P.K. Subban #76 of the Montreal Canadiens shoots during warmup before NHL action against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre January 21, 2012 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
(January 20, 2012 - Source: Abelimages/Getty Images North America)

Even with a Norris Trophy, Subban has room for improvement

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Nobody has ever questioned PK Subban’s ability to create offense. The 24-year-old defenseman was a prolific scorer in junior; however, his perceived defensive deficiencies hurt his draft stock, allowing the Canadiens to select him 43rd overall in 2007.

After Subban was awarded the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman in 2013, that pick is looking awfully savvy.

This past season, after missing the first six games due to a contract dispute, Subban tallied 38 points, tying him with Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang for the scoring lead among defensemen.

Subban, Letang, and Minnesota’s Ryan Suter were subsequently named the three finalists for the Norris.

While Subban ended up with the most support from Norris voters (Professional Hockey Writers’ Association), it was an extremely close race between first and second — Subban finished with 66 first-place votes; Suter got 65.

Suter supporters pointed to his average ice time (27:16 to Subban’s 23:14) as well as all the time he spent killing penalties (102:14 to Subban’s 60:54).

In fact, there were 34 regular NHL d-men who logged more ice per game than Subban and 117 who spent more time killing penalties.

That said, most everyone will agree that Subban has become a more responsible defender, in addition to all he brings offensively.

“He’s a young defenseman who improves a lot,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said in May. “He’s only 23 years old. (He’s made) a nice progression. We like the way that he’s playing for us. He’s a lot more dependable that he was a few years ago, and that’s a good sign.”

Upon winning the Norris, Subban said getting honored at such a young age was “all the more reason for me to continue to get better, to continue to be a leader and develop both as a player and as a person.”

With another contract negotiation looming, how he performs in 2013-14 — after which he can become a restricted free agent — will be worth watching.

More Montreal Canadiens day on PHT:

Five Habs to watch in 2013-14

Habs need bounceback from Price

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.

***

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.