NHL Playoffs: Canadiens Face Flyers Without Head Coach Julien
In today’s NHL morning coffee headlines, recaps of Wednesday’s games plus the latest on Jake Muzzin, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Micheal Ferland, and more.
NHL.COM: Jeff Petry scored his second game-winning goal as the Montreal Canadiens overcame a 3-1 deficit to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3, taking a 2-1 lead in their qualifying-round series. Habs captain Shea Weber led the way with a goal and two assists.
Jeff Petry snipes from a bad angle pic.twitter.com/RY3oVCvFzd
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) August 6, 2020
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canadiens seemed done like dinner midway through the second period. They’re now poised to eliminate the Penguins in Game 4 on Friday. And speaking of potential upsets…
The Chicago Blackhawks got two unanswered third-period goals by Matthew Highmore and Jonathan Toews to nip the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 and take a 2-1 lead in their qualifier. Toews finished the game with two goals while teammate Corey Crawford made 25 saves to become the 20th goaltender in NHL history to record his 50th career playoff win. Leon Draisaitl scored twice and set up another for the Oilers. Edmonton defenseman Adam Larsson was unfit to play while Oilers winger Tyler Ennis left the game in the second period with an apparent leg injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The bounces went the Blackhawks’ way as Highmore’s goal was a deflection from a point shot while Toews’ deflected shot bounced in off an Oilers’ defenseman. They’re now poised to eliminate the Oilers if they win Game 4 on Friday.
The Boston Bruins won’t be the top seed in the 2020 playoffs after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning in round-robin play. Tyler Johnson tallied the winning goal late in the third period. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made 32 saves in his return to action after being unfit to play in their first round-robin game.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the first time in NHL history the season’s Presidents’ Trophy winner won’t be the top seed in the playoffs. The Bruins are 0-2 in round-robin play. While they are guaranteed a playoff spot, they risk drawing a tougher first-round opponent the lower they sink in the round-robin seedings.
The Florida Panthers avoided elimination by hanging on for a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders. Third-period goals by Mike Hoffman and Brian Boyle broke a 1-1 tie while Sergei Bobrovsky made 20 saves for the win. A rare penalty by Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov for playing the puck beyond the trapezoid behind his net led to Hoffman’s power-play goal. The Isles hold a 2-1 series lead.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This was the Panthers’ first postseason victory since the 2016 playoffs. It certainly came at the right time. They also shook up their lineup yesterday, scratching Mike Matheson and Frank Vatrano after their disappointing performances in the first two games.
Three unanswered third-period goals by Conor Garland, Taylor Hall, and Carl Soderberg lifted the Arizona Coyotes over the Nashville Predators 4-1. The Coyotes hold a 2-1 series lead. Darcy Kuemper enjoyed a bounce-back effort in this contest with a 39-save performance.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes weathered the first-period onslaught from the Predators and opened the scoring on their first shot of the game. They finally got some productions from Hall and Garland, who’d been held goalless in the first two games.
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Pavel Francouz kicked out 27 shots to shut out the Dallas Stars 4-0 in round-robin action. Cale Makar tallied the game-winner while Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky each had a goal and an assist.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars were without starting goalie Ben Bishop and defenseman John Klingberg in this game. Both were declared unfit to play. Under league protocols, no reason was given for their absence, but it doesn’t appear as though it’s COVID-related.
HEADLINES TORONTO SUN: Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin won’t be available for the remainder of his club’s qualifying-round series with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was injured in Game 2 and taken to hospital with what appeared to be a head or neck injury. Muzzin was released yesterday and returned to the Leafs hotel within the safety zone and will remain in quarantine until cleared. Martin Marincin will replace him in the lineup for today’s match with the Jackets.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois won’t face supplemental discipline for the hit that sent Muzzin to hospital after colliding awkwardly with Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstand.
NHL.COM: The Winnipeg Jets aren’t ruling out Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine for Game 4 of their qualifier with the Calgary Flames later today. Both players have been sidelined since Game 1. The Flames hold a 2-1 series lead and could wrap it up with a win today.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets need some help following a dispiriting loss in Game 3. They also need Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor to start cashing in or this series will be over later tonight.
THE PROVINCE: Vancouver Canucks winger Micheal Ferland is out of action and has returned to his home in Brandon, Manitoba. He’s been declared “unfit to play”, raising speculation it’s tied to the concussion symptoms that sidelined him for most of this season.
NBC SPORTS WASHINGTON: Capitals forward Lars Eller returned to Washington to be with his wife as she gives birth to their second child. He’ll rejoin his teammates following a period of quarantine and testing in the first round of the playoffs.
SPORTSNET: A report from a Swedish media outlet indicates winger Oskar Lindblom will be traveling to the Toronto bubble to join his Philadephia Flyers teammates. He missed the bulk of this season battling a rare form of bone cancer and finished his treatment on July 2. He could return to action in September if the Flyers are still in the playoffs by then.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: San Jose Sharks winger Tomas Hertl has resumed skating for the first time since suffering a season-ending knee injury in January.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers winger Jesse Puljujarvi has re-signed a one-year contract with Finland’s Karpat. It’s believed the deal contains an out-clause should Puljujarvi return to the Oilers next season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Recent reports suggest the relationship between Puljujarvi and the Oilers has improved after he spent last season in Finland. With the NHL tentatively planning a full 82-game schedule in December, it makes sense for him to get in some meaningful playing time in Finland before NHL camps open in November.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): The general managers of the seven non-playoff teams have submitted a proposal to the league allowing their clubs a two-week mini-camp before training camp for all clubs open in November.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sounds like a reasonable proposal. Those teams haven’t played since the regular season was derailed in mid-March and they’re now amid an unusually long off-season.
This year’s arbitration team walk away # is believed to be $4,538,958 (up from $4.4M LY – based on avg salary). Teams can walk away from arb ruling higher than this. Just this year, if team walks away, player/team can agree to team’s arbitration offer.https://t.co/VnyDM0gocT — PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) August 5, 2020
The Calder Trophy and Adams Award finalists revealed, plus the latest on David Pastrnak, Shea Weber, Patrik Laine, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
2020 NHL AWARDS UPDATE
NHL.COM: Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, Chicago Blackhawks winger Dominik Kubalik and Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar are the finalists for the 2019-20 Calder Memorial Trophy honoring this season’s rookie-of-the-year.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kubalik was a pleasant surprise for the Blackhawks this season, become the leading goal-scorer (30) among this season’s rookie class, but he will be overshadowed by Hughes and Makar. During the first half of this season, Makar seemed a lock for the Calder, but Hughes steadily came on throughout the season. The Canucks blueliner leads this season’s rookies in assists (45), points (53), and power-play points (25) while sitting second in ice time, averaging 21:53 per game.
Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, and Philadelphia Flyers coach Alain Vigneault are this season’s finalists for the Jack Adams Award honoring the league’s top head coach.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cassidy’s Bruins were the NHL’s top team during the regular season. Tortorella’s efforts helped his injury-ravaged Blue Jackets remain a playoff contender. Vigneault guided the Flyers to their first best performance (second in the Metropolitan Division) since 2010-11. Tortorella is a two-time winner (2003-04, 2016-17) of the Adams Award while Vigneault took home the award in 2006-07.
NHL TRAINING CAMP NOTES
THE SCORE: Winnipeg Jets winger Patrik Laine admits he’s not quite up to speed following his lengthy layoff. “Still kind of far away,” he told reporters yesterday. “It’s kind of hard to see myself playing playoff hockey in two weeks.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Laine won’t be the only NHL player trying to shake off the rust and return to game shape following a four-month layoff. He said he’s trying to make the most of it and hopes to be game-ready when the puck drops.
TRIBLIVE.COM: There are mixed reports regarding Matt Murray’s performance in the opening three days of Pittsburgh Penguins’ training camp. Mark Madden cites sources claiming Tristan Jarry is outplaying Murray, but Seth Rorabaugh (who’s covering the Penguins’ training camp) said he’d seen no difference in play between the two. Rorabaugh observed Murray is more often between the pipes when facing some of the Penguins’ top players.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Murray’s restricted free agent status at season’s end ensures he’ll be closely watched in practice and the upcoming playoff tournament. He’s been the subject of frequent trade speculation this season. His performance will determine his future with the Penguins.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON: Bruins winger David Pastrnak joined his teammates for his first practice since completing his mandatory quarantine period after returning from the Czech Republic.
CBS SPORTS: Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to make his training camp debut before the weekend. He’s been sidelined with an undisclosed issue.
Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber returned to full practice Wednesday. He’d spent Tuesday doing drills on his own.
CANES COUNTRY: Sami Vatanen is healthy and looking forward to making an impact with the Carolina Hurricanes in the upcoming playoff tournament. The Hurricanes acquired the 29-year-old defenseman near the trade deadline, but an injury prevented him from suiting up with his new team.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: With Dougie Hamilton recovered from a broken leg, he and Vatanen will provide a much-needed boost to the Hurricanes’ defense corps, especially if Brett Pesce (shoulder surgery) remains unable to participate.
NBC SPORTS: The pause in the schedule proved to be a silver lining for a banged-up Columbus Blue Jackets lineup, allowing sidelined players such as Seth Jones, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Cam Atkinson an opportunity to recover.
CALGARY SUN: Flames bench boss Geoff Ward denies he’s split up some of his roster over fitness-related issues. Johnny Gaudreau’s removal from the Flames’ top line raised eyebrows this week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league’s clampdown on the players’ medical status only stokes speculation over the motivation behind such moves.
SPORTSNET: The Toronto Maple Leafs were told to stop using on-ice officials during their practices following complaints from rival clubs.
IN OTHER NEWS…
NBC SPORTS CHICAGO: The Blackhawks officially signed defenseman Ian Mitchell to a three-year, entry-level contract beginning next season. He would’ve had the first year of his ELC burned off if he’d joined his teammates for Phase 3 training camp.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: Former Carolina Hurricanes TV announcer John Forslund will be freelancing for NBC Sports during the upcoming playoff tournament. His status with the Hurricanes remains uncertain since his contract expired last month.
Ted Lindsay Award nominees announced, exhibition and Stanley Cup qualifying round schedules revealed, plus the latest on Johnny Gaudreau, Shea Weber, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHLPA.COM: Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl, Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, and New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin are the 2020 finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award, presented annually to the NHL’s most outstanding player as voted by the NHL Players Association membership.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: All are worthy finalists. They could also be in the running for the Hart Memorial Trophy. The finalists for that award will be announced on July 21.
NHL.COM: The league released its schedule of exhibition games and the Stanley Cup qualifiers schedule for Phase 4 of its return-to-play plan. All Western Conference games will be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton and all Eastern Conference games at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
SPORTSNET: Johnny Gaudreau’s separation from his linemates and the main group during the opening two days of the Calgary Flames’ training camp is raising eyebrows. Flames coach Geoff Ward claimed the move was due to “circumstances that became apparent last week.” He declined to elaborate.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The first-line winger continues to participate in the Flames’ practices with a smaller group, and Ward suggested he could be reunited with his linemates at some point. The NHL’s tight controls over the players’ medical status could cause imaginations to run wild over Gaudreau’s situation. If he were suffering COVID-19 symptoms, he wouldn’t be at practice. Perhaps he’s nursing a recent injury.
TSN: Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber was “unable to practice” yesterday but took to the ice afterward with assistant coach Luke Richardson for some individual work. Canadiens coach Claude Julien anticipates Weber will return to practice on Wednesday.
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois missed practice yesterday with what is believed to be a minor issue. Because of the league’s return-to-play rules, the team didn’t provide details.
STLTODAY.COM: Blues defenseman Colton Parayko returned to the ice yesterday with his teammates after missing the first day of training camp. Teammate Robert Bortuzzo remained absent. Both are believed to have recently tested positive for COVID-19. Blues coach Craig Berube expects Bortuzzo will return soon.
THE WASHINGTON POST: Capitals forwards Lars Eller and Carl Hagelin intend to leave the protective bubble during the playoffs to be with their expectant wives. Eller’s wife is due to give birth on Aug. 8 while Hagelin’s spouse is due in September. Both players must isolate and test negative for four consecutive days before returning to the lineup.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Players are allowed to leave and return to the host cities for family reasons.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan missed practice yesterday for a family emergency. Teammate Corey Crawford remains “unfit to play” for the second straight day.
WGR550.COM: Buffalo Sabres winger Michael Frolik has reportedly received a contract offer from KHL team Avangard Omsk. The 32-year-old is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: The Anaheim Ducks re-signed winger Troy Terry to a three-year, $4.35-million contract extension. Terry, 22, is completing his entry-level contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Terry is among several promising youngsters the Ducks hope to rebuild around over the next several years. He’s tallied eight goals and 28 points in 81 games over the past three seasons.
NHL.COM: The Vancouver Canucks signed prospect defenseman Jack Rathbone to an entry-level contract.
SPORTSLOGO.NET: cites The Athletic reporting the Ottawa Senators will be switching to a slightly modified version of the 2d Senator Head logo they wore from 1997 to 2007.
The Masterton Trophy nominees are revealed, updates on the league’s return-to-play plan, and the latest on John Tavares, Shea Weber, Jeff Carter, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) yesterday released the 2019-20 nominees for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is awarded annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.
Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Miller, G
Arizona Coyotes: Conor Garland, F
Boston Bruins: Kevan Miller, D
Buffalo Sabres: Curtis Lazar, F
Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano, D
Carolina Hurricanes: James Reimer, G
Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford, G
Colorado Avalanche: Ryan Graves, D
Columbus Blue Jackets: Nathan Gerbe, F
Dallas Stars: Stephen Johns, D
Detroit Red Wings: Robby Fabbri, F
Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid, F
Florida Panthers: Noel Acciari, F
Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick, G
Minnesota Wild: Alex Stalock, G
Montreal Canadiens: Shea Weber, D
Nashville Predators: Jarred Tinordi, D
New Jersey Devils: Travis Zajac, F
New York Islanders: Thomas Hickey, D
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist, G
Ottawa Senators: Bobby Ryan, F
Philadelphia Flyers: Oskar Lindblom, F
Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin, F
San Jose Sharks: Joe Thornton, F
St. Louis Blues: Jay Bouwmeester, D
Tampa Bay Lightning: Alex Killorn, F
Toronto Maple Leafs: Zach Hyman, F
Vancouver Canucks: Jacob Markstrom, G
Vegas Golden Knights: Shea Theodore, D
Washington Capitals: Michal Kempny, D
Winnipeg Jets: Mark Letestu, F
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Congratulations to the nominees. The winner of the Masterton Trophy will be announced at the 2020 NHL Awards following this season at a date to be announced.
LATEST ON THE RETURN-TO-PLAY PLAN
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the NHL and NHL Players Association will continue discussions in the coming weeks regarding the protocols, details, testing, and more for staging Phase 3 and 4 of the league’s return-to-play plan. Phase 3 is the training camp portion and Phase 4 the 24-team playoff tournament. The PA executive board representing the 31 teams is expected to vote on one big package rather than separate votes for each phase.
Darren Dreger reports the players are awaiting the specifics for Phase 3, including details on the two hub cities, restrictions, family matters, and more. The league and the PA acknowledge nothing will be perfect and some sacrifices will have to be made to get the sport back on its feet.
Regarding the collective bargaining agreement, LeBrun said those involved are holding out hope for an extension before play resumes. A lot of work still has to be done. Escrow and the salary cap are important issues for the players. Dreger noted they’re also interested in returning to the Olympics as early as 2022.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I expect the league and the PA will get the details for the return-to-play plan sorted out by no later than early July. Whether either Phase takes place without a hitch is another issue. A second wave of COVID-19 could derail those plans.
Most fans will be thrilled if a CBA extension beyond 2022 can be hammered out before play resumes. Nevertheless, the priority is completing this season and crowning a Stanley Cup champion. The CBA takes a backseat to that right now.
REUTERS: Canada and the United States are expected to extend their border ban on non-essential travel to late July.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless the government of Canada provides exemptions for NHL players and staff, Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver will be out of the running as one of the two host cities for the 24-team tournament. Other Canadian teams participating in the playoff tournament could emulate the Calgary Flames’ plans to stage training camps next month in the United States.
TORONTO SUN: John Tavares, Ilya Mikheyev, Jack Muzzin, and Jack Campbell were among the Maple Leafs taking part in small-group workouts yesterday at the Leafs’ training facility. Mitch Marner and Cody Ceci are expected to join them soon.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: Canadiens captain Shea Weber intends to continue training at his off-season home in Kelowna, BC until a full training camp is on the horizon.
IN OTHER NEWS…
LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings center Jeff Carter underwent successful surgery last week to repair a core muscle injury. He’s expected to fully recover before the start of next season.
TSN: Pierre LeBrun reports the New Jersey Devils put their search for a new head coach on pause for the time being. They reportedly spoke with 8-10 coaches and narrowed the list to four, including current interim bench boss Alain Nasreddine.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Pilut, 24, is a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level contract and lacks arbitration rights. Perhaps he’s trying to garner a measure of leverage in negotiations with the Sabres.
THE SCORE: Former NHL player Brandon Bochenski was elected mayor of Grand Forks, North Dakota yesterday.