I have to begin with a quick comment about Pittsburgh Penguins role-playing forward Chris Conner, who suffered one of a hockey player's worst nightmares Monday night in Game 6 of his team's first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Conner earned a second-period penalty shot when he was tripped to the ice by Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina during a breakaway opportunity. As you probably know, things went wrong during the penalty shot. As he approached the net, Conner bobbled the puck and lost his scoring chance. Yeah, he was able to recover the puck and fire a shot at Tampa Bay goalie Dwayne Roloson, but the attempt didn't have much of a chance of finding its way into the net.
The 27-year-old Conner, a four-year standout at Michigan Tech, isn't normally in the spotlight. When that type of player has a big moment, you don't want to see something like that happen.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma, who was a role player during his time with the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, was quick to console Conner when he came back to the bench. That's a coach who really gets it. I would imagine Bylsma told his player to put it behind him and get refocused on the task at hand.
I don't know what will happen in Wednesday night's Game 7. The skilled Bolts certainly have a lot of momentum moving in their direction after staving off elimination twice to force a decisive game. I certainly won't be sad, however, if Conner can make a big play for the Penguins. Maybe the hockey gods can conspire to make that happen.
With a pair of Game 7s and a Game 6 on Tuesday's slate, I figured I'd take another stab at picking a few winners. Last Wednesday, I took my first swing at some playoff prognostications, going a reasonable 3-2. Here's what I have for you Tuesday night:
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