Gary Bettman

Board of Governors meeting: Conditionally approve goal modifications, talk realignment

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The NHL’s Board of Governors gathered to discuss a handful of things that could help the game out in the long run and to help the league get straightened out with their conference alignment.

The league got down to matters on some of the things tested out during the NHL’s R&D camp this summer that saw tactics implemented to help officials both on the ice and in the replay booth make sure that a goal is actually a goal. The green verification line that sits a puck-width behind the red goal line in the net as well as thin mesh on top of the goals and a clear plastic skirt around the bottom of the net have been conditionally approved by the Board of Governors. The board will wait for approval from the NHLPA before going fully ahead with putting these new changes in place for this season.

As for changing the depth of the nets themselves, like the shallower nets used last night in Toronto, that will take approval from the competition committee to make that happen and should that be approved, it won’t happen until next season.

The bigger thing on the Board’s plate today, however, was discussion of realignment starting next season. The talk of realignment came up during the summer and much of that is in part thanks to the Thrashers moving to Winnipeg and adding another team to the west while three eastern located teams continue to play in the Western Conference. Detroit, Columbus, and Nashville are all seeking to find a way to the Eastern Conference next season and Wild owner Craig Leipold even may have tipped off what the NHL’s plans are to do it.

With the Board talking things over today, the clock is officially ticking until when we’ll see what the league comes up with as their solution to trying to keep everyone happy. Dan Rosen of NHL.com has the discussion.

It’s possible that the Board of Governors will discuss changing the structure of the conferences by creating four divisions of seven or eight teams. Columbus, Nashville and Detroit have reportedly expressed an interest in moving to the Eastern Conference.

Going back to a four division alignment would be another “turn back the clock” element by the NHL as that’s the setup the league had before switching to six divisions. The four division format also had the excitement of divisional playoffs with the top four teams in each division making the postseason and then squaring off against each other in the first two rounds of the playoffs. In those days, the schedule was also balanced and not overloaded with games against teams in the division. Rivalries were built in the post season between teams that already hated each other. It was truly a beautiful thing.

Should all these things make a comeback, the NHL doing things “old school” like this would help spice things up in the postseason as well as not burn fans out having so many regular season games between divisional foes. Of course, the NHL could decide to keep doing the playoffs just as they are now with division winners taking the top two spots and everyone else duking it out for the other six spots.

The NHL has to make a move on realignment before December so as to get the schedule in order for next season. If nothing can be agreed upon by then, any plans to realign would likely get tabled for another season. Don’t expect there to be any problems in getting something worked out however.

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.