NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 4, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 4, 2020

Recaps of Monday’s games, plus updates on Tuukka Rask, Micheal Ferland, Michael Raffl, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Connor McDavid’s first NHL career playoff hat trick led the Edmonton Oilers over the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3, tying their best-of-five qualifying round series at one game apiece. Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins picked up three assists. Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane has a goal and an assist while teammate Alex DeBrincat collected two assists. Chicago rookie Dominik Kubalik was held scoreless after tallying five points in the series opener.

 

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (Photo via NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This series isn’t what you’d call a defensive struggle. Indeed, it’s been a throwback to the freewheeling style of the 1980s: fast-paced, high-scoring, sloppy, and entertaining. It’s my favorite of the qualifiers thus far.

Andrei Svechnikov tallied his first playoff hat trick and Sebastian Aho collected three assists to lead the Carolina Hurricanes over the New York Rangers 4-1. Artemi Panarin replied for the Rangers. Svechnikov’s hat trick was also the first in franchise history, including its years as the Hartford Whalers. The Hurricanes hold a 2-0 series lead and can wrap things up today in Game 3.  

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It was a dominant performance by the Hurricanes’ one-two punch of Svechnikov and Aho, and by the team as a whole. Their aggressive forecheck overwhelmed the Rangers, smothering their offense and forcing them to play catch-up throughout the game.

Nikolaj Ehlers’ third-period goal snapped a 2-2 tie as the Winnipeg Jets edged the Calgary Flames 3-2, tying their best-of-five qualifying round series at a game apiece. Jansen Harkins and Adam Lowry gave the Jets an early lead but the Flames tied it on goals by Elias Lindholm and Sam Bennett. It was Ehlers’ first NHL playoff goal. Connor Hellebuyck made 28 saves for the win.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big bounce-back win for the Jets after dropping Game 1 and losing scorers Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine. No word yet as to when those two will return to the lineup, but their teammates did a fine job compensating for their absence.

The Pittsburgh Penguins evened their series with the Montreal Canadiens with a 3-1 victory. Sidney Crosby opened the scoring and Jason Zucker tallied the game-winner late in the third period. Jesperi Kotkaniemi replied for the Habs, who were kept in this game by Carey Price’s stellar goaltending.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins were more dominant in this contest compared to the series opener, generating more quality scoring chances and keeping the underdog Canadiens on their heels. If not for Price’s performance, the Penguins would’ve enjoyed a wider margin of victory.

Four unanswered third-period goals by Mark Stone, Nate Schmidt, William Carrier, and William Karlsson powered the Vegas Golden Knights over the Dallas Stars 5-3 in round-robin play. Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen assisted on all of his club’s three goals. Before the game, Stars’ Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson and Golden Knights’ Ryan Reaves and Robin Lehner took a knee during the national anthems in support of racial equality.

 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Not to take anything away from the Golden Knights’ comeback, but the Stars gave this game away. They were in control entering the third period but sat back on the lead and it cost them.

The Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Washington Capitals 3-2 in round-robin action on shootout goals by Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. The Capitals played without defenseman John Carlson, who remains sidelined after leaving last week’s exhibition game against the Hurricanes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Still no word on when Carlson will return. He could be back before the end of the week. 

HEADLINES

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Tuukka Rask was back in the Bruins’ net during practice yesterday after being “unfit to participate” over the weekend with a cough. He was tested multiple times for COVID-19 before being allowed to return.

NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Flyers winger Michael Raffl will miss some time after suffering an undisclosed injury during a round-robin game Sunday with the Bruins. Raffl appeared to be favoring a leg as he left the game following a collision with Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon.

THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland received a $5,000.00 fine for spearing Minnesota Wild forward Ryan Hartman during Game 1 of their qualifier.

DETROIT FREE PRESS: The Red Wings have loaned prospect defenseman Moritz Seider to his old German club (Adler Mannheim) with the understanding he’ll return to the Wings for training camp ahead of next season. The NHL’s 2020-21 campaign is tentatively slated to begin Dec. 1.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expect more European prospects on the seven non-playoff teams to follow the Red Wings lead. Given the usually long off-season facing those clubs, it’s best to try and get those kids some playing time where possible.

SPORTSNET: The NHL received no positive COVID-19 tests during the first week of Phase 4 of its return-to-play plan. Over 7,000 tests were administered during that time.  










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 29, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – July 29, 2020

Results from the first exhibition games of return-to-play, an update on David Pastrnak, the Ducks re-sign Sonny Milano, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: Connor McDavid scored twice to lead the Edmonton Oilers over the Calgary Flames 4-1 as exhibition games began yesterday leading up to the upcoming playoff tournament beginning Aug. 1. Elias Lindholm netted the sole goal for the Flames, who outshot the Oilers 37-30.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid scored twice in a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames in exhibition play yesterday (NHL Images).

Scott Laughton scored in overtime as the Philadelphia Flyers edged the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby played over 19 minutes and said he had no issues after missing five of six practices last week to an undisclosed ailment.

The Toronto Maple Leafs tallied two shorthanded goals to double up the Montreal Canadiens 4-2. Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly scored and set up two others while Alexander Kerfoot potted two goals. The Canadiens went zero-for-six on the power play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The overall play in those three games wasn’t bad. Granted, these were exhibition games following a nearly five-month layoff for the teams involved, lacking the intensity and crisp play one expects to see when the tournament begins on Aug.1. The players were still working out the kinks.

Nevertheless, the quality of play was better than I expected. Not great, but not horrible. The games also felt a little weird with piped-in noise and no fans, but I didn’t find it detracted from the on-ice action. I’ll get used to this as Phase 4 (hopefully) rolls on.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger David Pastrnak took responsibility for his actions that resulted in missing almost all of the Phase 3 training camp with his teammates. He confirmed returning to quarantine after skating with some amateur players at a rink north of Boston at the start of Phase 3. He traveled with the Bruins to Toronto for Phase 4 and has resumed practicing with his teammates.

THE PROVINCE: Canucks winger Micheal Ferland continues to impress his teammates with his play in practice. Ferland was questionable to participate in the playoff tournament after missing most of this season dealing with head-trauma symptoms. He’s expected to be in the lineup for today’s exhibition game against the Winnipeg Jets.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks yesterday re-signed Sonny Milano to a two-year, $3.4 million contract. The 24-year-old winger was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the February trade deadline, collecting five points in nine games with the Ducks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As per Cap Friendly, Milano’s annual average value ($1.7 million) leaves the Ducks with over $77.3 million invested in 17 players for 2020-21.

 










The Best And Worst Luck In NHL Draft Lottery History

The Best And Worst Luck In NHL Draft Lottery History

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 21, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 21, 2020

More details revealed for the Stanley Cup playoff tournament, three Canadian cities remain among potential host destinations, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports the NHL released a directive to its clubs on Friday following a general managers’ meeting setting the dates for the start of the 24-team Stanley Cup tournament.

According to Brooks, the qualifying round will begin on July 30 at two host cities that will be selected within the next week or so.

Training camps scheduled to commence July 10 will last approximately two weeks, followed by a travel period (July 23 or 24) for the 24 teams to move to their respective host cities. Teams will play one exhibition game each before the tournament begins.

Training camp rosters will contain 30 skaters plus unlimited goaltenders. The tournament roster will consist of 28 skaters and unlimited goalies. Players on injured reserve won’t count again the limit.

Brooks reports coronavirus testing will be done every other day for all personnel entering the facility. It’s unclear if media will be granted access. Players and staff won’t be allowed to socialize outside the facility in numbers larger than the local social distancing guidelines.

The schedule is expected to be part of a comprehensive agreement between the NHL and NHL Players Association. It will also contain health and safety protocols for the training camps and the tournament, as well as a possible extension to the collective bargaining agreement.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the time frame set for Phase 3 (training camp) and Phase 4 (tournament) of the return-to-play plan, the league and the PA need an agreement on the guidelines soon. Any delay could push those dates further ahead in the calendar and create further complications.

Reports indicate teams are reaching out to their players to return to their respective NHL cities by the end of this week. That will provide sufficient time for any returning players testing positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate for 14 days in order to be recovered in time for training camp.

TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports it’s his understanding the NHL has reduced the number of host city candidates from 10 to six. Las Vegas remains in the mix, as well as Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver. A decision could come by week’s end as the league must negotiate deals (hotels, etc) with the host cities.

SPECTOR’S NOTE:  Given the rise of COVID-19 cases in some American NHL markets, there’s a chance both host cities could be in Canada, where the pandemic curve has been flattened and reduced. There’s some recent speculation out of Vancouver suggesting that city could become a front-runner. 

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo and James Mirtle report the NHL isn’t considering pushing back the July 10 start date for training camps despite 11 players testing positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 (voluntary small-group training) commenced on June 8.

The report cites an unnamed Western Conference player claiming the recent outbreak confirms his belief the league is moving too quickly with its return-to-play plan.

Guys are not happy. This is why we better have a full player vote and not just an executive board vote. But I’m not convinced (NHLPA executive director) Don (Fehr) is going to allow that because he knows there’s so many of us on the fence. That’s why I think the league was trying to be hush-hush on these positive tests.

In my opinion, no way we play.”

Russo and Mirtle cite several player agents indicating a growing number of their clients are expressing concern over returning to play in a hub city. One agent suggested 35 to 40 percent could be on the fence.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The players have every right to be concerned following Friday’s report of 11 positive tests among their ranks. They’re the ones putting their health – possibly their lives – at risk, as well as those of their teammates and families. If they feel the league can’t guarantee their safety, they have the power to stop the return-to-play plan dead in its tracks.

The report also suggests the league might have to give the players sufficient enticement to ease their concerns. They’re already aware that a projected loss of $1.1 billion in hockey-related revenue from canceling the season will have far-reaching consequences for their paychecks. 

Perhaps a CBA extension with some concessions from the league (like a cap on escrow and assurances of Olympic participation) might garner sufficient approval from the PA membership. They could also allow players who wish to opt-out of the tournament to do so without facing repercussions.

IN OTHER NEWS…

THE SCORE: A rare Connor McDavid rookie card fetched over $113K US at a recent auction.

NJ.COM: New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier is spending the off-season as a reservist in the Swiss Army. Service is mandatory for Swiss citizens once they turn 18. He’ll complete his initial training in August.

THE DENVER POST: Mark Kiszla believes the Colorado Avalanche could win the Stanley Cup this year if they get decent goaltending from Philipp Grubauer or Pavel Francouz.

STLTODAY.COM: Only three Blues are expected to participate in small-group training this week as the team reopens its training facilities for the first time since mid-March. Some of the Blues are skating elsewhere in St. Louis while others are training out of town.

RUSSIAN MACHINE NEVER BREAKS: cites a report from Isport indicating Martin Erat has retired. Erat spent 13 seasons with the Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, and Arizona Coyotes from 2001-02 to 2014-15, with nearly 11 seasons with the Predators. He went on to spend one season in the KHL and four in the Czech League. Erat tallied 176 goals and 545 points in 881 career NHL games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Erat in his future endeavors. His best seasons were with the Predators, enjoying eight straight 49-plus point seasons. He was also involved in one of the most controversial trades in Capitals history, as they gave up then-prospect Filip Forsberg as part of the deal for Erat at the 2013 NHL trade deadline. He washed out with the Caps while Forsberg would become the Preds’ best forward.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 15, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 15, 2020

Players mull over the idea of performing in arenas without fans, Ryan Reaves and Evander Kane put aside their differences to help form Hockey Diversity Alliance, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE CANADIAN PRESS (via CTV News): Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid and teammate Darnell Nurse, Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, and Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler are among several NHL players pondering playing in arenas without fans under the league’s return-to-play plan later this summer.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (Photo via NHL Images).

NHL players are accustomed to playing in front of thousands of noisy fans, drawing energy and intensity from the crowds. That won’t be the case during the 24-team playoff tournament, as fans won’t be allowed into the two hub arenas due to COVID-19 concerns.

Nurse believes it will be a test for the players to create their own intensity. Tavares acknowledged it’ll be unlike what the players are used to, but pointed out the game between the boards remains the same.

Wheeler suggests players will have to push aside the distraction of silence and remember millions of fans will be watching them on television. McDavid, meanwhile, acknowledged it won’t be the same. “It’ll suck, but we gotta do what we gotta do.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The lack of fan noise will be a little disconcerting at first, but I expect the players will quickly adjust. As Nurse pointed out, the players will have to find other ways to create their own environment and draw sufficient motivation.

THE SCORE: Vegas Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves and San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane have a well-documented rivalry. However, the two put their differences aside to become part of the newly-formed Hockey Diversity Alliance, which seeks to eradicate racism from hockey.

I spoke to Evander and told him I want to jump in on this powerful message,” Reaves told the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Ed Graney. “We have to put aside our differences on the ice and come together for a much bigger cause.”

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said he and his staff intend to use their time leading up to the tournament in preparation to face the Edmonton Oilers, their qualifying-round opponent. They intend to work on improving their systems while ramping up their focus on the Oilers as the tournament draws near.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NHL coaches will have plenty of time to prepare. Late July is the earliest the tournament could begin, though early August seems the more likely time.

NJ.COM: Executives from the seven non-playoff clubs are hoping the NHL will allow them to spend some on-ice time evaluating their players during their long off-season. The New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, and San Jose Sharks failed to qualify for the post-season tournament.

Devils interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald said those teams are hoping to get in some form of game action for their players.

Bring them in in any shape or form. It could be a mini-camp. It could be rookie camp. It could be a rookie tournament. Maybe the Eastern teams get together. Maybe there’s an appetite for all of us to somehow have some sort of mini-tournament. But there’s definitely going to be some push from us at least to be able to have the ability to work with our players in a smaller window, whatever that may look like. We all believe it’s not fair that we go nine months without being able to have contact with our players.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getting those teams together could be difficult as they’d all have to follow the same protocols as those participating in the playoff tournament. Perhaps mini-camps or rookie camps would be acceptable, though those clubs might have to pick up the costs of travel, accommodation, and COVID-19 testing.

HOKEJ.CZ: reports Dallas Stars forward Martin Hanzal is considering retirement after spending the past several seasons plagued by back injuries. He’s in the final year of his contract and spent the entire 2019-20 season on long-term injury reserve. With his contract still technically on the Stars’ books, he’ll likely wait until this season is over before making it official.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Craig Morgan reports Hanzal told him two months ago retirement was likely, but he’d wait until his contract expired to make an official decision. Morgan writes Hanzal’s back problems flare up whenever he plays hockey.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Former Oiler Nail Yakupov, the first-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, is bouncing around the KHL with the same frequency as he did during his final NHL seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I attributed Yakupov’s NHL woes to the revolving door of coaches during his four seasons with the Oilers. However, it appears his problems are much deeper than that. He has the dubious honor of being among the biggest draft busts in NHL history.

SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens mascot Youppi! is the first character from a Canadian-based sports team to be inducted into The Mascot Hall of Fame. He’s also the first two-sport mascot to be inducted, having joined the Canadiens in 2005 after serving with the Montreal Expos from 1979 until the MLB club was relocated in 2004. Youppi! is also the only mascot to be ejected from an MLB game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations, Youppi! One of my favorite mascots of all time.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 4, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 4, 2020

​​A growing number of NHL stars are speaking out against racial justice, the latest updates on the league’s return-to-play format, and Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray talks about his club’s future in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

MORE NHL STARS SPEAK OUT AGAINST RACIAL INJUSTICE

TSN: New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban pledged $50,000 to George Floyd’s daughter Gianna’s GoFundMe page.

“Change the game means change the narrative. The narrative has been the same: no justice. There needs to be justice. Justice has to happen, change needs to come. But we need everyone. We need all people to look at our lives and see where we can help that change and do our part.”

BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 13: Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins poses for his official headshot for the 2019-2020 season on September 13, 2019 at WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Patrice Bergeron

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron pledged $25,000 to the Boston branch of the NAACP and $25,000 to Centre Multiethnique de Quebec.

 “Let’s take real actions, with an open heart and compassion, I am determined to be an ally, continue to grow myself, and raise my children to be anti-racist.”

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and teammate Jason Zucker, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber and teammate Brendan Gallagher, Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and winger Tom Wilson, Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, and San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson joined a growing list of NHL stars issuing statements speaking out against racial injustice.

THE SCORE: Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas believes his club can and should do more to combat systemic racism.

“I think what we’ve learned, especially in the last number of days, is that with the Maple Leafs and with our players and with our staff … we need to be doing more on the anti-racism side of things. Not only with our statements and our words and our tweets and what we put out there but with our actions, and we know that people will be watching us and holding us accountable in that regard.”

ESPN.COM: NHL analyst and former goaltender Kevin Weekes described his experiences as a black player in a predominantly white sport.

“The higher up I got in hockey, the more race started to become a factor,” Weekes said. “And I started realizing that, for me, I was walking over Niagara Falls on a tightrope with no safety net.”

Weekes called upon the NHL to implement harsher punishments for racially motivated incidents or slurs and to evaluate its relationship with local police departments.

For an example, an NHL club should be very selective, just as they are with their players, to do hyperscreening of the law enforcement officials they use to work their venues or protect their players and their families. We’ll be a lot more diligent in the people we select to work with us.”

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Ken Campbell notes the growing number of NHL players speaking out against the murder of George Floyd and racism toward black people have galvanized the sport. He wonders if this will bring about necessary change within hockey.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s heartening to see more NHL stars adding their voices against racial injustice, bigotry, and intolerance. However, they must back up their comments by actively working against racism within the sport and in society

Subban and Bergeron accompanied their words with deeds. Hopefully, other players will follow their example.

I’m not doubting the players’ sincerity, but if they don’t back up their comments with positive action, their words will ring hollow.

LATEST NHL RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun yesterday reported an NHL source said the league hasn’t yet whittled down its list of 10 potential hub cities down to two for its return-to-play tournament. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Chicago are believed in the running. The league could narrow down that list and finding suitable locations within the next two weeks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The recent protests against racial injustice in many US cities could affect the league’s decision. The potential Canadian locations depend upon whether the Canadian government eases its current COVID-19 border restrictions or deems NHL employees as essential works.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Joe Haggerty reports the NHL won’t begin Phase 2 of its return-to-play plan until all 31 teams can safely and legally reopen their training facilities. There are also complications involving foreign-born players being allowed to return to their Canadian NHL cities because of the country’s border restrictions. July 10 is the earliest date training camps could open, with the 24-team tournament beginning in late July or early August.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Phase 2 allows the players to return to their respective NHL cities to engage in voluntary small-group training in their practice facilities. The league is believed to be aiming for mid-June to formally introduce that phase.

SPORTSNET: Ontario premier Doug Ford said the NHL told him it would use private labs to process COVID-19 tests of players and staff should the league resume plan this summer. Toronto is among the teams on the proposed list of hub cities for the return-to-play tournament.

DUCKS GM EXPECTS IMPROVEMENT NEXT SEASON

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Elliott Teaford reports Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray voiced his displeasure over his club’s poor performance this season. He expects improvement and more accountability from his players in 2020-21.

Murray singled out his core players. “No excuses,” he said. “All of our core guys have to pick up their games.” He also intends to meet next week with head coach Dallas Eakins and his staff in person if possible.

The Ducks GM spoke about his club’s free agents. We’ve talked to them all,” Murray said. “In some cases, we have the hammer. In some cases, they have the hammer. There’s not going to be a lot of money out there (because of the coronavirus pause in play). The (salary) cap could be flat for a couple of years. Revenues could be tight.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ducks were a mess last season. Teaford cited their anemic offense, underachieving special teams, and inconsistent play.

Part of it had to do with their rebuilding roster, as several promising youngsters failed to play up to expectations. Some of it was Eakin readjusting to the NHL game after coaching in the minors. Some of it was core players like Rickard Rakell failing to step up. Murray can demand accountability but it remains to be seen if the Ducks can elevate their play.