Avalanche’s Cale Makar the Early Calder Trophy Candidate
Game recaps, Nazem Kadri and Joe Thornton receive suspensions, the Flyers hire Alain Vigneault as their new head coach, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Power-play goals by Auston Matthews and Andreas Johnsson gave the Toronto Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins to take a 2-1 lead in their opening-round series. Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen kicked out 34 shots. The Leafs were also playing without center Nazem Kadri, who was suspended for the remainder of this series for cross-checking Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk in Game 2.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A much better team effort by the Leafs in this game after being manhandled by the Bruins in Game 2. They also did a fine job neutralizing the Bruins top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. Kadri’s suspension could be between three-to-five games, depending on how long this series goes. Seems like he was fortunate not to receive stiffer punishment.
Warren Foegele and Dougie Hamilton each scored twice and goalie Petr Mrazek had an 18-save shutout as the Carolina Hurricanes blanked the Washington Capitals 5-0 to narrow the Capitals’ series lead to 2-1. It was a costly win for the Hurricanes as rookie winger Andrei Svechnikov left the game with an apparent head injury following a fight with Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and winger Micheal Ferland was also sidelined following a hit from Capitals right wing Tom Wilson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Credit the Hurricanes for not getting rattled by losing two key forwards like Svechnikov and Ferland. They dominated the Capitals in this contest to pick up their first playoff victory since 2009. I saw some on Twitter scolding Ovechkin for knocking out Svechnikov but the youngster goaded Ovechkin and was a willing participant in that scrap. Here’s hoping he wasn’t seriously hurt and returns to action soon.
Nathan MacKinnon scored twice and rookie defenseman Cale Makar scored in his first-ever NHL game as the Colorado Avalanche thumped the Calgary Flames 6-2 to take a 2-1 series lead. Flames goalie Mike Smith made 50 saves in this one.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Credit the Avalanche for a strong effort in this one. They took control of this contest from the opening whistle in what was Calgary’s worst performance in this series. Giving up 56 shots in a playoff game is an unacceptable effort for a club that finished atop the Western Conference.
Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne made 40 saves to backstop his club to a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars and a 2-1 lead in their opening-round series. Mikael Granlund broke a 2-2 tie in the third period with a long wrist shot that eluded Stars netminder Ben Bishop. Before the game, the Predators announced Wayne Simmonds (knee) and Brian Boyle (appendix procedure) are listed as week-to-week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rinne was hot and Bishop was not in this contest. Granlund and Rocco Grimaldi’s goals were stoppable shots for Bishop, who’ll look to return to the strong form he displayed in the first two games in this series. The absence of Simmonds and Boyle could hurt the Predators checking-line depth as this series goes on.
NBC SPORTS: San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton will miss Game 4 of his club’s opening-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights. He’ll serve a one-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Vegas forward Tomas Nosek.
CBS SPORTS/THE SCORE: Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (undisclosed ailment) and winger Alex Killorn (undisclosed injury) could miss tonight’s crucial Game 4 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets hold a 3-0 lead in the series and could close it out with a win tonight.
NBC SPORTS: The Philadelphia Flyers announced Alain Vigneault was hired yesterday as their new head coach.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vigneault brings plenty of experience behind the Flyers bench as a former bench boss of the Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks, and New York Rangers. He guided the Canucks and Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final (2011 and 2014 respectively) and is a former winner (2007) of the Jack Adams Award.
TSN: Edmonton Oilers winger Milan Lucic suffered a leg injury following practice the day before their final game of the season against Calgary. He’ll be in a cast for two more weeks and the injury isn’t expected to affect his summer training program.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane was named the captain of Team USA at the upcoming 2019 World Championships.
Blue Jackets and Islanders on the verge of sweeping their respective series, Golden Knights take a 2-1 series lead and the Jets get their first win in this year’s playoffs. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets are on the verge of winning their first-ever playoff series and eliminating the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning following a 3-1 victory in Game 3 of their opening-round contest. Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves while Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist. The Lightning played without Nikita Kucherov (one-game suspension) and defenseman Victor Hedman (undisclosed injury).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wouldn’t have mattered if Kucherov and Hedman were in the lineup. The LIghtning has been consistently outplayed in this series by a Blue Jackets team that’s gaining confidence with each period. While many of the Bolts have been part of this roster since 2015 and experienced playoff difficulties before, they never faced adversity throughout their record-tying 62-win regular season. They’ve forgotten how to deal with this type of determined, hardworking opponent that never backs down. You can see it in their growing frustration as this series goes along. They have no answers because they never had this problem during the regular season.
The New York Islanders are also poised to sweep their opening-round series as they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1. Isles goalie Robin Lehner kicked out 25 shots while Jordan Eberle scored for the third straight game. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has yet to tally a point in this series.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Speed was a significant weapon in the Penguins’ arsenal during their march to two straight Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. However, most of their best players are now in their early-30s and seem to be struggling to keep pace with the fleet-footed Islanders, who hold a 3-0 series lead for the first time since the 1983 Stanley Cup Final. Eberle, who was traded by the Edmonton Oilers over concerns of his postseason scoring, has silenced his critics with his timely offense in this series.
Mark Stone’s hat trick powered the Vegas Golden Knights to a 6-3 win over the San Jose Sharks to take a 2-1 lead in their series. Paul Stastny also scored twice for the Golden Knights. Sharks center Joe Thornton could receive supplemental discipline for his headshot on Golden Knights winger Tomas Nosek. The Sharks also played without defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who suffered what appears to be a head injury in Game 2.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Slow starts and shaky goaltending plagued the Sharks throughout the regular season and were on display in this game. Stone, meanwhile, has been the Golden Knights’ best player in this series.
Kyle Connor tallied twice, Patrik Laine scored for the third straight game and Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and an assist as the Winnipeg Jets downed the St. Louis Blues 6-3. The Blues lead the series two games to one. Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo played in this game after receiving seven stitches to close a cut on his right wrist in Game 2.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets were getting plenty of scoring chances in the first two games of this series but were thwarted by Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington. Having finally broken through in Game 3, expect the Jets to keep up the pressure on the St. Louis rookie.
SPORTSNET: Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri will have an in-person hearing today with the NHL’s department of player discipline for cross-checking Boston Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk in the head during Game 2 of their opening-round series.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: DeBrusk and teammate Torey Krug both traveled with the Bruins to Toronto for Games 3 and 4 of their series with the Leafs. No word if they’ll be skating in Game 3 tonight.
BOSTON HERALD: The Bruins blueline depth is being tested with Krug, Kevan Miller, John Moore, and Connor Clifton sidelined or banged up.
THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators provided no updates to the status of sidelined forwards Brian Boyle (illness) and Wayne Simmonds (knee).
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche signed 2019 Hobey Baker Award winner Cale Makar to an entry-level contract. The young defenseman could make his NHL debut tonight in Game 3 of their opening-round series with the Calgary Flames.