Let’s take a look at today’s six game slate. All games are Eastern (ET).
St. Louis @ Columbus
With an outstanding 9-1-2 record, the Blues are considered by many to be the surprise team (in a good way, at least) in the NHL. This month will be a real test for them, though, beginning with a tough match in Columbus. The Blue Jackets won seven of their last 10 games, so it won’t be an easy Central Division confrontation.
Boston @ Pittsburgh
Both teams have the same amount of points … only the Penguins played (and lost) four more games. Each team also has a goalie who is pushing the established No. 1, as Tim Thomas and Brent Johnson are in the process of usurping Tuukka Rask and Marc-Andre Fleury. This should be an interesting game to watch regardless of which two goalies appear between the pipes.
Buffalo @ New Jersey
The team tied for second worst in the NHL (the Sabres) play against the league’s worst (the Devils). It seems quite likely that it will be a battle of backups, too, as Jhonas Enroth and Johan Hedberg are probably going to play in this one. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff will hit the 1,000 mark for games coached with this one.
Toronto @ Florida
The Maple Leafs are on a six-game losing streak, but they might solve it by beating the last team they have a win against: the Panthers. Florida’s low stance in the East (tied for second-to-last with 10 points) is a little misleading since they’ve played in only 12 games, tied with St. Louis for the least in the NHL.
Phoenix @ Chicago
One three-game losing streak will come to an end tonight: either the Coyotes’ overall skid or the Blackhawks’ three game skid at home. Chicago seems like they might be losing their edge at the United Center, going 4-6 overall after earning 29 wins in 41 regular season games there in 2009-10.
NY Islanders @ Anaheim
These two teams are on wildly different paths right now. After starting the season on a hot streak, the Islanders are on a troubling seven-game losing streak. Meanwhile, the Ducks began the season as one of the league’s worst teams, but look like they’re working things out with a four-game winning streak. Jonas Hiller faced 41 shots against the San Jose Sharks last night, so it will be interesting to see if Anaheim will give him another start or allow him to catch his breath tonight.
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.
—Martin Jones is a calming presence in the Sharks’ net. (Sports Illustrated)
–The Rangers should go after Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. (The Hockey News)
–Some people have pretty wild hockey tattoos. (BarDown)
–Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)
–A great piece on how Bruce Boudreau impacted the Ducks and Capitals. (Sportsnet)
–It should be an interesting off-season for the Anaheim Ducks. (Daily Breeze)
—Adam Henrique is a funny guy. He took to Twitter to try and get himself on the cover of NHL 17:
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.
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.
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.