on for a 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Jason Spezza had a goal and an assist for the Leafs while Leon Draisaitl scored twice for the Oilers. The Leafs have won four straight games.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights game against the St. Louis Blues was postponed due to some recent positive COVID-19 tests within the organization. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo was added to their COVID-19 protocol list.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks signed defenseman Madison Bowey to a one-year, two-way contract.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Former Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard officially announced his retirement.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Reports of Howard’s retirement plans circulated last week. He spent his entire NHL career with the Wings. Best of luck to him and his family in their future endeavors.