Return of the Hartford Whalers… Sort of

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hartfordwhalerssign.jpgLike a long dead television franchise or a band that broke up long ago that is looking to cash more checks, the Hartford Whalers will rise again. Before you get too excited and dust off that green Kevin Dineen jersey with “Pucky” the Whale on the shoulders, let’s just stress that this isn’t about the NHL coming back to Hartford.

I know, I know… It’s heartbreaking. Still, former Whalers owner Howard Baldwin in his efforts to bring professional hockey back to central Connecticut has scored a victory for the city of Hartford in his own curious kind of way.

Thirteen years after the NHL Whalers departed for North Carolina, the AHL Wolf Pack will be rebranded as the Connecticut Whale. Howard Baldwin, the founding father of the Whalers, announced Monday afternoon his Hartford Hockey LLC will take over marketing and sales operations of the Wolf Pack.

Early reports indicated the team would be renamed the Connecticut Whalers. But Baldwin’s group decided on “Whale” for a variety of seasons, including feedback from fans of the Wolf Pack and Whalers.

“I kind of like the idea,” said Al Victor, president of the Whalers Booster Club. “I was kind of put back because I always felt the Whalers name should be saved for the NHL. I like the idea of not going with the Whalers and saving it for the NHL. And they are paying tribute to the Whale with this name. This is a good compromise … we always called them the Whale.”

Said Baldwin: “For as long as the team has been in existence, people have affectionately referred to the team as ‘The Whale.’ ”

The Connecticut Whale doesn’t have the same ring to it as the Hartford Whalers did and that’s fitting since this is just a painted up new version of the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack. Trying to cash in on the nostalgia of the Whalers is something folks have gotten to be really good at in recent years, but making an honest effort to rekindle the love that many folks in New England had for hockey and the Whalers is truly a beautiful thing to see.

The logo won’t be the same, the brand of hockey won’t be the same, and the XL Center isn’t as goofy fun as it was when it was the Hartford Civic Center and you had to enter the arena by cutting through a shopping mall but if it’s something that makes the people in Hartford and the rest of Connecticut care for a team again, then that’s just perfect.

Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.