• Watch Boyle pick corner for second goal of Game 6, blow kiss to Lightning bench

    Jared Clinton
    Brian Boyle (via NHL.com)

    If Brian Boyle hadn’t already shown his worth to the Tampa Bay Lightning in terms of being a checking-line center, he’s showing this post-season that he also has the ability to make things happen offensively and that he can even add a little flair.

    In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final, the Lightning were trailing 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins heading into the final frame. Tampa Bay carried the play from the outset of the third period in an attempt to get anything going offensively, and eventually it was Boyle who would break through, although fortuitously as his shot from the right wing boards would deflect off of Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel and into the net.

    But for as lucky as Boyle’s first goal was, his second tally made Boyle look like a bonafide sniper. Again on the right wing, Boyle managed to pick up a bouncing puck that was thrown cross-ice by defenseman Slater Koekkoek, settle it and fire home a seeing-eye shot that went perfectly into the top corner. And then Boyle gave us the best celebration of the post-season, blowing a kiss to the Tampa Bay bench. Seriously: Read more

  • Sidney Crosby, Penguins down Lightning to force Game 7

    Sidney Crosby.

    The Eastern Conference final is going the distance.

    Sidney Crosby’s beautiful second-period goal held up as the winner in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6. Crosby has scored the winning goal in all three of the Penguins wins in the series.

    On Tuesday, his winner came on a great individual effort as he got the puck in the neutral zone, danced through the Lightning defense and beat Andrei Vasilevskiy.

    The goal made it 3-0 and the Penguins seemed to be cruising. But Brian Boyle scored twice early in the third period make things interesting. Just as Penguins fans were getting nervous, Bryant Rust scored on a breakaway late to put the game out of reach.

    The complexion of the game, and indeed the series, could have changed dramatically if a Lightning goal wasn’t called back early in the first period. A Jonathan Drouin goal five minutes into the game was called back after the Penguins challenged. Drouin was ruled offside on the play, thanks to the now-controversial ruling that his skate was in the zone despite it being in the air.

    Phil Kessel scored his ninth goal of the playoffs on a power play later in the first after the Lightning were penalized for the dreaded puck-over-glass delay of game and the Pens were on their way to the win.

    It was the second year in a row the Lighting failed to win Game 6 of the East final at home. Last year, they rebounded to beat the Rangers in Game 7 and advance to the Stanley Cup final. The Penguins present a more formidable challenge.

    There shouldn’t be a goaltending controversy after the Penguins wisely went back to youngster Matt Murray for Game 6. He was solid, making 28 saves and leaving no doubt he should be the man for the Penguins the rest of the way.

    While it would make a great narrative don’t expect injured Lightning stars Steven Stamkos or Ben Bishop to ride in to save the day in Game 7. Both players have been skating and improving but won’t be ready for Thursday.

     

  • Bruins ink defenseman Kevan Miller to four-year, $10-million contract

    Jared Clinton
    Kevan Miller (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Kevan Miller’s first full season as a Boston Bruin wasn’t without its difficulties, but the 28-year-old blueliner has managed to turn his five-goal, 18-point campaign as a second- and third-pairing defenseman into a brand new four-year deal.

    The Bruins announced Tuesday that Miller, 28, has signed a four-year, $10-million deal carrying an annual cap hit of $2.5 million. The new deal is a significant raise from the $800,000 he was earning this past season. Miller played 71 games for the Bruins in 2015-16, which was the first time in his career he had played more than 50 games in a campaign in the NHL. Prior to the past season, Miller had appeared in 89 games for the Bruins.

    The signing all but ensures Miller will be back in the Bruins lineup next season, and it appears to be one with the hope that Miller is on an upward trajectory. And that will need to be the case if the Bruins hope to improve their defense next season, especially considering Miller is one of only four defensemen the Bruins have locked up for next season along with Adam McQuaid, Dennis Seidenberg and captain Zdeno Chara. Read more

  • All the latest on Dale Tallon, Pavel Datsyuk and Mike Van Ryn

    Dale Tallon (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    Scott Luce has been either the director of scouting or director of player personnel with the Florida Panthers since 2002. And like literally every other person in the talent evaluation business, he has some home runs and he has some skeletons in his closet.

    So when the Panthers said they relieved him of his duties, saying they wanted a new voice when it came to scouting, there’s no reason not to take them for their word. Luce’s recent work has been splendid, but that many years in one position is a long time for anyone in this business.

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  • Matt Murray, Brian Elliott and the perils of flip-flopping goalies in the playoffs

    Scott Audette & Nick Lust/Getty Images

    Playoff goaltending has become an inviting scab in the 2016 playoffs. It’s best left alone, but too many teams can’t resist the urge to scratch and pick at it until it bursts open and creates a mess.

    The Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks couldn’t figure out what to do with their creases and, at least in the Stars’ case, it played a hand in their eliminations. The Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues let their goalies be for two rounds but couldn’t help but tinker when the going got tough in their conference final matchups. Now they find themselves on the brink of elimination, evidently with little trust in any of their goaltenders. Each team announced Tuesday it was swapping its original playoff starter back in for a do-or-die for Game 6: Matt Murray for Pittsburgh and Brian Elliott for St. Louis. But is it too little, too late?

    The Penguins fiddled with something that may or may not have needed fiddlin’, removing rookie Matt Murray for Marc-Andre Fleury for Game 5 of a 2-2 series at home versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. Yes, Fleury is the Pens’ all-time wins leader and started in the regular season for them when healthy. Yes, he has a Stanley Cup ring. But his playoff history since winning the Cup in 2009 has been checkered at best, and he hadn’t played a game since March 31. It was a bold move to toss Fleury into a tied Eastern Conference final series with that much rust. Especially when Murray had been solid throughout the post-season. His play had slipped a bit, as he’d allowed three or more goals in four of his past six starts entering Game 5, but that happens. Goalies have ups and downs over regular seasons and playoffs. Murray had still won nine times in 13 games overall, posting a .923 save percentage, so it was risky to toss a cold Fleury in for Game 5.

    And it showed. Fleury looked stiff and/or got caught cheating on several Tampa goals. No disrespect to Flower, a steady and underrated netminder, but starting him this late in the post-season run looked like a mistake in Game 5. The Penguins will attempt to erase it by reinstalling Murray in the crease for Game 6.

    Not that everyone feels starting Fleury in Game 5 was the wrong call, however, including people with far more goaltending expertise than me.

    “Fleury got hurt, but it wasn’t from poor play,” said TSN analyst and former NHL goalie Jamie McLennan, who believes Fleury should’ve been named Game 6 starter as well. “I know Murray took over, that’s great, and he gets you there, but his play has started to erode a little bit. So you go back to Fleury, but you give him one chance? Sidney Crosby was bad in Game 5. Do you sit him out? Sometimes people overthink things.

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  • John Brophy and the most epic, F-bomb-filled rant in hockey history

    Ken Campbell
    Photo by Frank Lennon/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

    Legend has it that when John Muckler was running the Long Island Ducks of the old Eastern Hockey League, he traded John Brophy six times and traded back for him seven times. Things sometimes become a little blown out of proportion when it comes to these larger-than-life legends, but that one is pretty easy to believe.

    That’s because you couldn’t have made this stuff up. Brophy, who died over the weekend at the age of 83, was a true throwback. He kicked around the minors as a player for 20 seasons and with 3,848 penalty minutes to his name, is one of the most penalized players to ever play the game. He retired in 1973 at the age of 39, not because he could no longer play, but because the league he was playing in folded. As a coach, he was behind the bench for nine teams, all of them in the minors with the exception of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL and the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA, winning three ECHL championships and piling up almost 900 career wins.

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  • Agent says Datsyuk would like to leave, but wants to make sure Red Wings ‘have options’

    Jared Clinton
    Pavel Datsyuk  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

    It will be another two weeks, at the very least, before Pavel Datsyuk has officially made his decision about his future with the Detroit Red Wings. But according to Datsyuk’s agent, the decision won’t come without Datsyuk taking into account what his leaving for the KHL could mean for the Red Wings’ immediate future.

    One of the biggest concerns about Datsyuk, 37, leaving for the KHL is what will happen should the Red Wings not find a trade partner to take on his $7.5-million salary for next season.

    The contract Datsyuk signed with Detroit in June 2013 came following the star pivot’s 35th birthday, which means that even if Datsyuk were to retire, the cap hit would remain. And though the contract comes off the books before the 2017-18 season, it’s not something the Red Wings can realistically afford heading into the upcoming campaign if the ‘Magic Man’ won’t be in their lineup. Datsyuk, and his agent, Dan Milstein, have acknowledged that.

    “He would like to leave, but at the same time, he wants to make sure the Wings have options,” Milstein told the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James. “He wants to help the team any way he can with the salary cap issue.” Read more

  • Matt Murray gets call to start Game 6 with Penguins facing elimination

    Jared Clinton
    Matt Murray (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Matt Murray’s play has helped the Pittsburgh Penguins get by the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals, and now Mike Sullivan is hoping Murray can keep his magical post-season going because the Penguins coach has decided to turn back to the 21-year-old to keep the Penguins’ season alive.

    Sullivan confirmed Tuesday that Murray will be getting the start in goal for Pittsburgh in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final with the Penguins facing elimination for the first time in the series and for the first time all post-season. Murray’s start comes after the Penguins went away from the rookie netminder for Game 5 and instead put veteran Marc-Andre Fleury in goal.

    Fleury was OK, not great, and allowed four goals against on 25 shots, including the overtime-winner just 53 seconds into the extra frame. And though Fleury was good all season, Game 5 was his first start in 52 days and first full game since returning from his second concussion of the season. Fleury may have been rusty and there’s always the chance he could have turned in a good performance in Game 6 now that he’s been back in action, but Sullivan said the Penguins can’t afford to find out if Fleury’s late-game play was simply a matter of Fleury getting back to game speed.

    “At this particular point in the season, we don’t have the luxury of allowing players to play through things,” Sullivan said. “We have to win a game. We have to win a hockey game. And that’s how we looked at it.” Read more