Brooks Laich

Brooks Laich and direct deposit: A perfect match

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To some people, it’s hard for hockey players to seem like anything more than numbers – whether it’s their point totals, cap hits or even the widely critiqued digits on the front of their helmets. It’s easy to forget that they are people too, with real-life concerns that really come to the forefront when their contracts expire or they deal with the culture shock related to being traded.

(Just look at Eric Belanger, who sadly discussed all the adjustments his children dealt with during his journeyman years.)

That being said, you would think that they wouldn’t have much trouble cashing their large paychecks. Recently re-signed Washington Capitals center Brooks Laich amused reporters while discussing his mishaps with two checks during his earlier years.

In both cases, he misplaced checks only to find them in mad scrambles months later.

“There’s been twice that I’ve done that,” Laich said. “One time, my first year in Washington, we got a paycheck somewhere in February, then we went on the road for a week and I didn’t want to take it with me, so I put it in my glove compartment. And I got sent to (minor league affiliate) Hershey for the playoffs.

“And I was going to Blockbuster in, like, June during the Calder (Cup) finals, and I was looking for my Blockbuster card, and I opened my glove compartment and there was a paycheck in there from February.”

Then Laich told the about the other one.

“I’ll never forget it. It was my first bonus check when I was 19 years old and it was for $46,000,” he said. “And I got it, and I looked at it, and my first thought was ‘This is too much money, I can’t accept this.’ And I just put it in my closet in my apartment.

“About a month later, my mom phoned me and she said ‘What have you done with your money?’ And I said ‘Oh, I don’t even know where it is.’ I had to search my apartment. And she said ‘Put that thing in the bank.’ I just didn’t know what to do with it. It was more money than I had ever seen. Now I have direct deposit, so I don’t have to worry about that stuff.”

The less Laich has on his plate, the better. He’s a fantastic fit as a versatile third-line center, but the Capitals expect him to play the role of second liner. They’re also paying him to do it in the form of a six-year, $27 million deal.

If nothing else, you can take Laich’s hard work to the bank – except maybe when it comes to literally going to the bank.

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.