Anaheim's playoff hopes are roasted

We’re coming to the point in the season where the bubble teams will
start falling by the wayside one by one. Technically there are still a
number of teams in the playoff hunt, but each passing game opens up the
divide that much more between the pretenders and the legitimate
contenders.

The Anaheim Ducks may be finished.

The Ducks
haven’t won since the Olympic break and goaltender Jonas Hiller, who
played so well for Switzerland,
is stumbling right along with the rest of the team.

“We
didn’t seem to trust each other and everybody tries to do some of
the work that the other guy’s supposed to do,” Hiller
said.
“We don’t trust. That’s just not how it works.”

Said
Todd Marchant, “It’s something that is very difficult to comprehend at
this point. Like Randy said, we’ve got to … go back to work and be
ready for that game on Friday.”

They
sit just seven point back of eighth place in the West, but even if the
Ducks go on a tear down the stretch they face something like a 30%
chance of slipping into a playoff spot. And this is a team that’s been
on the decline for a couple of seasons now; perhaps a year out of the
playoffs will afford them a chance to rebuild and reload a bit.

“The
easy thing is to give up and get down, and that’s what we’re trying
to stop now,” Getzlaf said. “Get our momentum going back the other way
and get our swing going like we did before the break.”

Ahh
yes. You have to respect the attempt at positivity, but I don’t know
what else you’d expect the players to say. I thought this was
interesting:

“The most frustrating part for our
coaching staff is when you go
through practice and you see our execution level at a much higher level
than in the games,” Carlyle said.

“That’s
what’s so mind boggling right now.”

That’s
the big challenge for all coaches; how to make the team perform in a
game at the same level they do in practice. The Ducks could be the best
practicing team in the NHL but win just one out every ten games. Is that
on the players or the coaching? I’ve always been a believer that the
ultimate onus is on the coaches; after all their job is to coach the
players and prepare them for the game.

But at some point the
players have to be held responsible, and perhaps the Ducks are at a
point where some major changes are in store. There a number of potential
UFA’s on the team, including Scott Niedermayer, Aaron Ward, Teemu
Selanne and Saku Koivu. The cap room for next season is manageable at
this point but not great. Is that enough room for Anaheim to retool for
next season?

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    Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

    TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Brian Boyle #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final with a score of 5 to 2 during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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    The Tampa Bay Lightning seemed to sleepwalk through the first two periods of Game 6, and waking up in the final frame wasn’t enough to edge the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    On the bright side, at least the Lightning aren’t in denial about that weak first 40 minutes.

    It seemed like everyone on the team more or less admitted as much in unison.

    Brian Boyle added that he felt like the Lightning tiptoed around this game. Jon Cooper often provides great quips, yet he was pretty matter-of-fact in this case.

    Many will linger on this disallowed goal for Jonathan Drouin, which would have provided a 1-0 lead for Tampa Bay in the first period.

    Let’s face it; that moment came pretty early in the game. To Tampa Bay’s credit, they’re not pinning the loss on that setback.

    Now they must set their sights on competing throughout Game 7 … and maybe earning some bounces of their own in the process.

    Read more about Game 6 here.

    Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

    TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
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    The Pittsburgh Penguins played with fire late in Game 6, but they also showed plenty of fire in beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2.

    With that, this thrilling Eastern Conference Final will go the distance with Game 7 on Thursday.

    There are at least a few “What if?” scenarios to consider, especially for the Lightning.

    What if that offside goal counted?

    Jonathan Drouin played some fantastic hockey on Tuesday, yet his most memorable moment came via something that ultimately “didn’t happen.” An offside call on a goal review kept a 1-0 lead from happening for Tampa Bay:

    Instead, the Penguins poured it on during the first period and eventually went up 1-0. They then carried that momentum over through the second period, adding two more goals to go up 3-0 heading into the final frame.

    What if Tampa Bay played more like they did in the third period?

    The difference between the level of play in the first 40 minutes and the final frame were night-and-day.

    Now, you can make a chicken-and-the-egg argument here. Did the Penguins take their feet off the gas with that lead? Maybe Jon Cooper finally unleashed the hounds when the Lightning were facing a big deficit?

    Maybe it’s a combination of those factors; either way, the Bolts couldn’t come all the way back even after making it interesting. At one point the game was 3-2 before a Bryan Rust breakaway goal and an empty-netter put things out of reach.

    Both Matt Murray and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced plenty of tough chances and came through more often than not. We’ll see if there are any goal controversy rumblings, but each netminder came through at times tonight.

    ***

    Now the series shifts back to Pittsburgh for Game 7 with a Stanley Cup Final on the line. Excited and/or nervous yet?

    More: Great goals by Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel.

    Sidney Crosby scores a superstar goal

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    With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line in Game 6, plenty of eyes are on big guns Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel.

    Those marquee names are really coming through so far as they’ve now built a 3-0 lead through two periods against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    You likely already saw Kessel’s display of high-end hand-eye coordination (if not, check it here). Kris Letang scored his first goal of the series to make it 2-0 on a very tricky, well-placed shot.

    The highlight really might be Crosby’s tally, though. He left multiple Lightning players baffled and beat a very-much-game Andrei Vasilevskiy to beef that lead up 3-0.

    Video: Phil Kessel displays incredible hand-eye coordination on goal

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    This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.

    The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.

    (Watch that goal in the video above.)

    It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.

    Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.

    Update: Here’s the goal Kessel accidentally “scored” for the Lightning:

    Ouch.