The Day-After Digest is a new series that will appear regularly after every Lightning game as part game recap, analysis and scouting report.
The Lightning opened the 2012-2013 season in highly entertaining fashion by racking up six goals, including three in the third period, to defeat their visiting division rivals in front of an exuberant sellout crowd. The Lightning never trailed but early penalty woes caused the ice to seem tilted towards their net in the first period and three squandered leads by the conclusion of the second period could have been cause for panic.
"A lot of emotions," captain Vinny Lecavalier said, "but we calmed down and I thought everybody played with a lot of poise."
Fans were treated to a thrilling blend of past, present and future as Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis combined for five points, Teddy Purcell notched three assists and Cory Conacher managed two points in his NHL debut. Eric Brewer, with two goals, doubled his total from all of last season.
After downplaying the need for getting off to a hot start and just wanting to see consistency in effort in Friday's press conference, coach Guy Boucher allowed after Saturday's contest that the home opener was "a pressure game" in that the players were eager to reward fans, especially the vast majority of the season ticket members who did not demand a refund during the lockout, with a memorable return.
New and improved.
Anders Lindback stopped 27 of 30 shots for the win in his Lightning debut. That looks like a mediocre stat line, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Lindback was steady and poised in the third period when the Lightning were under siege from taking too many penalties, and a couple of the goals allowed came off of really poor play in front of Lindback. So, all in all, it was an excellent debut. That was Lindback's 32nd NHL decision, so he's now 9 away from graduating from prospect status on this site, which should tell you how young and raw he is. There's a high ceiling there.
06:24 TB Brewer (1), (Carle, St. Louis)
08:25 WSH Ward (1), (Wolski, Poti)(PP)
09:09 TB Lecavalier, (Aulie)
01:59 WSH Ward (2), (Chimera, Carlson)
05:11 TB St. Louis (1), (Lecavalier, Conacher)(PP)
18:15 WSH Wolski (1), (Ribiero, Hamrlik)
04:57 TB St. Louis (2), (Stamkos, Purcell)(PP)
13:24 TB Conacher (1), (Purcell)
16:42 TB Brewer (2), (Purcell, Stamkos)(PP)
Lecavalier (pictured) looked like a dominant, all-star caliber player tonight. He scored, he hit, he owned the faceoff circles. If he plays another 47 games and into the playoffs like that, the Lightning will be a contender. St. Louis was excellent as you'd expect, and the team got the kind of contributions you'd also expect from Stamkos and Purcell. Having Lecavalier, who at one time 4-5 years ago was the best player in the game, rise again to a high level makes the Lightning incredibly difficult to stop, especially considering Lecavalier brings other things to the rink with his size, strength, and experience that guys like Stamkos and Purcell can't.
Overall, the Lightning had sloppy moments like you'd expect and a couple of them ended up in the back of the net. They also had some trouble staying out of the box in the First Period, which I had feared going in. What should make Lightning fans very optimistic is that they absolutely dominated the last 40-50 minutes of tonight's game. They were fast, they were the first to pucks, and they looked like the type of team Guy Boucher can mold as he installs his system in the coming weeks. The defense is about a million times more mobile than last year's version, and you got the feeling that with time to polish up the rough edges they could have held down Washington even more in this game without the unforced errors. Oh, and Victor Hedman looks like a man beast. Whatever they have in the water in Astana, Kazakhstan, all the d-men need to drink it.
Keith Aulie had a helper, 1 shot, and 5 hits tonight in 10:10 of ice time. Tonight was his 77th NHL game, so he's now just five away from graduating from prospect status on Bolt Prospects.
Conacher had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +1 with 2 shots in 13:50 in his NHL debut. They're going to ease him in, but the fact he can retrieve pucks for Vinny and Purcell makes him valuable. You can see it.
Syracuse meets the post-lockout bump in the road.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for the loss.
RCH Mancari, (11) (Porter, Sundher), 14:17
RCH Flynn, (13) (Adam, Crawford), 4:41
RCH Rankin, (9) (Schofield, Varone), 7:05
SYR Nightingale, (1) (Johnson, Palat), 16:31
RCH Varone, (4) (Biega, Schofield), 14:14
Chemistry in hockey can be a weird thing. There are plenty of examples of teams that weather losing a key player and continue to play well. But, in the case of the Crunch, they're dealing with losing Keith Aulie, Cory Conacher, and P.C. Labrie to Tampa Bay, Taormina being down with an injury right now, and Richard Panik on a three game suspension. Clearly it was too much to overcome tonight as the team struggles to develop continuity. Even once Panik and Taormina return, it's a tall task to try to replace a defenseman with NHL experience, the reigning AHL MVP, and an emotional and physical leader like Nacho. Fans of the Lightning farm team have been a little spoiled over the last year plus and these next few weeks are going to be a little tough as Syracuse works through the changes. It'll settle down eventually. Jon Cooper's too good a coach not to get it settled down and back on track. However, be aware, this isn't going to be quite the same juggernaut it was moving forward.
Syracuse plays Lake Erie tomorrow while the big boys get going against Washington.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
It was a night of firsts for the Syracuse Crunch.
But unfortunately for the Crunch, the firsts didn't stop there.
The St. John's IceCaps registered their first victory of the year after trailing at the first intermission, as the Crunch blew a 4-0 lead in a 5-4 overtime loss.
"I wish I was a little happier about it," Conacher said of his achievement. "Maybe sometime down the road I can get it and get a victory out of it, too."
It starts with the term "shutdown defenseman."
After that, Keith Aulie rattles off the rest of his responsibilities, memorized not in a mirror but through repetition on the ice.
"I try to go out there, play hard, finish my hits, make my first passes, be tough for their forwards to play against, kill penalties, and be consistent back there," Aulie said before taking a breath.
Likely set to at least challenge for a spot on the Tampa Bay Lightning blueline this season, Aulie has taken his talents to the Syracuse Crunch during the NHL lockout. A team that has been near the top of the Eastern Conference in points and penalty minute leaderboard all season, the Crunch welcomed the 6-6, 229-pounder’s ability to log substantial ice time.