Vancouver Canucks v Boston Bruins - Game Six

Diving back in: Canucks re-sign pest Maxim Lapierre to two-year, $2M deal

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Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis didn’t flinch when he admitted that winning the GM of the Year award provided no solace after his team’s Game 7 defeat in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.

That being said, Gillis seemed to make all the right moves in the off-season and through trades. He brought in faceoff wizard Manny Malhotra to put Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin in better positions and won the bidding war for shutdown defenseman Dan Hamhuis last summer. It seemed like the two trades to acquire depth forwards Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre would be minor tweaks, but those deals made a positive impact on the team.

Higgins provided another dose of speed while Lapierre proved to be a useful forechecker and intolerable pain for opposing teams. While re-signing pending unrestricted free agent Kevin Bieksa is obviously the biggest move of the day for Gillis, retaining that versatile blueliner wasn’t his only move of the day. Gillis decided that Lapierre will remain a (hopefully useful) villain in Vancouver to the tune of a two-year, $2 million deal.

Lapierre isn’t a scoring dynamo – he scored 12 points in abbreviated stops with the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks and Canucks during the regular season – but he’s a player who can provide hustle and plenty of agitation. The former second round pick built up such a reputation for diving that officials seemed to usher in a serious crackdown during the Stanley Cup finals, yet his antics seemed to benefit Vancouver more than they hurt the team.

(At least in Gillis’ view, one would assume.)

The Canucks still have some off-season questions to answer, with Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo and Higgins ranking as their biggest unrestricted free agents while Jannik Hansen will likely be a restricted free agent. Re-signing Bieksa and Lapierre on the same day shows that Gillis is mostly happy with the team that brought Vancouver just one win shy of its first-ever Cup, but with about $13 million in cap space in play and 5-8 roster spots to fill, the team might still quite different by the end of this summer.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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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.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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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.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.