NHL Offseason Lookahead – Boston Bruins
The Lightning, Bruins, and Avalanche march on to the second round, the Canucks have the Blues on the brink of elimination, and the Canadiens stave off elimination. Check out the recaps in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Brayden Point’s overtime goal gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 5-4 series-clinching victory in Game 5 of their first-round series, avenging last year’s first-round elimination by the Blue Jackets. Point also picked up two assists while Nikita Kucherov collected three helpers. Alexander Wennberg and Nick Foligno each had a goal and an assist for the Jackets.
GAME AND SERIES! Bolts win 5-4 in OT!
Brayden Point is Mr. Clutch again for the @TBLightning!
— FOX Sports Bolts (@FOXSportsBolts) August 19, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was easily the most entertaining game of this series. The Lightning saw an early 2-0 lead erased as the Jackets took a 4-2 lead, but rallied back to tie the game, setting the stage for Point’s overtime heroics. It was a tough loss for the plucky Jackets, but their lack of scoring depth cost them against a Lightning club more motivated and better-prepared compared to last year’s series.
Patrice Bergeron’s goal in the dying seconds of the second period held up as the winner to give the Boston Bruins a series-clinching 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of their opening-round series. David Krejci tallied the game-tying goal in the second period and the Bruins shut the door on the Hurricanes in the third.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins recovered their dominant form following a lackluster round-robin. They also overcame the departure of starting goalie Tuukka Rask for family reasons midway through this series. The Hurricanes have a bright future but they still have depth issues to sort out. Losing sniper Andrei Svechnikov to a leg injury in Game 3 didn’t help.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon’s four-point performance (two goals, two assists) carried his club to a series-clinching 7-1 drubbing of the Arizona Coyotes in Game 5 of their first-round series. Nazem Kadri also scored twice for the Avs in their second-straight lopsided win. Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper gave up six goals on 30 shots. Following the game, it was revealed Arizona forward Christian Dvorak played this series with a separated shoulder.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Don’t blame Kuemper for his club’s implosion. The Coyotes were overmatched from the start, and it was only because of their starting goaltender that they kept this series reasonably close through the first three games. The dam burst in Game 4 and there was no stopping the Avs’ offensive flood in Game 5.
The Vancouver Canucks have the defending champion St. Louis Blues on the brink of elimination following a 4-3 comeback win in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in their series. The Canucks overcame a 3-1 deficit with unanswered second-period goals by J.T. Miller, Jake Virtanen, and Tyler Motte, who scored twice in this contest.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues appeared to have this one in the bag when they went up 3-1, but they sagged as the Canucks pushed back throughout the second period. It was a costly win for the Canucks as defenseman Alexander Edler left the game after being struck in the head by a skate. An update on his status could come later today.
The Montreal Canadiens staved off elimination with a wild 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 of their first-round series. Joel Armia scored twice, Nick Suzuki tallied the game-winner, and Brendan Gallagher snapped his goalless drought. Jakub Voracek scored twice for the Flyers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the most physical contest of the series. Jesperi Kotkaniemi earned a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding Travis Sanheim in the second period, which the Flyers cashed in on with two power-play goals. The Habs rallied back with two goals to regain the lead. Joel Farabee tied it early in the third before Nick Suzuki and Phillip Danault put it away for the Habs. Gallagher set the tone for the Habs with his feisty play but may have suffered a fractured jaw after being cross-checked in the mouth by Matt Niskanen, who could face supplemental discipline.
MASSLIVE.com: Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask reportedly left the club to deal with a specific family emergency. Rask spoke with WEEI’s Greg Hill, who said the netminder received a call from his wife that there was a medical emergency with their daughter. Hill didn’t reveal the details of what Rask told him, adding that the goalie’s daughter is okay now.
NEW YORK POST: Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck will be in the lineup against the Washington Capitals in Game 5 tonight. Clutterbuck left Game 4 following a low hit from Capitals defenseman Radko Gudas. The Islanders lead the series 3-1.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): James Mirtle reports the Toronto Maple Leafs received permission from the Minnesota Wild to speak with former head coach Bruce Boudreau. No formal interview has been conducted and the Leafs declined to comment, but sources close to Boudreau say he’s intrigued. The Leafs seek a replacement for departed assistant coach Paul McFarland.
TSN: The Washington Capitals signed goaltender Zach Fucale to a one-year, two-way contract.
Has Tuukka Rask played his final game with the Bruins? Could the Rangers be tempted to trade the first-overall pick? What’s the latest on the Panthers? Find out in the Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
COULD THE BRUINS AND RASK PART WAYS?
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Kevin Paul Dupont suggests it might be time for the Bruins and goaltender Tuukka Rask to part ways. This comes in the wake of Rask’s decision to return home for family reasons. While the club is supportive of the goalie’s decision, and Dupont is also sympathetic, the pundit points out this isn’t the first time he’s taken a leave of absence for family reasons.
Rask has one season left on his contract, but Dupont feels the Bruins cannot have uncertainty between the pipes, especially in the starter’s position. He notes the Bruins can trade the netminder to one of the 15 teams on the list he was obligated to provide in February. He believes Bruins general manager Don Sweeney “will be working the phones.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Every statement coming from the Bruins’ organization supports Rask’s decision and I feel they’ve handled this situation well considering the circumstances His critics will condemn him for bailing on the team. We don’t know the full story but it appears to be something he carefully considered for some time.
I don’t fault Rask for putting his family first. The same goes for anyone else regardless of profession. It’s difficult to focus on a job when you’re worried about your family.
Rask’s decision, however, does raise questions over the goaltender’s future in Boston. Some will suggest a trade, others retirement.
Dupont feels the Bruins GM and coach need to know who they can count on during the good times, bad times, and especially during the playoffs. If that’s the rationale the Bruins use to trade Rask (and that’s a big “if” at this point), it will hurt his value in the trade market. If Rask returns next season, they could keep their goalie tandem intact with Jaroslav Halak for one more season.
COULD THE RANGERS SHOP THE FIRST-OVERALL PICK?
ESPN.COM: The New York Rangers won the draft lottery, but Greg Wyshynski notes this year’s top prospect, left-wing Alexis Lafreniere, won’t address their need for a skilled centerman. They’re already well-stocked at the left-wing position with Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider.
Wyshynski points out the Rangers could land a proven center and help on defense by shopping the first-overall pick. A bidding war could get started among clubs seeking a skilled left-winger. However, just because it’s an option doesn’t make it the best one.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Lisa Dillman cites former NHL GM Brian Burke suggesting the Rangers have got to listen if someone is going to come after that pick hard, but he notes those offers usually aren’t good.
Dillman wondered if the Los Angeles Kings, who own the second-overall pick, might contact the Rangers. The presence of No. 2 prospect Quinton Byfield (a center) might entice the Rangers to listen. While the Kings have depth in center prospects and the Blueshirts have a need at that position, it doesn’t mean there’s a fit there.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ll be surprised if the Rangers don’t get some calls about that pick. Maybe from the Kings, perhaps from the Ottawa Senators, possibly from the Montreal Canadiens or another club in dire need of a potential scoring star. However, it’ll take a significant offer to convince them to part with that pick. Ultimately, I expect the Rangers will keep the pick, select Lafreniere, and find other ways to boost their depth at center, either internally or through the trade or free-agent markets.
LATEST ON THE PANTHERS
FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: George Richards noted whoever becomes the Florida Panthers new GM will have decisions to make regarding unrestricted free agents such as Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman.
Richards suggests the flat salary cap could work to the Panthers’ advantage if they want to re-sign a couple of their UFAs without breaking the bank. Dadonov and Hoffman seem to enjoy living in Florida and playing for the Panthers, but they might have to accept short-term deals if they hope to stay. However, their production could make them cost-prohibitive if the Panthers decide to cut payroll.
Improving the defense should be the Panthers’ priority. Richards notes blueliner Mike Matheson has six years left on his contract at $4.8 million per season and was scratched from the final two games of the postseason. If they’re willing to give up on Matheson’s potential it might not be easy to move his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The lack of a state tax also works in the Panthers’ favor if they hope to re-sign Dadonov and Hoffman. It’ll be interesting to see what transpires with those two as they approach free agency. They could test the market and then return to the Panthers if there’s nothing to their liking. That’ll depend, of course, on who takes over the GM’s chair between now and then.
Matheson frequently surfaced in this year’s rumor mill. The Panthers could be stuck with him as the decline of his play over the last couple of seasons could hurt his value in the trade market. Still, I can see the next GM calling around to see if there’s a club willing to take a chance on him.
Recaps of Saturday’s action, plus the latest on Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves backstopping the Boston Bruins over the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 in Game 3 of their opening-round series. The Bruins lead the series 2-1. Charlie Coyle, Brad Marchand, and David Krejci each had two points for the Bruins.
Halak took over as the Bruins’ starter after Tuukka Rask released a statement before yesterday’s game indicating he was leaving the team and returning home for family reasons. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said the club supported Rask’s decision.
It was a costly loss for the Hurricanes as first-line winger Andrei Svechnikov left the game with an injured leg after jostling in front of the Boston net with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 15, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That game had a surreal feeling, starting with the sudden news of Rask’s departure followed by Svechnikov’s injury. The latter prompted a crass, misinformed tweet by NESN’s play-by-play man Jack Edwards chiding the Hurricanes’ winger, in turn sparking an outpouring of criticism toward Edwards, including from several NHL TV analysts and pundits.
While Rask is expected to return to the Bruins next season, there is already speculation he may have played his final NHL game. I’ll have more on that later today in the Rumors section.
The Hurricanes could provide an update on Svechnikov’s status, but head coach Rod Brind’Amour suggested the injury looked “really bad” during his post-game presser. Losing their best winger would leave a big void in the Hurricanes’ lineup.
The Vegas Golden Knights have the Chicago Blackhawks on the ropes as they hung on for a 2-1 win in Game 3 to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. Marc-Andre Fleury made his first start of this series for Vegas, turning in a 26-save performance. William Karlsson and Patrick Brown scored for Vegas while Olli Maatta replied for the Blackhawks.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blackhawks had several good scoring chances but failed to cash in. The Golden Knights can complete the sweep later today.
Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper tied a career-high 49 saves carrying his club to a 4-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 3 of their opening-round series. The Avs lead the series 2-1. Taylor Hall tallied the game-winner late in the third period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes have been outshot and outplayed through most of their games in this postseason but Kuemper’s made the difference. He stole this game for the Coyotes, keeping them from falling behind 3-0 to the powerful Avalanche.
Victor Hedman’s second-period goal proved to be the game-winner as the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series. Lightning center Brayden Point also scored to extend his points streak to six games. Riley Nash had a goal and an assist for the Jackets, who were held to just seven shots in the second and third periods.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This has been a low-scoring grinder of a series. Unlike last season’s opening-round series, this year’s rematch shows the Lightning are willing to play that type of game. The Jackets have relied on strong goaltender and defense to get this far, but they need more goal production if they hope to upset the Bolts for the second time.
RUSSIAN MACHINE NEVER BREAKS: Washington Capitals coach Todd Reirden said Nicklas Backstrom participated in practice yesterday but was reluctant to commit to the center’s status for Game 3 today against the New York Islanders. Backstrom was sidelined following a late hit from Islanders captain Anders Lee in Game 1.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Kurt Leavins reports Oilers defenseman Mike Green has retired.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No official word yet from Green or his representatives. It wouldn’t be surprising if the veteran blueliner has decided to hang up his skates. An unrestricted free agent at season’s end, the 34-year-old Green is coming to the end of his career. He opted out of return-to-play citing family reasons.
SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reports there’s concern some of the top European prospects in the 2020 NHL Draft might not be permitted to play in the NHL in 2020-21 because of COVID-19.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Most of the European prospects were probably going to remain overseas for next season anyway. I don’t think it’ll adversely affect their standing in this year’s draft.
Check out the latest on the Penguins and Wild in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Josh Yohe and Rob Rossi report rival team executives believe Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford could explore trading Kris Letang, despite Rutherford saying he wanted to keep the blueliner among his core players. One executive claimed Letang still has value in the trade market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Letang’s age (33), annual average salary ($7.25 million through 2021-22), and injury history are significant sticking points. While he has an 18-team trade list, his no-movement clause means he cannot be demoted to the minors. With two-thirds of the teams facing a cap crunch for 2020-21, moving Letang seems a remote possibility.
They also reported the Penguins’ decision to release assistant coach Sergei Gonchar isn’t a sign of renewed strain between head coach Mike Sullivan and Evgeni Malkin, who is close to Gonchar. Despite occasional disputes, management believes Malkin respects Sullivan. They also said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby let it be known last year that he doesn’t want Malkin traded unless the center asks to be moved. Malkin has indicated he wants to finish his career with the Penguins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Malkin’s name is always brought up by somebody in the rumor mill as a trade option whenever the Penguins fall short of expectations. Yohe and Rossi remind us he’s got a full no-movement clause, giving him full control over his NHL future for the remainder of his contract, which expires in 2022. Malkin’s not going anywhere unless he wants out, and he isn’t interested in that option.
Yohe also believes Matt Murray could be on his way out, suggesting he needs a change of scenery. He anticipates Rutherford will find a way to move center Nick Bjugstad, who has a year remaining on his contract worth $4.1 million. He also doesn’t rule out Jared McCann and Zach Aston-Reese becoming trade candidates.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless Rutherford sheds salary, the Penguins cannot afford to re-sign Murray and fellow RFA goaltender Tristan Jarry. I think Murray hits the trade block following the postseason.
Yohe doesn’t expect pending unrestricted free agents like Justin Schultz, Patrick Marleau, and Conor Sheary will be back.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Michael Russo recently raised several questions about possible offseason moves by the Minnesota Wild.
One was whether Wild GM Bill Guerin would bundle some assets, including either Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba, to acquire a first-line center, or attempt to sign one via free agency. Russo also wondered if Guerin might shop one of his goalies, acquire one via trade or free agency, and/or promote promising Kaapo Kahkonen.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Dumba would have better trade value, and might even fetch a first-line center in a one-for-one swap. That move, however, would address one problem but create another, as Dumba is (in my opinion) their best defenseman. Guerin will have to look to the trade market as this year’s UFA market is thin on quality centers.
As for their goalies, Russo pointed out adding one could mean buying out Devan Dubnyk, a move that could suggest Kahkonen’s not the goalie of the future. Dubnyk’s only got one year left on his contract. It might be worthwhile standing pat between the pipes and see how next season unfolds. They’ll have a better idea of Kahkonen’s readiness and can let Dubnyk walk via free agency.
Russo wondered if Guerin might revisit his failed trade-deadline attempt to ship Zach Parise to the New York Islanders. He also mused about buying out Dubnyk or Victor Rask if they can’t trade them, and if they’ll find a way to move expensive winger Mats Zuccarello, who also carries a no-movement clause.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The attempted Parise deal was done before COVID-19 derailed the schedule and flattened the salary cap. I don’t see that trade happening, especially with the Isles’ limited cap space. Buying out Dubnyk and Rask creates around $4 million in dead cap space next season, over $2.1 million in 2021-22, and $1.33 million for each of the following two seasons.
The Wild are likely stuck with Zuccarello for a while unless he’s willing to waive his NMC and they’re willing to either pick up part of his $6 million AAV or bundle him with a sweetener like a high draft pick or top prospect.
Recaps of Friday’s action, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask opts out of return-to-play, the King Clancy Memorial Trophy finalists are announced, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat opened and finished the scoring as he led his club to a 4-3 overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues, taking a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven opening-round series. Horvat’s game-winner came after the Blues’ Jaden Schwartz tied the game in the dying seconds of regulation. Canucks forwards Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser each had two points, as did the Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo and David Perron.
— Here’s Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 15, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Blues outhit the Canucks 41-27 but struggled at times to keep up with their speedy young opponents. They’re also getting no production from sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. The Canucks have an opportunity to take a stranglehold on this series in Game 3 on Sunday.
Tomas Tatar and Jesperi Kotkaniemi each scored twice as the Montreal Canadiens thumped the Philadelphia Flyers 5-0 to square their first-round series at one game apiece. Carey Price kicked out 30 shots for his second shutout of the postseason. Flyers winger Travis Konecny left the game in the third period after injuring his left foot blocking a shot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Determined to win this game for sidelined coach Claude Julien, the Canadiens came out flying with a rare dominating performance. Flyers coach Alain Vigneault expressed his displeasure following the game over Habs interim coach Kirk Muller putting his top power-play unit on the ice late in the game. Muller said it was merely to give a little more work to his club’s erratic play with the man advantage.
Vigneault indicated he’d try to use that as motivation for his players in Game 3. If that’s his intended rallying point, the Flyers could be in worse shape than we thought. They’re a better team than what we’ve seen thus far in this series, but most of their scoring forwards have fired blanks thus far in this postseason. If those players don’t start scoring soon, the Flyers could be in big trouble against the underdog Habs.
Calgary Flames goaltender Cam Talbot made 35 saves to shut out the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 3 of their series, putting his club up two games to one. Mikael Backlund and T.J. Brodie were the goalscorers for the Flames, who hope to have sidelined winger Matthew Tkachuk back in their lineup for Game 3 on Sunday. Earlier in the day, the Flames announced forward Austin Czarnik has returned home to attend to a personal matter.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Talbot stole this one for the Flames, as the Stars dominated the play for most of this contest. They were also their own worst enemies, missing several quality scoring chances.
Three unanswered goals by Brock Nelson, Cal Clutterbuck, and Anders Lee powered the New York Islanders over the Washington Capitals 5-2, giving the Isles a 2-0 series lead. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied both goals for his club.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Islanders were the better-disciplined team in this contest, as the Capitals were sloppy defensively and took too many unnecessary penalties. Without a better effort in Game 3, the Caps could fall into a hole too deep to climb out of against the determined Isles.
The Colorado Avalanche took a 2-0 series lead over the Arizona Coyotes with a 3-2 victory. Andre Burakovsky snapped a 2-2 tie with 2:53 remaining in regulation.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a disappointing defeat for the Coyotes, who had a strong bounce-back effort after being dominated by the Avs in Game 1. Game 3 now becomes a must-win for the Desert Dogs.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has opted out of participating further in the return-to-play plan. In a statement released by the team, Rask indicated he’s making the decision for family reasons. “I want to be with my teammates competing, but at this moment there are things more important than hockey in my life, and that is being with my family.” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Rask’s priorities are in the right order, noting the goalie had a newborn baby daughter born just months ahead of the return-to-play in Toronto.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Losing their starting goaltender is a significant blow for the Bruins in the midst of their opening-round series with the Carolina Hurricanes. Backup Jaroslav Halak will take over the starter’s role, and NBC Sports suggests Daniel Vladar will be Halak’s understudy.
Some will rush to criticize Rask’s actions, but we don’t know the full story other than it’s for family reasons. He may have found being isolated from his family for weeks simply too difficult to bear. The Bruins and the league are respecting his decision. We should too.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, and New Jersey Devils blueliner P.K. Subban are the finalists for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, presented annually to the player “who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community.”
THE BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins winger David Pastrnak didn’t practice yesterday and remains uncertain for Game 3 today against the Carolina Hurricanes. The 48-goal scorer was unfit to play in Game 2 following an apparent left injury in the previous game.
TSN: The Florida Panthers plan to interview former Los Angeles Kings assistant GM Mike Futa as they search for a replacement for former general manager Dale Tallon.
TORONTO SUN: The Maple Leafs have let go of assistant coaches Paul McFarland and Andrew Brewer.
WGR550: The Buffalo Sabres are reportedly hiring Seth Appert as head coach of their AHL affiliate in Rochester.
LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Kings have suspended the mascot actor who performs as team mascot Bailey. He is being investigated for alleged sexual misconduct.