NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 22, 2021
The Lightning thump the Islanders to take a 3-2 lead in their semifinal series, updates on the Golden Knights and Canadiens, 18 players exempt from the expansion draft, the latest notable contract signings and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning are one game away from returning to the Stanley Cup Final after crushing the New York Islanders 8-0 in Game 5 of their semifinal series. Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn each scored twice, Nikita Kucherov collected three assists, Brayden Point scored to extend his goals streak to eight games, and Andrei Vasilevskiy turned in a 21-save shutout.
Islanders center Mathew Barzal could face supplemental discipline from the NHL department of player safety after receiving a five-minute major and game misconduct for cross-checking Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta, who was shaken up and played just one shift in the third period.
The Lightning holds a 3-2 series lead and can wrap up the series in Game 6 Wednesday on Long Island.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That was the Lightning’s most dominating performance of these playoffs. It was also the Islanders’ worst effort of the postseason. The Bolts jumped from the gate early with three first-period goals, chasing Isles starter Semyon Varlamov from the net. Backup Ilya Sorokin didn’t fare any better, allowing five goals on 26 shots.
This loss isn’t all on the Isles goaltenders. Their teammates seemed caught off guard by the Lightning’s strong start and never really mounted much of a response.
Barzal’s frustration boiled over when he crosschecked Rutta. It could prove more costly to the Isles in Game 6 if his actions result in suspension.
LAS VEGAS SUN: The Vegas Golden Knights’ top forwards are struggling to score in their semifinal series with the Montreal Canadiens. Nicolas Roy has two goals, Mattias Janmark one, and that’s it for their scoring forwards. Their defensemen have accounted for the bulk of their offense.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens have done a good job thus far bottling up Vegas’ top scorers. They’ll have another opportunity to find a way to thwart the Habs’ tight-checking system in Game 5 tonight in Las Vegas.
TSN: Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher believes the longer this series goes the more pressure falls on the heavily favored Golden Knights. “As this series goes on, we get more and more comfortable in these situations and we’re looking forward to it. We’ve shortened this series to a best-of-three,” said Gallagher.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tonight’s game could determine the direction of this series. The winner will have a chance to close it out in Game 6 on Thursday in Montreal.
SPORTSNET: Mark Spector weighs in on the poor quality of officiating in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mark (no relation) isn’t the only pundit raising questions about the questionable calls and missed penalties in every series thus far. We can expect this issue to be raised by reporters during NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s annual postseason press conference prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
THE PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma expressed concern over the recent positive COVID-19 tests of Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme and Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon. He suspects they contracted the coronavirus in Las Vegas, where transmission rates are six times higher than in Quebec as health guidelines in Vegas have gone from relaxed to non-existent.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Regardless of where Ducharme and McCrimmon were infected with COVID-19, the league and the two clubs must ensure their health protocols for this series remain strictly enforced. An outbreak among the players could put their health at risk and derail their series.
CAP FRIENDLY: 18 NHL players are exempt from next month’s expansion draft due to injury or career-ending illness. They include Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler, Arizona’s Marian Hossa, Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg, Tampa Bay’s Marian Gaborik and Washington’s Henrik Lundqvist.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars re-signed forward Blake Comeau to a one-year, $1 million contract.
ESPN.COM: J.T. Brown has retired from professional hockey to join the expansion Seattle Kraken as a television analyst. He played seven NHL seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild from 2011-12 to 2018-19, finishing with 72 points in 365 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Brown in his broadcasting career.
NHL.COM: Minnesota Wild assistant general manager Tom Kurvers passed away Monday from lung cancer at age 58. He was diagnosed in 2019 despite being a non-smoker.
Kurvers spent 11 NHL seasons as a defenseman with the Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, New York Islanders and Anaheim Ducks from 1984-85 to 1994-95, finishing with 421 points in 659 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Kurvers’ family, friends, former teammates and associates, and the Wild organization.