NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 4, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 4, 2022

The Penguins down the Rangers in triple OT, the Avalanche bury the Predators, the Flames blank the Stars and the Capitals tame the Panthers in the opening games of their first-round playoff series. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Evgeni Malkin scored in triple overtime as the Pittsburgh Penguins downed the New York Rangers 4-3 in Game 1 of their best-of-seven first-round series in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Jake Guentzel scored two goals in regulation, Bryan Rust had a goal and two assists and Sidney Crosby collected two assists. Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin made 79 saves in the six-period marathon while Chris Kreider and Mike Zibanejad each had two points.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Penguins’ third-string goalie Louis Domingue got the win after replacing Casey DeSmith in the second overtime when the latter suffered a lower-body injury. DeSmith is being evaluated and his status is listed as day-to-day. Penguins starter Tristan Jarry’s been out since April 14 with a lower-body injury.

DeSmith wasn’t the only Penguin injured in this game. Winger Rickard Rakell suffered a head injury following a hit by Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren in the first period and didn’t return. He’s also being evaluated.

A five-goal first period carried the Colorado Avalanche to a lopsided 7-2 victory over the Nashville Predators in the first game of their best-of-seven opening-round series. Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Mikko Rantanen led the way with three points each. Matt Duchene scored both Nashville goals while Predators goalie David Rittich got the hook after giving up five goals on 13 shots.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: To say the Predators missed sidelined starting goaltender Juuse Saros in this contest is an understatement. Nevertheless, the Predators still would’ve lost this game even with a healthy Saros between the pipes, only it wouldn’t have been quite so one-sided. The Avalanche dominated this game from the opening puck drop. The Predators will need a better team effort as well as better goaltending or this series will be over quickly.

Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom had a 16-save shutout and Elias Lindholm scored the only goal in a 1-0 blanking of the Dallas Stars in Game 1 of their first-round series. Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger acquitted himself well in his first-ever playoff game with 25 saves.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A line brawl broke out during the first period after Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk hit Dallas defenseman John Klingberg behind the Stars net. Tkachuk wound up scrapping with Michael Raffl while Klingberg wound up tangling with Flames defenseman Rasmus Andersson. Both blueliners received game misconducts.

The Washington Capitals got three third-period goals from Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller to double up the Florida Panthers 4-2 in Game 1 of their first-round series. Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 34 saves in a losing cause. It was a costly win for the Capitals as winger Tom Wilson left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. He is being evaluated and his status for Game 2 remains uncertain.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson’s injury was the only blight on what was a solid defensive effort by the Capitals in neutralizing the Panthers’ vaunted offense.

HEADLINES

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford said head coach Bruce Boudreau will not receive a contract extension. They are instead willing to bring him back on his current deal, which has an option year in which either side can opt-out by June 1.

Rutherford praised Boudreau’s performance after the club went 32-15-10 when he took over from Travis Green in December. However, the club president pointed out his interim bench boss did not coach a full season. He said that Boudreau was informed that the club wants him back next season on his current deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: So the decision now rests with Boudreau if he’ll return for next season or look elsewhere for a long-term coaching job. He shouldn’t have any trouble finding a new team given the fine work he did in reversing the Canucks’ sagging fortunes this season.

Rutherford’s announcement also gives the impression he’d like to bring in a coach of his choosing. He inherited Boudreau, who was hired days beforehand.

NHL.COM: Toronto Maple Leafs forward Kyle Clifford receive a one-game suspension for boarding Lightning forward Ross Colton in Game 1 of their first-round series on Monday. Lightning forwards Pat Maroon and Corey Perry and Leafs winger Wayne Simmonds received fines for unsportsmanlike conduct during that contest.

Minnesota Wild captain Jared Spurgeon was fined $5,000.00 for cross-checking St. Louis Blues winger Pavel Buchenvich during the first game of their opening-round series on Monday.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is tinkering with his top-four defense pairings for Game 2 of their series against the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday. Matt Grzelcyk will move up alongside Charlie McAvoy on the left side of the first pairing while Hampus Lindholm drops to the second pairing with Brandon Carlo.

VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer said he’ll be meeting with club management to discuss his future with the franchise. He has a year remaining on his contract. DeBoer also confirmed starting goalie Robin Lehner will undergo shoulder surgery on Wednesday while backup Laurent Brossoit will require an offseason medical procedure.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: DeBoer expressed his hope to return with the Golden Knights next season. We’ll find out soon if management gives him that opportunity after the club missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Multiple knee injuries have forced Flyers defenseman Samuel Morin to end his playing career. The 26-year-old has spoken with management about an off-ice role with the club.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Morin was a highly-touted blueliner who was chosen 11th overall by the Flyers in the 2013 NHL Draft. He made his NHL debut in 2017 but the knee injuries began soon afterward, derailing what could’ve been a promising career.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks hired St. Louis Blues director of player personnel Rob DiMaio as their new assistant general manager.

THE ATHLETIC: The Seattle Kraken parted ways with goaltending coach Andrew Allen.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Former and current Canadiens, hockey luminaries, politicians and fans bide a final farewell to Hall-of-Famer Guy Lafleur during his state funeral in Montreal on Tuesday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rest in peace, Flower. You will never be forgotten.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 2, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 2, 2022

Connor McDavid wins the Art Ross Trophy, Auston Matthews takes home the Richard Trophy, and the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tonight. Check out the latest in the NHL morning coffee headlines.

SPORTSNET: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s points leader while Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews won the Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goal scorer in 2021-22.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

McDavid finished the season with a career-high 123 points in 80 games, marking the fourth time he’s taken home the Art Ross Trophy and the fifth time he’s netted 100-or-more points in a season.

Matthews won the Richard Trophy after scoring a career-high 60 goals. It’s the second straight year the Leafs center has led the league in goals.

NHL.COM: The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tonight with the puck dropping on four of the eight first-round, best-of-seven series. The Boston Bruins face off against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Tampa Bay Lightning travel to Toronto to meet the Maple Leafs, the St. Louis Blues square off against the Minnesota Wild, and the Los Angeles Kings are in Edmonton to face the Oilers.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: All signs point to Alex Ovechkin being in the Washington Capitals lineup for Game 1 of their opening-round series against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. The Capitals captain missed the final three regular-season games nursing a shoulder injury but took part in regular practices with his teammates over the weekend.

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Speaking of the Panthers, sidelined defenseman Aaron Ekblad is practicing with his teammates and could be ready for Game 1 against the Capitals. Ekblad’s been out of the lineup since March 18 with a lower-body injury.

THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Hurricanes will be without starting goaltender Frederik Andersen for Game 1 against the Bruins tonight. He’s been sidelined since April 16 with a lower-body injury. Andersen’s taken part in off-ice workouts but has yet to take part in full on-ice drills.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Andersen was the Hurricanes MVP this season and a potential contender for the Vezina Trophy. His absence could be a critical factor in this series with the Bruins.

THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche got some good news as team captain Gabriel Landeskog has been medically cleared for Game 1 against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. The 29-year-old winger has been sidelined since March 10 by knee surgery.

TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins starting goalie Tristan Jarry (foot injury) and winger Jason Zucker (undisclosed) are listed as day-to-day and won’t be part of the lineup in their upcoming series with the New York Rangers.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers, meanwhile, will get sidelined forwards Artemi Panarin and Andrew Copp back in the lineup for Game 1 against the Penguins tomorrow night. Both of them missed the final two games of the regular season for precautionary reasons nursing minor injuries.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse was back on the ice with his teammates for practice on Sunday after missing the final four games of the regular season with a lower-body injury. His status remains unconfirmed for Game 1 tonight against the Kings but it’s assumed he could be in the lineup.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars expect to have John Klingberg and Vladislav Namestnikov in the lineup for Game 1 of their first-round series against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday. Klingberg missed the final game of the regular season with a lower-body injury while Namestnikov missed the final five games.

CBS SPORTS: Toronto Maple Leafs winger Michael Bunting (undisclosed injury) is doubtful for Game 1 tonight against the Lightning.

THE PROVINCE: Brock Boeser revealed his father’s battle with dementia during an emotional season-ending press conference yesterday. He revealed it took a toll on him throughout this season. “He’s not doing well. He has pretty bad dementia right now. It got pretty bad this year,” said a tearful Boeser. “It has really hit me hard.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boeser was overcome with emotion and understandably left the press conference soon after. The Province’s Ben Kuzma reported his teammates praised the winger’s perseverance as he attempted to remain a difference-maker for the Canucks.

Fans and pundits sometimes forget the players have to deal with personal issues just like everybody else. Sometimes, it can affect their performance despite their best efforts. My sympathies go out to Boeser and his family during this difficult time.

WINNIPEG SUN: The Jets signed general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to a three-year contract extension.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: So much for the speculation suggesting Cheveldayoff was in danger of losing his job following this disappointing season. He’ll have his work cut out for him this offseason. The Jets have been declining since reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2018. One of his priorities will be determining Mark Scheifele’s future with the franchise. I’ll have more in today’s NHL Rumor Mill.

NHL.COM: The Arizona Coyotes have parted ways with assistant coach Phil Housley, who was in the final season of a three-year contract.

NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks parted ways with associate coach Marc Crawford and assistant coach Rob Cookson. Crawford had a year remaining on his contract. Derek Kings remains the interim head coach but a decision on his future is expected soon.

NHL.COM: The 2022 Draft Lottery odds were released yesterday, with the Montreal Canadiens leading the 16 eligible teams with 18.5 percent, followed by the Arizona Coyotes (13.5) and the Seattle Kraken (11.5). The lottery will be held on May 10.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can see the complete list by clicking the link above.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Thousands of Canadiens fans lined up yesterday outside the Bell Centre to pay their respects to the late Guy Lafleur as he lies in state through today. His funeral will be held in Montreal on Tuesday. Lafleur succumbed to lung cancer on April 22 at age 70.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 25, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 25, 2022

Lightning snap Panthers win streak, the Canadiens and their fans salute Guy Lafleur, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin suffers an injury, Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf plays his final game, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Nikita Kucherov had a five-point performance while teammates Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman each collected four points as the Tampa Bay Lightning doubled up the Florida Panthers 8-4, snapping the latter’s 13-game winning streak. Kucherov, Stamkos and Nicholas Paul each tallied two goals for the Lightning, who sit in third place in the Atlantic Division with 106 points. Sam Reinhart scored twice for the Panthers, who still maintain a four-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche for first place in the overall standings with 120 points.

Speaking of the Avalanche, they dropped their fourth straight game by falling 4-1 to the Winnipeg Jets. Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves for his 200th career victory while Kyle Connor scored his 45th goal of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The absence of core players Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Devon Toews to injury and illness has contributed to the Avs’ recent slide. The Avs could also be experiencing difficulty remaining motivated playing in meaningless games this late in the regular season.

The Montreal Montreal Canadiens honored the memory of their late star Guy Lafleur (NHL.com).

The Boston Bruins got two goals from Patrice Bergeron and Erik Haula to defeat the Montreal Canadiens 5-3. However, this match was overshadowed by an emotional pre-game ceremony honoring the life and legacy of Canadiens icon Guy Lafleur, who passed away on Friday at age 70. Montreal fans followed the video tribute with a 10-minute standing ovation and chants of “Guy! Guy! Guy!” The Bruins (103 points) hold a three-point lead over the Washington Capitals for the first Eastern Conference wild-card berth.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lafleur meant so much to Montrealers, Quebecers and Canadiens fans around the world. The outpouring of emotion following his death is a testament to how his exciting style of play resonated with fans to this day. The province of Quebec announced it will stage a national funeral for Lafleur. His body will lie in state at the Bell Centre for two days before the funeral on May 3.

Meanwhile, the Capitals dropped a 4-3 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs on a shootout goal by Alex Kerfoot. Leafs star Auston Matthews collected two assists but remains at 58 goals on the season. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin left the game with an upper-body injury in the third period after crashing into the boards following a breakaway scoring attempt. The club had no immediate word on his condition. The Leafs are in second place in the Atlantic with 111 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs captain John Tavares and defenseman Timothy Liljegren missed the game. Tavares was given the night off while Liljegren is dealing with a minor issue.

Anaheim Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf picked up an assist in his final NHL game but his club dropped a 6-3 decision to the St. Louis Blues. Ivan Barbashev had a goal and two assists while Vladimir Tarasenko, Jordan Kyrou and Justin Faulk each collected two points for the Blues, who sit in third place in the Central Division with 109 points. Blues center Tyler Bozak returned to action for the first time since being sidelined by a lower-body injury on March 13.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getzlaf is hanging up his skates after 17 seasons with the Ducks. He’s their franchise leader in points, assists, playoff scoring and games played and has been their captain for the past 12 seasons. He also helped them win their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2007 and finishes with 1,019 points. Don’t be surprised if he ends up in a front-office job with the Ducks.

An overtime goal by Dmitry Kulikov lifted the Minnesota Wild over the Nashville Predators 5-4. Joel Erikson Ek scored twice and picked up an assist while Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala each had two points. The Wild are tied with the Blues but hold second place in the Central with a game in hand. Filip Forsberg and Mikael Granlund each had three points as the Predators hold the first wild-card berth in the Western Conference with 94 points.

The Vegas Golden Knights’ playoff hopes suffered a blow after blowing a 4-2 lead in the third period to fall 5-4 to the San Jose Sharks on a shootout goal by Thomas Bordeleau. Nick Bonino and Timo Meier scored in the final minutes of regulation to tie the game. The Golden Knights (90 points) gained a point to sit three back of the Dallas Stars for the final Western wild-card spot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Both clubs each have three games remaining but the Golden Knights need the extra point a win would’ve given them to draw closer to the Stars. Vegas goaltender Robin Lehner dressed for the game amid reports he requires knee surgery but was the backup to Logan Thompson. William Carrier returned to the Golden Knights lineup for the first time since being sidelined by a lower-body injury on March 26.

The Carolina Hurricanes downed the New York Islanders 5-2. With 112 points, they’ve opened a four-point lead over the New York Rangers for first place in the Metropolitan Division. It was a costly victory, however, as goaltender Antti Raanta left the game with a lower-body injury in the second period.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hurricanes starter Frederik Andersen is also sidelined with a lower-body injury. They’re hoping to have him back in the lineup when the playoffs begin next week.

Philadelphia Flyers rookie Noah Cates scored twice and collected an assist while Martin Jones made 37 saves to upset the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1. The loss leaves the Penguins (101 points) holding a one-point lead over the Capitals for third place in the Metro Division.

The Edmonton Oilers missed an opportunity to clinch second place in the Pacific Division by falling 5-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Jakub Voracek and Oliver Bjorkstrand each had three-point performances for the Blue Jackets. Oilers captain Connor McDavid collected two assists and holds a three-point lead over the Panthers’ Jonathan Huberdeau for first place in the NHL scoring race with 118 points. The Oilers hold a two-point lead over the third-place Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific with 98 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse missed this contest as he’s listed as day-to-day with a minor lower-body injury. Blue Jackets forward Yegor Chinakhov returned to action after being sidelined by an upper-body injury since April 2.

Detroit Red Wings goalie Alex Nedeljkovic had a 17-save shutout to blank the New Jersey Devils 3-0. Tyler Bertuzzi had a goal and an assist.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 23, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 23, 2022

The hockey world honors the late Guy Lafleur, the Oilers clinch a playoff berth, Kirill Kaprizov establishes another Wild milestone and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

HOCKEY WORLD HONORS LAFLEUR

NHL.COM/MONTREAL GAZETTE/THE ATHLETIC/TVA SPORTS: The hockey world was in mourning yesterday following the announcement that Montreal Canadiens icon Guy Lafleur had passed away at age 70 following a long battle with lung cancer.

The hockey world honors the late Guy Lafleur (NHL.com).

Tributes poured in from around the league from current and former stars such as Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Alex Ovechkin, Phil Esposito, Marcel Dionne, Patrick Roy and Martin St. Louis, former teammates such as Ken Dryden, Larry Robinson, Bob Gainey, Yvon Cournoyer, Serge Savard, Jacques Lemaire and Chris Nilan and former Canadiens coach Scotty Bowman.

Lafleur was also remembered by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, Quebec premier Francois Legault and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Teams, executives and coaches from around the league sent their condolences, including Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic and Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter. Sakic was Lafleur’s teammate during the latter’s two seasons with the Quebec Nordiques while Sutter played against him in the early-1980s.

The Quebec Remparts, Lafleur’s former junior team, honored his memory prior to last night’s game against the Drummondville Voltigeurs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I wrote my tribute to Lafleur yesterday after seeing news of his passing. I noted his five Stanley Cups as well as his individual honors, statistical achievements, and what he meant to the Canadiens and their fans.

Put simply, he was the greatest player on hockey’s greatest team in the 1970s. A hero to Canadiens fans and admired by non-Habs supporters, Lafleur was worshipped in his home province of Quebec. He was a superstar whose electrifying style lifted fans from their seats and is fondly remembered to this day. He was also a Hall-of-Famer who always had time for his fans long after his retirement from the game. Rest in peace, Flower, you’ll never be forgotten.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Edmonton Oilers clinched a playoff berth with a 6-3 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Evander Kane had a hat trick and chipped in an assist while Connor McDavid had three helpers and Mike Smith made 34 saves. Valeri Nichushkin scored twice for the Avalanche. The Oilers have won eight of their last 10 games and hold second place in the Pacific Division with 98 points. The Avalanche had lost three straight and remain in second place in the overall standings with 116 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Oilers have won 23 of their last 34 games since Jay Woodcroft took over as interim coach. The addition of Kane in late January is another contributing factor to their turnaround in the second half of the season. He had 20 goals and 36 points in 39 games with the Oilers. A potential concern, however, was the departure of defenseman Darnell Nurse in the second period of this game with a lower-body injury. He will be re-evaluated today.

Minnesota Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov became the first player in franchise history to reach 100 points in a season as he helped his club defeat the Seattle Kraken 6-3. Kaprizov scored a goal and picked up three assists while Joel Eriksson Ek tallied twice for Minnesota. The Wild hold a two-point lead over the St. Louis Blues for second place in the Central Division with 107 points. Kraken rookie Matty Beniers scored to extend his career-opening points streak to five games.

The Washington Capitals blanked the Arizona Coyotes 2-0. Vitek Vanecek made 19 saves for the shutout while Conor Sheary and John Carlson were the goal-scorers. The Capitals have won seven of their last nine games. They’re tied with the Boston Bruins with 99 points but the latter holds the first wild-card berth with a game in hand.

A shootout goal by Tim Stutzle gave the Ottawa Senators a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Brady Tkachuk also scored for the Senators while Blue Jackets center Jack Roslovic notched his 20th of the season for the first time in his career.

IN OTHER NEWS…

TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning will visit the White House on Monday as President Joe Biden honors the club for their 2020 and 2021 Stanley Cup championships.

VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer dismissed a report by ESPN’s Emily Kaplan citing sources claiming goaltender Robin Lehner was about to undergo season-ending knee surgery. Lehner missed Friday’s practice as a maintenance day, according to DeBoer, who also said he expected the netminder at practice on Saturday and to be dressed for Sunday’s game against the San Jose Sharks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is the second time this season that DeBoer has dismissed a report claiming Lehner could undergo season-ending surgery. The previous one occurred in February alleging he’d suffered a serious shoulder injury. Multiple reports claim he’s battling a nagging injury which would account for his inconsistent play this season. There’s been no confirmation of this by Lehner or the club.

NEW YORK POST: Rangers forwards Andrew Copp (lower body) and Filip Chytil (upper body) are listed as day-to-day and won’t play against the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs forwards Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford were both fined by the NHL department of player safety for their actions against the Lightning during their 8-1 loss on Thursday. Simmonds was fined $2,250.00 for charging Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev while Clifford was fined $2,500.00 for high-sticking Corey Perry.

SAN JOSE HOCKEY NOW: ESPN NHL analyst Kevin Weekes is considered a strong candidate for the Sharks’ general manager position. The club is conducting a search to replace Doug Wilson, who recently stepped down as GM for health reasons.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Arizona Coyotes fans should expect to pay high prices to attend the club’s home games at the 5,000-seat arena at Arizona State University. The highest price per ticket for full season-ticket holders works out to $300.00 per game (before separate ticket fees) while half-season tickets work out to $445.00 per game. The cheapest seats for season-ticket holders is $89 per game while the cheapest half-season price is $110.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s just the ticket prices. It doesn’t take into account the price for concessions, souvenirs and parking. It seems to me those tickets will be mostly sold to local businesses, shutting out the average fan and leading to a lot of empty seats in that small arena.










Remembering Guy Lafleur

Remembering Guy Lafleur

I’m a Montreal Canadiens fan. I’ve been one since 1971 when a then-unknown goaltender named Ken Dryden backstopped them to what is known in Canadiens lore as their Miracle Stanley Cup.

Dryden was the player who made me a Canadiens fan and remained my hero throughout the ’70s. However, it was his teammate, Guy Lafleur, who made me believe in hockey magic.

Along with Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Jean Beliveau, Lafleur was part of the trio of the Canadiens’ great Quebec-born superstars that would bring the club 18 Cups in 35 years between 1944 and 1979.

Montreal Canadiens Hall-of-Famer Guy Lafleur (NHL.com).

Lafleur joined the Canadiens the season after Beliveau retired in 1971. He was the first-overall pick that year, and while he had a good rookie season, he wasn’t the dominant player that many Canadiens fans expected him to become.

He followed up with two more decent but unspectacular seasons, prompting suggestions that Canadiens general manager Sam Pollock had blundered by taking Lafleur over Marcel Dionne, who had established himself as a scoring star with the Detroit Red Wings during that period.

Then came 1974-75. Lafleur ditched his helmet and blossomed into the superstar that Pollock knew he would become. He went on to become the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals and 100 points in six straight seasons.

Lafleur’s last name in English means the flower, and that was his nickname throughout his career. This flower, however, was no shrinking violet. His offensive exploits earned him the moniker Le Demon Blonde by the Montreal media.

He was the engine that drove the Canadiens dynasty of the late-70s. Winning four straight Stanley Cups from 1976 to 1979, they were one of the most dominant teams in NHL history.

The late 1970s was a great time to be a Canadiens fan. The club was so powerful, so dominant, that you knew they were going to win every game. It was actually a shock during those rare occasions when they didn’t especially in 1976-77 when they lost just eight out of 80 regular-season games and only twice in the playoffs. The Stanley Cup wasn’t something we hoped for like fans of other teams. It was something we expected. Nothing less would suffice.

The Canadiens of that era was loaded with talent that eventually became enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Dryden, Yvan Cournoyer, Larry Robinson, Bob Gainey, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Jacques Lemaire and Steve Shutt formed the core of those championship years.

Standing above them was Lafleur. A three-time winner of the Art Ross Trophy and the Lester Pearson Award (now the Ted Lindsay Award), a two-time winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy and winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1976-77.

Of all those great stars on the Canadiens, it was Lafleur who earned the undying love of the club’s fans. During his prime from ’74-’75 to ’79-’80, he was the most exciting player in the game.

It wasn’t that Lafleur was a high-scoring forward. It was how he scored and controlled the play that made him the world’s best player during those dynasty years.

Long-blonde hair streaming as he raced with the puck, Lafleur was an impressive package of explosive offensive skill. He possessed blazing speed, dazzling stickhandling ability and a hard, accurate shot. The man was like an on-ice magician, conjuring plays that delighted fans and frustrated opponents.

Taking the puck from behind his own net, Lafleur would skate end-to-end leaving defenders gasping in his wake. He literally lifted fans out of their seats in anticipation of a goal. You knew you were going to see something special whenever he touched the puck. Fans chanted, “Guy! Guy! Guy!” following one of his spectacular goals.

Defenders found Lafleur difficult to contain. If he didn’t think he had a decent scoring chance upon gaining the opposition’s zone, he’d curl away to allow his teammates to catch up, looking to send an accurate pass to an open man that would lead to a better scoring opportunity. Dashing down his wing, rather than drive for the net or unleash his powerful slapshot, he’d sometimes carry the puck behind the net, head up, looking all the time for an open teammate.

No finer example of Lafleur’s greatness was Game 7 of the 1979 semifinals against the Bruins. Down 3-1 entering the third period, he got the primary assists on goals by Mark Napier and Lapointe as the Habs tied the score.

The Bruins got a late goal to regain the lead and seemed on the verge of ending the Canadiens’ championship streak until they took a bench minor at 17.26. Still, if they could kill that penalty, they would’ve probably won the game and ended Montreal’s championship run.

With 1:22 left in the game, Lafleur took the puck in his own zone. Circling away from a defender, he dashed up the ice in what appeared to be one of his electrifying end-to-end rushes. Instead, he passed ahead to Lemaire at the blueline, who took three quick strides into the Bruins zone and dropped it back to a streaking Lafleur, who unleashed a blast that beat Bruins goalie Gilles Gilbert to tie the game.

Fifty-five seconds left in the penalty. A minute and 27 seconds left in regulation time. Boston 4, Montreal 3. Lafleur…coming out rather gingerly on the right side. He gives in to Lemaire, back to Lafleur…HE SCOOOREESSS!” That was the call from the great Canadiens play-by-play man Danny Gallivan. It’s forever etched in my memory.

I was 16-years-old and delirious with joy. The dynasty lived and Lafleur was its savior. Up to that point, I was fearful the Canadiens would be eliminated. After that goal, I had no doubt they were going to win.

Sure enough, Yvon Lambert scored in overtime for the Canadiens to send them to the 1979 Final and their fourth-and-final Stanley Cup. However, it is Lafleur’s goal, the one that rescued the Habs from elimination, that is remembered to this day.

It was Lafleur’s greatest game, and the last great one he had in Stanley Cup playoff action.

After winning their fourth straight Cup, the dynasty ended after that season. Dryden, Cournoyer and Lemaire retired. Scotty Bowman stepped down as head coach. Sam Pollock retired as GM in 1978. Lapointe and Savard were eventually traded away.

While still an effective scorer, injuries began to hamper Lafleur in the early-80s as the club began to shift away from fire wagon hockey to a more defensive system. He reportedly clashed with Lemaire, now the head coach, over his declining ice time.

Lafleur retired in 1984 but staged a comeback with the New York Rangers in 1988-89. He played two more seasons with the Quebec Nordiques, becoming a mentor to a then-promising young forward named Joe Sakic. He put up respectable numbers but age and injuries robbed him of his scoring brilliance. “The Flower” retired for good in 1991.

By that point, I had finally grown to accept that the dynasty years were well and truly over for the Canadiens. Since winning their last Stanley Cup in 1993, I’ve learned to accept that they’re just another club (albeit the one with the richest history) in a 32-team league. Dynasties are a thing of the past, and I wonder if I’ll ever see the Canadiens win the Cup again in my lifetime.

I count myself fortunate that I’ve seen the Canadiens win the Cup eight times, with four of those thanks to Lafleur. His place in hockey history and Canadiens lore is secure.

Thirty-eight years after Lafleur retired from the Canadiens, he remains their all-time leader in assists (728) and points (1,245) and second to Richard with 518 goals. He’s also tied with Steve Shutt for most goals in a season with 60 and their all-time single-season leader with 136 points.

Lafleur was the greatest player on one of the greatest teams in NHL history.

He was magic.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 20, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – April 20, 2022

Jonathan Huberdeau takes over the scoring race, Matt Duchene sets a Predators record, the battle for the Western Conference wild-card berths continues and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau collected three assists to take over the lead in the NHL scoring race as his club downed the New York Islanders 3-2. Huberdeau (111 points) sits one point ahead of Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid. Aleksander Barkov tallied a hat trick for the Eastern Conference-leading Panthers, who’ve won 11 straight games. With 116 points, they’re tied with the Colorado Avalanche but the latter holds first place on the basis of regulation wins.

Florida Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Before the game, the Islanders honored their late Hall-of-Famer Mike Bossy with a video tribute and a moment of silence. Bossy passed away last Thursday at age 65 of lung cancer.

A shootout goal by Mikael Granlund gave the Nashville Predators a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames. Matt Duchene set a personal and franchise record with his 40th goal of the season while teammate Filip Forsberg tallied his 39th. The Predators sit in the first Western Conference wild-card berth with 93 points, two up on the Dallas Stars. Andrew Mangiapane tallied twice for the Flames (104 points) as they hold a 10-point lead over the Edmonton Oilers atop the Pacific Division.

A third-period goal by Phillip Danault lifted the Los Angeles Kings over the Anaheim Ducks 2-1. Jonathan Quick made 29 saves for the win as the Kings (93 points) sit two behind the second-place Oilers in the Pacific Division and five points ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Vancouver Canucks’ playoff hopes suffered a setback following a 4-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Drake Batherson and Adam Gaudette scored in the shootout to give Ottawa the win. Alex Formenton tallied twice in regulation for the Senators as they ended Vancouver’s six-game win streak. The Canucks gained a point to move into a tie with the Golden Knights (87 points) and sit four behind the Stars for the final Western wild-card spot.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canucks goaltender Jaroslav Halak left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury. He won’t be traveling with the club during its upcoming road trip.

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell kicked out 37 shots to backstop his club over the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2. William Nylander and Ilya Mikheyev each had two points for the Leafs, who’ve won 11 of their last 13 and hold the second-best record in the Eastern Conference with 108 points. Leafs star Auston Matthews missed his second straight game dealing with what’s described as a minor injury but took part in practice yesterday with his other injured teammates.

An overtime goal by Charlie McAvoy gave the Boston Bruins a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues, snapping the latter’s nine-game win streak. Jake DeBrusk scored and had the assist on McAvoy’s game-winner as the Bruins (99 points) moved within one point of the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division. Pavel Buchnevich and Robert Thomas scored for the Blues, who sit in third place in the Central Division with 103 points.

Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot made 26 saves to shut out the Montreal Canadiens 2-0. Kevin Fiala and Matt Boldy were the goal scorers as the Wild (103 points) hold second place in the Central with a game in hand. Canadiens goalie Carey Price made 28 saves in his second game of the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Canadiens forward Paul Byron left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. Earlier in the day, the club announced that forward Joel Armia has been granted a leave of absence to attend to a family matter in Finland.

Speaking of the Lightning, they were upset by the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 on a third-period goal by Jakub Vrana. Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos collected three assists to tie Martin St. Louis as the franchise career points leader with 953.

The New York Rangers picked up their third consecutive shutout and 50th win over the season by blanking the Winnipeg Jets 3-0. Igor Shesterkin stopped 31 shots, Ryan Strome tallied twice and Artemi Panarin reached the 70 assist mark.

San Jose Sharks netminder Kaapo Kahkonen made 22 saves as his club held off the Columbus Blue Jackets for a 3-2 victory, snapping a 10-game losing skid. Scott Reedy scored twice for the Sharks while Jack Roslovic netted both Jackets’ goals.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sharks coach Bob Boughner said sidelined winger Kevin Labanc won’t play in the club’s final seven games. He’s been sidelined by a shoulder injury since Dec. 11. Boughner also doubted goalie Adin Hill will return to action from the lower-body injury that’s kept him out of the lineup since March 12.

HEADLINES

THE SCORE: Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t ready to hang up his skates yet. The 37-year-old Minnesota Wild goaltender said he hopes to play “at least another season.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Will he re-sign with the Wild if they can afford him? Is a reunion with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the cards? Let’s get the speculation started early.

TSN: Evander Kane’s grievance hearing over the termination of his contract in January by the San Jose Sharks was held on Tuesday. He was in the fourth year of a seven-year deal with the Sharks and stands to lose over $22 million.

The Sharks placed him on unconditional waivers on Jan. 8 citing breach of contract over a violation of the AHL’s COVID-19 protocols. Kane was skating with the Sharks AHL affiliate at the time. In late January, he signed a one-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: TSN’s Chris Johnston reported this isn’t expected to end quickly. He points out there could be significant salary-cap ramifications for the Sharks. The outcome could take months before a settlement is reached.

THE ATHLETIC: Kane also settled a seven-year-old lawsuit filed against him by a Buffalo woman who accused him of assault while he was a member of the Sabres.

GOPHNX.com’s Craig Morgan reports Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun and forward Christian Fischer will be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: The Canadiens issued a statement in full support of Hall-of-Famer Guy Lafleur during his ongoing battle with lung cancer. They asked fans to respect the privacy of Lafleur and his family and indicated they would not issue any further comment on the matter.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Lafleur, who issued a statement last week mourning the passing of Mike Bossy.