Los Angeles Kings v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five

Offseason Report: Vancouver Canucks

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From July 16-Aug 14, we’ll be profiling all 30 NHL teams by recapping what they did this offseason and previewing their upcoming campaigns.

2011-12 season

51-22-9, 111 points. First in the Northwest Division, first in the Western Conference, Presidents’ Trophy winners. Lost in the conference quarterfinals to Los Angeles (4-1).

Additions

Jason Garrison, Derek Joslin, Guillaume Desbiens

Departures

Sami Salo, Aaron Rome, Marc-Andre Gragnani

2012 Draft

First round, 26th overall — Brendan Gaunce, C (OHL Belleville)

Looking back

Vancouver’s summer narrative was — and continues to be — the plight of Roberto Luongo.

After Cory Schneider ascended to the No. 1 gig during the postseason and signed a three-year, $12 million deal, it seemed a Luongo trade was inevitable.

So, why no deal?

Canucks GM Mike Gillis repeatedly preached patience during summer — then practiced it throughout. He said the club would be comfortable heading into next season with both Luongo and Schneider in the mix, and doesn’t appear to be bluffing…though it should be noted that, with labor uncertainty, Gillis might have additional extra decision-making time at his disposal.

Looking forward

Vancouver will be similar up front but feature an altered look on the blueline. Gone is one of the longest-tenured Canucks (Salo) and a pair of depth guys in Gragnani and Rome, the latter registering a career-high in points last season.

It seems likely that Garrison — a hard-shooting power play ace — will step in and replace Salo, while Keith Ballard could end his stay in Alain Vigneault’s doghouse and play a more significant role. The 29-year-old veteran appeared in a career-low 47 games last year and, given his $4.2 million cap hit, is probably expected to do more in his third year with the club.

In short, the Canucks seem to have adopted the offseason strategy of the Bruins, the team that beat them in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals:

Forget last year’s quick playoff exit, embrace a new starting goalie, trust the core veteran group and try to make another run.

Have your say

Vote in our poll and let us know what you think of the Canucks’ 2012-13 outlook in the comments section.

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.