Tyler Johnson isn't one for grand acceptance speeches.
After winning the award as the American Hockey League's Most Valuable Player, the Syracuse Crunch forward gave most of the credit to his teammates, the coaching staff and the organization.
Johnson preferred to show how he earned it. He registered his second hat trick of the season, leading the Crunch to a 6-1 rout of the Norfolk Admirals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.
"I though tonight we played a good solid team game, a full 60," Johnson said. "I thought we played pretty well. If we keep doing that, I think we'll be alright."
Syracuse, which has points in five straight games, has a three-point lead over Binghamton in the East Division, and can clinch with a win or a Senators loss Saturday.
Wow. I feel like we need to issue a formal apology to all our friends in Norfolk for that savage beat down tonight.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the victory. For those wondering, Pat Nagle has been backing up Desjardins because Riku Helenius had some family issues back in Finland that required attention. Hopefully Riku will be back for the playoffs.
SYR Angelidis, (11) (Wyman, Brown), 14:20
SYR Johnson, (34) (Sexton, Wyman), 14:58
SYR Wyman, (13) (Palat, Johnson), 19:02
SYR Namestnikov, (7) (Devos, Connolly), 11:56
NOR Maroon, (25) (Guenin), 13:32
SYR Johnson, (35) (Palat, Sexton), 19:11
SYR Johnson, (36) , 7:48
Tyler Johnson, J.T. Wyman, and Mike Angelidis were the game's three stars. The freshly minted AHL MVP, Johnson, celebrated with an incredible 3 goal, 4 point effort to start off a 3 game weekend set that will be so critical for playoff position.
Brian Lee was +4 in the contest. Several members of the Bolt Prospects message board's heads just exploded after reading that. Mind you, he also took a major for slashing and got kicked out of the game. I would suspect a suspension may follow.
Two games remain in the regular season. Providence toppled Springfield tonight 5-3, which clinches the top seed in the East for Providence. However, with Springfield going down and Syracuse winning, the Crunch now move to within 2 points of the Falcons with a game in hand. The Crunch also expanded their division lead over Binghamton to 3 points after Bingo lost to Manchester tonight. Each team has 2 games left on their schedules, including the head-to-head matchup Sunday. The loss for Norfolk was a particularly bad one with the Admirals, at this moment, in a 4-way tie at 79 points for one of the last 2 playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. How deeply ironic would it be if Syracuse had to face Norfolk in the first round? That prospect looks much more remote after tonight, but it's still at least on the edge of the table right now.
So here's the schedule for Saturday: Springfield draws Adirondack (eliminated from playoff contention), Binghamton gets Hershey (one of the clubs in that 4-way tie), and Syracuse gets Worcester (eliminated from playoff contention). Syracuse can make the division elementary with a win, thereby clinching not less than the 3 seed for the playoffs. Jumping Springfield may be a harder task for the Crunch with the Falcons likely holding the tiebreak at the finish line with a 2 game lead in the regulation win column right now.
Some other accounting issues heading into the end of the regular season:
- Syracuse still leads the AHL in goals scored by 10.
- Tyler Johnson is 8th in the AHL in scoring and Brett Connolly is currently tied for 10th.
- Mark Barberio is in 6th amongst AHL defensemen in scoring.
- Johnson also leads the league in goals by 3 with Connolly tied for 4th.
- Johnson is also 6th in power play goals.
- Connolly is tied for tops in game winning goals.
- Ondrej Palat is tied for 8th in the league in helpers.
- Despite being in Tampa for about a month, Radko Gudas is still 6th in the AHL in penalty minutes.
- Gudas is also still leading the league in +/- with teammates Johnson, Palat, and J.P. Cote all tied for 3rd. Dmitry Korobov is tied for 8th.
- Barberio is 9th in the league in shots on goal.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Back on track.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 1 goal on 21 shots for the victory.
SYR Connolly, (28) (Namestnikov, Korobov), 1:37
SYR Connolly, (29) (Johnson, Palat), 8:28 (PP)
SYR Johnson, (33) (Palat, Taormina), 10:11 (PP)
SYR Wyman, (12) (Angelidis, Cote), 19:33
SYR Connolly, (30) (Paradis, Lee), 2:08
RCH Biega, (5) (Ellis, Mancari), 4:53
The cavalry arrived, and just in time. Brett Connolly threw in a hat trick, his first as a pro, to get to 30 goals. For my money, this guy needs to be in the AHL MVP discussion prominently. He's been the most consistent Crunch player all year long, even more so than Tyler Johnson whose stats sagged a little after coming back from Lightning camp midway through the year. Connolly and Johnson are tied for 8th in the league in scoring at 60 points.
Binghamton absolutely throttled Albany 5-0 to start the day, which put huge pressure on Syracuse to win. Meanwhile, Providence beat Springfield 2-0 in a head-to-head matchup that was advantageous for the Crunch. Syracuse remains 4 back of the Bruins, pulls into a tie with Springfield at 93 points, and remains 2 up on the Senators. All three teams have a game in hand on Syracuse, though. Next weekend, starting Friday, will be a 3-games-in-3-nights set to complete the regular season, all at home: Norfolk, Worcester, and a game against Binghamton that may well decide the East Division title. With Mark Barberio out of the lineup for Tampa Bay tonight and Victor Hedman back in, I would think more reinforcements are on the way, too.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Clinging to the division lead as the finish line nears.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on 34 shots for the overtime loss.
SYR Sexton, (9) (Richard, Palat), 2:09
BRI Campbell, (6) (Donovan), 7:25
SYR Palat, (13) (Sexton, Taormina), 12:45
BRI Niederreiter, (27) (Nilsson, DeFazio), 7:27 (PP)
BRI Nelson, (24) (Donovan, Wishart), 2:42
Providence, Springfield, and Binghamton all won tonight, meaning Syracuse lost 1 point worth of ground on the entire field. So, Syracuse is now 4 points back of Providence, 2 back of Springfield, and 2 ahead of Binghamton with all three of those clubs holding a game in hand. Tyler Johnson and Brett Connolly did not play for Syracuse tonight after being sent down to the club today. Their arrival may be critical to the Crunch hanging onto the division title. Rochester is up next tomorrow night.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Like Lou Rawls said, "Love is a hurtin' thing."
Ben Bishop allowed 6 goals on 45 shots for the loss. Guessing he's out of gas after spending much of the year in a deep goaltending rotation.
04:07 PIT Jokinen (8), (Morrow, Dupuis)
06:02 PIT Dupuis (20), (Kennedy, Niskanen)(PP)
16:00 TB Purcell (9), (Stamkos, Salo)(PP)
01:48 PIT Kunitz (21), (Iginla, Letang)(PP)
05:46 TB Connolly (1), (Panik, Killorn)
01:24 PIT Malkin (8), (unassisted)
04:45 PIT Jokinen (9), (Murray, Dupuis)
16:40 PIT Glass (1), (Jokinen, Iginla)(PP)
19:42 TB Purcell (10), (St. Louis, Carle)(PP)
I actually thought the Lightning set themselves up well to pull the upset heading into the Third Period, but after Bishop allowed the soft goal to Malkin the wheels started to come off. It's time to face facts, Steve Yzerman pulled the trigger on Boucher about 1 month too late to give Cooper the time he needed to turn this season around. The good news is that most, not all, but most of the Syracuse kids played decent games against the Pittsburgh machine tonight. That bodes well for next season.
Mark Barberio was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 16:47. I wish he didn't play so tentative. Would've loved for him to score and then punch Pierre McGuire in the mush whilst explaining, "Learn to pronounce my name baldy." He was named a Second Team AHL All-Star today.
Alex Killorn had a helper but was -2 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 17:31. He's been logging a ton of ice time lately and I wonder if he's hitting a bit of a rookie wall.
Tyler Johnson was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:29. Looked darned good with the puck on his stick. Looked fast and dangerous. He was also named a First Team AHL All-Star today.
Richard Panik had a helper and was -1 with 3 hits in 11:36. He had the primary helper on Connolly's beautiful tic-tac-toe goal. Connolly was named a Second Team AHL All-Star today, by the way.
Radko Gudas was -1 with 16 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 5 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:43. He's getting caught up ice too much. I like the effort level and toughness, but he needs to clean up some of his decision making.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 9:31.
Time to start sending the kids back to Syracuse for the playoffs. With the roster they have right now, the Crunch are in danger of a first round upset. It's too valuable a developmental opportunity and the NHL season is lost. Put Pouliot and Pyatt back in and send a couple key players down. It's the shrewd thing to do.
Bishop smacks down his ex-team.
14:29 OTT Alfredsson (9), (Turris, Phillips)
02:35 TB Labrie (1), (Thompson, Crombeen)
04:28 TB Lecavalier (9), (Purcell, St. Louis)(PP)
00:21 OTT Latendresse (6), (Turris, Wiercioch)
14:56 TB Stamkos (26), (Lecavalier, St. Louis)(PP)
Vincent Lecavalier, Sami Salo, and The Secret Weapon, Pierre-Cedric Labrie were the game's three stars. Lecavalier is now over a point a game since coming back from the broken foot. It's a shame we'll never know what kind of season he could've had if he hadn't tried to play on a bad wheel for a month.
Old man Alfredsson retiring won't cost me any tears. The man's been cutting our hearts out for years.
Mark Barberio was -1 with 1 shot in 14:12 in his NHL debut. 4 giveaways. Oof.
Alex Killorn had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 22:13.
Tyler Johnson was -1 with 1 shot and was 75% on draws in 11:49.
Richard Panik was -1 with 1 shot and 3 hits in 9:37.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:05.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie scored his first NHL goal and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 6 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 8:30. Check the man's shooting percentage. Sniper. (Tongue firmly in cheek.)
End of the road?
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 37 shots for the loss. We're starting to see what the book is on Bishop now. He's tough as nails to score on in close but may be a little more vulnerable from long range a la Martin Brodeur and a few other bigger-sized goaltenders. I've been pleasantly surprised how he handles himself as a puck handler, on top of that.
01:52 TB Lecavalier (8), (St. Louis, Salo)
03:14 WSH Ovechkin (24), (Hillen, Backstrom)
06:37 TB Killorn (7), (Lecavalier, Carle)
12:54 WSH Carlson (6), (Ward, Hillen)
16:21 WSH Ward (8), (Perrault, Chimera)
19:55 WSH Ovechkin (25), (Ribiero)(EN)
Vincent Lecavalier was the game's third star. He has 3 points in 3 games since returning from the broken foot.
It's a tough, tough way to see your season possibly slip away. The past 2 nights saw a pair of 1 goal games that could've easily gone the other way, and just 1 or 2 mistakes and bad bounces made the difference. It's a shame, and the kind of thing that should keep these guys up at nights during the offseason. My biggest regret is that the outcome of these games may very well have gone the other way had Victor Hedman been in the lineup. Again, it's a shame.
The Lightning's divisional deficit grows back to 8 points, with seemingly not enough games left to close the gap.
Alex Killorn had a beautiful goal and was -1 with 2 shots in 16:19.
Matt Taormina was -1 with 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 16:52.
Tyler Johnson had 1 shot, 1 hit, and was 58% on draws in 11:15.
Richard Panik was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 13:15. The guy has got to quit giving away the puck in the neutral zone. It's a career killing bad habit.
Radko Gudas was -1 with 2 shots and 7 hits in 19:26.
This is a tough one to take.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 27 shots for the loss. It's a tough way to lose on a strange goal that will no doubt stick in Bishop's craw for a little while.
13:45 NYI Grabner (12), (Tavares)
04:44 TB Panik (2), (Lecavalier, Carle)
04:00 TB Carle (4), (Stamkos, Pouliot)
13:34 NYI Martin (3), (Lee, Streit)
19:46 NYI MacDonald (3), (Bailey)(EN)
It's the first regulation loss of Jon Cooper's tenure in Tampa Bay. Matt Carle was named the game's third star.
Alex Killorn was -2 with 4 shots and 1 blocked shot in 22:02.
Tyler Johnson was -1 with 2 hits in 11:28.
Richard Panik hooked up with Vincent Lecavalier for a beautiful goal and was +1 with 1 shot and 10:08. The good was the quick release he showed on an amazing behind the back feed from Lecavalier. The bad came in the form of some questionable decisions Panik made with the puck in the neutral zone.
Radko Gudas was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 13:20. Tonight was one of the rare nights Radko looked to me to have heavy legs. I was surprised.
Bishop making Yzerman look like a genius.
Ben Bishop stopped all 45 shots he faced for the shutout after being acquired from Ottawa in exchange for Cory Conacher. That's quite the debut for a goaltender who is the latest to be tasked with trying to close the gaping hole left since Nikolai Khabibulin shuffled off to Chicago many moons ago. I do like the deal Yzerman made. After a red hot first 7 games in the NHL, Conacher had cooled off greatly in the 28 games since and was not having the impact on a shift-to-shift basis some of the other rookies were having. He's not chopped liver, mind you, but he also was probably never going to have higher trade value and Yzerman knew that. Leveraging that asset for a true NHL goaltender is shrewd.
00:28 TB Purcell (8), (Carle)
15:55 TB Pyatt (8), (Killorn, Brewer)
19:17 TB Aulie (2), (Stamkos, St. Louis)
02:24 TB St. Louis (9), (Pouliot, Carle)
07:30 TB Pouliot (7), (Stamkos, St. Louis)
For anyone who thinks Victor Hedman isn't important to this team, look what happened tonight with him out with a lower body injury early. 45 shots against and Bishop really having to bust it to save the Lightning's bacon. Hurry back soon #77. Also, we'll see if Vincent Lecavalier manages to get back into the lineup too after also leaving in his return from the shelf. I did really like Coach Cooper's thought of putting the vet between two potential stars like Connolly and Panik, and I'd love to see them get back to it.
So it's not all roses in a 5-0 win, but good goaltending has a way of making everything look better.
Alex Killorn had a helper and was +2 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 18:33.
Tyler Johnson had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot and was 40% on draws in 10:42.
Richard Panik had 2 shots and 1 hit in 13:28.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 4 penalty minutes, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 20:34.
I still hate shootouts.
Mathieu Garon allowed 2 goals on 25 shots and was 1 for 2 in the shootout for the SOL. He got outdueled badly by Markstrom, and Lightning fans have to be cursing the day Lindback got his high ankle sprain.
08:36 FLA Kopecky (13), (Brennan, Fleischmann)
16:41 FLA Rallo (1), (Brennan, Kuba)(PP)
05:38 TB Pyatt (7), (Purcell, Carle)
10:32 Killorn (6), (Hedman, Purcell)
The Lightning completely dominated large swaths of this game and deserved better than to only get 1 point out of it. It's damned hard to put together a winning streak when you're surrendering a soft goal or two every game, and the Lightning desperately need a winning streak.
Mike Angelidis was 43% on draws in 7:22.
Alex Killorn had a goal and was +1 with 4 shots in 23:20. He's so money.
Andrej Sustr was +1 with 1 shot in 8:19. Officially 2 giveaways. That'll get your ice time down in single digit minutes as a rookie.
Tyler Johnson had 1 shot, 1 hit, and was 58% on draws in 16:53.
Ondrej Palat was +1 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 11:39.
Radko Gudas had a fight, 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 11:55.
Cory Conacher played 14:04 in the game.