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Report: Atlanta Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg is a done deal (Updated with denials)

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The Atlanta Thrashers will indeed move to Winnipeg. That’s the report from Stephen Brunt of The Globe & Mail, although many people are denying it … including NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

If this report is accurate after all, then True North Sports and Entertainment succeeded in their goal of bringing an NHL team back to the former home city of the Winnipeg Jets. Brunt reports that an official announcement will be made on Tuesday and that Bettman will travel to Winnipeg to hold a press conference on that matter. That report also indicates that True North targeted the Thrashers all along, even though the Phoenix Coyotes grabbed most of the focus regarding relocation.

If Brunt’s report is true, there won’t be much suspense about the NHL Board of Governors approving the sale since they already “quietly approved the sale and transfer of the team” months ago.

The relocated Thrashers team would play at the MTS Centre, the current home of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. It’s unclear if the team’s mascot will change, although rumors indicate that True North would prefer not to use “Thrashers.”

Update: To little surprise, many outlets are reporting denials to this original report. TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution are among the respected reporters who said it isn’t official. Jeff Marek spoke with True North, who denied the report.

Another update: There’s at least one person backing up Brunt’s report: Nick Kypreos confirmed that the deal is done.

OK, so we know that the relocation is far from official, but let’s take a quick big picture look at the impact of the move if it does happen.

One second chance comes to an end while another begins …

We’ll get deeper into the bigger issues when (or if) this becomes official, but the interesting thing about this news is that it involves two markets getting second chances to make an NHL team work.

The city of Atlanta already saw one NHL team relocate to another market as the Atlanta Flames became the Calgary Flames in 1980. Even if people blame faulty ownership in both situations, it’s tough to imagine the city getting another NHL franchise anytime soon. Meanwhile, Winnipeg lost the Jets in 1996 when the team left for Phoenix to become the Coyotes during a tough time for the Canadian dollar.

Despite similar end results, the two markets are very different. Atlanta is a large American city that might not take to hockey off the bat while Winnipeg is a Canadian market that hopes to make up for its relatively small market with sheer puck passion. Ultimately, my guess is that the team’s new ownership and the quality of the city’s support will determine if this move will be a success. (If it actually happens, of course.)

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Again, we’ll keep an eye on any reports that might refute Brunt’s piece, but the smart money is on this being true. Stay tuned for more news and analysis in the near future.

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.