- Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy51 mins ago
PITTSBURGH – It was December. Mike Sullivan walked into the room for the first time as Pittsburgh Penguins head coach and looked at the team he had inherited near the midseason.
Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin. Phil Kessel. Kris Letang. The elite of the elite.
So he acknowledged to the group that the Penguins, in fact, had great players. The challenge was to stop being a team with great players, and become a great team.
“If we can do that,” he said, “that’s how you win in this League.”
The Penguins were already wise to this philosophy. Along with ungodly standards of excellence, it was the driving force behind the firing of GM Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma in the Great Purge of 2014. The former lost his job because the roster lacked the quality depth to augment the great players. The latter lost his job because management felt his coaching system wasn’t suited to win in the playoffs.Thu, 26 MayTampa Bay1 - 2PittsburghGame Recap
- Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy2 hrs ago
PITTSBURGH – You don’t touch the trophy.
The San Jose Sharks didn’t, avoiding the Clarence Campbell Bowl like it was radioactive after winning the Western Conference title on Wednesday night.
But after the Pittsburgh Penguins outlasted the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final 24 hours later, there was captain Sidney Crosby, holding the Prince of Wales Trophy during a photo op with Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin.
Ummmm … jinx much?
But there was a reason behind Crosby’s flouting of hockey hexes – it’s tradition for the Penguins.
In 1991, captain Mario Lemieux not only touched the Wales Trophy but actually skated around in celebration with it. The Penguins would win their first Stanley Cup in team history in the following round against the Minnesota North Stars.
- Jen Neale at Puck Daddy2 hrs ago
Reminder: Bryan Rust went as Phil Kessel's hot dog for Halloween so we should all love him pic.twitter.com/3WIIybK9IV
No. 1 Star: Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh Penguins
Just as everyone predicted, rookie Bryan Rust was the hero for the Penguins in Game 7. He netted two goals in the Penguins Eastern Conference Final win. We were also reminded he went dressed as Phil Kessel's hotdog for Halloween (above).
No. 2 Star: Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins
The rookie netminder is now 11-4-1 in this year's playoffs. Pittsburgh controlled a lot of the play, but in the third period, he had to come up big as the Lightning poured on the chances. Not a bad way to spend the day after your 22 birthday.
No. 3 Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
Yes, he lost, but it could have been a heck of a lot worse. The Penguins laid on 39 shots on goal with 21 of them coming in the second period alone. For someone who is 21-years-old and replacing a Vezina nominated goaltender, he did really well.
- Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy2 hrs ago
PITTSBURGH – Steven Stamkos has three scars from his surgery two months ago to correct an issue with a blood clot. Two on his neck, and one on his shoulder. Reminders of what coach Jon Cooper referred to as a “catastrophic” injury to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s captain. Reminders of what Stamkos had to work back from to play in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on Tuesday night.
The storybook was there to be written: Superstar returns from injury to inspire his team to victory in a championship game. A superstar in what might be his last season with the only franchise he's known as a professional.
The Pittsburgh Penguins spoiled the ending.
“They had that step. We couldn’t match it. When you’re getting outshot that badly … that’s tough. They had an extra gear tonight,” said Stamkos after the 2-1 loss to the Penguins on Thursday night, eliminating the Lightning and ending Stamkos’s final season before unrestricted free agency.
- Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy3 hrs ago
PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins are now four wins away from their first Stanley Cup title since 2009.
Despite the emotional return of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, the Penguins defeated Tampa Bay, 2-1, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday night, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final to play the San Jose Sharks in a series that begins on Monday night in Pittsburgh.
It’s the first Game 7 they’ve won at home since 1995, breaking a four-game losing streak.
Rookie Bryan Rust, who had a breakaway goal in the Penguins’ Game 6 win in Tampa, scored two goals to give him five for the playoffs. Rookie goalie Matt Murray, the team's backbone yet again, made 16 saves, including a few key stops in the third period.
But it was a total team effort from the Penguins as they dominated puck possession for most of the game and stifled the Lightning attack for the second straight contest.
That included Stamkos, a surprise return for the Lightning after having been out since March 31 following surgery for a blood clot. He played just under 12 minutes and had five shot attempts, including one in the second period when Murray stopped him on a breakaway.
- Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy6 hrs ago
PITTSBURGH – Steven Stamkos is back for the Tampa Bay Lightning for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
The captain hasn’t played since March 31, out after surgery to correct a blood clot. He’s skated regularly throughout the postseason. He's waited for medical clearance and his coach’s decision to insert him back in the lineup.
According to Joe Smith of the Tampa Times:
Stamkos' surgeon, Karl Illig, told the Times, his risks are "very, very low," decision up to Stamkos. "I think he's doing the right thing."
Illig said he cleared Stamkos a while ago, issue was blood thinners. Stamkos received several opinions and made decision to return tonight
Jon Cooper sat down for his customary pregame press conference 90 minutes before the puck drops on Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Before we get going, don’t ask about the lineup. At all. Because I don’t know,” said the Tampa Bay Lightning coach. “OK, we’ve set that straight: Questions about Game 7?”
Sure. What’s Steven Stamkos’s status for Game 7?
“Questions about Game 7. Let’s go,” said Cooper.
- Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy7 hrs ago
It's one game, with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line. Will it be the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Tampa Bay Lightning moving on to face the San Jose Sharks?
Join you're friends at Yahoo Sports for a live chat during Game 7, including tweets from experts and images from around hockey fandom.
Join us for all the shock, awe, laughs and Hamburger Women!
- Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy9 hrs ago
The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins battle in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday night, playing for the right to challenge the San Jose Sharks for the Stanley Cup.
Who takes it? Whose hockey reigns supreme?
Here are seven keys to Game 7. Please join your friends at Puck Daddy for a full night of Game 7 coverage.
1. Scoring First
Look, we’d like to treat hockey like its an intricate game full of nuance whose basic stats are just one strand in the fabric of analytical facts that determine success or failure on any given night …
… but sometimes we just have to report that the Lightning are 8-1 when scoring the first goal and the Penguins are 8-2. So there.
2. Skate, Penguins, Skate
The Penguins won Game 6 because they skated the Lightning out of the building in the first 40 minutes. “We did a good job of putting pucks in areas where we could use our speed. Guys grabbed it, took off and used our feet,” said forward Matt Cullen. “We take away time and space and make it hard on other teams.”
- Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy9 hrs ago
The final World Cup of Hockey roster will be announced for Canada on Friday evening, and they're going to pick seven multiple-time All-Stars and call it a day.
Look, there's no mystery here. Canada goes in, picks a handful of the 10 best centers and maybe a few wingers and Norris-caliber defensemen and says, “Okay we're done.”
You could ask a small child within limited understanding of the sport and have him do just as good as job as Doug Armstrong inevitably will. Picking a Hockey Canada team is not at all hard. And even if you that up, the 16 other multiple-time All-Stars you picked probably paper over your mistakes pretty convincingly. And even if they don't Mike Babcock with assistant coaches like Claude Julien, Barry Trotz, Joel Quenneville, and Bill Peters will implement a tight enough system that even that probably doesn't matter.
- Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy10 hrs ago
The final World Cup of Hockey roster will be announced for the United States Friday evening, and honestly nothing would come as a surprise at this point.
The good news is Dean Lombardi, who seems to be a pretty shrewd observer of the game and does a good job identifying talent, is the team's general manager. We also know 16 of the 23 players already on the team, which makes it a little easier to guess at what Lombardi might be going for with his club.
Near as I can tell, there's no Great Panel Of American Hockey Minds to gather around and conspire against the relatively few actually super-talented players the country has produced. No one to reveal prophetic dreams presaging disaster if Phil Kessel were to make the team. That works in America's favor.
The bad news is John Tortorella is inexplicably still the coach of the team, and that makes it a lot tougher to: a) win, b) guess what kind of roster construction they're actually going to go for here, and c) play remotely entertaining hockey.