Tonight’s exhibition game against the New Jersey Devils might be a momentous occasion for some New York Rangers fans, as it will mark the debut of the Brad Richards-Marian Gaborik combo. While that preseason contest should provide a preview of their offensive future, the outlook for the team’s defense is a little muddy.
That’s because their crucial shutdown blueliner Marc Staal is still dealing with concussion issues that many believe resulted from a crushing check delivered by his brother Eric Staal late last season. Marc was supposed to practice today, but he instead opted to see specialists regarding his struggles with post-concussion syndrome. That situation is shaky enough that Rangers head coach John Tortorella acknowledged the possibility that Staal might not travel with the team to Europe on Monday.
The Rangers will finish their preseason schedule overseas and then start their season in Stockholm, Sweden on Oct. 7. They’ll play the Los Angeles Kings that night and then the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 8.
The goal is to get Staal ready for that Oct. 7 game, although it’s still a touch-and-go situation.
Friday, Tortorella admitted he has no idea how the next 72 hours or so will play out with Staal.
“It depends. Like I said, we’re trying to get him straightened out for the regular season,” Tortorella said. “We feel the specialists that he’s seeing now are going to speed that up. So, if he doesn’t make the first plane, he could come over the next day. We just haven’t gotten that far. He’s done a lot of testing, a lot of things over the past two days, and is doing it now. So we’ll find out more as we go into [Saturday] and Sunday.”
No doubt about it, Staal is a huge part of the Rangers defense. He averaged a stunning 25:44 minutes per game last season, compiling 29 points and playing sturdy defense on his way to his first career All-Star appearance. Losing him for an extended amount of time would be a significant blow to a New York defense that is top-heavy.
We’ll keep a lookout for updates during this weekend and as their regular season opener approaches.
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.
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.
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.
Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.
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.