Gabriel Landeskog

Will Gabriel Landeskog be the Avalanche’s secret weapon next season?

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Nowadays in the NHL when you’re a top five choice in the annual entry draft, there are certain expectations that you could play in the NHL right away. You can look through the last few drafts and find a host of players who went from walking the stage in summer to jumping on the ice right away just a few months later to become the next wave of big stars in the NHL.

For second overall pick in the 2011 draft Gabriel Landeskog, he’s got a future teammate in Colorado’s Matt Duchene who did just that back in 2009. At 6’0″ 207 pounds, Landeskog is already built like an NHL power forward and with the type of game he can bring, he could provide a huge boost to the Avalanche lineup right away. With a top six that includes Duchene, Paul Stastny, and Milan Hejduk there’s room to crack the lineup to be a force.

One guy who thinks that Landeskog is NHL-ready right now is Kitchener Rangers coach Steve Spott, Landeskog’s coach in junior hockey. Spott tells The Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno that the stud winger is ready to roll for the Avalanche right away and doesn’t expect him back in Kitchener next season.

“I talked with Greg Sherman [Avalanche GM]; they’ve been pretty up front, and they’ve been honest with me that they expect Gabe to be in Colorado next year,” Spott said. “They’re gonna have a younger group of guys, so where he’s got him penciled in right now, we won’t get him back. It’s unfortunate for Kitchener Ranger fans, but that’s our job.”

In last year’s draft, we saw five players (Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Jeff Skinner, Alexander Burmistrov, and Cam Fowler) make the jump straight into the NHL. This year’s draft class is a bit more unclear as to who might stay and who might head back to juniors and college hockey but with Landeskog’s size, skills, and the opportunity in front of him he’s got a great chance to make a big first impression.

The opportunity for Landeskog to jump right in is there. Outside of Duchene, Stastny, and Hejduk the Avalanche have the likes of David Jones, T.J. Galiardi, and Chuck Kobasew to compete with for time in the top six. If Peter Mueller is able to recover fully from concussion problems, he’d assuredly have a spot in that mix but there’s no timetable set for when he can play again, if at all. Those other players aren’t all that impressive and if Landeskog can subscribe to the the idea of seizing the day he can be a top line player for Colorado right away.

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

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Hot take: the Pittsburgh Penguins probably won’t deal with a goalie controversy going into Game 7.

(Ugh, that’s a failed hot take … you can’t use “probably” in those things, right?)

Matt Murray was fantastic at times during Game 6, much like his counterpart in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s net in a 5-2 win. Granted, there were some tense moments during the Bolts’ late-game push:

Much has been made about experience, especially from those calling for Marc-Andre Fleury earlier in this series. It’s telling that the praise Murray draws sure sounds like what you’d expect from a “veteran.”

“He has a calming influence,” Sullivan said. “He doesn’t get rattled. If he lets a goal in, he just continues to compete. That’s usually an attribute that usually takes years to acquire that, and to have it at such a young age is impressive.”

Thanks in part to Murray’s efforts in Game 6, he’ll get a chance to prove his resolve in something new: a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Final.

Once again, his teammates seem pretty confident in this elimination situation.

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

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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

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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.