After all the bluster and the big talk and the reflecting back on the fights and scary hits from the regular season, the playoffs between Boston and Montreal kicked off in a way that Caps and Pens fans might recognize all too well.
Carey Price stopped 31 shots in earning his third career playoff shutout while Brian Gionta scored two goals, each assisted by Scott Gomez, in leading the Habs to victory in Game 1 over Boston 2-0.
Montreal’s plan of attack looked oddly familiar to how they were able to shutdown the Capitals and Penguins in last season’s playoffs. The Habs grabbed the lead early on in the game in the first period and helped themselves out by playing staunch defense and frustrating the Bruins’ attempts at offense at every turn. When the Bruins were able to get chances, Price was there to turn them away.
For Boston, it’s just one game in the series but they should be a bit concerned with how their offense was silenced and mostly thanks to perpetual thorn in the side P.K. Subban. Subban led the Canadiens in time on ice playing just over 27 minutes and found himself getting the call in all clutch situations on defense for the Habs while paired up with Hal Gill. Speed and skill paired up with a veteran defenseman known for holding up the opponents top forwards from finding room. It’s a video game like pairing but for Montreal it worked well tonight.
Boston will have to figure out a way to get the offense going obviously but for them, stepping up their physical play is a must and they have to make the Canadiens feel uncomfortable on the ice. That’s not advocating dirty play, just being more aggressive and attacking stronger to make space would be huge for them.
On the other hand, Montreal doesn’t need to deviate much from what they did tonight. While they can’t quite expect for Price to be lights out in every game, the confidence and stellar play he had tonight helped put the memories of Price’s 0-8 playoff record in his last eight games and goals against average north of 4.00 out of everyone’s minds.
The Bruins should have some concern though because Montreal will keep doing this if they’re allowed. Getting the first goal in Game 2 should be the Bruins’ primary objective lest they get defended to death the rest of the way.
Here’s video of Brian Gionta’s game sealing second goal.
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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.
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.
Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.
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.