NHL Top Candidates in 2019-20: Jack Adams Award
Game recaps, Nazem Kadri and Joe Thornton receive suspensions, the Flyers hire Alain Vigneault as their new head coach, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Power-play goals by Auston Matthews and Andreas Johnsson gave the Toronto Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins to take a 2-1 lead in their opening-round series. Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen kicked out 34 shots. The Leafs were also playing without center Nazem Kadri, who was suspended for the remainder of this series for cross-checking Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk in Game 2.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A much better team effort by the Leafs in this game after being manhandled by the Bruins in Game 2. They also did a fine job neutralizing the Bruins top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. Kadri’s suspension could be between three-to-five games, depending on how long this series goes. Seems like he was fortunate not to receive stiffer punishment.
Warren Foegele and Dougie Hamilton each scored twice and goalie Petr Mrazek had an 18-save shutout as the Carolina Hurricanes blanked the Washington Capitals 5-0 to narrow the Capitals’ series lead to 2-1. It was a costly win for the Hurricanes as rookie winger Andrei Svechnikov left the game with an apparent head injury following a fight with Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and winger Micheal Ferland was also sidelined following a hit from Capitals right wing Tom Wilson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Credit the Hurricanes for not getting rattled by losing two key forwards like Svechnikov and Ferland. They dominated the Capitals in this contest to pick up their first playoff victory since 2009. I saw some on Twitter scolding Ovechkin for knocking out Svechnikov but the youngster goaded Ovechkin and was a willing participant in that scrap. Here’s hoping he wasn’t seriously hurt and returns to action soon.
Nathan MacKinnon scored twice and rookie defenseman Cale Makar scored in his first-ever NHL game as the Colorado Avalanche thumped the Calgary Flames 6-2 to take a 2-1 series lead. Flames goalie Mike Smith made 50 saves in this one.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Credit the Avalanche for a strong effort in this one. They took control of this contest from the opening whistle in what was Calgary’s worst performance in this series. Giving up 56 shots in a playoff game is an unacceptable effort for a club that finished atop the Western Conference.
Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne made 40 saves to backstop his club to a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars and a 2-1 lead in their opening-round series. Mikael Granlund broke a 2-2 tie in the third period with a long wrist shot that eluded Stars netminder Ben Bishop. Before the game, the Predators announced Wayne Simmonds (knee) and Brian Boyle (appendix procedure) are listed as week-to-week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rinne was hot and Bishop was not in this contest. Granlund and Rocco Grimaldi’s goals were stoppable shots for Bishop, who’ll look to return to the strong form he displayed in the first two games in this series. The absence of Simmonds and Boyle could hurt the Predators checking-line depth as this series goes on.
NBC SPORTS: San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton will miss Game 4 of his club’s opening-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights. He’ll serve a one-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Vegas forward Tomas Nosek.
CBS SPORTS/THE SCORE: Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (undisclosed ailment) and winger Alex Killorn (undisclosed injury) could miss tonight’s crucial Game 4 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets hold a 3-0 lead in the series and could close it out with a win tonight.
NBC SPORTS: The Philadelphia Flyers announced Alain Vigneault was hired yesterday as their new head coach.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vigneault brings plenty of experience behind the Flyers bench as a former bench boss of the Montreal Canadiens, Vancouver Canucks, and New York Rangers. He guided the Canucks and Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final (2011 and 2014 respectively) and is a former winner (2007) of the Jack Adams Award.
TSN: Edmonton Oilers winger Milan Lucic suffered a leg injury following practice the day before their final game of the season against Calgary. He’ll be in a cast for two more weeks and the injury isn’t expected to affect his summer training program.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane was named the captain of Team USA at the upcoming 2019 World Championships.
Capitals take 2-0 series lead over Hurricanes, Predators, Bruins, and Avalanche tie their respective series, Nikita Kucherov receives a one-game suspension, an update on Connor McDavid, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Brooks Orpik’s overtime goal gave the Washington Capitals a 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes and a 2-0 lead in their opening-round series. Orpik became the oldest defenseman in NHL history to score an overtime playoff goal. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and T.J. Oshie each collected two points for the Capitals.
Hurricanes winger Micheal Ferland was ejected during the second period for a hit to the head of Capitals forward Nic Dowd. Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton’s elbow to the head of Kuznetsov will be reviewed by the league’s department of player safety but it’s unclear if it’ll merit a suspension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Capitals haven’t had an easy time of it with the Hurricanes, who overcame an early 2-0 deficit to force the extra period. They lack the Capitals depth in experienced talent but they’re a plucky hardworking bunch with a bright future.
An overtime tally by Craig Smith enabled the Nashville Predators to edge the Dallas Stars 2-1, squaring their series at a game apiece. Rocco Grimaldi also scored for the Predators while Jamie Benn netted the Stars’ only goal. Dallas goaltender Ben Bishop made 40 saves. The Predators skated without center Brian Boyle (illness) and lost winger Wayne Simmonds after he took a shot off his left knee.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bishop was outstanding in this game and deserved a better fate. This performance is but one reason why I believe he should win the Vezina Trophy this season. No word yet on Simmonds’ status for Game 3.
Brad Marchand had a goal and an assist and Tuukka Rask kicked out 30 shots as the Boston Bruins downed the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 to tie their series 1-1. The physical contest took a toll on both clubs.
Bruins defenseman Torey Krug left the game in the second period following a hit by Leafs blueliner Jake Muzzin. Leafs center Nazem Kadri, meanwhile, will have a hearing today with the department of player safety and faces a suspension following a match penalty for cross-checking the head of Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk. Bruins winger Marcus Johansson missed the game with the flu.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins ratcheted up the physical play in this one and effectively neutralized the Leafs speed. Kadri was obviously still angry over a knee-on-knee collision with DeBrusk in the second period and allowed his emotions to once again boil over, just like in last year’s series between these two clubs. That time, he got a three-game suspension. He could get more for his latest infraction.
The Colorado Avalanche evened their series with the Calgary Flames as Nathan MacKinnon’s overtime goal gave them a 3-2 victory in Game 2. Mikko Rantanen collected two assists while Philipp Grubauer made 35 saves for the Avalanche. The Flames’ Sam Bennett also had two assists.
SPORTSNET: Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov received a one-game suspension for boarding Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivaara in Game 2 of their opening-round series.
Speaking of the Lightning, defenseman Anton Stralman (upper-body injury) is uncertain when he’ll return to the lineup.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins center Jared McCann (upper-body injury) expects to be in the lineup for this afternoon’s game against the New York Islanders. The Isles hold a 2-0 lead in that series.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers center Connor McDavid has a small ligament tear in his left knee and will begin rehab almost immediately. He’s expected to be good to go for training camp in September.
Hearing tonight that PHI has permission to talk to Alain Vigneault for its head coaching job. No guarantees, but he’s on the radar.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) April 12, 2019
‘Tip of the Hat’ to Peter Budaj, who last night played his final professional game in Ontario (he is the winningest goalie in Reign history with 49 wins across 2 seasons). Budaj will retire at the age of 36 at the end of the 2018-19 season. Congrats on a stellar pro career! pic.twitter.com/UqtwEuaivK
— LAKingsPR (@LAKingsPR) April 13, 2019
Latest on William Nylander, Artemi Panarin and the LA Kings coaching in your Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
SPORTSNET (via KUKLA’S KORNER): Chris Johnston reports Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas journeyed to Switzerland last week to meet with the representatives for restricted free agent William Nylander to clear the air and express the Leafs’ desire to re-sign him. It’s believed the two sides are looking at a short-term deal. If that can’t be hammered out, Johnston suggests a trade is possible though they’re not at that point yet.
Nick Kypreos wonders how willing Nylander is to put this season on the line. He wouldn’t be surprised if we hear of Nylander’s reps opening negotiations with KHL teams to recoup his lost money.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch believes it’s anyone’s guess how the Toronto Maple Leafs contract standoff with restricted free agent William Nylander will end. It’s unlikely he’ll receive an offer sheet. The Leafs have until Dec. 1 to sign him or he becomes ineligible for the remainder of the NHL season. If Nylander remains unsigned a month from now, perhaps the Leafs use him as a bargaining chip to acquire a defenseman.
Garrioch said he’s been told “by a couple of league executives the Carolina Hurricanes are open for business.” He believes Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell is willing to add, noting there’s no shortage of talk linking the Hurricanes to the Leafs and Nylander.
TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran reports some rival executives believe the Leafs’ strong start to this season is shrinking Nylander’s bargaining power. Two of them feel Nylander isn’t worth the $8 million per season he’s reportedly seeking, saying there’s no NHL team willing to pay the 22-year-old that much.
There’s also no offer sheet coming from a rival club, as no one wants to tangle with the wealthy Leafs for fear of offer-sheet retaliation. McGran also noted there’s concern in the Nylander camp that he’ll be the first player moved in a cost-cutting deal in order to re-sign stars such as Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Johnston acknowledged everyone seems to be repeating themselves on this story. The only real change we’ve seen is Dubas flying over to meet with the Nylander camp and talk that the two sides could be moving away from negotiating a long-term deal toward a more affordable short-term deal. Still, the two sides remain far apart when it comes to the money.
Nylander reportedly seeks something around $8.5 million annually, while the Leafs prefer something between $6 million to $6.5 million on a long-term deal. There’s talk the Leafs could offer up something close to $4 million annually on a three- or four-year deal while the Nylander camp prefers something around $5 million per. Until there’s serious movement toward narrowing the gap, this standoff could drag on into November.
As for the Hurricanes, they’re constantly linked to the Leafs because they have plenty of quality right-shot defensemen, something the Leafs need on the right side of their blueline. Sure, the Hurricanes could use someone like Nylander and I wouldn’t be surprised if GM Waddell is keeping an eye on that situation. But with the Canes offer to a better-than-expected start, Waddell’s probably in no hurry to swing a deal right now.
OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch touched on the Columbus Blue Jackets’ dilemma regarding pending unrestricted free agents Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin. There’s no indication the pair will re-sign with the club. The Jackets don’t want to risk losing either player for nothing next summer to free agency, but Garrioch thinks it’s unlikely they’ll trade them for futures while the club is in playoff contention. Getting players back for them before the trade deadline will be difficult because they’ll be viewed as playoff rentals.
BOSTON GLOBE: Kevin Paul Dupont wonders if the Boston Bruins will take a run at Panarin, noting they have “abundant player equity” in the form of “young roster players and/or prospects” to tempt the Blue Jackets. He speculates the Jackets could target “the likes of Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Jake DeBrusk”, along with perhaps Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork and prospects Trent Frederic and Urho Vaakanainen. While players such as McAvoy and Debrusk are among those Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is most reluctant to part with, Dupont feels a McAvoy-DeBrusk package for “a generational talent” like Panarin is worth it.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Speaking of unchanged situations, there’s really nothing new going on with Bobrovsky and Panarin. We likely won’t get a clearer picture on their futures with the Jackets until February. Maybe the Bruins will be among their suitors but they could be forced to give up at least one of those good young players Dupont mentioned in his column.
As I’ve repeatedly noted, if the Jackets are out of contention by then, one or both players will likely hit the trade block. If they’re still in the thick of the playoff hunt, they’ll likely retain Bobrovsky and Panarin and take their chances.
COULD THERE BE A COACHING CHANGE FOR THE KINGS?
LOS ANGELES TIMES: In the wake of the Los Angeles Kings’ fourth straight defeat, Helene Elliott observed second-year head coach John Stevens seems to be losing his influence over the players. “It’s probably too early for a coaching change, at least until Dustin Brown comes off long-term injured reserve next week and the team is relatively whole, but the relationship between John Stevens and his players might be fraying.”
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks suggests former New York Rangers bench boss Alain Vigneault could be a good choice to replace Stevens, pointing out Vigneault worked well with a veteran-laded Rangers club in the past.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Elliott places the blame for the Kings’ struggles squarely at the feet of management, noting they put their faith in an aging core while neglecting to draft and develop secondary talent that could eventually become major contributors and leaders. If the Kings fail to improve soon, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vigneault replaced Stevens.