NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 18, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 18, 2023

Recaps of Friday’s games, more information on the Flyers’ recent management change, the Lightning induct Phil Esposito, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier into its Hall of Fame, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Toronto Maple Leafs became the fifth team to reach the 90-point mark by downing the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2. Zach Aston-Reese scored two goals while John Tavares, Morgan Rielly and Calle Jarnkrok each had two points as the Leafs improved to 41-18-9 and sit second in the Atlantic Division with 91 points. The 44-15-8 Hurricanes (96 points) have dropped three of their last four and remain one point up on the New Jersey Devils for the lead in the Metropolitan Division.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs forward Noel Acciari left the game in the first period after being struck in the jaw after a collision with Hurricanes winger Jesse Puljujarvi.

Philadelphia Flyers winger Owen Tippett (NHL Images)

Philadelphia Flyers winger Owen Tippett tallied his first NHL hat trick in a 5-2 upset of the Buffalo Sabres. Carter Hart made 36 saves for the 25-32-11 Flyers. Victor Olofsson scored both goals for the Sabres (33-29-6) as they remain six points behind the New York Islanders for the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth with 72 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres are fading down the stretch, losing eight of their last 10 games. With 14 games remaining in their schedule and holding two games in hand over the Islanders, they cannot afford to lose more ground in the standings if they want to keep their fading playoff hopes alive.

The St. Louis Blues got two goals from Sammy Blais to beat the Washington Capitals 5-2. Joel Hofer stopped 32 shots in his first NHL game this season to pick up his second career win for the 30-33-5 Blues. The Capitals dropped to 33-30-7 (73 points) and sit five points back of the Islanders.

Anaheim Ducks defenseman Scott Harrington scored two goals in a 7-4 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Ducks improved to 23-36-10 on the season. Patrik Laine had a goal and an assist for the 21-40-7 Blue Jackets.

HEADLINES

THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Marcus Hayes reports sources indicated Flyers CEO Dave Scott did not consult the “Three Wise Men” – Bob Clarke, Paul Holmgren and Bill Barber – when he made the decision to fire Chuck Fletcher as general manager and hire Daniel Briere as interim GM.

Clarke, Holmgren and Barber are former Flyers players who went on to roles in management and coaching with the club for years before becoming senior advisors to the team. One league source said they wouldn’t have approved of Briere’s hiring.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Critics of the Flyers’ front office such as Hayes claim the franchise has been hampered in recent years by Clarke, Holmgren and Barber, accusing them of favoring people “who see the game through the same mottled, last-century lenses as they still see it.”

Clarke, Holmgren and Barber played key roles for the Flyers on the ice, behind the bench and in the front office, turning them into Stanley Cup champions in the 1970s and contenders from the 1980s through 2010. They are no longer in management and coaching roles but still wielded considerable influence over who was employed in those roles.

However, the Flyers are poised to miss the playoffs for the seventh time since 2012-13. It’s been apparent for some time that this club is struggling to adjust to a changing game that favors speed and skill.

Hiring Briere without first consulting Clarke, Holmgren and Barber signals what could be other significant changes in the Flyers’ front office. It’ll be interesting to see what transpires in the coming months.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki was fined $2,500.00 by the NHL department of player safety for cross-checking Florida Panthers forward Anton Lundell on Thursday.

MONTREAL HOCKEY NOW: Speaking of the Canadiens, head coach Martin St. Louis revealed winger Jonathan Drouin missed a team meeting on Friday morning and will not be allowed to play in Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Speaking of St. Louis and the Lightning, the club honored him, Vincent Lecavalier and Phil Esposito as its first inductees into its Hall of Fame. Esposito was the Lightning’s founder in 1992 while St. Louis and Lecavalier became the team’s first stars, leading the Bolts to its first Stanley Cup in 2004.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Esposito, St. Louis and Lecavalier for their well-deserved honors.

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: Red Wings prized defenseman Simon Edvinsson will play his first NHL game today against the Colorado Avalanche.

WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres signed top goalie prospect Devon Levi to a three-year entry-level contract.