Panthers defeat Bruins, opening-round playoff bracket and schedule released and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Florida Panthers won’t make the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs but they finished the season on a high note with a 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins in the final regular-season game of 2017-18. Former Bruin Frank Vatrano got a measure of revenge against his old team with a goal and an assist. The Bruins’ defeat ensured the Tampa Bay Lightning clinched first in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference standings.
Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick is this season’s winner of the William M. Jennings Trophy. (Photo via NHL Images)
All the opening-round playoff series are now set. In the Eastern Conference, the Lightning will face the New Jersey Devils, the Bruins square off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Washington Capitals tangle with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Pittsburgh Penguins battle the Philadelphia Flyers.
In the Western Conference, the Nashville Predators meet the Colorado Avalanche, the Winnipeg Jets face off against the Minnesota Wild, the Vegas Golden Knights go up against the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks face the San Jose Sharks.
The league also released the opening-round playoff schedule. The postseason opens on Wednesday, Apr. 11 with Game 1 of the Penguins-Flyers, Jets-Wild and Golden Knights-Kings series.
The full 2018 NHL Draft Lottery odds have been released. The Buffalo Sabres have the best chance of winning (18.5 percent) while the Panthers have a 1 percent chance.
Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick won the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goalie who plays at least 25 games for his club allowing the fewest goals.
NEWSDAY: It appears the New York Islanders won’t be replacing general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight. Meanwhile, defenseman Johnny Boychuk said he’ll undergo surgery for an unspecified lower-back injury. He expects to be fully recovered by June.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: After being fired by the New York Rangers, former head coach Alain Vigneault released a statement thanking the organization for his five seasons behind their bench.
Game recaps, seven of eight opening-round playoff series set, Rangers fire Vigneault, Red Wings re-sign Holland and the hockey world mourns junior hockey tragedy. Details and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Gabriel Landeskog scored and collected two assists as the Colorado Avalanche defeated the St. Louis Blues 5-2 to clinch their first playoff berth since 2014. The Avs will face the Nashville Predators in the opening round of the 2018 playoffs, while the Blues will miss the postseason for the first time since 2011.
Claude Giroux’s first career hat trick helped the Philadelphia Flyers clinch a playoff berth (Photo via NHL Images)
Thanks to Claude Giroux’s first career hat trick, the Philadelphia Flyers also clinched a playoff berth by shutting out the New York Rangers 5-0. Giroux also reached the 100-point plateau (102) for the first time, becoming the first Flyer to do so since Eric Lindros in 1995-96. The Flyers’ opening-round opponent will be the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers’ win also ended the Florida Panthers’ playoff hopes. Following the game, the Rangers announced the firing of head coach Alain Vigneault.
Speaking of the Panthers, they went on to set a franchise record for home wins (27) by downing the Buffalo Sabres 4-3. Vincent Trocheck and Colton Sceviour each tallied a goal and an assist for the Panthers. It was the final game for Panthers winger Radim Vrbata, who is retiring after 16 NHL seasons.
The Boston Bruins picked up their 50th win of the season by downing the Ottawa Senators 5-2. With 112 points, the Bruins sit one back of the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Atlantic Division and can overtake the Lightning if they defeat the Panthers tonight.
As for the Lightning, they picked up a point in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Bolts overcame a 2-0 deficit to force the extra frame.
The Toronto Maple Leafs set a franchise record for most points in a season (105) with a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen established a franchise record for single-season victories with 38. The Leafs will face either the Lightning or Bruins in the opening round.
Filip Forsberg tallied a hat trick as the Nashville Predators doubled up the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2. Before the game, the Predators were honored with the Presidents’ Trophy for the best regular-season record. The Blue Jackets’ opening round opponent will be the Washington Capitals.
Capitals’ captain Alex Ovechkin scored his 48th and 49th goals of the season in a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils. Ovechkin wins the Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer for the seventh time. Like the Leafs, the Devils await the outcome of tonight’s Bruins-Panthers game to determine if their first-round opponent will be Boston or Tampa Bay.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Ovechkin narrowly missed reaching the 50-goal mark for the eighth time in his career. Only Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy (nine 50-goal seasons) have more.
Connor McDavid picked up two assists and Leon Draisaitl scored the winning goal as the Edmonton Oilers edged the Vancouver Canucks 3-2. Canucks stars Daniel and Henrik Sedin were held without a point in what was their final NHL game but were feted by the Oilers and their fans following the game. McDavid finished the season with 108 points to win the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer for the second straight year.
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck became the first American-born netminder to win 44 games as he backstopped his club to a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. The Jets will face the Minnesota Wild in the opening round.
The Anaheim Ducks secured second place in the Pacific Division by shutting out the Arizona Coyotes 3-0. Ducks winger Corey Perry picked up his 400th career assists. The Ducks hold home-ice advantage in their first-round matchup with the San Jose Sharks.
The Sharks, meanwhile, fell 6-3 to the Minnesota Wild. Jason Zucker scored twice for the Wild and teammate Eric Staal netted his 42nd of the season.
Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn netted a hat trick in a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings, who’ll face the Vegas Golden Knights in the opening round.
The Golden Knights, meanwhile, were crushed by the Calgary Flames 7-1. Flames rookie Mark Jankowski scored four goals.
John Tavares scored in overtime as the New York Islanders edged the Detroit Red Wings 4-3. Isles forward Anders Lee scored his 40th of the season. The Red Wings also announced they re-signed general manager Ken Holland to a two-year contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: You can see the 2018 opening-round playoff bracket here.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL: 15 people were killed and 14 injured when a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League collided with a semi-trailer late-Friday afternoon. Among the dead is Jaxon Joseph, son of former NHL defenseman Chris Joseph.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This tragedy overshadowed yesterday’s news and shook up the tight-knit hockey community. My sincere condolences to the families of the dead and injured, the Broncos organization and the town of Humboldt. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the families.
A look at the general managers and coaches potentially on the hot seat in your Sunday NHL rumor roundup.
GENERAL MANAGERS POTENTIALLY FEELING THE HEAT
THE ATHLETIC: James Mirtle recently listed Detroit’s Ken Holland, Toronto’s Lou Lamoriello, Edmonton’s Peter Chiarelli, Montreal’s Marc Bergevin, the New York Islanders’ Garth Snow, Arizona’s John Chayka, Minnesota’s Chuck Fletcher, Colorado’s Joe Sakic, Columbus’ Jarmo Kekalainen and Chicago’s Stan Bowman as the 10 NHL general managers potentially on the hot seat as this NHL season winds down.
Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli is among several NHL GMs who could be on the hot seat. (Photo via NHL.com).
Holland was linked to Vancouver (before Jim Benning was re-signed) and Seattle’s expansion franchise. Mirtle also speculated Holland could be moved upstairs to a president’s role with the Wings or they could maintain the status quo. It’s expected Lamoriello will be moved out of the role as Maple Leafs’ GM at the end of this season, though he has a strong connection with Leafs president Brendan Shanahan.
There’s been rumors Chiarelli “is a man on an island in the front office as Wayne Gretzky exerts some influence,” while Oilers fans are “fed up”. Bergevin’s been given a vote of confidence by Canadiens ownership but Mirtle feels he’ll be on a short leash.
Snow has long had ownership support and contract talks with John Tavares could complicate any change before July 1. Still, Mirtle thinks the tide is shifting against the long-time Islanders GM. After two seasons with little improvement by the Coyotes under Chayka, a management change wouldn’t be surprising. Another early playoff exit by the Wild could prove costly to Fletcher.
Mirtle thinks this season’s improvement by the Avalanche means it’s safe to assume Sakic will be staying put. Kekalainen, meanwhile, could feel the pressure for Columbus to advance past the opening round of the playoffs. Bowman likely isn’t going anywhere in the offseason but Mirtle wonders about his future if the Blackhawks get off to a poor start next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve summarize the main points from Mirtle’s piece. Holland’s contract is up at the end of this season and I think the Wings are ready for a management change. Lamoriello is expected to move aside to make way for assistant GM Kyle Dubas. I can see him taking another role in the organization.
I don’t think Chiarelli will be fired but, like Bergevin in Montreal, he’ll be under pressure to turn things around this summer. Maybe Snow will be replaced, but I don’t think that’s a certainty. I certainly don’t see it happening while he’s negotiating with Tavares. If Snow can’t get his captain under contract, that could spell the end of his long tenure as Isles GM.
The Coyotes have had a rough season, but they’ve played better in the second half of this season. That could justify keeping Chayka around for another season. I agree with Mirtle that another disappointing playoff for the Wild could lead to major changes, which could include firing Fletcher. I don’t see Sakic, Kekalainen or Bowman going anywhere.
COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT
USA TODAY: Kevin Allen lists the New York Rangers’ Alain Vigneault, Detroit’s Jeff Blashill, Edmonton’s Todd McLellan, Chicago’s Joel Quenneville, Washington’s Barry Trotz and Carolina’s Bill Peters as six coaches on the hot seat.
The Rangers are committed to a rebuild but Vigneault has a reputation for being tough on young players. The justification for replacing Blashill could be the need for the younger players to hear a different voice. After Edmonton’s disappointing season, McLellan and GM Peter Chiarelli could be vulnerable.
Quenneville could be replaced if the Blackhawks’ front office believes the roster needs a fresh approach behind the bench. Allen feels the fact the Capitals haven’t extended Trotz’ contract speaks to tension between the coach and the organization. A new GM in Carolina could want to bring in his own coach, while could spell the end of Peters behind the Hurricanes’ bench.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s been an unusual season as no NHL head coach has lost a job…yet. Vigneault is under contract through 2019-20 so perhaps the Rangers will keep him around for next season. The fates of Blashill and McLellan could be tied to those of their respective general managers.
The Blackhawks’ struggles this season are of management’s making but it’s usually the coach who pays the price. If the Capitals make another early playoff exit, Trotz is a goner. With Francis out as the Hurricanes’ GM, his replacement will likely want to bring in his own staff.
Latest on the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers in your NHL rumor mill.
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports there’s “considerable chatter” the Rangers’ upcoming game on Tuesday could determine the fate of head coach Alain Vigneault. The Blueshirts slipped to 3-7-2 after dropping a 5-4 decision Saturday to the Montreal Canadiens.
Brooks believes if a “transformative trade that might include Ryan McDonagh, Chris Kreider or Mats Zuccarello — marquee names united in falling far below expectations, but hardly the only guilty parties — were available to Jeff Gorton, the GM could choose to go that route rather than dismiss Vigneault.” Such a significant early-season move, however, seems a long shot in today’s salary-cap world.
If Vigneault gets fired, Brooks speculates promoting assistant coach Lindy Ruff seems the most likely move.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Vigneault is sent packing, he’ll be paying the price for Gorton’s offseason moves. The Rangers GM weakened his depth at center and in goal by shipping Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes to clear cap space to sign free-agent defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who’s bounced around their blueline this season.
BOSTON HERALD: Steve Conroy suggests the Bruins use their depth in prospects as trade bait to accelerate their quest to become an elite team again. Given David Krejci’s injury history, Conroy believes the Bruins biggest need is at center. While Colorado’s Matt Duchene is the big fish in the trade market, the Bruins would have to shed a lot of salary to take on his $6 million cap hit.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Bruins GM Don Sweeney will likely remain patient with his roster. As long as they remain in playoff contention he won’t be under pressure to swing a major move. He could wait until the weeks leading up to the Feb. 26 trade deadline to make a significant deal.
THE ATHLETIC: Allan Mitchell examines the internal and external options facing Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli in his quest to improve his club. Facing high expectations this season, the Oilers lurched from the gate with a 3-6-1 record. The Oilers still need help on defense, center and right wing. Among the internal options could be recalling right wing Jesse Puljujarvi. If Chiarelli goes the trade route, Mitchell believes draft picks and young players will be the currency used. Puljujarvi, a former first-round pick, could have value as a trade chip.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Draft picks and prospects are pretty much all Chiarelli can use to bring in immediate help via trade. He could dangle center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but that move wouldn’t address their need for help at center. They could shop left wing Patrick Maroon if they feel they cannot afford to re-sign him but that could weaken their depth at left wing. Ryan Strome could be a trade candidate but his stock has significantly dropped.
Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby collected his seventh shutout of the season in a 5-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Game recaps. injury updates and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: Braden Holtby made 23 saves for his seventh shutout of the season as the Washington Capitals blanked the Carolina Hurricanes 5-0. It was Holtby’s 30th career shutout and the 10th this season for the Capitals, a new franchise record. The Caps are also the first team to reach 80 points this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After a big of a shaky start to this season, the Capitals found their groove and are pulling away from the rest of the pack in the Eastern Conference and the overall standings.
Jason Pominville had two goals and two assists while goalie Devan Dubnyk made 38 saves to give the Minnesota Wild a 4-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Earlier in the day, the Jets announced defenseman Tyler Myers underwent surgery to correct an unspecified lower-body injury and could miss six-to-eight weeks.
Henrik Lundqvist made 43 saves and Michael Grabner scored twice as the New York Rangers downed the Anaheim Ducks 4-1, giving Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault his 600th career NHL win.
Mikko Rantanen tallied his first career NHL hat trick and Calvin Pickard had a 27-save shutout as the Colorado Avalanche upset the Montreal Canadiens 4-0.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The once high-flying Canadiens are struggling, losing five of their last six games, four of those losses in regulation.
Jake Allen had a 30-save shutout and Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice as the St. Louis Blues thumped the Ottawa Senators 6-0.
Ben Bishop made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and Nikita Kucherov tallied twice to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-0 blanking of the Los Angeles Kings.
The Calgary Flames blew a 2-0 lead but went on to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins thanks to a shootout goal by Kris Versteeg. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby collected an assist for his 998th career NHL point.
Evander Kane scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the Buffalo Sabres overcame a 4-1 deficit to defeat the San Jose Sharks 5-4.
Calle Jankrok and Viktor Arvidsson each netted a goal and an assist as the Nashville Predators doubled up the Vancouver Canucks 4-2, handing the latter their fourth straight loss. Canucks winger Sven Baertschi left the game with a suspected head injury. The Canucks also announced forward Anton Rodin underwent successful knee surgery and will be sidelined up to six months.
Curtis McElhinney turned in a 39-save performance and Auston Matthew netted his 25th goal of the season as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Dallas Stars 3-1.
Seth Jone’s overtime goal lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
PHILLY.COM: Philadelphia Flyers rookie forward Travis Konecny will miss four-to-six weeks with a lower-body injury.
NHL.COM: Carolina Hurricanes winger Bryan Bickell, who’s suffering from multiple sclerosis, aims to return to the lineup within the last two weeks of February.
TSN.CA: Rick Westhead reports the NHL has spent the past two years attempting to obtain all the interviews with former NHL players and their families (along with other corresponding documents) compiled by Boston University scientists studying brain injuries of former NHL players. Lawyers for the plaintiffs involved in a lawsuit against the NHL claim the league is attempting to cast doubt on the university’s research.
ESPN.COM: The governor of Connecticut is proposing his state spending around $250 million in upgrading Hartford’s XL Center in hopes of attracting an NHL franchise.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’d love to see an NHL franchise back in Hartford, but I’m not getting my hopes up about that anymore than I am about the NHL returning to Quebec City.
2017 NHL All-Star game MVP Wayne Simmonds is also the league’s star of the week.
Stars of the week, Rangers re-sign Vigneault, Isles re-sign Greiss & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines.
ESPN.COM: Philadelphia Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds, San Jose Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau and Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen are the NHL stars for the week ending January 29, 2017.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Rangers center Mika Zibanejad, a Swede whose father is Iranian, could be affected by President Trump’s travel ban. His father lives in the United States on a green card, but the center’s grandmother, aunts and eight cousins live in Iran.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s been very hard to kind of find a way to see them, an easy way for both parts,” he said. “Obviously being here now and living here doesn’t make it easier. That sucks, but I can’t comment more of how things are. Right now it just sucks. The more further this goes and we see what kind of solution we come to, then it’s easier to kind of comment on.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: While the ban probably won’t affect Zibanejad’s ability to play NHL hockey, it could have consequences for members of his family. His comments pretty much sum up my own feelings on the matter.
NEW YORK POST: The Rangers have re-signed head coach Alain Vigneault to a two-year contract extension through 2019-20 with a raise in pay.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: it’s understandable why they did this. As the Post noted, Vigneault has a record of 175-97-23 (.632) that includes a trip to the 2014 Cup final and the 2014-15 Presidents’ Trophy.”
BLOOMBERG: Sources claim Barclays Center could part ways with the New York Islanders after 2018-19. Neither side would comment.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Newsday reports the Isles owners spoke with Nassau County executive Edward Mangano last November about a possible return to Nassau Coliseum. Newsday’s Arthur Staple also reported the following on Twitter: “Doesn’t appear that there’s any plan for Barclays to send the #Isles packing. Will they talk? Sure. But far from decided.”
NEWSDAY: The Islanders yesterday announced the re-signing of goaltender Thomas Greiss to a three-year, $10 million contract extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Looks like the Isles decided Greiss will be their starting goalie going forward. His new deal (worth an average cap hit of $3.33 million annually) is reasonable in dollars and term. Last spring, he backstopped them to their first playoff series victory since 1993 and wrested the starter’s job away from the now-demoted Jaroslav Halak. This season, he’s won 14 of 24 starts, with a 2.25 goals-against average, a .928 save percentage and two shutouts.
NBC SPORTS: The Montreal Canadiens placed defenseman Zach Redmond on waivers.
MIAMI HERALD: Florida Panthers fans will have a chance to meet WWE Hall of Famer Ricky Steamboat and former pro wrestling stars Christian and Tommy Dreamer at the Panthers’ first Pro Wrestling Night this Thursday when the club faces the LA Kings.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As a long-time wrasslin’ fan, that’s a gimmick I can get behind!