Several NHL Teams Going With Unproven Playoff Goalies
A five-point performance by the Islanders Mathew Barzal, three more Canucks games are postponed by COVID-19 protocols, division stars and rookie of the month for March are announced, Nathan MacKinnon fined, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
NHL.COM: Mathew Barzal’s hat trick carried the New York Islanders to an 8-4 romp over the Washington Capitals. Barzal finished with five points while teammate Jordan Eberle scored twice. John Carlson tallied twice for the Capitals, who lost goaltender Ilya Samsonov early in the first period following an accidental collision with teammate T.J. Oshie. The Islanders are tied with the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins with 50 points but the Capitals remain in first place in the MassMutual East Division on the basis of a game in hand.
The Penguins, meanwhile, rode a 30-save performance by goaltender Casey DeSmith to a 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins. Pittsburgh forward Branden Tanev returned to the lineup after missing six games and picked up an assist. The Penguins have won five straight but sit in third place behind the Islanders as the latter has two more regulation wins. Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo left the game with an upper-body injury. The Bruins sit fourth in the vision with 41 points, three ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers.
Speaking of the Rangers, they edged the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on an overtime goal by Mika Zibanejad. Artemi Panarin collected two assists for the Blueshirts while Sabres goalie Dustin Tokarski kicked out 44 shots. The Rangers are tied with the Flyers with 38 points but the latter holds fifth place with a game in hand.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The East division is getting quite interesting. The Penguins have surged to jockey with the Capitals and Islanders for first place, the Bruins are clinging to fourth place but are being threatened by the Rangers, who could soon surpass the struggling Flyers.
Third-period goals by Ross Colton and Brayden Point 66 seconds apart lifted the Tampa Bay Lightning past the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 to snap a three-game losing streak. Point had two goals on the night while Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 36 shots. Zach Werenski had a goal and an assist for the Jackets. With 52 points, the Lightning holds onto first place in the Discover Central Division. The Jackets (36 points) remain in sixth place in the division, three points back of the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks.
An overtime goal by Alex Wennberg gave the Florida Panthers a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Frank Vatrano scored the tying goal and collected an assist on Wennberg’s winner. The Panthers also have 52 points but remain in second place in the Central as the Lightning hold a game in hand.
The Carolina Hurricanes got a late goal by Jesper Fast to nip Chicago 4-3 and sit one point behind the Lightning and Panthers. Warren Foegele tallied twice for the Hurricanes. The Blackhawks remain tied with Nashville with 39 points but the latter holds fourth place in the Central on the basis of regulation wins.
As for the Predators, they missed an opportunity to open a lead over the Blackhawks as their six-game win streak ended in a 4-1 loss to the Dallas Stars. Joe Pavelski collected two assists for the Stars (34 points), who sit five behind the Predators and Blackhawks.
A shootout goal by Kevin Fiala lifted the Minnesota Wild past the Vegas Golden Knights by a score of 3-2. Cam Talbot had a 35-save performance while Kirill Kapizov had a goal and an assist for the Wild (46 points), who moved within four points of second-place Vegas in the Honda West Division. The Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche each have 50 points but the latter holds first place because of regulation wins.
The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-1 as Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault each had a goal and an assist. Jake Allen made 23 saves for the Habs, who hold a six-point lead for fourth place over the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks with 41 points.
Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov is the star of the month for March in the Discover Central Division. Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer is the Honda West star of the month. Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby took home the honor for the MassMutual East Division while Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is the Scotia North Division star for March.
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic was named the NHL’s rookie of the month for March 2021.
The Vancouver Canucks have had three additional games postponed as forwards Adam Gaudette and Travis Hamonic and a member of the coaching staff were placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list earlier this week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gaudette and his wife faced some flak on social media by several folks alleging they failed to properly protect themselves from COVID-19. In fact, the couple followed all guidelines and were informed they did nothing wrong by the team and health officials. The Gaudettes have no idea how they caught the coronavirus and don’t deserve being hounded by some ill-informed fans.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon received a $5,000.00 fine from the NHL department of player safety for unsportsmanlike conduct against Arizona Coyotes winger Conor Garland on Wednesday.
Vegas Golden Knights forward Chandler Stephenson received a three-game suspension for elbowing Los Angeles Kings defenseman Tobias Bjornfot on Wednesday.
NEW YORK POST: Brendan Lemieux requested a trade from the Rangers prior to their dealing him last week to the Los Angeles Kings for a fourth-round pick. Lemieux made the request as he wanted to play for a team where he’d have a more meaningful role. He’d been seeing fourth-line duty this season with the Rangers.
THE SCORE: Roberto Luongo is expected to be named general manager of Team Canada’s 2021 World Championship team.
SPORTSNET: Wisconsin forward Cole Caufield, Minnesota State goaltender Dryden McKay and North Dakota forward Shane Pinto are this year’s finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. Caufield recently signed an entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens while Pinto inked a similar deal with the Ottawa Senators.
The Golden Knights trade Colin Miller to the Sabres, the Capitals ship Andre Burakovsky to the Avalanche. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
LAS VEGAS SUN/WGR550.COM: The Vegas Golden Knight yesterday traded defenseman Colin Miller to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for “a 2021 second-round pick originally owned by the St. Louis Blues and the Sabres’ own 2022 fifth-round pick.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Another straightforward salary dump by the Golden Knights. This move clears MIller’s $3.875 million annual average value from their books. As per Cap Friendly, Vegas now sits roughly $900K over the $81.5-million salary cap for 2019-20. They could make another cost-cutting trade. However, it’s assumed they’ll place permanently sidelined winger David Clarkson ($5.225 million AAV) on long-term injury reserve.
Miller brings puck-moving depth to the Sabres’ blueline. He tallied 29 points in 65 games last season. They’re now overloaded on the right side of their defense. This could add fodder to the Rasmus Ristolainen trade speculation. However, it’s worth remembering Miller can also play on the left side. Zach Bogosian could also miss the start of the season recovering from recent hip surgery so the Sabres don’t have to rush into moving a right-side rearguard.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON/DENVER POST: The Washington Capitals traded winger Andre Burakovsky to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for “minor-league forward Scott Kosmachuk and second- and third-round picks in the 2020 draft.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Burakovsky frequently surfaced in this season’s trade-rumor mill. Capitals GM Brian MacLellan seemed reluctant to move him. However, the 23-year-winger recently requested a trade. Burakovsky, a former first-round draft pick, has offensive potential but struggled with consistency and confidence during his tenure in Washington.
Burakovsky will get a fresh start with the Avalanche, who seem him as a potential top-six winger. This move could quiet speculation linking the Avs to pending UFA winger Artemi Panarin.
With over $38 million in salary-cap space, some observers believed the Avalanche could be major players in this summer’s free-agent market. However, a big chunk of their cap space will be taken up re-signing several key players.
The Avs have 11 restricted free agents (including Burakovsky, Mikko Rantanen, Alex Kerfoot, Nikita Zadorov, and J.T. Compher) to re-sign. They also need a reliable backup goaltender for Philipp Grubauer.
TSN: The Toronto Maple Leafs officially announced the re-signing of winger Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson yesterday. Kapanen will receive a three-year contract worth an annual salary-cap hit of $3.2 million, while Johnsson’s is a four-year deal at $3.4 million annually.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leafs GM Kyle Dubas is getting well-deserved plaudits for getting those two under reasonable short-term contracts. His focus remains on re-signing Mitch Marner, who is seeking considerably more than what Kapanen and Johnsson received.
NEWSOBSERVER.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes re-signed goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic to a two-year contract extension. He’ll receive “$725,000 at the NHL level or $70,000 at the AHL level with a $125,000 guarantee in 2019-20. In 2020-21, the contract is a one-way deal paying $750,000.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Assuming Curtis McElhinney departs via free agency and Petr Mrazek re-signs, the Hurricanes could use Nedeljkovic as Mrazek’s backup.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks re-signed forwards Dylan Sikura and John Quenneville to two-year contracts.