Fight

Does the NHL need more rivalries?

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Interesting piece here by the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran in which it’s argued the NHL could use a few more intense rivalries.

The article led off with Hall-of-Fame defenseman Mark Howe recalling his first game against Boston after being traded from Hartford to Philadelphia: “One of the veterans from the Flyers came over and said: ‘You haven’t played in one of our battles with the Bruins before, have you?’ I said: ‘No, I haven’t.’ He said: ‘We’re just telling you, be ready.’”

Wonder how often conversations like those happen anymore.

McGran then addressed the current state of NHL rivalries:

The league tried to exploit the Rangers-Flyers rivalry for its annual Winter Classic. It might have been smarter to have a second Boston-Vancouver game. The Stanley Cup winner and runner-up — who only play each other once a year in the regular season — absolutely hate each other.

The rematch — the Canucks won — had people talking. Why didn’t Roberto Luongo play? There were lots of fights. When a Boston TV station had a Vancouver columnist on the air to talk about why Vancouver players wouldn’t fight, he was sandbagged by an appearance of Bruins tough-guy Shawn Thornton, who countered every point.

That’s not to say Bruins-Canucks is the NHL’s only current rivalry, but it’s sure felt that way at times this season. Other rivalries that come to mind include Bruins-Habs and Canucks-Blackhawks. And what do all three of those have in common? They’ve all been recent playoff matchups.

Two years ago, the most intense rivalry was probably Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, thanks to the Pens and Flyers meeting twice in a row in the postseason, not to mention hailing from the same state. (A third consecutive meeting looked all but assured in the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals, until the Habs upset the Pens.)

Of course, rivalries like Montreal-Boston go back a tad longer than a few seasons, as does Montreal-Toronto and Calgary-Edmonton. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a Habs-Leafs postseason series since 1979 and the last Battle of Alberta was 1991.

There’s a reason the NHL tried to realign the league into four regional conferences with the first two rounds of the playoffs being waged within the conference. It’s a simple formula. The more teams see each other in best-of-seven series, the more animosity.

Anyway, living in Vancouver, I get my fill of hate. What about you? Do you wish your team had a more intense rivalry with another team?

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.

Video: Orpik penalized after catching Maatta with late, high hit

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The Pittsburgh Penguins were without defenseman Olli Maatta for most of the first period of Game 2 after he was on the receiving end of a high, late hit from Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik.

The hit occurred early in the first period, well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck on a rush into the Washington zone.

Maatta, who nearly fell over as he tried to stand back up, was in obvious distress as he went to the dressing room. Orpik was given a minor penalty for interference on the play.