Washington Capitals v New York Rangers - Game Three

Alex Frolov denies accusing Sean Avery of making racist comments

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Strange things happen when you combine the language barrier with a need to back down from controversial comments. For those of us who don’t speak fluent Russian, we often have to take a foreign source’s word for things when a European player makes some controversial remarks.

It’s hard to tell how exactly the true thesis of Alex Frolov’s commentary about controversial former teammate Sean Avery was lost in translation, but it certainly was for quite some time when the story circulated around the hockey world on Monday. Before we get to the clarification, here’s the snippet from Joe’s Monday post regarding the comments that incensed some and eventually bewildered observers.

Slava Malmud of sport-express.ru translated the Q&A portion of the interview with Frolov to reveal what seems to be some pretty inflammatory comments.

Q: Why does everyone hate him?
AF: It’s not hate, it’s… He has a specific role, he is a pretty unique man and he likes to do, let’s say, extravagant things. Sometimes they’d be bordering on the forbidden. He isn’t a fool. Lately he has become calmer, smarter. Before he’d get swept away with emotions and do something stupid. To mention each and every one of his stunts… Something always happens around him, it’s a part of his job. He needs to be talked about. He loves it, he feels at home in the spotlight. Sometimes he called opponents “black monkeys.” He did a lot of things, I can’t remember all of them.

Yikes, right?

Frolov claims that he was either being misquoted or that his comments were taken out of context, according to a conversation with Jesse Spector.

“I didn’t say anything about Aves calling someone bad language – I was saying he’s really emotional and that in the past he could say the wrong thing,” Frolov told The News. “It wasn’t particularly about black people. He doesn’t have anything against black people. I mean, he’s a nice person, and he wouldn’t say something bad about black people or Asian people or any kind of people. It’s some kind of misunderstanding.”

Frolov’s relationship with Avery is interesting for the fact that they played together not only this past season, but also with the Los Angeles Kings from 2003-07, until Avery was traded to the Rangers. It was that incarnation of Avery that Frolov was mostly talking about in the interview, the Avery who was accused by the Oilers’ Georges Laraque of using a racial slur in 2005.

“I never heard him call anyone anything like that,” Frolov told The News. “Russian journalists, they were asking about him, and sometimes he could say something stupid, especially in the past. He’s not a bad person. He’s a good guy. … I didn’t try to say anything bad about Aves or say that he was trying to say something bad about anyone else.”

When it comes to a well-publicized agitator like Avery, many people will assume that he’s guilty until proven innocent. Who knows whether or not he made that comment toward Laraque or other ugly remarks to a variety of other opponents. It would take a dump truck full of naivete to assume that personal acts aren’t thrown around in the heat of battle, even when Mr. Avery is far from the scene.

It seems like the general message from Frolov – not to mention Avery’s more respectable series of react decisions – is that the man I once called “The Bart Simpson of Hockey” is growing up a bit. Greg Wyshynski provides this amusing vision of what might be going on in Avery’s head.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? That at sometime around Sloppy Seconds Gate, Avery decided he didn’t like the person staring back at him through $300 fashion glasses in that mirror from Urban Outfitters, and decided to change his behavior? That he’s still a pain in the ass but not the pain in the ass dropping racial taunts?

If only the takeaway quote from Frolov had been “calmer and smarter” instead. Because that’s Avery in 2011.

With the New York Rangers possibly primed for the 24/7 spotlight late this year, Avery could be the program’s best talker or biggest villain (or maybe a little of both). Perhaps we’ll get a better idea about the “new” Sean Avery then. Better yet, maybe the new Avery can even help the Rangers become an elite team next season.

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.