Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Six

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.

McKenzie on the trade deadline: Shattenkirk, Bishop still could go

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 18: Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the St. Louis Blues and Martin Hanzal #11 of the Phoenix Coyotes fight for control of a loose puck during the second period at the Scottrade Center on April 18, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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NHL insider Bob McKenzie beamed in some great trade deadline insight from Toronto (technology!) to NBCSN on Wednesday, so let’s take a look at what he had to say.

Amusingly enough, you can separate his takes into one tasty, McDonald’s-sponsored video (the more exciting stuff about possible trades) and a set of updates that throws some cold water on our imaginations.

Bobby Mac’s Big 3

Heh.

Anyway, in the video above, the fun stuff.

Kevin Shattenkirk: McKenzie reports that the St. Louis Blues are “more likely than less likely” to move the sought-after defenseman. The reasoning is that GM Doug Armstrong seemingly believes that this season’s group isn’t as good as last year’s, so why not get value for Shattenkirk?

(Now, there’s the argument that the West is inferior this season … but let’s move on.)

Ben Bishop: The Tampa Bay Lightning are heating up, lending some credence to the idea of holding onto their big goalie. McKenzie believes that the Bolts are still leaning toward moving Bishop, however.

Martin Hanzal: To little surprise, the Arizona Coyotes are “eager” to trade the hulking pivot. It should be intriguing to see what he might draw.

Fun killing section

OK, now the less fun side.

Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog: The Colorado Avalanche aren’t necessarily closing down shop on their biggest names, but McKenzie believes that they’re more likely to get the right trade offer during the off-season instead of the deadline.

Marc-Andre Fleury: The Pittsburgh Penguins’ preference is to hold onto “The Flower” and let the expansion draft chips fall where they may.

Others, like Anaheim Ducks defensemen including Cam Fowler: If the team is going to clear up the logjam on the blueline, it might be for someone down the chain … maybe. This situation is cloudier, as McKenzie notes that GM Bob Murray is playing it close to the vest.

***

It’s important to note that McKenzie isn’t speaking in absolutes here. Things can change, even in a week.

Still, if you’re daydreaming about moves, maybe focus those thoughts more on Shattenkirk, Bishop and Hanzal than speedy Duchene.

(Granted, they’re your daydreams …)

Boudreau knows he can only do so much to avoid slump after bye week

ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Minnesota Wild looks on during the game against Winnipeg Jets on October 15, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) The remarkably slump-proof Minnesota Wild will have their season-long stability challenged next week.

That’s when the Western Conference leaders come back from their bye, the five-day gap on every team’s schedule gained by the NHL Players Association as a concession for the new All-Star Game format.

The league’s current cumulative post-bye record is a woeful 4-12-4 with 10 teams, including the Wild, yet to test their ability to avoid coming back rusty. Coaches and managers around the NHL have not hidden their disdain for the debut of the scheduling quirk amid the grind of an 82-game season where momentum is an intangible benefit.

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau didn’t sound worried, even after losing Tuesday to the Chicago Blackhawks, the lead chaser in the race for the top seed in the playoffs.

“I told them to, quite frankly, get some rest and enjoy this break but want to get home to play hockey,” Boudreau said. “For 4+ months now, you guys have done a tremendous job, and we’ve got something special going on, potentially. So it’s great to get away for a couple days, but the desire to play has got to be there. Not like, `Uh, I want to stay on vacation. I want to stay here.’ You’ve got to want to come back and play, and if we do that then I think we’ll be fine.”

For the players on this team, the best in Wild history, letting body and mind melt away at a tropical beach with a significant postseason run in plain sight is a rather unfathomable scenario.

“What kind of message can you really give `em?” Boudreau said. “I mean, they’re 39-14.”

Including the six overtime or shootout losses, the Wild have 84 points to rank one behind the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals. They’ve played one fewer game than the Blackhawks and lead their playoffs nemesis by five points. The Wild need 21 points in their last 23 games to beat the 2006-07 franchise record.

Boudreau inherited a team that qualified for the postseason in each of the last four years but endured wild swings in its quality of play during the five seasons in which Mike Yeo was the head coach. This time, the Wild are 14-3-2 following a loss, either regulation or extra time, to stop those long losing streaks in their tracks.

“I think that’s due to our depth and our understanding of how we need to play and being able to get big plays from everybody,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said recently. “We believe we can win every game. We feel we should win every game. And so when we lose one, we get back to what we’ve been doing.”

The next challenge comes Monday when the Los Angeles Kings visit Xcel Energy Center. Perhaps losing to the Blackhawks will prove to be good timing, particularly given the way the Wild overcame a sluggish second period to finish strong and nearly rally to tie the game before an empty-netter gave Jonathan Toews and Chicago a 5-3 victory.

“We wanted to go into the break with a good feeling, so that one is going to hurt a little bit,” right wing Mikael Granlund said. “We know we have to make sure we recharge our batteries and come back stronger.”

WATCH LIVE: Capitals at Flyers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 21: Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals checks Brandon Manning #23 of the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Wells Fargo Center on December 21, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The latest edition of “Wednesday Night Rivalry” on NBCSN features the Washington Capitals visiting the Philadelphia Flyers.

Both teams have been stumbling a bit here and there. The Flyers only have three wins since Jan. 31, though one of them came in their last game on Sunday. The Capitals lost both games since returning from their bye week.

The cost of struggles are easier for Washington to stomach, naturally. They’d rather make their Metropolitan Division lead insurmountable, but even so, they’re at least three points ahead of everyone else and have played the same or fewer games as their divisional peers.

The Flyers, on the other hand, are fighting for their playoff lives. Right now they’re on the outside looking in.

So both teams want this one, but the desperation level is higher for Philly. We’ll see how that impacts the game on NBCSN tonight. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Pre-game reading: NHLers sound off on poor ice conditions

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— Up top, Danny Briere recalls that famous line brawl between the Flyers and Penguins in the 2012 playoffs. The two Pennsylvania rivals meet again Saturday, outdoors at Heinz Field.

— It has not been a good year for NHL ice, and a number of players are starting to get fed up. For example, Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk, who said, “It’s been awful. I don’t know what it is. Even in our building this year. I thought it was really good [when we came] back for World Cup and right after that for the first little bit. But the last little bit, it’s been so bad. The puck’s all over the place.” Guess we know how he’ll be filling out his survey. (ESPN)

— The days leading up to the trade deadline can be pretty stressful for players who may get moved. And if they do get moved, the days after can be pretty tough, too. “I saw my daughters four days out of three months when I went to Pittsburgh,” said Hurricanes forward Lee Stempniak, who’s been dealt three straight years at the deadline. “When I was traded to Winnipeg, I didn’t see my daughters for the two months or more I was there because of the schedule.” (The News & Observer)

— On the 2017 NHL draft, which may not have the star power of the last two drafts, but will still have some pretty good players available. Especially centers. (USA Today)

— San Jose’s Brent Burns is trying to become only the second defenseman in NHL history to win a scoring title. With 64 points, Burns is only three points back of Connor McDavid for the league lead, with Sidney Crosby in the mix as well. Bobby Orr won the Art Ross Trophy twice, the last time in 1974-75 when he piled up 135 points in 80 games for the Boston Bruins.  (Canadian Press)

— Another Shark, Joe Thornton, is just two assists from 1,000 in the NHL. Only 12 players have accomplished that, with Wayne Gretzky’s 1,963 helpers leading the way. Joe Sakic’s 1,016 are the closest to Thornton’s 998. (The Mercury News)

Enjoy the games!