PHT readers poll: Enforcers losing relevance

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throwingknuckles.jpgMy opinion is that the enforcer is going the way of the dodo. I’m not necessarily celebrating their extinction; it just seems obvious to me that in a speed-and-skill-fueled NHL, knuckedraggers are unnecessary. With that thought – and the struggles of Derek Boogaard, Georges Laraque and Donald Brashear in mind as well – I asked PHT readers if enforcers really help teams win hockey games.

Check out the poll results below (click to enlarge).

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I admit that the question was a bit too simplistic, but the goal was to see if readers found enforcers important. Here is a more worthwhile comparison, though. Thanks to the always vital Hockeyfights.com, I was able to look at the league’s fighting major leaders in the regular season and playoffs.

First, the top 5 in fighting majors during the 2009-10 season.

1. Zenon Konopka – 33
2 (tied). Ian Laperriere – 25
Brandon Prust – 25
4. Matt Carkner – 24
5. Colton Orr – 23

Now, let’s take a look at the top fighters during the playoffs.

1. Justin Abdelkader – 2
17 players tied with one fight.

OK, I admit, the regular season is much longer than the postseason. Obviously, there are more opportunities for fights with 30 teams playing 82 games. Still, the difference is striking. I mean, every player on that top 5 regular season list fought more times than the entire NHL in the playoffs.

Naturally, the stakes are higher in playoff games so players don’t want to risk suspensions or instigator penalties. Still, it’s interesting that the playoffs put up all those great numbers without thuggish behavior. I’m not a part of the “take fighting out of hockey” club, but I don’t need knuckles thrown to enjoy hockey. Sometimes, the threat of violence is helpful in deterring too many shenanigans (uh oh, I’m not going into “nuclear weapons maintain peace” talk, am I?).

That being said, I wonder if the typical fighters will need to be able to skate (maybe even score) a bit to remain relevant in the NHL going forward. I, for one, think it’s a good thing.

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

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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.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.