The Buffalo Sabres: When 2021 Feels Worse Than 2015
The Canucks crush the Senators, last week’s three stars are announced, the latest on Pierre-Luc Dubois and David Pastrnak, plus injury/illness updates and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Brandon Sutter tallied his first career NHL hat trick and Thatcher Demko made 35 saves as the Vancouver Canucks thrashed the Ottawa Senators 7-1. Bo Horvat collected two assists while Tanner Pearson had a goal and an assist. The Senators have dropped five straight games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big win for the Canucks as their recent struggles were cause for concern among their followers. The two clubs meet again on Wednesday and finish their three-game series on Thursday.
Montreal Canadiens winger Tyler Toffoli, Dallas Stars center Joe Pavelski and Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Jan. 24.
TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen refuted any notion that last year’s contract negotiations with Pierre-Luc Dubois led to the 22-year-old center being traded on Saturday to the Winnipeg Jets.
Dubois suggested in a recent interview that those discussions led in part to his trade request. “That’s just flat out not true at all and he knows that, so I don’t know why he would say that or even insinuate something like that, because it’s not true,” said Kekalainen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The real reason for Dubois’ trade request will be a hot topic for some time. Some believe it was his relationship with Jackets coach John Tortorella but Dubois has denied this.
There are also lots of guessing behind the trade request of Patrik Laine, who the Jackets swapped for Dubois. Some condemn Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, head coach Paul Maurice and Jets leaders Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele for creating a supposed toxic atmosphere that drove Laine away. Others blame the winger’s perceived lackadaisical approach.
CBS SPORTS: David Pastrnak could return to action with the Boston Bruins as soon as Saturday. The 24-year-old winger has been sidelined by offseason hip surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s good news for a Bruins’ offense that has been inconsistent without their leading goal scorer.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat and defenseman Adam Boqvist were added to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list on Monday. There’s no confirmation either player has tested positive for the coronavirus.
THE SCORE: The NHL postponed Tuesday’s games between the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s the fourth consecutive Hurricanes game to be postponed. The club currently has five players on the COVID-19 protocol list with three confirmed to have tested positive. The league has released new dates for each of the postponed contests.
TSN: Edmonton Oilers winger Tyler Ennis and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Greg Pateryn were placed on waivers Monday. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mitchel Stephens is sidelined indefinitely with a lower-body injury while defenseman Erik Cernak is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Evan Rodrigues is sidelined indefinitely with an apparent lower-body injury suffering during a collision with New York Rangers forward Filip Chytil on Sunday.
ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Former Coyotes GM John Chayka has been suspended to the end of 2021 by the NHL for conduct detrimental to the league and the game. The suspension is reportedly due to Chayka’s departure from the Coyotes last summer.
THE TENNESSEAN: Nashville Predators goaltender Connor Ingram will be away from the club for an indefinite period as he voluntarily entered the league’s player assistance program.
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Goaltender Scott Darling has signed a professional tryout offer with the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate in Rockford, Illinois. Darling spent three seasons with the Blackhawks from 2014-15 to 2016-17, helping them win the Stanley Cup in 2015.
The Lightning down the Blue Jackets in a five-overtime marathon. Check out the details in the recaps of the opening round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning needed five overtime periods to edge the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series. Brayden Point tallied the winner at 10:27 of the fifth-overtime period, marking the fourth-longest game in NHL history, lasting over six hours and 13 minutes. The goal was Point’s second of the game. Pierre-Luc Dubois had a goal and an assist for the Jackets.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 12, 2020
The two teams combined for a record 151 shots, with the Lightning firing a record 88. Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo set a record with 85 saves while Bolts netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out 61. Jackets defenseman Seth Jones also set a record for minutes-played by a skater, logging 65 minutes and six seconds of ice time.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That was the most entertaining multiple overtime game I’ve seen since the Buffalo Sabres edged the New Jersey Devils 1-0 in Game 6 of their 1994 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. These types of games usually turn into long, dull defensive slogs with few quality scoring chances. Not this game. Every period was fast-paced and exciting, with the Lightning having the bulk of the offensive opportunities. A tough loss for the Jackets, who’ll have little time to recover before Game 2 tomorrow.
Because of the length of the Lighting-Blue Jackets game, the NHL rescheduled Game 1 between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes to 11 am ET today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the right call by the league. It reportedly would’ve taken nearly two hours following the end of the Bolts-Jackets game to clean the dressing rooms and players benches and to prepare the ice surface for the Bruins and Hurricanes.
Rasmus Andersson’s second-period goal proved to be the game-winner as the Calgary Flames held off the Dallas Stars 3-2 in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series. Dillon Dube scored twice as the Flames jumped to a 2-0 lead but the Stars tied it on goals by Denis Gurianov and Jamie Benn nine seconds apart. Stars defenseman Stephen Johns left the game in the second period and is listed as “unfit to play.” Stars center Tyler Seguin was held without a shot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dube had a heck of a game for the Flames, especially with his second goal that looked like a Pavel Bure special. Teammate Milan Lucic is also playing well, picking up his fifth point (1-4-5) in as many games.
Reilly Smith scored twice and collected an assist to lead the Vegas Golden Knights over the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 in Game 1 of their opening-round series.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets center Mark Scheifele said he doesn’t believe Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk deliberately intended to injure him in Game 1 of their qualifying-round series. Scheifele suffered an injury to the back of his leg following a collision with Tkachuk, who reached out to the Jets center explaining he was skating too fast and lost control as he approached Scheifele along the boards.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jets coach Paul Maurice had thought otherwise, accusing Tkachuk of a dirty hit and doubling down a day later. It was obvious, however, that the collision was accidental. I think Tkachuk got a bad rap here because of his well-earned reputation for questionable tactics. If it had been Tkachuk’s teammate Johnny Gaudreau colliding with Scheifele, nobody would’ve thought it was dirty.
CBS SPORTS: Edmonton Oilers forward Tyler Ennis suffered a fractured leg and ligament damage near his ankle during an Aug. 5 game against the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s expected to be recovered in time for the 2020-21 season, but it might not be with the Oilers. Ennis is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues forward Ivan Barbashev is expected to rejoin his teammates in Edmonton on Friday after traveling to St. Louis to be with his wife during the birth of his son.
Hearing that the Habs have given permission to Florida to speak with AGM Scott Mellanby.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) August 11, 2020
Jets eliminated from the qualifying round in today’s recaps of Thursday’s games, the date for Phase 2 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery is revealed, and more in the NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets became the second team eliminated from the qualifying round as they were blanked 4-0 by the Calgary Flames in Game 4 on Thursday night. Cam Talbot turned in a 31-save shutout, Dillon Dube scored the eventual game-winner while Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett each had a goal and an assist.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A dominating physical performance by the Flames over the shorthanded Jets, whose fate was sealed when scoring forwards Mark Scheifele (Achilles tendon) and Patrik Laine (wrist) were sidelined in Game 1. The Jets remain eligible to win Phase 2 of the upcoming NHL Draft Lottery and the chance to select top prospect Alexis Lafreniere.
Columbus Blue Jackets’ center Pierre-Luc Dubois’ hat trick (including the game-winner) completed his club’s comeback from a 3-0 deficit to down the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in overtime. The Jackets hold a 2-1 series lead and can wrap things up later today in Game 4. The Jackets’ fortunes turned after pulling goalie Joonas Korpisalo in the second period for Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped all 21 shots he faced from the Leafs.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 7, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Leafs seemingly had this game well in hand but, as we saw during the regular season, their lack of defensive depth once again proved to be their undoing. Dubois was a one-man wrecking crew but his teammates also stepped up as the Jackets outshot the Leafs 37-27 from the second period onward.
The Vancouver Canucks beat the Minnesota Wild 3-0 to take a 2-1 lead in their qualifying series. Jacob Markstrom made 27 saves for the shutout, Quinn Hughes collected three assists, and Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser each had a goal and an assist.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Four of the Canucks’ best players came through in this physical contest with the Wild. They’ll have a chance to finish this series later today.
Three unanswered third-period goals gave the Vegas Golden Knights a 6-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues in round-robin play. Alex Tuch and Shea Theodore each scored twice for Vegas while Colton Parayko tallied two goals for the Blues.
Scott Laughton’s two goals powered the Philadelphia Flyers over the Washington Capitals 3-1 in round-robin play. Laughton and teammate Kevin Hayes each had three points. Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov was benched for most of the third period.
NHL.COM: Phase 2 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery will be held on Monday, Aug. 10 at 6 pm ET to complete the order of the top 15 selections. The winner will get the first-overall selection.
CBS SPORTS: Florida Panthers left wing Jonathan Huberdeau (leg) skipped practice yesterday but is expected to be in the lineup today for Game 4 of his club’s qualifying-round series with the New York Islanders. The Isles hold a 2-1 series lead.
Arizona Coyotes center Nick Schmaltz (undisclosed) skated yesterday at practice, raising speculation he could be in the lineup for Game 4 later today against the Nashville Predators. The Coyotes lead the series 2-1.
TSN: Edmonton Oilers winger Tyler Ennis is sidelined indefinitely with a suspected leg injury. The Oilers are down 2-1 in their series with the Chicago Blackhawk with Game 4 set for later today.
Montreal Canadiens winger Jakes Evans is doubtful for Game 4 today against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He suffered a suspected upper-body injury in Game 3 on Wednesday. The Canadiens lead the series 2-1.
NHL.COM: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton has resumed practicing with his teammates after missing their entire qualifying-round series with the New York Rangers. He’s hoping to return to action in their first-round playoff series next week.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks re-signed defenseman Jacob Larsson to a two-year, $2.4-million contract extension. The annual average value is $1.2 million.
In today’s NHL morning coffee headlines, recaps of Wednesday’s games plus the latest on Jake Muzzin, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Micheal Ferland, and more.
NHL.COM: Jeff Petry scored his second game-winning goal as the Montreal Canadiens overcame a 3-1 deficit to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3, taking a 2-1 lead in their qualifying-round series. Habs captain Shea Weber led the way with a goal and two assists.
Jeff Petry snipes from a bad angle pic.twitter.com/RY3oVCvFzd
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) August 6, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens seemed done like dinner midway through the second period. They’re now poised to eliminate the Penguins in Game 4 on Friday. And speaking of potential upsets…
The Chicago Blackhawks got two unanswered third-period goals by Matthew Highmore and Jonathan Toews to nip the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 and take a 2-1 lead in their qualifier. Toews finished the game with two goals while teammate Corey Crawford made 25 saves to become the 20th goaltender in NHL history to record his 50th career playoff win. Leon Draisaitl scored twice and set up another for the Oilers. Edmonton defenseman Adam Larsson was unfit to play while Oilers winger Tyler Ennis left the game in the second period with an apparent leg injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The bounces went the Blackhawks’ way as Highmore’s goal was a deflection from a point shot while Toews’ deflected shot bounced in off an Oilers’ defenseman. They’re now poised to eliminate the Oilers if they win Game 4 on Friday.
The Boston Bruins won’t be the top seed in the 2020 playoffs after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning in round-robin play. Tyler Johnson tallied the winning goal late in the third period. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made 32 saves in his return to action after being unfit to play in their first round-robin game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the first time in NHL history the season’s Presidents’ Trophy winner won’t be the top seed in the playoffs. The Bruins are 0-2 in round-robin play. While they are guaranteed a playoff spot, they risk drawing a tougher first-round opponent the lower they sink in the round-robin seedings.
The Florida Panthers avoided elimination by hanging on for a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders. Third-period goals by Mike Hoffman and Brian Boyle broke a 1-1 tie while Sergei Bobrovsky made 20 saves for the win. A rare penalty by Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov for playing the puck beyond the trapezoid behind his net led to Hoffman’s power-play goal. The Isles hold a 2-1 series lead.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the Panthers’ first postseason victory since the 2016 playoffs. It certainly came at the right time. They also shook up their lineup yesterday, scratching Mike Matheson and Frank Vatrano after their disappointing performances in the first two games.
Three unanswered third-period goals by Conor Garland, Taylor Hall, and Carl Soderberg lifted the Arizona Coyotes over the Nashville Predators 4-1. The Coyotes hold a 2-1 series lead. Darcy Kuemper enjoyed a bounce-back effort in this contest with a 39-save performance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes weathered the first-period onslaught from the Predators and opened the scoring on their first shot of the game. They finally got some productions from Hall and Garland, who’d been held goalless in the first two games.
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz kicked out 27 shots to shut out the Dallas Stars 4-0 in round-robin action. Cale Makar tallied the game-winner while Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky each had a goal and an assist.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars were without starting goalie Ben Bishop and defenseman John Klingberg in this game. Both were declared unfit to play. Under league protocols, no reason was given for their absence, but it doesn’t appear as though it’s COVID-related.
HEADLINES TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin won’t be available for the remainder of his club’s qualifying-round series with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was injured in Game 2 and taken to hospital with what appeared to be a head or neck injury. Muzzin was released yesterday and returned to the Leafs hotel within the safety zone and will remain in quarantine until cleared. Martin Marincin will replace him in the lineup for today’s match with the Jackets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois won’t face supplemental discipline for the hit that sent Muzzin to hospital after colliding awkwardly with Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstand.
NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets aren’t ruling out Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine for Game 4 of their qualifier with the Calgary Flames later today. Both players have been sidelined since Game 1. The Flames hold a 2-1 series lead and could wrap it up with a win today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets need some help following a dispiriting loss in Game 3. They also need Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor to start cashing in or this series will be over later tonight.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland is out of action and has returned to his home in Brandon, Manitoba. He’s been declared “unfit to play”, raising speculation it’s tied to the concussion symptoms that sidelined him for most of this season.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals forward Lars Eller returned to Washington to be with his wife as she gives birth to their second child. He’ll rejoin his teammates following a period of quarantine and testing in the first round of the playoffs.
SPORTSNET: A report from a Swedish media outlet indicates winger Oskar Lindblom will be traveling to the Toronto bubble to join his Philadephia Flyers teammates. He missed the bulk of this season battling a rare form of bone cancer and finished his treatment on July 2. He could return to action in September if the Flyers are still in the playoffs by then.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks winger Tomas Hertl has resumed skating for the first time since suffering a season-ending knee injury in January.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi has re-signed a one-year contract with Finland’s Karpat. It’s believed the deal contains an out-clause should Puljujarvi return to the Oilers next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent reports suggest the relationship between Puljujarvi and the Oilers has improved after he spent last season in Finland. With the NHL tentatively planning a full 82-game schedule in December, it makes sense for him to get in some meaningful playing time in Finland before NHL camps open in November.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): The general managers of the seven non-playoff teams have submitted a proposal to the league allowing their clubs a two-week mini-camp before training camp for all clubs open in November.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sounds like a reasonable proposal. Those teams haven’t played since the regular season was derailed in mid-March and they’re now amid an unusually long off-season.
This year’s arbitration team walk away # is believed to be $4,538,958 (up from $4.4M LY – based on avg salary). Teams can walk away from arb ruling higher than this. Just this year, if team walks away, player/team can agree to team’s arbitration offer.https://t.co/VnyDM0gocT — PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) August 5, 2020
The latest Flames and Oilers speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.
COULD FLAMES AFFORD PIETRANGELO?
While it’s not outside the realm of possibility, Francis believes it would be a hefty price tag to squeeze under a flat salary cap. It would also prevent the Flames from re-signing pending free agents such as T.J. Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Erik Gustafsson, and Derek Forbort.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Could the Flames sign Pietrangelo? Sure, anything’s possible. Can they afford him? Naaah!
The 30-year-old defenseman is completing a seven-year, $45.5-million contract with an annual average value of $6.5 million. He could command around $9 million annually as a UFA. Even if he accepted considerably less (say, $7.5 million AAV), the Flames lack the cap space to sign him and still have enough to fill out the rest of their defense corps.
Signing Pietrangelo would push their payroll to between $71.5 million and $73.5 million invested in 14 players, leaving little to flesh out the blueline, re-sign RFA Andrew Mangiapane, and re-sign or replace goaltender Cam Talbot.
LATEST OILERS SPECULATION
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Jim Matheson reported limited salary-cap space could hamper Oilers GM Ken Holland’s efforts to sign players.
Re-signing defenseman Ethan Bear could be tricky. The Oilers would prefer a team-friendly six-year deal comparable to Oscar Klefbom’s $4.1-million annual average value, but they don’t have that much available. Matheson suspects Bear will get a two-year bridge deal between $2.2 and $3 million annually. Matheson also wondered if Holland might consider replacing Matt Benning with a more affordable Evan Bouchard ($894K).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: According to Cap Friendly, the Oilers have over $71.3 million committed to 16 players for 2020-21. Unless they make a significant salary dump, like trading or buying out James Neal, they won’t be making any major off-season additions.
Bear is completing his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. He’s proven himself as a top-four NHL defenseman but lacks leverage to command a big payday. A cost-effective, short-term bridge deal with the promise of a significant raise down the road appears the likely option.
Matheson thinks Holland, “in a perfect world”, would try to trade Jesse Puljujarvi’s rights to the Florida Panthers for another right-winger and first-round draft pick like Owen Tippett. “But, that’s a trade for the 2020-2021 season. And it’s unlikely Holland would deal Puljujarvi’s rights at the 2020 draft unless it’s for a first-rounder because he’s has played 139 NHL games and he was the fourth overall pick in 2016.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In the real world, the Panthers won’t make that move. I don’t see many teams agreeing to part with a first-rounder for Puljujarvi. Maybe Holland calls a club with spare first-round picks in this year’s draft (hello there, Ottawa Senators), but I doubt they’ll be interested.
He’d like to re-sign pending UFA forwards Riley Sheahan and Tyler Ennis to affordable short-term deals. His recent signing of Gaetan Haas could be insurance in case Sheahan decides to test the market.