Kirk Muller

Hunter and Muller eras begin on wrong foot

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Both the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes were hoping to get a boost on the ice with new coaches taking over behind the bench on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the Caps were unable to get much offensive going for Dale Hunter in his debut in Washington. Likewise, the Hurricanes had a tough time finding the net in Kirk Muller’s first game behind the bench in Carolina.

Forget the boost in energy—maybe they should have hoped for a boost in offense.

Both the Capitals and Hurricanes started off their new eras on the wrong foot. The Capitals could only muster a single goal as the red-hot St. Louis Blues came into town and won their fourth straight game by a 2-1 score. A little further south in the Southeast Division, the Hurricanes could only muster a single goal of their own for their new leader as well as the Panthers outscored them 3-1 in Kirk Muller’s first game. It doesn’t matter what a coach teaches or inspires—if they don’t score more than a goal, they’re not going to win very many games.

Each team only has to look at their opponents to see how much a new coach can help a team find success. Ken Hitchcock has helped the Blues completely turn their season around since he took over 11 games ago. St. Louis has already worked for eight wins under their new bench boss and has earned points in 10 of Hitchcock’s 11 games. Luckily for the Caps, they can expect Dale Hunter to have a similar coaching style as the successful Hitchcock. Now they’ll just have to hope for similar results.

In Carolina, Kirk Muller could look to the opponent’s bench to see the success Kevin Dineen has had in the early going this season. Even though most people expected the Panthers to struggle again this season, they’re sitting on top of the Southeast Division and in third place in the Eastern Conference. Fans and management in Carolina hope that the new voice behind the Hurricanes bench will produce similar results as the season goes on.

It’s a long season and both Hunter and Muller will have plenty of opportunity to put their stamp on their team over the course of the season. The next chance for Hunter’s Capitals to find the win column is against the rival Penguins (a team that has been just as hot as the Blues) on Thursday. For Kirk Muller and the Hurricanes, they’ll look forward to a date with the New York Rangers on Thursday as well.

It’s not going to get any easier for either of these teams as they look to find their footing.

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.