NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 22, 2024
The Leafs’ Auston Matthews set a record as he reached 50 goals, Houston Rocket owner interested in an NHL franchise, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews scored his 50th and 51st goals of the season in a 6-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. Matthews became the fastest American-born player to reach 50 goals in a season (54 games) and the fastest NHL player to do so since Mario Lemieux tallied 50 in 50 games in 1995-96.
William Nylander scored twice while Mitch Marner collected three assists for the 31-16-8 Leafs as they hold third place in the Atlantic Division with 70 points. Mattias Maccelli, Barrett Hayton and Dylan Guenther replied for the Coyotes (23-29-4), who’ve dropped six in a row and are winless in their last 11 games (0-10-1).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews is well on his way to winning his third Richard Trophy in four years as the NHL’s top goal scorer. His league-leading 51 goals puts him 12 ahead of Florida’s Sam Reinhart, who sits second with 39 goals.
This is the second time Matthews has reached the 50-goal plateau and he’s within range of reaching 60 goals for the second time in three years. At his current pace, he could become the first player to score 70 goals in a season since Alexander Mogilny and Teemu Selanne in 1992-93.
The Boston Bruins blew a 4-1 lead but recovered to nip the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 on an overtime goal by Charlie McAvoy. Mason Lohrei collected three assists while McAvoy, David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk each had a goal and an assist for the Bruins (34-12-11) as they reclaimed first place in the Eastern Conference with 79 points, one behind the league-leading Vancouver Canucks. Warren Foegele scored two goals while Connor McDavid extended his home points streak to 20 games with two assists for the 33-18-2 Oilers, who sit third in the Pacific Division with 68 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk left this game in the first period with a lower-body injury. The Bruins were already down a blueliner as Hampus Lindholm is listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury. Meanwhile, Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins missed this contest due to illness.
Philadelphia Flyers winger Travis Konecny scored to extend his points streak to seven games in a 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Travis Sanheim and Garnet Hathaway also scored for the 30-20-7 Flyers as they continue to hold third place in the Metropolitan Division with 67 points. Colin Blackwell replied for the 15-39-3 Blackhawks.
A shorthanded goal by Alex Tuch late in the second period held up as the winner as the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-2, handing the latter their third straight loss. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 29 shots for the Sabres (25-27-4). Arber Xhekaj and Jayden Struble replied for the Canadiens (22-26-8) as Nick Suzuki’s 10-game points streak and Juraj Slafkovsky’s seven-game points streak came to an end.
Columbus Blue Jackets forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Boone Jenner each had a goal and two assists in a 7-4 drubbing of the Anaheim Ducks. Zach Werenkski and Sean Kuraly each tallied twice for the 18-27-10 Blue Jackets while Mason McTavish scored two goals for the 20-34-2 Ducks.
BLOOMBERG: Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta is said to be in talks with the NHL about bringing a franchise to the Texas city. He’s been looking into it since 2017 but discussions have recently ramped up. He sees a professional hockey franchise being the next building block for the economy of downtown Houston.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ferttita’s increased interest in an NHL team comes weeks after the ownership group of the Utah Jazz requested the league initiate an expansion process to bring a team to Salt Lake City.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently said the league had no formal plans to expand from its current 32 teams but was willing to talk to cities interested in adding NHL clubs. With the expansion fee for a team said to be $2 billion, which is split among the existing NHL team owners and is not considered hockey-related revenue, don’t be surprised if there are two new NHL teams within the next 10 years.
VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon said team captain Mark Stone is expected to be sidelined “for a while” with an upper-body injury. Meanwhile, he said that Jack Eichel is doing well with his rehab and should return “in the not-too-distant future.” Eichel (knee) is currently on long-term injury reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Stone is placed on LTIR and is out for the rest of the regular season it will allow the Golden Knights to exceed the salary cap if necessary to add a player or two by the March 8 trade deadline.
DAILY FACEOFF: New York Rangers forwards Artemi Panarin and Jimmy Vesey are listed as day-to-day with lower-body injuries as they missed practice yesterday.
NEW YORK POST: Speaking of the Rangers, they signed forward Jonny Brodzinski to a two-year, one-way contract extension worth an average annual value of $785, 500.
ESPN: Kevin Weekes reports Los Angeles Kings forward Viktor Arvidsson could be sidelined week-to-week with a lower-body injury.
NHL.COM: Florida Panthers forward Ryan Lomberg was fined $2,083.33 by the NHL department of player safety for elbowing Ottawa Senators defenseman Jakob Chychrun during Tuesday’s game between the two clubs.
CBS SPORTS: The Vancouver Canucks placed forward Dakota Joshua (upper body) on injured reserve.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: The Penguins placed forward Colin White on waivers.
DAILY FACEOFF: Former Toronto Maple Leafs forward Gerry James passed away at age 89. James spent five seasons with the Leafs from 1954-55 to 1959-60. At the same time, he had a 13-year career as a running back in the Canadian Football League and holds the distinction of being the only person to appear in a Stanley Cup Final and a Grey Cup Final in the same season (1959-60). He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to James’ family, friends and former teammates in both sports.