Vancouver Canucks v Boston Bruins - Game Four

Bruins will let Tomas Kaberle and Michael Ryder become unrestricted free agents

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The 2010 Chicago Blackhawks and 2011 Boston Bruins have some things in common. Both teams won the Stanley Cup, lifted decades-long championship droughts and drew tons of people to their victory parades. They’re both “Original Six” franchises in huge American markets to boot.

With all the similarities, there are some big differences. The most significant one is their team structures: the Blackhawks almost seemed built to peak in the 2009-10 season while the Bruins face a remarkably small amount of big off-season questions in 2011.

It’s looking more and more like the only important re-signing will be restricted free agent Brad Marchand, who should ride a nice rookie season and an outstanding playoff campaign to a healthy raise. Boston failed to trade Tomas Kaberle’s negotiating rights while their finals opponent the Vancouver Canucks managed to get a fourth round pick in 2012 for Christian Ehrhoff’s rights. That attempted move tells you all you really need to know about Kaberle’s future with the Bruins.

Few will be surprised that Kaberle will trot into unrestricted free agency after he damaged his market value with a tepid run in Boston, but it might be a bit more surprising to hear that the Bruins will allow streaky scorer Michael Ryder to walk too. That being said, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli seems to be saying all the right things about the two players returning to the fold after testing the free agent market.

“There is no finality to our relationship,” Chiarelli said of Kaberle when asked if it was decided he wouldn’t return. “What we’ve agreed to with Tomas and his agent (Rick Curran) is that he would look into the market and we’d continue to talk with him. So certainly there’s no finality there.”

According to Chiarelli the same goes for Ryder.

“We certainly haven’t parted ways,” Chiarelli said. “I’m weary of the market as it stands now so I said ‘look guys go out there and see what’s going on and we’ll continue to talk.’ The risk that we run is that they’ll get a deal and they can’t come back to us and I understand that risk. That’s where those two guys stand.”

(snip)

“I don’t know but I have a sense of what segment they’re in within the market but I’m not entirely certain,” Chiarelli said when asked if he thought he may still be able to get Ryder and Kaberle back at the right price for his team. “Those are two guys that gave us good service so for the right number, I’d like to have them back but I can’t tell you. I don’t know what that number is.”

The one saving grace for Kaberle’s marketability is the arid market for scoring defensemen. A team might be willing to take a chance on the Czech blueliner, assuming that he simply didn’t have enough time to acclimate himself to Claude Julien’s system in Boston. That being said, it would be surprising if he could earn a rise from his previous $4.25 million annual salary.

There might be a decent (but far from red-hot) market for Ryder, who had two nice playoff runs (13 points in 11 games in 2009; 17 in 25 in this year’s Cup run) and semi-decent numbers in his three years with Boston. It might be tough for him to garner a significant raise over his $4 million salary from 2010-11, though.

You never know how much logic NHL GMs will follow, though, so stay tuned.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Brian Boyle #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final with a score of 5 to 2 during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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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

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
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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.

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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.

Video: Phil Kessel displays incredible hand-eye coordination on goal

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This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.

The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.

(Watch that goal in the video above.)

It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.

Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.

Update: Here’s the goal Kessel accidentally “scored” for the Lightning:

Ouch.