The Best NHL Teams To Bet…And Bet Against
Recaps of Thursday’s action, Jeff Skinner’s status with the Sabres concerns his agent, updates on Auston Matthews and Henrik Lundqvist, some notable injury news and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The New York Islanders tallied five unanswered third-period goals to upset the Boston Bruins 7-2. Semyon Varlamov made 34 saves while teammates Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee and Adam Pelech each had a goal and an assist for the Islanders. The Bruins have dropped three of their last four games.
Three straight third-period goals lifted the Washington Capitals over the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2. Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller each had a goal and an assist. Tom Wilson tallied the game-winner and also received a two-minute minor penalty for injuring Penguins forward Mark Jankowski with a late hit in the first period. Earlier in the day, the Penguins placed winger Jason Zucker (lower body) on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wilson has a history of questionable hits but it doesn’t appear as though he’ll receive supplemental discipline for this one.
The Tampa Bay Lightning scored twice in the third period in a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Yanni Gourde netted the game-winner as the Lightning won their third straight over the Hurricanes, moving into second place in the Discover Central Division with 27 points.
A three-goal third-period rallied the Florida Panthers over the Dallas Stars 3-2. Sergei Bobrovsky made 37 saves while Aleksander Barkov, Anton Stralman and Frank Vatrano tallied for the Panthers, who sit atop the Discover Central Division with 28 points. Stars forward Roope Hintz missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury.
Patrick Kane tallied his 399th career goal and Malcolm Subban made 26 saves for his first shutout with the Chicago Blackhawks in a 2-0 blanking of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Carl Soderberg also scored for the Hawks, who sit third in the Central with 26 points.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks keep finding ways to win thanks in part to Kane’s production and leadership. He’s moved into a tie with Toronto’s Auston Matthews (31 points) for third place in the NHL scoring race and continues to be considered among the early favorites for the Hart Memorial Trophy.
The Ottawa Senators are on their first three-game win streak of the season after upsetting the Calgary Flames 6-1. Matt Murray made 29 saves, Colin White scored twice and Drake Batherson scored for the fourth straight game.
Earlier in the day, the Senators placed center Derek Stepan on injured reserve among reports he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. They also placed little-used forward Filip Chlapik on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out his contract. Meanwhile, the Flames placed goaltender Jacob Markstrom (upper body) on injured reserve.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators’ improvement throughout February is due in part to giving more ice time to their younger players. They still have more rebuilding to do but they’ve served notice in recent weeks that they’re no longer an easy two points. The Flames, meanwhile, have dropped five of their last six.
An overtime goal by Pavel Zacha lifted the New Jersey Devils over the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. The Sabres made winger Jeff Skinner a healthy scratch for the third straight game, prompting his agent to contact general manager Kevyn Adams to express his concern over his client’s status. Sabres captain Jack Eichel was a late scratch with a lower-body injury while goalie Linus Ullmark left the game following the first period with an undisclosed injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Skinner’s poor production this season is cause for concern for the Sabres but critics question if he’s being properly utilized by head coach Ralph Krueger. It’s yet another issue for a team whose playoff hopes are fading while raising questions about Eichel’s future in Buffalo.
Sam Gagner tallied his third career hat trick as the Detroit Red Wings downed the Nashville Predators 5-2. Jonathan Bernier made 37 saves for the win.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The mounting losses for the Predators continue to stoke speculation they’ll become sellers at the Apr.12 trade deadline. I’ll have more in today’s Rumor section.
Blake Wheeler had a goal and two assists while Kyle Connor scored twice as the Winnipeg Jets overcame 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-3. The Habs dropped their fourth straight, spoiling the debut of interim head coach Dominique Ducharme. Canadiens winger Josh Anderson left the game in the first period after an apparent slew foot by Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo. He’ll undergo more tests but Ducharme said his injury isn’t considered to be too serious.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ducharme declared a clean slate for his players before this game. What he got was a strong start undone by more shaky goaltending from Carey Price, sloppy defensive play and a collapse of confidence as the game rolled along. The Habs (22 points) still hold a playoff spot in the Scotia North Division only because the Flames and Vancouver Canucks are playing worse than they are. Speaking of the Canucks…
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith turned in a 32-save shutout in a 3-0 victory over the Canucks. Alex Chiasson, Jesse Puljujarvi and Connor McDavid were the goal scorers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks have only two victories in 13 games this month.
TSN: Toronto Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said center Auston Matthews has been dealing with a wrist injury for most of this season. Matthews appeared to aggravate the injury during Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Flames but Keefe feels it hasn’t gotten worse.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Matthews was scoring at a goal-per-game pace prior to Wednesday. He has a shot at becoming the first player since Brett Hull in 1991-92 to score 50 goals in 50 games.
NEW YORK POST: Henrik Lundqvist returned to the ice earlier this week after undergoing open-heart surgery seven weeks ago. However, the 39-year-old goaltender said it will be months before he can reach a decision on whether he’ll continue his playing career.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Saturday’s game between the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues will continue as scheduled after the Sharks announced no new positive COVID-19 tests. Thursday’s game between the two clubs was postponed after Sharks forward Tomas Hertl tested positive. He’s expected to miss some time as he remains on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list.
TSN: The number of players on the league’s protocol list shrunk to seven players with three of those being members of the Philadelphia Flyers.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets are preparing to increase the number of fans attending their home games after Ohio governor Mike DeWine announced indoor sports and entertainment events in the state to 25 percent capacity. The Jackets currently have a plan approved by the state that allows 10 percent capacity.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: The Bruins will soon welcome fans back to TD Garden as the state of Massachusetts will allow 12 percent capacity starting on March 22.
Recaps of Friday’s action, the Avalanche and Golden Knights prepare for today’s outdoor game at Lake Tahoe, Sidney Crosby addresses his future as he approaches his 1000th career NHL game, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: A four-goal first period powered the Florida Panthers to a 7-2 romp over the Detroit Red Wings. Aleksander Barkov and Keith Yandle each had three points, Patric Hornqvist scored twice and Jonathan Huberdeau picked up two assists. The Panthers (24 points) sit in first place in the Central Division, one point up on the Carolina Hurricanes.
Speaking of the Hurricanes, they extended their points streak to five games (4-0-1) by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3. Nino Niederreiter scored twice and collected an assist for Carolina while Patrick Kane factored in each goal (one goal, two assists) for the Blackhawks, who sit one point behind the Hurricanes.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kane has to be considered among the early favorites for the Hart Memorial Trophy. He’s definitely been the Blackhawks’ MVP this season. They wouldn’t be jockeying with the Panthers, Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the division without Kane powering their offense.
The Edmonton Oilers won the latest chapter in the Battle of Alberta by edging the Calgary Flames 2-1. Oilers goaltender Mike Smith made 20 saves for his fourth win since his season debut earlier this month. Jesse Puljujarvi and Gaetan Haas tallied for the Oilers while Rasmus Andersson replied for the Flames.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I was really looking forward to this contest but it lacked the usual fireworks we’ve come to expect whenever these two clubs meet.
Winnipeg Jets backup Laurent Brossoit turned in a 29-save shutout as his club blanked the Vancouver Canucks 2-0. Jets center Mark Scheifele scored to extend his points streak to nine games. The Jets (21 points) sit one back of the second-place Oilers in the North Division.
Marc-Andre Fleury will be in goal for the Vegas Golden Knights when they tangle later today with the Colorado Avalanche in the Bridgestone NHL Outdoors Saturday game at Lake Tahoe, Nevada. It’s the first outdoor contest for the Golden Knights in franchise history.
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog will return to the lineup for this contest after coming off the COVID-19 protocol list on Wednesday. Defenseman Cale Makar (upper-body injury) will be a game-day decision.
PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Sidney Crosby reaffirmed his desire to finish his career with the Penguins. “I love playing here, and this is where I’d love to play for the rest of my career,” said Crosby, adding“I can’t really control what’s said or rumors and things like that.” Crosby will play his 1000th NHL game tonight against the New York Islanders.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crosby was referring to recent media speculation about his future with the Penguins if the club’s new management decides to rebuild. That doesn’t appear to be their intention. It’s worth remembering that he has four years remaining on his contract with a full no-movement clause giving him full control over his situation.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: A lower-body injury could keep center David Krejci from traveling with the Bruins for Sunday’s outdoor game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
TSN: Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger believes his club’s fragile psyche is the reason behind their inability to score goals. “They’re fragile right now,” he said. “They don’t believe in themselves and they don’t see themselves celebrating.” The Sabres opened the season 4-4-2 and has dropped three straight since resuming their schedule after it was postponed for two weeks by an outbreak of COVID-19 among their players.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres are a mess despite their front-office purge and several notable roster changes during the offseason. That sparked recent speculation about captain Jack Eichel’s future in Buffalo. Bigger changes could be in store for the Sabres if they miss the playoffs again. Whether those adjustments would involve their franchise player is anyone’s guess right now.
Meanwhile, Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen revealed to a Finnish newspaper that he suffered chest pains and significant drops of oxygen levels when he was sidelined by COVID-19. He was cleared to resume skating on Wednesday but has yet to return to action. He spent a team-high two weeks on the COVID protocol list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Ristolainen can resume his playing career without any adverse aftereffects from the coronavirus.
NHL.COM: The St. Louis Blues announce forward Ivan Barbashev was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He’s expected to be sidelined for six weeks.
The league also rescheduled March 28th’s game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes to today. The Hurricanes game against the Blackhawks today has been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date.
TSN: The number of players on the NHL’s COVID protocol list dropped to 11 names yesterday. Six of those are members of the Philadelphia Flyers.
THE DETROIT NEWS: Long-time Red Wings masseur Sergei Tchekmarev passed away yesterday at age 65. He’d been with the Wings since 1998.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Tchekmarev’s family, friends and the Red Wings’ organization.
Recaps of Wednesday’s action, including Connor McDavid tallying his 500th career point, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Connor McDavid collected two assists to pick up his 500th career NHL point as the Edmonton Oilers edged the Winnipeg Jets 3-2. McDavid accomplished the feat in his 369th NHL game, tying Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby as the eighth fastest player to reach that milestone. Leon Draisaitl scored twice for the Oilers, who’ve won four of their last five.
Earlier in the day, the Jets placed center Pierre-Luc Dubois on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. Dubois could return to action on Friday against the Vancouver Canucks.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews tallied his league-leading 14th goal as his club nipped the Ottawa Senators 2-1. Matthews also extended his points streak to 14 games. Alex Kerfoot tallied the game-winner in the third period. Brady Tkachuk replied for the Senators. Earlier in the day, the Leafs announced defenseman Rasmus Sandin is out indefinitely with an injured foot.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice (including the game-winner in overtime) and collected an assist in the Florida Panthers 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. The Panthers overcame a 2-0 deficit but Vincent Trocheck tied the game for the Hurricanes to force the extra frame.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Huberdeau (20 points) sits among the NHL’s top-10 scorers. He’s among the key factors behind the Panthers’ strong performance this season.
Chicago Blackhawks rookie goaltender Kevin Lankinen made 29 shots for his first career NHL shutout to blank the Detroit Red Wings 2-0. Philipp Kurashev and Alex DeBrincat scored for the Blackhawks in their third straight victory.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks have 22 points and sit in second place behind the Panthers in the Central Division. Neither club was expected to be in those positions when the season began. The Panthers were coming off an offseason of numerous roster changes while the Blackhawks began the season without an established starting goalie and three key players (Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach and Brent Seabrook) sidelined by illness and injuries.
Brock Boeser had a goal and two assists as the Vancouver Canucks rolled to a 5-1 win over the Calgary Flames. Braden Holtby made 35 saves while J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat each had a goal and an assist for the Canucks.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Ongoing power outages related to recent winter storms in Texas have forced the postponement of tonight’s game between the Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba will be sidelined four-to-six weeks with a broken thumb suffered during Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils. Sidelined winger Artemi Panarin and defenseman K’Andre Miller are expected to return to action tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers.
THE BUFFALO NEWS: For the first time since Feb. 1 the Buffalo Sabres no longer have players on the COVID-19 protocol list. Casey Mittelstadt became the ninth Sabre to come off the list yesterday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The number of players on the list has steadily declined in recent days. Eighteen players were still on the list yesterday, seven of those members of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Recaps of Monday’s action, the Leafs acquire Alex Galchenyuk, three stars of the week and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Darcy Kuemper made 24 saves for the shutout while Clayton Keller scored the only goal as the Arizona Coyotes blanked the St. Louis Blues 1-0. The Coyotes took four of the seven games in this series. Blues defenseman Torey Krug left the game after the second period with an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
The New York Islanders defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-1. Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored and Josh Bailey collected two assists for the Islanders while Victor Olofsson tallied for Buffalo. It was the Sabres’ first game since their schedule was paused after Jan. 31 due to COVID-19.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The long layoff adversely affected the Sabres’ performance in this contest. They had nine shot attempts in the third period but none of them reached the net.
Evgenii Dadonov scored the tying and winning goals as the Ottawa Senators roared back from a 5-1 deficit to upset the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-5 in overtime. Auston Matthews scored twice for the Leafs while teammate Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist in his return after missing 10 games to a rib injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Senators deserve credit for not giving up after falling behind by four goals. However, the Leafs were their own worst enemies as complacency seemed to set in after they took that big lead.
Speaking of the Leafs, they acquired forward Alex Galchenyuk from the Carolina Hurricanes for forward Egor Korshkov and David Warsofsky.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Galchenyuk is on the move just two days after being acquired by the Hurricanes from the Senators. He’s now on his seventh team since 2018 and is expected to join the Leafs’ farm club because he already cleared waivers before the trade went down. He also doesn’t have to quarantine because he was still in Ottawa preparing to head to Carolina when this deal went down.
The Leafs were in the market for a depth forward. Acquiring Galchenyuk is an affordable move to bring in some additional experience.
And speaking of the Hurricanes, they tallied six unanswered goals to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets 7-3. Teuvo Teravainen scored twice and set up two others, Brock McGinn had a goal and three assists, Jordan Staal netted two goals and James Reimer made 37 saves for the win.
The Florida Panthers held off the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-4, handing the latter their first home loss of the season. Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Anton Stralman each had a goal and an assist for the Panthers. Alexander Volkov tallied twice for the Lightning.
Dominik Kubalik scored twice, including the winner in overtime as the Chicago Blackhawks edged the Detroit Red Wings 3-2. The Wings overcame a two-goal deficit to force the extra frame.
The Winnipeg Jets downed the Edmonton Oilers 6-5 as Blake Wheeler tallied the winning goal in the third period. Jets center Mark Scheifele had a goal and two assists. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Alex Chiasson each scored twice for the Oilers as they overcame 4-2 and 5-3 deficits.
Johnny Gaudreau’s overtime goal lifted the Calgary Flames to a 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. The Flames rallied back from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead until Brock Boeser force overtime with a shorthanded goal late in the third period.
San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture had a goal and an assist to lead his club over the Anaheim Ducks 3-2.
Columbus Blue Jackets winger Cam Atkinson, Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Bryan Rust are the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Feb. 14.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: The Stars postponed their game last night against the Nashville Predators at the request of Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson as a severe winter storm left hundreds of thousands of Dallas residents without power.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers canceled practice on Monday at the request of the NHL as a measure of caution. The club has seven players on the COVID-19 protocol list. They are still scheduled to practice today. They’ve been shut down for a week now.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins defensemen Matt Grzelcyk and Jakub Zboril are still nursing injuries and are questionable for Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.
NEW YORK POST: Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin believes prospect forward Cole Caufield will turn pro at the conclusion of his college season with the University of Wisconsin. It’s uncertain if Caufield will play any games with the Canadiens this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Caufield’s offensive exploits in college play and in the 2021 World Juniors have generated plenty of anticipation among Habs fans. Time will tell if he can successfully make the jump into the NHL.
THE ATLANTIC: NHL Hall-of-Fame goaltender Ken Dryden believes oversized upper-body goaltending equipment has changed the game and not for the better. He feels expanding the net is a viable solution.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dryden makes a compelling case. He points to golf-club technology making championship courses longer, how a lighter soccer ball now makes it possible for players to curve or drop shots around a goaltender, and how the three-point shot eventually improved scoring in basketball.