Filppula 2

Under Pressure: Valtteri Filppula

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“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Tampa Bay Lightning we picked… forward Valtteri Filppula.

The Lightning made the difficult decision to use a compliance buyout on Vincent Lecavalier’s contract and free up roughly $7.7 million annually in cap space. Not too long after that, they inked Filppula to a five-year, $25 million deal.

Is it fair to compare those two? Of course not. Filppula isn’t a substitute for Lecavalier and the Lightning certainly didn’t want out of Lecavalier’s contract for the express purpose of grabbing Filppula. Lecavalier is 33 years old and was signed through 2019-20, so that cap hit was only going to look worse as time went on.

Unfortunately, those comparisons might end up being made anyways.

“Because they play the same position, they shoot the same hand, of course they are going to be compared,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper conceded to the Tampa Tribune.

It doesn’t help that, taken on its own merits, Filppula’s contract is still a big risk for Tampa Bay. He had 66 points in 2011-12, but was coming off a knee injury when the lockout ended and he struggled throughout the 2013 campaign.

That drop off in 2013, especially with the injury factored in, might have been easy to dismiss if not for the fact that he’s 29 years old and has only had one career season with more than 40 points. So to give him $5 million annually for the next five years seems like a stretch.

The man inking him to that deal was Lightning GM Steve Yzerman. Given Yzerman’s long tenure with the Detroit Red Wings, he would know Filppula better than most and he clearly believes in him. At the same time, that adds to what’s at stake for Filppula.

It won’t just be the unfair comparisons to Lecavalier that threatens to hang over him or the normal pressure that comes from being a big summer signing. If Tampa Bay has a bad season and Filppula doesn’t live up to expectations, then his signing will be used as a primary example in any potential argument against Yzerman.

In other words Filppula is also playing to prove Yzerman right for trusting him.

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

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.