With the way the Red Wings kind of meandered into the playoffs, there were a lot of fans hoping that their team could face the older, and not sharp looking Wings in the playoffs. If there were Coyotes fans hoping for that they’re rethinking that wish now as the Wings have put the Coyotes season on the brink after taking them out 4-2 tonight to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
Just like in Game 2, the Wings came out fast and furious getting goals from Ruslan Salei and Drew Miller in the first three minutes of the game to get ahead 2-0. Valtteri Filppula would make it 3-0 just 2:50 into the second period and while David Schlemko would score on the power play later on in the second, the Wings with Jimmy Howard (28 saves) would hold strong.
Johan Franzen would cast the final dagger of the game with a breakaway goal just 45 seconds into the third period to make it 4-1. A late power play goal from Ray Whitney would make it 4-2 but the Coyotes would get no closer.
For Phoenix, being unable to get out to a good start in any of the periods tonight crushed them. If the Coyotes came out with any fire, Detroit brought it to them harder. Add in that Ilya Bryzgalov isn’t playing as sharp as he’s capable of doing (even in spite of making 30 saves tonight) and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. The scary part of all this is that Detroit isn’t palying completely sharp on top of it all. They’re making mistakes and taking penalties just the same and their penalty kill has been miserable, but they’re still winning the games.
Unfortunately, factoring into the discussion is how this makes Wednesday’s Game 4 a deja vu situation in the most twisted of ways. In April 1996 the Red Wings knocked the Winnipeg Jets out of the playoffs in Game 6 of their first round playoff series in Winnipeg. With the rumors of relocation growing louder as the season wound down and into the playoffs, the possibility exists that it could be the last game played in Arizona.
It’s morbid to ponder that but there’s just that nagging feeling with there being no news at all updating the situation in a positive way and Canadian buyers waiting quietly to be allowed to make their move, the NHL’s “History Will Be Made” commercials might have a really awkward comparison to be made in the near future. To avoid that in the meantime, Phoenix will have to play as desperate and as hungry as they ever have before and make a little history of their own and storm back from being down 3-0 in the series to win it. Considering tonight’s loss was the first time all season the Coyotes have lost three in a row in regulation, anything is possible… But it doesn’t look good.
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.
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.