Washington Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin (8), of Russia, skates next to New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) during the first period an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

NHL on NBCSN: Islanders look to pull Capitals into their nightmare

15 Comments

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Washington Capitals host the New York Islanders at the Verizon Center at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

These are dark days for the Islanders. The forward momentum their franchise gained from finally making the playoffs last year seems to have been squandered. Their 10-3-0 run certainly has been over the course of their five game losing streak.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a $2,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Tuesday night’s NHL games. It’s just $10 to join and first prize is $400. Starts Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

It looks like teams will require around 90 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. If that’s the case then the Islanders need to get 40 points in their final 25 games, which obviously translates to a 20-5-0 record. Even if you assume that they won’t lose another game in regulation all season, the Islanders would still need to win a minimum of 17 contests.

So realistically, they’ve already missed the playoffs and to add insult to injury, they will probably lose Thomas Vanek too. Although New York gave up Matt Moulson, a first-round pick, and a second rounder to get him, the 30-year-old forward is expected be traded after he reportedly rejected the Islanders’ substantial offer.

With little hope and a team that’s likely to get worse before the season’s over, the Islanders don’t have much left to play for. Personal pride certainly has to rank high on their list of reasons to still give it their all. The belief, no matter how irrational, that they still have a shot, is likely another one. And for tonight, the desire to exact some measure of revenge against a Capitals’ squad that’s already beaten them twice this season.

Washington’s situation isn’t nearly as bleak as the Islanders. The Capitals are still very much in the battle for a playoff spot, but they’ve also watched their position degrade to the point where they’re on the outside looking in after their 6-9-6 run.

The Capitals managed to earn a 6-5 overtime win Sunday afternoon on the strength of an Alex Ovechkin marker and this has the potential to be an equally high scoring game. Washington netminders Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth haven’t been great lately and the Islanders’ goaltending has been consistently bad all season.

At the same time, these squads are certainly capable of putting on a show against anyone. That’s thanks in part to Ovechkin and John Tavares, but also do to their supporting casts that include the likes of Nicklas Backstrom in Washington and, at the time of writing, Vanek in New York.

Regardless of what type of game this evolves into, these two points will be critical for the Capitals. They haven’t drifted into the Islanders’ nightmare yet, but they need to move away from their lengthy slump if they want to keep it that way.

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

17 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

22 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

99 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.