The NCAA tournament weekend is a frenetic one when it comes to college hockey. With just 16 teams in the field, things get whittled down quickly and after just a few days of games, here we are down to four teams setting up for a Frozen Four weekend in Tampa, Florida that’s teeming over with story lines.
In one semifinal you’ve got a pair of legendary hockey schools. Top seeded Boston College will square off against the University of Minnesota after each team took down game opponents last night. BC gets there by knocking off the defending champs from Minnesota Duluth while the Gophers earned their spot avenging their loss in the WCHA semifinals to North Dakota by taking out the Fighting Sioux handily.
Between the two sides, there’s a ton of future NHL talent. Boston College comes in with nine pro prospects while Minnesota has a whopping 18 NHL draftees on their roster. Chief among them for BC is Rangers prospect Chris Kreider but it’s been Calgary prospect Johnny Gaudreau that’s made a name of himself of late in both the Hockey East tournament and in the NCAAs. For Minnesota, their top three scorers are destined for the NHL with Wild prospect Erik Haula and Panthers studs Kyle Rau and Nick Bjugstad.
Meanwhile, the other semifinal features two schools that have never been in the Frozen Four. Union College and Ferris State come in with similar looks to their roster in that neither team has any NHL draftees; a stark contrast from what we’ll see in the other game. That doesn’t mean they’re lacking in stars of their own.
Union goalie and Hobey Baker Award finalist Troy Grosenick (pictured) and forward Jeremy Welsh have earned plenty of attention thanks to their big play this weekend and Ferris forward Jordie Johnston along with goalie Taylor Nelson have been standouts for the Bulldogs. The teams play similar brands of hockey in that you can’t give them power plays and if you get behind you’ll have a hell of a time coming back.
With the way the Frozen Four is set up, it’s the first time since 2003 that a representative from each major conference (Hockey East, CCHA, ECAC, and WCHA) was represented. This Frozen Four also features four teams that were the regular season champions of their conference as well as two schools that doubled up and won the conference tournament as well (Union and BC).
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.