NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 4, 2023

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – January 4, 2023

Hat-trick performances by the Sabres’ Tage Thompson and the Panthers’ Matthew Tkachuk while Auston Matthews sets a Leafs franchise record. Details and much more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres center Tage Thompson tallied in overtime for his third hat trick of the season in a 5-4 win over the Washington Capitals. Thompson finished the night with four points while Alex Tuch had a goal and two assists for the Sabres, who improve to 19-15-2. Alex Ovechkin tallied twice for the 21-13-6 Capitals.

Buffalo Sabres center Tage Thompson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thompson has 30 goals on the season and sits three back of Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid for the goal-scoring lead. The Sabres, meanwhile, have won seven of their last 10 games. With 40 points, they’re six back of the New York Islanders for the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.

Before the game, the Sabres entered Capital One Center in Washington wearing t-shirts that read, “Love for 3” to honor Buffalo Bill safety Damar Hamlin, who remains hospitalized in critical condition after collapsing during Monday’s NFL game against the Bengals. Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams released a statement in support of Hamlin and the Bills’ organization.

Matthew Tkachuk tallied his first hat trick with the Florida Panthers as they downed the Arizona Coyotes 5-3. Eric Staal also scored twice for the Panthers (17-18-4) while Clayton Keller had two points for the 13-18-5 Coyotes, who’ve lost 10 straight road games.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews collected two points to become the fastest player in franchise history to reach 500 points (445 games) but his club fell 6-5 to the St. Louis Blues. Brayden Schenn tallied the winner in the shootout while Brandon Saad scored two goals for the Blues, who improved to 18-17-3. Michael Bunting scored twice and William Nylander had a three-point performance for the 23-8-7 Maple Leafs.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Speaking of Bunting, the Leafs have reportedly opened preliminary talks about a contract extension for the winger, who’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July.

The Tampa Bay Lightning picked up their fourth straight victory by defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1. Former Blackhawk Brandon Hagel had a goal and an assist in the third period against his former club as the Lightning rose to 24-11-1 on the season. Seth Jones replied for the Blackhawks, who dropped to 8-25-4.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane left this game in the second period with a lower-body injury. An update on his condition is expected on Wednesday.

Three unanswered third-period goals by Artemi Panarin, K’Andre Miller and Filip Chytil gave the New York Rangers a 5-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, snapping the latter’s 11-game win streak. Paul Stastny collected two assists for Carolina (25-7-6) while the Rangers improved to 21-12-6. With 56 points, the Hurricanes remain six back of the league-leading Boston Bruins.

Los Angeles Kings goaltender Pheonix Copley stopped 28 shots to backstop his club over the Dallas Stars by a score of 3-2. Adrian Kempe snapped a 2-2 tie in the third period as the Kings (22-13-6) reach the 50-point plateau, sitting four points behind the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights. Roope Hintz collected two assists for the 23-10-6 Stars as their four-game win streak came to an end. With 52 points, they’re two back of the Golden Knights for first overall in the Western Conference.

The Winnipeg Jets got a 33-save performance from Connor Hellebuyck in a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames. Sam Gagner tallied the tie-breaker in the third period as the Jets improved to 24-13-1 and sit three points behind the first-place Stars in the Central Division. The Flames’ record fell to 18-14-7 on the season.

Four straight second-period goals carried the Seattle Kraken over the Edmonton Oilers 5-2. Jaden Schwartz had a goal and two assists for the Kraken (20-12-4) as they sit in third place in the Pacific Division with 44 points, one up on the Flames and two ahead of the Oilers. Connor McDavid netted his league-leading 33rd goal of the season for the Oilers (20-17-2) as they dropped their fifth straight home game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Leon Draisaitl returned to the Oilers lineup after being sidelined for two games with what was believed to be a core muscle strain.

A three-point night by Mathew Barzal carried the New York Islanders to a 6-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored twice for the Isles, who improved to 22-15-2 and hold the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference with 46 points. Bo Horvat scored twice for the Canucks as they dropped to 16-18-3.

Ottawa Senators goalie Anton Forsberg turned in a 22-save shutout to blank the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0. Tim Stutzle and Claude Giroux each had two points for the Senators (18-17-3) while the Blue Jackets slide to 11-23-2 on the season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Speaking of the Senators, a source told the Ottawa Sun that it could take until March to determine who the club’s new owner will be. Even then, the paperwork to complete the sale might not be done until June.

The Nashville Predators downed the Montreal Canadiens 6-3, handing the latter their fifth straight loss and leaving them with just one win in their last 10 games. Nino Niederreiter had three assists for the 16-14-6 Predators. Cole Caufield netted his 22nd goal of the season for the 15-20-3 Canadiens.

IN OTHER NEWS…

DETROIT HOCKEY NOW: The Red Wings placed winger Jakub Vrana on waivers yesterday. The move comes as the club attempts to create roster space for sidelined players such as Robby Fabbri, Tyler Bertuzzi and Filip Zadina slated to return soon to their lineup.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vrana missed most of this season in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program and is currently with the Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids on a conditioning stint.

A rival club interested in bolstering their scoring could pluck Vrana off waivers today by the noon ET deadline. He’s under contract through next season but also carries a $5.25 million annual average value. Given the high number of teams that Cap Friendly indicates have less than that in cap space, it’ll be interesting to see if he gets plucked off the waiver wire later today.

The Red Wings are carrying three goaltenders. However, they decided against putting Alex Nedeljkovic or the well-traveled Magnus Hellberg on waivers for the purpose of sending one of them to the minors for the time being.

LAS VEGAS SUN’s Danny Webster took to Twitter yesterday to report the Golden Knights have taken center Jack Eichel off injured reserve.

PHILLY HOCKEY NOW: The Flyers activated promising winger Bobby Brink off injured reserve and have sent him to their AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: The Penguins have recalled goalie Dustin Tokarski from the AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. They’ve also placed defenseman Kris Letang on their non-roster list as he’s joined his family in Montreal following the recent death of his father.










The 2022-23 NHL Season Could Be The Highest Scoring Since The Early ’90s

The 2022-23 NHL Season Could Be The Highest Scoring Since The Early ’90s

NHL scoring has steadily increased in recent years.

In 2015-16, the 2.71 goals average was the lowest since 2003-04 (2.57), which was the final season of the “Dead Puck Era”. It has since risen by each season, reaching 3.14 in 2021-22. The last time it was that high was 1995-96.

That season saw eight players, including Hall-of-Famers Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic and Paul Kariya, reach or exceed the 50-goal plateau. Two of them (Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr) scored over 60 goals.

Twelve players, including Lemieux, Jagr, Sakic, Kariya and Hall-of-Fame stars like Peter Forsberg, Eric Lindros, Ron Francis, Teemu Selanne, Sergei Fedorov and Wayne Gretzky, reached or exceeded 100 points.

2021-22 saw four players reach 50 goals, with Auston Matthews becoming the first player in 10 years to score 60 goals. Eight players, including Matthews, Edmonton Oilers’ superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, netted 100-plus points.

Those stats may pale somewhat to the output of the class of 1995-96. Nevertheless, they were a part of a trend that began in 2018-19 when two players reached 50 goals and six netted 100 points. That was a big jump over 2017-18 when there were no 50 goal scorers and just three players got to 100 points.

The increase in scoring is continuing this season with the goals average at 3.19, which would be the highest since 1993-94’s average of 3.24.

That season saw nine players tally 50-or-more goals, including Hall-of-Famers such as Pavel Bure (60), Brett Hull (57), Fedorov (56), Dave Andreychuk (53), Brendan Shanahan (52), Mike Modano and Cam Neely (50 each).

Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (NHL Images).

Eight others exceeded 100 points, including Gretzky winning the last scoring title (130 points) in his storied career, followed by fellow Hall-of-Fame players like Fedorov (120), Adam Oates (112), Doug Gilmour (111), Bure and Mark Recchi (107 each) and Shanahan with 102.

As of Dec. 10, 2022, this season’s top-nine goal scorers include the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid with 25, the Dallas Stars’ Jason Robertson (23), Buffalo Sabres’ Tage Thompson (21), Vancouver Canucks’ Bo Horvat (20), Boston Bruins’ David Pastrnak and the Oiler’s Leon Draisaitl (19 each), with the Minnesota Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov, the Toronto Maple Leafs William Nylander and the Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby all sitting with 17 goals.

By my rough estimate, at their current rate of production, they could all reach or exceed 50 goals by season’s end, with McDavid and Robertson potentially reaching 70 goals apiece and Thompson and Horvat netting 60 each.

Fifteen players had 35 or more points. Fourteen of them could hit 100-plus points by the end of this campaign. I’ve excluded the Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon, who has 34 points in 23 games but is sidelined for four weeks with an upper-body injury, which will likely keep him out of range for 100 points.

McDavid is the league leader with 54 points, putting him on pace to exceed 155 points. Draisaitl (46 points), Robertson (42 points) and Thompson (41 points) could reach 120 points.

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov has 39 points, Crosby has 38, Pastrnak, the Florida Panthers’ Matthew Tkachuk and the San Jose Sharks’ Erik Karlsson each have 37.

The Maple Leafs’ Mitch Marner has 35 points. Kaprizov, along with the Vancouver Canucks’ Elias Pettersson, Toronto’s Auston Matthews, and the New York Rangers’ Artemi Panarin each have 34.

Again, by my rough estimates, they could reach or exceed 100 points.

Bear in mind that scoring tends to decline over the course of the season as games become more meaningful for playoff contenders and defenses tend to tighten up. Still, these numbers suggest we could see at least five players reach the 50-goal plateau and perhaps 10 topping 100 points.

What’s behind this rise in scoring? As I recently observed in my NHL Puck Drops column in The Guardian (PEI), a combination of factors appears to be at play here.

A growing number of players are faster, younger and more highly skilled. There are more puck-moving defensemen compared to recent years. Because of the growing number of younger stars, as Philadelphia Flyers coach John Tortorella recently observed, there are also more defensive mistakes being made.

Teams have improved their play with the man advantage to generate more scoring chances. Players are also driving more to the net and getting more goals with deflections and tip-ins. The quality of goaltending also seems to be on the decline as today’s scorers appear to have figured out how to beat the butterfly style favored by goalies since the early-1990s.

The growing rise in scoring could concern those fans who fear a return to the wide-open style of the 1980s when the quality of defensive play was rather poor. I don’t think that’s going to happen because there remains an emphasis on two-way skills in today’s league.

What we could be seeing is a more entertaining style of game with more offensive chances. At the same time, we should still see skillful defensive play that doesn’t rely on uncalled obstruction that dominated the Dead Puck Era of the league 1990s and early 2000s.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 8, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 8, 2022

The Sabres’ Tage Thompson has a five-goal game, Oilers captain Connor McDavid is already halfway to 100 points this season, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin reaches another scoring milestone, and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres forward Tage Thompson scored five goals as his club crushed the Columbus Blue Jackets 9-4. Thompson tied an NHL record with four goals in the first period and tied a franchise record for the most goals in one game. Alex Tuch had four points while Rasmus Dahlin and Dylan Cozens each had three points as the Sabres improved to 12-13-1. Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each tallied twice for the Blue Jackets as they fell to 8-15-2.

Buffalo Sabres center Tage Thompson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Thompson’s six points on the night vaulted him into fourth place among this season’s top-10 scorers with 40 points. Dahlin, meanwhile, sits second among defensemen with 32 points. The Sabres currently lead the league in goals-per-game average (4.00) but their 3.69 goals-against per game is the fifth-highest. They’ll rise higher in the standings if they can improve the latter without sacrificing the former.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid became the player this season to reach the 50-point plateau in an 8-2 thrashing of the Arizona Coyotes. McDavid had two goals and two assists while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored twice and collected an assist for the 15-12-0 Oilers. Christian Fletcher collected two assists for the Coyotes (7-13-4) as they’re winless in their last six games.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi was held scoreless in this game. On Tuesday, the 24-year-old winger told a Finnish journalist that he’s not sure that he can be a scorer at the NHL level. “Twenty games in and I have one goal. It’s sad,” said Puljujarvi. “I’ve been thinking a lot about how to do things differently. Right now, I just don’t have the answer.”

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin now sits 99 goals behind Wayne Gretzky’s career record of 894 after tallying two empty-netters in a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Ovechkin had 795 career goals while his Capitals improved their record to 12-12-4. Kevin Hayes replied for Philadelphia (9-13-15). Flyers winger James van Riemsdyk returned to the lineup after missing the last 20 games with a broken index finger.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Flyers winger Travis Konecny took issue with how Ovechkin scored his second empty-netter and the two jostled along the boards. Following the game, Konecny explained that he thought the Capitals winger was deking the puck and putting it on his backhand. “Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought,” he said. Ovechkin shrugged off the incident. “They have character. They’re a good bunch of guys,” he said, chalking up Konecny’s actions to frustration over the Flyers’ loss.

New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin collected three assists to reach 600 career points as his club downed the Vegas Golden Knights 5-1. Mika Zibanejad scored twice and collected an assist while Igor Shesterkin stopped 25 shots for the Rangers (13-10-5). Jonathan Marchessault replied for the Golden Knights (19-8-1), who remain on top of the Western Conference with 39 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo remains sidelined as he’s dealing with an illness in his family. There is no timetable for his return.

The Boston Bruins got a 23-save shutout from Linus Ullmark to blank the Colorado Avalanche 4-0. Taylor Hall scored twice as the Bruins (21-3-1) regained first place in the overall standings with the New Jersey Devils. Both clubs have 43 points but the Bruins hold a game in hand.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins played well and deserved this win but I think this game (and the one the two clubs played on Dec. 3) would’ve been more closely contested if the Avalanche roster wasn’t depleted by injuries. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Valeri Nichushkin, Josh Manson, Artturi Lehkonen, Bo Byram and Evan Rodrigues are among the notables missing from their lineup for this contest.

The Calgary Flames improved their record to 13-10-3 with a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild. Tyler Toffoli scored twice while Elias Lindholm and Rasman Andersson each had three points. Minnesota winger Kirill Kaprizov scored for the seventh straight game while extending his points streak to 13 games. The Wild are 13-10-2 on the season.

An overtime goal by Elias Pettersson lifted the Vancouver Canucks over the San Jose Sharks by a score of 6-5. Dakota Joshua tallied twice for the Canucks as they reach .500 for the first time this season with a record of 12-12-3. Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture each collected two points for the 8-16-5 Sharks.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks have won three straight games in overtime with Pettersson scoring the game-winner in two of those contests. With 27 points, they’re two points out of a wild-card berth in the Western Conference.

HEADLINES

FLORIDA HOCKEY NOW: Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov has missed the last six games battling pneumonia. He’s expected to return to action on Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings.

TSN: The Seattle Kraken will release center Shane Wright to play for Team Canada at the upcoming World Junior Championship in Halifax and Moncton.

LA KINGS INSIDER: The Kings will loan defenseman Brandt Clarke to Canada’s WJC squad.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins prospect Sam Poulin is taking a leave of absence from the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for personal reasons.

NHL.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes have assigned defenseman Dylan Coghlan to the AHL affiliate in Chicago on a conditioning stint.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite suggests deflections and tip-in are partly responsible for the rise in scoring and the decline in save percentage. The league’s 6.4 goals-per-game average is the highest since 1994 while the league save percentage (.904) is the lowest since 2006.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Waite pointed out that teams are driving to the net more and generating more traffic in front of goaltenders. However, I believe that’s just one factor contributing to the rise in goal scoring.

Players are faster and better skilled now. Smaller, quicker forwards and puck-moving defensemen are thriving. Flyers head coach John Tortorella recently pointed out that there’s an increase in young players and that’s resulting in more defensive mistakes.

The overall caliber of goaltending also seems to be in a decline, though it could also be attributable to players being more creative now with their shots and passing. Most goalies favor the “butterfly style” to take away the bottom of the net. In recent years, however, we’ve seen players shooting higher on goaltenders more often and also attempting more shots from difficult angles.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 1, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – November 1, 2022

The Sabres’ Tage Thompson has a six-point night, the Ducks’ Jamie Drysdale could be sidelined for the season, plus updates on Charlie McAvoy, T.J. Oshie, Jake Oettinger and more in today’s NHL Morning Coffee Headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: Buffalo Sabres center Tage Thompson tallied a hat trick and collected three assists to lead his club to an 8-3 drubbing of the Detroit Red Wings. Jeff Skinner collected three points, including his 300th career NHL goal, as the Sabres improved their record to 6-3-0. Dylan Larkin, David Perron and Olli Maatta replied for the Wings, whose record drops to 4-3-2.

Buffalo Sabres center Tage Thompson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE After tallying just three points in his first seven games of the season, Thompson now has nine points in his last two contests.

Shootout goals by Brent Burns and Andrei Svechnikov lifted the Carolina Hurricanes over the Washington Capitals 3-2. Svechnikov also scored the tying goal that sent the game into overtime and the shootout frame as the Hurricanes move to a 6-2-1 record while the Capitals drop to 5-4-1. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin tallied his 785th career NHL goal.

The Los Angeles Kings improved to 6-5-0 by dropping the St. Louis Blues 5-1. Carl Grundstrom scored twice, Kevin Fiala had three assists and Jonathan Quick made 27 saves for the win. The Blues have lost five straight and fall to 3-5-0.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, New Jersey Devils winger Jesper Bratt and Minnesota Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury are the league’s three stars for the week ending Oct. 30, 2022.

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: Bad news for the Anaheim Ducks as they announced Jamie Drysdale will require surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The 20-year-old defenseman could miss the remainder of the season as his recovery period is four-to-six months.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A tough break for Drysdale as he was hoping to build upon his 32-point rookie performance last season. It’s also a big loss to the blueline of the rebuilding Ducks, who’ve stumbled from the gate this season with a 2-6-1 record.

BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Some good news for Charlie McAvoy as he’s resumed practice with his Bruins teammates. The 24-year-old defenseman is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and wasn’t expected to return to action until December 1. He’s ahead of schedule but isn’t going to play during their upcoming three-game road trip.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: McAvoy could return by mid-November at the latest if he performs well in practice over the next week or two. He will provide a significant boost to their blueline, which has performed well in his absence. It will also force management to find a way to shed salary to make room within their salary cap payroll for his arrival.

WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: Capitals winger T.J. Oshie is out indefinitely while defenseman John Carlson is day-to-day as both players are sidelined by lower-body injuries.

SPORTSNET: Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger will have his lower-body injury re-evaluated in a week’s time. The club cannot recall Anton Khudobin due to salary-cap issues.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars addressed this by signing Matt Murray to a one-year entry-level contract. Murray, 24, played 11 games with their AHL affiliate, five of those this season. He is not to be confused with sidelined Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Matt Murray.

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Stars rookie center Wyatt Johnston will be staying with the club for the season. The 19-year-old played his ninth game of the season on Saturday, raising questions as to whether the Stars would return him to his junior club before his 10th game for contract reasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: In other words, the first season of Johnston’s entry-level contract goes into effect when he plays his 10th game. Had the Stars returned him to the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires, his ELC would’ve slid to next season.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: Penguins center Jeff Carter has been sidelined by a lower-body injury.

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild forwards Marcus Foligno and Ryan Hartman suffered upper-body injuries during Sunday’s win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

VEGAS HOCKEY NOW: Golden Knights netminder Laurent Brossoit has been sent to their AHL affiliate for a conditioning stint. This is the next step in his return to the Golden Knights lineup as he recovers from offseason hip surgery.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 31, 2022

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – August 31, 2022

The Sabres re-sign Tage Thompson to a seven-year contract, the Penguins sign coach Mike Sullivan to a three-year contract extension, plus the latest on Nick Suzuki, Tim Stutzle and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

TSN: The Buffalo Sabres agreed to a seven-year, $50 million contract extension with Tage Thompson. The 24-year-old forward is in the final season of a three-year deal with an average annual value of $1.4 million.

Buffalo Sabres forward Tage Thompson (NHL Images).

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s a big pay raise for Thompson as he’ll be earning an AAV of over $7.142 million. He enjoyed a breakout performance in 2021-22 with a team-leading 38 goals and 68 points in 78 games.

Thompson is now considered a key part of the rebuilding Sabres’ roster core. He’ll be under considerable pressure to earn that new contract but that shouldn’t be an issue if he can build upon last season’s production.

PITTSBURGH HOCKEY NOW: The Penguins signed head coach Mike Sullivan to a three-year contract extension. The new deal begins in 2023-24 and runs through 2026-27.

Sullivan took over as the Penguins bench boss on Dec. 12, 2015, and guided them to the Stanley Cup in 2016 and in 2017. He recorded his 300th career NHL win on March 21, 2021, becoming the fourth American-born coach to reach that plateau.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sullivan and his Penguins have struggled to regain those lofty championship heights from earlier in his tenure behind their bench. While they’ve reached the playoffs in every season since 2017, they haven’t won a playoff round since 2018.

Much of that has to do with an aging roster of talent plus cap constraints forcing some players to be moved in cost-cutting deals. Nevertheless, Sullivan faces the challenge of trying to get the Penguins back on the championship track.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens center Nick Suzuki believes his club is going to surprise people after they finished last in the overall standings this season. He’s excited by the additions made by management during the offseason and is also looking forward to playing a full season under head coach Martin St. Louis.

We’ve got a pretty deep team and I think people are underestimating us,” said Suzuki. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing, either. I think we’re going to surprise people.”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Suzuki’s not wrong when it comes to the Canadiens’ forward depth. Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Sean Monahan, Jonathan Drouin, Mike Hoffman, Josh Anderson, Christian Dvorak, Brendan Gallagher and Evgenii Dadonov provide the Habs with top-nine skills that could prove productive if they can remain healthy this season.

The Canadiens, however, will struggle without Carey Price in goal and lack skilled top-four depth on their blueline. They’re still a rebuilding team that won’t make the 2023 playoffs but they shouldn’t be the pushovers they were through the first half of last season. I think they’ll be the up-tempo, never-quit squad we saw after St. Louis took over behind the bench in February.

In other words, they shouldn’t have much trouble scoring goals this season but will have trouble keeping pucks out of their own next.

NHL.COM: Tim Stutzle believes the Ottawa Senators’ off-season additions should push the club into playoff contention this season.

Expectations are high,” said the 20-year-old Senators forward. He pointed to management adding forwards Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux last month as well as first-line center Josh Norris signing a long-term contract.

We want to show the fans that we’re a good team, a young team, and we can really be a lot better than we played the last two years,” he said. “We want to be in the playoffs, and I think that’s why we made the moves.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Stutzle isn’t the only one thinking that way. Senators fans are excited by the offseason additions and the ongoing development of budding stars such as Stutzle and Norris. A number of pundits also point to the Senators’ moves and expect big improvement this season.

TWINCITIES.COM: The Minnesota Wild signed free-agent forward Sam Steel to a one-year, one-way contract worth $825K.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Originally a first-round pick in 2016 with the Anaheim Ducks, the 24-year-old Steel struggled to meet expectations. A fresh start with the Wild could help him get his career on track.

GOPHNX.COM: The Arizona Coyotes named Lee Stempniak as their director of player development. Stempniak, 39, spent 14 seasons as an NHL player, including two seasons with the Coyotes. He was previously their Hockey Data Strategist.