The BankAtlantic Center will host a rather strange reunion tonight as the Panthers take on the Winnipeg Jets.
Florida assistant Craig Ramsay — who coached the Thrashers in their final season of existence — will face his former organization for the first time since being relieved of his duties.
“In all honesty, now, since I’ve bounced around from one team to another, I have a whole bunch of those teams where you have special meaning for the game and you have to try to set that aside,” Ramsay told NHL.com. “I’d like to say there’s no extra emotion, but there is… There is emotion there, but I really try not to let it affect the way I do my job and what I have to accomplish.”
Relieving Ramsay of his duties was a low point in Winnipeg’s otherwise blissful summer — lost amidst the good vibes and excitement was the fact that Ramsay had been blindsided by the move. In his lone year with Atlanta, he’d taken the team to its four-highest ever point total and had the Thrashers atop the Southeast Division halfway through the year. “I have to admit it was quite a bit of a shock when it started to transpire when I first heard that maybe we were going to be the team to go to Winnipeg,” he said. “My wife and daughter got on the Internet to check out rentals, assuming we’d be part of the package, and we’d be heading north.”
Instead, the Jets cleaned house and replaced both Ramsay and Thrashers GM Rick Dudley with Claude Noel and Kevin Cheveldayoff. By all accounts, it wasn’t the cleanest of executions — the South Florida Sun-Sentinel said Winnipeg left Ramsay “dangling for several weeks” before informing him he wouldn’t be retained.
Things have worked out for Ramsay to a certain degree. While he’s now an assistant rather than a head coach (serving under Kevin Dineen with the Panthers), Florida’s gotten off to a far better start than the Jets have under Ramsay’s replacement, Claude Noel. The Panthers are 6-4-0 heading into tonight’s action, just two points back of Southeast Division leaders Washington.
And perhaps of equal importance, five points up on last-place Winnipeg.
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.
The Brooks Orpik hit on Olli Maatta isn’t the only factor in lineup changes for Game 3 between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Maybe the most interesting change starts on the Penguins’ bench … where they likely hope that tweak will stay for at least one night.
Marc-Andre Fleury is apparently healthy enough to suit up for the Penguins, although it appears as though Matt Murray will start:
That’s a clear sign that “The Flower” is healthy enough to play, as Murray would be an injury or a coach’s pull away from giving up the net to Fleury. (One would assume.)
Murray has been fantastic for the most part since taking over for Jeff Zatkoff during this postseason, yet you know how the playoffs can be; people may clamor for Fleury after a loss even if it’s not really Murray’s fault.
Circling back to that Orpik hit, the dominoes seem to fall this way:
Penguins: Derrick Pouliot replaces injured Maatta.
Capitals: Dmitry Orlov in for suspended Orpik.
PHT will make note if there are any swerves.