NHL Playoffs: Lightning Must Anticipate Better-Prepared Islanders
More NHL players speak out against racial injustice, the latest on the league’s return-to-play format, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
GROWING LIST OF PLAYERS, TEAMS SPEAK OUT AGAINST RACIAL INJUSTICE
THE SCORE: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner joined many in the sports world yesterday taking part in Blackout Tuesday on social media yesterday to bring attention to racial injustice.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba released a statement yesterday supporting the anti-racism movement across North America. “I’ve been sad, angry, and disturbed by the senseless unjust we have all witnessed this past week. I have been scared for the families in my community. I know I do not want to feel this way ever again; the feeling of helplessness. The feeling too many have to face each day. I am here for you. To lean on, to listen, to embrace, to have a voice and to be a leader in our community!”
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets captain Blake Wheeler vows to become more involved in speaking out against racism. “We have to be as involved in this as black athletes. It can’t just be their fight,” he said. “And I want to be real clear, here. I look in the mirror about this before I look out at everyone else. I wish that it didn’t take me this long to get behind it in a meaningful way. But I guess what you can do is try to be better going forward.”
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos expressed compassion and support for peaceful protesters and didn’t approve of the looting and riots since George Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis police last week. “But, as many of YOU have opened my eyes to, I see that these actions may be coming from real pain and suffering,” Stamkos wrote. “I can at least try to comprehend that.”
Teammate Patrick Maroon expressed his respect for law enforcement but also anger toward the injustice of George Floyd. Maroon added he felt he needs to set a better example. “I’m sorry and I promise to do better for you,” he finished.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and his wife Brandi sent out a message of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the protesters in Washington through Brandi’s Instagram account. Holtby’s teammate John Carlson did the same via his Instagram account.
STLTODAY.COM: The St. Louis Blues and St. Louis Cardinals issued a joint statement yesterday speaking out against racial injustice. Blues goalie Jordan Binnington took to his Instagram account vowing to stand in solidarity with those “fighting for change, equality and justice,” encouraging his followers to “ask questions, listen, learn and pass your knowledge on to your friends.”
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings and Tigers also released a joint statement in support of “equality, justice, and respect for all.”
THE BOSTON GLOBE: The Bruins also released a statement on Tuesday. “Black lives matter,” the statement issued Tuesday begins. “Bigotry, ignorance and senseless violence in any and all forms is wrong.”
WGR550: Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula issued a statement standing with those peacefully protesting to eradicate racism and inequality and against those motivated by hatred and violence.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s heartening to see more NHL teams and players taking a stand against racism, bigotry, injustice, and intolerance. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the words but their actions will speak much louder. Time will tell if their words result in action that leads to positive change within the sport and in society in general.
THE SCORE: Madison Square Garden Company chairman and New York Rangers owner James Dolan released a statement yesterday defending the organization’s decision not to release a public statement following the death of George Floyd. “As companies in the business of sports and entertainment, however, we are not any more qualified than anyone else to offer our opinion on social matters. What’s important is how we operate. Our companies are committed to upholding our values, which include creating a respectful workplace for all, and that will never change. What we say to each other matters. How we treat each other matters. And that’s what will get us through this difficult time.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dolan’s been criticized for his position. The NBA’s New York Knicks, also owned by Dolan, are reportedly furious that the team hasn’t released a statement. He’s since sent out a second e-mail to his employees condemning racism, but that’s unlikely to go down well with those upset over his previous comments.
LATEST NHL RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun reports we could learn as early as today if the first two rounds of the NHL’s 16-team playoffs will be best-of-five or best-of-seven. The league proposed best-of-five for expediency while the NHLPA has leaned toward best-of-seven. The play-in qualifying round will be best-of-five.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: The pros and cons of the 10 cities under consideration to become the two hubs for the NHL’s return-to-play tournament.
TSN: Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said it would be great to have NHL games played in Canada, but ensuring everyone’s safety remains the priority as discussions continue about its return. Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver are among 10 cities under consideration to become one of the two NHL hubs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There won’t be any NHL hockey this summer unless the Canadian government eases restrictions on non-essential border travel or deems NHL employees as essential workers.
NATIONAL POST: A recent survey indicates 47 percent of Canadians felt it’s not important that Canadian arenas host the NHL’s return-to-play tournament.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The survey also suggested the fact fans won’t be in attendance for those games factored into the result.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov will donate “2,500 disposable masks and 25 containers of hand sanitizer (5.25 gallons each) to the Boys & Girls Clubs serving Wake County on Wednesday.”
SPORTSNET: The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) announced its intention to play a full 68-game schedule for 2020-21 with a certain percentage of fans in attendance, depending on the local social distancing rule in each province.
Patrick Marleau reaches a notable milestone, bad blood between Matthew Tkachuk and Zack Kassian, the “Last Men In” for the 2020 NHL All-Star Game are revealed, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.
NHL.COM: San Jose Sharks winger Patrick Marleau scored the winning goal in his 1,700th career NHL game as his club defeated the Dallas Stars 3-2. Marleau is just the fifth player in NHL history to reach that milestone. Gordie Howe is the all-time leader with 1,767 games. Before the game, Stars center and former Sharks captain Joe Pavelski received a lengthy standing ovation from the San Jose fans in his first game against his old club. Pavelski spent 13 seasons with the Sharks before signing with the Stars last summer as a free agent.
The Calgary Flames rolled to their fifth straight win by nipping the Edmonton Oilers 4-3. Elias Lindholm scored twice, including the game-winner in the third period. Oilers captain Connor McDavid’s first-period highlight-reel goal was overshadowed by teammate Zack Kassian raining punches on Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk in the second period after Tkachuk nailed Kassian with a big hit behind the Flames’ net. The two had choice words for each other during their post-game interviews.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Another shot fired in the ongoing Battle of Alberta. The two clubs face off in back-to-back games on Jan. 29 and Feb. 1. Circle your calendars, folks, this series should be a dandy.
The Tampa Bay Lightning picked up their 10th straight win by blanking the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0. Andrei Vasilevskiy turned in a 23-save shutout while Pat Maroon tallied the only goal. Maroon subsequently left the game with an apparent right-shoulder injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The red-hot Lightning (58 points) have surged past the Toronto Maple Leafs into second place in the Atlantic Division.
The St. Louis Blues picked up their eighth straight home victory by downing the New York Rangers 5-2. David Perron extended his goal streak to four games while Alex Pietrangelo, Brayden Schenn, Zach Sanford, and Ivan Barbashev each collected two points.
Four third-period goals by J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser, Jake Virtanen, and Loui Eriksson lifted the Vancouver Canucks to a 6-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Boeser tallied two goals on the afternoon, while Sabres captain Jack Eichel collected two assists to extend his points streak to six games.
Patrice Bergeron scored in overtime as the Boston Bruins edged the New York Islanders 3-2. Isles center Mathew Barzal had two points in a losing cause. Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury.
Caroina Hurricanes goalie James Reimer kicked out 42 shots to blank the Los Angeles Kings 2-0. Nino Niederreiter and Teuvo Teravainen were the goal scorers. The Hurricanes have won three straight.
Columbus Blue Jackets netminder Elvis Merzlikins made 27 saves for his first NHL shutout in a 3-0 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. Emil Bemstrom, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alexander Wennberg were the goal scorers. The Jackets have won 15 of their last 17 games.
Nico Hischier scored twice as the New Jersey Devils upset the Washington Capitals 5-1. Louis Domingue picked up the win with 33 saves as Mackenzie Blackwood missed the game with an upper-body injury.
Dominik Kubalik scored twice and Robin Lehner made 35 saves as the Chicago Blackhawks doubled up the Anaheim Ducks 4-2. The Ducks have lost six of their last seven contests.
Ilya Kovalchuk’s first goal as a Montreal Canadien was the game-winner in a 2-1 overtime squeaker over the Ottawa Senators. It was the Habs first win in nine games while the Senators have dropped seven in a row. Canadiens goalie Carey Price made 41 saves.
IN OTHER NEWS…
St. Louis Blues winger David Perron, Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner, and Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes were voted by NHL fans as the Last Men In for the 2020 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis on Jan. 25.
TORONTO SUN: Toronto Marlies assistant coach Rob Davison was released from the hospital yesterday following a grand mal seizure before Friday’s AHL game against the Texas Stars. He’s returning to Toronto and will be away from the club indefinitely.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Davison in his recovery. I have a family member who suffered similar seizures, so I know how scary it must have been for the Marlies players and staff to witness what he went through.
NEW YORK POST: Former NBC NHL analyst Jeremy Roenick apologized for joking about wanting to have a sexual threesome with colleague Kathryn Tappen on a podcast in late December.
OTTAWA SUN: On Friday, the Senators named Jim Little as their new CEO. He’s a former executive with Shaw Communications.