NHL Offseason Lookahead – Boston Bruins
The Stars and Golden Knights will meet in the Western Conference Final. Check out the game recaps plus the recent notable news in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Dallas Stars advanced to the Western Conference Final by edging the Colorado Avalanche 5-4 in Game 7 of their second-round series. Stars winger Joel Kiviranta completed his first-ever NHL hat trick with the game-winner at 7:24 of overtime. Alexander Radulov scored twice for the Stars while defensemen Miro Heiskanen and Joel Klingberg each collected two assists and Anton Khudobin made 40 saves. Vladislav Namestnikov tallied twice for the Avalanche while Nathan MacKinnon was shut out for the first time in this series.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a very entertaining game that see-sawed back and forth between the two clubs. The story of the game, of course, was Kiviranta, a rookie with just one goal in 11 regular-season contests before his heroics as a replacement for the sidelined Andrew Cogliano in Game 7. Sometimes, the playoffs give us the unlikeliest of heroes.
The Stars will meet the Vegas Golden Knights in the Conference Final as the latter blanked the Vancouver Canucks 3-0 in Game 7 of their second-round series. The Golden Knights netted three unanswered third-period goals by Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch, and Paul Stastny, the latter two into an empty net as the Canucks went with an extra attacker in the dying minutes. Robin Lehner made 14 saves for the shutout while Vancouver netminder Thatcher Demko kicked out 33.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Through the first two periods it appeared Demko was going to steal this game as he did the previous two. Despite his best efforts, however, his teammates couldn’t muster any offense against a deep, talented Golden Knights club. Demko was dejected following the game but he had nothing to hang his head over. If not for his play, the Canucks wouldn’t have overcome a 3-1 series deficit.
The Golden Knights and Stars won’t have to wait long to face each other. Game 1 of the Western Conference Final begins at 8 pm ET on Sunday, Sept. 6.
NOTE: We experienced some publishing problems from Wed, Sept. 2 to Fri, Sept. 4 that prevented us from publishing each day’s noteworthy headlines. Here’s a collection of the most interesting news during that period.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger David Pastrnak was hampered by a lower-body injury. It seemed to be related to his conditioning level following a month-long quarantine odyssey that prevented him from participating in Phase 3 training with his teammates.
TSN: Bruins captain Zdeno Chara indicated he’s committed to returning to the club next season. It would be the 23rd campaign of the 43-year-old blueliner’s NHL career.
SUN-SENTINEL: The Florida Panthers formally introduced Bill Zito as their new general manager.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins name former Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden as a new assistant coach. It’s his second stint as a Pens assistant coach.
NHL.COM: St. Louis Blues assistant coach Marc Savard is stepping down and returning to Ontario to be with his family.
THE ATHLETIC: The Columbus Blue Jackets won’t be renewing the expired contract of assistant coach Paul MacLean.
THE SCORE: The NHL is launching a series of initiatives to combat racism and foster inclusion and diversity training within the league.
The Canucks and Flyers stave off playoff elimination, plus the latest on Sean Couturier, Mathew Barzal, Zdeno Chara, Sidney Crosby, Vladimir Tarasenko, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Rookie goaltender Thatcher Demko made 42 saves as the Vancouver Canucks avoided playoff elimination by edging the Vegas Golden Knights 2-1 in Game 5 of their second-round series. Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson scored as the Canucks overcome a 1-0 deficit. Shea Theodore tallied for the Golden Knights, who lead the series 3-2. Game 6 goes Thursday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Filling in for banged-up starter Jacob Markstrom, Demko was outstanding in his first game since March. Markstrom is listed as day-to-day with a groin injury and could be questionable for Game 6. Demko’s solid performance in Game 5 could ease the concerns of Canucks fans.
Scott Laughton scored in overtime as the Philadelphia Flyers stayed alive in their series with the New York Islanders in a 4-3 win in Game 5. The Islanders overcame a 3-1 deficit to force the extra frame. Flyers captain Claude Giroux and winger James van Riemsdyk each netted their first goals of the postseason.
It was a costly game for both clubs, as Flyers center Sean Couturier left the game with a possible leg injury while Isles center Mathew Barzal was accidentally clipped in the face by Giroux’s stick. An update on their conditions could be revealed today.
TSN: Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara hasn’t made a decision yet over whether he’ll return for a 23rd NHL season. He’s an unrestricted free agent this fall. The Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs on Monday.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby underwent arthroscopic wrist surgery on Monday. Recovery time is three-to-four weeks.
STLTODAY.COM: A Russian sportswriter can expect the cold shoulder from several Russian NHL players following disparaging comments he made toward Yana Tarasenko, wife of St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko.
Yana took to Instagram denying a claim by Alexei Shevchenko that her husband’s ongoing shoulder injury had the winger close to retirement. Shevchenko replied the only purpose of her husband and other players is to entertain the public, calling her “useless.”
Taranseko’s agent, Dan Milstein, said the remark outraged his Russian clients and their families. Milstein also represents Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Tarasenko, meanwhile, issued a statement indicating he has no plans to retire.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lashing out at a player’s wife or belittling her husband’s profession was uncalled for. “I stand by my story” would’ve sufficed. If your source was wrong, apologize and move on.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning are still awaiting word when they’ll travel from Toronto to Edmonton for the Eastern Conference Final. The Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Finals will be held in Edmonton. The Lightning eliminated the Bruins from the second round on Monday.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NEWS: cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and TSN’s Frank Seravalli reporting Bill Zito could become the new general manager of the Florida Panthers. Zito is currently the assistant GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Panthers could make an announcement as early as today.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings re-signed forwards Austin Wagner and Carl Grundstrom to contract extensions. Wagner got a three-year deal worth an annual average value of $1.33 million, while Grundstrom’s is for two years at $725K annually.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres named Matt Ellis their director of player development.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Speaking of the Sabres, John Vogl reports their Hall of Fame has been largely inactive since its chairman, Bob Swados, passed away in 2012. Restarting the Hall has been on the back burner for years. It was raised several times to team executives, but Vogl indicated it always failed to gain traction.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: When the front office won’t even put in the time to honor a club’s history, that’s a pretty good indicator of a poorly-run franchise.
The Lightning eliminate the Bruins, the Avalanche stay alive against the Stars, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: For the fourth time in six years, the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to the Eastern Conference Final. Victor Hedman scored in double overtime as the Lightning edged the Boston Bruins 3-2 to win their second-round series four games to one.
Hedman had a goal and an assist while teammates Brayden Point and Kevin Shattenkirk each had two assists. Ondrej Palat and Anthony Cirelli scored in regulation for the Bolts, who played without winger Nikita Kucherov as he left the game before the third period after being high-sticked by Zdeno Chara in the first period. David Pastrnak and David Krejci scored for the Bruins.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) September 1, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning did a good job keeping Boston’s top line under wraps as this series went on. The Bruins’ lack of secondary scoring and the absence of starting goalie Tuukka Rask were contributing factors to their early demise.
After reaching the Stanley Cup Final last season and winning the Presidents’ Trophy this season, questions are being asked if the Bruins’ championship window is closing. Asked about his future plans, the 43-year-old Chara said he hadn’t reached a decision, intending to be open-minded.
No word yet as to how long Kucherov might be sidelined. Bolts blueliner Ryan McDonagh returned to the lineup since being sidelined in the first game of this series.
The Colorado Avalanche avoided elimination by riding a five-goal first period to a 6-3 victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of their second-round series. Avs third-string goalie Michael Hutchinson made 31 saves in his first-ever playoff start while the Stars’ Ben Bishop was pulled after giving up four goals on 19 shots. Nathan MacKinnon scored a goal and collected an assist, giving him a playoff-leading 23 points. Andre Burakovsky scored twice and added an assist. The Stars still lead the series 3 games to 2.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bishop was shaky in his first start since Aug. 13 but he had little help from his teammates. The Stars were flat-footed and unprepared in the first period, outshot 23-5 in the first period.
SPORTSNET: The New York Rangers hired Jacques Martin as their new assistant coach.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Jeremy Rutherford cites sources claiming St. Louis Blues assistant general manager Bill Armstrong is believed to be a finalist for the vacant Florida Panthers GM position.
TSN: Thirteen NHL clubs will carry salary cap overages into next season. The Stars lead the list with over $2.9 million, followed by the Bruins ($1.928 million), Vancouver Canucks ($1.7 million), Carolina Hurricanes ($1.367 million), and Buffalo Sabres ($1.275 million). Because of the unusual circumstances emerging from this season, those teams have the option of dividing that amount equally over the next two seasons.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Edmonton Oilers re-signed forward Patrick Russell to a one-year, $700K contract extension.
TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said the club intends to honor defenseman Andrei Markov, who spent his entire 16-season NHL career with the Habs.
The Lightning crushed the Bruins, the Flyers edge the Islanders in overtime, and the Avalanche get a big win over the Stars. Meanwhile, the NHL faces criticism over its response to protests over the Jacob Blake shooting. The latest in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning thumped the Boston Bruins 7-1 to take a 2-1 lead in their second-round series. Nikita Kucherov scored a goal and set up three others while Alex Killorn tallied twice and added an assist. The Bolts chased Bruins goalie Jaroslav Halak from the game after he gave up four goals on 16 shots. His replacement, rookie Dan Vladar, didn’t fare any better, allowing three goals on 15 shots.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This game was over in the second period as the Lightning scored four goals to take a 6-1 lead by period’s end. The Bruins were undisciplined and the Bolts made them pay with three power-play goals.
Philippe Myers scored in overtime as the Philadelphia Flyers edged the New York Islanders 4-3 to tie their series at a game apiece. Kevin Hayes scored twice for the Flyers, who blew a 3-0 lead as the Isles battled back to tie the game after replacing goalie Semyon Varlamov with backup Thomas Greiss.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 26, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers’ top forwards played significant roles in this game, with Hayes scoring twice, Sean Couturier potting his first of the playoffs and assisting on Myers’ game-winner, while Claude Giroux and Travis Konecny each collected an assist. Nevertheless, the Flyers also learned a three-goal lead isn’t safe against the determined Islanders.
The Colorado Avalanche scored three unanswered third-period goals to defeat the Dallas Stars 6-4 in Game 3 of their second-round series. The Stars lead the series two games to one and were on the verge of taking a 3-0 series lead after rallying from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead before the Avs’ staged their comeback. Nazem Kadri netted the winning goal, Cale Makar collected three assists, and Nathan MacKinnon added two helpers. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin tallied for the Stars.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was an entertaining contest that see-sawed back and forth before the Avs rallied for the win. It wasn’t a shining moment for the goalies, as Colorado’s Pavel Francouz and Dallas’ Anton Khudobin looked shaky in this match.
SPORTSNET: The NHL opted not to postpone Wednesday’s games in the wake of the NBA’s decision to delay its games after players from several of its teams boycotted games in protest over the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The NHL instead staged a moment of reflection before the Tampa/Boston and Colorado/Dallas games.
The NHL’s decision prompted criticism from Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba and San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane, who are among the members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance fighting racial injustice. Dumba called the move “disheartening” while Kane felt it was disappointing. Both men felt the NHL should do more to acknowledge the situation.
CBC SPORTS: Hockey analyst Kelly Hrudey shared those sentiments, saying he felt the NHL should’ve postponed those games to show support for their NBA peers and the Black Lives Matter movement. He felt the league was missing out on important discussions about racial injustice.
ESPN.COM: Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning players said they learned about the NBA players boycott just before their game and didn’t have sufficient time to discuss the matter.
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara voiced his support for his peers in other sports who sat out yesterday’s games. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said he would’ve supported his players had they opted not to play. Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson of the Dallas Stars and Nazem Kadri of the Colorado Avalanche also voiced support, adding boycotting games isn’t the only way to back the cause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see what transpires for today’s NHL games between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders and the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks. The league could be forced to postpone those games if players from those teams opt not to participate in support of their NBA peers.
THE SCORE: Sharks captain Logan Couture issued an apology after a tweet he made regarding American politics went viral. Couture claimed he was sucker-punched in Toronto after talking about voting for the Republican Party and mentioning US President Donald Trump. He added he didn’t explicitly say he’d vote for Trump but would vote Republican if he was an American citizen. Couture subsequently deleted those tweets after facing considerable criticism. The Sharks issued a statement condemning the use of violence toward Couture.
Vegas Golden Knights winger Jonathan Marchessault issued an apology for lashing out at several fans on Instagram who criticized his play during his club’s 5-2 loss to Vancouver.
STLTODAY.COM: St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko will undergo a third surgery on his left shoulder and will be sidelined for five months. Meanwhile, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong indicated one-fifth of his squad tested positive for COVID-19 at some point before they departed for Edmonton on July 19. None of those players were asymptomatic, but their fitness levels were affected because they couldn’t train while under quarantine.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Arizona Coyotes will forfeit its second-round pick in 2020 and its first-round pick in 2021 as punishment for violating the NHL’s combine scouting policy. The league prohibits teams from testing prospects’ fitness before its’ annual draft combine.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Claude Julien expects to return behind the Canadiens bench whenever next season begins. The Habs coach had to leave his club during their first-round series against Philadelphia after experiencing chest pains. He had a stent implanted in one of his arteries and is expected to make a full recovery.
NHL.COM: Defenseman Mike Green announced his retirement after 15 seasons with the Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, and Edmonton Oilers. He netted 501 points in 880 career NHL games, as well as 37 points in 76 playoff contests.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Green’s best years were with the Capitals, including back-to-back 70-plus point campaigns in 2008-09 and 2009-10. He was a First Team All-Star and a finalist for the Norris Trophy in both those seasons. Injuries, however, would hamper his performance over the remainder of his career. Best wishes to Green and his family in their future endeavors.