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It’s Montreal Canadiens day on PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team?  The Montreal Canadiens.

After the Montreal Canadiens finished 2011-12 with a disastrous 78 points, they shook up their front office by bringing in Marc Bergevin to serve as the new general manager. Bergevin in turn hired former Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Michel Therrien to once again serve as the team’s bench boss.

Bergevin and Therrien’s first season saw the Canadiens improve by leaps and bounds for a number of different reasons. For one thing, top-tier offensive defenseman Andrei Markov enjoyed his first healthy campaign in years and P.K. Subban took another step forward en route to winning the Norris Trophy. The duo played a prominent role in Montreal going from one of the worst power-play teams in 2011-12 to the fifth best last season.

Montreal was also led by a youth movement, including rookie forwards Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk. In fact, four of the team’s top six scorers and five of their top eight are 24 years old or younger.

With their improved offense, Montreal managed to capture the Northeast Division title, but they imploded against the Ottawa Senators in the first round. Goaltender Carey Price struggled towards the end of the season and that carried over into the playoffs.

After dropping three of Montreal’s first four games against Ottawa, Price was held out of Game 5 due to a knee injury. Backup Peter Budaj proved to be equally ineffective against the Senators and thus the Canadiens’ postseason run ended with a 6-1 defeat.

Offseason recap

The Canadiens have plenty of young players in their core and they’re on an upward trajectory, so Bergevin wasn’t inclined to make major changes this summer. That being said, they did make one big splash by signing Danny Briere to a two-year, $8 million contract after his previous deal was bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers.

At the same time, they watched 2013 midseason acquisition Michael Ryder walk as an unrestricted free agent. He ended up signing a two-year, $7 million deal with the New Jersey Devils.

Montreal claimed forward Michael McCarron with the 25th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

Related:

Introducing: PHT’s ‘Team of the Day’ summer series

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.