Could the Lightning’s enforcer-free system put them at risk against the Bruins?

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As Joe discussed following Game 1, the Boston Bruins decided to “send some messages” once it was obvious the Tampa Bay Lightning would win. While the late game incidents made many wonder if the league should respond, Damian Cristodero wonders if the Lightning might regret their enforcer-free policy.

In case you weren’t aware, the Lightning are opposed to dressing players whose only mission is to fight. It’s a standard set by general manager Steve Yzerman (from the rarely fighting Detroit Red Wings organization) and head coach Guy Boucher, who also prefers using players who can actually play the game. Boucher and Yzerman preach to players to avoid retaliating when other teams start scrums that will often result in penalties, subscribing to the Red Wings’ tradition of “making them pay on the scoreboard” thanks to the frequently resulting power plays.

Conversely, some wonder if that borderline pacifism puts star players such as Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier at greater risk for injury. Cristodero discusses the pros and cons of employing a true enforcer rather than going with the Lightning’s belief in “team toughness.”

As we read in today’s paper, the Tampa Bay Lightning is employing a no-retaliation policy against the Bruins. That is, if it is obvious the Bruins (who play physically, especially at home, in the hopes of goading opponents into penalties) are going to be a man down, do not get sucked in to any pushing, shoving or fighting that might mitigate the power play. It also, as coach Guy Boucher said on Sunday, keeps the players focused on team structure rather than worrying about retaliating.

Still, I’m sure there are enough fans who believe the Lightning should stick up for themselves more in situations such as the ones that occurred in Game 1. We saw Dominic Moore take a roundhouse right from Nathan Horton. We saw Victor Hedman get decked by a punch from Milan Lucic without retaliation. Even Vinny Lecavalier said he stopped his physical challenge to Johnny Boychuk after Boychuk slugged him because he saw Boychuk was going to get a penalty.

The question is, though, would any of that stuff not happened in the first place if the Lightning had a legitimate tough guy. Oh, there are several guys who can fight pretty well. We know Steve Downie is not scared of anyone, and Ryan Malone can throw ’em as can Lecavalier. But, generally, the Lightning is not built that way.

Ultimately, it might come down to personal preference. The Bruins’ feed off physicality and intimidation, but that type of aggression can lead to ill-advised penalties. The Lightning were the smarter and far more successful team in Game 1, so we’ll see if there is any carryover into Game 2.

Considering the success of the Red Wings and the already-impressive start for Yzerman and Boucher in Tampa Bay, it’s pretty tough to argue with their current policies.

Crosby: Penguins ‘probably deserved better’ vs. Senators in Game 6

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If you didn’t know that the Stanley Cup Playoffs can be awfully cruel, then the last week or so of action should make it pretty clear.

The Nashville Predators lost top center Ryan Johansen to a scary ailment few would have seen coming. The Anaheim Ducks fell in both games to the Johansen-less Predators, even after dominating significant chunks of Game 6. At least one Ducks player wondered if the better team won.

Much like in life, “fair” and “deserve” only matter so much. Sports have a scoreboard to serve as the ultimate deciding factor.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have similar thoughts after falling 2-1 to the Ottawa Senators tonight, extending the Eastern Conference Final to a decisive Game 7. You can nitpick questionable penalties and missed chances, but really, how negative can you be after Craig Anderson puts forth a blazing 45-save performance (with no overtime)?

Mike Sullivan and others echoed such thoughts.

” … Obviously, we’re disappointed in the result, but I don’t think we can get discouraged by that,” Sullivan said. “I think we’ve got to take the positives from it, and we’ve got to build on it, and we’ve got to become a more determined team for Game 7.

That’s not the sort of take that’s going to make the Senators angry in Game 7. The tone of the Senators’ discussions was likely very different after they lost Game 5 by a 7-0 score, yet maybe there was similar self belief.

Anderson puzzles Penguins as Senators force Game 7

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Who could blame fans for chanting “Andy” tonight?

The Ottawa Senators said they would choose to fight in Game 6, and Craig Anderson truly battled in this one, refusing to allow this unlikely run to an end on Tuesday. They wouldn’t roll over, even after a 7-0 humiliation in Game 5.

The underrated goalie continued his memorable (and emotional) 2016-17 season with a brilliant performance, making 45 saves to help Ottawa manage a gutsy 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With that, hockey fans get a true treat: the Eastern Conference will go to a Game 7 on Thursday.

The Senators opted for a “bend but don’t break” strategy for much of the contest, possibly to Guy Boucher’s preference. Even so, the Penguins managed to grind their way to a 1-0 win thanks to another hard-work goal from Evgeni Malkin.

Mistakes would come back to haunt the Penguins, however, as Bobby Ryan broke Ottawa’s lengthy power-play drought to tie things up on a 5-on-3.

With their season in question thanks to a 1-1 tie in the third period, Mike Hoffman sent a booming shot by Matt Murray, and that ended up being all the Senators needed to tie the series 3-3.

Anderson was the standout, but Erik Karlsson was a hero in the way his detractors might not expect.

You can watch Game 7 on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday. The game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports App.

Report: Avalanche get permission to speak with Leafs assistant GM Dubas

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Could one of the most hapless possession teams of this more analytics-leaning era nab arguably the most promising analytics-leaning executive in the NHL?

It’s a reasonable question, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the Colorado Avalanche asked for and received permission to speak to Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas.

Current GM Joe Sakic recently got a vote of confidence and also cleaned out some of the coaching staff around Jared Bednar, so this is certainly a time of change for the Avalanche.

It will be interesting to see what kind of role Dubas would receive if he did join the fold in Colorado. Would he still be considered an assistant GM, only with more sway with what would likely be a smaller group of decision-makers? Could we see Sakic move up and give Dubas the full GM title (or eventually transition that role to the young upstart)? Might there be some other factor that would qualify as a more “outside the box” idea?

One thing seems clear: the Avalanche might want to be decisive, as demand could be significant for Dubas if he’s even somewhat on the market.

This could be interesting, especially if you’re a nerd for team-building storylines.

Video: Senators score twice to take 2-1 lead in Game 6

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The Ottawa Senators have defied odds during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they’ve done so with what’s often been an ice-cold power play.

They finally struck gold on the man advantage on Tuesday, and at a key moment. The Pittsburgh Penguins were dominating much of the game and pressing for an even bigger edge after Evgeni Malkin made it 1-0.

Maybe the Penguins got overzealous, or maybe officials … finally started making some calls. Either way, the Senators ended up with a 5-on-3 advantage for almost a minute-and-a-half. With that opportunity, Bobby Ryan scored a huge goal for Ottawa on a shot that was both oddly and perfectly placed.

Moments later, Kyle Turris narrowly missed a golden opportunity, so the contest remained tied 1-1.

Despite a late push by the Penguins to finish the second, Game 6 will enter the third period with a 1-1 score.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE COVERAGE FOR GAME 6

Update: Mike Hoffman‘s booming shot gave the Senators a 2-1 lead in the third. We’ll see if Pittsburgh can tie it up.