GriffinReinhart

Looking to make the leap: Griffin Reinhart

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Last September Islanders prospect Griffin Reinhart got a taste of the NHL game suiting up in pre-season action.

However, what followed was an unwelcome return to the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Western Hockey League.

Reinhart, 20, had 21 points in 45 WHL games this past season while adding 13 points in 21 playoff games captaining the Oil Kings to a Memorial Cup victory in London, Ontario.

“It’s an awesome accomplishment. It’s something that’s going to be memorable for the rest of my life,” Reinhart said of the Memorial Cup victory.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano believes the Memorial Cup experience sets Reinhart up for years to come.

“Any time you can put a player in that situation, he played a lot of minutes… he was a horse for those guys and he earned a great deal of experience most importantly winning a championship and how hard it is and how tough it is,” Capuano told reporters at Islanders rookie camp.

But in the defenseman’s mind, it wasn’t the best route to furthering his game.

“I think playing in the NHL probably could’ve helped benefit me personally, I think,” he said. “But I did everything I could’ve. I stayed in shape in the gym on the days off. I was getting better. Working on becoming a better leader, being more vocal and doing those small things.”

If the last name sounds familiar, it should. Griffin’s father, Paul played 648 NHL games with Atlanta, Calgary and Vancouver. His older brother, Max Reinhart is a forward in the Calgary Flames organization and his younger brother, Sam Reinhart, was the second overall selection of the Buffalo Sabres at the June NHL Draft.

In total, Reinhart dressed in four pre-season games for the Islanders last September, making his presence felt immediately scoring in a 5-3 loss to the Flames.

“It just proved to myself that I can play there,” said Reinhart. “Everything is going to be a step up from the Western Hockey League. I think it’s a lot more structured. Guys are in the right positions and that also makes it an easier game.

“I’m not saying it’s easy to play there, but it makes it easier in terms of guys having your back and knowing where to go and picking up some passes.”

Reinhart, the fourth overall pick at the 2012 NHL Draft, also learned about preparation at the NHL level last summer.

“I think being up with those guys, you see how they treat their bodies away from the rink,” he said. “Whether it’s after practice going into the cold tub, stretching and just doing everything they can to maintain themselves and get them in the best possible shape and prevent them from injury and keep getting stronger.

“I think that’s one of the biggest differences from the junior level.”

The Islanders have big hopes for the 6-foot-4, 202-pound native of Vancouver.

“He’s going to get an opportunity come September,” said Capuano.

Ideally a 20-year-old defenseman would play in the AHL to help make the transition to the pro game, but with Garth Snow under pressure to win now, if Reinhart can show he belongs, he likely will make the club out of training camp.

Related: In Praise of John Tavares

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.