Video: Brassard opens scoring for Rangers in Game 6

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Facing elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs, the New York Rangers opened the scoring in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

After taking a neat pass from J.T. Miller, Derick Brassard slipped a backhander from in close through the legs of Ben Bishop less than four minutes into the opening period. That’s his seventh goal of these playoffs.

Bob Clarke really doesn’t care for tanking

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Former Flyers captain and current Flyers executive Bob Clarke hates the idea of tanking.

Like, really hates it.

“It pisses me off that teams try to lose continually to come up with the Crosbys . . . and Malkins,” Clarke tells the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“The Flyers have never intentionally tried to lose. That would put a foul taste in my mouth. Who wants to be a part of any organization like that? I wouldn’t want to be.”

Ironically, Clarke’s remarks were found in an article about the Flyers’ 40-year Stanley Cup drought. Since winning their second straight title in 1975, they’ve been to the finals five times, losing all five times.

Most recently, in 2010, the Flyers lost to a Blackhawks team that was led by Jonathan Toews, the third overall pick in 2006, on a goal by Patrick Kane, the first overall pick in 2007.

As proven this year by the Rangers and Ducks, it’s not absolutely necessary to hit rock bottom in order to assemble a team capable of contending for a Stanley Cup. But the Blackhawks, champions in 2010 and 2013, bottomed out first. So did the Kings, allowing them to draft Drew Doughty second overall in 2008, and win it all in 2012 and 2014. And yes, the Penguins did too, drafting Evgeni Malkin second overall in 2004 and Sidney Crosby first overall in 2005. They won the Cup in 2009.

Oh, and has anyone noticed how important Victor Hedman, second overall in 2009, has been in the playoffs for the Lightning, whose captain, Steven Stamkos, was the first overall pick in 2008?

That’s why management in a place like Buffalo has done what it’s done over the past couple of years. And that’s why the Flyers have, until lately, received their share of criticism for choosing quick fixes over long-term solutions. In the salary-cap era, if winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal, there are clear incentives to — um, how did Darcy Regier once put it? — “go in a very distinct direction.”

There are no guarantees that direction will work out for the Sabres. Or the Oilers. Or the Leafs. Or the Coyotes. But until the incentives change, teams will continue to tank, whether some people like it or not.

Related: Snider says patience is ‘great with the kids,’ but not with ‘the team we have on the ice’

In defense of Yandle, who’s ‘trying to make some plays’

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Keith Yandle tried to make a play.

Unfortunately, it ended up on the stick of Steven Stamkos, right in front of the Rangers’ net…

source:

Thank goodness for Henrik Lundqvist.

But the fact no goal was scored didn’t stop reporters from asking Rangers coach Alain Vigneault what he’s seen from Yandle the past couple of games.

“He’s working extremely hard,” replied Vigneault. “He’s trying to make some plays. With the pressure sometimes our D are under, (it’s) a little bit more challenging to make the right play. But he’s got the right idea.”

Vigneault was then asked about the challenge of making the right play under pressure.

“It’s a big challenge,” he said. “It’s the biggest team that we’ve met this year, and not just when they have the puck, but when they don’t have it, they are quick to put pressure. You’ve got to have
your head up. You’ve got to be thinking a play ahead, and you’ve got to make the right plays.”

The fact is, puck-moving defensemen like Yandle are going to make the odd giveaway. P.K. Subban led the league in giveaways by defensemen during the regular season. Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty were up there, too. Those players aren’t out there to clear it high off the glass, and give it right back to the opposition. They’re out there to make plays, with the intention of keeping possession and going on the attack.

On top of that, with more and more teams bringing their defensemen down the wall to pressure wingers on the breakout, more and more plays need to be made in the middle of the ice, right in the danger area. So get your stick on the ice, Kevin Hayes. Be ready for the pass.

That’s not to let Yandle off the hook entirely. When Stamkos is lurking, putting the puck in the danger area is a pretty big risk. There were probably better options available, like spinning off the forecheck and skating with the puck behind the net. But that’s easy to say in hindsight. Also, easier said than done. (“Oh, just spin off the forecheck next time.”)

Yandle had his struggles adjusting to a new system after joining the Rangers in a late-season trade from Arizona. It hasn’t been all struggles though. He had two points in Game 3 versus the Lightning and three more in Game 4.

“We need him tonight to find a way to get a couple more pucks to the net, and we’ll be in good shape,” said Vigneault.

Paquette ‘very questionable’ for Bolts after Game 5 shot block

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Lightning forward Cedric Paquette will be a gametime decision for tonight’s potential Eastern Conference Final close-out game against the Rangers, though the decision may have already been made.

“He’s questionable in your terms,” Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said during today’s media availability. “Very questionable.”

Paquette appeared to injure his right hand while blocking a Derick Brassard shot in the first period:

The gritty forward, who’s appeared in 17 of Tampa Bay’s 18 playoff games thus far, returned after some time in the dressing room, but finished with just 5:43 of ice time — well off his 12:36 TOI per game average this postseason.

Paquette then briefly participated in today’s optional morning skate, before retreating to the dressing room.

If Paquette can’t go tonight, it’s expected that Vladislav Namestnikov will draw in. The Russian forward has one assist in 11 playoff games this spring.

Cooper: Lightning aren’t treating Game 6 like any other game

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It’s understandable that hockey players and coaches sometimes choose to sound like drones, especially this time of year, spouting phrases like “one game at a time.”

Maybe Lightning head coach Jon Cooper is preaching such a day-by-day approach to his team, but he’s not acting like Game 6 against the New York Rangers – with a chance to advance to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final – is just your run-of-the-mill contest. He acknowledged how big tonight’s contest is, as NHL.com reports.

“I don’t think you can treat this like any other game,” Cooper said. “There are only four teams left, and we put ourselves in a position to advance. Now we have to raise the bar a little bit higher; we know the Rangers are going to, so we have to match that. But I think our confidence level is where we know we can do that.”

Tampa Bay avoided what could have been an arduous Game 7 against the Montreal Canadiens by playing what seemed like picture-perfect defense. Steven Stamkos believed that he saw glimpses of that shutdown mentality from the Bolts in Game 5.

There’s plenty of incentive for Tampa Bay to win tonight, beyond the most obvious goal of advancing.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks are really engaging in a physical, emotional series. It’s plausible – though obviously not guaranteed – that those two teams could go the distance. If the Bolts could win tonight, they’d get a little extra rest.

More than that, few teams probably want to contend with Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers in a Game 7 situation, especially considering how dominant they’ve been in those scenarios at Madison Square Garden.

All things considered, it’s easy to see why Cooper is preaching urgency.

Conversely, which factors should Alain Vigneault be stressing? The video below breaks down what the Rangers need to do to be successful.

Related: Lightning hope to avoid a “letdown.”