NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 22, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 22, 2021

The Bruins and Avalanche take commanding series leads, the Jets take a 2-0 series lead over the Oilers, the Predators battle back against the Hurricanes, Nazem Kadri gets an 8-game suspension, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: The Boston Bruins pushed the Washington Capitals to the brink of elimination with a 4-1 victory in Game 4 of their first-round series. Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask made 19 saves to set a franchise record for most career playoff wins with 54. Charlie McAvoy had three assists and David Pastrnak had a goal and an assist. Alex Ovechkin tallied the sole Capitals goal. The series heads back to Washington for Game 5 on Sunday with the Bruins up three games to one.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (NHL Images).

Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller left the game following a high hit to the head by Capitals blueliner Dmitry Orlov. Miller was sent to a local hospital for tests. Orlov received a double-minor for roughing.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Orlov could face supplemental discipline for that hit. Meanwhile, his club played what I consider one of the worst postseason games of the Ovechkin era. After three closely contested contests that could’ve gone either way, the Capitals were listless in Game 4 and find themselves facing elimination on home ice on Sunday.

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer made 31 stops as his club beat the St. Louis Blues 5-1, taking a commanding 3-0 lead in their opening-round series. Colorado defenseman Ryan Graves celebrated his birthday with a goal and two assists. Tyler Bozak replied for the Blues. The Avalanche can close out this series on Sunday.

The Blues played without defensemen Justin Faulk, Robert Bortuzzo and Vince Dunn. Faulk and Bortuzzo were both sidelined in Game 2 by hits to the head.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reports Blues general manager Doug Armstrong wants a serious discussion in the offseason about player safety. That could become a front-burner topic within the league this summer following several puzzling decisions handed down this season by the league’s department of player safety and the growing criticism of those rulings.

Connor Hellebuyck turned in a 38-save shutout as his Winnipeg Jets blanked the Edmonton Oilers 1-0 on an overtime goal by Paul Stastny. Oilers stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were held off the score sheet for the second straight game. With the Jets up 2-0, the series shifts to Winnipeg for Game 3 on Sunday.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets are doing a good job neutralizing the Oilers’ dynamic duo of McDavid and Draisaitl. Hellebuyck is reminding everyone why he won the Vezina Trophy last year.

Matt Duchene scored in double-overtime as the Nashville Predators nipped the Carolina Hurricanes 5-4 for their first win in this series. Filip Forsberg and Ryan Ellis each had a goal and an assist. Sebastian Aho collected a goal and two assists for the Hurricanes, who still lead the series two games to one. Game Four goes tomorrow in Nashville.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was an entertaining game that seesawed back and forth between the two clubs. Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour claimed his team was “fighting the refs”, pointing out his club had been whistled for more penalties (14) than the Predators (six) over the last two games. Meanwhile, Predators winger Viktor Arvidsson missed this matchup with an upper-body injury.

HEADLINES

NHL.COM: Avalanche center Nazem Kadri received an eight-game suspension from the department of player safety for an illegal hit to the head of Blues defenseman Justin Faulk during Game 2 of their opening-round series. The suspension began in Game 3 last night.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is Kadri’s third suspension for reckless postseason play. If the Avalanche sweeps their series with the Blues, he could return for Game 7 of their next series if it goes that far.

TORONTO STAR: Maple Leafs captain John Tavares was released from the hospital yesterday but is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion. Tavares was injured during the first period of Game 1 of the Leafs’ opening-round series with the Montreal Canadiens after being accidentally struck in the head by the knee of Canadiens winger Corey Perry.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Here’s hoping Tavares makes a complete recovery and returns to action soon.

NEW YORK POST: The Islanders are mulling a goaltending change after starter Semyon Varlamov’s shaky performance in Game 3 of their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rookie Ilya Sorokin was in goal for the Isles’ Game 1 victory filling in for the sidelined Varlamov, who returned for the next two games.

CALGARY SUN: Flames defenseman Chris Tanev spent the final month-and-a-half of the regular season playing with two broken ribs and a torn pectoral muscle.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Even with access to the best medical treatment, that still had to be painful for Tanev. Unreal.

TWINCITIES.COM: Minnesota Wild forward Marcus Johansson suffered a broken left arm during Game 3 of his club’s 5-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe Zach Parise will make his debut in this series. He was a healthy scratch in the first three games.

THE PROVINCE: As expected, the Vancouver Canucks signed head coach Travis Green to a contract extension. It’s believed the new deal will keep him in Vancouver until at least 2023.

WGR 550: Former NHL coaches Bruce Boudreau and Rick Tocchet are among those the Buffalo Sabres will interview for their head coach position. Interim bench boss Don Granato is also in the mix.










NHL Playoffs: Canadiens Draw First Blood Against Leafs

NHL Playoffs: Canadiens Draw First Blood Against Leafs

 










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 21, 2021

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 21, 2021

The Canadiens win over the Leafs overshadowed by Tavares injury, the Panthers rally back against the Lightning, the Penguins and Golden Knights take 2-1 leads in their respective series. Details and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

GAME RECAPS

NHL.COM: A shorthanded goal by Paul Byron late in the third period lifted the Montreal Canadiens to a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of their much-anticipated first-round series. Canadiens goalie Carey Price made 35 stops while Josh Anderson opened the scoring. William Nylander tallied for the Leafs.

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares (NHL Images).

The Habs win was overshadowed by a scary injury to Leafs captain John Tavares in the first period. Checked to the ice by Ben Chiarot, Tavares was accidentally struck in the head by the knee of Corey Perry as the latter attempted to avoid the fallen Leaf. He was stretchered from the ice and spent the night in hospital, where he was reportedly conscious, communicative, and passed all tests.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Tavares’ status for Game 2 on Saturday is unclear. Here’s hoping he makes a full recovery and returns to this series.

While Perry’s collision with Tavares was accidental, Leafs winger Nick Foligno felt the Habs winger had to answer for his “transgression” by fighting him on the next faceoff. Had Perry deliberately attempt to injury Tavares it would’ve been justified. That wasn’t the case in this instance. Even former NHL enforcer Matthew Barnaby questioned Foligno’s actions.

The Canadiens didn’t emerge entirely unscathed from this game. Center Jake Evans left the game with an undisclosed injury and didn’t return.

The Florida Panthers clawed their way back into their series with the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 6-5 overtime victory. Ryan Lomberg tallied the game-winner as his club overcame a 5-3 deficit on third-period goals by Patric Hornqvist and Gustav Forsling. Jonathan Huberdeau collected three assists for the Panthers as did the Lightning’s Victor Hedman. The Lightning holds a 2-1 series lead with Game 4 set for Saturday afternoon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle was a healthy scratch for the first time since 2009. However, this doesn’t affect his consecutive-games streak of 922 as only regular-season games are counted.

Jeff Carter scored twice, Kris Letang collected three points and Brandon Tanev netted the winning goal as the Pittsburgh Penguins nipped the New York Islanders 5-4 to take a 2-1 lead in their series. Cal Clutterbuck scored twice for the Islanders. Game 4 is on Saturday afternoon.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was a wild contest that saw the Islanders overcome 1-0, 3-1 and 4-3 deficits before Tanev put the game away. A wild scrum near the Penguins net in the third period resulted in nine roughing minors.

The Vegas Golden Knights overcame a 2-0 deficit to drop the Minnesota Wild 5-2 and take a 2-1 lead in their first-round series. Mark Stone led the way with two goals for the Golden Knights. Game 4 is on Saturday night.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Wild were the better team in the first period. They appeared to take a 3-0 lead on a goal by Joel Eriksson Ek but that was overturned as offside on a coach’s challenge. Had that goal stood, perhaps it would’ve changed the outcome of this game. Instead, the Golden Knights rallied with a strong effort over the remaining two periods.

HEADLINES

THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri faces a suspension for his hit to the head of St. Louis Blues defenseman Justin Faulk in Game 2 of their first-round series. Kadri was offered an in-person hearing with the league’s department of player safety.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kadri has two prior postseason suspensions. He could be gone for at least the remainder of this series. His punishment is expected to be handed down today.

NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov confirmed he tested positive for COVID-19 for a second time earlier this month. He returned to action for Game 3 of his club’s series against the Boston Bruins. It was his first game since May 1. He had also tested positive in January.

THE DETROIT NEWS: Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi said he’s feeling well following back surgery on April 30. He was limited to just nine games this season and hopes to be ready for training camp in September.

THE PROVINCE: The Vancouver Canucks are reportedly close to signing head coach Travis Green to a new contract. His current deal expires at the end of this season. Meanwhile, Canucks center Elias Pettersson said his season was ended on March 1 by a hyperextended wrist. He said it’s almost 100 percent healed and doesn’t expect any issues for next season.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets signed general manager Jarmo Kekalainen to a two-year contract extension.

OTTAWA SUN: Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said he’d like to build a new arena in Kanata to replace the Canadian Tire Centre. However, he also hinted at moving across the Gatineau River into Quebec, though the team would still be within the Ottawa region.










NHL Rumor Mill – August 10, 2020

NHL Rumor Mill – August 10, 2020

Reaction to the Maple Leafs’ elimination from the qualifying round in today’s NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston believes a seismic change is needed for the Toronto Maple Leafs following their elimination from the qualifying round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their disappointing loss and a stagnant salary-cap could force management to make some difficult decisions.

Johnston considers the Leafs defense to be second-rate and took a big blow after losing Jake Muzzin in Game 2. Secondary scoring was an issue after Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe put Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner on the same line in Game 5.

Has William Nylander played his last game with the Toronto Maple Leafs? (NHL Images)

Except for Matthews, Johnston expects one of the Leafs core players (Tavares, Marner, William Nylander, Frederik Andersen, Morgan Rielly) will be sacrificed as part of wider changes before next season. “Everything else must be up for consideration, pending the forces at play in the marketplace.”

If the Leafs win tonight’s draft lottery, Johnston suggests selecting left wing Alexis Lafreniere, trade away one of the high-priced, high-impact forwards, and use the savings to address their blueline needs.

TORONTO SUN: Michael Traikos believes it’s time for Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas to trade William Nylander for defensive help. He pointed out the Blue Jackets did the same thing several years ago, shipping center Ryan Johansen to Nashville for blueline stud Seth Jones. “Maybe Nylander can get the Leafs a Seth Jones or, at the very least, a Josh Manson or Brett Pesce.”

THE SCORE: John Matisz listed John Tavares, Frederik Andersen, and Kaspari Kapanen among those on the hot seat heading into the off-season.

Matisz wondered how Tavares will be perceived following his inconsistent play against the Jackets, especially carrying an $11 million annual average value for the next five years.

Replacing a goaltender of Andersen’s caliber won’t be easy, as he’s usually top-10 caliber during the regular season. While he’s undoubtedly safe, he will face increasing pressure heading into his contract year

If a shake-up is coming, Matisz believes Kapanen (and perhaps Andreas Johnsson) could become a trade chip. He carries an affordable contract ($3.2 million AAV for the next two years), had a decent scoring touch and skates like the wind.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: We’ll see and hear a lot more speculation about the Leafs’ off-season plans in the coming weeks. No one should be surprised. The Leafs are top-heavy offensively and lack sufficient blueline depth. They can get by with that during the regular season, but it’s their undoing in playoff or qualifying-round series.

Dubas, with the blessing of Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, approved that hefty contract for Tavares two years ago, bringing in a player they didn’t need. That’s not to disparage Tavares. I don’t blame him for taking the big bucks to play for his hometown club. He didn’t pressure the Leafs to sign him, and he’s played well for them.

However, the Leafs’ defensive shortcomings were obvious two years ago. They were coming off a season where they were among the top-five in scoring but also in shots-against per game. Andersen’s goaltending was the only reason they finished 12th in goals-against per game (2.80).

But the Leafs front office got distracted by a shiny thing in the summer of 2018, and Tavares’ $11 million AAV handcuffed them ever since. That’s why they had their contract standoff last season with Nylander, it’s why Dubas and his capologist engaged in salary-cap gymnastics last summer to free up room to re-sign Marner, and it’s why they failed to suitably address their defensive needs.

I praised Dubas’ efforts last summer because he hadn’t made the team any worse. However, it’s clear he didn’t make them any better. And now, he faces a daunting challenge of addressing those weaknesses with even less cap room.

So who gets moved? I agree it won’t be Matthews. It also won’t be Rielly. Trading their best defenseman for defensive help would be ridiculous.

They could move Andersen, but the cost of a replacement will be expensive via trade or free agency. That’s a move likely to be kicked down the road a year. They could move Marner but that’s unlikely after all those moves last summer to accommodate his new salary. Tavares has a full no-movement clause. Even if he agrees to waive it, good luck trying to move that contract in the current economic environment. 

That leaves Nylander, who Dubas reportedly promised wouldn’t be moved as long as he was the general manager. The youngster could find out that sometimes general managers break their promises for the good of the team.

Nylander had a breakout performance this season, carries a reasonable $6.962 million AAV, and lacks no-trade protection. Teams in the market for a scoring winger will definitely be interested if he becomes available. The Leafs could also move Kapanen, but he won’t fetch the type of return the Leafs need.

Dubas and company could shock us by moving someone else, but I think it’s got to be Nylander.

What do you think, Leafs fans? Let me know in the comments section below.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 23, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 23, 2020

Phase 2 training groups expanded, update on the host city candidates, expiring player contracts tentatively extended to Oct. 31, plus the latest on John Tavares, Vladimir Tarasenko & more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

LATEST RETURN-TO-PLAY NEWS

SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reported the NHL will allow voluntary small-group training to expand from groups of six to 12 players effective today. It is a continuation of Phase 2 of the league’s return-to-play plan.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin reports Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares remains optimistic about the return-to-play plan despite 11 players testing positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 began on June 8. Tavares, a return-to-play committee member, said the league and the NHLPA continue to listen to advice from infectious-disease experts.

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares (Photo via NHL Images).

Certainly, you always have to be monitoring and preparing for the worst,” Tavares said. “But what we’ve been told by the experts and world health officials, everything they’re recommending, we’re more than capable of being able to come back and play as things continue to get better and improve. The other optimism I see is what’s gone on in other countries around the world that are a few weeks and steps ahead of us, especially in Europe, the soccer leagues in how they’ve handled it with their return to play. It seems there’s been some pretty positive progress. Some of those countries were hit pretty hard by the virus.”

Because players under Phase 2 haven’t faced league-imposed restrictions, Larkin feels it’s too early to declare last week’s positive tests as a threat to the return-to-play plan. The quarantine bubble under Phase 3 beginning July 10 would be much stricter. Nevertheless, Larkin believes the league could have a significant problem if cases still pop up among players in Phase 3.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Phase 3 will tell the tale. If COVID-19 cases spike during training camp, the league could be forced to reconsider its plans.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun reports Las Vegas, Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver figure prominently among the six cities under considerations as hosts for Phase 4. Sources indicate Chicago remains in the running while Los Angeles keeps pushing. The NHL sent more detailed information on the hub city bids to the NHLPA for review.

LeBrun speculates it could be Vegas and Vancouver or Vegas and Edmonton, with Toronto just on the outside. Las Vegas’ proposed quarantine bubble is considered the tightest. If both bubble cities are in the west, the league isn’t concerned about home-ice advantage because there won’t be any fans in the stands.

THE SCORE: George McPhee, the Vegas Golden Knights president of hockey operations, believes Las Vegas is well-suited to become a host city.

“It’s a service business down there and they’re used to big, big events and they can handle this one,” said McPhee.

Edmonton, meanwhile, released details of its’ proposed Olympic Village-style set up for the players.

NBC SPORTS: Columbus and Minneapolis/St. Paul were ruled out as host city candidates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vegas’ bubble had better be the tightest because cases are rising there. Vancouver and Edmonton have significantly flattened its COVID-19 curve which bodes well for their respective host-city bids. The decision is expected at the end of this week.

SPORTSNET: The NHL and NHLPA have tentatively agreed to extend all expiring player contracts and work permits to the end of October pending approval of the return-to-play plan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That includes players on the seven non-playoff clubs. The free-agent period usually begins on July 1. Looks like the market will instead open on November 1.

IN OTHER NEWS…

STLTODAY.COM: Vladimir Tarasenko took part in small-group training with several teammates on Monday. The St. Louis Blues winger had been sidelined since late October by a shoulder injury.

FOREVER BLUESHIRTS: New York Rangers winger Kaapo Kakko is exempt mandatory military service in his native Finland because he’s a type-1 diabetic.

THE SCORE: The International Ice Hockey Federation announced the 2021 World Championship will take place from May 21 to June 6. The 2020 championship was canceled due to COVID-19.

ESPN.COM: The Dallas Stars fired a visual effects designer over a racist comment made on social media.

STLTODAY.COM: Winger Chris Thorburn announced his retirement yesterday. He spent 801 games over 14 seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Atlanta Thrashers, Winnipeg Jets, and St. Louis Blues, tallying 53 goals and 134 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Thorburn in his future endeavors.










NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 15, 2020

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 15, 2020

Players mull over the idea of performing in arenas without fans, Ryan Reaves and Evander Kane put aside their differences to help form Hockey Diversity Alliance, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.

THE CANADIAN PRESS (via CTV News): Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid and teammate Darnell Nurse, Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, and Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler are among several NHL players pondering playing in arenas without fans under the league’s return-to-play plan later this summer.

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid (Photo via NHL Images).

NHL players are accustomed to playing in front of thousands of noisy fans, drawing energy and intensity from the crowds. That won’t be the case during the 24-team playoff tournament, as fans won’t be allowed into the two hub arenas due to COVID-19 concerns.

Nurse believes it will be a test for the players to create their own intensity. Tavares acknowledged it’ll be unlike what the players are used to, but pointed out the game between the boards remains the same.

Wheeler suggests players will have to push aside the distraction of silence and remember millions of fans will be watching them on television. McDavid, meanwhile, acknowledged it won’t be the same. “It’ll suck, but we gotta do what we gotta do.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The lack of fan noise will be a little disconcerting at first, but I expect the players will quickly adjust. As Nurse pointed out, the players will have to find other ways to create their own environment and draw sufficient motivation.

THE SCORE: Vegas Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves and San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane have a well-documented rivalry. However, the two put their differences aside to become part of the newly-formed Hockey Diversity Alliance, which seeks to eradicate racism from hockey.

I spoke to Evander and told him I want to jump in on this powerful message,” Reaves told the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Ed Graney. “We have to put aside our differences on the ice and come together for a much bigger cause.”

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said he and his staff intend to use their time leading up to the tournament in preparation to face the Edmonton Oilers, their qualifying-round opponent. They intend to work on improving their systems while ramping up their focus on the Oilers as the tournament draws near.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: NHL coaches will have plenty of time to prepare. Late July is the earliest the tournament could begin, though early August seems the more likely time.

NJ.COM: Executives from the seven non-playoff clubs are hoping the NHL will allow them to spend some on-ice time evaluating their players during their long off-season. The New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, and San Jose Sharks failed to qualify for the post-season tournament.

Devils interim general manager Tom Fitzgerald said those teams are hoping to get in some form of game action for their players.

Bring them in in any shape or form. It could be a mini-camp. It could be rookie camp. It could be a rookie tournament. Maybe the Eastern teams get together. Maybe there’s an appetite for all of us to somehow have some sort of mini-tournament. But there’s definitely going to be some push from us at least to be able to have the ability to work with our players in a smaller window, whatever that may look like. We all believe it’s not fair that we go nine months without being able to have contact with our players.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Getting those teams together could be difficult as they’d all have to follow the same protocols as those participating in the playoff tournament. Perhaps mini-camps or rookie camps would be acceptable, though those clubs might have to pick up the costs of travel, accommodation, and COVID-19 testing.

HOKEJ.CZ: reports Dallas Stars forward Martin Hanzal is considering retirement after spending the past several seasons plagued by back injuries. He’s in the final year of his contract and spent the entire 2019-20 season on long-term injury reserve. With his contract still technically on the Stars’ books, he’ll likely wait until this season is over before making it official.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Craig Morgan reports Hanzal told him two months ago retirement was likely, but he’d wait until his contract expired to make an official decision. Morgan writes Hanzal’s back problems flare up whenever he plays hockey.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Former Oiler Nail Yakupov, the first-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, is bouncing around the KHL with the same frequency as he did during his final NHL seasons.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I attributed Yakupov’s NHL woes to the revolving door of coaches during his four seasons with the Oilers. However, it appears his problems are much deeper than that. He has the dubious honor of being among the biggest draft busts in NHL history.

SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens mascot Youppi! is the first character from a Canadian-based sports team to be inducted into The Mascot Hall of Fame. He’s also the first two-sport mascot to be inducted, having joined the Canadiens in 2005 after serving with the Montreal Expos from 1979 until the MLB club was relocated in 2004. Youppi! is also the only mascot to be ejected from an MLB game.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations, Youppi! One of my favorite mascots of all time.