No Lead Is Safe In The NHL This Season
The Canucks eliminate the Blues while the Flyers send the Canadiens packing. Recaps and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: There will be new Stanley Cup champs in 2020 as the Vancouver Canucks eliminated the defending champion St. Louis Blues with a 6-2 victory in Game 6 of their first-round series. Jacob Markstrom got the win with a 34-save performance while Tyler Motte scored twice and Brandon Sutter collected three assists. Jaden Schwartz tallied twice for the Blues.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues couldn’t contain the speedy young Canucks, who chased goaltender Jordan Binnington from the game after leaping to a 4-0 lead. It’s the first time the Canucks have won a playoff series since their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. It also provides a considerable confidence boost to their young core led by Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes, and Brock Boeser.
St. Louis coach Craig Berube cited a lack of energy among his players for their demise. Perhaps it was challenging for the Blues to regain their championship mojo after such a long layoff due to COVID-19. Whatever the reason, the Canucks were the better team throughout most of this series and deserve to march on.
The Philadelphia Flyers also advanced to the second round as they hung on for a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 of their first-round series. Michael Raffl’s goal early in the third period held up as the winner as Carter Hart kicked out 31 shots for the Flyers. Nick Suzuki tallied twice for the Canadiens.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hart made the difference for the Flyers in this series, sporting back-to-back shutouts and bouncing back well from two lopsided losses. He’s looking more and more like the true starting goaltender they’ve lacked since Ron Hextall was in his prime 30 years ago. While many of the Flyers’ leading scorers were shut down in this series, Jakub Voracek proved to be a Hab killer with seven points.
The lowest seed in the Eastern Conference when return-to-play began, the Canadiens exceeded expectations by upsetting the Pittsburgh Penguins in the qualifier and pushing the favored Flyers to six games in this series. Goaltender Carey Price was outstanding, captain Shea Weber was a force on the blueline and youngsters Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi gave a tantalizing glimpse of their potential. They have nothing to hang their heads over.
The second-round match-ups and schedule have been released. In the Western Conference, the Canucks will face the Vegas Golden Knights while the Dallas Stars tangle with the Colorado Avalanche. Over in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers face off against the New York Islanders while the Tampa Bay Lightning meet the Boston Bruins in a rematch of their 2018 second-round series.
ESPN.COM: The NHL issued a statement Friday condemning what it called an “insensitive and insulting” comment by NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury during Thursday’s game between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals. As Milbury and fellow analyst Brian Boucher was discussing the merits of the NHL playoff bubble, Milbury said, “Not even any woman here to disrupt your concentration.” The league communicated its concern to NBC. Milbury issued an apology on Twitter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As ESPN’s Emily Kaplan noted, this isn’t the first time Milbury’s made insensitive comments about women during telecasts. Forbes.com’s Kim Elsesser pointed out his remarks have no basis in fact. She called them “reductive, diminishing the role of all women to a distraction. It implies there are only drawbacks of having women around.”
Milbury’s comments were the latest in a long list of stupid things he’s said over the years. This one might be the last straw. He was removed from Friday’s telecast and it remains to be seen if he’ll be back.
#CBJ GM Jarmo Kekalainen said that C Brandon Dubinsky “most likely” won’t be able to play again because of his chronic wrist injury. Not a surprise, really, but straight from the GM.
— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) August 21, 2020
The Golden Knights eliminate the Blackhawks, the Capitals stave off elimination by the Isles, the Flyers and Stars are on the verge of advancing, and the hockey world mourns Dale Hawerchuk in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Alex Tuch’s third-period goal snapped a 3-3 tie as the Vegas Golden Knights edged the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 to win Game 5 and their opening-round series. The Golden Knights overcame 2-0 and 3-2 deficit. Max Pacioretty had a goal and an assist for Vegas, who face the Western Conference’s lowest-remaining seed in the next round.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A well-earned series victory by the Golden Knights over a plucky, but over-matched Blackhawks club. Vegas dominated the play through most of this series and probably would’ve swept it if not for Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford, who likely earned a new contract with the Hawks following his strong postseason play.
The Washington Capitals avoided being swept by the New York Islanders as they rallied from a 2-0 deficit for a 3-2 win in Game 4 of their first-round series. Evgeny Kuznetsov sparked the comeback by cutting the deficit to 2-1, setting the stage for Alex Ovechkin’s game-tying and game-winning goals. Isles winger Cal Clutterbuck left the game in the second period following a low hit by Capitals defenseman Radko Gudas. An update on his condition is expected today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Isles seemed to have this game in the bag after taking a 2-0 lead into the second period, but their energy sagged as the desperate Capitals fought back, dominating the Isles at even strength. It’ll be interesting to see if the Caps can maintain that energy in Game 5 on Thursday.
Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart become the second-youngest goaltender in NHL history to post back-to-back playoff shutouts as he and his teammates blanked the Montreal Canadiens 2-0 in Game 4 of their first-round series. Hart made 29 saves while Michael Raffl and Philippe Myers scored.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Follow this link for my take of Game 4. The Flyers lead the series 3-1 and can wrap things up tonight in Game 5.
The Dallas Stars took a 3-2 series lead over the Calgary Flames by hanging on for a 2-1 victory in Game 5. John Klingberg’s third-period goal held up as the winner while Anton Khudobin made 28 saves.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars have done a good job stifling the Flames’ top scorers. Johnny Gaudreau has just three points (two of those in one game) while Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm have been limited to two assists each. The Flames also miss feisty sidelined winger Matthew Tkachuk.
WINNIPEG SUN: Dale Hawerchuk passed away at age 57 from stomach cancer. The Hall-of-Famer spent 16 seasons with the Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, and Philadelphia Flyers, amassing 518 goals and 1,409 points in 1,188 games. It was with the Jets that he had his best seasons, with six 100-plus point seasons in nine years in Winnipeg, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1981-82. He also played for Team Canada in their memorable 1987 Canada Cup series with the Soviet Union. Hawerchuk went on to coach the OHL’s Barrie Colts from 2010-11 until his illness forced him to step down in 2019.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Hawerchuk’s family and friends. He was overshadowed during his prime by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, but he was among the NHL’s top centers during the 1980s, as well as the Jets’ franchise player.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko has returned to St. Louis to have his surgically-repaired left shoulder reevaluated. He won’t return for the remainder of his club’s series against the Vancouver Canucks and could be sidelined even longer.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: There’s a chance Bruins winger David Pastrnak could suit up for today’s Game 5 against the Carolina Hurricanes. He’s been sidelined with an undisclosed injury since Game 1.
Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said F Conor Garland did not practice today and his status for Game 5 is uncertain. Same thing for F Nick Schmaltz, who has not played in this postseason.
— Craig Morgan (@CraigSMorgan) August 18, 2020