Five Thoughts: Game 6 tossed everything out the window to help set up Game 7

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Right when you think you’ve learned everything about the playoffs as well as about Boston and Tampa Bay, Game 6 goes on ahead and happens. Trends were busted, stars played like stars, goaltending evaporated with the defense. If nothing else, this series is proving to be fun that way, but with Tampa Bay forcing a Game 7 all bets are off on Friday night.

1. We mentioned a bit yesterday in our piece about the Lightning’s “concerns” about having Eric Furlatt officiating Game 6 about how the Lightning power play was disturbingly quiet since Game 2. While Furlatt and Kelly Sutherland still called more penalties on Tampa Bay than Boston (five to four) the Lightning power play reappeared in a big way going 3-4 on the man advantage including seeing a prototypical goal from Steve Stamkos.

It’s tough to say whether or not Guy Boucher’s gamesmanship paid off, but the motivation it may have served to get his power play focused and ready to cash in when they did get opportunities certainly worked. After the game, Claude Julien bristled about Boucher’s means of gaining an edge but the only thing Julien’s got to be mad about is the failure of his penalty kill to contain the Lightning attack. That doesn’t mean we won’t see any more similar gamesman-like tactics from both coaches Friday’s Game 7.

2. It’s something else to see how hot and cold both of these teams have shown themselves to be throughout this series. We’ve seen a pair of rather down and out games from Tampa Bay where Tim Thomas’ stellar play and tough Bruins defense wore them down. Then we’ve got games like last night’s where the Lightning are able to score all over the place and get their power play cranking the way we’ve seen it do throughout the playoffs.

The same goes for the Bruins as we’ve seen them dominate with defense and by getting ahead in games early. Then there’s games like last night where their defense looks toothless and Thomas ends up trying too hard to cover for their lax effort. Game 6 proved to be a healthy mix of all things that went wrong for both teams and in the end it was Tampa that cashed in more often.

3. While the Bruins got a big night out of their top line with David Krejci netting a hat trick and Milan Lucic ripping a laser by Dwayne Roloson, the rest of the forward lines were disturbingly quiet. When you’re able to get all those guys going as well as getting a pair of assists out of Tomas Kaberle on top of it all, that’s a game the Bruins feel like they have to win. Not getting added production from the likes of Patrice Bergeron shows how tenuous the Bruins success can be if they’re not all clicking together.

4. Tim Thomas is going to take heat for giving up five goals in Game 6 but after watching and re-watching the videos of the goals Tampa Bay scored, it might make sense to get on the case of his defense and support for putting him in some difficult positions. With Tampa Bay scoring three times on the power play, that makes a night tough enough but Johnny Boychuk is the guy that should get zeroed in on.

Boychuk was on the ice for all five goals against and made brutal coverage mistakes on three of those goals. Boychuk’s been strong for most of the series, but he was brutal in Game 6 and Martin St. Louis’ goal that proved to be the game winner saw Boychuk pinched in too deep leading to a two-on-one break for St. Louis and Downie that saw Thomas play more of the part of defenseman than goalie. Lapses like that are killers and Boychuk had one too many of them.

5. Now it’s all down to a Game 7. Ideally you’d like to think with the Bruins going home for that they’ll have an advantage but with how the Lightning find ways to adjust to situations and with the sort of support help they’re getting, there’s every reason to think they have a chance to make the Stanley Cup finals as well.

After all, it’s not all about Stamkos, St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier. Now it’s about Teddy Purcell (who scored two more goals in Game 6), Simon Gagne, and Steve Downie as well. Being able to roll out two steady offensive lines like that as well as a gnarly third line like they’ve got with Dominic Moore and Nate Thompson.

It’s one game to decide who gets to go to the Stanley Cup finals and with both teams likely pulling out all the stops means nothing but good things or us fans. It seems only right that these two go to seven games, but both teams both went seven in the first round and now they’re going seven again. It’s asking a lot of both teams but we’re sure of only one thing: Vancouver couldn’t be happier to see things break down this way.

The Buzzer: Eichel beats McDavid; More Vegas gold

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Player of the Night: Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres

So far in their careers, Connor McDavid comparisons haven’t been kind to Jack Eichel. To be fair, just about every other NHL player pales in comparison to McDavid, but Eichel gets it the worst because he was selected right behind McDavid in the 2015 NHL Draft.

McDavid’s enjoyed a deep playoff run and piled up some impressive hardware, yet Eichel got the best of number 97 for at least one night. As part of a 5-0 win for the Sabres against the Oilers, Eichel generated a goal and three assists.

If you haven’t noticed, Eichel’s been playing some of the best hockey even before Tuesday. With 10 points in his last five games, he’s enjoying the most productive stretch of his young career.

It was outrageous to place Buffalo’s blame on Eichel, so hopefully this torrid run at least turns down the volume on his critics.

Highlights of the Night:

We saw the nasty side of Brad Marchand with this questionable hit, but this goal was very, very nice:

This Shea Theodore outlet pass is so slick, it’s almost tough to keep your eye on it. William Karlsson scored yet again, and the Golden Knights won once again.

You may also enjoy Travis Konecny’s overtime game-winner, which you can check out here.

Factoids

The Boston Bruins’ run continues, while the Avalanche’s winning streak ended.

Vegas Golden Knights zero in on more records for expansion teams. Remarkable stuff.

From remarkably great to almost unspeakably bad: how can the Oilers’ penalty kill be this ineffective?

Some key bits from tonight

Panthers, Stars brawl.

Canadiens end Avalanche’s winning streak at 10.

Flyers edge Red Wings in OT.

Possible injury for Joe Thornton?

Goalie injuries also cause for concern.

Scores

Bruins 3, Devils 2
Penguins 3, Hurricanes 1
Canadiens 4, Avalanche 2
Flyers 3, Red Wings 2 (OT)
Blues 3, Senators 0
Lightning 4, Predators 3 (OT)
Stars 6, Panthers 1
Sabres 5, Oilers 0
Canucks 6, Kings 2
Golden Knights 6, Blue Jackets 3
Ducks 6, Rangers 3
Jets 5, Sharks 4 (OT)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Fights: Stars, Panthers pile up season-high 138 penalty minutes

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When you think of the Dallas Stars against the Florida Panthers, a few things might come to mind:

  • No state income taxes, if you’re an unrestricted free agent.
  • “Non-traditional franchises.”
  • Going further on that point, arguably examples of Gary Bettman’s vision in expanding the league’s scope.

You probably don’t think “blood rivals,” but maybe Tuesday will change that. Perhaps it was triggered in part by a misunderstanding about James Reimer‘s injury, or maybe because Antoine Roussel is Antoine Roussel, yet either way, things got pretty nasty between the Stars and Panthers on Tuesday.

The two teams piled up a whopping 138 penalty minutes in this one, which is great for lovers of chaos and/or fantasy hockey owners.

According to Sportsnet’s stats, that’s the highest combined PIM for a game so far in 2017-18. Somehow Matthew Tkachuk wasn’t even involved.

Again, it was a little senseless, which admittedly is sometimes the most entertaining form of violence.

¯_(ツ)_/¯

The Stars pummeled the Panthers 6-1, by the way.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Sharks’ Hertl ejected; Joe Thornton injured?

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Brad Marchand isn’t the only player who delivered a questionable hit on Tuesday, as Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks is also likely to draw the attention of the Department of Player Safety.

Hertl received a game misconduct and major penalty for boarding Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, as you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

For whatever it’s worth, Hertl, 24, hasn’t been suspended in the NHL. It seems like Kulikov suffered at least some ill effects from the hit.

Some put at least a portion of blame on Kulikov for turning his back before the check.

Is the major penalty sufficient or should Hertl sit for that hit?

Update: The Jets ended up beating the Sharks 4-3 in overtime, but the bigger concern for San Jose is that Joe Thornton might be injured. More information may not come for a while.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Should Brad Marchand be suspended for elbow on Marcus Johansson?

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Much has been made of Brad Marchand cleaning up his act, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Boston Bruins forward has totally stopped blurring the line between “physical” and “illegal” play.

Marchand was everywhere in the Bruins’ 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, and that was mostly in a good way, scoring a goal and an assist, easily leading all forwards with 20:06 time on ice.

Devils fans were unhappy when Marchand wasn’t penalized for a highly questionable elbow on forward Marcus Johansson. You can watch the infraction in the video above this post. You can also see it in GIF form below.

NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty reports that the Department of Player Safety is aware of the elbow, and supplemental discipline may come:

Again, many recall other incidents with Marchand, so plenty were unhappy with the situation:

What do you think? Is a suspension appropriate in this case?

More on the Bruins:How will they cope without Charlie McAvoy?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.