BOSTON, MA - JUNE 17: Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins makes a save in the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Three of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 17, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Playoffs Tonight: Can ‘Hawks solve Rask?

26 Comments

Game 4: Boston Bruins host Chicago Blackhawks (8:00 p.m. ET — NBC/Live Extra)
Boston leads series 2-1

Through three games, Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has a 1.22 GAA and .959 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Final — so yeah, he’s been good.

Rask turned aside 28 consecutive shots in Game 3 to give the Bruins an edge in the series courtesy of a 2-0 victory. However, Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t think that the problem is that Rask’s unbeatable.

“Tonight, I thought we made it rather easy on him,” Quenneville said after the contest.

Part of the Blackhawks’ offensive woes can be attributed to their struggles with the man advantage and at the faceoff circle.

“It’s tough to get a clean entry (versus Boston),” said Quenneville.

“It starts losing the draw initially. That’s the area we have to get better. Hopefully, you don’t have to resort to the entry.”

It also doesn’t help that captain Jonathan Toews has now gone 10 playoff games without a goal.

“I think right now whether it’s him or our power play, offensively I think we’re all a little gun shy in that area,” said Quenneville.

“One thing with Johnny, you can always measure how he’s going to be competing, because game in, game out he leaves it out there. Offensively maybe pressing in that area.”

Of course, it’s not like the Boston Bruins aren’t dealing with similar issues. They’ve won their last two games despite the fact that David Krejci, Nathan Horton, and Milan Lucic were all held off the scoresheet in both contests.

Those three forwards got the Bruins this far with their offensive contributions, but what’s separated the Blackhawks and Bruins recently has been their third lines. Tyler Seguin, Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille meshed well since being united in Game 2.

“They just seem to be working well together,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “A lot of credit goes to them. I’m just a little ticked off that I didn’t put them together sooner.”

All that being said, these two teams remain very evenly matched, especially if Marian Hossa is able to return from an upper-body injury.

Just as Rask was the hero in Game 3, Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford could be tonight. Or perhaps Toews or one of Chicago’s complimentary players will step up.

One thing is for sure though: The pressure if on Chicago to even the series tonight.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

19 Comments

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

23 Comments

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

22 Comments

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

100 Comments

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.