Koekkoek, Slater

AHL Game Night: 4-14-17 Senators at Crunch

Crunchning Death Star destroys Bingo.

BNG-1
SYR-4

Mike McKenna allowed 1 goal on 29 shots for the victory.

First Period
19:08 SYR Bournival (9), (Peca, Thomas)

Second Period
9:26 SYR Condra (15), (Conacher, Taormina)(PP)
11:09 SYR Peca (12), (Taormina, Condra)(PP)
13:01 BNG Gagne (2), (McCormick, Flanagan)(PP)

Third Period
18:17 SYR Howden (2), (McGinn, Vermin)(EN)

Matthew Peca, Erik Condra, and Slater Koekkoek were the game's three stars.

With 1 game to go on each team's schedule, Syracuse remains 1 point back of Toronto for the North Division crown. Toronto holds the ROW tiebreaker, so Toronto will have to lose their final contest in regulation for the Crunch to pull out the title. Syracuse closes out tomorrow night at home against Utica. Toronto is in St. John's to play the IceCaps tomorrow night. Interesting to note the IceCaps and Comets are both battling for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Crunch's Koekkoek Focused on Having Long Playoff Run


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Slater Koekkoek isn't sitting around and waiting for his phone to ring.

Unable to be called up unless there are injuries to the Tampa Bay Lightning's defensive corps, the Crunch defenseman has embraced more of a leadership role with in Syracuse.

With six key North Division games remaining in the regular season, Koekkoek's main focus is taking the Crunch deep into the playoffs.

"Any time a guy comes down here, they're hoping it's not for long," Koekkoek said. "I'm not sitting here and pouting about it. I'm trying to make the most of it. I love the guys down here. We're working hard and hopefully go on a long playoff run."

AHL Game Night: 3-29-17 Crunch at Senators

Roller coaster goes back up.

SYR-6
BNG-1

Mike McKenna allowed 1 goal on 21 shots for the win, making that 2 quality starts in his last 3 outings, by my count. Getting better.

First Period
7:06 BNG Akeson (19), (White, Nehring)(PP)

Second Period
1:02 SYR Peca (11), (Taormina, Thomas)
2:22 SYR Kurtz (4), (Taormina)
15:31 SYR Bournival (7), (unassisted)

Third Period
0:31 SYR Condra (13), (Brodeur, Koekkoek)
10:07 SYR Lynch (4), (Brodeur, Koekkoek)
19:17 SYR Hajek (1), (Richard)

Matt Taormina, Slater Koekkoek, and Mathieu Broduer were the game's three stars, as the Crunch D showed out tonight. That included Libor Hajek notching his first pro goal, as well.

Syracuse moves back into a tie with the Toronto Marlies at 79 points atop the North Division, with Toronto holding a 4 game lead in ROW for the tiebreaker.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-18-17 Devils at Crunch

Peca delivers critical divisional victory for Syracuse.

ALB-1
SYR-2 (OT)

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed just 1 goal on 42 shots for the victory, helping the Crunch overcome a 42-28 shot disparity. Since the trade deadline, Gudlevskis has suddenly been locked in while veteran Mike McKenna has struggled, begging the question of who will really be the team's number one goaltender heading into the playoffs.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
2:10 SYR Peca (9), (Bournival, Condra)
17:09 ALB Gibbons (13), (Stollery, Helgeson)

Overtime
1:13 SYR Peca (10), (Taormina, McGinn)(PP)

Gudlevskis, Matthew Peca, and Slater Koekkoek were the game's three stars.

With the victory, the Crunch move out to a 3 point lead in the North Division over Albany with the Devils now holding a game in hand.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-15-17 Crunch at Phantoms

Crunch make Phantoms vanish in OT.

SYR-5
LV-4 (OT)

Mike McKenna allowed 4 goals on 48 shots for the victory. Suffice it to say McKenna hasn't cloaked himself in glory thus far in Syracuse, but he bathed in the deep waters of sweet, sweet goal support tonight.

First Period
7:40 SYR Koekkoek (2), (Lynch, Vermin)

Second Period
4:09 SYR Kurtz (2), (Thomas, Blujus)
6:54 LV Fazleev (6), (Aube-Kubel)
12:15 LV Martel (17), (McDonald, Zengerle)(PP)
13:15 LV Miele (8), (Conner, Brennan)(PP)

Third Period
8:16 SYR Lynch (3), (McNamee, Racine)
17:56 LV Martel (18), (Alt, Miele)
18:56 SYR Taormina (14), (Lynch)(PP)

Overtime
3:51 SYR McGinn (6), (Taormina, Peca)

Kevin Lynch and Mike McKenna were the game's first and third stars. McKenna was an interesting selection after getting bailed out by a Crunch extra attacker goal that took him off the hook for a late game softie.

Oh hey, look there, it's our old pals Slater Koekkoek and Dylan Blujus on the scoresheet. Where you been? Don't be a stranger.

At the moment, Syracuse holds a 3 point lead atop the North Division with 1 game in hand on Albany.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-8-17 Lightning at Penguins

Better effort. Crushing result.

TB-2
PIT-6

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 6 goals on 40 shots for the loss. He actually played really well for the first 40 minutes of this contest, but a guy can only face so many breakaways, odd man rushes, and unmarked defenders with point blank chances. At this point, his confidence looks shot and the Lightning may be unnecessarily toying with the prospect of ruining a young player the hockey world had thought was incapable of being ruined.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
2:19 TB Drouin (12), (Filppula, Hedman)
6:44 PIT Sheary (10), (Rust, Crosby)
11:14 PIT Fehr (5), (Cullen)

Third Period
2:33 PIT Kunitz (4), (Maatta, Bonino)
3:28 PIT Wilson (5), (unassisted)
5:40 TB Namestnikov (5), (Drouin, Stralman)(PP)
7:50 PIT Kessel (13), (Crosby, Sheary)
17:20 PIT Letang (3), (Schultz, Cullen)(PP)

For 40+ minutes tonight was a much more spirited effort than we've seen of late. Imperfect, but the effort level and urgency level was there. Vlad Namestnikov even had a wide open wraparound that looked like a sure goal that would've knotted the game at 2-2 early in the Third Period. He blew the chance and then the wheels came off with the Lightning playing their 3rd in 4 days. This is a team that's played as much hockey as any team in hockey over the last 2.5 years and one that has largely had the same group of guys for that run with very few changes by Steve Yzerman. That probably has contributed to their proneness to injury and it probably explains how mentally, emotionally, and spiritually drained they've looked over this death march through the middle part of the season. Should they not find a way to snap out of it soon, wholesale changes will need to be made in the offseason. Rebuilding? No. But likely a retooling of the defense and lower lines, along with a strategic move or two on the scoring lines to inject something fresh into a stale and struggling group of players that need... something.

Luke Witkowski was -2 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:16.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 11:10.

Matthew Peca had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 9:08. He was also 55% on 11 draws. I thought he had a small rebound today after two subpar games in a row the last couple of times out.

Adam Erne had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 11:19. His linemates need to get used to how crafty he is passing the puck out of the corners and in behind the attacking cage.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-5-17 Predators at Lightning

Awful goaltending hands Lightning failure.

NSH-6
TB-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 18 shots for the loss. Three of those goals were of the awful variety, and the third goal, which came as the Lightning were mounting a push to try to knot the game at 2-2, was an absolute back breaker. Hockey is a frustrating, terrible sport when you're the victim of bad goaltending and your team has to work five times harder to get a goal, which is what happened tonight.

First Period
2:25 NSH Fisher (11), (Johansen, Ekholm)(PP)

Second Period
3:56 NSH Forsberg (9), (Fiala, Johansen)
6:12 TB Johnson (12), (Hedman, Killorn)
13:21 NSH Sissons (3), (Fisher)
14:04 NSH Ellis (5), (Wilson, Arvidsson)

Third Period
14:02 NSH Sissons (4), (Jarnkrok)(EN)
17:00 NSH Sissons (5), (Jarnkrok, Bitetto)

The Lightning actually had a decent night in terms of raw puck possession stats. It wasn't equaling a ton of scoring chances, but the game was not nearly the lopsided disaster the score indicates... except that the goaltending was terrible. That's been the biggest difference between this Lightning team and those of the recent past. Even when Bishop was healthy earlier this year the Lightning were not getting consistent goaltending. They have to hope and pray when he returns that he will re-find some of his Vezina candidate caliber form. Without it, they haven't got a prayer.

The Lightning failed to get 12 points for a second 10-game segment of the year, getting just 10 points in this one after managing just 7 points the previous segment. At the roughly midway point of the campaign, they're a full 6 points off comfortable playoff pace, meaning they'll have to play at least .675 hockey the rest of the way to get there safely. That's not impossible, but it's incredibly difficult and pretty much a fool's errand to try without good goaltending.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:29.

Matthew Peca was -2 with 2 hits in 11:17. He was also 56% on 9 draws. This was the first night of his NHL stint that he wasn't really a noticable positive in the lineup.

Adam Erne was -2 with 1 shot and 6 hits in 14:59. He continues to look the part and made a swooping power forward move off the right wing that was a bright spot in a fairly abysmal night.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-3-17 Jets at Lightning

Lightning crumble under Jets forecheck.

WPG-6
TB-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 33 shots for the loss. He made a lot of big saves on odd man rushes and breakaways, but at the end of the day his 4th goal allowed to Byfuglien, which was extremely soft, ended up being the critical margin (empty netter excluded) as soft goals often are.

First Period
7:25 WPF Scheifele (16), (Laine, Enstrom)(PP)

Second Period
3:43 TB Peca (1), (Namestnikov, Killorn)
4:30 WPG Ehlers (11), (unassisted)(PS)
5:19 WPG Trouba (2), (Perrault, Wheeler)
14:44 WPG Byfuglien (5), (Morrissey, Wheeler)

Third Period
3:26 TB Palat (7), (Johnson, Kucherov)
9:28 WPG Ehlers (12), (Laine, Trouba)
12:22 TB Kucherov (14), (Johnson, Hedman)(PP)
17:29 TB Kucherov (15), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
18:37 WPG Laine (20), (Scheifele, Ehlers)(EN)

Nikita Kucherov was the game's second star.

The Lightning were by far and away the better team in this game for the first 24 minutes of hockey before the bottom dropped out. The other 36 minutes were absolutely embarrassing as Winnipeg's forecheck ran roughshod over Tampa Bay and revealed a lot of coverage and puck moving mistakes. It's disappointing.

The Lightning now must defeat Nashville in the segment four finale to avoid digging their season playoff pace deficit of 4 points any deeper. This Winnipeg game was very winnable on paper and would've given the team a chance to trim their deficit. Now there's a very real possibility the hole will be even deeper at the season's midway point, and they have nobody to blame but themselves. I mean, I could complain about the dubious nature of the Ehlers penalty shot goal given it wasn't really a clear breakaway and more of a partial break, in my view, but I can't muster outrage against the refs considering the team allowed themselves to get run over the rest of the night.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 blocked shot in 13:57. His lack of development this season has been an unfortunate impediment for the team. They desperately could use a big, consistent, mobile puck mover. Koekkoek has all the athletic tools to be that, but it just hasn't settled down and come together for him yet.

Matthew Peca scored his first NHL goal and 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:33. He was also 50% on 10 draws. His goal showed off one of his strengths coming up from the NCAA out of Quinnipiac. He's very dangerous off the rush and his wrister coming in off the wing for the score was beautiful. I say it again: he's really helped replace a lot of what the team could have lost with the Point injury.

Adam Erne was -1 with 1 shot and 4 hits in 12:03. He had a very impressive debut despite the inauspicious stat line. Clearly, you can see the athletic gifts he brings to the game. He's a very good skater for such a big game with a surprisingly strong, swooping stride, and he's a very good offensive player from the hashmarks down. He had a chance on a rebound he overskated and nearly set up Bournival for a goal on a nice move peeling out of the corner but was a little off on his pass. He's going to be an NHL'er. There's little doubt of that. You could see that in tonight's game. The question is whether he can put all of his gifts together consistently to becoming a scoring line contributor.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-31-16 Hurricanes at Lightning

Lightning get key, clinical win.

CAR-1
TB-3

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 22 shots for the win. After stealing the point against Toronto, he might be due to go on a little hot streak here.

First Period
7:35 TB Boyle (10), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)
19:50 TB Drouin (11), (Kucherov, Palat)(PP)

Second Period
13:22 TB Killorn (12), (Peca, Hedman)
15:20 CAR Aho (7), (Slavin, Teravianen)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Jonathan Drouin, Vasilevskiy, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

With points at a premium after lacking the gas to deal appropriately with Toronto, the Lightning made sure they took care of business against a beatable Carolina club. It may have cost them Brian Boyle as the injury bug continues his rampage unabated, but the Lightning got another key win tonight. With 2 games left to play in this 10 game segment of the season, Tampa Bay needs 2 points to clinch a successful segment with the possibility of trimming 1-2 points off their season playoff pace deficit hanging out there as a real possibility.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 9:47.

Matthew Peca had a helper, his first NHL point, and was +1 with 2 hits in 12:05. He was also 50% on 8 draws. His style of game is helping to alleviate some of the stress from the injury to Brayden Point

Yanni Gourde was scoreless in 8:12.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-29-16 Maple Leafs at Lightning

Vasilarceny pilfers one point.

TOR-3
TB-2 (OT)

Andre Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the OT loss. Under siege most of the night, he turned in a plus performance to deliver the Lightning at least a single point.

First Period
14:46 TOR Matthews (18), (Hyman)

Second Period
9:26 TOR Bozak (7), (van Riemsdyk, Zaitsev)
12:12 TB Boyle (9), (Drouin, Sustr)
17:38 TB Palat (6), (Kucherov)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
3:37 TOR Kadri (13), (Nylander, Matthews)(PP)

Brian Boyle was the game's second star.

It's a young man's sport, and with both teams coming in on the latter half of a back-to-back, the youthful Leafs had the legs. The Lightning's fatigue started to kick in the second half of the Second Period and the team came completely unglued in the Third Period as tired legs began to manifest themselves in copious mental mistakes. Only Vasilevskiy's goaltending and a couple of opportunistic goals allowed the Lightning to pull out a point, which is still a positive result. If the Lightning can win 2 of the next 3, they'll succeed in at least hitting 12 points for this 10-game segment of the season. Given all the injuries over the past couple of weeks, simply not digging the hole deeper is a virtual win.

An aside about the goaltending interference call in OT. No chance. Filppula got a step around the corner and had the Leafs defender with his stick and one arm wrapped around his body turning him and the free hand pushing him from behind. If the roles had been reversed, there's no way the Leafs would've been called for goaltender interference on that play. No chance. It was complete baloney and ultimately took away a chance for the Lightning to steal the second point in this game.

Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 11:32.

Matthew Peca had 2 shots and 1 hit and was 45% on 11 draws in 13:52. He played on a kid line with Gourde all night with some spare power play time, so it was more of a checking/energy role tonight for Peca. He did decent, after a rough first few shifts that included a turnover and a bloodied nose.

Yanni Gourde had 1 shot in 9:49. He was one of the few Lightning players with energy in the Third Period and had at least one key forechecking shift that made it possible for the Lightning to release some pressure and limp out of regulation with a point.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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