Penguins loss not just Crosby and Malkin's fault

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Crosby7.jpgDavid Staples of the Edmonton Journal
has a great post up this morning
, on how the little moves made by
GM Bob Gainey have certainly paid off this postseason. While many teams
went after the big name acquisitions (and only Dany Heatley’s trade has
truly paid off for the Sharks), the Canadiens decided to instead go for
role players, hard working forwards that have made a big difference for
the Habs in the postseason.

He also breaks down what happened with
the Penguins, saying this wasn’t just about Crosby and Malkin not
having a good series:

* Some folks may suggest Sidney
Crosby choked, or that Evgeni Malkin
did. While neither had his best game, Crosby did help manufacture one
Pittsburgh goal with tough play in front of the net. The real goat on
the Pens was Marc-Andre Fleury, who has a great reputation but lets in
far too many soft goals in big games for my liking. Yes, he had a strong
enough series against Detroit last year, but that came after stinking
it out the year before.

While Crosby and Malkin were
certainly outplayed by the Habs’ dynamic duo of Brian Gionta and Mike
Cammalleri (that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write), you can’t put
all the blame squarely on their shoulders.

In their biggest game
of the season, Fleury was downright horrible; inexcusable when compared
to what was happening on the other end of the ice. No matter what his
overall playoffs record may indicate, Fleury has had just one truly
memorable performance in the postseason. Even then, he was marred by
soft goals and despite what some claim he’s yet to prove himself an
elite goaltender in the playoffs.

What has to be most concerning
for the Penguins is what has happened on the blue line and along the
wing. The Penguins received nearly zero production from their secondary
scorers and while this team is known for it’s depth at center it’s the
lack of depth along the wing that was the ultimate kick in the teeth.

The
Penguins are a team that has been built on star power, much like the
Capitals, but it was an overall team effort by a number of role players
that ultimately made the difference for the Canadiens.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

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

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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

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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.