Mike Smith

Report: Coyotes might not have Smith in goal for Game 3

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According to Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune, the complexion of the Coyotes-Blackhawks series could be in for a major change.

Kuc reports that Phoenix starting netminder Mike Smith — who was brilliant in Games 1 and 2 — will be a gametime decision for tonight’s crucial Game 3 at the United Center.

Smith was shaken up after being charged by Chicago’s Andrew Shaw midway through Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss. While he returned to finish the contest, Smith missed Monday’s practice before rejoining his teammates for Tuesday’s morning skate.

Following the skate, Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett wasn’t offering much insight to Smith’s status.

“Game time decision,” he said. “Game time decision.”

Tippett was a bit more loquacious when it came to speaking about the hit that injured Smith (emphasis on “a bit”.”)

“It’s a blatant hit to the head,” Tippett said. “The type of hit they are trying to get out of the game.”

The controversy surrounding the Smith situation is complex. Shaw already had his disciplinary hearing with Brendan Shanahan, yet no ruling’s been announced — leading to speculation that Shaw’s punishment might be tied to any potential injury to Smith.

Further muddling things is that, after returning to Saturday’s contest, Smith is now listed as a game time decision, raising a lot of 1) concussion protocol flags, and 2) suspicions that Phoenix is playing coy with Smith’s actual status.

Tippett was asked about that, too — and (surprise!) didn’t offer much.

Reporter: If Smith is a game time decision, are you at all re-thinking that he should’ve finished last game? Can you take us through that a little bit?

Tippett: No. He was fine.

Reporter: But he’s not fine now, necessarily?

Tippett: We’ll see.

Smith has stopped 89 of 95 shots through two games against Chicago — that’s a .937 save percentage on an average of 47 shots faced per game. If he can’t go, duties will fall to backup netminder Jason LaBarbera.

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.