Chris Campoli, Jonathan Toews

The five biggest trade deadline losers

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While Joe took a look at the five biggest winners of the 2011 Trade Deadline, it’s my assignment to rain on parades and be a downer. Fortunately, soiling the happiness of others is one of my accidental skills, so this should feel pretty natural. Click here for the full rundown of today’s trades, if you need a memory refresher.

Here are the five biggest losers from Monday’s anti-frenzy*, in order of increasing badness. (Keep in mind this is taking February 28th into consideration rather than a surprisingly stout month of pre-deadline deals.)

5. Detroit Red Wings just extend Jimmy Howard’s contract

While some of these other teams would get a grade ranging from a C- to a big red F, the Red Wings probably would get a flat C or just an “Incomplete.” It’s not like they needed to do anything; after all, they remain a very dangerous team and re-signing Howard still stands as one of the day’s best moves.

That being said, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski aren’t getting any younger and even some of the guys in their “prime” years have a lot of mileage for players in their early 30s. Why not swing for the fences while you’re still at full power rather than settling for a walk?

4. Chicago Blackhawks fork over a conditional second round pick for … Chris Campoli?

Look, it’s obvious that GM Stan Bowman was in a tough spot being that the ink wasn’t even dry on Jordan Hendry’s injury report from Sunday, but he paid a hefty toll for a mediocre blueliner.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Campoli cannot help the Blackhawks more than an AHLer – he can skate well and has some offensive upside – but he’s an adventure at best in his own zone. One scouting report described him as a “riverboat gambler” on defense. That’s not exactly the kind of guy you want on your side in the zero-margin-of-error West race, especially at the cost of a (conditional) second round draft pick.

3. Montreal Canadiens remain old, small and just good enough to lose early in the playoffs.

One of the biggest gags of another Twitter-dominated deadline involved a fake reporter account spitting out a rumor that involved Dustin Penner going to the Habs. As fraudulent as that report ended up being, you cannot blame some Montreal fans for getting excited. After all, Penner might be the antithesis of most Canadiens forwards. He’s huge and young; they’re old and small. The only common thread Penner and many of the Habs forwards share is inconsistency.

Instead of adding size or at least finding another quality forward for their playoff run, Montreal opted to cross their fingers and hope that they can repeat last year’s “go into turtle mode and pray that our goalie bails us out” trick. Carey Price has done a great job of making Montreal fans forget about Jaroslav Halak, but asking this team to luck out again is like gambling your mortgage on lightning striking twice.

Then again, perhaps Montreal’s management team has a secret “Reset Button” plan. Of their current roster players, only six forwards, two defensemen and one goalie remain under contract after this season. We’ll see if that ends up being a good thing or a disaster waiting to happen.

(If this deadline was any indication … well, let’s hope it’s not an indication.)

2. The Minnesota Wild sit in neutral.

It’s tough not to admire the Wild’s guile as they fight valiantly for a playoff spot without their backbone, center Mikko Koivu. But considering how passionate (and patient) Minnesota fans have been, why couldn’t the Wild’s front office throw them a trade deadline bone?

You can make excuses all day, but the long-term outlook of this team isn’t particularly peachy. Their two top players (Koivu and goalie Niklas Backstrom) are making market value money, but most of their remaining players are either on overpriced deals or bargains set to expire in the next season or two.

It’s hard to imagine the Wild progressing beyond their current bubble team/seventh or eighth seed ceiling … and they’re even getting a remarkably healthy season from talented but fragile winger Martin Havlat. How much longer will Minnesota fans tolerate a front office that seems quite satisfied with mediocrity?

1. And the biggest loser: anyone who took off work for the deadline.

Hey, with all those medium-sized to flat-out big deals in the weeks leading up to the deadline, there had to be at least some hint that today might not be a buffet of outlandish trades. Right?

On some level, the hockey media and all fans fall loosely into this category, but the people with the reddest cheeks took a precious vacation day from soul-draining cubicle jobs for this? Hopefully those cheeks were red because of a blissful mid-day buzz, because if you took off work to see a trade afternoon headlined by Penner, it’s tough to rationalize that as anything but a big loss.

* There were only 16 trades during today’s deadline, the lowest total since there were only 12 in 2000.

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.