The Lightning crush the Islanders to open the Eastern Conference Final, Bobby Ryan wins the Masterton Trophy, plus updates on Sean Couturier, Mikael Granlund and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning thumped the New York Islanders 8-2 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov each collected five points while Victor Hedman and Kevin Shattenkirk each had three points. Jordan Eberle and Nick Leddy replied for the Islanders, who pulled goalie Thomas Greiss in the first period after he gave up three goals on nine shots.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Lightning dominated the Islanders from the opening faceoff to the final whistle. Whatever the reason – lack of time to prepare following their Game 7 win over the Flyers on Saturday, the travel day between games – the Isles were flat in this contest. The Bolts aren’t expecting further lopsided wins in this series as their opponent is expected to put up a better effort in Game 2 on Wednesday.
Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan is this year’s winner of the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance. He took an extended leave of absence in November to receive treatment for alcohol abuse. Ryan returned in February and tallied a hat trick in his second game back.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to Ryan and best wishes in his ongoing recovery.
THE SCORE: The NHL recorded its seventh consecutive week of zero positive COVID-19 tests among its players and staff participating in the return-to-play plan.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Once again, the league and the NHLPA deserve praise for how they’ve pulled this off. None of the doom-and-gloom forecasts from some observers came to pass.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers center Sean Couturier played through a sprained MCL during Game 7 against the Islanders.
THE ATHLETIC: Nashville Predators winger Mikael Granlund intends to test this year’s unrestricted free agent market.
The Masterton Trophy nominees are revealed, updates on the league’s return-to-play plan, and the latest on John Tavares, Shea Weber, Jeff Carter, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) yesterday released the 2019-20 nominees for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.
Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Miller, G Arizona Coyotes: Conor Garland, F Boston Bruins: Kevan Miller, D Buffalo Sabres: Curtis Lazar, F Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano, D Carolina Hurricanes: James Reimer, G Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford, G Colorado Avalanche: Ryan Graves, D Columbus Blue Jackets: Nathan Gerbe, F Dallas Stars: Stephen Johns, D Detroit Red Wings: Robby Fabbri, F Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid, F Florida Panthers: Noel Acciari, F Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick, G Minnesota Wild: Alex Stalock, G Montreal Canadiens: Shea Weber, D Nashville Predators: Jarred Tinordi, D New Jersey Devils: Travis Zajac, F New York Islanders: Thomas Hickey, D New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist, G Ottawa Senators: Bobby Ryan, F Philadelphia Flyers: Oskar Lindblom, F Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin, F San Jose Sharks: Joe Thornton, F St. Louis Blues: Jay Bouwmeester, D Tampa Bay Lightning: Alex Killorn, F Toronto Maple Leafs: Zach Hyman, F Vancouver Canucks: Jacob Markstrom, G Vegas Golden Knights: Shea Theodore, D Washington Capitals: Michal Kempny, D Winnipeg Jets: Mark Letestu, F
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is among this year’s nominees for the Masterton Trophy (Photo via NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the nominees. The winner of the Masterton Trophy will be announced at the 2020 NHL Awards following this season at a date to be announced.
LATEST ON THE RETURN-TO-PLAY PLAN
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL and NHL Players Association will continue discussions in the coming weeks regarding the protocols, details, testing, and more for staging Phase 3 and 4 of the league’s return-to-play plan. Phase 3 is the training camp portion and Phase 4 the 24-team playoff tournament. The PA executive board representing the 31 teams is expected to vote on one big package rather than separate votes for each phase.
Darren Dreger reports the players are awaiting the specifics for Phase 3, including details on the two hub cities, restrictions, family matters, and more. The league and the PA acknowledge nothing will be perfect and some sacrifices will have to be made to get the sport back on its feet.
Regarding the collective bargaining agreement, LeBrun said those involved are holding out hope for an extension before play resumes. A lot of work still has to be done. Escrow and the salary cap are important issues for the players. Dreger noted they’re also interested in returning to the Olympics as early as 2022.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect the league and the PA will get the details for the return-to-play plan sorted out by no later than early July. Whether either Phase takes place without a hitch is another issue. A second wave of COVID-19 could derail those plans.
Most fans will be thrilled if a CBA extension beyond 2022 can be hammered out before play resumes. Nevertheless, the priority is completing this season and crowning a Stanley Cup champion. The CBA takes a backseat to that right now.
REUTERS: Canada and the United States are expected to extend their border ban on non-essential travel to late July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless the government of Canada provides exemptions for NHL players and staff, Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver will be out of the running as one of the two host cities for the 24-team tournament. Other Canadian teams participating in the playoff tournament could emulate the Calgary Flames’ plans to stage training camps next month in the United States.
TORONTO SUN: John Tavares, Ilya Mikheyev, Jack Muzzin, and Jack Campbell were among the Maple Leafs taking part in small-group workouts yesterday at the Leafs’ training facility. Mitch Marner and Cody Ceci are expected to join them soon.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens captain Shea Weber intends to continue training at his off-season home in Kelowna, BC until a full training camp is on the horizon.
IN OTHER NEWS…
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings center Jeff Carter underwent successful surgery last week to repair a core muscle injury. He’s expected to fully recover before the start of next season.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the New Jersey Devils put their search for a new head coach on pause for the time being. They reportedly spoke with 8-10 coaches and narrowed the list to four, including current interim bench boss Alain Nasreddine.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres defenseman Lawrence Pilut signed a two-year contract with KHL team Traktor Chelyabinsk. It appears to have an NHL opt-out clause but the details remain sketchy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pilut, 24, is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. Perhaps he’s trying to garner a measure of leverage in negotiations with the Sabres.
THE SCORE: Former NHL player Brandon Bochenski was elected mayor of Grand Forks, North Dakota yesterday.
Avalanche eliminated the Flames, Leafs push Bruins to the brink of elimination, Masterton Trophy finalists revealed, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: For the first time in 11 years, the Colorado Avalanche are going to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Avalanche defeated the Calgary Flames 5-1 to win their opening-round matchup in five games. Philipp Grubauer made 28 saves, Mikko Rantanen and Colin Wilson each scored twice while Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie each collected three assists.
T.J. Brodie scored the only goal for the Flames, who made veteran winger James Neal a healthy scratch for this contest. The Flames’ elimination marks the first time in league history the top seeds in each conference failed to advance to the second round.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon collected three assists in his club’s 5-1 series-clinching Game 5 victory over the Calgary Flames (Photo via NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Like the Tampa Bay Lightning against the underdog Columbus Blue Jackets, the Flames were outplayed by the upstart Avalanche, who didn’t clinch a playoff berth until the final week of the regular season. Put simply, the Avs best players rose to the occasion while most of the Flames’ best did not.
This defeat cannot be pinned on Flames goaltender Mike Smith, as he was outstanding through most of this series. His teammates, especially his defense, let him down, especially in Games 3 and 4 when he faced a total of 108 shots. Smith and versatile forward Sam Bennett were the only Flames who can still hold their heads high following this series.
The Toronto Maple Leafs held off a late rally by the Boston Bruins for a 2-1 victory in Game 5 of their opening-round series and return to Toronto with a chance to close things out in Game 6 on Sunday. Auston Matthews and Kasperi Kapanen scored in the third period while David Krejci tallied for the Bruins. Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen kicked out 28 shots for the win.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless you’re a Leafs or Bruins fan you probably found this game duller than dishwater. Nevertheless, the Leafs must be commended for playing what I consider their best defensive game of the season. They did a superb job containing the Bruins offense.
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno, New York Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner, and San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton are this year’s finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
WINNIPEG SUN: Jets winger Nikolaj Ehlers could be unavailable for tonight’s crucial Game 6 against the St. Louis Blues after blocking a shot late in Game 5.
NBC SPORTS: With winger T.J. Oshie sidelined with an upper-body injury, the Washington Capitals recalled 2018 playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly from their AHL affiliate in Hershey for Game 5 of their series tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes. The series is deadlocked at two games apiece.
SPORTSDAY: Dallas Stars forward Mattias Janmark could return to the lineup for Game 5 this afternoon against the Nashville Predators. A lower-body injury sidelined Janmark since Game 2.
TSN: New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk will be sidelined three-to-four weeks by a lower-body injury.
NBC SPORTS: The Philadelphia Flyers “removed Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” from their music library and covered up the statue of the opera singer near the Wells Fargo Center in light of several songs by Smith containing racist lyrics being unearthed.” It’s expected the statue will be removed in the near future.
On an non-NHL note, congratulations to the Yarmouth Mariners (my old hometown team) on winning the Maritime Junior Hockey League’s Canadian Tire Cup with a four-game sweep of the Campbellton Tigers. Way to go, boys, you’ve made Yarmouth County proud.
Game recaps, Capitals clinch a playoff berth, Masterton Memorial Trophy nominees revealed, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Third-period goals by Jakub Vrana and Nic Dowd gave the Washington Capitals a 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. With the win, the Capitals (100 points) clinched a playoff spot and hold a three-point lead over the New York Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Before the game, Hurricanes captain Justin Williams said his club’s popular “Storm Surge” postgame win celebrations have come to an end for the remainder of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That should delight Don Cherry and Brian Burke as they are the most vocal critics of the Hurricanes’ postgame antics.
The Islanders, meanwhile, scored three unanswered third-period goals to overcome a 4-2 deficit to upset the Winnipeg Jets 5-4. Jordan Eberle tallied twice for the Isles. The loss leaves the Jets (94 points) two points ahead of the Nashville Predators for the top spot in the Central Division.
The Columbus Blue Jackets regained the second-wild card spot in the Eastern Conference by thumping the Montreal Canadiens 6-2. Both clubs have 90 points but the Jackets hold a game in hand. Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella was furious at Canadiens’ forward Andrew Shaw’s second-period hit to the head of defenseman Adam McQuaid, who left the game and didn’t return. Shaw received a two-minute interference penalty. Tortorella believes the hit was “Suspendable. Ridiculously suspendable.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll find out later today if the NHL’s department of player safety agrees.
Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl became the first German national to reach 100 points in a 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars (Photo via NHL Images)
The Dallas Stars rallied back from a 2-0 deficit to nip the Edmonton Oilers 3-2. Shootout goals by Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn completed the comeback for the Stars. Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl became the first German national to reach 100 points in an NHL season. He and Connor McDavid are also the first Oilers teammates to reach 100 points since Jari Kurri and Jimmy Carson in 1988-89.
The San Jose Sharks suffered their seventh straight loss by falling to the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4. The Sharks (95 points) remains six points behind the first-place Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division. Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat became the youngest player in franchise history (21) to scored 40 goals in a season. The Hawks (78 points) sit five points out of a Western Conference playoff spot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Earlier this month, the Sharks were rolling through a six-game winning streak. Shaky goaltending and the ongoing absence of sidelined defenseman Erik Karlsson have contributed to their current slide.
Tanner Pearson tallied the only goal in a shootout as the Vancouver Canucks edged the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. Kings captain Dustin Brown became the franchise leader in games played (1,112). Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler set a franchise record for most goals by a defenseman with 94.
Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov reached the 90-point plateau for the first time in a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Teammate Jonathan Huberdeau also scored twice. Panthers defenseman Brady Keeper made his debut and became the first member of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation to play in the NHL.
The Detroit Red Wings blew a 4-2 lead but went on to defeat the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 in overtime. Tyler Bertuzzi tallied the game-opening and game-winning goals while Dylan Larkin reached the 30-goal mark for the first time and Anthony Mantha collected three assists.
Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, Calgary Flames blueliner Mark Giordano, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, New York Islanders netminder Robin Lehner, and St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester are among the nominees for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.
THE DENVER POST: Good news for the Colorado Avalanche as sidelined captain Gabriel Landeskog (separated shoulder) makes his return tonight against the Arizona Coyotes.
NBC SPORTS: Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug (285 career points) recently became the highest-scoring American-born player in franchise history.
Matt Read has been placed on waivers to get him back down to Iowa, a sign Joel Eriksson Ek and/or Zach Parise will be returning tomorrow in Vegas#mnwild
Lightning eliminate Devils, Capitals take series lead over the Blue Jackets, Leafs stay alive against Bruins. Details and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils to take their opening-round series in five games. Nikita Kucherov scored his fifth goal of the playoffs and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 26 saves for the win. Devils goaltender Corey Schneider made 35 saves in a losing cause. The Lightning await the winner of the Boston Bruins-Toronto Maple Leafs series.
Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov picked up his fifth goal of the playoffs in his club’s series-clinching win over the New Jersey Devils (Photo via NHL Images)
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Devils proved to be a difficult opponent but they ultimately couldn’t match the Lightning’s talented roster depth. After an injury-plagued season, Schneider redeemed himself with a strong playoff performance.
Speaking of the Bruins and Leafs, the latter staved off elimination in Game 5 with a 4-3 win. Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen made 42 saves while teammates James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak each had a goal and an assist. Game 6 goes Monday night in Toronto with the Bruins holding a 3-2 series lead. Bruins center Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup after missing Game 4 with an upper-body injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins came out flat in this game and the Leafs made them pay, driving Tuukka Rask out of the game after he gave up four goals on 13 shots. The Leafs came close to blowing this one but Andersen made the difference with 19 saves in the final period.
The Washington Capitals have taken their first lead of their series with the Columbus Blue Jackets, thanks to a 4-3 overtime victory in Game 5. Nicklas Backstrom scored twice, including the winner, and Braden Holtby made 39 saves for the Capitals, who’ve overcome a 2-0 series deficit to take a 3-2 lead. Blues Jackets forward Matt Calvert tallied two goals and Alex Wennberg collected an assist in his first game back since being sidelined with an upper-body injury in Game 1. The two sides face off in Game 6 on Monday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin promised his club would rally back to tie this series, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella is guaranteeing his team will force a seventh game.
New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle, Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo and Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal are this year’s finalists for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist (lower-body) is expected to return to action in Game 6 today against the Philadelphia Flyers. Penguins center Evgeni Malkin’s status is unclear after suffering a leg injury in Game 5.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes assistant coach Rob Brind’amour has expressed interest in the vacant head-coaching job.
Game recaps, Masterton Trophy nominees revealed, injury updates, the latest on Red Wings GM Ken Holland and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: A late third-period goal by Stefan Noesen lifted the New Jersey Devils to a 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Devils winger Kyle Palmieri scored twice and winger Taylor Hall collected three assists. With the win, the Devils (88 points) moved three points up on the Florida Panthers for the final Eastern Conference wild-card berth. The Devils win officially eliminates the New York Rangers from playoff contention.
The St. Louis Blues extended their winning streak to six games with a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks, snapping the latter’s eight-game win streak. Vladimir Tarasenko tallied the winner in overtime as the Blues vaulted into the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 91 points.
Brandon Tanev tallied a hat trick and Connor Hellebuyck collected his 40th win of the season to lead the Winnipeg Jets to a 5-4 shootout win over the Boston Bruins. The loss leaves the Bruins (105 points) one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Thomas Vanek’s hat trick carried the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 7-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers (Photo via NHL Images)
Thomas Vanek’s hat trick helped the Columbus Blue Jackets overcome a 3-0 first-period deficit to crush the Edmonton Oilers 7-3. Oilers captain Connor McDavid had a goal and two assists to reach 100 points (102) for the second straight season. He also holds a six-point lead over Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov for the scoring lead. NHL linesman Steve Barton was stretchered from the ice after striking his head on the ice following a collision with McDavid. He was taken to hospital and reportedly can move his extremities and was speaking to doctors.
Kyle Turris scored in a shootout as the Nashville Predators nipped the Minnesota Wild 2-1. Wild center Eric Staal tallied his 40th goal of the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The last time Staal reached 40 goals was in 2008-09. With 73 points in 78 games, he could exceed 75 points for the first time since 2010-11. It’s been an incredible performance by the 33-year-old center, who was considered washed-up when he signed with the Wild as a free agent two years ago.
The Pittsburgh Penguins (92 points) failed to gain ground on the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals, falling 5-2 to the Detroit Red Wings. The Penguins remain five points behind the Capitals and only one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets for second place in the division. Penguins center Derick Brassard left the game with a lower-body injury. No update was provided on his condition.
The Anaheim Ducks slipped out of third in the Pacific Division by dropping a 4-1 decision to the Vancouver Canucks. Brandon Sutter scored twice for the Canucks. The Ducks (91 points) hold a one-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Earlier in the day, the Canucks announced defenseman Chris Tanev would miss the remainder of the season with a sprained knee.
The Dallas Stars ended their eight-game losing skid with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. Alexander Radulov potted the winner 40 seconds into the extra frame. The Stars (86 points) sit five points out of a playoff spot with five games to go, while the Flyers (90 points) hold the first Eastern Conference wild-card berth.
Andrew Ladd scored the game winner as the New York Islanders edged the Ottawa Senators 4-3, handing the latter their sixth straight loss. Bobby Ryan and Matt Duchene each had a goal and two assists for the Senators.
The league yesterday announced a rule change regarding goaltender interference was approved by the board of governors. The new rule, which will be implemented today, will leave the final call on coach’s challenge for goalie interference up to the situation room in Toronto after consultation with on-ice officials.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hopefully this will address the increase in questionable goalie interference calls this season.
TSN: The names of 28 nominees for the Bill Masterton Trophy were revealed yesterday. The nominees for the Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings are expected soon. The trophy is annually awarded to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Among the notables are New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Antti Niemi, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Tyler Myers, Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal and Buffalo Sabres winger Kyle Okposo.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber is upbeat about next season following recent surgery to repair torn tendons in his left foot. His recovery period could be up to six months.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: The Rangers have shut down defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk for the remainder of the season. Shattenkirk was still recovering from surgery back in January to repair a torn meniscus.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin is sidelined indefinitely by an upper-body injury.
THE DETROIT NEWS: A source claims Ken Holland will return next season as the Red Wings general manager. Head coach Jeff Blashill is also likely to return. So far, there’s no comment from Holland or the team.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With the Red Wings in the midst of a rebuild it appears team ownership wants to give Holland the opportunity to continue overhauling the roster. An official announcement is reportedly expected at the end of the season.