Columbus Blue Jackets' goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, of Russia, is silhouetted as he stands in front of his net before an NHL hockey game against the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver, British Columbia, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)

What’s wrong with the Blue Jackets?

7 Comments

The Columbus Blue Jackets’ season hasn’t been a disaster so far. They remain just five points shy of a playoff spot and they aren’t in the midst of a lengthy losing streak.

At the same time, this is a team that has turned failing to make the playoffs into a tradition. A hot start in the second half of the 2013 campaign put them a hair away from disrupting that and the hope was at least some of that momentum would carry into the current campaign.

It has’t. Even when they win decisively, as they did in Toronto on Monday, they are unable to build on it and so far that’s been their greatest crime. They aren’t consistently horrendous, they aren’t consistently anything, and they’ve averaged out to be something slightly less than nothing special.

“You can’t say we’re not trying,” defenseman James Wisniewski remarked to the Columbus Dispatch after their 4-0 loss to Nashville. He pointed to their harsh road schedule of late as part of the problem, which is an argument that would resonate more if they weren’t also 4-7-1 at home.

“Right now, we’re a little banged up,” Wisniewski added.

That certainly can’t be ignored. The team is without forwards Brandon Dubinsky (foot) and Marian Gaborik (knee) right now. They’re also still waiting on Nathan Horton (shoulder) to make his Blue Jackets’ debut.

Still, their issue might not be that simple.

Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards thinks that part of the problem could be a lack of leadership combined with the team’s relative youth. After all, they haven’t had a captain since Rick Nash left town. Even then though, Richards cautioned that there isn’t one single cause to the Blue Jackets’ struggles.

It certainly doesn’t help that goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been just as inconsistent as the rest of the squad. He was a big part of the Blue Jackets’ rise last season, but he has just a 2.85 GAA and .905 save percentage in 21 starts this season.

For what it’s worth, Bobrovsky doesn’t want to see his team making excuses for their poor play. That includes any suggestions that their recent rough schedule is to blame.

“We just didn’t have that extra jam, that extra gear that separates us from being a pain to play against and a team that is a half-step away,” Wisniewski said.

Perhaps that’s something they’ll get as the season progresses. Maybe that leadership, that extra something, will be Horton’s role when he’s ready to join his teammates on the ice.

Otherwise, it will be just another season, which for Columbus is a very bad thing.

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.