Aulie, Keith

NHL Game Night: 4-7-12 Lightning at Jets

This season will be remembered 5 years from now as a minor speed bump on the ride of a lifetime.

TB-4
WPG-3 (OT)

Dwayne Roloson allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the victory. If that was Roli's last NHL game, I'm glad the boys played him out with a win.

First Period
TB Purcell (22), (Lecavalier), 17:49

Second Period
TB Purcell (23), (Lecavalier, Brown), 1:12
WPG Antropov (15), (Miettinen, Kane), 8:53

Third Period
TB Stamkos (60), (St. Louis, Lee), 3:29
WPG Slater (12), (Clitsome, Enstrom), 4:59
WPG Slater (13), (Wheeler, Ladd), 19:07

Overtime
TB Purcell (24), (Hedman), 1:08

Teddy Purcell and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars.

This game had just about all the elements you wanted to see to reaffirm that the Lightning, despite the struggles of this season, are on a path to longterm prosperity. Despite all their problems and despite unilaterally disarming at the trade deadline, the club finished 2 games over .500. Yes, there's several things to fix both between the pipes and defensively, as evidenced by the team finishing worst in goals against, but these guys aren't losers, even when the going gets tough. They have the character winning organizations are premised on.

Individually, the big story will obviously be Steven Stamkos' 60th goal and his second Richard Trophy. He's the best young player in the game, but we all knew that. I was far more intrigued by the B stories in this game.

Teddy Purcell's second half seems to me to be a clear sign he's ready to erupt into stardom next season, and the thing Lightning fans should be giddy about is that Teddy can produce on both Stamkos and Lecavalier's line. That gives the coaching staff a lot of flexibility.

Another B story is the young defensemen on this team. These are young guys who bring the kind of elite mobility that Guy Boucher's system really needs, and they started to produce down the stretch of the year. No offense to guys like Pavel Kubina, who did yoeman's work for the team, but the new blood has the pace to play this system the way it ought to be played. I'm looking at Victor Hedman ending the season with points in 7 of his last 9 games. I'm looking at Brian Lee with points in 4 of his last 5 games of the season, and 8 points in 20 games with the Lightning, which pro-rates to a 33 point season. Here are two guys I believe can and should be in the 30-40 point range next year, and, heck, even Eric Brewer was showing more toward the end of the season. You mix in what I believe Brendan Mikkelson has shown, and that's 4 guys to invest some hope in. You go out on the free agent market and add 1-2 more good defenseman and get a healthy Marc-Andre Bergeron into the mix, and you'll get a top-7 that can play Boucher's system well.

Beyond that, there's an obvious need in goal that Steve Yzerman has clearly stockpiled a ridiculous amount of draft picks to address. Between the draft picks and the amount of quality young forward prospects in this organization, I dare say Yzerman will not be outbid by anyone.

And then there's what we can expect to see added from Norfolk and their ongoing 25-game winning streak next year, and the youth in the system, as a whole.. More youth, more speed, and more confidence at the forward position. The likely AHL defenseman of the year in Mark Barberio. Two goaltenders playing out of their minds in Norfolk and another guy in Finland, Riku Helenius, who also just can't seem to lose. It's an embarassment of riches, and you will see a training camp next season where you may very well see darn near 30 NHL caliber players fighting tooth and nail for 23 spots. Good problems to have.

Keith Aulie had 3 hits in 11:48. He's on Norfolk's Clear Day roster, which means he should be sent down after Lightning exit interviews and begin what I feel will be a critical 20-30 games worth of development in his young career. The crucible of the AHL playoffs could make him into a player to be reckoned with.

J.T. Brown got his first NHL point, an assist, and was +2 with 2 shots in 13:52. J.T., my friend, before you leave Tampa, beg Steven Stamkos to let you go train with him with Gary Roberts. Promise him your first born. Do whatever it takes to go spend this offseason getting ready to take the pounding of an 82 game NHL season, because if you do, you might have the talent to be a Calder Trophy winner next season. But, for you, that award will be won in June, July and August, not October through April.

J.T. Wyman was -3 with 1 shot in 13:25. Wyman finishes the season with 40 NHL games, 1 shy of what he needs for graduation from prospect status on BoltProspects. Ain't that a shame? He'll start from scratch next year needing 39 games to graduate via the 82 game rule on the site.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-5-12 Lightning at Maple Leafs

Unlucky Connolly keeps Lightning from clinching a winning record for the season.

TB-2
TOR-3 (OT)

Dwayne Roloson allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the overtime loss. Deserved better, perhaps.

First Period
TB St. Louis (25), (Lee, Malone), 5:49
TOR Connolly (13), (Gardiner, Steckel), 6:32

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
TB Stamkos (59), (Gervais, St. Louis), 8:48
TOR Gardiner (7), (unassisted), 17:05

Overtime
TOR Phaneuf (11), (Kessel), 4:01

Steven Stamkos was named the game's third star. He'll get one crack to get the one goal he needs to get to 60.

Congratulations to Martin St. Louis for his 9th straight 25 goal season. That's amazing consistency from a small player who played the bulk of his career in the clutch and grab era.

In case I haven't mentioned it, I loves me some Brian Lee. 3 shots, 5 hits, and he set up Marty's goal. Steve Yzerman robbed Ottawa blind in that deal. Not saying Gilroy's a bum, but Lee is a potential stud 2-way blueliner in this league, and I'm still stunned why the Sens gave up on him. The only thing I can think is that he never blew up offensively to the degree they thought he would. Still, to give up that skating ability and that willingness to step up and deliver a hit for a player as inconsistent as Gilroy? C'mon, man.

Brett Connolly will look back on his rookie season one day and laugh. It's been a hard one, and tonight's own-goal put the punctuation on that. He's immensely talented and creative, though. There are better days ahead.

Keith Aulie had 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:50 against his old club. Good for him breaking the 15 minute barrier in IT.

J.T. Brown was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 15:11. It'd be nice to see him hit the scoresheet in the finale.

J.T. Wyman had 5 shots and 1 hit in 10:52. The coaches love him. He'll enter next season a slight favorite for a spot in Tampa Bay, I surmise.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-4-12 Lightning at Canadiens

Seems like the Lightning may have let all the air out at the home finale.

TB-2
MTL-5

Sebastien Caron allowed 5 goals on 25 shots for the loss. Not a good effort for a guy looking for an NHL gig next season.

First Period
MTL Emelin (3), (Desharnais, Budaj), 2:11
TB Lecavalier (22), (unassisted), 7:26

Second Period
MTL Cole (33), (Desharnais, Pacioretty), 1:42
MTL Cole (34), (Plekanec, Markov)(PP), 14:34

Third Period
TB Gervais (6), (Wallace, Hedman), 3:42
MTL Pacioretty (31), (Gorges, Plekanec), 5:58
MTL Pacioretty (32), (Subban), 14:57

It makes me ill to see David Desharnais do so well and to know we had him in camp and the only thing we were willing to offer him at the time was a 3-way deal in the Coast. Painful. It was obvious years ago he had this in him.

Vincent Lecavalier has scored 373 goals in his NHL career, and probably none were easier than that gift from Budaj. That was pitiful.

Keith Aulie was -1 with 1 hit in 11:10.

J.T. Brown was +1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 14:56.

J.T. Wyman was +1 with 2 hits in 9:52.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-2-12 Capitals at Lightning

"To the last, I will grapple with thee... from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!"

WSH-2
TB-4

Dwayne Roloson allowed 2 goals on 33 shots for the victory.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
WSH Semin (20), (Perrault), 12:47
TB Purcell (21), (Stamkos, St. Louis)(PP), 17:20
TB Hedman (5), (Thompson, Pyatt), 17:45

Third Period
WSH Chimera (20), (Semin), 16:43
TB Stamkos (57), (Clark, Lee), 18:57
TB Stamkos (58), (Thompson, Brewer)(EN), 19:59

Roloson, Steven Stamkos, and Tom Pyatt were the game's three stars. This young man Stamkos, he might be good at this hockey thing. I think he could make a career of it.

I loathe the Caps. I loathe their fans. I loathe their players. I loathe the Ovechtrick. I loathe the lack of respect they have for their own talents. I loathe their lack of respect for the game they play. I even loathe their lack of respect for their own coaches. I hate missing the playoffs, but if we have to, sticking a harpoon in the Caps' playoff hopes is a decent consolation prize. Loved burying them in the playoffs last season. Love putting them in jeopardy of missing the playoffs this year.

Keith Aulie was -2 with 4 hits in 12:11. And, old Aulie returneth.

J.T. Brown had 5 shots and 1 blocked shot in 11:45. That move. In the third period. You know the one I'm talking about. The spin-o-rama from behind the cage for the stuff attempt in front. That's something you try in a summer roller hockey league. Few players have the creativity or the guts to try that in a pro game. Have mercy. Gotta get at least 15 pounds of muscle on this young man, but he has the talent.

J.T. Wyman (pictured, but not really) was +1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:27.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3-31-12 Jets at Lightning

Impressive debuts and #91 with a hammer.

WPG-2
TB-3 (OT)

Sebastien Caron made his first start in a Lightning jersey and was excellent stopping 26 of 28 for the victory. Let him play out the season and earn himself an NHL contract somewhere for next season, I say.

First Period
TB Malone (19), (unassisted), 15:37

Second Period
WPG Miettinen (5), (Kane, Stuart), 6:20
WPG Wellwood (18), (Byfuglien, Stapleton), 9:28

Third Period
TB Malone (20), (Purcell, Hedman)(PP), 7:25

Overtime
TB Stamkos (56), (Lee), 0:45

Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars. Congratulations to Ryan Malone, who raced from 15 to 20 goals in the hockey equivalent of a blink of an eye this week. It'd be fun to see what Malone could do if he could stay healthy for an entire season. Stamkos, for his part, sets a new NHL record with 5 overtime game winning goals in a season, as he continues his push to get to 60 goals. Pretty cool.

What I really enjoyed about this game was the way the young players received opportunities and showed something. Brett Connolly looked good, Victor Hedman kept up his points streak and got in a little scrap, and I'll write about J.T. Brown in a bit. Even Keith Aulie had a pretty positive game, in my mind, and it seemed like Brendan Mikkelson got to play a ton, too. Oh, and Brian Lee was damned impressive with 6 hits tonight. You're seeing a lot of good young pieces playing well in both Tampa Bay and in Norfolk, and you've got the best young player in the game in Steven Stamkos. Mix in another lottery pick, and this season's going to seem like a minor pothole in the grand scheme of things. My only regret is that, in beating Winnipeg, the team may have lost an opportunity to get into the top 5-6 picks of this draft. Some scouting organizations judge this a 5 player draft, as far as impact players go. I judge it a 5+1 or 2, right now, especially given the situation with Sarnia's Alex Galchenyuk losing so much time to injury this year, a la Connolly in his draft year. And I still want that little, mean-spirited Dan Boyle clone from Red Deer. The Lightning would be picking 9th now, pending the outcome of the lottery drawing, based on my quick look at the standings. Maybe they can get the ping pong balls to bounce their way and still move up 4 spots into the top-5.

Aulie had 1 shot and 3 hits in 13:37. He was good tonight. I know, I was surprised, too. He was physical. He had some interesting little offensive zone forays. He wasn't a pylon. That was more like it. And, you can now tell your children where you were when Keith Aulie finally broke the 13 minute barrier in a game that wasn't completely out of hand.

J.T. Wyman had 4 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 7:26. Old J.T. overshadowed by new J.T.

J.T. Brown had 2 shots in 13:33 in his NHL debut. Color me impressed. He's a very, very good skater and he showed some decent early chemistry with both Vincent Lecavalier and Brett Connolly, and those are two players that aren't the easiest to read off of because they're both creative stickhandlers. He looked pretty responsible defensively in terms of his positioning, too. You can tell he was well coached at Minnesota-Duluth. I don't know if he can be as physically active at 170 pounds in the NHL as he was in college, but I'm looking forward to him getting on the Steven Stamkos training regime this offseason and seeing him add that element into his game next year, because his college film will remind you of Jeremy Roenick, at times. That was a quality signing.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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