2020 NHL Awards – Vezina, Lady Byng and Masterton Finalists
Vezina Trophy finalists announced, Caleb Jones admits testing positive for COVID-19, plus updates on David Pastrnak, Marc-Andre Fleury, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines
2020 NHL AWARDS UPDATE
NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck, Boston Bruins’ Tuukka Rask, and Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy are the finalist for the 2020 Vezina Trophy, awarded to the top goaltender as voted by NHL general managers.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rask (2014) and Vasilevskiy (2019) won the Vezina before, while this is Hellebuyck’s second time as a finalist. Rask has the better stats of the three, but Hellebucyk led the league in shutouts (6) while carrying the Jets and their depth-depleted defense into the 2020 playoffs. That could be the determining factor in his favor.
LATEST TRAINING CAMP HEADLINES
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: David Pastrnak’s agent said his client is in quarantine after coming in contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. The Bruins winger tested negative for the coronavirus. That explains why he was held out of practice Thursday.
Pastrnak and teammate Ondrej Kase were following travel quarantine protocols after recently returning from the Czech Republic to attend training camp. The reason for Kase’s absence remains unknown.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Caleb Jones admitted he tested positive for COVID-19 several weeks ago when he returned to Edmonton from his off-season home in Dallas. He had no symptoms and self-quarantined for two weeks. He’s fine now and skating in Oilers’ practices.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Jones is the second player known to have had the virus but the first to voluntarily admit it. Last month, the Toronto Sun reported Maple Leafs center Austin Matthews tested positive for COVID-19 over a month ago. He acknowledged it earlier this week.
The NHL is preventing teams from revealing the health status of its players during the return-to-play plan. Absent players are being listed as “unfit to play” or “unfit to participate” with no explanation.
Speaking of the Oilers, they and the mayor of Edmonton issued statements yesterday insisting the storm damage caused to part of Rogers Place arena on Thursday won’t derail plans to host Western Conference teams in the upcoming playoff tournament.
NHL.COM: Marc-Andre Fleury participated in training camp on Friday with his Vegas Golden Knights teammates for the first time this week. The club claims Fleury missed the opening days for “maintenance”, while head coach Peter DeBoer said the goaltender’s absence was not related to COVID-19.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Defensemen Olli Maatta and Connor Murphy joined Corey Crawford on the list of Blackhawks players deemed “unfit to play”. Blueliner Calvin de Haan missed his third straight practice dealing with a family emergency.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightning forward Cedric Paquette was listed as “unable to practice” on Friday. He was banged-up during practice on Wednesday.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Noah Juulsen is battling for a spot on the Canadiens roster after being sidelined since Nov. 19, 2018, with migraines related to head trauma. The 23-year-old defenseman got in some games with the Habs’ AHL farm team in Laval before the schedule was interrupted in March and claims he’s felt great since then.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For a while, there was concern Juulsen’s promising career could be over before it began. If he’s healthy he could be a valuable addition to the Canadiens blueline.
IN OTHER NEWS…
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson declined to confirm a report by TSN’s Darren Dreger claiming interim coach Bob Boughner signed a contract extension to become their permanent head coach. Dreger also cited a report claiming former AHL coach Rocky Thompson would join the Sharks staff as an assistant coach. Wilson said there’s been no decision yet on the coaching staff.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe Wilson doesn’t like it when a reporter spoils his big reveal.
THE DENVER POST: Some promising news to report on former NHLer Kyle Quincey’s young son Axl. The 1-year-old appears on the road to recovery following his second brain surgery on June 9 to remove a tumor.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Axl and his family. Here’s hoping he makes a full recovery.
Blues eliminate the Jets, the Capitals and Stars take 3-2 leads in their respective series, Vezina Trophy finalists revealed, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The St. Louis Blues advanced to the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoff by edging the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 to win their opening-round series four games to two. Jaden Schwartz tallied a hat trick for the Blues, who held off a third-period rally by the desperate Jets. They also held Winnipeg to just six shots through the first and second periods, including just one in the second.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For most of this game, the Blues dominated the Jets, who struggled to get any serious scoring chances on Jordan Binnington. They deserve full marks for exploiting Winnipeg’s defensive breakdowns in this series. For a club that was last in the Western Conference on New Year’s Day, it’s been a helluva run so far for the Blues, who await the winner of the Dallas Stars-Nashville Predators series.
The Jets, meanwhile, brought most of this upon themselves. Not taking anything away from the Blues performance, but Winnipeg blew third-period leads in Games 1 and 5. The last one was a killer as they seemed firmly in control of that game entering the third. Defensive mistakes killed them in this series and they simply weren’t prepared for a fired-up Blues team in Game 6.
Braden Holtby made 30 saves for a franchise-record seventh playoff shutout while Nicklas Backstrom scored twice and set up two others as the Washington Capitals blanked the Carolina Hurricanes 6-0. Alex Ovechkin also scored and added two helpers. The Capitals hold a 3-2 lead as the series shifts back to Carolina for Game 6 on Monday. They could be without winger T.J. Oshie for the remainder of the postseason as he reportedly suffered a broken collarbone in Game 4.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That was a statement game by the defending Stanley Cup champions, dominating the upstart Hurricanes who had battled back to even the series in Games 3 and 4. Another performance like that and the Capitals will move on to face the New York Islanders in the next round. The Hurricanes did get some good news as rookie winger Andrei Svechnikov hopes to return for Game 6 after being sidelined since Game 3.
The Dallas Stars biggest stars were the main factors behind their 5-3 victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of their opening-round series. Alex Radulov scored twice, Jamie Benn had three assists, Tyler Seguin scored a goal and added an assist, and goaltender Ben Bishop kicked out 30 shots. Jason Dickinson also scored twice for the Stars, who take a 3-2 series lead back to Dallas for Game 6 on Monday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: For a club carrying one of the deepest bluelines in the league, the Predators were sloppy defensively in this game. Three of Dallas’ goals were the result of turnovers. They’ve also been outplayed by the plucky Stars for most of this series. If the Predators can’t find a winning solution soon, they’ll be hitting the golf course after Monday.
Speaking of Ben Bishop, he’s one of this year’s finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender, joining the New York Islanders’ Robin Lehner and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Golden Knights stage historic sweep of the Kings, 2018 Vezina nominees revealed and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Vegas Golden Knights became the first NHL team to sweep a playoff series in its inaugural season by blanking the Los Angeles Kings 1-0 in Game 4 of their opening-round round. Former King Brayden McNabb scored the only goal while Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves for his second shutout of the series. The Golden Knights await the winner of the Anaheim Ducks-San Jose Sharks series, with the Sharks holding a 3-0 lead.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An impressive series victory by the Golden Knights over the former two-time Stanley Cup champions. They’ve served notice that their regular-season performance was no fluke. Vegas is a dangerous postseason opponent.
The Washington Capitals picked up their first victory in their series the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 3-2 victory in double overtime of Game 3. Lars Eller was credited with the winning goal as his shot attempt banked in off Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski. Columbus holds a 2-1 series lead with Game 4 slated for Thursday night.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: That was a must-win game for the Capitals. A loss would’ve put them into an almost insurmountable 3-0 series deficit. Washington goaltender Braden Holtby was solid in his first start in this series, turning aside 33 shots.
The Winnipeg Jets blanked the Minnesota Wild 2-0 to take a 3-1 lead in their opening-round series. Mark Scheifele scored both goals and Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck had a 30-save shutout effort. There was an ugly moment when Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey cross-checked Wild center Eric Staal in the head. Incredibly, no penalty was called on the play. Earlier in the day, the Wild learned winger Zach Parise is listed as week-to-week with a fractured sternum suffered in Game 3.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If it wasn’t for bad luck the Wild would have no luck at all. They were already without their best defenseman Ryan Suter (fractured ankle) entering this series. Losing Parise could be the final nail in their postseason coffin. The officiating in this game was horrible. How they missed that obvious penalty on Morrissey is beyond me. It doesn’t matter if the Jets blueliner intended to do it, it was a blatant and potentially dangerous infraction. No word if Morrissey will receive supplemental discipline.
TRIBLIVE.COM/CSNPHILLY.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist will miss Game 4 tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers with an upper-body injury. Flyers center Sean Couturier is also questionable for that game after suffering an apparent leg injury during a collision with teammate Radko Gudas in practice yesterday. The Penguins lead the series two games to one.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: Lightnings forwards Tyler Johnson (unspecified injury) and Ryan Callahan (shoulder) are questionable for Game 4 with the New Jersey Devils. The Bolts hold a 2-1 series lead.
NHL.COM: Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets, Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators and Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning are the finalists for the 2018 Vezina Trophy.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hellebuyck and Vasilevskiy led the league in wins (44) and Vasilevskiy was tied with Rinne most shutouts (eight). Of the three, Rinne (42 wins) had the best goals-against average (2.31) and save percentage (.927). He’s my pick for the Vezina.
CALGARY SUN: The Flames yesterday relieved head coach Glen Gulutzan and assistant coaches Dave Cameron and Paul Jerrad of their duties.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No surprise there. The Flames were expected to significantly improve this season but instead faded down the stretch and missed the playoffs. Looks like general manager Brad Treliving will seek an experienced NHL bench boss to replace Gulutzan.
ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Coyotes forward Richard Panik was arrested April 8 outside a downtown Scottsdale nightclub and charged on suspicion of trespassing.
SNY: Sources say the New York Islanders “are in the process of identifying a top executive to join the Islanders’ hockey operations department.” Though Islanders general manager Garth Snow hasn’t been relieved of his duties, “it is believed that the new hire would become Islanders GM while Snow would remain President (or given a new title).”
MLIVE.COM: The Detroit Red Wings have parted ways with assistant coach John Torchetti.
NEW YORK POST: Legendary New York Rangers national anthem singer John Amirante passed away Tuesday at the age of 83. He was their full-time anthem singer from Nov 1990 to 2015, apparing sporadically in the role until Feb. 25 of this year.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to Amirante’s family, friends and the Rangers organization.
Blues, Oilers and Rangers advance to second round, Vezina Trophy finalists revealed & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Magnus Paajarvi scored in overtime as the St. Louis Blues defeated the Minnesota Wild 4-2 to win their opening-round series four games to one. The Blues will face the Nashville Predators in the second round. Wild center Eric Staal was hospitalized after crashing head first into the end boards in the second period. He was listed as stable and alert.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hopefully Staal avoided serious injury. After another disappointing playoff exit, changes could be coming for the Wild this summer. This series also proved the Blues still have the grit and the goaltending to grind out victory in a low-scoring series.
Cam Talbot made 27 saves backstopping the Edmonton Oilers to a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks, eliminating the latter from the opening round in six games. The Oilers will meet the Anaheim Ducks in the second round.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After reaching the Cup Final last year, this is a discouraging finish for the Sharks. It also raises questions over the futures of long-time Sharks stars Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. This series victory is a significant confidence boost for the Oilers, especially for young stars such as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Mats Zuccarello scored twice as the New York Rangers downed the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 to take their best-of-seven series in six games. The Rangers await the winner of the Ottawa Senators-Boston Bruins series.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After struggling through this season, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist reminded everyone following this series that he’s still capable of rising to the occasion in the playoffs. The Canadiens lack of offense was their downfall in this one.
Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals and Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens are the 2017 finalists for the Vezina Trophy.
BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins center David Krejci (knee injury) is questionable for Game Six today against the Ottawa Senators.
WASHINGTON POST: Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner (upper-body injury) could be close to rejoining the lineup. The Capitals face the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 6 tonight.