Phoenix Coyotes v St. Louis Blues

It’s St. Louis Blues day on PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The St. Louis Blues.

Last season, the Blues again played a tough, physical brand of hockey and found their way to the postseason with hopes of a Stanley Cup. Once again, however, they found their hopes dashed in a loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

After another disappointing exit, Ken Hitchcock’s team looks to once again clamp down on the Western Conference.

After rumors of late-season discord proved to be untrue, they head into the new season with some minor changes being made and more goaltending than they may know what to do with. Can Hitchcock’s gang learn from their recent postseason disappointments and take the next step? That, friends, is the million dollar question.

Offseason recap

The Blues were odd this summer in that they seemed to not do much but were very busy. They were taken by surprise by Andy McDonald’s sudden decision to retire thanks to concussions and replaced him with free agent playmaking center Derek Roy. He and captain David Backes could become a scoring duo right away.

Acquiring centers was the thing for them to do as they also added Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Bolduc for depth and Maxim Lapierre for extra special added annoyance, even though he’d rather be in Montreal.

Their most notable move was dealing David Perron to Edmonton for young winger Magnus Paajarvi (link). Perron had reached the end of his rope with Hitchcock and the Oilers ran out of patience with Paajarvi. Hey, a mutually beneficial change of scenery deal!

St. Louis wasn’t too active in signing other team’s players because GM Doug Armstrong had a host of their own to take care of. Restricted free agents Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Patrik Berglund all inked new deals.

Meanwhile, prized defenseman Alex Pietrangelo still remains unsigned. At least the Blues have plenty of cap space to fend off any potential offer sheets.

Provided Pietrangelo gets back in the mix (and he will) the Blues will be strong once again and will have to deal with Chicago and Minnesota in the new Central Division for the playoffs. Getting to the postseason is nice and all, but they have a bigger goal in mind.

Related:

Introducing: PHT’s ‘Team of the Day’ summer series

Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

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.