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It’s Arizona Coyotes Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Arizona Coyotes.

For years the dominant story surrounding the Coyotes was their struggle to find an owner and if that quest would force the team out of Glendale. They were finally bought last summer and while the five-year out clause that activates if the team loses $50 million means that the looming threat of relocation hasn’t completely vanished, the on-ice product itself is now front-and-center.

Unfortunately for the Coyotes, things didn’t go quite as well as planned in 2013-14. The Coyotes struggled offensively due in no small part to the fact that Mike Ribeiro failed to live up to expectations after inking a four-year, $22 million contract. Ribeiro went from averaging roughly a point-per-game in Washington to recording just 47 points in 80 contests last season. It was later revealed that his behavior was also a problem.

In the end, defenseman Keith Yandle led the team with 53 points, but he also had a team-worst minus-23 rating. A plus/minus rating isn’t always a great indicator of how a player performed, but it is noteworthy in this case given that, as Coyotes coach Dave Tippett noted in April, Yandle was inconsistent defensively.

Inconsistent would also be a good word to describe Mike Smith’s play. The 32-year-old goaltender, who is playing out a six-year, $34 million contract, was prone to severe hot-and-cold streaks and his overall performance was still a far cry from his 2.21 GAA and .930 save percentage in 2011-12. That being said he had gotten into a rhythm before an MCL sprain injury cut his season short.

That forced Thomas Greiss to serve as the team’s starting goaltender for the final weeks of the season and while he held his own, he got very little offensive support as the Coyotes went on a 1-4-3 stretch to close out 2013-14. That late season collapse caused them to concede the final Wild Card spot to the Dallas Stars.

Offseason Recap

Citing the aforementioned behavior issues, Coyotes GM Don Maloney bought out the remainder of Ribeiro’s contract. He also watched Radim Vrbata and Greiss walk as unrestricted free agents.

Devan Dubnyk signed a one-year, $800,000 contract to serve as the team’s new backup goaltender. The Coyotes also acquired forward Sam Gagner, along with B.J. Crombeen, from the Lightning (after he had been dealt from Edmonton to Tampa Bay) in the hopes that he will bolster the team offensively.

PHT Morning Skate: Adam Henrique wants to make NHL 17 great again

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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:

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

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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

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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

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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.