The road ahead for Flames and Avalanche

avsflames.jpgLet’s face it. Chances are, the Colorado Avalanche are going to make the playoffs despite having to sweat it out a bit because of a late surge by the Calgary Flames. Still, with Iginla’s slump on the brain, I thought it might be wise to take one more look at the road ahead for the two teams. Let’s take a look at the remaining games for both the Avs and Flames (sorry Ducks and Blues, but who are you kidding?).

Flames’ remaining games: Home vs. San Jose, home vs. Minnesota and on the road against Vancouver.

Avs’ remaining games: On the road vs. Vancouver, on the road vs. Edmonton, home vs. Chicago and a home game against Los Angeles.

As I discussed during the weekend, Colorado already has some built-in advantages with an extra game in hand, more points and the wins tiebreaker. The Avalanche has 91 points with 4 games left while the Flames have 89 points with 3 games left. Calgary will – most likely – need to end the season at least one point ahead of the Avs. The only way that wouldn’t be the condition would be if Colorado loses out and Calgary wins all three of their games (that would give the Flames 43 wins while the Avs would only have their current total of 42). If I were the Avalanche I would simply look at it this way: go 2-2 or better in your last 4 and you’re in the playoffs. The task might not even be that demanding for Colorado, but that’s the easiest way to look at it.

If the Flames won all three of their games, they’d hit 95 points for the season. In that ideal scenario, the Avs could win one game, lose one game in OT or a shootout and then lose their other two games in regulation and the Flames would make the playoffs. That means Colorado could beat the Oilers, lose to Los Angeles in OT and then lose to the Blackhawks and Canucks before OT and the Flames could put away their golf clubs.

In other words, it’s not likely.

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

    Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) deflects a puck over the net during the first period of Game 3 against the Washington Capitals in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals in Pittsburgh, Monday, May 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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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

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    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.

    Fleury suits up (but won’t start) and other Caps – Pens Game 3 notes

    Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been out of action with concussion symptoms, participates in a practice session for the NHL hockey playoffs against the New York Rangers, Monday, April 11, 2016, at their practice facility in Cranberry, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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    The Brooks Orpik hit on Olli Maatta isn’t the only factor in lineup changes for Game 3 between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Maybe the most interesting change starts on the Penguins’ bench … where they likely hope that tweak will stay for at least one night.

    Marc-Andre Fleury is apparently healthy enough to suit up for the Penguins, although it appears as though Matt Murray will start:

    That’s a clear sign that “The Flower” is healthy enough to play, as Murray would be an injury or a coach’s pull away from giving up the net to Fleury. (One would assume.)

    Murray has been fantastic for the most part since taking over for Jeff Zatkoff during this postseason, yet you know how the playoffs can be; people may clamor for Fleury after a loss even if it’s not really Murray’s fault.

    Circling back to that Orpik hit, the dominoes seem to fall this way:

    Penguins: Derrick Pouliot replaces injured Maatta.

    Capitals: Dmitry Orlov in for suspended Orpik.

    PHT will make note if there are any swerves.