Bruins Struggle Through Scoring Drought to Open NHL Season
Game recaps plus the latest on Patrik Laine, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, J.T. Miller, Erik Johnson, Jason Spezza and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Jake Guentzel tallied the only goal in a shootout as the Pittsburgh Penguins picked up their first win over the season by edging the Washington Capitals 4-3. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored his first of the season, moving to within one career goal of tying Mike Gartner (708) for seventh place on the all-time goal-scoring list.
Three unanswered third-period goals by Eetu Luostarinen, Patric Hornqvist and Jonathan Huberdeau lifted the Florida Panthers to a 5-2 season-opening victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Huberdeau had a goal and two assists while teammate Keith Yandle tallied his 100th career goal in his 867th consecutive NHL game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Trade rumors dogged Yandle last week amidst speculation he could become a healthy scratch, snapping his Ironman streak. It remains to be seen how things unfold for the veteran blueliner and the Panthers.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets winger Patrik Laine left practice yesterday with an apparent injury above his left hip. Head coach Paul Maurice shed little light on Laine’s status, adding he’ll see how the winger is doing on Monday. Laine is slated to travel with the team to Toronto.
AZCENTRAL: The Arizona Coyotes placed captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson on injured reserve. He’s slated to miss their next three games. Ekman-Larsson suffered a lower-body injury during Saturday’s 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks following a hit from Sharks’ winger Evander Kane.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller returns to the lineup after missing the club’s first three games in coronavirus quarantine as a high-risk contact of teammate Jordie Benn.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defensemen Erik Johnson and Bowen Byram will join their teammates after completing COVID-19 quarantine. Johnson missed all of training camp and the Avs’ first test games after testing positive for the coronavirus. Byram was in quarantine after traveling from Canada following the 2021 World Juniors in Edmonton.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs placed center Jason Spezza and goaltender Aaron Dell on waivers for the purpose of assigning them to their taxi squad. Spezza indicated he’ll retire immediately if claimed by another club. Dell, meanwhile, could be targeted by a club with goalie issues like the Edmonton Oilers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll learn their fate by noon ET today.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins placed defenseman Mike Matheson on injured reserve retroactive to Friday with an undisclosed ailment. Head coach Mike Sullivan said Matheson was injured during Friday’s loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues placed defenseman Robert Bortuzzo on injured reserve following a hit to the head suffered during Friday’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Bortuzzo was struck by the shoulder of Avs winger Valeri Nichushkin.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins winger Ondrej Kase is doubtful for Monday’s game against the New York Islanders. Kase suffered an upper-body injury during Saturday’s overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils.
CBS SPORTS: The Calgary Flames signed forward Brett Ritchie to a one-year, two-way contract. He’d attended Flames’ training camp on a professional tryout offer.
Some recent Bruins and Senators speculation in today’s NHL rumor roundup.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: In a recent mailbag segment, Joe Haggerty was asked if there’s any truth to recent rumors linking the Bruins to Mike Hoffman. While Haggerty believes the Bruins could be interested in the free-agent winger he doesn’t believe they’re close to signing him unless he’s willing to accept a one-year, $3.5 million contract. They only have $3.6 million in cap space.
Hoffman reportedly seeks a one-year deal starting at $5.5 million. Haggerty feels he could get something in the $5 million range from somebody. He acknowledged the Bruins could put sidelined winger David Pastrnak on long-term injury reserve to start the season to free up sufficient wiggle room to sign Hoffman. However, he doesn’t see them going that route with Pastrnak due to return in February.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless Hoffman agrees to a more affordable salary or the Bruins make a cost-cutting deal, I don’t see him suiting up for Boston this season. I still think their priority is addressing the left side of their blueline.
Haggerty cites colleague Jimmy Murphy shooting down a rumor suggesting the Bruins ship winger Ondrej Kase to the Calgary Flames for defenseman Noah Hanifin. Murphy indicates that rumor was an idea proposed by a reporter and not actually discussed by the Bruins and Flames.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That proposal would certainly help the Bruins shore up the depth on the left side of their blueline. However, it makes no sense for the Flames.
Kase has one 20-goal season during his short, injury-ravaged NHL career. He really struggled to adjust with the Bruins after they acquired him from the Anaheim Ducks last season, with one assist in six regular-season games and four assists in 11 playoff contests.
THE ATHLETIC: Hailey Salvian was recently asked in a mailbag segment who she thought would become the first Ottawa Senators player to be traded this season. She observed they have five potential unrestricted free agents, which are the type of players typically moved before the trade deadline.
She points out goaltender Anders Nilsson is battling concussion issues, defenseman Erik Gudbranson carries a big cap hit ($4 million) for what he brings to the ice, while forward Artem Anisimov also has a significant cap hit ($4.45 million) and struggled with injuries last season.
That leaves Alex Galchenyuk and Mike Reilly. The latter could be the most likely trade candidate as he’s shown he can be a capable puck-moving defenseman with the Senators. Galcheyuk could also attract some interest if he had a good offensive season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We shouldn’t rule out Gudbranson or Anisimov also becoming trade candidates near the deadline. Much will depend upon their performances this season but they could be enticing to a playoff contender.
Everyone writes off Gudbranson’s value but teams still keep trading for him. I can see him landing with a playoff contender if the Sens agree to pick up part of his cap hit. A healthy season could make Anisimov worthwhile as an experienced depth forward.
The Senators won’t get much for any of those UFAs. Nevertheless, they will get some draft picks they can stockpile for off-season deals with cap-strapped clubs.
Recaps of the opening games of the qualifying round and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Chicago Blackhawks winger Dominik Kubalik scored twice and collected three assists in a 6-4 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. Kubalik set a record for most points by a rookie in his first playoff game. Jonathan Toews also scored twice for the Hawks. Oilers forwards Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each had a goal and two assists. Blackhawks forward Drake Caggiula will have a hearing on Sunday with the league’s department of player safety for an illegal hit to the head of Oilers winger Tyler Ennis.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks feasted on the shaky play of Oilers goaltender Mike Smith and his teammates’ sloppy defensive play. Smith was replaced in the second period by Mikko Koskinen after giving up five goals on 23 shots. He could get the call for Game 2 on Monday.
The Montreal Canadiens upset the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 on an overtime goal by Jeff Petry. Canadiens’ goaltender Carey Price made 39 saves while rookies Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki picked up their first NHL playoff goals. Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust replied for the Penguins. Pittsburgh winger Conor Sheary and Montreal winger Jonathan Drouin failed to score on penalty-shot attempts.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins also missed several good scoring opportunities. Nevertheless, Price did a fine job rising to the occasion for his overmatched teammates. If he wasn’t in the heads of the Penguins before this game, he is now.
A 4-1 victory by the Calgary Flames over the Winnipeg Jets was overshadowed by the departure of Jets center Mark Scheifele early in the game with an injured left leg following a collision with Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk. The Flames got power-play goals by Johnny Gaudreau and Mikael Backlund and a shorthanded tally by Tobias Rieder. The Jets also lost winger Patrik Laine to an apparent hand injury in the third period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jets coach Paul Maurice believes Tkachuk deliberately attempted to injure Schiefele, which the winger denied. There’s no question the loss of Scheifele affected his teammates, who seemed off-balance for most of the game. Maurice also indicated Scheifele and Laine will be examined by specialists, which suggests both could be sidelined for lengthy periods.
Sebastian Aho and Jaccob Slavin each had a goal and an assist as the Carolina Hurricanes edged the New York Rangers 3-2. Petr Mrazek picked up the win with a 24-save effort. Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist turned aside 34 shots while Mika Zibanejad also had a goal and an assist.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The score flattered the Rangers, who were dominated by the Hurricanes for most of this game. It would’ve been a more lopsided loss if not for Lundqvist, who got the call after Igor Shesterkin was a last-minute scratch. He’s listed as day-to-day. Rangers winger Jesper Fast left the game in the first period following a big hit by former teammate Brady Skjei.
Semyon Varlamov kicked out 27 shots while Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Anthony Beauvillier scored as the New York Islanders held on for a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers. Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside 26 shots for the Panthers. Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk left the game in the second period following an illegal hit to the head from Panthers blueliner Mike Matheson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bobrovsky kept his teammates in this game but they couldn’t get the equalizer. No word on Boychuk’s status while Matheson only received a two-minute penalty.
THE SCORE: Prior to Saturday’s Oilers-Blackhawks game, Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba made a moving speech on behalf of the Hockey Diversity Alliance and took a knee during the American National Anthem, flanked by Blackhawks goalie Malcolm Subban and Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse. Dumba is among the co-founders of the Hockey Diversity Alliance to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is questionable for today’s round-robin game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Coach Bruce Cassidy said Rask wasn’t feeling well and was unfit to participate in yesterday’s practice.
Bruins winger Ondrej Kase finally rejoined his teammates after missing all of the Phase 3 training camp. He isn’t expected to be in today’s lineup and it could be a few games before he returns to action.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cassidy’s remarks about Rask doesn’t sound as though his status is COVID-related.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals defenseman John Carlson returned to practice Saturday for the first time since leaving Wednesday’s exhibition game with an undisclosed ailment. It’s yet to be decided if he’ll play in tomorrow’s round-robin game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Exhibition games begin today, there were no positive COVID-19 tests during the final week of training camp, plus the latest on Max Pacioretty, Dougie Hamilton, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Exhibition play for Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan begins today in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto. The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins face off at 4 pm ET, followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs taking on the Montreal Canadiens at 8 pm ET at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. In Edmonton, the Oilers tangle with the Calgary Flames at 10:30 pm ET at Rogers Place.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: These could be the most-watched exhibition games in NHL history. It will provide hockey fans a first glimpse of what the upcoming playoff tournament will look like under bubble conditions without fans.
SPORTSNET: The NHL yesterday announced it received no positive COVID-19 tests from the 4,256 tests among over 800 players during the final week of Phase 3 training camp.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a total of two positive tests during Phase 3. That’s still no assurance a COVID-19 outbreak won’t take place during the playoffs. Nevertheless, it’s a very promising sign as the 24 teams prepare to face off for Phase 4 under stricter quarantine conditions.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty didn’t travel with his teammates to Edmonton for the upcoming playoff tournament. He’s recovering from a minor injury that kept him out of the final week of training camp.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pacioretty is expected to travel to the Edmonton bubble at a later date. He will undergo a brief quarantine requiring four negative COVID-19 tests before he can rejoin his teammates.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton missed practice in Toronto yesterday. He’s been listed as unfit to participate. Hamilton hasn’t skated since leaving practice on Wednesday in some discomfort.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad returned to the ice on Monday after missing the last three practice sessions. He’ll be held out of Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Lightning for precautionary reasons.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger Ondrej Kase didn’t travel with his teammates to Toronto on Sunday and there’s no indication when he’ll rejoin the club. He missed all of the Bruins’ training camp and remains listed as unfit to play.
NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby are among the 31 nominees for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. The award honors “the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community.”
NEW YORK POST: The son of former NHL defenseman Barry Beck was fatally stabbed over the weekend in Binbrook, Ontario. Brock Beck, 20, was pronounced dead in hospital following a confrontation with unidentified suspects.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to the Beck family. Here’s hoping the suspects are quickly captured and feel the full penalty of the law.
As the 24 teams involved in the return-to-play plan move to their hub cities for the upcoming playoff tournament, check out the latest NHL morning coffee headlines.
TRAINING CAMP UPDATES
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford finally took part in training camp yesterday and confirmed he had tested positive for COVID-19. After self-quarantining in Chicago for the past several weeks, Crawford received clearance to resume practicing and will travel with his teammates to Edmonton for the upcoming playoff tournament.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That explains why the Blackhawks management and coaching staff were so cryptic about Crawford’s status over the past two weeks. It’s potentially good news for the Hawks if their long-time starter can shake off the rust before they face off against the Oilers in their qualifying round series. He’ll only have a few days to try to get up to speed.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger David Pastrnak will travel with his teammates to Toronto for the upcoming tournament after missing all but one practice due to potential exposure to someone with COVID-19. Ondrej Kase’s status, however, remains uncertain after being unfit to participate in Phase 3 training.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kase’s situation has sparked speculation he tested positive for COVID-19 because league protocols prevent the Bruins from elaborating on his condition.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: An injury suffered before Phase 3 training camp will prevent goaltender Ilya Samsonov from traveling to Toronto with his Capitals teammates. He’ll remain in Washington for treatment and is expected to be healthy for the 2020-21 season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fortunately for the Capitals, long-time starter Braden Holtby had a good training camp and should be match-fit for the upcoming tournament. Nevertheless, the loss of Samsonov could become a significant factor if Holtby should be sidelined or struggles in the playoffs.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Dougie Hamilton was absent from the Carolina Hurricanes’ final training-camp session yesterday. He’s been sidelined since Wednesday after leaving the ice in some discomfort. Forward Martin Necas left the ice on Saturday but his condition isn’t considered serious.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hamilton’s return would provide a big boost to an already-deep Hurricanes defense corps. They can adjust without him but they’d be much better with the mobile Hamilton patrolling the blueline.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers skated briefly yesterday but didn’t scrimmage with his teammates. He’s believed to be nursing an injury as he was held out of Thursday’s scrimmage.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse was held out of practice yesterday as a precautionary measure after tweaking something earlier in the week. Center Riley Sheahan left yesterday’s scrimmage with an apparent injury.
THE DENVER POST: Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar returned to Colorado Avalanche practice yesterday.
PHILLY.COM: Flyers goaltender Carter Hart took part in a full practice yesterday and said he’ll be ready for the club’s upcoming exhibition game this week against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland has played his way back into a regular roster spot. He’ll be traveling with his teammates to Edmonton for the playoff tournament. Ferland missed most of this season and the early part of training camp dealing with head trauma symptoms.
LATEST ON CHAYKA AND THE COYOTES
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reports the relationship between the Arizona Coyotes ownership and general manager John Chayka apparently fell apart over the latter receiving a job opportunity with another club.
The Coyotes were approached about Chayka’s availability and permitted him to explore the offer. An NHL source said the offer wasn’t for a general manager position. When it became apparent Chayka could leave, the Coyotes resisted. The two sides reportedly discussed a transition period where he would finish out the season as Coyotes GM, but talks fell apart.
AZ COYOTES INSIDER Craig Morgan asked a Coyotes spokesperson about Chayka’s status but they declined to comment. Morgan also said the job opportunity wasn’t with another team but was another professional opportunity.
AZCENTRAL: Kent Somers and Richard Morin report the Coyotes ownership group made a contract offer to Taylor Hall during a recent dinner meeting. Chayka was not part of that meeting and learned about the offer a day or two later.
OTTAWA CITIZEN: Patrick Johnston suggests Buffalo could be a destination for Chayka. Pegula Sports and Entertainment own the Sabres, the NFL Bill, and the AHL’s Rochester Americans.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Morgan wonders why the Coyotes balked after granting Chayka permission to explore it. What’s apparent is the relationship between the two sides is eroding, perhaps to the point where Chayka seems to be on his way out. It’s a puzzling situation that could become an unnecessary distraction as the Coyotes head to Edmonton for the upcoming playoff tournament.