Last Night’s News 📰
AWARD TOUR: On Thursday, the league and Tampa Bay Sports Commission announced the presenters for the 2022 NHL Awards Show. Tuesday’s show, hosted by actor Kenan Thompson, features several people who were at the center of some inspirational and incredible hockey stories this past year.
DADONOV FOR WEBER: In the first significant trade of the offseason (one day after Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, no less), the Montreal Canadiens parted ways with injured defenseman Shea Weber in exchange for veteran forward Evgenii Dadonov. The Canadiens gain a 20-goal scorer for no cost, while the Golden Knights can move Weber’s contract to long-term injured reserve (LITR) and carve out some desperately needed cap room.
PUTTING THE C IN CANADIENS: With the departure of Weber, Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes expects to name a new captain before the 2022-23 season. Brendan Gallagher, Paul Byron, and Nick Suzuki top the list of possible candidates, as Montreal is one of eight teams currently without a captain.
WISHFUL FOR A WORLD CUP: Fans have been asking for the return of the World Cup of Hockey, and the NHL is “very optimistic” it will deliver in Feb. 2024. While it is still a work in progress, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly hope to hold the tournament in February to establish a schedule for a long-term plan.
Let’s look back at our favorite moments of the week.
Cassidy Finds a New Home
It did not take long for former Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy to find a new home. On June 14, the Vegas Golden Knights announced that they hired Cassidy to take over for Pete DeBoer, who was fired a month ago. He left Boston with a record of 245-108-46 and led his team to the playoffs in all his six seasons, including a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2019. Most will agree that he is the perfect fit for the Golden Knights, as the Bruins’ loss is their gain.
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final
It’s a matchup featuring the league’s best, and Game 1 did not disappoint. ESPN reported that Wednesday’s broadcast averaged 4.2 million viewers, a jump of 161% from last year, and the game rewarded those viewers with extra time. With Colorado and Tampa deadlocked at three apiece after 60 minutes, André Burakovsky played hero as he scored 1:23 into overtime.
Torts Is Back
John Tortorella is back, folks! After a brief hiatus, Kevin Weekes confirmed that he signed on as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers for the next four seasons. Tortorella recently coached the Columbus Blue Jackets for six seasons before the club announced he would not return. To add a little spice to the headline, Brandon Dubinsky of the Blue Jackets posted a cryptic tweet that merely said, “[praying hand emoji] for the Flyers players!”
Presenting the Presenters
The NHL announced the list of presenters who will dole out the hardware at the league’s award show on June 21. While you might expect a litany of ex-players, personalities, and celebrities with ties to the hockey world, it’s a credit to the NHL that they went in another direction to deliver something inspiring. Apart from a few hockey media types, the 2022 NHL Awards presenters are a group of people whose remarkable accomplishments or contributions to the community stood out.
Here are their stories:
Nadia Popovici proved to be a guardian angel for Vancouver Canucks assistant equipment manager Brian “Red” Hamilton. She alerted him to a cancerous mole she spotted on his neck while cheering on the Seattle Kraken during the expansion squad’s New Year’s Day home opener, and her efforts may have saved Hamilton’s life.
Still going strong as assistant general manager of the Calgary Flames, Chris Snow continues to offer hope for others diagnosed with ALS. Not only has Snow been living with the disease for three years, but he also continues to fulfill his role in the Flames’ front office as well as that of husband and father to two young children.
When a collision during a tournament game left Milton Academy’s Jake Thibeault with spine fractures and a mild brain hemorrhage last September, doctors said he would likely never walk again. Thibeault proved them wrong last week as he walked across the stage with the support of a walker and leg braces to accept his high school diploma.
“I could stop your shot with one good eye” sounds like schoolyard trash talk, but it pretty well became a reality in an NHL game this past April. Emergency back-up goalie (EBUG) Thomas Hodges entered an April 29 game for the Anaheim Ducks against the Dallas Stars after injuries to John Gibson and Anthony Stolarz. Hodges, who made two saves in his brief appearance, lost sight in his left eye after being hit by a puck at age 12.
Conn Smythe Favorites After Game 1
Game 1 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final was one to remember. After the Colorado Avalanche jumped out to a two-goal lead on Wednesday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning rallied back before the host Avalanche ultimately won it in overtime. Game 2 comes Saturday night in Colorado, but before that, let’s look at the updated favorites to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Avs Front-Runners: Nathan MacKinnon & Cale Makar
These two were the betting favorites to win the Conn Smythe coming into the Final, and they still sit atop the leaderboard. MacKinnon tallied an assist on Wednesday night, upping his postseason point total to 19 (11 goals, eight assists), which is tied for the third-most among remaining players. He has the most goals of any remaining player and arguably has the most talent in this series, at least offensively.
Makar did not get on the scoreboard Wednesday but is likely to at some point in this series. He already has 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) this postseason, one behind Adam Fox of the New York Rangers for the playoff lead among defensemen and two behind Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov for the most of any remaining player.
Avs Dark Horses: Gabriel Landeskog & Mikko Rantanen
Landeskog was the first player to find the net in Game 1 and added an assist. He now has 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) this postseason, tied for the third-most of any player left, and is currently tied with Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid for the playoff lead in plus-minus (plus-15).
Like Landeskog, Rantanen helped himself with a productive Game 1. He is the third Avalanche forward with 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) this postseason, following two assists on Wednesday. Among players remaining, he trails just Kucherov and Makar in playoff assists.
Lightning Favorites: Nikita Kucherov & Andrei Vasilevskiy
Colorado may have won Game 1, but this series is far from over, especially considering the team that lost has won the last two Stanley Cups. If they are to win a third straight, these two stand out as the most likely MVPs. After notching an assist on Wednesday, Kucherov tied Mika Zibanejad for third among all players this postseason with 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists).
Vasilevskiy didn’t have the strongest start in Game 1, giving up three goals in the first period, but he did make 34 saves and is a proven playoff performer. Last year’s Conn Smythe winner is 12-6 with a 2.36 goals-against average (GAA) and a .926 save percentage (SV%) this postseason.