2014_NHL_DRAFT-LOGO_BIG

Here’s what to watch for today

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Today is going to be fun. Halford and I are here in Philadelphia to cover the draft. We’ll be heading over to the rink in a couple of hours. In the meantime, a few thoughts…

— Still no official salary cap number. But if you’re a fan of a team like the Bruins, you should be cheering for one as high as possible. It already seems like Jarome Iginla will have to move on from Boston…

Is there any way they could keep Iginla? Well, Johnny Boychuk is a name that Boston reporters have been throwing around as a trade chip Peter Chiarelli could play to clear cap space, with picks or prospects coming back. But a move like that probably won’t happen today…

And if the cap number is lower than expected, the B’s might still have to trade a veteran like Boychuk, while also losing Iginla to free agency.

— If Ryan Kesler and Jason Spezza are traded today — and we’d be surprised if at least one wasn’t — the pressure will really build on the teams that miss out. Anaheim, Chicago, and NY Rangers are among the many clubs that would like to add a top center. And even with Patrik Berglund signing an extension in St. Louis, the Blues may still try to add a play-maker at the position. Paul Stastny, Mikhail Grabovski, Dave Bolland, Olli Jokinen, David Legwand, Brad Richards, and Mike Santorelli are still unsigned and pending unrestricted free agents. July 1 is only a few days away.

— Will there be a trade that takes everyone by surprise, like last year’s deal that sent Cory Schneider to New Jersey. Hopefully! On that note, the Detroit Red Wings are reportedly interested in Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, who would fulfill their need for a right-shooting blue-liner, plus give them a former rookie of the year with, yes, a big contract, but also still a ton of potential. You have to think Mike Babcock would love a crack at coaching a talent like Myers, a 24-year-old that once looked like a future Norris Trophy winner, only to see his game and confidence degenerate in Buffalo.

— There’s also the actual draft today. (Just in case anyone forgot, what with all the trade talk.) While there may not be the “wow” factor with this year’s group of draftees, it’s still going to be produce a star or two. Don’t forget that players like Shea Weber and Patrice Bergeron weren’t selected until the second round. Pavel Datsyuk didn’t go until the sixth round. It’s after the top prospects are taken that a team’s scouting department can really differentiate itself. Chicago and Los Angeles are proof of that.

Enjoy the day, everyone.

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.