What We Learned This Week in The NHL: Week 15
The Vegas Golden Knights fired head coach Gerard Gallant, replacing him with former San Jose Sharks bench boss Peter DeBoer. Assistant coach Mike Kelly was also relieved of his duties.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This move comes as a big surprise. Gallant becomes the seventh head coach to lose his job this season. That includes DeBoer, who was fired a month ago by the Sharks. Considering the Golden Knights already had Gallant’s replacement already lined up, management obviously had this move planned for a while.
The official statement from the Golden Knights claims this decision was necessary for the club to achieve its full potential. They’ve have struggled of late, mired in a four-game losing streak and slumping just outside the last wild-card berth in the Western Conference. Nevertheless, they’re only three points behind the Arizona Coyotes (57 points) for first place in the tight Pacific standings.
Gallant was selected to coach the Pacific Division at the upcoming 2020 NHL All-Star Game. He won the Jack Adams Award guiding then-expansion Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018, and a third-place finish in the Pacific Division last season. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports the Golden Knights and Gallant were talking contract extension earlier in the season.
Recent reaction on social media suggests this move was made as a shot across the bow at the Golden Knights players. Given how much they’ve invested in the roster, ownership and the front office expect this team to be a Cup contender. Perhaps Gallant lost the room, or maybe he’s paying the price for some recent shaky goaltending and a defense lacking a true blueline stud.
Given Gallant’s solid coaching credentials, he shouldn’t remain unemployed for long. Detroit and Montreal are already being mentioned as possible destinations by some on the Twittersphere, though his inability to speak French could make the latter an unlikely destination as a head coach.
DeBoer guided the Sharks to the 2016 Cup Final and the New Jersey Devils to the 2012 Final. He guided the Sharks to two seven-game series victories over the Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche before falling to the St. Louis Blues in last spring’s playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see if he can get his new club back among the Cup contenders.
Eric Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury reach career milestones, plus the latest on Sidney Crosby, Cale Makar, and more in the NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal scored to pick up his 1,000th career point, but it wasn’t enough to prevent his club from falling to the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3. Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane tallied a hat trick while Jonathan Toews collected three assists. Kevin Fiala scored twice for the Wild.
Marc-Andre Fleury moved into 14th place for all-time games played among NHL goalies (821) backstopping the Vegas Golden Knights to a 6-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Vegas winger Max Pacioretty scored twice and added two assists. Earlier in the day, the Canucks placed winger Sven Baertschi on waivers.
Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele each had a goal and two assists as the Winnipeg Jets thumped the Philadelphia Flyers 7-3. Flyers forward Joel Farabee faces supplemental discipline for interference on Jets center Mathieu Perreault. The injury-ravaged Flyers have dropped four of their last five games.
Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar scored twice to lead his club over the Detroit Red Wings 4-2, snapping the latter’s two-game win streak.
SPORTSNET: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby recently teamed up with sponsor and equipment maker CCM to announce a donation of 87 sets of hockey gear to participants in three programs administered by Hockey Nova Scotia.
TSN: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar will miss the next two games with an upper-body injury.
NBC SPORTS: cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting former San Jose Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer is willing to entertain offers for coaching jobs this season. “Sometimes coaches wanna take time, maybe the rest of the season before they come back,” Friedman said. “The word is … that, depending on the situation, Peter DeBoer is willing to listen and will consider coaching this year. But again, it depends on the situation.”
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres sent struggling Casey Mittelstadt to their AHL affiliate in Rochester. The 21-year-old winger had been a healthy scratch in three of the Sabres’ last four games.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: Former NHL winger Vladimir Tsyplakov has died at the age of 50. The cause of death was not revealed. Tsyplakov played nearly five seasons with the Los Angeles Kings and nearly two seasons with the Sabres. He netted 170 points in 331 NHL games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Tsyplakov’s family, friends, and former teammates.
Referee Tim Peel fractured his fibula Thursday in Glendale. Successful surgery and now home for the holidays… and probably the rest of the season.
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) December 14, 2019
Game recaps, the Sharks fire head coach Peter DeBoer, Forbes releases its annual evaluation of NHL franchises, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: T.J. Oshie scored two goals as the Washington Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2. John Carlson scored the game-winner, snapping a 2-2 tie in the third period. Bruins winger David Pastrnak tallied his league-leading 26th goal of the season,
Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen tallied twice in a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Avs center Nazem Kadri returned to action after being sidelined for three games. The Avalanche are unbeaten in their last eight contests (7-0-1). Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers.
An overtime goal by Ben Chiarot lifted the Montreal Canadiens over the Ottawa Senators 3-2. The Senators made things interesting by overcoming a 2-0 deficit. Max Domi collected two assists while rookie goaltender Cayden Primeau picked up his first NHL victory. Brady Tkachuk picked up two points for the Senators. The Canadiens played without Matthew Peca. They also placed center Jesperi Kotkaniemi (upper body) on injured reserve.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks yesterday fired head coach Peter DeBoer and three of his assistant coaches. Bob Boughner takes over for DeBoer on an interim basis.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sharks are struggling to score and the defense hasn’t played well, but poor goaltending is the real reason DeBoer lost his job. Martin Jones and Aaron Dell have been terrible, sporting the league’s third-worst goals-against per game (3.42). Boughner might improve their defense, but I doubt he’ll be able to elevate the goaltending.
DETROIT FREE PRESS: Speaking of coaches on struggling teams in danger of losing their job, Jeff Blashill’s performance is under the microscope as the Red Wings approach the longest losing skid in franchise history.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The record is 14 straight games. The Wings are in a death spiral, sparking comparisons to the “Dead Things” of the early-’80s. General manager Steve Yzerman’s been patient, but one wonders how much longer he’ll wait before shaking up the coaching staff.
FORBES.COM: For the fifth straight year, the New York Rangers top the magazine’s annual evaluation of NHL franchises. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, and Boston Bruins round out the top five. The Arizona Coyotes came in last in the rankings.
TSN: Montreal Canadiens Hall-of-Famer Guy Lapointe is undergoing treatment for oral cancer. A team statement indicates this form of cancer has a high cure rate.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to “Pointu” for a speedy recovery.
CBS SPORTS: Columbus Blue Jackets center Emil Bemstrom will miss the next 6-to-8 weeks due to a dislocated rib and broken cartilage.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Blackhawks trainer Mike Gapski will work his 2,500th NHL game tonight against the Arizona Coyotes.
THE SCORE: The Colorado Eagles’ equipment manager had been placed on administrative leave after former NHL player Akim Aliu revealed he attended a team Halloween party in blackface dressed as Aliu. The incident took place in 2011.
Game recaps and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning set a single-season franchise record for wins (55) and points (114) by defeating the Washington Capitals 6-3. Lightning winger Alex Killorn netted his first career NHL hat trick while league scoring leading Nikita Kucherov added two assists for 117 points on the season. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored twice to move within two goals of reaching the 50-goal mark this season.
Jordan Binnington made 40 and Vince Dunn scored twice to give the St. Louis Blues a 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Dunn also set a franchise first by becoming the third Blues defenseman to reach the 10-goal mark this season. The Blues (81 points) also lead the league in goals by defensemen (44) and sit third in the Central Division while the Penguins (87 points) remain two points behind the New York Islanders for second in the Metropolitan Division.
The Islanders, meanwhile, dropped a 2-1 decision to the Detroit Red Wings, who snapped a four-game losing skid. Jonathan Bernier made 41 saves while Andreas Athanasiou scored twice for the Wings. The Isles sit two points behind the Metro Division-leading Washington Capitals. They skated without winger Casey Cizikas, who was a late scratch after suffering a lower-body strain in warmups. The Wings played without Justin Abdelkader and Trevor Daley. Abdelkader’s season is over after suffering a hairline fracture in his leg during Thursday’s game against Tampa Bay.
Third-period goals by Evgenii Dadonov and Jonathan Huberdeau lifted the Florida Panthers to a 4-3 decision over the Los Angeles Kings. Dadonov scored twice in this contest. With the win, the Panthers (76 points) sit eight points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Panthers have been hot of late, winning four straight games to give themselves an outside shot of reaching the postseason.
The Calgary Flames missed a chance to clinch a playoff berth by falling 2-1 to the Winnipeg Jets. Mark Scheifele and Mathieu Perreault were the goal scorers for the Jets (88 points), who remain one up on the Nashville Predators for the top spot in the Central Division. The Flames (95 points) remain one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division and first overall in the Western Conference. Flames defenseman Michael Stone returned to action for the first time since being diagnosed with a blood clot in his arm in November.
Brad Marchand’s overtime goal gave the Boston Bruins a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Bruins (95 points) opened a four-point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs for second in the Atlantic Division. Matt Duchene scored his 30th goal of the season as the Jackets (84 points) hold a three-point lead over the Montreal Canadiens for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot. Jackets captain Nick Foligno missed the game attending to a personal matter unrelated to his daughter’s recent surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After stumbling a bit following their recent trade deadline acquisitions, the Blue Jackets have points in five of their last seven contests.
The Canadiens, meanwhile, dropped a 2-0 decision to the Chicago Blackhawks. Corey Crawford turned in a 48-save shutout performance while Connor Murphy and Brendan Perlini scored for the Hawks (73 points), who sit five points out of a playoff berth in the Western Conference.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A month ago, the Canadiens seemed in good shape to secure a playoff berth. They’ve since won just six games in their last 17. With 10 games remaining in their schedule, they’re running out of time to reverse their fortunes.
Magnus Paajarvi scored twice and Zack Smith collected three assists as the Ottawa Senators upset the slumping Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2. Leafs center John Tavares tallied his 40th goal of the season while defenseman Morgan Rielly netted his 20th.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those goals by Tavares and Rielly were personal single-season milestones. That’s cold comfort, however, when one considers how the Leafs defense and goaltending has collapsed in their last four games. They’ve given up 23 goals over that stretch, allowing six goals in three of those four contests.
Jordan Staal picked up his 500th career win as his Carolina Hurricanes doubled up the Buffalo Sabres 4-2. Curtis McElhinney made 35 saves for the Hurricanes (85 points), who hold the first Eastern Conference wild-card spot and sit two points behind the Penguins for third place in the Metro Division. Sabres winger and former Hurricanes Jeff Skinner tallied his 37th goal of the season to match his career-high from 2016-17. Sabres defenseman Marco Scandella sat out the game with an upper-body injury.
The Minnesota Wild (76 points) kept their Western Conference wild-card hopes alive by beating the New York Rangers 5-2 to end their three-game losing skid. Ryan Donato scored two goals for the Wild and now has 11 points in 12 games since coming to Minnesota in a trade with Boston.
Connor McDavid’s overtime goal gave the Edmonton Oilers a 3-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes (78 points), who hold a two-point lead over the Wild. Alex Galchenyuk scored both goals for the Coyotes. The Oilers (71 points) are seven points out of a playoff spot in the West.
The San Jose Sharks also missed an opportunity to clinch a postseason spot by falling to the Nashville Predators 4-2. Viktor Arvidsson scored twice for the Predators. Sharks winger Evander Kane returned to the lineup for the first time since Feb. 26 following an injury and his wife losing their child during pregnancy.