NHL Prospects: Top 3 Atlantic Division Organizational Rankings
Recaps of Friday’s action, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask opts out of return-to-play, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy finalists are announced, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat opened and finished the scoring as he led his club to a 4-3 overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues, taking a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven opening-round series. Horvat’s game-winner came after the Blues’ Jaden Schwartz tied the game in the dying seconds of regulation. Canucks forwards Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser each had two points, as did the Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo and David Perron.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 15, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues outhit the Canucks 41-27 but struggled at times to keep up with their speedy young opponents. They’re also getting no production from sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. The Canucks have an opportunity to take a stranglehold on this series in Game 3 on Sunday.
Tomas Tatar and Jesperi Kotkaniemi each scored twice as the Montreal Canadiens thumped the Philadelphia Flyers 5-0 to square their first-round series at one game apiece. Carey Price kicked out 30 shots for his second shutout of the postseason. Flyers winger Travis Konecny left the game in the third period after injuring his left foot blocking a shot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Determined to win this game for sidelined coach Claude Julien, the Canadiens came out flying with a rare dominating performance. Flyers coach Alain Vigneault expressed his displeasure following the game over Habs interim coach Kirk Muller putting his top power-play unit on the ice late in the game. Muller said it was merely to give a little more work to his club’s erratic play with the man advantage.
Vigneault indicated he’d try to use that as motivation for his players in Game 3. If that’s his intended rallying point, the Flyers could be in worse shape than we thought. They’re a better team than what we’ve seen thus far in this series, but most of their scoring forwards have fired blanks thus far in this postseason. If those players don’t start scoring soon, the Flyers could be in big trouble against the underdog Habs.
Calgary Flames goaltender Cam Talbot made 35 saves to shut out the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 3 of their series, putting his club up two games to one. Mikael Backlund and T.J. Brodie were the goalscorers for the Flames, who hope to have sidelined winger Matthew Tkachuk back in their lineup for Game 3 on Sunday. Earlier in the day, the Flames announced forward Austin Czarnik has returned home to attend to a personal matter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Talbot stole this one for the Flames, as the Stars dominated the play for most of this contest. They were also their own worst enemies, missing several quality scoring chances.
Three unanswered goals by Brock Nelson, Cal Clutterbuck, and Anders Lee powered the New York Islanders over the Washington Capitals 5-2, giving the Isles a 2-0 series lead. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied both goals for his club.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders were the better-disciplined team in this contest, as the Capitals were sloppy defensively and took too many unnecessary penalties. Without a better effort in Game 3, the Caps could fall into a hole too deep to climb out of against the determined Isles.
The Colorado Avalanche took a 2-0 series lead over the Arizona Coyotes with a 3-2 victory. Andre Burakovsky snapped a 2-2 tie with 2:53 remaining in regulation.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a disappointing defeat for the Coyotes, who had a strong bounce-back effort after being dominated by the Avs in Game 1. Game 3 now becomes a must-win for the Desert Dogs.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has opted out of participating further in the return-to-play plan. In a statement released by the team, Rask indicated he’s making the decision for family reasons. “I want to be with my teammates competing, but at this moment there are things more important than hockey in my life, and that is being with my family.” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Rask’s priorities are in the right order, noting the goalie had a newborn baby daughter born just months ahead of the return-to-play in Toronto.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Losing their starting goaltender is a significant blow for the Bruins in the midst of their opening-round series with the Carolina Hurricanes. Backup Jaroslav Halak will take over the starter’s role, and NBC Sports suggests Daniel Vladar will be Halak’s understudy.
Some will rush to criticize Rask’s actions, but we don’t know the full story other than it’s for family reasons. He may have found being isolated from his family for weeks simply too difficult to bear. The Bruins and the league are respecting his decision. We should too.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, and New Jersey Devils blueliner P.K. Subban are the finalists for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, presented annually to the player “who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.”
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins winger David Pastrnak didn’t practice yesterday and remains uncertain for Game 3 today against the Carolina Hurricanes. The 48-goal scorer was unfit to play in Game 2 following an apparent left injury in the previous game.
TSN: The Florida Panthers plan to interview former Los Angeles Kings assistant GM Mike Futa as they search for a replacement for former general manager Dale Tallon.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs have let go of assistant coaches Paul McFarland and Andrew Brewer.
WGR550: The Buffalo Sabres are reportedly hiring Seth Appert as head coach of their AHL affiliate in Rochester.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings have suspended the mascot actor who performs as team mascot Bailey. He is being investigated for alleged sexual misconduct.
Recaps of yesterday’s playoff games, the Penguins fire their assistant coaches, the Leafs respond to the qualifying-round elimination and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Patrice Bergeron’s double-overtime goal gave the Boston Bruins a 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of their opening-round series. Bergeron’s linemates David Pastrnak (one goal) and Brad Marchand (two assists) picked up their first points of the postseason. Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton returned to action after missing the qualifying round with an undisclosed injury, but winger Justin Williams and blueliner Sami Vatanen were ruled “unfit to play” for Game 1.
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour was fined $25K for his comments disputing the Bruins’ second goal when Anders Bjork appeared to swat the puck out of Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek’s glove on the ice to teammate Charlie Coyle. “This is why the league’s a joke, in my opinion, on these things,” said Brind’Amour following the game. “That one is a crime scene.”
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 12, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In my opinion, the officials got the call wrong, but Brind’Amour should know the league takes a dim view of coaches publicly airing their grievances about officiating. The New York Islanders overcame a 2-0 deficit to double up the Washington Capitals 4-2 in Game 1 of their opening-round series. Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, and Anthony Beauvillier tallied four unanswered goals for the Islanders while T.J. Oshie netted both Capitals goals. The Caps were unhappy with Lee over a late hit on Nicklas Backstrom that sidelined the center for the rest of the game. A further word on Backstrom’s condition could be provided later today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Eberle’s goal late in the second period gave the Isles a much-needed lift. They went on to dominate the Capitals in the final frame.
A three-goal outburst within a 1:23 span in the third period powered the Colorado Avalanche to a 3-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes in the first game of their opening-round series. Nazem Kadri, J.T. Compher, and Mikko Rantanen were the goal scorers while Philipp Grubauer made 14 saves for the shutout.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Colorado controlled this game from the opening faceoff. Only the play of Coyotes goalie Darcy Kuemper kept this scoreless until the Avs’ third-period flurry.
Carter Hart made 27 saves as the Philadelphia Flyers held off the Montreal Canadiens 2-1. Joel Farabee tallied the game-winner 16 seconds after the Habs tied it on a second-period power-play goal by Shea Weber. Habs goalie Carey Price made a breathtaking stick save on a second-period Scott Laughton blast, preventing either a sure goal or perhaps serious injury to teammate Nick Suzuki as the youngster attempted to block the shot.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 13, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a physical,closely-contested game that could set the tone for the remainder of the series. Both goaltenders were outstanding.
Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat scored twice in a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of their opening-round series. Horvat, Troy Stecher (with the game-winner), and J.T. Miller netted three unanswered third-period goals. Canucks netminder Jacob Markstrom made 29 saves for the win.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a close game until the Canucks blew it open with three goals on five shots. The Blues played better than they had in the round-robin but seemed to wilt in that final period.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins dismissed assistant coaches Sergei Gonchar, Jacques Martin, and Mark Recchi yesterday. A search for new assistants for head coach Mike Sullivan will begin at once.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Penguins GM Jim Rutherford promised changes after his club’s qualifying-round exit. He’ll turn next to his roster, but don’t expect any big changes there other than perhaps trading goalie Matt Murray and letting Justin Schultz depart via free agency. If those moves fail to improve the Pens next season, Sullivan could lose his job while Rutherford looks at maybe a bigger roster move or two.
The Penguins also opted to retain their 2020 first-round pick (15th overall). They will instead send their 2021 first-round pick to the Minnesota Wild to complete February’s Jason Zucker trade.
NEW YORK POST: Henrik Lundqvist’s future with the New York Rangers appears hazy following a recent meeting with team president John Davidson. The long-time Rangers starting goalie lost his job to rookie Igor Shesterkin this season and the club doesn’t intend to carry three goalies next season. Lundqvist has a year remaining on his contract worth an annual average value of $8.5 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers could be trying to convince Lundqvist to retire, removing his full cap hit from their books. They could also buy him out, but that would only save $3 million next season and give them $1.5 million in dead cap space for 2021-22.
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan reaffirmed his faith in general manager Kyle Dubas during yesterday’s online end-of-season press conference. Dubas, meanwhile, defended his players and resisted the notion that management misread the club’s potential. Leafs stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and Morgan Rielly acknowledged the disappointment and frustration over yet another early postseason exit but maintain their belief they have the core to develop into a winner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unhappy Leafs followers appear to be running out of patience with “The Shanaplan”, Dubas’ management, and the inconsistent performance of some of the club’s stars. It’ll be interesting to see what off-season moves they make to address their roster deficiencies, especially on the blueline. Another erratic season could cost Dubas his job and perhaps lead to a core player getting traded.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: An undisclosed injury appears to be affecting Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin. He failed to register a shot in the Stars’ Game 1 loss to the Calgary Flames, marking the second time in three games he’s done so.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The low-scoring Stars need veterans scorers like Seguin at his best if they hope to stage a run for the Stanley Cup.
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets center Bryan Little is unsure if he’ll play again after suffering a punctured eardrum and concussion when he was struck in the head by a shot during a game last November. He’s been sidelined ever since as he recovered from surgery to repair his eardrum. His symptoms have reduced but brain scans revealed lingering damage that could put his future at risk if he continues playing hockey.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Little intends to take time to heal as he undergoes further tests and seeks different medical opinions. Nevertheless, his playing career appears in jeopardy.
THE SCORE: Top prospect Alexis Lafreniere won’t be returning to Rimouski Oceanic training camp and he won’t be playing in Europe as he prepares for his NHL career. He intends to train at home and report to his NHL team whenever their training camp opens this fall. It’s expected the New York Rangers will select him with the first-overall pick in this year’s draft in October.
The Blue Jackets eliminate the Leafs from the qualifying round, Blues and Bruins fall to No. 4 seeds in their conferences, the second phase of draft lottery goes tonight, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets advanced to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs by blanking the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0 in the fifth and deciding game of their qualifying-round series. Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo turned in a 33-save shutout while Zach Werenski, Liam Foudy, and Nick Foligno were the goal scorers. The Jackets face the Tampa Bay Lightning in a rematch of their 2019 opening-round series. Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie left the game with an undisclosed injury in the second period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A solid effort by the Jackets in withstanding the Leafs’ offense and avoiding a repeat of their Game 4 collapse. Foudy’s goal was the dagger as the Leafs visibly sagged after that.
Another disappointing end to another season sparked plenty of fan and pundit criticism of the Leafs management over how the roster was constructed. I’ll have more later this morning in the Rumor Mill. As for Barrie, that game was likely his last as a Leaf. He’s an unrestricted free agent and not expected to return.
Braden Holtby kicked out 30 shots as the Washington Capitals held off the Boston Bruins 2-1 in round-robin play. T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson scored for the Caps while Jake DeBrusk replied for the Bruins. The Capitals earn the third seed in the Eastern Conference while the Bruins slipped to fourth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins were winless in their three round-robin games. One reason is the “Perfection Line” (Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand) was anything but, collecting just one assist between them. The Bruins need more from their top line as they face off against the hungry young Carolina Hurricanes in the opening round.
The defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues dropped into the fourth seed in the Western Conference following a 2-1 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars in round-robin play. The Stars picked up the third seed following Denis Gurianov’s game-winning goal after Joe Pavelski tied it late in the third period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s interesting that last year’s Cup finalists didn’t play that well during round-robin play, looking nothing like their dominant selves during the regular season. Maybe beging guaranteed playoff berths had something to do with it. Perhaps they couldn’t get motivated for the round-robin after going through a four-round slog last spring. Maybe they need a little more time getting up to speed following a long layoff. Whatever the reason, they’d better rediscover their winning ways soon or their hopes for another shot at the Cup will be quickly dashed.
The opening-round match-ups and schedules were released last night. The first games begin Tuesday, Aug. 11. Each series is now a best-of-seven format:
Philadelphia Flyers vs Montreal Canadiens
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Columbus Blue Jackets
Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders
Boston Bruins vs Carolina Hurricanes
Vegas Golden Knights vs Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche vs Arizona Coyotes
Dallas Stars vs Calgary Flames
St. Louis Blues vs Vancouver Canucks
Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery goes tonight at 6 pm ET to determine which of the eight clubs eliminated from the qualifying round will win the first-overall pick. Each team as a 12.5 percent chance of winning the pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expect howls of outrage from some observers if the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, or Toronto Maple Leafs win that pick. I, on the other hand, will delight in the chaos and the possibilities that could arise if one of those teams wins the pick. Will they shop it to address their roster weaknesses, or keep it and instead trade away a current star? That will stir the rumor mill for weeks leading up to the draft in October.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Winger Max Pacioretty has joined his teammates in Edmonton for Game 1 of their opening-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Pacioretty had remained in Las Vegas during the round-robin to treat a minor injury suffered during training camp.
THE WASHINGTON POST’s Samantha Pell reports Capitals coach Todd Reirden hopes defenseman John Carlson will be ready for Game 1 against the New York Islanders. Carlson hasn’t played since being sidelined during exhibition play nearly two weeks ago.
CBS SPORTS: Arizona Coyotes center Nick Schmaltz was a full participant in practice yesterday. He’d been sidelined with an undisclosed injury suffered during exhibition play.
New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (undisclosed) returned to practice yesterday and could be ready for Game 1 against the Capitals. He’d been sidelined since suffering an apparent head injury in Game 1 of the qualifier series against the Florida Panthers.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu, 37, is uncertain if this season was his last with the Wild and in the NHL. He’s an unrestricted free agent but intends to weigh his options, including talking with Wild management to see if they’re interested in bringing him back next season.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings re-signed winger Evgeny Svechnikov to a one-year contract extension. Salary details weren’t disclosed.
The Golden Knights and Flyers are the top seeds in their respective conferences, plus the latest on Victor Hedman, Zach Werenski, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
RECAP OF SATURDAY’S ROUND-ROBIN GAMES
NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights and Philadelphia Flyers are the top seeds in their respective conferences following their round-robin games Saturday.
Alex Tuch’s overtime goal lifted the Golden Knights over the Colorado Avalanche 4-3, giving them a perfect record (3-0-0) in round-robin play. Jonathan Marchessault scored twice and Robin Lehner made 32 saves for Vegas, who face off against the Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Alex Tuch gets it done for his guys!
— #StanleyCup Qualifiers on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) August 8, 2020
Two first-period goals by Nicolas Aube-Kubel carried the Flyers to a 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Joel Farabee had a goal and an assist while Sean Couturier and Shayne Gostisbehere each collected two assists. The Flyers were 3-0-0 in round-robin action and face the Montreal Canadiens in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Lightning lost more than a chance to clinch the top seed in the conference. Defenseman Victor Hedman left the game in the first period after appearing to roll his right ankle and was visibly frustrated, slamming his stick repeatedly as he headed to the dressing room.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No word yet as to the severity of Hedman’s injury or how long he could be sidelined. Meanwhile, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos missed the entire round-robin tournament dealing with what’s described as a minor ailment.
SPORTSNET’s Chris Johnston reports the Colorado Avalanche will face the Arizona Coyotes in opening round play.
AZ COYOTES INSIDER Craig Morgan reports the winner of today’s round-robin game between the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars will meet the Calgary Flames while the loser’s opening round opponent will be the Vancouver Canucks.
TSN: The Lightning faces the winner of tonight’s game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some interesting matchups are emerging for the first round, especially for the Lightning. On the one hand, we could have a rematch of last year’s opening-round series with the Blue Jackets. On the other hand, a potential run-and-gun tilt with the Leafs.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The status of Blue Jackets defensemen Zach Werenski and Ryan Murray remains unclear heading into tonight’s decisive Game 5 against the Maple Leafs. Werenski suffered an upper-body injury during Game 4 on Friday while Murray missed that contest for undisclosed reasons. TSN reports Werenski underwent an MRI on Saturday.