Brooks Laich

Brooks Laich re-signs with Washington for six years, $27 million; Free agent pack thins out more

With free agency kicking off on Friday, the Washington Capitals were set to be in a fight to try and retain their heart and soul forward Brooks Laich. Laich is loved across D.C. for his gutsy play and his serious attitude about winning games. That blue collar mentality with a penchant for scoring big goals would make him a hero in just about any city.

The Caps decided today that they didn’t want to see him become just that anywhere else as they’ve inked Laich to a six-year, $27 million contract to lock him into Washington and avoid free agency.

The last four years in Washington, Laich has missed just four games and has averaged over 21 goals in that time (85 goals, 112 assists). He’s been the guy that’s done the dirty work on a team loaded with flashy stars. Laich has been killing penalties and defending against some of the better forwards they’ve faced off with.

The $4.5 million cap hit seems a bit stiff and the Caps will have to hope that there won’t be a salary cap rollback in the future when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement gets worked out as that number might get uncomfortable for them if that happens. As it is now, with the cap ballooning every year, it’s a price that won’t cripple the team and George McPhee potentially got a discounted price for him considering how much Laich could have commanded on the open market.

For the Caps, keeping Laich around made all the sense in the world. He is much loved in the city by the fans and his competitive fire is the kind that can help infect the rest of the team. He’s also a great community member as he’ll also help you change a tire after a Game 7.

Laich re-upping in Washington does have another effect on things as it takes a guy who would’ve been hotly pursued off the market for July 1. Laich would’ve seen a lot of attention as he’s an ideal contributor for a team looking to get that complimentary piece to put them over the top. Now, July 1 shapes up to be all about Brad Richards, Tomas Vokoun, and potentially Jaromir Jagr as well. The rest of the unrestricted free agent pool isn’t overly inspiring.

That doesn’t matter much to Washington now though as they’re keeping their guy. While they’ll still be prowling around for help for the team come July 1, they’re hanging on to the one guy that everyone else wanted to have on their team and that can’t be bad.

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

Brooks Orpik suspended three games for hit on Olli Maatta

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Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.

Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.

Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:

“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”

To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.

This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.