CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 22: Patrick Sharp #10 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates on the ice prior to Game Five of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins at United Center on June 22, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Playoffs Tonight: Will ‘Hawks win the Cup tonight?

41 Comments

Game 6: Boston Bruins host Chicago Blackhawks (8:00 p.m. ET — NBC/Live Extra)
Chicago leads series 3-2

The Chicago Blackhawks started this season with a historic 21-0-3 run and could finish it tonight by claiming the Stanley Cup. Of course, no one is saying that it will be a simple matter to beat the Boston Bruins one final time. Not in Boston. Not after everything the Bruins have achieved to this point.

“We’re an experienced group that’s been through a lot,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Not just that but we have a good group of guys that understand what’s at stake. They understand what’s happening, and they know what they need to do.”

“You’ve got to be careful,” Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said, “you’ve seen a couple years ago Boston was down 3-2, they won at home and then won Game 7 in Vancouver. We know this team is capable of coming back.

“For us I know it’s a big game, but you want to play it like it’s any other game, play the way we have all season, and try to pull one out here on the road.”

Anything is possible if Patrick Kane has another game like he had on Saturday when he beat Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask twice to lead Chicago to a 3-1 victory. Kane is the Blackhawks’ playoff scoring leader and he’s been a big contributor in the Stanley Cup Final with three goals and five points in five games.

He’s also the man who won the 2010 Stanley Cup Final with his overtime marker in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Is it possible that history might repeat itself tonight?

“I think the biggest thing is trying to help contribute anyway I can,” Kane said, “help this team get a win, especially the situation we’re in. You want to take advantage of it in the next game. We have a great opportunity. I’ll do whatever I can to help the team win, and it would be a great feeling.”

On the other side of the ice, Bruins forward Brad Marchand is one of the guys to keep an eye on. He’s not an offensive superstar like Kane, but he can be very dangerous when he’s hot and he was one of the guys that came up big for Boston late in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

He doesn’t have a point in this series, but…

“Well, if he’s going to be a streaky player I would hope that streak starts [tonight],” Julien said. “I don’t think he’s played terrible, but certainly he knows he can play better.”

Then of course, there’s the elephant in the room. The 2012 and 2013 Selke Trophy winners – Boston’s Patrice Bergeron and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews – are both questionable for Game 6. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is “optimistic” about Toews’ chances of playing while Julien would only say Bergeron is “day-to-day.”

Both of those players are so talented and help their teams in so many different ways that either loss would be hard to overcome. If one of them ends up playing and the other doesn’t, it could tip the scales of tonight’s contest.

At the same time though, these squads are so deep and so much is on the line that it’s hard to call either team the clear favorite of Game 6 regardless of what happens with Bergeron and Toews.

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Brian Boyle #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final with a score of 5 to 2 during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

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

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammates Sidney Crosby #87 after scoring a goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Jason Behnken/Getty Images)
Getty
7 Comments

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.

***

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

3 Comments

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.

Video: Phil Kessel displays incredible hand-eye coordination on goal

1 Comment

This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.

The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.

(Watch that goal in the video above.)

It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.

Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.

Update: Here’s the goal Kessel accidentally “scored” for the Lightning:

Ouch.