Gourde, Yanni

NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-28-17 Lightning at Panthers

Lightning out of sync as regular season looms.

TB-2
FLA-5

Petr Budaj allowed 4 goals on 32 shots for the loss.

First Period
8:17 FLA Vrbata, (Pirri)
14:24 FLA McCann, (Petrovic, McCoshen)
18:55 TB Killorn, (Kucherov, Stamkos)(PP)

Second Period
13:32 FLA McCann, (McGinn)

Third Period
9:53 FLA McCann, (Brickley, Vrbata)
18:36 TB Namestnikov, (Sergachev, Kucherov)
19:31 FLA Sceviour, (unassisted)(EN)

As good as the Lightning youth looked early in the preseason, the Lightning's veterans have been mediocre for much of the end of it. The biggest concerns at this point are that we're not seeing the kind of production from the second line we might've hoped for in preseason and the team is still without the suspended Jake Dotchin, whose presence in the lineup will hopefully greatly improve the defensive corps by pushing long-in-the-tooth veteran Dan Girardi down to the third pair.

Yanni Gourde had 2 shots and was 38% on 16 draws in 16:23.

Mikhail Sergachev had a helper and was -1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 18:17.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 6-10-17 Griffins at Crunch

Crunchning Death Star destroys one last opponent in the home barn this year.

GR-1
SYR-5

Grand Rapids Leads the Series 3-2

Mike McKenna allowed 1 goal on 37 shots for the victory. That's a quality performance at a moment the team really needed it with their backs against the wall.

First Period
0:17 SYR Lynch (3), (Dumont, Bournival)
4:33 SYR Brodeur (1), (Erne, Walcott)
14:05 SYR Froese (6), (Gourde, McGinn)
17:19 SYR Conacher (12), (Thomas, Gourde)(PP)
19:16 SYR Thomas (5), (Gourde, Conacher)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
5:58 GR Street (8), (Hicketts, Paetsch)

Yanni Gourde, McKenna, and Cory Conacher were the game's three stars.

It's not surprising that Syracuse was able to dig deep and have this kind of performance in an elimination, or that Grand Rapids had a slight let down after getting out to a 3-1 series lead. As an aside, this makes those three one goal losses sting all the more. Syracuse finds themselves in the position of being a solid +3 in goal differential in this series despite being down 3-2.

The bottom line for Syracuse is that if they stay out of the box and play with their best energy, they've still got a shot to win this series. The key is to not fall in the media trap/frame of thinking about "winning two games in Grand Rapids." You have to focus solely on Game Six and proving you can win one game in Grand Rapids. If you do, of course it's possible to pick off the second one. Tuesday's the day we'll see if that question gets answered affirmatively.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 6-9-17 Griffins at Crunch

Undisciplined, frustrated Crunch on the brink.

GR-3
SYR-2

Grand Rapids Leads the Series 3-1

Mike McKenna allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the loss.

First Period
10:00 GR Street (7), (Callahan, Tangradi)
17:48 GR Renouf (1), (unassisted)

Second Period
10:33 GR Renouf (2), (Tangradi)
11:45 SYR Gourde (7), (Conacher, McGinn)

Third Period
7:29 SYR Bournival (8), (Dumont, Koekkoek)

Yanni Gourde was the game's three stars.

What a frustrating spot for the Crunch to be in, falling behind 3-1 in the series with all three losses coming by one goal margins. As with Game One, in particular, a lot of difficulty tonight was the Crunch getting into penalty trouble. That doesn't always kill you directly with goals, but it allows your opponent to build possession and momentum and it chops up your flow and ability to get on track offensively. Now, after dropping their first game of the playoffs at home, the key for Syracuse is to not try to get it all back in a single period. The old cliche of "one game at a time" applies: the mission is to pick off Game Five and extend the series back to Grand Rapids and just give yourselves a chance for the comeback.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 5-26-17 Bruins at Crunch

Crunchning Death Star decimates Bruins in a must-win game for Providence.

PRO-2
SYR-7

Syracuse Leads the Series 3-1

Mike McKenna allowed 2 goals on 35 shots for the victory. I imagine McKenna doing snow angels on the floor of the locker room screaming "GOAL SUPPPPOOOORRRRT!" after all of these games.

First Period
3:57 SYR Thomas (3), (Gourde, Conacher)
7:07 PRO Szwarz (6), (Simpson, Cave)
19:49 SYR Taormina (4), (Gourde, McGinn)(PP)

Second Period
0:33 SYR Bournival (5), (Conacher, Thomas)
1:55 PRO Heinen (9), (Fitzgerald, Simpson)(PP)
4:31 SYR Gourde (5), (McGinn, Conacher)
16:00 SYR Bournival (6), (Condra, Dotchin)
19:13 SYR Dumont (5), (Taormina, Vermin)

Third Period
4:31 SYR Conacher (7), (Gourde, Froese)(PP)

Yanni Gourde, Michael Bournival, and Cory Conacher were the game's three stars.

Wow. As noted, this was a game the Bruins absolutely had to have. On paper, they should've been the hungrier team and should've been a considerable test for the Crunch tonight. Am I surprised Syracuse prevailed tonight? Not at all. But I'm a little shocked at how savagely they dismantled Providence under these circumstances. I'd say this proved Syracuse is developing a killer instinct, but that underplays what they accomplished tonight.

Coming into this season the Crunch had the potential to be this kind of team on paper. They had a veteran-laden group with an extreme amount of depth at the forward position. But, with struggles and injuries up top in Tampa Bay, they never really got to gel as a group. Those who stayed behind in Syracuse were plagued with inconsistency, leaving the regular season North Division crown to go all the way down to the final game of the year. And, it wasn't until the very end of the regular season that this group of players got together with the return of a large contingent of quality guys from Tampa Bay.Because of that, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised the longer this team survives and advances in the playoffs the stronger they seem to be getting. They've started to figure out their roles and responsibilities, get used to their lines and pairings, and now they're starting to mow opponents down like a well oiled machine. It's easy to get excited about this club's crescendo toward a possible berth in the Calder Cup Final.

Heading into Game Five on home ice, it's important to stress the importance of being expeditious when opportunities to close out arise. As impressive as Syracuse's depth is at many positions, the fact of the matter the pro hockey playoffs remain, partially, an extended exercise in the art of managing attrition. Syracuse needs to finish this off now. Don't waste energy on having to go back to Providence to try to close this out. Don't let this series extend one minute longer than it has to and risk the stray factor of injuries. Finish this, advance, and prepare to play for the big prize.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 5-24-17 Bruins at Crunch

Wild finish to otherwise dominant performance by the Crunchning Death Star.

PRO-4
SYR-5

Syracuse Leads the Series 2-1

Mike McKenna allowed 4 goals on 39 shots for the victory. Goal support: McKenna has it.

First Period
8:19 SYR Conacher (5), (Taormina, Gourde)(PP)
14:18 SYR Bournival (4), (Brodeur, Thomas)

Second Period
4:48 SYR Taormina (3), (Conacher)
17:35 PRO Heinen (7), (Simpson, Szwarz)

Third Period
3:59 SYR Gourde (4), (Dotchin, Conacher)
16:49 PRO Blidh (1), (Grant, Fitzgerald)
17:11 PRO Heinen (8), (Szwarz, Simpson)
17:52 SYR Conacher (6), (Dumont, Dotchin)(EN)
19:09 PRO Fitzgerald (1), (Porter)(SH)

McKenna, Cory Conacher, and Yanni Gourde were the game's three stars.

Syracuse's dominance on home ice in these playoffs remains in tact. 6-0 thus far on home ice is a serious edge with the next two games in Syracuse. Am I in love with the fact the Crunch allowed Providence to get the false hope goal in the Third Period twice? No, but it's called the false hope goal for a reason. When you stake yourself to a three goal lead in the final frame, it's a death sentence for the opposition seemingly 99.9% of the time, and those odds were reconfirmed again tonight.

At this hour, the directive for Game Four for the Crunch is clear: stomp on the Bruins' playoff throats. A win in Game Four puts them in a 3-1 hole and squarely up against the ropes. The Crunch allowed Toronto to stick around longer than they probably should've in the last round. This round? Finish them.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 5-19-17 Crunch at Bruins

Crunchning Death Star continues to maraud its way through Calder Cup playoff run.

SYR-6
PRO-3

Syracuse Leads the Series 1-0

Mike McKenna allowed 3 goals on 36 shots for the victory. He might want one of the goals back that he allowed to make the game close for a moment in the Third Period, but life remains good when you bathe in sweet, sweet goal support.

First Period
3:57 SYR McGinn (4), (Condra)
12:20 SYR Bournival (3), (Conacher, Gourde)

Second Period
4:37 PRO Grant (2), (unassisted)
6:56 SYR Vermin (5), (Peca, Taormina)(PP)

Third Period
4:13 SYR Dumont (4), (Vermin, Erne)
12:56 PRO DeBrusk (6), (Grzelcyk, Grant)
13:09 PRO Heinen (6), (Simpson, Cross)
18:25 SYR Gourde (3), (Dumont)(EN)
19:38 SYR Froese (4), (unassisted)(EN)

Joel Vermin and Yanni Gourde were the game's first and second stars.

After failing to take a road win in their entire 7 game series against the Marlies, the Crunch got one right off the jump tonight thanks in large part to the play of their veterans. The P-Bruins should be sweating that outcome because the Crunch have to feel very loose right now knowing they've been very good holding serve at home and they've already taken away home ice advantage for the series. Heading into Game Two, the pressure is squarely on Providence's shoulders and the Crunch are playing with a tall stack of the house's chips.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 4-12-17 Crunch at Comets

"Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station!"

SYR-7
UTI-2

Mike McKenna allowed 2 goals on 25 shots for the victory. Sweet, sweet goal support. Let it wash all over you.

First Period
1:20 SYR Condra (14), (McGinn, Peca)
14:30 UTI Carcone (4), (Rendulic, Billins)

Second Period
8:31 SYR Taormina (15), (Gourde, Conacher)
16:33 UTI Cassels (6), (Hamilton, Pedan)

Third Period
2:03 SYR McGinn (10), (Peca, Howden)(PP)
6:22 SYR Bournival (8), (Vermin, Brodeur)
9:07 SYR Conacher (17), (Erne, Gourde)
15:36 SYR Erne (13), (Conacher)(EN)
18:25 SYR Dotchin (4), (Taormina, McKenna)(PP)

Tye McGinn, Cory Conacher, and Yanni Gourde were the game's three stars.

Syracuse scored 5 unanswered goals in the Third Period, keyed in part by the return to Syracuse of several players who finished the regular season with Tampa Bay. They contributed 4 goals and 6 assists, by my count, to Syracuse's winning effort tonight.

Syracuse pulls back to within 1 point of Toronto for the North Division title with both teams having just 2 regular season games left to go.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-9-17 Sabres at Lightning

Lightning end a season of disappointment with an abundance of hope.

BUF-2
TB-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the victory. He was solid as a rock again today, making situational saves when needed and staying sharp despite long stretches where he had very little work. One of the biggest reasons for the Lightning missing the playoffs this season was subpar goaltending the first two-thirds of the year that came from the weird limbo situation that Ben Bishop was in. Once Bishop was moved out at the trade deadline and Vasilevskiy clearly moved into the number one role, Vasilevskiy played outstanding. He justified the opinion of a lot of people that he's the best emerging young goaltender in the game.

First Period
13:56 BUF Carrier (5), (Nylander)

Second Period
5:59 TB Point (17), (Hedman, Dotchin)
12:20 TB Coburn (5), (Namestnikov, Killorn)(SH)

Third Period
11:17 BUF Kane (28), (Gionta, O'Reilly)
18:36 TB Point (18), (Kucherov, Stralman)
19:59 TB Hedman (16), (Stralman, Point)(EN)

Brayden Point, Vasilevskiy, and Victor Hedman were the game's three stars.

You never know what you're going to get in a game like this where there's nothing on the line after Toronto eliminated the Lightning last night with a late, come-from-behind win. I was pleased to see a pretty good overall effort from the Lightning, particularly for the first 40 minutes of the game, which I think in part stemmed from a smart decision by Jon Cooper to start Vasilevskiy and treat this more like a normal game. They were pretty sound defensively the first 40 minutes and, probably feeling a little more free with things settled in the standings, I thought showed more free-flowing offensive creativity. With tee times beckoning in the Third Period, I thought there were stretches it got a little too much like a QMJHL game with matching line rushes at both ends, but all in all I think the Lightning really closed the season strong and in style. Were it not for the heroics for Linus Ullmark in Buffalo's net, the Lightning could've easily put 7 or 8 goals on the board tonight.

The Lightning ultimately finish 2 points shy of a playoff berth with 94 points. Remember how we keep harping on that 96 point number? Yep, that's the number that would've gotten them in. There's no mysticism about it, and the Lightning learned a painful lesson this season about early season complacency. The good news, I'm happy to say, is that it seems that the team understands what happened, and after their first summer of rest in a long time seem ready to return next year with a renewed team identity and a chip on their shoulder. That's not to say there won't be changes to the roster. There are warts on this team, and players on the roster who either have plateaued as players or simply can't cut it on an elite-level NHL team. I trust that Steve Yzerman will make the changes necessary to address those issues, and have a lot of hope in my heart seeing the emerging young talent on this team.

Going into next season, you can see the Lightning have five forwards in particular that look to me to be capable of being among the NHL's best. Steven Stamkos, returning from injury, obviously is already well proven as an NHL superstar and Nikita Kucherov added himself to that echelon of players with his 40-goal, over a point-a-game campaign this year. Beyond those two, you saw two other players who I think have the capability of becoming top-10 NHL scorers: Jonathan Drouin and Brayden Point. Drouin's talent is undeniable, and it remains not a question of "if" but rather "when" he makes that transition to being a 30 goal, 80+ point a year player. He could've had 4 goals easily today were it not for Ullmark's heroics. Point, on the other hand, came into this year with significantly lower expectations as a guy who was selected outside of the top-60 in his draft year who wasn't even expected to make the NHL roster this year. Had he not missed a month with a broken paw, he would've topped 20 goals this season and something about his rookie campaign gives me all the same feels that Brad Richards' rookie campaign in Tampa Bay did as a third round pick who played like a high first rounder. Rounding out this group is veteran Ondrej Palat, who has looked lost at times over the past two seasons but down the stretch of this year started to look like the two-way beast of a player he's shown he can be. Those give on the Lightning's forward corps give me the belief the team will be dynamic offensively next year.

The defensive corps is a bit more unsettled, but Victor Hedman made a serious campaign for the Norris Trophy down the stretch of this year in finishing second in the NHL in points among defensemen. I wouldn't bet against him winning it next year, and what we saw in Hedman's game this season was the checking off of the last boxes he needed to in order to transition to becoming a great NHL defenseman. Namely, the rise of the Lightning power play this year can be directly traced to the rise of Hedman as a legit power play threat. Maybe that's the silver lining of Stamkos' injury. With Stammer out, the Lightning became a much more "left handed" power play with things primarily playing off of Kucherov's triggers in the right wing circle. Hedman at the center point fed into that change from a "right handed" power play, and he started to really sharpen up his shot and improve his distribution skills. We always knew he was a wizard off the rush, but Hedman learned to thrive in the more stationary/lateral third-ice game of the power play. Supplementing Hedman is stalwart righty defenseman Anton Stralman and the found money that was youngster Jake Dotchin. Anybody who tells you they saw the rise of Jake Dotchin coming is either a (bleeping) liar or has a time machine. One of the magical things in sports is that sometimes a guy just "gets it" out of the blue and comes out of nowhere to become a good player. That was Dotchin this year. Those three form half of a solid NHL defense corps, and with two righties already nailed down, the job of filling out the rest of the Lightning blueline becomes a lot easier for Steve Yzerman to deal with. Lefties are a lot easier to come up with. Righties are rare as hen's teeth.

And then there's Vasilevskiy. Russia's answer to Carey Price. Mark my words: as talented as the Lightning are there will be other clubs in the NHL that will have better skaters and more skill... and the Lightning will have the answer in the form of Andrei Vasilevskiy. Watching him become what he looks destined to become is going to be fun.

Luke Witkowski had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:25.

Greg McKegg played 10:51.

Dotchin had a helper, 1 shot, and 1 blocked shot in 17:07. I'd be interested to know if he draws any attention from the Canadian hockey program as a potential IIHF World Championships player.

Gabriel Dumont had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:13 and was 63% on 8 draws. He will be headed back to Syracuse to help the Crunch in the playoffs, which Syracuse clinched a spot in today.

Yanni Gourde had 1 shot in 16:35 and was 40% on 10 draws. What a weapon for Syracuse to be getting back into the lineup.

Adam Erne was -2 with 4 hits and 1 blocked shot in 13:01. The stat line looks ugly, but I thought he played a whale of a first 40 minutes in the game. The whole reason Drouin could've had 3-4 goals in this game was that Erne was absolutely dealing on the forecheck and was super-creative distributing once he forced Buffalo to turn it over. He needs to follow up this stretch run with a strong playoffs for Syracuse. He'll enter next season on the roster bubble, and if he approaches the task with the proper intensity and focus he can help this Lightning team. He has obvious size and strength and surprising explosiveness and skill. The fact he can work so well with Drouin like he did today speaks to the upside he has. He's not some bogus faux power forward plugger. He's got the tools to be a serious scoring line contributor in this league. You all saw the flashes of it over the last month.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-7-17 Lightning at Canadiens

Carey Price FEARS Yanni Gourde.

TB-4
MTL-2

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 29 saves for the win, including a couple of brilliant jaw-dropping saves to put a national TV audience on notice. From here on out, there's a crime wave coming any time you play Tampa Bay. #Vasilarceniy

First Period
11:42 TB Gourde (5), (Kucherov, Witkowski)
19:50 TB Kucherov (40), (Palat, Point)

Second Period
9:59 MTL King (9), (Lehkonen, Nesterov)
14:19 TB Killorn (19), (Conacher)

Third Period
4:36 MTL Lehkonen (17), (unassisted)(SH)
4:57 TB Gourde (6), (Conacher, Dotchin)

Gourde and Nikita Kucherov were the game's first and second stars.

I'm done talking about the heart of this Lightning club. They just bounced Toronto and Montreal in back-to-back games on the road despite the slim odds they have to make the playoffs. They've got character and refusal to quit. It'll still take an inside straight for Tampa Bay to make it to the big dance, but kudos to them for making Toronto earn it. Worst case scenario, this is a club with a freshly minted 40 goal scoring superstar in Kucherov, one of the best emerging goaltenders in the game in Vasilevskiy, Brayden Point laying in the weeds to become another star in his own rights, and plenty of other talent coming with them. Jon Cooper's found a formula down the stretch here that, at a minimum, portend very very good things for next season.

A little over 2 months ago this team was dead last in the Eastern Conference. It's Game 81 on April 7th and they're still playing meaningful hockey. Give these guys credit for what they've done and the resiliency and chemistry they've found.

Luke Witkowski had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot and 4 hits in 11:25.

Greg McKegg was 64% on 11 draws in 10:59.

Jake Dotchin had a helper and was +2 with 4 hits in 17:03. I still have it in my head there's a sweet spot of around 17-18 minutes where Dotchin goes from being a good player to a really good player.

Gabriel Dumont had 1 shot, 6 hits, 2 blocked shots, and was 58% on 12 draws in 13:48.

Gourde had 2 goals and was +3 with 3 shots and 2 hits in 14:57. He was also 38% on 8 draws. Fun fact: Yanni Gourde has 3 of his 6 goals this season against Carey Price. True story.

Adam Erne was -1 with 4 hits and 2 blocked shots in 9:40.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-6-17 Lightning at Maple Leafs

As sun continues to sink on the season, Lightning continue to fight against the darkness.

TB-4
TOR-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the victory. Another really strong performance down the stretch by Vasilevskiy, who has answered all of my questions about whether he's ready to be the starter in the affirmative.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
7:34 TB Point (15), (Palat, Hedman)(PP)
9:42 TOR Kadri (32), (Hunwick, Bozak)
11:50 TB Kucherov (39), (Hedman)

Third Period
2:00 TB Bournival (2), (Sustr, Hedman)
14:11 TB Point (16), (Palat, Dotchin)

Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, and Vasilevskiy were the game's three stars.

Even as the Lightning's mathematical odds were dwindling ever closer to zero due to other results around the league, Tampa Bay reaffirmed their character in a convincing win over a Toronto team ready for a playoff coronation. There was a lot of, in my opinion unfair, hand wringing in the Lightning fan base after their loss to Boston with copious accusations that the Lightning somehow lacked heart in the game. Reiterating what I said after the game, I think the real culprit was the fatigue of trying to maintain a pace above .700 in the standings for close to two months with injury problems and trade deadline departures piling up around the team's ears. The truth is the complacency of the first two-thirds of the season caught up with the Lightning in Boston, as it was almost inevitably bound to do. But, that shouldn't invalidate the resolve the Lightning showed the final third of the campaign in fighting hard enough to still be playing meaningful games in April. That's no small feat, and a testament to both the coaching staff and the character of the team and its young, emerging stars. Tonight was the Lightning giving an RSVP for better things ahead next season.

With Ottawa defeating Boston in a Shootout tonight, the Lightning are now 3 points out of a playoff spot with 2 games left to play. Toronto still looks extremely likely to slip into the playoffs even despite tonight's effort and eliminate the Lightning, but credit to the Lightning for making them earn it.

Luke Witkowski had 2 hits in 4:53.

Greg McKegg was +1 with 1 hit in 9:16. He was also 38% on 8 draws.

Jake Dotchin had a helper, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 20:43, and made friends and influenced people all throughout the metro-Toronto region stepping up at his blueline for an awkward leg to leg hit on Leafs golden child Austen Matthews.

Gabriel Dumont returned from paternity leave to deliver 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 12:21. He was also 33% on 12 draws.

Yanni Gourde was 15% on 13 draws in 13:51.

Adam Erne had 1 shot and 2 hits in 11:54.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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