The qualification round has been completed and each winner will play against one of the four teams that got a bye to the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Here are the matches and what channel you should tune in to:
Sweden versus Slovenia (3 a.m. ET, NBCSN)
Sweden was the only team to win all three of its preliminary round matches in regulation time. Even with key forwards Henrik Sedin, Johan Franzen, and Henrik Zetterberg sidelined, the Swedish team still has a superb offense and boasts one of the best goaltenders in the world in Henrik Lundqvist. For Slovenia, getting this far is a huge accomplishment after qualifying for the Olympics for the first time. Anze Kopitar is the team’s lone NHL player. (Watch it LIVE online.)
Finland versus Russia (7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN)
Russia’s offense and power play were supposed to be the team’s main strengths going into this tournament, but that largely hasn’t been the case. After beating Slovenia in its opening match, Russia suffered a 3-2 shootout loss to the United States and just barely got by Slovakia in another shootout. The Russians earned a 4-0 victory over the Norwegian team to advance to the quarterfinals, but that match didn’t serve to put the concerns about their offense to rest. Finland will be a big test for them after the Finnish cleanly defeated Austria and Norway before frustrating Canada in a 2-1 overtime loss. (Watch it LIVE online.)
Canada versus Latvia (12 p.m. ET, MSNBC)
Like Russia, Canada has had trouble capitalizing on its overflow of skilled forwards. The Canadians found it particularly difficult to score against a Finnish squad that managed to claim the middle of the ice for the better part of their match. They had anticipated another tough defensive opponent in Switzerland, but instead will face the more offensively-minded Latvian squad. Latvia earned a 3-1 win against Switzerland to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in the nation’s history. (Watch it LIVE online.)
U.S. versus Czech Republic (12 p.m. ET, USA)
The Czech Republic’s coaching staff has made some questionable roster and lineup decisions along the way, which likely contributed to the team’s underwhelming showing in the round robin phase. The Czechs goaltending is suspect too, which will make the United States a particularly daunting opponent. The Americans looked great in the preliminary round. They cleanly beat Slovenia and Slovakia and fought hard for a shootout victory against Russia. (Watch it LIVE online.)
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
—Martin Jones is a calming presence in the Sharks’ net. (Sports Illustrated)
–The Rangers should go after Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. (The Hockey News)
–Some people have pretty wild hockey tattoos. (BarDown)
–Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)
–A great piece on how Bruce Boudreau impacted the Ducks and Capitals. (Sportsnet)
–It should be an interesting off-season for the Anaheim Ducks. (Daily Breeze)
—Adam Henrique is a funny guy. He took to Twitter to try and get himself on the cover of NHL 17:
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.
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.