Mueller injured after 'questionable' hit by Blake

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[Updated: Check after the jump for screen caps of the hit]

The big Colorado Avalanche victory last night over the San Jose
Sharks
— in which the Avs came back from a two-goal deficit, allowed two late
goals and then won in overtime — is tainted a bit as the team waits on
word on the condition of Peter Mueller.

Mueller was injured late in the third period when Rob Blake pasted him
into the boards, who says it was just a normal play. From Adrian
Dater of the Denver Post:


“I
haven’t seen it, but I didn’t think it
was too bad,” said Blake, a former Avalanche defenseman. “We were both
going in there together and there were no elbows or anything like that.

“I
haven’t seen it, and it happens quick, so hopefully he’s all
right. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt by any means.”

Mueller had to be helped off the ice, and it looked like he injured
either his head or his shoulder after colliding awkwardly into the
boards. Blake collided with Mueller as they went after the puck behind
the net, with the larger defenseman sending Mueller off balance and into
the boards. Mueller has become an integral part of the Avs, scoring two big goals in yesterday’s win.

Of course, Avalanche fans are calling the hit a cheap
shot by Blake. It’s a hit that certainly rides the fence on being
illegal, but it was from the side (although Mueller had no clue it was
coming), but it was a few feet from the boards and the puck had not come
close to either player yet.

As much as I want the players to
stay safe on the ice, I still want this to be a physical game. Injuries
are going to happen when hockey is played, and big hits are going to
happen. If this hit occurred 18 inches closer to the boards, then we
wouldn’t be talking about it today. It was shoulder to shoulder, from
one big, strong hockey player to a smaller one. If a penalty
was called for, it would be interference for Blake hitting Mueller
before the puck came around to him. Was it a cheap, uncalled for hit?
No.

What will be interesting is to see how the NHL handles such a hit. Since it came 3-4 feet from the boards, on a hit you normally see right along the glass, the outcome was much more severe that what you normally see. And if Mueller hadn’t gone so awkwardly into the boards and got up and skated away, then nothing happens. I doubt we talk about it.

But the NHL wants to crack down on such hits, so there may be a suspension. That Mueller was injured goes against Blake. This is hockey, some players are bigger than others and we can’t just cry foul over every single big hit. It wasn’t from behind, just early and bit unnecessary.

We’ll update you on Mueller’s status when we learn more later
today.

 


Since there’s no video of this hit anywhere just yet, here are some screen caps of what happened.

Blake1.jpgHere you can see Blake and Mueller going for the puck. Both are pretty much shoulder to shoulder, with Mueller having position on Blake. You can also see Blake getting ready to make the hit, as he comes from the side and bit to the rear of Mueller. Notice how far away the puck is. This is the biggest issue with the hit.

Blake2.jpgThis is right as Blake makes the hit, sending Mueller off balance. Four feet from the boards, with the puck no where near the players. I still don’t believe it to be a dirty or ‘classless’ hit, but it’s certainly one the NHL will take a look at.

Blake3.jpgBlake extending his arm after the hit. Danger close.

Blake4.jpgOuch.

Suspension worthy? What’s your call?

If there’s an expansion draft, which goalie should Pittsburgh protect?

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) misses on a shot on Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) during the third period of Game 1 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinal series Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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Marc-Andre Fleury could have started in Game 3 on Monday, but didn’t. Instead the Penguins went with Matt Murray, who rewarded their trust by stopping 47 shots in a 3-2 victory over Washington.

What’s remarkable is that no part of that story is surprising at this point. Under different circumstances, the Penguins might have started Fleury as soon as he had the green light to return from his concussion, but why switch course when Murray’s been excelling between the pipes?

But that’s just the reality of these set of circumstances, right? Shouldn’t the starting gig eventually revert back to Fleury given that he is the established upper-echelon goaltender while Murray is still fairly inexperienced?

Under normal circumstances that would seem like a reasonable conclusion and in the short-term that might be the road the Penguins go down, but as Sportsnet recently brought up a potential expansion draft has the power to change things.

As Sportsnet reported:

An interesting aspect of the recent deal worked out by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association regarding expansion draft rules is that only players with a full no-movement clause will have to be protected by their team, according to a source.

Fleury’s contract includes a no-movement clause for the purposes of waivers or being assigned to the American Hockey League, but it is limited when it comes to trades. Each year he submits a 12-team list of teams where he can’t be dealt.

As a result, he’s not exempt from the expansion process and the Penguins would have to decide between protecting either him or Murray if both remained on the roster through the end of next season. It might ultimately force general manager Jim Rutherford into making up his mind sooner in order to trade one away and get a return on the asset.

Sportsnet goes into detail about Murray’s performance in the playoffs as well as the situation this has left Marc-Andre Fleury in and it’s a good read. For our purposes right now, let’s focus on the what if scenario of that possible expansion draft.

It might all sound premature given that Murray only has 19 total playoff and regular season NHL games under his belt and certainly there’s a lot that could happen between now and any potential expansion draft that would make the Penguins’ decision easier. At the same time, it’s worth keeping in mind that the 21-year-old goaltender didn’t come out of nowhere this season. The majority of people might not have paid attention to Murray prior to this season, but his 2014-15 AHL rookie campaign was nothing short of incredible and he remained dominant in the AHL in 2015-16 before getting summoned.

In that context, Murray is more than just a hot goaltender and even if he gets lit up in Game 4 tonight resulting in Fleury being thrust back into service, that wouldn’t dismiss this conversation as no longer relevant. Either way the Penguins decision in an expansion draft would come down to picking between the relative safety of 31-year-old Fleury or the high potential of Murray.

It’s a tough call to make, but the consolation for the Penguins is that they won’t be the only team forced to make difficult decisions as the result of an expansion draft, should one happen.

PHT Morning Skate: Hartley’s not the first to get fired within year of winning Jack Adams Award

Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley sets a play during overtime of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins in Boston, Thursday, March 5, 2015. The Flames defeated the Bruins 4-3 in overtime. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

It took less than a year for Bob Hartley to go from winning the Jack Adams Award as the league’s top coach to being fired. That might seem like an incredible drop, but Hartley’s not the first to go through this. (Calgary Sun)

Speaking of the Hartley firing, Mark Giordano said “it’s an eye-opener for a lot of our players.” (Calgary Sun)

Pittsburgh has a 2-1 edge in its second round series, but between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals captain has been the bigger contributor. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

After spending a season with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, Mark Morris has decided to go back to coaching college hockey. (The News & Observer)

If you have $7.19 million lying around, you might be able to buy Ryan Getzlaf‘s Corona del Mar house. (Orange County Register)

Finally, on a different note, the Tampa Bay Times have bought and shutdown the Tampa Tribune, as USA Today reported. That ended Erik Erlendsson’s tenure as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s beat writer for the Tribune and Lightning coach Jon Cooper took it upon himself to write this:

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.