NHL Playoffs: Golden Knights Let Down By Top Players
Recaps of Sunday’s action plus the latest on Andrei Svechnikov, David Pastrnak, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The New York Islanders have the Washington Capitals on the brink of elimination following their 2-1 overtime victory in Game 3 of their best-of-seven first-round series. Mathew Barzal broke a 1-1 tie to give the Isles a commanding 3-0 series lead. Anders Lee opened the scoring for the Islanders while Evgeny Kuznetsov tied it in the second period.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 16, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals have been outplayed by the Islanders, especially five-on-five. They held Washington captain Alex Ovechkin to just one shot in this contest. The Isles also held the Caps to just five goals in this series and can complete the sweep on Tuesday.
Joe Pavelski’s hat trick set the stage for Alexander Radulov’s overtime goal as the Dallas Stars edged the Calgary Flames 5-4 to tie their series at two games apiece. Stars defenseman John Klingberg picked up three assists. Flames forward Sam Bennett scored twice while Calgary goalie Cam Talbot made 57 saves.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A vintage playoff performance by Pavelski, having the type of game the Stars expected when they signed him last summer. The Flames’ undisciplined play did in them in, taking seven penalties to the Stars’ four.
Corey Crawford made 48 saves as the Chicago Blackhawks staved off elimination with a 3-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. Drake Caggiula, Matthew Highmore, and Alex DeBrincat scored for the Blackhawks. Vegas winger Max Pacioretty was fined $2,500.00 for slashing DeBrincat as he scored into the empty net.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford saved the Blackhawks’ bacon. Most of this game seemed to be played in the Chicago zone but he put in a stellar performance to steal this one and keep his team’s hopes alive.
Braydon Schenn scored in overtime as the St. Louis Blues nipped the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in Game 3 of their first-round series. Jake Allen made 39 saves for the win while Ryan O’Reilly collected two assists. Jacob Markstrom kicked out 46 shots for the Canucks, who lead the series 2-1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A big win for the Blues to avoid falling behind 3-0. Allen was solid replacing a struggling Jordan Binnington. The Blues were also playing without Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen as they were declared unfit to play for this game. Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes is just the third rookie defenseman in NHL history to tally points in six straight playoff games.
The Philadelphia Flyers spoiled Montreal Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price’s 33 birthday with a 1-0 win to take a 2-1 lead in their opening-round series. Flyers goalie Carter Hart made 23 saves while Jakub Voracek scored the only goal.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A good bounce-back performance by Hart and his teammates after getting blown out 5-0 in Game 2. This was a tight-checking, choppy game with Hart and Price once again the standouts.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Caroline Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said it’s highly doubtful Andrei Svechnikov returns to action during their opening-round series against the Boston Bruins. The winger suffered a leg injury during Game 3 on Saturday and will undergo an MRI today. Brind’Amour doesn’t rule out Svechnikov returning if the Canes reach the Eastern Conference Final or the Stanley Cup Final.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Svechnikov’s injury might not be playoff-ending for him, but his absence will be felt by the Hurricanes. He and linemate Sebastian Aho provided Carolina with a potent one-two scoring punch.
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy guessed there’s a 50-50 chance David Pastrnak suited up for Game 4 today against the Hurricanes. The winger’s been sidelined since suffering an apparent leg injury during Game 1.
Recaps of Thursday’s playoff games, Canadiens coach Claude Julien hospitalized, Dan Hamhuis retires, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights edged the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 on Reilly Smith’s overtime goal in Game 2 of their first-round series, which Vegas now leads 2-0. It was goalie Robin Lehner’s seventh straight win in as many starts with the Golden Knights, who were without winger Max Pacioretty (unfit to play) in Game 2. His replacement, Tomas Nosek, left the game in the second period. Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane collected three assists.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 14, 2020
Dougie Hamilton’s third-period goal lifted the Carolina Hurricanes to a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of their series, tying it at a game apiece. Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov had a goal and an assist. Brad Marchand and David Krejci each had a goal and an assist for the Bruins, who were without winger David Pastrnak following an apparent leg injury suffered in Game 1.
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, meanwhile, raised eyebrows with his post-game comments comparing the atmosphere in this playoff bubble to playing exhibition games. “To be honest with you, it really doesn’t feel like playoff hockey out there,” said Rask. “There are no fans, so it’s kind of like playing an exhibition game.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rask probably isn’t the only player feeling that way, which could account in part for why some teams and notable players seem to struggle to regain their intensity in the early going. Those who adjust more quickly could have an advantage through the opening round.
Joonas Korpisalo made 36 savers backstopping the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in Game 2 of their first-round series, which now stands knotted at a game apiece. Oliver Bjorkstrand snapped a 1-1 tie in the second period, Alexander Wennberg put the game away with his third-period tally and Pierre-Luc Dubois picked up two assists. Nikita Kucherov scored for the Lightning.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the same story with the Blue Jackets. They get outshot by a big margin (37-22 in this game) but weather the storm and break your heart with their timely offense.
The Dallas Stars tied their series with the Calgary Flames at a game apiece as Jamie Oleksiak’s goal with 40 seconds remaining in regulation gave them a 5-4 victory. Stars blueliner Miro Heiskanen scored twice while teammates Alexander Radulov and Corey Perry each had a goal and an assist. Ben Bishop returned to the Stars net after being unfit to play in Game 1 while Taylor Fedun filled in for the sidelined Stephen Johns. Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk left the game following a third-period collision with Oleksiak and Jamie Benn.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens head coach Claude Julien was rushed to hospital after suffering chest pains following his club’s 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of their first-round series. His condition isn’t related to COVID-19. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said Julien won’t return for the remainder of the series. Assistant coaches Kirk Muller, Dominque Ducharme, and Luke Richardson will share the coaching duties in Julien’s absence.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bergevin indicated he’d received some good news about Julien’s condition yesterday afternoon but didn’t elaborate. Here’s hoping the Habs bench boss makes a quick and full recovery.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom is in concussion protocol and won’t take part in Game 2 against the New York Islanders later today. Backstrom was injured following a late hit by Islanders’ captain Anders Lee. Lars Eller will replace Backstrom after returning to the club following the birth of his son.
AZCENTRAL.COM: The Arizona Coyotes hope to have center Nick Schmaltz in the lineup for Game 2 against the Colorado Avalanche later today. He’s been absent since being injured during an exhibition game two weeks ago.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The low-scoring Coyotes could use Schmaltz’s offense against the Avs. He was their leading scorer during the regular season.
THE SCORE: Defenseman Dan Hamhuis announced his retirement after 16 NHL seasons with the Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks, and Dallas Stars. He played in 1,184 games, netting 356 points. Hamhuis played in two games of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final until a groin injury sidelined him for the rest of the series. He won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Hamhuis in his future endeavors. He was among the league’s best defensive blueliners during his playing prime.
The Blue Jackets eliminate the Leafs from the qualifying round, Blues and Bruins fall to No. 4 seeds in their conferences, the second phase of draft lottery goes tonight, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Columbus Blue Jackets advanced to the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs by blanking the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0 in the fifth and deciding game of their qualifying-round series. Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo turned in a 33-save shutout while Zach Werenski, Liam Foudy, and Nick Foligno were the goal scorers. The Jackets face the Tampa Bay Lightning in a rematch of their 2019 opening-round series. Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie left the game with an undisclosed injury in the second period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A solid effort by the Jackets in withstanding the Leafs’ offense and avoiding a repeat of their Game 4 collapse. Foudy’s goal was the dagger as the Leafs visibly sagged after that.
Another disappointing end to another season sparked plenty of fan and pundit criticism of the Leafs management over how the roster was constructed. I’ll have more later this morning in the Rumor Mill. As for Barrie, that game was likely his last as a Leaf. He’s an unrestricted free agent and not expected to return.
Braden Holtby kicked out 30 shots as the Washington Capitals held off the Boston Bruins 2-1 in round-robin play. T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson scored for the Caps while Jake DeBrusk replied for the Bruins. The Capitals earn the third seed in the Eastern Conference while the Bruins slipped to fourth.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins were winless in their three round-robin games. One reason is the “Perfection Line” (Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand) was anything but, collecting just one assist between them. The Bruins need more from their top line as they face off against the hungry young Carolina Hurricanes in the opening round.
The defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues dropped into the fourth seed in the Western Conference following a 2-1 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars in round-robin play. The Stars picked up the third seed following Denis Gurianov’s game-winning goal after Joe Pavelski tied it late in the third period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s interesting that last year’s Cup finalists didn’t play that well during round-robin play, looking nothing like their dominant selves during the regular season. Maybe beging guaranteed playoff berths had something to do with it. Perhaps they couldn’t get motivated for the round-robin after going through a four-round slog last spring. Maybe they need a little more time getting up to speed following a long layoff. Whatever the reason, they’d better rediscover their winning ways soon or their hopes for another shot at the Cup will be quickly dashed.
The opening-round match-ups and schedules were released last night. The first games begin Tuesday, Aug. 11. Each series is now a best-of-seven format:
Philadelphia Flyers vs Montreal Canadiens
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Columbus Blue Jackets
Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders
Boston Bruins vs Carolina Hurricanes
Vegas Golden Knights vs Chicago Blackhawks
Colorado Avalanche vs Arizona Coyotes
Dallas Stars vs Calgary Flames
St. Louis Blues vs Vancouver Canucks
Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery goes tonight at 6 pm ET to determine which of the eight clubs eliminated from the qualifying round will win the first-overall pick. Each team as a 12.5 percent chance of winning the pick.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Expect howls of outrage from some observers if the Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, or Toronto Maple Leafs win that pick. I, on the other hand, will delight in the chaos and the possibilities that could arise if one of those teams wins the pick. Will they shop it to address their roster weaknesses, or keep it and instead trade away a current star? That will stir the rumor mill for weeks leading up to the draft in October.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Winger Max Pacioretty has joined his teammates in Edmonton for Game 1 of their opening-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Pacioretty had remained in Las Vegas during the round-robin to treat a minor injury suffered during training camp.
THE WASHINGTON POST’s Samantha Pell reports Capitals coach Todd Reirden hopes defenseman John Carlson will be ready for Game 1 against the New York Islanders. Carlson hasn’t played since being sidelined during exhibition play nearly two weeks ago.
CBS SPORTS: Arizona Coyotes center Nick Schmaltz was a full participant in practice yesterday. He’d been sidelined with an undisclosed injury suffered during exhibition play.
New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk (undisclosed) returned to practice yesterday and could be ready for Game 1 against the Capitals. He’d been sidelined since suffering an apparent head injury in Game 1 of the qualifier series against the Florida Panthers.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu, 37, is uncertain if this season was his last with the Wild and in the NHL. He’s an unrestricted free agent but intends to weigh his options, including talking with Wild management to see if they’re interested in bringing him back next season.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings re-signed winger Evgeny Svechnikov to a one-year contract extension. Salary details weren’t disclosed.
Exhibition games begin today, there were no positive COVID-19 tests during the final week of training camp, plus the latest on Max Pacioretty, Dougie Hamilton, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Exhibition play for Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan begins today in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto. The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins face off at 4 pm ET, followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs taking on the Montreal Canadiens at 8 pm ET at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. In Edmonton, the Oilers tangle with the Calgary Flames at 10:30 pm ET at Rogers Place.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: These could be the most-watched exhibition games in NHL history. It will provide hockey fans a first glimpse of what the upcoming playoff tournament will look like under bubble conditions without fans.
SPORTSNET: The NHL yesterday announced it received no positive COVID-19 tests from the 4,256 tests among over 800 players during the final week of Phase 3 training camp.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a total of two positive tests during Phase 3. That’s still no assurance a COVID-19 outbreak won’t take place during the playoffs. Nevertheless, it’s a very promising sign as the 24 teams prepare to face off for Phase 4 under stricter quarantine conditions.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty didn’t travel with his teammates to Edmonton for the upcoming playoff tournament. He’s recovering from a minor injury that kept him out of the final week of training camp.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pacioretty is expected to travel to the Edmonton bubble at a later date. He will undergo a brief quarantine requiring four negative COVID-19 tests before he can rejoin his teammates.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton missed practice in Toronto yesterday. He’s been listed as unfit to participate. Hamilton hasn’t skated since leaving practice on Wednesday in some discomfort.
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad returned to the ice on Monday after missing the last three practice sessions. He’ll be held out of Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Lightning for precautionary reasons.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger Ondrej Kase didn’t travel with his teammates to Toronto on Sunday and there’s no indication when he’ll rejoin the club. He missed all of the Bruins’ training camp and remains listed as unfit to play.
NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, and Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby are among the 31 nominees for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. The award honors “the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to his community.”
NEW YORK POST: The son of former NHL defenseman Barry Beck was fatally stabbed over the weekend in Binbrook, Ontario. Brock Beck, 20, was pronounced dead in hospital following a confrontation with unidentified suspects.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to the Beck family. Here’s hoping the suspects are quickly captured and feel the full penalty of the law.
Check out the latest on David Pastrnak, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL PHASE 3 TRAINING CAMP NOTES
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins president Cam Neely doesn’t expect wingers David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase on the ice before the club flies to Toronto on Sunday for the upcoming playoff tournament under Phase 4 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan. Pastrnak’s been quarantined after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Kase, meanwhile, has been deemed unfit to play with no explanation as per league health protocols.
Both players were seen together socially in Boston’s North End and skating together locally before their disappearance from Bruins’ training camp. Neely said he wished both players had returned to Boston from the Czech Republic a little earlier but noted the club had no control over that. The previous phase of the return-to-play plan didn’t require players to be in their NHL cities until the days leading up to the July 13 start of Phase 3.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pastrnak and Kase are expected to travel with their teammates to Toronto for Phase 4. Fortunately for the Bruins, both players will have roughly two weeks to get back into game shape. That because they’re already assured of a playoff berth and will be taking part in the round-robin seeding round during the qualifying round.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins fans can breathe a little easier. Captain Sidney Crosby returned to practice yesterday for the first time since leaving the ice during a scrimmage on Saturday. He skated on his own but didn’t take part in team practice. As per league protocols, coach Mike Sullivan did not explain.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crosby’s absence was not COVID-related. He appears to be nursing what could be a minor injury.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Jonathan Toews was reportedly one of two NHLPA player reps to vote against the return-to-play plan and CBA extension. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the Blackhawks captain was among the most vocal of the player reps, asking relevant questions and challenging whether it was safe enough to return to play. Carolina Hurricanes’ Jordan Martinook was the other PA rep to vote against it.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Toews’ questioning shouldn’t be surprising. He also took an active interest in CBA negotiations during the 2012-13 lockout. By the sound of things, his position was well-intentioned. He now has more pressing concerns as he was listed as “unable to participate” since leaving practice on Monday.
CBS SPORTS: Vegas Golden Knights winger Max Pacioretty has missed his club’s last three practices. Coach Pete DeBoer indicated Pacioretty was dealing with a minor issue and could resume skating soon.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar missed his third straight practice since leaving the ice on Saturday. Coach Jared Bednar provided no update as per league protocols.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: Oskar Lindblom’s comeback from a rare bone cancer continued yesterday as the Flyers re-signed him to a three-year, $9-million contract. The annual average value is $3 million. Management also isn’t ruling anything out if the winger travels to Toronto with his teammates for the upcoming playoff tournament.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It could be the feel-good story of the postseason if Lindblom returns to action during the upcoming tournament. The Flyers will leave that decision up to him.
SPORTSNET: Andreas Johnsson will be joining his Toronto Maple Leafs teammates inside the team bubble for Phase 4. He intends to continue his recovery from knee surgery with the team and hopes to return to the lineup during the playoffs if the Leafs get that far.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE SEATTLE TIMES: The NHL’s Seattle expansion franchise is expected to reveal their team name later today. A live-streamed news conference is slated for 9 AM PT today for a “significant” event. The club teased the event on Twitter yesterday.
WINGING IT IN MOTOWN: The Detroit Red Wings are open to loaning winger Filip Zadina to the Czech League’s HC Ocelari. The Wings could be waiting until December at the earliest for the start of the next NHL season. Loaning out Zadina would allow the youngster to get in some meaningful gameplay before then.
NEW YORK POST: Swiss investment bank UBS has secured the naming rights for the Islanders’ new arena at Belmont Park. The arena is expected to be ready for the 2021-22 season.
IIHF.COM: Former Soviet defenseman Alexander Gusev passed away at age 73. Gusev was part of two World Championship clubs in 1973 and 1974, won gold at the 1976 Winter Olympics, and was part of two Summit Series with Canadian NHL stars in 1972 and WHA stars in 1974.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Gusev’s family, friends, and former teammates.