James Reimer, Mika Zibanejad

Is it in Ottawa’s best interests for Mika Zibanejad to make an immediate NHL jump?

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Every once in a while, a person makes an argument that changes the way people look at things. Sometimes that persuasive piece might alter your viewpoints on large issues such as religion or politics, other times a TV show just makes you think less of a rival program.

Just a year ago today (Sept. 27, 2010), Tyler Dellow argued that the Edmonton Oilers should’ve preserved the first entry-level years for promising rookies such as Taylor Hall and Magnus Pajaarvi. To impatient Oilers fans, that idea probably sounded ludicrous, but Dellow’s point shouldn’t be taken lightly – especially since the Oilers were bad enough to earn the number 1 overall pick in a second straight draft.

It might be harsh to call their rookie years a waste, but one can make the unpopular but reasonable argument that the Oilers would’ve been better served saving those two players’ bargain years. Now Hall only has two seasons left until The Dreaded Second Contract, which could be a nightmare.

(I’ll admit there’s one indirect perk to this “plan,” though. Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ contract years will be staggered by at least one summer, so that could allow them to take their second contract lumps in more digestible portions.)

Senators face a similar conundrum

The Oilers aren’t the only struggling Canadian NHL franchise that should think long and hard about expending precious entry-level years, though. The Ottawa Senators should be careful about the way they handle their 2011 first round pick Mika Zibanejad, even if the versatile Swede’s play almost demands a spot on the opening day roster.

The reasoning is simple: the 2011-12 season is expected to be an ugly one for the once-proud Sens. Don’t get me wrong, Craig Anderson could be very good next season. Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza should get a little more luck with their health, while Sergei Gonchar has nowhere to go but up from a dreadful 10-11 debut in Ottawa. Even so, the Senators rank as a long shot, especially considering how much better the Northeast Division figures to be next season.

Zibanejad keeps scoring

Zibanejad isn’t exactly making it easy for the Senators to turn him down, though. He already was making a solid case with two “dazzling” goals going into tonight’s 5-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Zibanejad managed to score one more impressive goal on Tuesday, as you can see from the highlights in that link.

It’s tantalizing to think about, but chew on this: two of the three Calder Trophy finalists played on teams who failed to make the playoffs. Rookie of the year Jeff Skinner’s first season was so sensational that it would be silly to call it a bad move, but the Carolina Hurricanes might wonder – for at least a second – when his payday comes in 2013 rather than 2014.

The Senators will likely make that crucial choice somewhere around Zibanejad’s ninth regular season game, which is the deadline for teams to either postpone that first entry-level year until next year or let it melt away. GM Bryan Murray and head coach Paul MacLean will have a tough choice to make, but if you ask me, they should be fun-killers by sending him down.

What do you think, though? Should they lean one way or just keep an open mind about his chances? Do you prefer instant gratification or slow-roasted goodness? Let us know in the comments.

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.