The Stars and Islanders advance to the second round, Matt Niskanen gets a one-game suspension for a cross-check that fractured Brendan Gallagher’s jaw and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
Dallas Stars forward Denis Gurianov (NHL Images)
NHL.COM: Denis Gurianov scored four times as the Dallas Stars overcame a 3-0 deficit with seven unanswered goals to crush the Calgary Flames 7-3, winning their opening-round series four games to two. Five of those goals came in the second period. Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen had a goal and three assists while teammate Joe Pavelski tallied one goal and set up two others.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A well-deserved victory for the Stars in this game and in this series. They’ll face the Colorado Avalanche in the second round. I was very impressed with Heiskanen’s performance in this series. The 21-year-old NHL sophomore is rapidly blossoming into an elite defenseman. Pavelski, meanwhile, continues to prove at 36 he’s still a reliable postseason performer. As for the Flames, some big changes could be coming after this meltdown.
Anthony Beauvillier scored twice, including the game-winner, as the New York Islanders blanked the Washington Capitals 4-0 to take their first-round series four games to one. Semyon Varlamov made 21 saves for the shutout.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A dominant performance by the Islanders, shutting down the league’s second-best offensive team. It was a master class by Isles bench boss Barry Trotz as he outcoached the Capitals’ Todd Reirden in this series. Two years following the Caps’ Stanley Cup championship, some changes could be in store for the roster and behind the bench.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The NHL Department of Player Safety handed a one-game suspension to Flyers defenseman Matt Niskanen for cross-checking Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher in the face during Game 5 of their first-round series.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Niskanen’s cross-check fractured Gallagher’s jaw, sidelining the Canadiens winger for the remainder of this series and possibly longer should the Habs advance to the second round.
CBS SPORTS: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers suffered a slightly separated shoulder. He’ll be sidelined for the remainder of the Canucks’ series with the St. Louis Blues. Canucks winger Tyler Toffoli (lower-body injury) could be in the lineup for Game 6 tonight.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Former NHL coach Bill Peters has tested positive for COVID-19. The head coach of Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, Peters is reportedly asymptomatic.
More speculation on the resumption of the schedule, possible options for the 2020 NHL Draft, the latest on Mikko Koivu and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Commissioner Gary Bettman said his guess is the NHL could return to action this summer, but that will depend on when it will be safe to do so. “When we decide it’s time to play, we’ve got to get everybody back and be comfortable that not only are we not only infecting the population of players but that we’re not bringing the coronavirus from other places into jurisdictions where the players and other personnel are going,” said Bettman. He added health and safety concerns related to the coronavirus are the priority, as well as avoiding the risk of prematurely injuring players as they return.
THE SCORE: Bettman also said the resumption of the season must be done in a way that’s fair and flexible, especially to those teams on the playoff bubble when the schedule was paused. “That’s going to be very important no matter what it is we do and we’re considering all of the alternatives,” he said. “And nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggested sports could resume this summer, provided fans are kept out of arenas and ballparks and players are screened weekly for COVID-19 to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bettman’s been catching flak from some fans and pundits over his “fantasy” of resuming play this summer. As I’ve said before, there’s no harm in the league exploring all options. However, it sounds like Bettman and the league board of governors understand that resuming play will be decided by the coronavirus. I think they’ll cancel the season if they cannot ensure the safety and health of the players and everyone involved regardless of where the games are played.
SPORTSNET: The NHL is also considering its options on how it’ll stage the 2020 NHL Draft and the lottery. It could be held virtually, or perhaps a scaled-down version like the one in 2005 following a season-killing lockout. If the league cannot complete this season or stage the Stanley Cup playoffs, perhaps a draft lottery could be held similar to the ’05 draft.
Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu faces an uncertain future (Photo via NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll be interesting to see how the league addresses this. You can bet any significant changes to the draft lottery probably won’t sit well with the Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators. Given the current standings, they have the best odds of winning the lottery.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu may have played his final game for the Wild if the season cannot be resumed. The 37-year-old center is an unrestricted free agent following this season. He’s uncertain if he’ll continue his playing career or retire. “I don’t think I have a clear answer”, he said. “If (I said) I haven’t thought about all the options, I’d be lying.” Koivu didn’t rule out finishing his career in Finland or remaining in the game in some capacity.
STLTODAY.COM: The Blues re-signed forward Sammy Blais to a two-year, $3-million contract extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blues have over $75.7 million invested in 18 players for 2020-21. That shrinks how much cap room they’ve got to re-sign captain Alex Pietrangelo.
THE TENNESSEAN: The Nashville Predators signed defenseman Alexandre Carrier to a three-year, two-way contract. He’s appeared in five games with the Predators since 2018-19.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jets assistant coach Todd Woodcroft is the new head coach of the University of Vermont men’s hockey program.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks canceled its 2020 fan convention in July because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CALGARY SUN: Former Flames head coach Bill Peters was hired Wednesday as the head coach of KHL team Avtomobilist in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
Bill Peters resigns as Flames head coach, game recaps, injury updates and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
CALGARY SUN: Bill Peters resigned yesterday as head coach of the Flames. The club had been investigating allegations of racism and abuse against Peters by former players earlier in his coaching career.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I don’t think anyone’s surprised over Peters’ departure in the wake of the allegations against him. If he hadn’t resigned, he likely would’ve been fired by the Flames. Perhaps his downfall will eradicate such behavior, leading to an overdue change in hockey culture that aligns with today’s changing society. Time will tell. Hockey, and especially the NHL, tends to be conservative and resistant to change.
NHL.COM: David Krejci’s overtime goal gave the Boston Bruins a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers. The Bruins have won six straight games, extended their points streak to 10 games, and are unbeaten in regulation at home (10-0-4). Bruins winger Brad Marchand wasn’t pleased about a concussion spotter pulling from the first half of the third period after running into a raised elbow by Rangers blueliner Jacob Trouba late in the second period. “Maybe next time he’ll pull his head out of his butt and watch the game. I skated into his elbow, but [I was] fine,” said Marchand, who later tweeted an apology for his remarks.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon had a four-point performance in a 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks (Photo via NHL Images).
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon scored and set up three others in a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. Teammate J.T. Compher had a three-point night. Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane scored to extend his points streak to 10 games, but teammate Duncan Keith was sidelined with a groin injury.
A four-goal third period powered the Minnesota Wild to a 7-2 drubbing of the Ottawa Senators. Luke Kunin, Ryan Hartman, Eric Staal, and Jason Zucker were the scorers in the final frame. The Wild have overcome their poor start to this season, moving to .500 on the season (26 points in 26 games) and within three points of a wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel scored twice and set up another to lead up club over the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-4. John Tavares tallied twice for the Leafs, who dropped their first game under new coach Sheldon Keefe after winning three straight.
Dmity Orlov’s overtime goal gave the Washington Capitals a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Caps overcame a 3-1 deficit on goals by Jakub Vrana and Alex Ovechkin to force the extra period. Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov collected three assists. Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos returned to the lineup from a lower-body injury, but defenseman Braydon Coburn left the game with a lower-body injury.
The Vegas Golden Knights edged the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on a shootout goal by Alex Tuch, who also scored in regulation. Goaltender Malcolm Subban made 35 saves for the win. The Golden Knights were playing without starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, whose father passed away Wednesday in Quebec.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Fleury and his family.
Gustav Nyquist’s hat trick carried the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2. Nick Foligno also scored twice for the Jackets, who’ve won five of their last seven contests.
Ryan O’Reilly scored the game-winner as the St. Louis Blues defeated the Dallas Stars 3-1. O’Reilly and David Perron each collected two points on the night. Earlier in the day, the Stars placed Joel Hanley on waivers.
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck kicked out 24 shots to shut out the Anaheim Ducks 3-0. Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine each collected two assists. Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov left the game with an upper-body injury.
Erik Karlsson picked up two assists and Martin Jones made 33 saves as the San Jose Sharks downed the Los Angeles Kings 4-1. Sharks forward Noah Gregor tallied his first career NHL goal.
The Philadelphia Flyers picked up their third straight win by crushing the Detroit Red Wings 6-1. Jakub Voracek had three assists for the Flyers. The Wings have dropped eight straight contests. Wing blueliner Mike Green returned to the lineup from an upper-body injury while goaltender Jimmy Howard was placed on injured reserve.
Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne turned aside 31 shots to blank the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0.
SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens winger Jonathan Drouin revealed he suffered a torn tendon in his left wrist during a Nov. 15 game against the Washington Capitals. He underwent surgery on Nov. 18 and is currently sidelined for eight weeks.
The Devils extended the Canadiens winless skid, Akim Aliu responds to Bill Peters’ letter of apology, Devan Dubnyk reveals his wife is dealing with medical issues, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The New Jersey Devils defeated the Montreal Canadiens 6-4 to extend the latter’s winless skid to six games (0-4-2). Devils center Blake Coleman celebrated his birthday with two goals and two assists while teammate Mackenzie Blackwood made 44 saves.
New Jersey Devils center Blake Coleman netted four points in a 6-4 win over the slumping Montreal Canadiens (Photo via NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens’ defensive woes continue to be their undoing. Too many costly turnovers, too many odd-man rushes, too many defensive breakdowns. Habs goaltender Carey Price usually offsets those issues when he’s on his game, something he hasn’t been throughout this slump. I’ll have more on the Canadiens this morning in the Rumors section.
TSN.CA: Former NHL player Akim Aliu responded to Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters letter of apology to the organization, calling it “misleading, insincere, and concerning.” Peters was responding to Aliu’s allegation claiming the Flames coach hurled racial slurs at him during their time with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs in 2009-10.
Aliu and his lawyer have met with the NHL Players Association and he has accepted an invitation to meet with the league regarding the situation. Until then, he’s declined further comment on the issue.
CALGARY SUN: A growing number of hockey fans are wondering what’s taking so long for the Flames to determine Peters’ future. According to sports legal expert Eric Macramalla, the club is sticking to the proper game-plan for handling this issue. “An investigation is absolutely part of the employment law playbook,” said Macramalla.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Flames must conduct due diligence before deciding this matter. A hasty conclusion could prove costly. As Macramalla points out, if they fire Peters based on an allegation and it turns out to be false, he could file a multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit against the team.
TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk returned to practice yesterday after spending a week away with his ailing wife, Jennifer. Dubnyk didn’t elaborate on her condition, saying she was dealing with serious medical issues. Doctors hope to provide clarity on her condition after Thanksgiving. She is currently resting at home.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping the doctors quickly find a solution and she makes a speedy recovery.
SPORTSNET: Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is sidelined for this weekend following a procedure on his hand. Teammate Alex Chiasson is in concussion protocol following a clean hit by Colorado Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves during Wednesday’s game between the two clubs.
CBS SPORTS: Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson is on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. The earliest he could return to the lineup is Tuesday.
CBC NEWS: NHL free-agent defenseman Adam McQuaid is still recovering from head and neck injuries. He’s uncertain if he’s coming to the end of his playing career, noting he’s been in chronic pain for some time. McQuaid attributed his injuries to his style of play but he has no regrets. “You could say that it shortened my career or you could say that my career wouldn’t even have been as long as it was if I didn’t play the way I did,” he said.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: McQuaid’s doing the right thing putting his health first. Once he’s fully recovered, he’ll have to decide if he’ll continue his playing career. It’s easy for observers to advocate retirement, but it’s a difficult decision for a player to leave the only career they’ve known.
Bill Peters releases a statement regarding his alleged use of racial slurs, the Boston Bruins re-sign Charlie Coyle and Chris Wagner, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Calgary Flames edged the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on an overtime goal by Elias Lindholm. Flames defenseman TJ Brodie collected his first points since returning to the lineup after collapsing during practice on Nov. 14. The Sabres have just one win in their last six games. They also announced Vladimir Sobotka is sidelined indefinitely following surgery on his right knee while Rasmus Dahlin is out indefinitely with a concussion.
Flames coach Bill Peters released a statement yesterday apologizing for racial slurs aimed at former NHL player Akim Aliu a decade ago (Photo via NHL.com).
The Flames’ victory was overshadowed by the ongoing controversy surrounding head coach Bill Peters. He was accused of uttering racial slurs toward former NHL player Akim Aliu when both were with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs a decade ago. Former Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan also accused Peters of kicking him during a game in 2015-16.
Peters was not behind the bench against the Sabres, having returned to Calgary as the club investigates his previous conduct. Read below for further details.
Brad Marchand scored his fifth goal in four games as the Boston Bruins nipped the Ottawa Senators 2-1. The Bruins have won five straight games. The club also announced the re-signings of Charlie Coyle and Chris Wagner (details below).
The Toronto Maple Leafs picked up their third straight win under new coach Sheldon Keefe by crushing the Detroit Red Wings 6-0. Andreas Johnsson scored twice and Frederik Andersen made 25 saves as the Leafs peppered the Wings with 54 shots. Wings goalie Jimmy Howard left the game in the first period after suffering a mid-body injury. An ailing Jonathan Bernier took over, giving up three goals on 40 shots.
St. Louis Blues winger Oskar Sundqvist scored twice as his club held off the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3. He subsequently left the game with a lower-body injury. Ivan Barbashev also collected three assists. Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov scored and picked up two assists.
The New York Rangers picked up their third straight win by hanging on for a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 41 saves for the win as his teammates tallied three first-period goals.
Evgeni Malkin had five points while teammates Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust each had four as the Pittsburgh Penguins overcame a 6-3 deficit to beat the Vancouver Canucks 8-6. J.T. Miller and Adam Gaudette each tallied twice for the Canucks.
The Washington Capitals picked up their first win in three games by defeating the Florida Panthers 4-3. Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby kicked out 37 shots. The Panthers are winless in their last three contests.
Philadelphia Flyers goalie Brian Elliott made 15 saves in the third period to preserve a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Flyers extended their points streak to four games.
Max Pacioretty’s game-tying goal late in the third period set the stage for Paul Stastny’s overtime goal as the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Nashville Predators 4-3. The Knight snap a three-game winless skid. Earlier in the day, they placed forward Valentin Zykov on waivers.
Arizona Coyotes forward Christian Dvorak scored twice in the first period and buried the winner in a 4-3 shootout victory over the Anaheim Ducks. The Coyotes have won four of their last six games.
The Colorado Avalanche tallied three third period goals to beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and an assist for the Avs, who ended Edmonton captain Connor McDavid’s points streak at 11 games.
Dustin Brown and Alex Iafallo each collected two points as the Los Angeles Kings downed the New York Islanders 4-1. It’s the Isles second straight loss coming off a 17-game points streak. The Kings also activated Trevor Lewis from injured reserve.
Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine collected three points as his club tallied five straight goals to beat the San Jose Sharks 5-1. Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 32 saves for the win while Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor each picked up two points.
Calgary Flames head coach Peters issued an apology yesterday in a letter to general manager Brad Treliving, calling the incident “isolated and immediately regrettable.” TSN’s Frank Seravalli noticed a discrepancy in the statement. Peters claimed he immediately returned to the dressing room and apologized to the team following the racial slur aimed at Aliu, but the latter claimed that didn’t happen even after the team captain confronted Peters.
Seravalli also pointed out that Peters didn’t acknowledge the incident with Jordan. However, Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour acknowledged that incident took place, as well as another in which Peters punched an unnamed player. Brind’Amour was Peters’ assistant coach when those episodes took place. He claimed the incidents were addressed by the players and management and never happened again.
Former Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. claimed then-Hurricanes GM Ron Francis never informed him about Peters’ alleged physical abuse of the two players. He claimed he would’ve fired Peter “in a nanosecond” had Francis told him about those claims.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman cites a source claiming a face-to-face meeting between Peters and the league will likely occur, depending on the Flames’ own actions. That raises the possibility of league-mandated punishment along with whatever the Flames do.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be very surprised if Peters remains coach of the Flames. His statement hasn’t done anything to dampen calls for his firing. This situation could result in more players coming forward, either on their own or through the NHLPA, with their own stories of mental and physical abuse by NHL and minor-league coaches.
BOSTON HERALD: The Bruins yesterday re-signed forwards Charlie Coyle and Chris Wagner to multi-year contract extensions. Coyle inked a six-year deal worth an annual average value of $5.25 million while Wagner got a three-year deal with an annual salary-cap hit of $1.35 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Coyle’s contract was the most notable, as he was slated to become an unrestricted free agent next July. He’s become a valuable part of the Bruins’ lineup since being acquired in a trade last season from Minnesota. He’s proven to be a versatile two-way third-line forward who can play center or on the wing but also move up to the second line when the need arises. The term seems a little long and the salary a little high but the Bruins are willing to pay it to keep him in the fold.