• Starting Murray is the right call for Penguins, even with Fleury ready to go

    Jared Clinton
    Matt Murray (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

    It’s not exactly a goaltending controversy, but the Pittsburgh Penguins have a decision to make going forward.

    Marc-Andre Fleury, who started 58 games during the regular season, has been cleared to return to action after suffering a concussion in late-March, but youngster Matt Murray is having the best post-season of any Penguin. And after an other-worldly Game 3 performance by Murray, Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan has to choose which netminder to go with for Game 4 and beyond.

    The obvious answer is that Sullivan should ride the hot hand, Murray, and throw the 21-year-old back in goal until a switch is absolutely necessary. Murray has a 5-1 record, 1.79 goals-against average and an impressive .944 save percentage. The only game Murray has lost all post-season came in overtime thanks to a T.J. Oshie wraparound that narrowly crossed the goal line in Game 1 against the Capitals. Though you could argue that contest should have never gotten to overtime, Murray was only narrowly out-duelled by potential Vezina Trophy-winner Braden Holtby.

    But to suggest there’s no reason for Sullivan to have any doubt about Murray would be to overlook entirely that Fleury is coming off of arguably the best regular season of his career. Of the 23 goaltenders who played at least 2,000 minutes at 5-on-5, Fleury ranked sixth with a .933 SP, and his 2.29 GAA and .921 SP at all strengths were the best marks of his career. There’s also the fact that Fleury helped the Penguins to a Stanley Cup final in 2008 and was in goal when Pittsburgh won the whole thing in 2009. Experience, whether you believe in its impact or not, is a factor. So who does Sullivan go with in Game 4? Read more

  • Watch Shea Weber use his unstoppable shot to score Game 3 winner

    Jared Clinton
    Shea Weber (John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Nashville Predators blueliner Shea Weber gives up five inches and more than 20 pounds to Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, yet at the NHL skills competition the gap between the two rearguards hardest shots is a mere 0.3 miles per hour. So it goes almost without saying that Weber can tee off on a puck.

    That’s why one of the best ways to stop Weber — at least offensively — is to eliminate the space he has to unload his slapshot. The problem, though, is that no matter how hard a team may try, Weber’s eventually going to get all of the puck on one of his shots and he might just put the puck through the netminder. Just ask San Jose Sharks goaltender Martin Jones, who must have blinked and missed Weber’s second-period blast careen off the post and in.

    With the Predators and Sharks playing 4-on-4 in Game 3, Ryan Johansen cut into the San Jose zone with Roman Josi on his wing. As Johansen attempted to slip by Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, the puck was poked off of his stick and slowly moved towards the middle of the offensive zone. Weber was able to beat the Sharks forwards to the puck, wind up and skate into a slapshot that Jones had almost no chance of stopping: Read more

  • Dominant Blues expose all of Stars’ flaws in Game 3 rout

    Ian Denomme
    Antti Niemi. (Getty Images)

    It was nice the Dallas Stars won Game 1 of their second-round series against the St. Louis Blues. They might not win another one.

    The Blues took a 2-1 series lead on Tuesday thanks to a dominant 6-1 victory over the Stars. The loss exposed all of the flaws and questions about the Stars that many had before the playoffs even started.

    Let’s start with the goaltending. It’s a mess.

    Read more

  • Predators’ offense comes to life in win over Sharks to get back in series

    James Neal (John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

    The never-say-die Nashville Predators unleashed a seldom used weapon to beat the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday – their offense.

    After giving up a first-period goal, the Predators scored four unanswered goals en route to a 4-1 win over the Sharks. They now trail the series 2-1 with Game 4 at home on Thursday.

    The Predators entered the game as the lowest-scoring team remaining in the playoffs, averaging just two goals-per-game. During a tight, low-scoring first-round series against the Anaheim Ducks, the Predators would go into shutdown mode after getting a lead, knowing a goal or two was enough to win.

    Read more

  • Shame such a great game was decided by such a terrible non-call

    Brian Boyle (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    BROOKLYN – Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper was talking about his team’s game Tuesday night and how it’s a great example of why we all love this game so much. And he’s right. But it’s also a pretty good example of why this game infuriates us, too.

    We love it because when it’s played like it was in the Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win over the Islanders in Game 3, it embodies everything that makes this game great. It also infuriates us because too many times, the lack of awareness/incompetence of the referees ruins it. What people who think that officials “should let the players decide things” fail to realize is that referees influence the outcome of a game with non-calls, too. And that’s exactly what happened in Game 3.

    Read more

  • Bruins’ Krug out six months, Krejci sidelined for five after off-season surgery

    Jared Clinton
    Torey Krug (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Boston struggled down the home stretch and fell three points short of landing themselves a post-season berth, but the extended off-season might pay dividends for three key members of their roster. The Bruins announced Tuesday that Torey Krug, David Krejci and Matt Beleskey have all undergone off-season surgeries that will keep them out of action for significant periods of time.

    Beleskey, 27, will see the shortest recovery time with only six weeks needed for him to get back to action. He had surgery to repair his left hand in mid-April, and the timeline for recovery will give the first-year Bruin more than enough time to get healthy in time for the regular season. In his first campaign with Boston after signing a five-year, $19-million deal, Beleskey netted 15 goals and 37 points.

    The more worrisome injuries, though, are those to Krug and Krejci, who are expected to miss six and five months, respectively. Read more

  • Johansson has upper-body injury after Letang hit, will be re-evaluated ahead of Game 4

    Jared Clinton
    Marcus Johansson (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Capitals winger Marcus Johansson was able to finish Monday’s Game 3 against the Penguins following the hit by Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang, but Johansson’s status for Game 4 could be in question.

    As the Capitals took the ice for practice Tuesday, the team announced that Johansson had suffered an upper-body injury and would not skate with the team. Being that it’s the post-season, no specifics regarding Johansson’s injury have been released, but the 25-year-old told NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti that he cleared concussion protocol following the jolt and was dealing with a sore neck after the Capitals’ loss.

    According to the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan, Capitals coach Barry Trotz wouldn’t confirm whether or not Johansson would be back in the lineup for Game 4, saying only that the winger would be re-evaluated Wednesday. Read more