NHL Could Face A Reckoning on CTE
Game recaps, Mike Matheson fined, Patrick Sharp to retire and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Patrik Berglund tallied a hat trick to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. With the win, the Blues (94 points) moved one point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for the final wild-card berth in the Western Conference, setting the stage for their showdown tonight to decide who qualifies for the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Lightning widened their lead over the Boston Bruins for first overall in the Eastern Conference by defeating the Buffalo Sabres 7-5. Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist to reach 100 points for the first time in his career. Teammate Yanni Gourde set a franchise record for goals (25) and points (64) by a rookie. Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos sat out the game with a lower-body injury but is expected to be ready for the playoffs.
The Pittsburgh Penguins (100 points) secured home-ice advantage in the upcoming 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs with a 4-0 shutout of the Ottawa Senators. Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel each collected two points while goaltender Casey DeSmith made 35 saves. The Penguins sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For the first time in Crosby’s career, he played in every game during the regular season.
Jakob Silfverberg scored a goal and set up two others as the Anaheim Ducks (99 points) downed the Dallas Stars 5-3 to take over third place in the Pacific Division.
If the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers end the season tied for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot, they’ll play a one-game play-in on Tuesday to determine which one qualifies for the postseason.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flyers have 96 points with one game remaining while the Panthers have 92 points with two games left. The Flyers face the New York Rangers this afternoon. If they win that game or pick up a point in an overtime/shootout loss, they’ll clinch that playoff berth and the Panthers will be eliminated.
Vancouver Canucks center Adam Gaudette is the winner of the 2018 Hobey Baker Award as the top player in NCAA Division 1 hockey.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp has indicated his intent to retire at the end of this season. He spent 14 seasons in the NHL, 11 of those with the Blackhawks, helping them win three Stanley Cup titles.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sharp had a productive NHL career, tallying 20-or-more goals and 40-plus points eight times. Over the last two seasons, however, it was apparent that age and the wear-and-tear of his long career had taken a toll upon the 36-year-old winger. Best wishes to him in his future endeavors.
SUN-SENTINEL: The NHL’s department of player safety has fined Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson $2,000.00 for diving.
NEW YORK TIMES: Jaromir Jagr isn’t ruling out a possible return to the NHL next season. Jagr began this season with the Calgary Flames but was released from his contract on Jan. 28 and returned to the Czech Republic to play for his hometown team Kladno.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jagr’s age (46) and his on-ice struggles with the Flames this season will scare off most clubs. An NHL return could depend on him swallowing his pride and accepting a professional tryout offer.
THE PLAYERS’ TRIBUNE: Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden once again calls upon NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to take action in the prevention of head injuries.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dryden is right that Bettman is the league’s central decision maker and could implement significant rule changes when it come to concussions and hits to the head. However, Bettman’s reluctance to do so could be tied to the lawsuit the NHL is currently embroiled in with former players who believe the league didn’t do enough to protect them from head injuries.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators were saddened yesterday to learn of the death of 17-year-old Jonathan Pitre, the youngster who suffered from a rare, painful disease called epidermolysis bullosa. In 2014, the Senators signed Pitre to a contract making him a scout for a day. They also closely supported his fight against the disease.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rest in peace, Jonathan. My condolences to his family, friends and the Senators organization.
Stars of the week plus updates on Erik Karlsson, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Parise & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Nikita Kucherov scored twice to power the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Kucherov now has seven goals this season, scoring in six straight games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kucherov came into his own last season as a goal scorer. I expect he’ll be challenging for the Richard Trophy this season.
Winnipeg Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Oct. 15.
OTTAWA SUN: Senators captain Erik Karlsson makes his much-anticipated return to action tonight against the Vancouver Canucks. He’s been recovering from off-season foot surgery.
EDMONTON SUN: The Oilers yesterday placed forward Leon Draisaitl (concussion-like symptoms) on injured reserve.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild winger Zach Parise left practice yesterday after suffering a setback in his attempt to return from an undisclosed injury.
TSN: The Winnipeg Jets placed forward Mathieu Perreault (lower body) on injured reserve.
BSN DENVER: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Patrik Nemeth suffered a shoulder injury on Saturday and has returned to Denver for evaluation.
TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner is expected to start tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals on the fourth line.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The move will be a short-term one. Marner carries a team-worst plus-minus of minus-6 and this is to improve his defensive game.
USA TODAY: Over five weeks after starting a 24-week chemotherapy program for colon cancer, NBC Sports hockey analyst Ed Olczyk is returning to the broadcast booth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Welcome back, Eddie, and continued best wishes for a swift recovery.
MACLEAN’S: Hall of Famer Ken Dryden calls upon NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to do more to reduce concussion injuries and make the game safer for the players. Dryden examines the issue in detail in his new book “Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador and the Future of Hockey.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For years, the league has been slow to recognize the seriousness of concussion-related injuries, especially with regards to life-altering brain trauma such as CTE. In recent years, it has taken steps to address concussion injuries but more work is still required to make the game safer.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights apologized for a series of tweets on its Twitter account deemed as sexist prior to the club’s recent game against Boston.
Metropolitan Division wins All-Star Game final, Simmonds named MVP & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.com: Two goals five seconds apart by Cam Atkinson and Wayne Simmonds gave the Metropolitan Division a 4-3 victory over the Pacific Division in the All-Star Game final, winning the $1 million prize.
The game’s turning point came when Metropolitan coach Wayne Gretzky successfully challenged a Ryan Kesler goal that would’ve given the Pacific a 4-2 lead when review showed Connor McDavid was offside. Simmonds was named the most valuable player.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I though the final game of this tournament was more competitive and entertaining than the semifinals. Heck, at one point late in the game, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin blocked a shot, something rarely seen in an All-Star game. Obviously the competitive juices kick in when a million bucks in on the line. Ovechkin, in my opinion, was the most entertaining player, as he was clearly enjoying himself throughout this tournament. Simmonds and Atkinson, who replaced sidelined Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin, were the offensive standouts.
NBC SPORTS: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reiterated his criticism of the International Olympic Committee, saying the league owes it to its fans to ensure Olympic participation doesn’t adversely affect the NHL product. “Subjecting the game to players who might get injured more often, or are more tired because they’ve got more back-to-backs, so they’re playing five games in seven nights — that’s what you get when you disrupt the schedule.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With all due respect, Mr. Commissioner, I call bullshit. You and the team owners have no problem with Olympic participation when its held in North America. The concerns only seem to arise whenever the Olympics are staged elsewhere. And if previous reports are to be believed, the league wants to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing as a means of establishing a footprint in China. But because the 2018 Winter Olympics are being staged in a much smaller market (South Korea), the league doesn’t seem to believe it’s worthwhile participating in those games.
If the NHL is to grow its product, it must do so outside the tapped-out North America market. That means taking part in the Winter Olympics, regardless of where they’re staged. The players are obviously keen to take part so there’s no issue with them.
Ultimately, this comes down to money for the league. If the IOC was willing to give the NHL a bigger cut of the revenue generated by the league’s top players taking part in the Olympics, this would probably be a different story.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden believes the NHL should do more to protect its goalies.
STLTODAY: The St. Louis Blue will retire former defenseman Bob Plager’s No. 5 in a ceremony prior to their Feb. 2 game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Long-time LA Kings broadcaster Bob Miller suffered a mild stroke during the All-Star weekend. He is reportedly under the care of specialized physicians and is in good spirits.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: The Blackhawks placed defenseman Michal Rozsival on injured reserve.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes have recalled goalie Eddie Lack from his conditioning stint in the minors.