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From the Branches: The beards of summer

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Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a Wren.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

When the Marlies were knocked out of the Eastern Conference final, I realized that it was finally Spring. It's been nice to have hockey in May for two years running, but now there's nothing but the eternal storylines of the last two teams standing, and everybody else is eyeing the draft.

At least not many of the Marlies have much beard to shave off?

There were a lot of locker-cleaning videos published yesterday by the Marlies, and lucky for us, Scott was at every single one. His article is coming out shortly, and it's the tale of a functional team that liked each other and learned a lot -- sunny optimism for a summer Tuesday. I speculate that most teams that end up in the conference finals are extremely close-knit and functional, to be honest.

And last night ... that sure was some hockey, wasn't it? They hockeyed all over the place! [OK I admit I'm writing this before the game is over. San Jose just tied it up in the 2nd and Murray's looking...young.]

Anyway.

Hockey News

There is a new Marlie:

Lessons learned from Toronto Marlies’ playoff run | Sportsnet
"It was a disappointing finish for a team that put together one of the best regular seasons of all time, but that doesn’t mean all was lost."

What it's like cheering on the Toronto Marlies | Blog To by Martha Stortz
"The nice thing about rooting for the Marlies was that it was a professional game with lots of fans and serious stakes, but without the politics of the Leafs or the pressure of the Jays."

Toronto Maple Leafs: Limited Offer Sheet Flexibility | Editor in Leaf
"The Toronto Maple Leafs have limited options when it comes to thinking about offer sheets – not because of who is available, but because of where their third round picks will be in the next two years."

Toronto Maple Leafs Prospect Mitch Marner: What to Expect in Year One | Too Many Men on the Site
They essentially say he's going to Drouin it.

More Hockey News

Stanley Cup Final Preview: Who has the better beards? | Puck Daddy
"For the sake of this post, we have to look at some of the other Penguins and Sharks in a head to head battle to see whose facial hair reigns supreme."

Why Penguins' playoff success bodes well for Blackhawks | Chicago Tribune
So if there were an encouraging result for the Hawks this postseason, it's that the Penguins, despite their cap pressure and early struggles, are now in the Stanley Cup Final. It shows if you can find the right mix of top-tier talent and complementary talent on the cheap, you can make a deep playoff run, even with players who earn top-of-the-market salaries.

Bettman: No Process in Place to Sell Pens | Pensburgh
That's weird. I thought that the Hershey corporation (owner of the Hersey Bears) were in talks. Shows how much I know.

Gary Bettman: Expansion decision soon, Olympic play in doubt | ESPN
"As for why the expansion process has moved along at a snail's pace, one item contributing to the delay was establishing expansion draft rules that owners could live with. The NHL wants the proposed expansion team(s) to be more competitive than in years past, which means exposing higher-quality players."

NHL offers pessimism on Olympics, intrigue on expansion rules | Puck Daddy
In the past, the NHL has had its transportation, insurance and accommodations paid for in part by the IOC and the IIHF. "I’m not sure our teams are enthusiastic about paying for the privilege of disrupting our season," he said.

Deep in this article is news about the status of domestic abuser Slava Voynov and his place on Team Russia. "There’s no change on Voynov’s status. He’s been suspended by the League. The Russian Federation has been told he’s not eligible to play in the World Cup of Hockey," said Bettman.

Good. And if anyone needs to refresh their memory about why this is good, here is the police report.

Hockey Dad | Players Tribune
"So you’ve got the four Cullen men all in their underwear, doing lunges, talking about where I should shoot on the goalie tomorrow." -- Even my cold, broken, Bolts-loving heart melted a little at this one.

Stanley Cup Final Stuff

Twitter hilarity from a Flyers fan resulted in many gullible people getting taken in:

The game was intense. Knotted 2-2, Marleau took out noted Bolt killer Rust.

So then they double-shifted Phil Kessel! And Nick Bonino scored with less than three minutes left!

Then there was a six-on-four for San Jose and Penguins had to kill it with a minute left to go, and Brent Burns' shot missed the net! Somehow Pittsburgh killed the penalty and won the game!

Whew. I feel like I just ran a marathon, and Phil! is one win closer to THE CUP.