Sabres Desperately Need Experienced Management and Coaching
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.
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.
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.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 26, 2020
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.
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.
Recaps of Thursday’s playoff games, Canadiens coach Claude Julien hospitalized, Dan Hamhuis retires, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights edged the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 on Reilly Smith’s overtime goal in Game 2 of their first-round series, which Vegas now leads 2-0. It was goalie Robin Lehner’s seventh straight win in as many starts with the Golden Knights, who were without winger Max Pacioretty (unfit to play) in Game 2. His replacement, Tomas Nosek, left the game in the second period. Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane collected three assists.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 14, 2020
Dougie Hamilton’s third-period goal lifted the Carolina Hurricanes to a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of their series, tying it at a game apiece. Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov had a goal and an assist. Brad Marchand and David Krejci each had a goal and an assist for the Bruins, who were without winger David Pastrnak following an apparent leg injury suffered in Game 1.
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, meanwhile, raised eyebrows with his post-game comments comparing the atmosphere in this playoff bubble to playing exhibition games. “To be honest with you, it really doesn’t feel like playoff hockey out there,” said Rask. “There are no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rask probably isn’t the only player feeling that way, which could account in part for why some teams and notable players seem to struggle to regain their intensity in the early going. Those who adjust more quickly could have an advantage through the opening round.
Joonas Korpisalo made 36 savers backstopping the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in Game 2 of their first-round series, which now stands knotted at a game apiece. Oliver Bjorkstrand snapped a 1-1 tie in the second period, Alexander Wennberg put the game away with his third-period tally and Pierre-Luc Dubois picked up two assists. Nikita Kucherov scored for the Lightning.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the same story with the Blue Jackets. They get outshot by a big margin (37-22 in this game) but weather the storm and break your heart with their timely offense.
The Dallas Stars tied their series with the Calgary Flames at a game apiece as Jamie Oleksiak’s goal with 40 seconds remaining in regulation gave them a 5-4 victory. Stars blueliner Miro Heiskanen scored twice while teammates Alexander Radulov and Corey Perry each had a goal and an assist. Ben Bishop returned to the Stars net after being unfit to play in Game 1 while Taylor Fedun filled in for the sidelined Stephen Johns. Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk left the game following a third-period collision with Oleksiak and Jamie Benn.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens head coach Claude Julien was rushed to hospital after suffering chest pains following his club’s 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of their first-round series. His condition isn’t related to COVID-19. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said Julien won’t return for the remainder of the series. Assistant coaches Kirk Muller, Dominque Ducharme, and Luke Richardson will share the coaching duties in Julien’s absence.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin indicated he’d received some good news about Julien’s condition yesterday afternoon but didn’t elaborate. Here’s hoping the Habs bench boss makes a quick and full recovery.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is in concussion protocol and won’t take part in Game 2 against the New York Islanders later today. Backstrom was injured following a late hit by Islanders’ captain Anders Lee. Lars Eller will replace Backstrom after returning to the club following the birth of his son.
AZCENTRAL.COM: The Arizona Coyotes hope to have center Nick Schmaltz in the lineup for Game 2 against the Colorado Avalanche later today. He’s been absent since being injured during an exhibition game two weeks ago.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The low-scoring Coyotes could use Schmaltz’s offense against the Avs. He was their leading scorer during the regular season.
THE SCORE: Defenseman Dan Hamhuis announced his retirement after 16 NHL seasons with the Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks, and Dallas Stars. He played in 1,184 games, netting 356 points. Hamhuis played in two games of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final until a groin injury sidelined him for the rest of the series. He won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Hamhuis in his future endeavors. He was among the league’s best defensive blueliners during his playing prime.
Sidney Crosby reaches an assist milestone, Kyle Connor and Kevin Fiala extend their goal streaks and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM:The Boston Bruins widened their lead atop the overall standings by edging the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1. Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk scored for the Bruins (96 points), who sit nine points over the Lightning for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Third-period goals by Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz lifted the St. Louis Blues to their eighth straight win by downing the New York Rangers 3-1. The Blues (90 points) hold a three-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche for first place in the Western Conference. With 74 points, the Rangers remain four points out of an Eastern Conference wild-card spot.
Bryan Rust’s hat trick powered the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Ottawa Senators 7-3 to snap a six-game losing skid. Evgeni Malkin collected four assists while Sidney Crosby (one goal, two assists) picked up his 800th career assist. The Penguins (82 points) sit one behind the Philadelphia Flyers for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crosby became just the sixth player in NHL history to reach 800 assists in less than 1,000 games.
Vegas Golden Knights netminder Robin Lehner made 27 saves in a 3-0 shutout of the New Jersey Devils. Max Pacioretty and William Karlsson each had a goal and an assist. The Golden Knights (82 points) have won nine of their last 10 contests and sit atop the Pacific Division.
Alex Chiasson’s overtime goal gave the Edmonton Oilers a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars. Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen kicked out 42 shots as Edmonton (80 points) remains two back of the Golden Knights, while the Stars (82 points) remain in third place in the Central Division. Oilers winger James Neal returned to the lineup for the first time since being sidelined by a foot injury on Jan. 29.
Winnipeg Jets winger Kyle Connor scored twice and set up another to lead his club over the fading Buffalo Sabres 3-1. Connor’s goal streak has reached four games as the Jets (74 points) moved into the second wild-card berth in the Western Conference. The Sabres have dropped four straight.
Kevin Fiala extended his goal streak to five games as the Minnesota Wild dumped the Nashville Predators 3-1. Wild goalie Alex Stalock made 37 saves as the Wild (73 points) moved one point ahead of the Predators to sit one point out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Preds have dropped three straight games.
A three-goal third period carried the San Jose Sharks to a 5-2 upset of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Evander Kane scored twice for the Sharks. With 78 points, the Leafs sit in third place in the Atlantic Division. Leafs center Auston Matthews tallied his 46th goal to move into second place among this season’s goal-scoring leaders.
The Montreal Canadiens rolled to a 6-2 victory over the slumping New York Islanders, who’ve won just two of their last 10 games. Isles defenseman Johnny Boychuk left the game in the third period after being inadvertently struck in the face by the skate blade of Canadiens winger Artturi Lehkonen. Boychuk suffered a facial cut but his eyesight was unaffected. Canadiens winger Tomas Tatar left the game early in the first with an upper-body injury. The Isles (78 points) cling to the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Canadiens (71 points) sit seven points behind them.
A four-goal second period lifted the Chicago Blackhawks to a 6-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks, Dylan Strome tallied two goals and collected an assist.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstrand will be sidelined eight-to-ten weeks following surgery to repair an ankle sprain and a hairline fracture.
THE SCORE: Carolina Hurricanes goalies Petr Mrazek (concussion) and James Reimer (lower-body injury) are expected to miss at least another week. The Hurricanes are winless since Mrazek and Reimer were sidelined.
VANCOUVER SUN: Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers and Quinn Hughes are questionable for tonight’s game against the Arizona Coyotes.
SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said head coach Claude Julien will return behind the bench next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens fans are calling for Bergevin and Julien to be fired as the club is on the verge of missing the playoffs for the third straight year. Neither guy is going anywhere, but this off-season and the Canadiens’ performance in 2021-22 will determine if they still have their jobs a year from now.
The Nashville Predators have opened the doors of their arena to people affected by the tornado that ripped through the city early Tuesday morning. At least 19 people were killed and 40 buildings were destroyed.