Pageau eyes Sens’ lineup

5 Comments

Center Jean-Gabriel Pageau burst on the the scene as a 20-year-old with his hometown Senators during the lockout-shortened 2013 season.

Pageau scored two goals and four points in nine regular season games before adding four goals and six points in 10 playoff games as the surprising Senators defeated the Montreal Canadiens in the first round.

Since then however, Pageau an Ottawa native, has just two goals in 28 NHL games and a minus-5 rating. He spent much of last season with Ottawa’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton.

“For sure I think after my good playoffs two years ago, expectations went really high,” Pageau told the Ottawa Sun last week. “I don’t want to say last year I had a bad year, I want to say it was a learning year. I learned that nothing is guaranteed and you always need to work for your spot. You need to deserve to be there. That’s why I’m working hard this summer to make sure if I have my chance this year I’ll catch it and stay there.”

As Don Brennan points out in his piece, it appeared there may be room for Pageau on the big club when general manager Bryan Murray dealt Jason Spezza to the Dallas Stars; however, any room at center was quickly filled by the signing of David Legwand.

Presently the Senators have Kyle Turris, Mika Zibanejad, Legwand and Zack Smith filling center ice roles meaning Pageau, who is in the final year of his entry-level contract, will likely have to go back to the AHL and wait for a phone call.

Pageau was helped by the departure of fellow center Stephane Da Costa, who signed with the KHL’s HC CSKA Moscow this summer.

“For sure I see myself in the lineup,” Pageau said. “I always believe in myself and I’ll always believe in myself. But I know it’s going to be hard. That’s basically why I’m giving a little extra every morning … just work hard and give everything I have to make sure I do my best.

“If I go to camp and do my best, I’m sure they’ll find a way to find a spot in the lineup for me.”

Pageau says he got direction from Senators coach, Paul MacLean, on where he can improve heading into the 2014-15 season during the team’s exit interviews in April. One thing the 21-year-old does have working for him is his face-off abilities. With Spezza, the team’s top centerman gone, Pageau’s intangibles could prove worthy to the Senators if he has a stellar camp.

Related: Under Pressure: Turris, MacArthur & Ryan

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

2 Comments

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

7 Comments

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

22 Comments

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.

***

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

13 Comments

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.