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Jacques Martin explains P.K. Subban’s absence in the Habs lineup

The trials and tribulations of Montreal’s newest favorite player, P.K. Subban, are causing a bit of a confusing stir for fans in Quebec. Subban is one of Montreal’s most popular players after arriving on the scene during last year’s playoffs. He’s youthful, he plays an exciting brand of hockey, he upsets opposing players so much they feel the need to mouth off to the press about it.

This is what makes head coach Jacques Martin’s decision to make Subban a healthy scratch the last three games tough for some Habs fans. They want to rage at Martin for sitting down their budding superstar but the “problem” they’ve got is that the Habs have won each game he’s sat out. In his place, Yannick Weber is getting a chance to start and he’s playing pretty well himself. Even in spite of that, some fans want to see Subban on the ice and for them, they might need to reflect back on how things broke down with Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak last year to see how Martin handles things with Weber and Subban. Dave Stubbs of The Montreal Gazette tells the story.

Martin loves this in-house battle, just as he enjoyed goalies Jaroslav Halak and Carey Price scrapping for action last season before Halak seized the No. 1 job.

His comparison of Weber-Subban to the goalies might be a little off-kilter; Halak was all-universe from the Olympics onward and not Price nor Ken Dryden nor Patrick Roy would have taken the job from him.

But still…

“It’s healthy to have competition and that’s what we have now,” Martin said. “There’s nothing wrong with that.

“(And) it’s important to keep in perspective that it’s a privilege to play at this level and there are lots of responsibilities attached to it,” he added, addressing Subban’s growth into the NHL.

“There’s nothing wrong when you’re not in the lineup. Last year was a very important year in Carey’s development. There was a process established that really helped him grow and made him a better player.

“With our younger players, whether a Weber or Subban or Lars Eller, they’ll be better for it in the long run.”

You can’t really argue with Martin’s final point as Carey Price has gone from being a potential bust in Montreal to the newest goaltending savior. Whether or not his lost battle with Halak for playing time last year and the lessons learned in taking things seriously to stick in the league played into that is debatable.

For now though, Martin’s cerebral work is being put to the test on Subban. Subban’s got a world of talent and the ability to be like another Dan Boyle on the blue line.  He’s fast, he’s got the offensive skills, he’s not afraid to play physically when needed. Having him compete with another young guy like Weber rather than a been-around-the-block veteran is what he needs to push himself to play better. Whether or not this dance continues all season long or not remains to be seen, but if nothing else, Habs fans are ready for a season-long duel. Team Yannick or Team P.K. anyone?

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.

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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.

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.