Colorado Avalanche v Edmonton Oilers

Poll: What is the biggest reason for optimism in Edmonton?

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The Edmonton Oilers have missed the playoffs eight times in a row. Understandably, their fans are getting a little tired of the whole rebuilding thing.

But even though a ninth straight missed postseason seems likely in the tough Western Conference, there are still reasons for optimism. After all, in sports, there are always reasons for optimism.

Edmonton’s goaltending, for starters, couldn’t possibly be worse this season than it was in 2013-14, when Devan Dubnyk’s early-season struggles helped put the Oilers in a deep hole right off the bat. Now they’ve got Viktor Fasth and Ben Scrivens between the pipes. Fasth has a .915 career save percentage in the NHL; Scrivens is at .917. At least one of them should be reliable. Right?

Edmonton’s blue line, meanwhile, added a couple of experienced defenders in Nikita Nikitin and Mark Fayne. The Oilers had the worst goals-against in the league last season. Obviously, not all of that was on the defense (we already mentioned the goaltending, and the forwards share responsibility too), but clearly changes were needed.

The hiring of analytics expert Tyler Dellow (a.k.a. the Oilers’ “biggest critic”) has been seen as a positive by many who felt the club had been overly reliant on old-school ideas to build its roster. The signing of Benoit Pouliot to a five-year, $20 million deal may have been evidence of a willingness to look deeper into the numbers.

And, of course, the Oilers still have their trio of first overall picks — Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Nail Yakupov — plus other talented youngsters like Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, and David Perron. Eventually, all that talent has to amount to something good. Right?

Finally, the Oilers will start the 2014-15 season with the same head coach. Which is notable, because Edmonton fired Tom Renney in 2012 and Ralph Krueger in 2013, before hiring Dallas Eakins last summer. Not that Eakins had a dream rookie season behind an NHL bench — far from it — but at least the players won’t have to get used to another new guy.

OK, time to vote. Feel free to add your own reason for optimism in the comments section.

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.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

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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.