Dallas Stars Stumbling At Quarter-Point Of The NHL Season
The Stars draw first blood in their second-round series with the Avalanche, plus the latest on Marc-Andre Fleury, Steven Stamkos, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Dallas Stars took a 1-0 lead in their second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche with a 5-3 victory in the opening game. The Stars’ first line led the way, with Alexander Radulov scoring twice and collecting an assist, Tyler Seguin opening the scoring and assisting on another, and captain Jamie Benn adding three helpers.
Nathan MacKinnon had a three-point game (two goals, one assist) for the Avalanche, who lost starting goalie Philipp Grubauer with an apparent left leg injury during the second period. Avs defenseman Erik Johnson also suffered a lower-body injury in the first period. He tried to return during the second and spent the third period on the bench.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Led by their first-liners, the Stars dominated much of the play in this game. Apart from MacKinnon, the Avs failed to match their opponent’s intensity.
We could learn more about the status of Grubauer and Johnson later today. Colorado coach Jared Bednar didn’t sound optimistic about his goalie returning to action for Game 2. “He won’t be hitting the ice tomorrow or anything like that,” said Bednar. While he’s hopeful Grubauer can return soon, he indicated backup Pavel Francouz will have to get the job done during his starter’s absence.
SPORTSNET: A suggestive social media post by the agent for Marc-Andre Fleury raised eyebrows and questions over the status of the Vegas Golden Knights netminder. Allan Walsh yesterday tweeted a picture depicting Fleury with a sword in his back and the name “DeBoer” on the blade, suggesting Walsh’s client was being stabbed in the back by Vegas coach Peter DeBoer.
Fleury has appeared in just two postseason contests with Robin Lehner getting the bulk of the starts. Elliotte Friedman last night reported Fleury remains with the Golden Knights and the club seems to be ignoring Walsh’s provocative post. Neither side issued a statement on the matter, but Friedman indicated Fleury met with team officials yesterday and they’re satisfied this won’t be an issue.
— Allan Walsh (@walsha) August 22, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I understand Walsh has Fleury’s best interests at heart and he’s going to bat for his client, but this post was over the top. The Golden Knights are trying to win the Stanley Cup. DeBoer is simply going with the better goalie. Right now, that’s Lehner. Walsh’s post created an unnecessary distraction for his client and the team.
CBS SPORTS: Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper said team captain Steven Stamkos won’t be available for Game 1 of their club’s second-round series against the Boston Bruins. Stamkos remains sidelined by a lower-body injury suffered during Phase 2 training.
TSN: Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher underwent surgery on Friday for his fractured jaw and returned home to British Columbia. He was also playing with a slight tear in his hip suffered during the qualifying-round series with Pittsburgh.
THE SCORE: NBC Sports hockey analyst Mike Milbury issued a statement yesterday indicating he was temporarily stepping away from his role following an insensitive remark made about women during a broadcast on Thursday. The remark was condemned by the network and the league shortly afterward.
In addition to the shoulder injury, I reported previously on Christian Dvorak, Rick Tocchet said Conor Garland had a head injury & Brad Richardson had a thumb injury that will require offseason surgery. With C/F Nick Schmaltz also out, the Coyotes’ center position was hard hit. — Craig Morgan (@CraigSMorgan) August 21, 2020
The league continues evaluating its options to resume the season while looking ahead at 2020-21, plus the latest on Alexander Radulov, Sidney Crosby and much more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league continues to entertain all options regarding the resumption of the 2019-20 season. “In terms of where we go from here, we’re modeling all sorts of options and everything is on the table,” he said. “But we’re going to have to be flexible and react to things that are beyond our control.
Bettman hopes the Ottawa Senators player who tested positive for COVID-19 makes a swift recovery. He also said the league is taking steps to ensure all its employees are safe and taken care of during this crisis. Bettman indicated he’s been in constant contact with businesses, other hockey leagues and sports leagues.
NBC SPORTS: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said playing a full 82-games schedule in 2020-21 is the league’s priority. Whatever steps are taken to resume this season must not adversely affect its ability to stage a full ’20-’21 campaign.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If maintaining the remainder of the current schedule creates risk for 2020-21, I believe they’ll either cancel the rest of the regular season in favor of staging the 2020 playoffs. If that isn’t feasible, they’ll have to scrap the entire thing and focus on staging a full ’20-’21 campaign.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks say none of their players have shown COVID-19 symptoms at this time. They’ll continue monitoring their players through the league’s self-quarantine period through March 27. An Ottawa Senators player tested positive for the virus after coming down with symptoms following his return from the club’s recent California road trip.
THE DENVER POST: The Colorado Avalanche may have been exposed to the coronavirus during a recent road game against the San Jose Sharks. Santa Clara County, where the Sharks play their home games, was a coronavirus hot spot at the time.
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars winger Alexander Radulov tested negative for COVID-19. Radulov was ill for six days before the league pausing its schedule a week ago, missing two games.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby canceled his summer hockey school in Cole Harbour, NS as a result of the current pandemic.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: Speaking of the Penguins, general manager Jim Rutherford and team president and CEO David Morehouse will take voluntary pay cuts to ensure other members of the Penguins staff won’t be financially affected by the pandemic.
SPORTSNET: The Montreal Canadiens recently donated 13,000 pounds to a local food bank. The food was originally slated to be used during the remainder of the club’s home games in March.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: The Bruins are the only NHL team yet to announce how they’ll take care of their employees during this pandemic. A group of concerned Bruins players is running a GoFundMe page soliciting donations to help TD Garden employees. The club last week released a statement indicating they intend to reveal further information about helping those employees, citing the sheer size of their parent company Delaware North as one of the challenges.
THE SCORE: Seattle’s NHL expansion franchise has pushed back its March 31 plan to unveil its team nickname.
THE HOCKEY NEWS: CHL leagues canceled the remainder of their regular-season schedules.
NBC SPORTS: The USHL and NAHL canceled its seasons.
ESPN.COM: The cancellations of all NCAA winter and spring championships robbed Cornell University of a shot at a rare double national championship. Their men’s and women’s teams are both ranked No. 1 in the country.
BARDOWN: Former NHL enforcer Tie Domi ripped into Hockey Hall of Famer Scott Stevens, calling the former New Jersey Devils defenseman “the biggest phony” he ever played against.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: What do you think, folks? Is Domi right? Or is it merely a case of sour grapes? Feel free to weigh in via the comments section below.
NBC SPORTS: The 10 finalists for the 2020 Hobey Baker Award have been revealed:
Morgan Barron, Jr., F, Cornell
Jason Cotton, Sr., F, Sacred Heart
Jack Dugan, So., F, Providence
David Farrance, Jr., D, Boston University
Jordan Kawaguchi, Jr., F, North Dakota
John Leonard, Jr., F, Massachusetts
Dryden McKay, So., G, Minnesota State
Marc Michaelis, Sr., F, Minnesota State
Scott Perunovich, Jr., D, Minnesota Duluth
Jeremy Swayman, Jr., G, Maine
The NHL schedule may be paused, but the trade and free-agent rumor mill rolls on. Check out the latest on the Oilers and Stars.
PAUSE IN THE SEASON COULD AFFECT OILERS OFF-SEASON PLANS
THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell recently speculated the Edmonton Oilers’ player evaluations and summer plans could be affected by the current pause in the NHL schedule. Those evaluations include recently-acquired players like Mike Green, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Ellis, as well as possible summer free-agent targets like Taylor Hall and Mike Hoffman. Green and Ellis are also eligible for UFA status this summer, while Athanasiou is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
Mitchell acknowledged bringing Hall back to Edmonton seems improbable because of the cost of signing him and the Oilers’ limited salary-cap space. Pursuing younger, less expensive options would be preferable.
Mitchell also examines the difficulties facing the Oilers if the salary cap remains at $81.5 million for 2020-21. They currently have over $71.2 million invested in 17 players. Re-signing RFAs like Athanasiou, Ethan Bear, and Matt Benning could gobble up $7.5 million, leaving only around $2 million available. General manager Ken Holland must also re-sign or replace UFA goalie Mike Smith.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A flat cap means Holland must find a way to shed salary to re-sign key players and replace those who depart via free agency this summer. Perhaps the league and the NHLPA will agree to allow one-time amnesty buyouts if the cap doesn’t rise for ’20-’21.
Otherwise, Holland will have to get creative and that means dumping salary via trades. Problem is, there will be other clubs in the same boat and there won’t be as many with sufficient cap space to take on additional salary for next season.
SHOULD THE STARS SHOP RADULOV IN A COST-CUTTING DEAL?
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: In a recent mailbag segment, Matthew DeFranks was asked about if the Stars could move winger Alexander Radulov this summer to free up cap space to add a young second-line center. Radulov’s no-movement clause becomes a modified no-trade on July 1.
DeFranks acknowledged it’s possible but doubts Radulov would fetch a second-line center. “This is the player you’d be trading: a 34-year-old (on July 5) winger with a cap hit of $6.25 million that is coming off a career-worst goal-scoring year. That’s not going to get the value Radulov probably gets last year at this time.”
He also pointed out this summer’s free-agent market is heavy on wingers and light on centers. He suggested Roope Hintz, who plays wing or center, could be their second-line center.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I concur with DeFrank’s take on Radulov’s value and his assessment of the free-agent market. Unless there’s an amnesty buyout implemented this summer if the salary cap remains flat, Stars GM Jim Nill would have to look at cost-cutting trades if he wants to shed salary to address his roster needs.
The Lightning picked up their ninth straight victory, Zach Sanford scored four goals in a losing cause for the Blues, Zack Kassian in hot water again, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Tampa Bay Lightning picked up their ninth consecutive win by dropping the Edmonton Oilers 3-1. Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy extended his franchise-record points streak to 20 games. Oilers winger Zack Kassian could get a call from the NHL department of player safety for kicking the Lightning’s Erik Cernak in the chest with his skate during a first-period scrum. Cernak was unhurt in the incident. The Bolts played without Nikita Kucherov, who remains sidelined with a lower-body injury. The Lightning (81 points) move within a point of the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and the overall standings.
Zach Sanford’s four-goal performance wasn’t enough to prevent the St. Louis Blues from dropping a 6-5 overtime decision to the Vegas Golden Knights. Jonathan Marchessault scored twice, including the winning goal, while teammate Max Pacioretty also netted two goals. The Golden Knights (66 points) sit third in the Pacific Division.
Cam Talbot turned in a 44-save performance as the Calgary Flames shut out the Anaheim Ducks 6-0. Mikael Backlund and Mark Jankowski each scored twice as the Flames (66 points) hold the first wild-card spot in the West.
Tyler Seguin’s goal early in the third period proved to be the winner as the Dallas Stars held off the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2. Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen made 16 saves in his first game since suffering a neck injury on Feb. 3. Leafs forward Andreas Johnsson left the game with what’s being called a serious knee injury. Stars center Andrew Cogliano played his 1,000th career NHL game. Earlier in the day, the Stars placed winger Alexander Radulov (upper body) on injured reserve while the Leafs placed goalie Michael Hutchinson on waivers.
Craig Smith tallied his first NHL hat trick and Juuse Saros turned in a 31-save shutout as the Nashville Predators blanked the New York Islanders 5-0. With 61 points, the Predators move to within three points of the Coyotes for the final Western Conference wild-card berth.
Philadelphia Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk scored and set up two others to lead his club over the Florida Panthers 6-2. Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled after giving up three goals on nine shots. The Panthers (66 points) remains two points behind the Leafs for third in the Atlantic Division.
Buffalo Sabres rookie Victor Olofsson scored twice, including the game-winner, as the Buffalo Sabres upset the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3. It was Olofsson’s first game since being sidelined by a lower-body injury on Jan. 2. Sabres captain Jack Eichel had a goal and two assists. The Jackets (71 points) hold the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Washington Capitals overcame a 2-0 deficit to edge the Colorado Avalanche 3-2. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was held scoreless for the third straight game and remains two goals shy of 700 for his career.
Wayne Simmonds scored twice as the New Jersey Devils tallied four unanswered third-period goals in a 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Earlier in the day, the Devils placed defenseman Sami Vatanen (undisclosed) on injured reserve.
A two-goal first period enabled the Ottawa Senators to nip the Arizona Coyotes 3-2, snapping their six-game losing skid. The Coyotes (64 points) cling to the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Shootout goals by Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin gave the New York Rangers a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Wild. Panarin also tallied a goal and an assist in regulation. The loss keeps the Wild (61 points) three back of the Coyotes.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara was fined $5,000.00 by the NHL department of player safety for cross-checking Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher in the face on Wednesday.