Antti Niemi, Dustin Brown

PHT Predicts: Sharks vs. Kings — Who do you have?

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It’s an all-California battle in the playoffs (that reminds me of a website) and while both teams aren’t exactly cutthroat rivals (that hate is reserved for Anaheim) they still find ways to play some intense games. Dealing with each other in the playoffs amps things up to a new level. For San Jose, they’re still shaking off that “playoff choker” tag and their new blood is helping to do that. Logan Couture joins last season’s playoff hero Joe Pavelski to team up with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley.

The Kings have to make due without superstar Anze Kopitar but they might get back scorer Justin Williams in time for the playoffs. Guys like Drew Doughty and Dustin Brown are going to need to be huge to keep up with the high-powered Sharks. With Antti Niemi going up against Jon Quick, there should be some goaltending style on display.

As for how we see things going in this series, Kings and Sharks don’t play too well together.

James says:
The Kings flopped their way to the seventh seed while the Sharks have been crushing every team in their path (at least so it seems). The fact that they have a goalie with championship jewelry on his finger rather than playoff baggage in his head bodes well. The idea that they might have some secondary scoring beyond perennial scapegoat Joe Thornton is even better. The Kings have the kind of defense that could frustrate San Jose, but much like Pittsburgh in the East, I just don’t think Los Angeles hast the juice for much more than a win or two.

It’s the Sharks in 5 with a series that includes Dan Boyle out Doughty-ing Drew Doughty.

Matt says:
This series could get ugly fast. For a team that would go through goal droughts throughout the regular season, the last thing they could overcome is to lose their one, elite forward. Without Anze Kopitar (and Justin Williams), the margin for error is far too thin for the Kings. It’s a shame that they’d lose their one irreplaceable player only a couple weeks before the playoffs. Without him, the margin for error is just too small. Sharks in 5 (and it might not go that long).

Joe says:
It’s a huge bummer that Anze Kopitar isn’t playing for Los Angeles. With him, the Kings would at least have someone the equal of Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton out there to match up against them. Instead, the Kings are terribly weak up the middle and the roll the Sharks have been on the entire second half of the season should continue into the playoffs. Anyone talking about the Sharks being playoff chokers this round will find themselves without something to talk about during this round. Sharks in 6.

We’re not pro-regicide here, we just think that if you threw a king into a tank with a shark, the results should be as expected. Disagree with us? Feel free to vote in the poll and let us know what you think.

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.