James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
via Minnesota Wild

Latest Prince tribute comes from the Minnesota Wild

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If you turn on any self-respecting music station, it’s likely that you’ve heard some Prince songs since the shocking news of his death surfaced.

That’s not the only place where you’d come across a great tribute of the icon, either. Prince tributes are popping up all over pop culture and even trickling into sports.

The Minnesota Wild provided a great example, which makes sense since he hails from “The State of Hockey.”

Awesome, right?

But they didn’t stop there. The respect continued in the form of the warm-up pucks before Game 6.

The Wild hope to beat the Artists Formerly Known as the North Stars, er, the Dallas Stars o extend their series tonight.

(Aside: are you relieved at the lack of “Chapelle Show” references?)

Are the Flyers making a bad choice with ‘Stay Classy’ shirts for Game 6?

via Philadelphia Flyers
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The whole wristband-throwing fiasco was odd enough, but the Philadelphia Flyers are acknowledging all the strange Game 3 happenings with a shirt.

Some might call it a “provocative” shirt.

Unless this is some elaborate hoax – CSN Philadelphia ranks among those indicating that this is real – the Flyers are handing out orange t-shirts with Lou Nolan saying “Stay Classy, Philly!”

In case you don’t know, Nolan is the PA guy who admonished Flyers fans for throwing wristbands and thus sticking the team with delay of game penalties.

Here’s the design via the Flyers’ official Twitter account:

Hey … in the event that these shower the ice, at least these shirts look nice and soft.

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Sunday provides three Game 6 matchups, which means we could see as many as three Game 7 showdowns … or none.

Needless to say we got some important contests ahead of us, so here’s how to watch them:

Washington at Philadelphia (12:00 p.m. ET)

The Capitals get a third chance to close out the series with their lead shrinking to 3-2 over the Flyers. You can watch Game 6 on NBC or stream it using the NBC Sports Live Extra app by clicking here.

Dallas at Minnesota (3:00 p.m. ET)

The Stars still hold a series lead of 3-2 over the Wild heading into Game 6. NBC will host the television broadcast of this contest and the stream is available here.

Florida at NY Islanders (7:00 p.m. ET)

The Islanders have a 3-2 series lead against the Panthers heading into Game 6. This game will be on NBCSN and you can watch the stream by clicking here.

Some reading material:

Michal Neuvirth played heroically in helping Philly stave off elimination once again in Game 5.

– Should the Flyers really hand out “Stay Classy” shirts?

– Dallas Stars are sticking with Antti Niemi, don’t really want people to ask about it.

– Isles are one win away from their first playoff series win in decades after win.

Is there a rift forming between Vladimir Tarasenko and Ken Hitchcock?

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Is there some heat between St. Louis Blues superstar Vladimir Tarasenko and hard-nosed head coach Ken Hitchcock?

Some are floating that thought, especially following what looked like a tense exchange (see video above) during Game 6.

Hitchcock is the sort of “gruff” coach who, the story goes, doesn’t always get along with certain players.

One can debate things back and forth and over-analyze various interactions between the two, but it seems clear that a huge chunk of Hockey Twitter believes that Tarasenko isn’t being used properly.

Simply put, plenty of smart people think that he isn’t getting the sort of ice time that befits a sniper who’s really cemented himself among the elite during this regular season and an impressive first round.

Here are some stunned reactions:

There were plenty of less polished responses that expressed similar thoughts in pretty amusing ways:

(ALL CAPS OFTEN GET A LAUGH.)

It may be an exaggeration to imply that there is any bad blood between Hitchcock and Tarasenko, even if the latter might be a little peeved that he isn’t getting more opportunities to influence games. (Tarasenko’s been brilliant, after all.)

Even so, this could be the sort of strategic decision that draws some serious criticism if the Blues bow out in Game 7.

Blackhawks dig deep, force Game 7 against Blues

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The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Chicago Blackhawks seemed like they were in peril in trailing 3-1 during Game 6, much like they seemed to be when they fell behind 3-1 in their series against the St. Louis Blues.

In both situations, the Blackhawks answered the call. They flipped the script in the second period and proved to be too much for the Blues in a 6-3 win for Chicago. There have been many twists and turns that could have buried the Blackhawks – including a multiple overtime marathon won by Patrick Kane – yet the defending champions just would not stay down.

With that, this series concludes with a decisive Game 7 in St. Louis, and the pressure lands squarely on the Blues’ shoulders.

These are two strong teams. The Blues fought through questionable calls to get some gutty wins in this series and refused to allow injuries to derail their season.

Plenty of evidence argues that their heart shouldn’t be questioned, yet the same jokes are already trickling in.

If the Blues fail in Game 7, many will ignore positive strides and stick with familiar narratives, whether that is fair or not.

It would be a mistake to assume that St. Louis will roll over, however, as they still have a chance to slay this dragon that is the Blackhawks’ edge and their reputation for falling short in the postseason.

Most importantly: more fun (mixed with anxiety if you have a horse in the race).