Washington Capitals sign G Michal Neuvirth to a two-year contract extension

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michalneuvirthextension.jpgThe Washington Capitals decided to pass on the free agent goalie market this summer, opting to go with two young system goalies in Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov might be the more accomplished of the two goalies – at least from an NHL experience standpoint – but the Capitals decided to extend Neuvirth’s contract first.

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that it is a two-year, $2.3 million extension that will begin during the 2011-12 season and net a $1.15 million annual cap hit.

Here is a little more information about Neuvirth’s minor league and pro career up to this point.

Neuvirth (NOY-vihrt), 22, was 9-4-0 posting a 2.75 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 17 games with the Capitals last season. He went 7-1-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average and a.914 save percentage at Verizon Center last season.

The 6’1″, 203-pound native of Usi Labem, Czech Republic, was 17-3-1 with a shutout, a 2.24 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage in 22 regular-season games with the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League (AHL). During the playoffs Neuvirth was 14-4 with a shutout, a 2.07 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage in 18 Calder Cup playoff games en route to his second Calder Cup championship. Neuvirth is the first No. 1 goalie to win back-to-back Calder Cups since former Capital Pete Peeters did so with the Maine Mariners in 1978 and ’79.

Neuvirth, who wears No. 30 for Washington, made his NHL debut on Feb. 14, 2009, earning a win at Tampa Bay. He is 11-5-0 with a 2.80 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage in 22 NHL career games, all with the Capitals. Neuvirth received the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the AHL’s playoff MVP in 2009 with a 16-6 record and a 1.92 goals-against average during the playoffs.

The Capitals are putting a lot of eggs in the Neuvirth-Varlamov basket going into this season, but if Neuvirth ends up being the better of the two this could be a nice bargain contract. The Czech goalie is only 22 years old right now, so you can use all of those buzz words like “potential” and “upside” when discussing Neuvirth. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how those two young netminders play this season and it sounds like they’re committed to at least one of them going forward.

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.

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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.