For better or worse, the Carolina Hurricanes’ core players are locked up for the foreseeable future. Even so, there’s at least one figure in the franchise who has a lot to prove next season: head coach Kirk Muller.*
So far, the results haven’t been particularly promising, but let’s not forget that Muller hasn’t really received a full season to prove himself just yet.
Sure, he was in place in 2013, but that was just a 48-game campaign with virtually no training camp. Muller took over the Hurricanes gig during the 2011-12 season, so this represents his first opportunity to have a traditional training camp and generally install things more naturally.
Even so, it’s a challenging situation, as you can see from Hurricanes Day at PHT.
- Muller must keep an expensive group of big-money players motivated and focused, even though most of them enjoy the comfort of long-term deals.
- Cam Ward hopes to bounce back, but if Anton Khudobin is more than just a product of playing behind Zdeno Chara in Boston, then Muller needs to give his backup a nice amount of reps. Managing goalie duos is an underrated challenge for head coaches.
- Finding some way to make the team’s inefficient special teams units more efficient would provide a greater margin of error.
- He faces the challenge of the newly formed Metropolitan Division, which should almost certainly provide tougher competition than the often-putrid Southeast Division.
It won’t be easy, but at least Muller will get to do things his way in 2013-14. One can only guess how many – if any – more chances he’ll receive if it doesn’t work out next season, though.
* – At least since it seems like GM Jim Rutherford is approaching a Darcy Regier-level of job security.
More Hurricanes Day at PHT fun
Carolina leans on Cam Ward
Will the defense get better?
It could all come down to three signings
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.
The Brooks Orpik hit on Olli Maatta isn’t the only factor in lineup changes for Game 3 between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Maybe the most interesting change starts on the Penguins’ bench … where they likely hope that tweak will stay for at least one night.
Marc-Andre Fleury is apparently healthy enough to suit up for the Penguins, although it appears as though Matt Murray will start:
That’s a clear sign that “The Flower” is healthy enough to play, as Murray would be an injury or a coach’s pull away from giving up the net to Fleury. (One would assume.)
Murray has been fantastic for the most part since taking over for Jeff Zatkoff during this postseason, yet you know how the playoffs can be; people may clamor for Fleury after a loss even if it’s not really Murray’s fault.
Circling back to that Orpik hit, the dominoes seem to fall this way:
Penguins: Derrick Pouliot replaces injured Maatta.
Capitals: Dmitry Orlov in for suspended Orpik.
PHT will make note if there are any swerves.