Minnesota Wild v Nashville Predators

Columnist wonders why players snub Preds

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Nashville Predators GM David Poile is going to great lengths to remodel his team in new head coach Peter Laviolette’s image. Unfortunately, in pursuing attractive targets, they opened the door for some high-profile rejections.

Jason Spezza nixed one (if not two) chances to relocate to Nashville. Ryan Kesler placed the Predators on his no-trade list, too.

So, what’s the deal? The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper provided three interesting hypotheses that we’ll break down a little bit further:

1. They give off the  “feel of an expansion team” to some.

Cooper provides an anecdote that would probably be unsettling to Poile & Co. after years of building things up in the Nashville market:

A former player joked with me on the phone during a recent interview, “Are the Predators still rebuilding?” It was said in jest, but players talk, and if that’s the vibe about here from other players, then that’s not good.

To be fair, the Predators are rebuilding, or at least retooling. After years of being a grind-it-out, defense-first-second-and-last team, Poile acquired James Neal and hired Laviolette to change to a more offensive-minded setup.

So far, it looks like they’re off to a good start, but there’s still clearly plenty of work to be done.

2. The Shea Weber situation

For better or worse, the Predators matched the big offer sheet the Philadelphia Flyers sent Weber’s way.

This might be an overrated situation in some ways, yet it’s not a great sign when your biggest homegrown star wants out. What really might be the egg-on-face moment could be Ryan Suter walking; beyond his departure to an eventual division rival, there was some drama between Suter and Poile after he left.

(It’s probably not fair to pin all of the blame on the Predators for the Alex Radulov fiasco, yet that’s another moment the franchise would like to forget. It can’t make star players feel too optimistic that things have worked out so poorly with Nashville’s rare “high-end” guys.)

3. A lack of recent success

Bad luck or not, the Predators have missed the playoffs for two straight seasons. The franchise also hasn’t ever advanced to a conference final series, bowing out in the second round twice.

In these trade situations, you’re talking about guys whose contracts are covered for the 2014-15 campaign (if not longer), so getting on a winning team is the top priority. Aside from maybe Poile himself, few would point to the Predators as an elite team heading into next season. There’s no doubt that such a thought must have occurred to Spezza and Kesler.

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As Cooper mentions, the Predators are building a nice following in Nashville and the city has its perks: delicious barbecue, no state income tax and warmer weather.

Ultimately, they best drawing card is still winning. The Predators need to do more of that if they expect to land big fish in the future.

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.