As a lawyer in his earlier life, Jon Cooper no doubt had to deftly stickhandle around the truth on occasion.
As coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he’s not a very good lawyer.
At least Cooper wasn’t exactly believable Friday, when trying to shine a positive light on news that captain Steve Stamkos was placed on long-term injured reserve and wouldn’t be eligible to return before May 3.
The team’s last regular-season game is currently scheduled for May 10, but you know how these things change.
“By no means are we sitting here saying his season is over,” Cooper said Friday. “This is just something he has to go through here for a little bit, and for us, if we make the playoffs, we put him in a position to be in tip-top shape for the playoffs.”
OK, first of all, the defending Stanley Cup champions are 29-12-2 and tied with Carolina for first in the Central Division. They are 15 points ahead of the fifth-place Chicago Blackhawks with a game in hand.
If they don’t make the playoffs, it will rank as one of the greatest collapses in the history of sports.
So right there, Cooper’s credibility comes into question.
Meanwhile, Stamkos has already missed three games since April 8, when, after a very innocent play which involved no collisions, contact or quick movements, he was hunched over for a few moments before skating off the ice in obvious pain.
Remember, Stamkos has had two muscle core surgeries in the past 13 months.
Nobody would be stunned if this injury was related to his previous problems.
If fact, it would be more of a surprise if it wasn’t.
Stamkos missed all but one playoff game last season and the Lightning won the Cup anyway. Their offensive catalyst was Nikita Kucherov, who had hip surgery in December and is “on target” to return in the playoffs, but is currently “a long way” from participating in contact drills.
Stamkos has been very good in 2021.
He is tied for the team lead in goals, with 17, and tied for second in the league will 11 power-play markers.
Without him and with Kucherov less than at his sharpest, Tampa’s chances of repeating would appear to shrink significantly.
“Maybe it’s a little short-term pain for long-term gain,” Cooper said of the Stamkos situation. “He’s given us a ton here in the first 40-plus games and hopefully he can give us a bunch her win the post-season if we get in.”
Stop with the “if we get in” Coop. That’s no way to get around this truth.
STARTS AND STOPS
The Colorado Avalanche had three games postponed on Friday after winger Joonas Donskoi joined goalie Philipp Grubauer and defenceman Bowen Byram on the COVID protocol list. They’re tentatively scheduled for a return to practice on Wednesday … A total of 53 games have been postponed due to COVID this season … Byram has just two assists in 19 games during an up-and-down rookie season, but the 19-year-old former Vancouver Giants star is still expected to combine with Cale Makar on what might one day be the best blueline tandem in the league. In three or four seasons, Byram might have been the left D-man on Ottawa’s first pairing, ahead of Thomas Chabot, had Pierre Dorion not sold a chunk of the farm to get Matt Duchene on Nov. 5, 2017. That trade, which seemed like a decent idea at the time, turned out to be one great big swing and a miss.
Artemi Panarin had his seventh three-plus points game this season while scoring twice and adding an assist in the Rangers 4-0 victory over the Devils on Thursday. He has now had 16 games of at least three points since arriving on Broadway to start the 2019-20 season. Only Connor McDavid (24) and Leon Draisaitl (21) have more over that time … While only having to make 16 saves, that win also marked the second straight shutout for Igor Shesterkin, who became the second rookie (and second Russian) to put up goose eggs in consecutive games. The previous time a Rangers rookie posted a pair of shutouts in a row was the same year the television was invented. Lorne Chabot turned the trick twice in the 1926-27 season, on Jan. 1-6 and Mar. 15-17.
Patrick Marleau moved to within two of Gordie Howe’s all-time record of 1,768 NHL games played on Friday, when his San Jose Sharks visited the Minnesota Wild. Marleau has played 213 more games than the Wild franchise.
BACK TO THE POINT
On Saturday at Gila River Arena, the Arizona Coyotes will be adding another name to their ‘ring of honour’, which already includes Wayne Gretzky, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Teppo Numminen, Dale Hawerchuk, Thomas Steen and Bobby Hull. It will be Leighton Accardo, who died at the age of nine last November after a battle with cancer. “She really left an impact on us, not just as someone who loved hockey, but as someone who really captured the spirit of resiliency and grit and of overcoming adversity in the face of an incredible challenge,” team president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said of Accardo, who was a member of the local youth hockey program as well as a member of the Coyotes family. “Her famous saying was, ’skate hard, have fun,’ and that’s really what we wanted to continue to do, to really keep her in our memories as an organization.” Accardo will become the first person in NHL history inducted into a team’s ring of honour who is not a former player, coach, GM or broadcaster. This is a nice touch by a team that has had a lot of bad press over the last year.
ON THIS DATE
Exactly 15 years ago, Sidney Crosby became the youngest player in NHL history to score 100 points in a season, hitting the milestone mark with his second of three assists in a Penguins 6-1 victory over the Islanders. Crosby was 18 years, 253 days old. The only other 18-year-old to score 100 points in a season was the Winnipeg Jets’ Hawerchuk, who was 11 days short of his 19th birthday at the time. Crosby finished his rookie season with 102 points. Hawerchuck completed the 1981-82 season with 103 points … Exactly 24 years ago, Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils became the second goalie to score a goal in a playoff game when he fired the puck the length of the ice and into the Montreal Canadiens net after they had pulled Jocelyn Thibault for an extra attacker. The first goalie to score a playoff goal was Ron Hextall of the Philadelphia Flyers on April 11, 1989, in a game against the Washington Capital. Scott Stevens played in both games, as an opponent for the Hextall goal and as Brodeur’s teammate. After the latter, a 5-2 Devils victory, Stevens said: “I know with Marty now, when it’s a two-goal lead, I’m going to let him get the puck and just get out of the way.” Did you know that the number of goalies to score a goal, whether in a playoff or regular season game, or on a direct shot or as the last member of the scoring team to touch the puck, is 15? Brodeur leads the way with three, while Hextall had two … Exactly 17 years ago, Steve Yzerman moved past Howe to become the Red Wings all-time leader in playoff goals when he scored his 68th in a 2-0 win against Nashville. Yzerman finished his career with 70 … Among those celebrating birthdays are Dennis Hextall (78), Borje Salming (70), Jimmy Mann (62), Ken Daneyko (57), David Oliver (50), Eric Brewer (42), Brad Boyes (39), Chuck Kobasew (39), Pavel Buchnevich (26) and Red Wings 2017 first round pick Michael Rasmussen (22) … Former St. Louis Blues defenceman Bob Gassoff would have turned 68 today. The native of Quesnel, B.C., was killed in a motorcycle accident at a post-season barbecue hosted by teammate Garry Unger on Memorial Day weekend in 1977. The Blues subsequently retired his jersey No. 3.
The Habs have recalled Hobey Baker Award winner Cole Caufield from Laval, where he had three goals and an assist in two games. The 20-year-old right winger is currently on Montreal’s taxi squad but, because of the cap, needs an injury to take the next step. Is the 15th-overall pick of the 2019 entry draft ready to jump into a NHL playoff race? “I would put Caufield in the lineup yesterday,” Ottawa Valley super scout Grant McCagg tweeted. “The less time he has to learn the ‘system’ the better.” Caufield had 30 goals in 31 games with the University of Wisconsin this season. An injury wouldn’t exactly hurt the Habs right about now.