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Is Bruce Boudreau an elite NHL coach?

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When you look at Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, it’s tough not to grin.

Unfortunately, his expressive, amusing personality might obscure the fact that he’s put together an impressive run in his still fairly brief NHL coaching career. Considering the Ducks’ surprising run to the 2013 Pacific Division title and his track record of success – at least in the regular season – one must ask: is he one of the league’s best bench bosses?

A good barometer

The 2013-14 season could be a great test for that question, for one thing. Despite coming into what is technically his third campaign with Anaheim, it will mark a few firsts. It will be his first chance to coach the team for a full 82 games. Considering the lockout and taking over the team in the middle of the 2011-12 season, this will mark Boudreau’s first chance to run a traditional training camp.

With Bobby Ryan traded out of town and Teemu Selanne mulling over retirement, he might inherit a weaker roster.

It’s also well-documented that many stats bloggers believed that the Ducks’ 2013 successes was fluky.

Impressive results mixed with postseason disappointments

Even so, it’s tough to deny that success has followed Boudreau around.

In 435 games coached between the Ducks and Washington Capitals, Boudreau has compiled a 258-123-54 record and five division titles. Hockey reference places his points percentage at .655, which ranks just behind Dan Bylsma (.671) while besting a varied group of coaches that include Mike Babcock (.635), Ken Hitchcock (.596) and 2013 Jack Adams winner Paul MacLean (.566).

Again, he’s still relatively new to the gig compared to guys like Babcock and Hitchcock, but it’s worth noting that he’s had such a distinguished start.

Naturally, many focus on the way he finishes, instead. Despite those five division title runs, Boudreau’s teams haven’t gotten to a conference final series yet.

For many, the ice-cream loving coach won’t be named among the best until he wins bigger games.

Who knows when – or if – he’ll make a deep playoff run, but one thing seems certain: it’ll be fun to watch him try.

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.