Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks - Game Seven

Bruins open up contract talks with free agent Brad Marchand

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Each summer, there are a handful of players who turn a conveniently timed career-year into a big, fat raise. We’ve already seen some breakthrough players reap those benefits in the 2011 off-season, with Joel Ward and Sean Bergenheim receiving significant contracts based on the hope that they might conjure their playoff magic over the long haul.

Boston Bruins rookie Brad Marchand probably fits in a slightly more positive subcategory with fellow restricted free agent Teddy Purcell, though. Both Marchand and Purcell boast minimal NHL resumes but they distinguished themselves from Ward, Bergenheim and other postseason wonders by having solid regular seasons as well. Perhaps that explains why both Purcell and Marchand lack new contracts at the moment (though that probably has more to do with the fact that they’re not unrestricted free agents).

While Purcell approaches a possible salary arbitration hearing on July 20, the Bruins have a larger window to work with their surprisingly high-scoring pest. CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty captures some of the early talks between Marchand and the Bruins’ front office (including GM Peter Chiarelli).

The B’s general manager has consistently said that the team will get a deal done with the impish forward, who has been back in his native Nova Scotia after a wild week of celebration in Boston following the Cup win.

Chiarelli wouldn’t characterize the discussions, but it’s expected that Marchand is going to get a substantial raise in his deal to something in the $2.5-3-5 million range before it’s all said and done.

“We continue to talk and we’ve had some discussion and I’ll leave it at that,” said Chiarelli when asked about the negotiations.

Giving Marchand $2.5-$3.5 million seems a little risky, but that salary falls compares reasonably well to the funny money being handed out in free agency this summer. Even looking at his standard numbers – which doesn’t tell the whole story because he can be effective at rubbing opponents the wrong way, too – he would probably get a nice deal on the open market. Marchand scored 21 goals (and 41 points) in his first season and then had 19 points in 25 games played during a fantastic Stanley Cup run.

His restricted status limits the relevance of certain comparisons, but his physicality and agitation make him more versatile than some of the one-dimensional scorers who went laughing to the bank in July. The closer the Bruins can keep his salary in the lower end of that range, the better things will look for a team that shouldn’t be drastically different (on paper, at least) as they prepare to defend their title in 2011-12.

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.