Washington Capitals fans might be interested to hear what Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said today when asked why his team was now “entertaining as heck to watch.”
The question was a bit of a backhanded compliment to be sure, but I guess it’s better than asking why his old New Jersey teams were so boring.
So what happened? Did the current group of players tell him they wanted to play a more dynamic, attacking style?
No, said Lamoriello – they didn’t need to. Their “styles sort of really told us, without saying anything, that we should. I think I felt it. With the young players, we had [Jacob Josefson, Travis Zajac, Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk], you have to give them what they have.”
And if there weren’t those types of players, Lamoriello said the Devils would play the style that suits them best.
“We’re going to do whatever we need to do to win and we’re not going to apologize for it,” he said.
Of course, the Capitals have been saying pretty much the same thing since they made the decision to play more conservatively. If they think stapling Alex Ovechkin to the bench when protecting a lead is the way to go, then that’s what they’ll do.
The difference is, Lamoriello chose to let his best players dictate the overarching style instead of shoehorning them into a system that limits their weaknesses.
“It was time to loosen up a bit,” he said.
Artem Anisimov on Tuesday underwent successful surgery on his injured right wrist, the Chicago Blackhawks announced.
“We anticipate his return to full hockey activities in approximately six to eight weeks,” said team physician Dr. Michael Terry in a statement.
The news comes eight days after the Blackhawks were ousted in the first round, eliminated in seven games by the St. Louis Blues.
Acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in last summer’s blockbuster deal for Brandon Saad, the 27-year-old Anisimov enjoyed the second 20-goal season of his career and fell just two points shy of his previous career best of 44 when he was with the New York Rangers.
He played the bulk of this season on a line with two highly skilled players in Patrick Kane, the league-leader in points with 106, and Artemi Panarin, named as a Calder Trophy finalist on Monday.
Prior to his surgery, Anisimov was named to Russia’s preliminary roster for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, although the recovery schedule should allow plenty of time for Anisimov to be physically ready for the tournament when it begins in September.
Related: Three major challenges facing the Chicago Blackhawks, who won’t be champs in 2016
The Pittsburgh Penguins may hold a 2-1 series lead over the rival Washington Capitals, but they will be without defenseman Kris Letang for a pivotal Game 4 on Wednesday.
Perhaps for the Capitals, the absence of Letang — suspended one game for a high, late hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3 — on the Penguins blue line can provide an opportunity to help swing the series back in their favor heading to Washington and home ice in Game 5.
“He’s the backbone of their defense,” Capitals blue liner Karl Alzner told CSN Mid-Atlantic.
“He goes back for pucks and gets them out of his zone with a pass or a flip. He transitions the puck and logs key minutes on their PP.”
In addition to seven points in eight games this post-season, which puts him into a tie for third among defensemen in the playoffs, Letang is also among the leaders in ice time, averaging 29:13 per game.
So yes, that’s a significant loss at this juncture of the series, even if for one game.
The Penguins were already without Olli Maatta for Game 3. He was injured on that late, high hit from Brooks Orpik. That forced Derrick Pouliot into the lineup for Pittsburgh. The 25-year-old Justin Schultz, who the Penguins acquired from Edmonton earlier this season, figures to be next in line for Pittsburgh with Letang out.
Schultz entered the league with plenty of hype surrounding him, billed as a dynamic offensive defenseman. But nothing seemed to pan out for him in Edmonton, there were growing concerns about his play in his own end, and his time there ended with a trade prior to the deadline.
This could mean added minutes, too, for Trevor Daley, who played 22:20 in Game 3.
Between Pouliot and Schultz, they have a combined two games worth of Stanley Cup playoff experience.
The National Hockey League has suspended Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang one game for a high, late hit on Washington Capitals forward Marcus Johansson during Game 3.
The incident occurred late in the first period of Monday’s game, as Johansson had passed the puck off after entering the Pittsburgh zone. Letang was given a minor penalty for interference.
“After Johansson moves the puck, Letang delivers a high, forceful hit that makes significant head contact,” stated the league’s Department of Player Safety in a video.
“It is important to note that Johansson is not eligible to be checked on this play. Players who are not in possession of the puck are never eligible to be checked. However, the interference rule provides a brief window during which a player who initiates a hit while his opponent is in possession of the puck may legally finish a check. This is not such a case.”
The DoPS did state that Letang didn’t leave his feet making the hit, but that they leave the ice due to the “force of the hit.”
“This is also not an illegal check to the head,” it states in the video. “While there is significant head contact here, the head is not the main point of contact.”
Following the game, both Letang and Johansson broke down the hit for the media, but of course, both had totally different opinions of what occurred.
The Penguins lead the series 2-1 and have the opportunity to take a stranglehold with a win in Game 4 on Wednesday. Of course, without Letang, that task gets even more difficult.
Meanwhile, the bad blood between the rival Penguins and Capitals continues. This series has already run afoul of the DoPS, with the Orpik suspension and Tom Wilson receiving a fine for kneeing Conor Sheary.
Some intrigue in St. Louis, where Antti Niemi was the first Stars netminder off the ice this morning, only for Lindy Ruff to tell the media that tonight’s starter would be Kari Lehtonen.
Then, just to muddy the waters further, Ruff told reporters, “I’m not telling you who’s starting, so don’t ask.”
Typically, whichever goalie leaves the morning skate first is the starter.
But then, typically, a team doesn’t have a two-goalie system in the playoffs, so perhaps we should’t assume anything at this point.
All we know for sure is that Lehtonen started the first two games of this series. He played well in Game 1, a 2-1 Stars victory, but got pulled in Game 2 after surrendering three goals on just five shots.
Niemi, meanwhile, was solid in relief in Game 2, allowing just one goal — David Backes‘ winner in overtime — on 20 shots. For that reason, many figured Ruff would turn to Niemi for Game 3, just like he turned to Niemi for Games 4 and 5 in the first round against Minnesota.
But, apparently, we’ll have to wait and see for sure.