Will 'nice guy' Shane Doan finish first, for once?

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NBC Playoff Coverage

Game 3: Phoenix Coyotes at Detroit Red Wings, series tied 1-1

Live on NBC at 3:00 PM ET

Often sportswriters will decry a younger athlete’s “lack of effort” and say that they’re guilty of assuming that they’ll be in a championship situation every year. I wonder how that kind of talk would work with Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan who, at age 33, made the playoffs for the first time since he was 25.

To say that it’s been a challenge for the under-the-radar power forward is probably as much of an understatement as it is to say that the Coyotes’ impressive playoff run has been surprising. There’s some irony (is it irony, or a coincidence? Seriously, thanks a lot, Alanis Morissette.) to this Cinderella season for Doan. While he struggled to his lowest scoring totals since he was 23 – struggles that kept him from making Team Canada after being Captain Canada* – the team he’s suffered in obscurity for is having a record-breaking season.

* – Actually, Ryan Smyth is “Captain Canada” but Doan has been such a reliable annual resource to Team Canada’s World Championship squads that he might as well be deemed “Alternate Captain Canada.”

No doubt about it, Doan is one of those players hockey fans turn to as “good guys.” Sure, his hard hitting style ruffles some feathers from time-to-time, but beyond laundry loyalty, it is hard to find a person who isn’t at least partially rooting for the spirited captain and his band of vagabonds. He’s received plaudits for his down-to-earth demeanor and his check-you-through-walls intensity in equal portions. Heck, he’s even received the odd deification that comes with a Puck Daddy Photoshop contest (laser beams!).

For eight long years – and really, his whole career when you consider the fact that the Coyotes peaked in the Conference Quarter Finals – it’s been easy for sports writers to copy and paste a “Nice Guys Finish Last” story for Doan. Will that happen again to the Coyotes, or will the ultimate underdogs (they might not even have a home, after all) topple the Evil Empire?

This afternoon’s game will go a long way in answering that question.

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.

Judge for yourself: Was Drouin’s would-be 1-0 goal offside?

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To start the seemingly pivotal stretch, Andrei Vasilevskiy made an outstanding save on Evgeni Malkin on what sure looked like a scary chance.

The play swiftly shifted from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s end to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ side of the ice, and it seemed like Jonathan Drouin scored a big 1-0 goal in Game 6.

As it turns out, the goal was disallowed thanks to an offside goal review.

Here are a few viewpoints on that moment in GIF form … you can get a fuller view via the video above.

The general feeling among those who don’t have a horse in the race is that it was the right call. (Lightning fans were, uh, not happy.)

Lightning coach believes Drouin ‘is going to be dominant in this league’

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 30:  Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders  during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 30, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
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At some point, it will probably be kind of boring to hear members of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization praise Jonathan Drouin.

At least if Drouin re-signs with the Bolts after quite the affirming postseason and his ascension amid injuries.

These days? It’s still sort of entertaining.

In the latest case, Jon Cooper was asked to compare the development paths for Nikita Kucherov vs. Drouin. After empathizing with the pressure Drouin carries as a high-end pick (vs. Kucherov’s ability to come in under the radar), Cooper had some very positive things to say about No. 27.

” … So many people think, well, you’re just going to step in the league at 18 and be dominant,” Cooper said. “I truly believe Jonathan is going to be dominant in this league, but it’s hard to do at 18. He had to work through it, and that’s it.”

Drouin, now at 21, has 12 points in 15 playoff games.

In other Lightning news, it sounds like the team will roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, an alignment that has been working well lately and also came through at times during the 2015 postseason.

The Penguins, meanwhile, replace Beau Bennett with Conor Sheary.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning – Game 6

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22:  Tyler Johnson #9 of the Tampa Bay Lightning collides with Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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Tonight could be the final game of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Bolts lead the series 3-2.

Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s game:

Malkin guaranteed a Penguins win in Game 6

Lightning coach doesn’t seem flustered by Malkin’s guarantee

Kucherov continues to be clutch for the Bolts this postseason

Marc-Andre Fleury: ‘I should have been better’ in Game 5