Avalanche stumbling when it matters the most

The Colorado Avalanche were the surprise of the season, as the burst
out to a great start behind the stellar play of Craig Anderson in net
and a potent offense. We kept waiting for this supposedly overachieving
team to crash back down to earth, yet all season long they’ve held onto a
top spot in the West.

Except lately the Avs have started to falter. Colorado was in perfect
position coming out of the Olympic break to challenge for a top three
seed in the West and the Northwest division crown, yet’s been nothing
but inconsistency and struggle in the five games since.

It’s what you would expect from a young team that despite it’s sudden
surge this season is still finding its way after a couple of years of
painful rebuilding. But what about this season? Is this is a team that
is going to stumble on its way into the playoffs only to lose in the
first round and exit? It would be a wholly disappointing end to a
remarkable season, yet it certainly seems they could be headed that way.

The Avalanche are 3-4-0 in their last seven games, with all four
losses against teams they are battling with for playoff positioning.
Most alarming was the way in which the Avalanche fell apart in an
extremely important home game against Vancouver, with the possibility of
tying the Northwest division leading Canucks. Instead of hanging onto
an early 4-1 lead, the Avs allowed five straight goals en route to a
disastrous 6-4 loss.

“We got away from our game,” said Avs defender
John-Michael Liles, who finished minus-2. “That’s ultimately what
allowed them to get back in it. We need to cut down on turnovers. We
were making our own chances and forcing them into some turnovers, but
we got away from that.”

It’s certainly not time to
push the panic button. The Avalanche will make the playoffs and they
still have a good shot at challenging the Canucks for the top spot in
the division. But with points at a premium and each game more important
than the last, Colorado has not taken advantage of the opportunities
they’ve been handed.

Yet it also seems as if Colorado is playing
with fire. They are last in the NHL in shots per game, and 25th in shots
allowed, yet somehow maintains a healthy goal differential. The team is
relying heavily on the play of Craig Anderson and obviously has some of
the most efficient scorers in the NHL to score like they have, but are
we seeing what happens when the good fortune they’ve enjoyed starts to
wan a bit?

There’s no doubt that the Avs can be a dangerous team
in the playoffs, with solid goaltending and young, talented players up
forward. But there’s also a good chance that either the goaltending or
scoring will give way in the playoffs and I doubt one side can overcome
the stumble of the other.

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    Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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    Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

    (Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

    You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

    Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

    Letang told his side of the story:

    The Capitals disagree:

    While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

    No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

    Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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    If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

    The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

    (Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

    Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

    A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

    First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

    Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

    Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

    In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

    This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

    Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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    It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

    (You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

    There are a few things we do know already.

    For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

    Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

    In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

    There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

    Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

    100 Comments

    Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

    ***

    As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

    Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

    Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

    Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

    Things could get ugly in Game 3:

    One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

    Also, lateness of the check:

    The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

    Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

    Read reactions to the check here.