Top 2012: Torres gets 25 games

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The 2012 playoffs had more than their fair share of controversial hits, but none sparked more emotions than Raffi Torres’ blow to the head of Marian Hossa in Game 3 of the Phoenix Coyotes’ first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks:

Hossa was diagnosed with a concussion and was only recently medically cleared to play. But in the immediate aftermath of the hit, it remained to be seen how rookie disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan would react.

A suspension seemed all-but inevitable, even though Torres wasn’t assessed a penalty on the play. TSN’s Bob McKenzie called the hit “illegal on so many levels.”

“It is charging,” McKenzie said. “It is interference (late). It is a targeted head shot where he launches upward. The hit caused significant injury. The player (Torres) is a repeat offender in every sense of the term.”

Chicago’s Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy even weighed in, calling Torres’ actions “borderline criminal.”

Shanahan ended up making an example out of Torres by handing him a precedent-setting 25-game suspension that, thanks to the lockout, still hasn’t been fully served.

Here’s Shanahan’s explanation of his initial decision:

Of course, that’s not the end of the story. While the NHL-owned Coyotes supported Shanahan’s decision, the NHLPA rose to Torres’ defense, claiming that the length of the suspension was “excessive and arbitrary.”

The union even reportedly asserted that Torres’ hearing “violated the very basic requirements of a fair process.”

The NHLPA appeal went to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who ultimately decided to reduce Torres’ suspension by four games. That means that there’s only eight contests left on his punishment when you factor in the 13 playoff games that he’s already missed.

Torres was getting ready to go into this season with the goal of trying to change his ways. Someday this lockout will end, he’ll serve what’s left on his suspension, and then get that chance.

Lundqvist snubs Sens with 21 saves in first (Video)

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You know how goalies claim they prefer to be busy rather than risking rust in seldom seeing shots? If that’s true, Henrik Lundqvist was really, really happy in the first period.

The Ottawa Senators generated chance after chance in a busy opening frame of Game 1, generating a 21-12 shot differential against the New York Rangers. The game remains 0-0 in large part because Lundqvist has carried over his momentum from the Montreal Canadiens series so far.

As you can see from the video above, Lundqvist made some absolutely fantastic saves, especially in somehow stopping Mark Stone.

In a duller game, 21 shots on goal could a team’s entire output.

That’s impressive stuff from what appears to be a “vintage” Lundqvist. We’ll see how much more the Rangers lean on him as this one goes along.

Oh, and here’s a GIF of the best stop of the bunch, because seriously.

Kunitz is in for Penguins vs. Capitals in Game 1

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The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.

So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.

He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:

Foligno, Getzlaf, Giordano vie for Messier Leadership Award

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The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).

In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):

Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone. 

So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.

Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.

Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?

WATCH LIVE: Game 1 for Penguins – Capitals, Rangers – Senators

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It’s really happening.

For all the griping about having the Penguins and Capitals meet in the second round (again), it’s easy to forget the bright side: upsets didn’t dislodge this juicy matchup from taking place.

The West’s duo of Game 1 matchups kicked into gear last night, and now the East provides that battle between Sidney Crosby‘s squad and Alex Ovechkin‘s loaded team. Don’t sleep on Rangers – Senators, either, though; there should be plenty of intrigue in seeing superhuman Swedes Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson try to one-up each other.

Here’s what you need to know to follow the action:

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: CNBC (Stream online here)

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)