Claude Julien responds to Luongo’s comments about Tim Thomas’ goaltending

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One of the stories that filtered out of Rogers Arena in the aftermath of Vancouver’s 1-0 Game 5 victory was Roberto Luongo’s comments regarding the game-winning goal. It was a little surprising to hear the Canucks’ goaltender say anything controversial after he’d given up 12 goals in the 5+ periods he played in Boston—yet there he was walking the line with reporters after his shutout victory.  After the Canucks escaped with a thrilling 1-0 victory to put Vancouver on the edge of their first championship, Luongo rubbed salt in Boston’s wound by commenting: “the save would have been easy for me.”

In a series where both teams have been talking more than usual, Claude Julien was asked if he was surprised with Luongo’s comments. More importantly, he was asked if the Bruins would use the perceived slight directed towards their goaltender as a rallying cry for Game 6.

“To be honest with you, this series has been a lot about that, and I know you guys are probably loving it, but we’re down to the wire here and have to focus on our game and what it means, a lot more than what is being said.” Julien continued: “Everybody is entitled to their opinion. Anybody can say what they want. Right now my focus is on getting this team back in this series. The last time we came back here we were down two games and we got ourselves back into it and I see no reason at all why we can’t do that with just the one game.”

Bruins’ agitator Shawn Thornton had comments of his own:

“Whatever, man — people go about things one way and we go about it another. It is unfortunate, because I think Timmy has been our best player definitely throughout the whole and through the playoffs. I love the way he plays. I think he’s only allowed [six] goals this whole series. He’s been unbelievable for us. Comments are comments — some people make them but we choose to go the other route.”

All things being equal, Claude Julien must love any focus on goaltending this series. Despite trailing the series 3-2, Tim Thomas has only given up 6 goals in 5 games.  In fact, there are those in the media who think Tim Thomas may win the Conn Smythe Trophy even if the Bruins fall in the Stanley Cup Final.  Goaltending certainly hasn’t been the problem in this series. No, losing a pair of 1-0 games and a miserable power play have been the Bruins problems throughout the Final.

There have been a ton of intriguing story lines and psychological games between the two teams in the Stanley Cup Final, but everything can be distilled to one fact: when Roberto Luongo has played well in the Finals, the Canucks have won. When he’s struggled, they’ve lost. He has only given up two goals in the Canucks three victories against the Bruins—yet his goals against average looks like the gross national product of Belize in his two loses. Twice he’s outdueled Thomas, earned shutouts, and led his team to victory.  Today he stood behind his post-game comments when he said, “I’ve been pumping his tires ever since the series started. I haven’t heard any one nice thing he’s had to say about me, so that’s the way it is.”

If he shutdown the Bruins again in Game 6, the comments to the media won’t mean anything while he’s raising the Stanley Cup. But if he struggles in Boston again, I’m sure we’ll hear plenty about it.

Who’s playing for Penguins, Senators in Game 7

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We finally know the lineups for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Pittsburgh’s tweaks are most interesting, which isn’t a huge surprising considering the consistent inconsistency bred by their injury issues.

The Penguins will get Conor Sheary and Justin Schultz back in the mix. Despite showing a lot of energy warming up, Patric Hornqvist isn’t good to go. Here are the full Penguins personnel notes; also realize that this is Matt Murray‘s birthday.

Ottawa places Chris Kelly back in, getting the nod over Tommy Wingels and Colin White. Kelly’s had some experience in these scenarios.

You can watch Game 7 live on NBCSN. The game can also be viewed online and via the NBC Sports App. Here is the livestream link.

Sabres confirm signing defenseman Antipin; Is his KHL teammate Lee next?

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The Buffalo Sabres announced the signing of defenseman Victor Antipin* on Thursday, confirming rumors that surfaced more than once this month.

Antipin, 24, enjoyed a solid season in the KHL with Magnitogorsk Metallurg. Even so, the signing might be interesting if it serves as an appetizer for the Sabres bringing in Antipin’s teammate from Metallurg, Chris Lee.

On one hand, Lee is 36 and couldn’t make the jump fromt he AHL to the NHL in previous opportunities (most reently with the Penguins’ farm system in 2009-10). On the other, he had an eye-popping 2016-17 season in the KHL: 65 points in 60 games as a defenseman.

Lee’s previous numbers aren’t as outrageous, but still quite good, at least form a scoring standpoint.

While Lee’s possible addition is a situation to watch, there’s some excitement about Antipin.

“Victor is a well-rounded defenseman who has played in all situations at the pro level,” Sabres GM Jason Botterill said. “His mobility and puck-moving skills make him a perfect match for what we’re hoping to build with our defense corps next season.”

Granted, there’s some debate about his ceiling.

Still, for a Sabres team that badly needs help on the blueline, this addition – or eventually these additions – could provide a nice boost.

* – The Sabres’ releases feature his name spelled “Victor.” Other outlets, including hockeydb, have it as “Viktor.”

WATCH LIVE: Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 7

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Will it be the Ottawa Senators or Pittsburgh Penguins against the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final? We’ll find out after tonight.

Yes, it’s that time: a Game 7 to see who advances to the final round. The winner will also hold home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final.

Could Erik Karlsson, Craig Anderson, and the rest of the Senators pull off an upset on the road, winning the franchise’s first Game 7? Can Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins give Matt Murray a birthday present with another Game 7 win?

Find out on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Here’s what you need to know:

Ottawa Senators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (series tied 3-3)

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream live here)

Check out the highlights from Ottawa’s 2-1 win in Game 6

Related:

Pretty or not, Sens aim to play their game vs. Pens in Game 7

Penguins prepare for another Game 7, this time as favorites

Modern-day Senators have never won a Game 7

It’s “reasonable” to expect Schultz and Hornqvist will play Game 7

Trouble for Ducks: Lindholm and Vatanen need major shoulder surgeries, will miss months

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Not a great week for the Anaheim Ducks.

After being eliminated in Game 6 of the Western Conference final — the toughest loss of Ryan Kesler’s career, apparently — the Ducks broke more bad news on Friday as GM Bob Murray announced d-men Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen both require torn labrum surgery, and will be out an awfully long time.

The timeline on Lindholm is 4-5 months, while Vatanen’s recovery will extend beyond that because his injury was more serious.

Looking at the calendar, four months would run Lindholm up to the end of September, meaning he’d miss a good chunk of the preseason. If it’s five months, he could miss the first three weeks of the regular season.

Murray didn’t even put a timetable on Vatanen, only saying it would be longer.

This adds to what was already going to be a pretty stressful summer in Anaheim. As we wrote earlier, Murray has some big decisions on his hands.

Vatanen and Lindholm are huge parts of the team. Both averaged over 21 minutes per night this season, and both broke the 20-point plateau. They’re also locked in long term — Lindholm at $5.2 million annually through 2022, Vatanen at $4.8M through 2020.

If the Ducks decide to protect seven forwards and three defensemen for the expansion draft, the defense will definitely be worth watching. Lindholm will be protected for sure, and Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour are each exempt. But that only leaves two spots for Vatanen, Kevin Bieksa, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson.

Bieksa, 35, has a no-movement clause, so unless the Ducks find a way to get around that, they’ll need to protect him. (Chances are, they’ll seek a way around it, either via trade or buyout or just convincing him to waive.)

Fowler, meanwhile, only has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent. There are already reports that extension negotiations are going well but, after the season he just had, with 39 points in 80 games, the 25-year-old won’t be cheap to re-sign.

Yes, there is the option to protect four defensemen and four forwards. But Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler all have NMCs, and the Ducks won’t want to expose Rickard Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg.

Add it all up, and the Ducks will certainly be worth watching this offseason.