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Welcome the newbies: Traverse City fills the offseason void

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It’s still the offseason—but we’re finally starting to see some signs of life. In what has become an offseason to look forward to, eight teams will send prospects to this year’s Traverse City prospect tournament. This year’s participants include: first time contestant Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, and St. Louis Blues. As usual, the tournament will take place at the Detroit Red Wings practice facility in Traverse City, MI.

It’s important to note that not all of the best prospects will be present at the tournament. Some talented European prospects will miss out on the fun because their seasons have started overseas. Also, collegiate prospects are also noticeably absent as many have started school and are preparing for the college season.

Here’s the full schedule for this year’s tournament. (Note: all times Eastern)

Saturday, September 10

Buffalo Sabres vs. Minnesota Wild (3:30 pm)
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Dallas Stars (4:00 pm)
St. Louis Blues vs. New York Rangers (7:00 pm)
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Detroit Red Wings (8:00 pm)

Sunday, September 11

Buffalo Sabres vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (2:30 pm)
Carolina Hurricanes vs. St. Louis Blues (3:00 pm)
Dallas Stars vs. New York Rangers (6:00 pm)
Detroit Red Wings vs. Minnesota Wild (6:30 pm)

Tuesday, September 13

St. Louis Blues vs. Dallas Stars (3:00 pm)
Carolina Hurricanes vs. New York Rangers (3:30 pm)
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Minnesota Wild (6:30 pm)
Buffalo Sabres vs. Detroit Red Wings (7:00 pm)

Wednesday, September 14

Placement Game #1 (3:00 pm)
Placement Game #2 (3:30 pm)
Placement Game #3 (6:30 pm)
Placement Game #4 (7:00 pm)

NHL Network will televise the Rangers vs. Blues game on September 10, the Stars vs. Rangers game on September 11, and the Hurricanes vs. Rangers matinee on September 13.

Sure, it may not be regular season hockey—but we’re getting there. Who knows, maybe this year’s Calder Trophy winner will come out of the tournament. After all, Jeff Skinner did last season. Finally, the darkness of the offseason is lifting and we can see the light of the upcoming season at last.

Some of the exciting prospects set to appear in Traverse City this season are Ryan Johansen, Jack Campbell, Tim Erixon, Justin Faulk, Zach Phillips, Zack Kassian, Brenden Smith, Stefan Della Rovere, Scott Glennie, and Ryan Murphy.  Here are the full rosters for all eight participants this season:

Buffalo Sabres roster
Carolina Hurricanes roster
Columbus Blue Jackets roster
Dallas Stars roster
Detroit Red Wings roster
Minnesota Wild roster
New York Rangers roster
St. Louis Blues roster

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.