Crunch hang on for opening night win.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the victory. He didn't have a ton of work in the first half of the game, but made a handful of key stops at key moments in the second half of the contest to preserve the win, including a big glove stop at the end of the Third Period.
Click on any of the goals listed to see a GIF of the play.
LV Martel, (1) (Conner, Cousins), 16:31
It was kind of a tale of two games tonight, with Syracuse looking dominant in the first part of the game, only allowing the Phantoms chances on the odd unforced turnover and on the man advantage. They established a 4-1 lead in the Second Period and it had the look of a laugher, but they allowed Lehigh Valley to stick around and eventually spent the bulk of the Third Period protecting the dreaded 2 goal lead. They had a handful of very good forechecking shifts in the final frame to take some of the pressure off, but in the end it was a lot closer than it should have been.
Snap decision on this iteration of the Crunch is that they're very similar to last year's edition. Not surprising. They have decent speed but didn't look terribly threatening off the rush. Their bread and butter is still going to be the cycle and manufacturing those greasy goals, punctuated by the occasional laser beam from Marchessault (who was lethal tonight from the slot). With only one PP opportunity on the night, it's too early to judge if their extra man unit will be better than the travesty they called a power play last season.
As for the key newcomers, I thought Matthew Peca played a nice, responsible two-way game. He wasn't able to flash on the rush as I'd have expected, but I'm sure that'll come. Anthony DeAngelo got a helper for his first AHL point, but didn't get a chance to flash his offensive skill much in the game. Defensively, he reminds me a bit of Paul Ranger when Ranger was a rookie pro. That is to say, he's in the right zip code positionally, and even though he's not in perfect spots he's mobile enough to close the gap quickly. If he's anything like Ranger, he'll get sharper in that aspect as time goes on. Adam Erne had one very poor tripping penalty, but also showed a lot of the qualities that make him a valued prospect. He hits to hurt and he was very good on the cycle and on the forecheck in the Third Period as Syracuse was nursing the lead.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Lightning start to tighten up in the stretch run to the regular season.
Ben Bishop allowed just 2 goals on 25 shots for the victory. The Lightning seemed to indicate Bishop would get just a couple of games in during the preseason to tune things up. He'll need to carry a heavy load in the first couple of months of the regular season with Vasilevskiy on the shelf, so two is fine with me, and he looked solid in both.
0:33 TB Kucherov (1), (Palat)
15:47 DAL McKenzie (1), (Fiddler, Demers)
16:31 TB Filppula (1), (Killorn, Nesterov)
4:51 DAL Nichushkin (1), (Seguin)
15:28 TB Brown (1), (Drouin, Sustr)
Both teams had most, albeit not all, of the bullets loaded in the gun, so this was a good test for the Lightning and a good result after the strange clunker they had in Johnstown against the Pens (BTW, hey, did you know that night was NBCSN's debut of the movie Slapshot that was filmed in Johnstown?!). It wasn't without a price after Nikita Kucherov exited early with a lower body injury, but assuming that was just precautionary, the Lightning have to feel pretty good about the night. They held the Stars to a reasonable shots and goals total, their bell cow goaltender played well, and they got nicely distributed scoring from 3 of 4 of their apparent regular season lines. Bonus: J.T. Brown is actually starting to finish plays. If he finishes just 1/4 of the A chances he generates with his hustle and speed, I figure that's 15-20 goals right there.
Mike Angelidis was -1 with 5 penalty minutes, 3 hits, and he was 50% on draws in 11:28.
Jonathan Marchessault had 4 shots in 14:07.
Luke Witkowski had 9 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:22.
Nesterov had a helper and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 24:06, as the Lightning gave him a good, hard look tonight and he responded well. He also had 6 shots that he took that were blocked that didn't make it through on net.
Emery opens the door in the Third Period. Will Gudlevskis step through it.
Ray Emery allowed 6 goals on 26 shots for the loss in his first full game of action in the preseason. The stat line is ugly, especially in the Third Period where he allowed 3 goals on 9 shots. My theory remains the same: I think the Lightning would be thrilled for Kristers Gudlevskis to take the backup job in October and November until Vasilevskiy returns, but they're not going to hand it to him. He has to win it from Emery and right now Emery opened the door to Kristers.
0:42 TB Namestnikov (1), (Nesterov, Drouin)(PP)
4:17 DAL Lindell (1), (Honka, Shore)(PP)
11:09 DAL Seguin (1), (Klingberg, Sharp)
13:24 TB Drouin (1), (Blujus, Marchessault)(PP)
18:21 DAL Sharp (1), (Seguin, Smith)
2:01 TB Koekkoek (1), (Gourde, McGinn)
4:59 DAL Ully (1), (Smith, Goligoski)
6:47 DAL Seguin (2), (Ranford, Johns)
7:18 DAL Ranford (1), (Shore, Lindell)
The result tonight wasn't terribly surprising. This was another case of Dallas playing most of their NHLers against a depleted Lightning lineup that was sitting out its top two lines and best defensemen. Still, it's disappointing to have a game tied 3-3 early in the Third Period and then surrender 3 goals in less that 2 and a half minutes to spoil it. You'll no doubt see cuts en masse now as Syracuse Crunch camp is about to start overseas.
Matt Taormina was -1 with 2 blocked shots in 21:34. He'll likely be packing for Crunch camp now. I don't anticipate a lot of danger that he'll be plucked off waivers.
Slater Koekkoek had a goal and was -1 with 2 shots in 18:37. He's played well. I wouldn't be shocked to see him get an extended look, but I'd guess the nature of Syracuse's overseas camp probably makes it harder to keep him with Tampa Bay.
Brayden Point was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:19. He was also 23% on 13 draws. He's just a puppy, age-wise, and I'd expect the Lightning to pull the trigger here soon to send him back for his final season of junior hockey.
Tanner Richard was -1 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 13:55. He was also 36% on 11 draws. Suspect he'll have some family and friends make the trip over from Switzerland to watch him during Crunch camp.
Jonathan Marchessault had a helper and was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:30. Maybe a slight chance he'll get plucked off of waivers if the Lightning do indeed choose to make the move right now.
Philippe Paradis was -1 with 5 hits in 11:41. Crunch camp, no doubt.
Luke Witkowski was -1 with 3 blocked shots in 17:16. I believe he's waiver eligible, too, but suspect he'll make it through.
Henri Ikonen was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 4 blocked shots in 13:54. Another likely Crunch camper.
Yanni Gourde had a helper and was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 16:09. Another likely Crunch camper.
Dylan Blujus had a helper and was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 20:21. Third on the team in ice time tonight. I've been pretty pleased how he and Dotchin have played along side the more obvious suspects like Koekkoek and DeAngelo. He's another likely Crunch camper, but the Lightning should feel a lot better about their future at that position than they did at this time even a year ago.
Nikita Nesterov had a helper and was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 21:19. Just 1 shot on goal? Does Nikki have a cold?
Overmatched Lightning B squad falls on the road.
7:47 NSH Neal (1), (Josi, Fiala)
8:40 NSH Weber (1), (Ribeiro, Wilson)(PP)
16:14 NSH Smith (1), (Josi, Bartley)
4:31 NSH Smith (2), (Wilson, Ribeiro)
6:39 TB Namestnikov (1), (Blunden, Peca)(PP)
10:14 TB Brown (1), (Tambellini)
17:47 NSH Sissons (1), (Arvidsson, Moses)(PP)
I don't want to call this a throw away game, but this was essentially sticking the Palat/Johnson/Kucherov line on a depleted Syracuse Crunch roster and putting them up against darned near all of the Nashville Predators opening night roster. The Preds had about a 4 to 1 experience advantage in the lineup tonight, and it showed in the final score. The good news is the Lightning managed to staunch the bleeding pretty well after it got to 4-0 and got some production from lower line guys like Namestnikov and Brown (good for Tampa Bay) and Blunden, Peca, and Tambellini (good for Syracuse). The only thing that gives me any real pause is Andrej Sustr getting a -3 hung on him, which continues the bleeding from his playoff run of last year.
Tanner Richard had 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 14:56. He was also 60% on draws.
Jonathan Marchessault was -1 with 3 shots and was 50% on draws in 15:07.
Philippe Paradis was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:12.
Luke Witkowski stayed clean in 19:48 of ice time.
Jake Dotchin fought a Predator and had 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:33.
Matthew Peca had a helper and was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:02. He only took 2 draws and was 0-for-2.
Dominik Masin was -2 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 17:45. I'd imagine he's ticketed for Peterborough come tomorrow, but we'll see.
Daniel Walcott had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 18:23. He's becoming a favorite on the website.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 penalty minutes and 5 shots in 21:05. You never have to ask Nesterov to put pucks on net. He starts shooting from the parking lot.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Jonathan Marchessault to a one-year, two-way contract for the 2015-16 season, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today. Additionally, the team signed forward Brian Hart to a three-year, two-way NHL contract.
Marchessault, 24, played in two Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Lightning this past postseason. He also appeared in two games with the Bolts during the 2014-15 regular season, recording one goal. Marchessault scored his first career NHL goal on April 11, 2015 in the Lightning’s regular season finale against the Boston Bruins. The Cap-Rouge, Quebec native also played in 68 AHL games with the Syracuse Crunch last season, ranking sixth in the league for assists with 43.
Hart, 21, skated in 37 games with the Harvard Crimson during the 2014-15 season, recording seven goals and 17 points. The Cumberland, Maine native ranked sixth on the Crimson for goals and tied for seventh for points. Hart has skated in 98 career games with Harvard over three seasons, recording 18 goals and 50 points
Little things cost the Lightning again...
Eastern Conference Finals
New York Leads the Series 1-0
Ben Bishop continues to sparkle, allowing just 2 goals on 30 shots for the loss. I can't fault Ben on two greasy goals, one of which was a puck deflected off a body in front. He game the Lightning every opportunity to win the game while the team figured out an approach that would work against the Rangers.
19:47 NYR Stepan (4), (Kreider, McDonagh)
6:45 TB Palat (4), (Johnson, Hedman)(PP)
17:35 NYR Moore (1), (Hayes, Brassard)
Ondrej Palat was the game's third star.
The Rangers probably deserved the win today, given the overall run of play, but the Lightning did a lot of good things and put themselves in position to steal Game One. They weathered a very spirited First Period by New York with the Rangers coming out flying, largely on the strength of Bishop's goaltending. Then, with fatigue slowly starting to creep in for New York and nerves wearing off in the Second Period, the team started to slowly turn the momentum until a little disaster struck late in the period. Steven Stamkos failed to pay the price to take a couple of extra strides to get the red line and get the puck deep late, and the Rangers took the resulting turnover and eventually cashed on a greasy goal that hit traffic in front and found Stepan at the side of Bishop's cage. The Lightning really came on in the Third Period, drawing 3 PP's from The Rangers, but in a game that tight it just takes a bounce to lose. Kevin Hayes threw a sharp angle shot off Moore in front of the net and in, and the Lightning find themselves down 1-0 in the series.
If you're a glass half empty person, you'll note that the third pairing of Carle/Sustr (particularly Carle) is the most glaring weak spot on the team right now. It's bad. The Lightning had a high amount of turnovers in the game, some of which were the result of the Rangers flying on the forecheck to start the game, but there were a ton of really stupid unforced errors, too. And, Carle seemed to be at the heart of a lot of those unforced errors. Also, the team had nothing resembling support from the bottom two lines with Boyle a late scratch and Marchessault a liability in this contest. Namestnikov also showed a lot of jitters and withered a bit in the big moments, like a 2-on-1 he meekly centered right into a sprawled Rangers defender in the Third Period. It's not like the coaches have a ton of choices, though. They either bite the bullet and give Drouin a chance or they don't.
Glass half full, it looks like the Stamkos line is going to be able to do some business in this series and the PP cashed in again. The Lightning also won the faceoff battle, at least on paper, even with Boyle out. And, Bishop. Enough said.
Game Two is going to be very big. The Lightning found some things that worked in the Third Period and I expect a big push from them to try to even up the series before it shifts back to Tampa.
Jonathan Marchessault had 2 shots in 11:40. He looked like a deer in headlights to me in the First Period, with some cringe-worthy turnovers. He settled down as things went along, but I'm just not sure this is a series that suits his game. He and Namestnikov (6:52 of IT), in particular, may need to draw out for Game Two. Obviously, you hope Boyle can go in Game Two and then Cooper will need to decide whether to go with 7 D or maybe try Drouin again. Some tinkering definitely needs to happen on the third pair and bottom two lines, though, because they were glaring liabilities, at times.
The night it all came together...
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Tampa Bay Wins the Series 4-2
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 19 shots for the victory, with the lone goal coming off a play where a puck took a goofy hop off the glass. He didn't have a ton of work, but he continued to make the key saves when he needed to. The national press just realized Bishop is no fluke. It's no small thing to out-duel the presumptive MVP, Carey Price, in a 7-game series. Did he get some lucky, horseshoe breaks? Sure. But you make your own luck, and Bishop was the MVP of this Montreal series.
15:35 TB Kucherov (5), (Palat)
5:12 TB Stamkos (3), (Killorn, Carle)
18:56 TB Palat (3), (Kucherov, Stralman)(PP)
15:03 MTL Pacioretty (5), (Gallagher)
17:59 TB Kucherov (6), (unassisted)(EN)
After muddling through much of the first dozen games of this playoff season, tonight the Lightning finally figured out how to translate their regular season style to a successful 60 minute hockey game. You could see it coming in their 5-on-5 play in Montreal in Game Five, and once the Johnson line worked their way into scoring the opening goal in the First Period, the Lightning were fully off and running. The Lightning completely dominated the Habs from there on out. Outshot them. Outchanced them. Outhit them. They even did a number on Montreal in the faceoff circles after struggling mightily in that department for most of the series. All in all, it was the first time in these playoffs that the Lightning played a full game of Lightning hockey, which points to the tremendous potential of this club. Even struggling to figure out postseason hockey, the Lightning had the talent to advance within 1 game of the Eastern Conference Finals. Tonight, all the pieces fell into place.
Moreover, the Lightning have filled in some important gaps in their game from the regular season, and may be be finally reaching their full potential as a team. That should be terrifying to the rest of the league, considering that the Lightning still managed to put up a 100+ point season and lead the league in goals even without a functional power play and without a really strong ability to close out close games in the Third Period. The Lightning got 7 goals on the power play in the Montreal series, and starting late in the Detroit series they started to really look more comfortable and efficient protecting Third Period leads and playing a more simple 200 foot game.
Oh, and after being MIA in the Detroit series, all of a sudden Kucherov is fully on track and Stamkos is getting on track. Yikes.
Credit BP member Bolthed with the following paraphrased point from the BP chat room, which I think strikes the right tone, post game: I hope Coach Cooper stood up in front of his team after the game and said something along the lines of the following...
"Boys, congratulations for advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. It hasn't always been easy, and it darn sure hasn't always been pretty. But, you've worked hard and you've learned and gotten a little strong, bit by bit, along the way. Tonight, you finally put it all together, and I'm proud of you guys for that. But, you know what? Now there are no more excuses. Now that you've proven you can put it all together it's on you guys to play at that same level every game from here on out. You can do it. You've shown you can do it. You had the talent, and now you've got the experience. Anything less and you're cheating yourselves."
And at that point, I hope he asked Stamkos and Hedman to stand up in front of the team and talk about 2011, and guys like Stralman and Boyle about their experience with the Rangers, and what it feels like to come that close to winning it all. Once you get this deep in the playoffs and are one of the final four teams, you're in the rarefied air of an event that may never come in your life again. You only get so many kicks at the can and only so many real chances to get your name on the Stanley Cup.
Capitalize it, and as Tim Taylor said in 2004, your team will walk together forever. When you lose though, like the Lightning did in 2011 in Game Seven against Boston by such a slim margin, it's the kind of thing you take to your grave. As a fan, I'll never get over 2011 and how close the Lightning were to advancing and probably winning their second Stanley Cup. Maybe it's a sign of my lack of an adequate social life, but there's not a day over the last 4 years I haven't thought about it and wished they could've gotten those couple of more goals they needed to advance and how that would've changed the legacy of that team and the franchise. I can only imagine what the players like Stamkos and Hedman who were in that room and shed blood, sweat, and tears with that team feel. They have to understand the fierce urgency of this moment and impart that wisdom on their teammates who haven't experienced a deep run like this at the NHL level before. When you get this far, you've got to win it all. You've got to. You've got to sell out mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually for every single shift of every single game, because you don't want to cheat yourselves and you don't want to find yourself looking back and regretting what might have been. For the next 4-6 weeks (hopefully), the Lightning will put everything of themselves toward this singular goal. It'll be grueling. It'll be nerve wracking. It'll galvanize a city behind the team that wears their jersey and shares their community. And that, folks, is what makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs the most unique and exciting experience in all of professional sports.
Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot and 1 hit in 11:15 in his NHL playoff debut. Credit the coaching staff for monitoring how well Marchessault was practicing and for having the guts to insert him in the lineup in such a big spot. He didn't score tonight, but he made smart plays with the puck and was poised defensively in a way the younger forwards haven't always been in these playoffs.
Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot and 1 hit in 6:19. He had some anxious moments in his own end in the First Period. That's been the trade off with Nesterov. You get some possession advantages, but he looks a little hairy at times in his own third. Hence the lower ice time.
Can't stop the bleeding.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Leads the Series 1-0
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 4 goals on 20 shots for the loss before giving way to Adam Wilcox, who allowed 1 goal on 15 shots the rest of the way. Coach Zettler is tasked with the impossible task of choosing between a streaky goaltender who appears to have gone completely cold and a rookie ATO who has never won a professional game for Game Two. Flip a coin.
WBS Uher, (1) (Kuhnhackl, Rowney), 16:52
WBS Kapanen, (1) (Megna), 6:03
WBS Rowney, (1) (Goers, Uher), 6:34
WBS Kapanen, (2) (Goers, Megna), 7:43
SYR Peca, (1) (Angelidis, Vermin), 14:00
WBS Syvret, (1) (Rowney, Sheary), 12:32
Syracuse entered the playoffs having won just 1 of their last 10 down the stretch, and they got dominated tonight. It's not just that they didn't get the goaltending, but they also got outshot 35-23 as well, which gives you an idea of run of play. There's a small silver lining with Matthew Peca getting his first pro playoff goal, but it's super, super small. The Pens pinned a -4 on Syracuse's offensive bell cow, Jonathan Marchessault, and if Marchessault's line can't win their shifts, then Syracuse likely has no prayer.
Honestly, I've got no helpful suggestions or tweaks that I can suggest at this juncture. I kept waiting for this team to gel with all the roster changes and ATO additions down the stretch, and it simply hasn't happened.
Game Two is tomorrow night.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Snake bitten and still struggling.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 5 goals on 34 shots for the OT loss. After getting his save percentage up as high as .906, Gudlevskis' recent struggles have dropped him back down to the goaltending Mendoza line of .900.
SYR Vermin, (12) (Peca, Koekkoek), 4:39
ADK Poirier, (18) , Reinhart, 19:16
SYR Point, (2) (Marchessault, Kunyk), 0:47
SYR Gourde, (29) (Point, Ikonen), 4:52
ADK Yonkman, (2) (Tousignant, Harris), 16:24
SYR Marchessault, (24) (Dotchin, Peca), 3:29
ADK Wolf, (20) (Kulak), 13:43
ADK Elson, (17) , 16:31
ADK Agostino, (14) (Kulak, Arnold), 0:39
Jonathan Marchessault and Brayden Point were the game's first and third stars. Throw in that Matthew Peca had his first multi-point night as a pro, and you had a hat trick of important Lightning forward prospects producing. Therein lies the silver lining of tonight's loss: the offense is starting to come around, finally. That doesn't take all the sting out of coughing up a pair of 2 goal leads, but it's something.
Syracuse sits 2 points behind Hartford for the division lead, which will yield the East #3 seed in the playoffs.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
We continue our Bolt Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for his recent contributions on and off the ice.
The Bolt Prospect of the Week for April 14, 2015 is … Jonathan Marchessault, W, Syracuse Crunch (AHL).
The morning after registering a career-high four points in a come-from-behind win over Bridgeport, Jonathan Marchessault was on a plane destined for Tampa Bay.