Jack Eichel’s agents issue a statement critical of Sabres management, David Krejci will finish his playing career in the Czech Republic, and surgeries for Alex Tuch and Paul Byron top today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
WGR 550: The agents for Jack Eichel released a statement yesterday expressing their displeasure over the Buffalo Sabres’ handling of their client’s medical treatment for a herniated disc in his neck. Eichel prefers surgery but his representatives accused the Sabres medical staff of preventing him from undergoing the procedure. “This process is stopping Jack from playing in the NHL and is not working,” they conclude.
Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This statement was released in response to a recent press conference by Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams where he said he’s not feeling pressure to trade Eichel. It’s apparent they intend to turn up the heat on Adams to speed up the “process”. Time will tell if it has the desired effect but it’s apparent the pending divorce between Eichel and the Sabres is growing acrimonious.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: David Krejci brought his 15-season NHL career to a close yesterday. The long-time Bruins center issued a statement indicating he was finishing his playing career back home in the Czech Republic.
Krejci, 35, spent his entire NHL career with the Bruins, playing in 962 career games and scoring 215 goals, 515 assists and 730 points. He helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2011 and reach the Cup Final in 2013 and 2019.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Krejci was sometimes overshadowed by teammates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand but was an invaluable part of their success during most of his tenure in Boston. He ranks among their all-time leaders in games played, assists and points.
His departure leaves a big hole in their second-line center position that could prove difficult to fill in the short term. Best wishes to Krejci over the remainder of his playing career and beyond.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Golden Knights winger Alex Tuch will be sidelined for six months after undergoing shoulder surgery last week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The earliest he could return to the lineup is late January. This could explain their acquisition of Evgeni Dadonov from the Ottawa Senators this week.
TVA SPORTS: Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron underwent hip surgery this week and is expected to be out for five months. He could be out until January.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That could explain their signing of Mathieu Perreault this week to a one-year, $950K contract.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues re-signed forward Ivan Barbashev to a two-year, $4.5 million contract.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche re-signed forward Tyson Jost to a two-year, $4 million contract.
NHL NETWORK‘s Kevin Weekes reports the New York Rangers signed recently acquired winger Ryan Reaves to a one-year, $1.75 million contract extension.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs signed winger Ondrej Kase to a one-year, $1.25 million contract.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings acquired forward Mitchell Stephens from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2022.
TSN: The Montreal Canadiens hired Eric Raymond as their new goalie coach.
The Jets sweep the Oilers with a triple-overtime victory, the Islanders put the Penguins on the brink in double overtime, the Panthers and Wild stave off elimination and the Leafs take a 2-1 series lead over the Canadiens. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets got a triple-overtime goal by Kyle Connor to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 and sweep their opening-round series in four games. Mark Scheifele scored twice and Connor Hellebuyck made 37 saves for the win. Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Alex Chiasson tallied for the Oilers while defensemen Darnell Nurse logged over 62 minutes of ice time. Oilers forward Josh Archibald missed this game serving a one-game suspension. The Jets await the winner of the Toronto Maple Leafs-Montreal Canadiens series.
Kyle Connor was the triple-overtime hero for the Winnipeg Jets as they swept the Edmonton Oilers (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers dominated the Jets during the regular season but they struggled in the heavier going of postseason play. Their lack of secondary punch also didn’t help matters.
Remember that late-season speculation suggesting Jets coach Paul Maurice could lose his job? We can put that to rest now. The Jets’ previous postseason experience also made a difference here. Their offense got a boost from Nikolaj Ehlers return from injury midway through this series. This was the first-ever NHL playoff sweep in Jets history and the first time they’ve eliminated the Oilers.
A double-overtime goal by Josh Bailey gave the New York Islanders a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ilya Sorokin kicked out 48 shots for the Isles, who hold a 3-2 lead in this first-round series heading back to Long Island on Wednesday. Bryan Rust and Kris Letang each had two points for the Penguins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bailey’s goal came off a horrible turnover by Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry. Sorokin, meanwhile, has backstopped the Isles to consecutive wins since returning to the net in Game 4.
The Florida Panthers staved off elimination by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 in Game 5 of their first-round series. Panthers rookie goaltender Spencer Knight made 36 saves in his NHL playoff debut while Patric Hornqvist and MacKenzie Weegar each had a goal and an assist while Mason Marchment netted the game-winner. The Lightning holds a 3-2 series lead as the series returns to Tampa Bay for Game 6 on Wednesday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Knight gave up the early goal but was unbeatable after that. He’s earned the start for Game 6.
Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot made 38 saves as his club avoided elimination by doubling up the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2. First-period goals by Kirill Kaprizov, Zach Parise and Jordan Greenway paved the way for Minnesota’s victory as they had just 14 shots on goal in this game. Wild defenseman Carson Soucy missed this game with an undisclosed injury. The series returns to Minnesota on Wednesday for Game 6.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Golden Knights dominated most of this game. Talbot came through for his teammates, especially in a second period where they were outshot 22-1.
The Toronto Maple Leafs held off the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round series. All the scoring took place in the second period with William Nylander and Morgan Rielly tallying for the Leafs and Nick Suzuki replying for the Canadiens. Leafs center Nick Foligno sat out this game with a lower-body injury while Canadiens center Eric Staal was sidelined by an undisclosed injury. Habs winger Artturi Lehkonen left the game following a first-period collision with Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin. Game 4 goes tonight in Montreal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This game saw an evenly-matched first period, the Leafs dominating the second and the Canadiens controlling the third. The goaltending was outstanding for both clubs, with Montreal’s Carey Price and Toronto’s Jack Campbell making some big saves.
William Nylander has scored in each game and leads the Leafs with four points. Habs rookie Cole Caufield made his playoff debut, generating a couple of quality scoring chances and earning more playing time as the game went on.
IN OTHER NEWS…
NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Carolina Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov is struggling to score in his club’s series with the Nashville Predators. He has just one goal on 21 shots and that was an empty-netter in Game 1.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins winger Ondrej Kase (upper-body injury) and defenseman Steve Kampfer (hand surgery) are sidelined for the rest of the playoffs.
LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS: The Anaheim Ducks hired former Los Angeles Kings executive Jeff Solomon as their new senior vice president of hockey operations.
I know this thing gets whittled down as teams get limited from the postseason, but I believe this is the first day this season the NHL’s list of absences for covid-19 protocols has been blank: pic.twitter.com/eLicfHbfNx
The Jets down the Leafs in their final regular-season game, Conference championship trophies won’t be awarded this season, plus the latest on Alex Ovechkin, Ondrej Kase and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets ended their regular season on a high note by doubling up the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2. Kyle Connor scored twice to finish the season with a team-leading 26 goals. The Leafs’ Auston Matthews was held pointless, finishing the season with a league-leading 41 goals.
Winnipeg Jets winger Kyle Connor (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both clubs will have several days off before they begin their respective first-round series. The Jets face off against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday while the Leafs meet the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski reports the NHL won’t be handing out the Prince of Wales Trophy or the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl to the conference champions this season. The Prince of Wales Trophy is usually awarded to the Eastern Conference champion while the Campbell Bowl is awarded to the Western Conference champion.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The bright side is we won’t have to listen to any of the superstitious nonsense over whether the winning teams will touch those respective trophies. Because, of course, everyone knows touching those awards could determine the outcome of the Stanley Cup Final (end sarcasm mode).
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: The lack of a new contract for Alex Ovechkin isn’t bothering Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. He said he and Ovechkin are focused on the upcoming playoffs.
“Alex knows that if he plays five more years, 10 more years, whatever it is, we’ve got his back,” Leonsis said, adding the team’s commitment to his captain is to continue to have great teams. “We’ll spend to the cap, we’ll try to win championships. And that’s what he’s focused on because that’ll be his legacy.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin is completing a 13-year, $124 million contract. He and Leonsis agreed at the start of this season to put aside contract discussions until after the playoffs are over. Based on Leonsis’ comments, it sounds like Ovechkin won’t be going anywhere.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins winger Ondrej Kase won’t be playing in Game 1 of his club’s opening-round series against the Washington Capitals tonight. Kase suffered an upper-body injury unrelated to the suspected concussion that sidelined him for all but three games this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whatever the issue, it sounds like Kase could miss more than just Game 1.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins backup goaltender Casey DeSmith left Friday’s practice early to receive medical treatment after making a routine save. It’s suspected to be a lower-body injury. The Penguins open their first-round series against the New York Islanders on Sunday.
TSN: Minnesota Wild forward Ryan Hartman was fined $5,000.00 for a dangerous trip on St. Louis Blues forward Sammy Blais on Thursday.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators signed defenseman Artem Zub to a two-year, $5 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Zub, 25, joined the Senators as a free agent from the KHL and played well in his first NHL season. He finished with 14 points in 47 games and a plus-minus of plus-4 while logging over 18 minutes of ice time per game.
SPORTSNET: Speaking of the Senators, team owner Eugene Melnyk declined to comment about lawsuits filed against five defendants by his traveling companions related to his Caribbean vacation last Christmas.
THE SCORE: cites a report by The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun indicating Alain Vigneault will return as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers next season.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Speaking of returning coaches, Stars general manager Jim Nill confirmed Rick Bowness will be back behind the bench with his club next season. Nill also said forward Roope Hintz will undergo surgery next week in New York to repair a groin injury.
The Canadiens clinch the last postseason spot in the North Division, the opening day of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs is revealed, Jack Eichel talks about his season and the state of the Sabres, and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Montreal Canadiens clinched the final playoff berth in the Scotia North Division in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. An overtime goal by Connor McDavid gave the Oilers the win after Canadiens winger Artturi Lehkonen forced overtime with the game-tying goal in the third period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens are expected to face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round. However, they could meet the Oilers if they win their final game of the season and the Winnipeg Jets drop their final two games in regulation. The Jets sit in third place with 59 points, one up on the Canadiens.
Speaking of the Jets, they dropped a 3-1 decision to the Vancouver Canucks. Jonas Hoglander scored twice for Vancouver.
A 36-save performance by Philipp Grubauer carried the Colorado Avalanche to a 2-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. J.T. Compher snapped a 1-1 tie in the third period. With 78 points, Colorado sits two behind first-place Vegas in the Honda West Division. The Golden Knights (39 wins) have one game left while the Avs have two.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Whoever tops the West will win the Presidents’ Trophy for this season’s best record.
An overtime goal by Justin Faulk gave the St. Louis Blues a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings The Blues will face the Golden Knights or Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs.
The Carolina Hurricanes chances of winning the Presidents’ Trophy ended in a 5-0 loss to the Nashville Predators. Pekka Rinne picked up the shutout with 30 saves while Matt Duchene scored two goals. The Hurricanes finish the season in first place in the Discover Central Division with 36 wins and 80 points while the Predators finish in fourth place.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes and Predators will face off against each other in the opening round of the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs beginning this weekend.
A 30-save shutout performance by Chris Driedger carried the Florida Panthers over the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0. Keith Yandle had an assist for his 600th career NHL points. Lightning forwards Mathieu Joseph, Gemel Smith and Daniel Walcott played together on what is believed to be the first all-Black forward line in NHL history.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the win, the Panthers clinched second place in the Central and home-ice advantage over the Lightning in their first-round series starting this weekend.
Boston Bruins winger Taylor Hall (NHL Images)
Taylor Hall’s overtime goal lifted the Boston Bruins past the New York Islanders 3-2. Bruins winger Ondrej Kase left the game with an upper-body injury. The win clinched third place in the MassMutual East Division for the Bruins, who’ll face the second-place Washington Capitals in the opening round of the postseason with Game 1 on Saturday. The Islanders will face the Pittsburgh Penguins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kase was playing in his first game since suffering a concussion in January. An update on his condition could be made today.
The Dallas Stars nipped the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 on an overtime goal by Jason Robertson.
Two goals by Joel Farabee gave the Philadelphia Flyers a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
NHL.COM: Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the North Division playoffs could begin once all the regular-season games in that division are concluded. Several games earlier in the season involving the Vancouver Canucks were postponed due to COVID-19. Their final regular-season game is May 19.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would allow those Canadian clubs some extra rest while giving some of their banged-up players more time to recover before the playoffs begin.
WGR 550: Jack Eichel expressed his displeasure over the way the Buffalo Sabres handled the herniated disk in his neck during an end-of-season media conference call on Monday. He suffered that season-ending injury in early March. Asked why he hasn’t yet undergone surgery, he said it’s a contractual issue, saying the club decides what he can or cannot do to treat an injury.
The Sabres captain also revealed he suffered a sprained ankle during the season, fractured a rib several weeks before training camp and had a lingering abdominal injury from last season.
Eichel dodged the question of whether he’ll ask for a trade but admitted he has a lot of thinking to do regarding his future. He said he has to do what best for him and the Sabres must do what’s best for the organization.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eichel’s comments (which you can read in full by following the above link) raised eyebrows around the league. It sounds like he may have played his final game with the Sabres. I’ll have more in the Rumors section.
TSN: Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said yesterday it’s “self-explanatory” that Patrik Laine remains a key part of the club’s future. The winger is a restricted free agent this summer. However, his rights remain under the Jackets’ contract until 2022-23.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine’s contract status prompted speculation suggesting he could be traded if he and the Blue Jackets failed to reach an agreement on a new deal. The winger yesterday confirmed his wish to remain with the Jackets.
THE SCORE: San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane said filing for bankruptcy was a big weight off his shoulders. He considers it a relief that he didn’t have to hide his financial troubles anymore, calling it the end of that chapter of his life. Kane said the birth of his daughter 10 months ago helped him mature and accept responsibility for his actions.
SPECTOR’ S NOTE: That relief was reflected in Kane’s play this season. He’s the Sharks’ leading scorer with 22 goals and 49 points in 55 games.
NHL.COM: The list of candidates for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy was released yesterday. Among the notables is Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, and Washington Capitals blueliner Zdeno Chara.
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov, and Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending May 9, 2021.
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers signed defenseman Ryan Lindgren to a three-year, $9 million contract extension.
ESPN is reportedly adding Ray Ferraro and Brian Boucher as NHL analysts starting next season. The network declined to comment.
NHL.COM: The New York Islanders have renamed AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers as the Bridgeport Islanders.
The Hurricanes clinch first place in the Central Division, the Panthers and Lightning will face each other in the playoffs, the Blues clinch a postseason berth, the Stars stay alive and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Dallas Stars kept their playoff hopes alive by downing the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2. Joe Pavelski led the way with two goals and two assists while Roope Hintz had three points. With 58 points, the Stars sit two points behind the fourth-place Nashville Predators.
Dallas Stars forward Joe Pavelski (NHL Images).
Thanks to the Stars, the Carolina Hurricanes clinched first place in the Discover Central Division. The Lightning will face the Florida Panthers in the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Hurricanes have an opportunity to win their first-ever Presidents’ Trophy. They have 80 points with two games remaining while the Vegas Golden Knights have 78 points with three games left.
The Panthers-Lightning will be facing each other for the first time in postseason competition. I’m looking forward to watching their opening-round series. These rivals are evenly matched, with each team have won three of their six games thus far in their season series. We’ll get a first-round preview as their final two games of the schedule (today and Monday) are against each other with playoff seeding on the line.
The Washington Capitals remain two points out of first place in the MassMutual East Division after dropping a 4-2 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers. Wade Allison scored two goals for the Flyers. Washington was without Alex Ovechkin (lower-body injury) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (COVID-19 protocol list). With 73 points, the Capitals have a game in hand over the first-place Pittsburgh Penguins (75 points), who play their final game of the schedule today against the Buffalo Sabres.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins, Sabres, New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes, Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks all have one game remaining in their respective schedules.
The St. Louis Blues clinched a playoff spot in the Honda West Division despite falling 4-3 to the Vegas Golden Knights. Jonathan Marchessault’s overtime goal capped a three-goal rally by the Golden Knights, who hold a four-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche for first place in the division.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues were in danger of missing the playoffs in early April following a seven-game losing skid. Their current eight-game points streak (including five wins) put them over the top.
Colorado Avalanche winger Mikko Rantanen tallied his 30th goal of the season as his club held off the Los Angeles Kings 3-2, eliminating the latter from playoff contention. Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon missed the game with a lower-body injury in what appeared to be a precautionary move by head coach Jared Bednar. Earlier in the day, the Kings announced winger Dustin Brown will miss the remainder of the season with an upper-body injury.
An overtime goal by rookie winger Kirill Kaprizov lifted the Minnesota Wild to a 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Kaprizov has 27 goals on the season as the Wild sits one point back of the Avalanche in third place with 73 points.
Phil Kessel collected his 900th career point as his Arizona Coyotes beat the San Jose Sharks 5-2. Kessel had a goal and an assist while teammate Conor Garland collected three points. The Sharks were without captain Logan Couture, who could miss the remainder of the regular season with a lower-body injury.
A three-goal outburst in the second period rallied the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Vladislav Namestnikov scored twice, Valtteri Filppula collected three assists and Joe Veleno tallied his first NHL goal.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE SCORE: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said Friday he’s hopeful of returning to action for his club’s postseason opener. Stamkos has been sidelined by a lower-body injury since April 8.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Phillip Danault is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will miss Saturday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Goaltender Carey Price (concussion) has been working out on the ice at the Habs’ practice facility but there’s no timetable for his return. Shea Weber and Paul Byron are each listed as day-to-day. Brendan Gallagher (broken thumb) has resumed skating while Jonathan Drouin remains on an indefinite leave of absence.
THE PROVINCE: The NHL department of player safety handed a one-game suspension to Vancouver Canucks forward Zack MacEwen for kneeing Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse on Thursday.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Ondrej Kase returned to Bruins practice for the first time in four months after taking a high hit from New Jersey Devils winger Miles Wood back in January. He hasn’t ruled out returning for the Bruins’ final two games of the season.