Joffrey Lupul

Ex-Duck Lupul on Anaheim’s struggles: “I’m pretty surprised”

Tonight will be a reunion of sorts for Toronto winger Joffrey Lupul. It’ll be the first time he’s faced his former club — the Anaheim Ducks — since being traded to Toronto nine months ago.

Not that he’s missing life in Orange County.

The Leafs are off to their best start in years, the Ducks their worst. Heading into Sunday’s play, Anaheim’s 6-12-4 record was the worst in the Pacific Division and dangerously close to the worst in the Western Conference. Columbus is now just one point back of Anaheim for 14th place and should the BJs beat St. Louis tonight and the Ducks lose to Toronto, the Ducks will occupy the conference basement. (As opposed to the parental basement, occupied by the PHT staffers.)

“I’m pretty surprised,” he told the OC Register. “If you just look at those names, (Bobby) Ryan, (Ryan) Getzlaf, (Corey) Perry, (Teemu) Selanne … you think that’s a playoff team. Right?”

Not that Lupul is shedding any tears. In speaking with the Register, he discussed his acrimonious relationship with Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle about playing left wing. Lupul’s emerged as a high-end scorer since moving to the position full-time in Toronto. He’s scored 11 times and is third in the NHL with 27 points.

“In my conversation with Randy, he said he didn’t think I had the skill to play left in wing in this league being on my off side,” Lupul said (he’s a right-hand shot). “So he wasn’t going to give me that opportunity here. And I’m not going to knock Corey Perry or Teemu Selanne off their right wing spot.

“So pretty much after that conversation, I realized that I probably wasn’t in their plans here.”

That’s not what Carlyle wanted to hear as he squirms on the hottest of hot seats. One of Anaheim’s biggest issues this year has been secondary scoring — with the Big Three struggling to find their form, the only Duck to step up and provide consistent offense has been Selanne.

“If we probably erred, we probably erred in that we didn’t play him consistently enough at left wing,” Carlyle admitted. “Players make comments. It’s not up to management or coaches to throw any dirt one way or another. I’m just glad that the player is healthy and making a contribution.”

Bet he wishes Lupul was making that contribution for the Ducks, though.

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.