NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 27, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 27, 2020

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.

GAME RECAPS

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.

Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov (NHL Images)

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.

 

 

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.

HEADLINES

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.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 16, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 16, 2020

Recaps of Saturday’s action, plus the latest on Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves backstopping the Boston Bruins over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 in Game 3 of their opening-round series. The Bruins lead the series 2-1. Charlie Coyle, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci each had two points for the Bruins.

Tuukka Rask left the Boston Bruins to return home for family reasons. (NHL Images)

Halak took over as the Bruins’ starter after Tuukka Rask released a statement before yesterday’s game indicating he was leaving the team and returning home for family reasons. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said the club supported Rask’s decision.

It was a costly loss for the Hurricanes as first-line winger Andrei Svechnikov left the game with an injured leg after jostling in front of the Boston net with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.

 

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That game had a surreal feeling, starting with the sudden news of Rask’s departure followed by Svechnikov’s injury. The latter prompted a crass, misinformed tweet by NESN’s play-by-play man Jack Edwards chiding the Hurricanes’ winger, in turn sparking an outpouring of criticism toward Edwards, including from several NHL TV analysts and pundits.

While Rask is expected to return to the Bruins next season, there is already speculation he may have played his final NHL game. I’ll have more on that later today in the Rumors section.

The Hurricanes could provide an update on Svechnikov’s status, but head coach Rod Brind’Amour suggested the injury looked “really bad” during his post-game presser. Losing their best winger would leave a big void in the Hurricanes’ lineup.

The Vegas Golden Knights have the Chicago Blackhawks on the ropes as they hung on for a 2-1 win in Game 3 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. Marc-Andre Fleury made his first start of this series for Vegas, turning in a 26-save performance. William Karlsson and Patrick Brown scored for Vegas while Olli Maatta replied for the Blackhawks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks had several good scoring chances but failed to cash in. The Golden Knights can complete the sweep later today.

Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper tied a career-high 49 saves carrying his club to a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of their opening-round series. The Avs lead the series 2-1. Taylor Hall tallied the game-winner late in the third period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes have been outshot and outplayed through most of their games in this postseason but Kuemper’s made the difference. He stole this game for the Coyotes, keeping them from falling behind 3-0 to the powerful Avalanche.

Victor Hedman’s second-period goal proved to be the game-winner as the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series. Lightning center Brayden Point also scored to extend his points streak to six games. Riley Nash had a goal and an assist for the Jackets, who were held to just seven shots in the second and third periods.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This has been a low-scoring grinder of a series. Unlike last season’s opening-round series, this year’s rematch shows the Lightning are willing to play that type of game. The Jackets have relied on strong goaltender and defense to get this far, but they need more goal production if they hope to upset the Bolts for the second time.

HEADLINES

RUSSIAN MACHINE NEVER BREAKS: Washington Capitals coach Todd Reirden said Nicklas Backstrom participated in practice yesterday but was reluctant to commit to the center’s status for Game 3 today against the New York Islanders. Backstrom was sidelined following a late hit from Islanders captain Anders Lee in Game 1.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reports Oilers defenseman Mike Green has retired.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No official word yet from Green or his representatives. It wouldn’t be surprising if the veteran blueliner has decided to hang up his skates. An unrestricted free agent at season’s end, the 34-year-old Green is coming to the end of his career. He opted out of return-to-play citing family reasons.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports there’s concern some of the top European prospects in the 2020 NHL Draft might not be permitted to play in the NHL in 2020-21 because of COVID-19. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of the European prospects were probably going to remain overseas for next season anyway. I don’t think it’ll adversely affect their standing in this year’s draft.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 13, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 13, 2020

Teams begin to announce their training-camp rosters, at least three Montreal Canadiens test positive for COVID-19, plus updates on Max Domi, Auston Matthews, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Multiple clubs revealed their training-camp rosters for Phase 3 of the return-to-play plan. They include the Arizona Coyotes, Boston Bruins, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Vegas Golden Knights, Washington Capitals, and Winnipeg Jets.

The Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and St. Louis Blues have yet to announce their training-camp rosters.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can find the full rosters by following the link above. The other clubs will likely reveal their rosters later today.

TSN: Cites a report from The Athletic’s Arpon Basu stating at least three Montreal Canadiens players have tested positive for COVID-19. The team and the NHL declined to comment, citing the league’s COVID-19 disclosure policy.

Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Those three positives occurred during the league’s Phase 2 voluntary workout phase. We have no idea which players were involved and when those positive tests took place. We’ll likely get a better idea about the identity of those players when the Habs take to the ice today for mandatory training camp.

With over 700 players on 24 teams spread out in their respective home cities starting today for Phase 3, we could see an increase in positive tests over the next two weeks. How high that number rises could determine the fate of the playoff tournament under Phase 4.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens forward Max Domi will wait seven-to-10 days before deciding if he’ll join his teammates for training camp. As a type-1 diabetic with celiac disease, Domi is a greater risk for COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t blame Domi for his caution, especially in the light of the news of three teammates testing positive. It’ll be understandable if he opts-out of participating in the return-to-play plan.

TVA SPORTS: Speaking of the Canadiens, young defenseman Alexander Romanov is expected to sign an entry-level contract with the club. He could practice and travel with the Habs, but cannot participate in the Phase 4 playoff tournament. It will also burn off the first year of his entry-level deal.

STARTRIBUNE.COM/NEW YORK POST: The Minnesota Wild are expected to sign winger Kirill Kaprisov and the New York Islanders to sign goaltender Ilya Sorokin to entry-level contracts. Like Romanov, they’ll be allowed to train and travel with their respective NHL clubs but cannot take part in the playoff tournament. They’ll also burn off the first year of their ELCs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The teams want those Russian players locked up to NHL contracts as soon as possible, even if it means they’re ineligible to skate in the upcoming playoffs and burns off the first year of their contracts. It avoids the risk of those three opting to stay in the KHL for next season and allows them the opportunity to ease into their new NHL rosters.

THE SCORE: Good news for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as center Auston Matthews is fit to play and will join his teammates in training camp today. Matthews reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 in May and self-isolated at his off-season home in Arizona.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews is the only player to be named in the media as testing positive, though the league and the Leafs declined to comment. It’ll be interesting to see if Matthews addresses the report with the press. I doubt he will give the league’s policy on players’ medical information.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins reserve defenseman Zach Trotman isn’t expected to participate in the return-to-play plan.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Because Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mike Green is opting out of participating in the return-to-play plan, the Detroit Red Wings will receive the Oilers’ fourth-round pick. It’s part of the deal that saw the Wings trade Green to the Oilers at the trade deadline in February.

NHL.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes hired former NHL player Peter Harrold as a skills coach.

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 12, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 12, 2020

Steven Stamkos to miss training camp, Mike Green and Karl Alzner opt-out of return-to-play plan, more tidbits from the new CBA extension, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Diana C. Nearhos reports Lightning captain Steven Stamkos suffered a leg injury during recent voluntary workouts and won’t be a full participant when the clubs begin training camp on Monday. General manager Julien BriseBois said Stamkos is expected to be ready when the Bolts begin round-robin play on August 3 in Toronto.

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (Photo via NHL Images).

​SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stamkos’ recent injury history will be a concern for the Lightning during the playoff tournament. Nearhos points out he suffered three previous injuries (including two confirmed lower-body) this season.

TSN: Citing family health reasons, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mike Green has decided to opt-out of the return-to-play tournament.

SPORTSNET’s Chris Johnston reports Montreal Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner is also opting out. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON:  The Bruins’ Steven Kampfer is also opting out over family health reasons..

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Calgary Flames blueliner Travis Hamonic, Dallas Stars rearguard Roman Polak, and Vancouver Canucks winger Sven Baertschi are also giving it a pass. Players wishing to opt-out without penalty for whatever reason have until 5 pm ET on Monday to so do in writing to the NHLPA and NHL Central Registry.

SPORTSNET: Minnesota Wild defenseman Greg Pateryn is sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury.

THE SCORE: Teams participating in the return-to-play plan aren’t permitted to disclose information regarding player injuries or illness. The NHL cites the unique circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They and the NHLPA are doing so out of respect for an individual player’s right to medical privacy.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That decision will generate plenty of unwanted speculation over a player’s health when he mysteriously goes missing from a game or two or an entire series or the entire tournament, especially if it’s a superstar like Edmonton’s Connor McDavid or Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes something that carries over beyond this season.

LAS VEGAS SUN: Jesse Granger reports NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Las Vegas was excluded as a host city for the return-to-play tournament because of rising COVID-19 cases in Nevada.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Daly confirmed what many of us already suspected.

TSN: Mark Masters reports the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers canceled video conferences scheduled for today to discuss their selection as NHL host cities. The postponement was because the league still has some final details to work out with the Canadian government.

PUCKPEDIA: There’s a special arbitration wrinkle for this off-season only. Within four days of a team walking away from an arbitration award, the team and the player can agree to a contract equal to the offer the team presented at the arbitration hearing. This might give the player an opportunity to rethink things if the arbiter’s award was higher than what the team can afford.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Brad Alberts is the new CEO and president of the Dallas Stars. Former CEO Jim Lites becomes the club’s chairman.

SPORTSNET: The Minnesota Wild hired Judd Brackett as their new director of amateur scouting. Brackett previously held a similar role with the Vancouver Canucks from 2015 until this year, helping them select Elias Petterssen, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes.










NHL Rumor Mill – June 24, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – June 24, 2020

A look at this year’s top UFA defensemen plus the latest Canadiens speculation in today’s NHL rumor mill.

TOP DEFENSEMEN IN THIS YEAR’S NHL UFA MARKET

THE SCORE: St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo, Boston’s Torey Krug, and former Winnipeg Jet Dustin Byfuglien top Josh Wegman’s listing of this year’s top NHL defensemen. Calgary’s TJ Brodie and Toronto’s Tyson Barrie round out the top five.

St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo (Photo via NHL Images).

Vancouver’s Chris Tanev, Calgary’s Travis Hamonic, Tampa Bay’s Kevin Shattenkirk, Carolina’s Sami Vatanen, and Winnipeg’s Dylan DeMelo complete the top 10.

Other notables include Pittsburgh Justin Schultz, Washington’s Radko Gudas, and Edmonton’s Mike Green.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: No question Pietrangelo and Krug top the bill among this year’s class of UFA blueliners. Both will be among this summer’s most-prized free agents.

The Blues’ limited salary-cap space could see Pietrangelo depart if they cannot free up sufficient room to re-sign him. The Bruins could have an easier time keeping Krug in the fold, but they might also have to shed some salary to do it. 

I wouldn’t place Byfuglien that high on the list. While his talent is undeniable, there’s no indication he intends to continue his playing career after his contract was mutually terminated following a season-long absence over a dispute regarding the seriousness of his ankle injury. His recent injury history and age (35) could also make clubs leery of pursuing him if the salary cap remains flat next season.

Had Schultz been healthier, I think he would’ve ranked higher on the list. That could work to the advantage of interested clubs. He might have to accept a one-year “show-me” deal for perhaps less than the $5.5 million annual average value on his current deal. It’ll be interesting to see how some of the others on this list fare on the open market under a flat cap.

SHOULD THE CANADIENS PURSUE JOSH ANDERSON?

SPORTSNET: In his latest mailbag segment, Eric Engels was asked if the Montreal Canadiens should target Josh Anderson if the Columbus Blue Jackets’ winger becomes available in the trade market. While Engels admires Anderson’s size and speed, he’s concerned about giving up assets for a winger coming off a serious shoulder injury who’s a year away from UFA status.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I agree. Anderson would provide some valuable size and physicality up front for the Habs, but those factors Engels noted raise red flags. Better to shop around for healthier options in the trade market.










Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – May 17, 2020

Sunday NHL Rumor Roundup – May 17, 2020

A look at several players facing uncertain futures in this summer’s free-agent market in the Sunday’s NHL rumor roundup.

NBC SPORTS: James O’Brien recently examined several of this summer’s 30-or-older UFA  goaltenders, as well as several veteran UFA defensemen and forwards facing uncertain futures.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford is among several pending UFAs facing uncertain futures (Photo via NHL Images).

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford isn’t far removed from recent career-threatening injuries and there appears to be some front-office turmoil in the organization. He’s also 35, which will hamper efforts for a multi-year term. Nevertheless, the Blackhawks could re-sign him.

Jimmy Howard’s days with the Detroit Red Wings are likely over. Despite a brutal season, he could become a backup option for another club. Meanwhile, 38-year-old Mike Smith’s NHL career could be winding down after two sub-par seasons, though his size and puck-handling skills could still make him enticing.

O’Brien expects Anton Khudobin and Thomas Greiss will attract considerable interest. Ryan Miller’s future depends on his choices and his wish to remain in California. Brian Elliott must keep his expectations modest to stay in the NHL. Maybe 39-year-old Craig Anderson regains some of his form on a more hopeful team. Aaron Dell’s struggles over the past two seasons could hurt his value.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless the Blackhawks land an established starter via trade or free agency, they’ll probably re-sign Crawford to a 35-plus, bonus-laden deal. Howard’s experience could help him land a backup role. Some Edmonton pundits suggest Smith could return for one more season with the Oilers.

I expect Khudobin and Greiss will be quickly signed if they hit the open market. Elliott could return for another season with the Flyers. It’s probably the end of the road for Miller and Anderson, while Dell could have difficulty finding a new NHL club. 

O’Brien wondered if former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will resume his NHL career and at what cost. Questions about his injured ankle will also be a factor.

Age and declining performance could hurt the stock of blueliners Mike Green and Roman Polak. Andy Greene, however, could have some value as a defense-first rearguard, while puck-moving Kevin Shattenkirk could be worth a low-risk contract.  O’Brien wondered if a desperate club might take a chance on Dmitry Kulikov or Zach Bogosian.

UFA blueliners who could retire due to age or health issues include Jonathan Ericsson, Jay Bouwmeester, Deryk Engelland, or perhaps Andrej Sekera.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Byfuglien will attract lots of attention if he decides to return. He won’t get an expensive long-term deal, but probably a 35-plus contract full of bonus clauses. Shattenkirk revived his career with the Lightning and shouldn’t have much difficulty finding another NHL team. Greene will also probably get a one-year deal.

Green and Polak, on the other hand, are likely done as NHL defensemen. The same goes for Kulikov, Bogosian, Ericsson, Bouwmeester, Engelland, and Sekera.

Aging former star forwards like Corey Perry and Jason Spezza also face uncertain futures following this season. Spezza’s defensively responsible play could earn him another contract.

Ryan Reaves’ gritty style could also ensure he remains in the NHL for another season. Carl Soderberg’s underlying stats were underwhelming this season. O’Brien noted 35-year-old checking-line forward Nate Thompson still remains in demand. Questions about Patrick Maroon’s health could leave him twisting in the wind for another off-season. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perry’s no longer as effective as he once was. The Stars took a chance on him this season and it didn’t pan out. He might not get another opportunity elsewhere. Spezza, on the other hand, earned praise for his leadership and defensive skills with the Leafs. I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to bring him back for another season.

Soderberg is 35 and his best seasons are behind him, but he still managed decent offensive stats with the Coyotes. He’ll probably get a one-year deal elsewhere. Reaves’ style of play will help him land another contract with another club. Despite his age, Thompson’s style of play should ensure he gets another NHL deal. I also wouldn’t rule out Maroon landing with another team.