Mike Yeo, Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Marek Zidlicky, Cal Clutterbuck, Devin Setoguchi

Slumping Wild try to avoid frustration

On Dec. 15, the Minnesota Wild were atop the Western Conference with a 20-8-4 record and 44 points.

Today, they’re in seventh with a 21-15-6 record…and 47 points.

Our resident mathletes will note this means the Wild are 1-7-2 over their last 10 games — they’ve only got one regulation win in their last 12 games — which is one of the most staggering slides in franchise history. Minnesota’s had tough stretches before, but never on the heels of becoming the best team in hockey…yes, in hockey. From Dec. 4-15, the Wild led the NHL in points. Today they’re in 13th.

The losses have hit the Wild hard, but they’re trying to keep their composure.

“It’s about being professional,” Kyle Brodziak told the Minnesota Star-Tribune. “Frustration is probably the easy way to go about it. The harder thing to do is just to dig deeper and try to find ways to be positive and keep coming to work just knowing in the back of your mind that eventually it’s going to pay off.

“You can’t get frustrated. Frustration is an evil thing that will just make it so much worse.”

The Wild are facing two major problems at the moment. One is a lack of goalscoring — they rank 29th in goals per game (2.19) and their leading scorer, Dany Heatley, has just 13 goals through 42 games.

The other problem is precedent, or lack thereof. Nobody on the team quite knows how to deal with going from awesome to awful in such a short span, mostly because teams rarely go from “best in the league” to “fighting for playoff positioning” in a matter of weeks.

“I’ve been on teams that had tough stretches, tough times, but I haven’t been on a team that you’ve been on top and then suddenly it goes the other way,” goalie Niklas Backstrom said. “It’s a challenge for us. We have to climb back.”

Unfortunately for Minnesota, things aren’t about to get any easier. The Wild will play five of their next seven on the road in tough locales — Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Toronto and Colorado — with their home games coming against the top two teams in the Pacific Division, San Jose and Dallas.

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.