Although all the weight isn’t on their shoulders, the Syracuse Crunch’s top line knows its importance.
Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Richard Panik have provided six of Syracuse’s 12 postseason goals, including two out of the four in each game. Those six markers include all three game-winners, two of which came in overtime.
With the No. 2 seed Falcons looming when the Eastern Conference Semifinals begin in Springfield Friday, the top line will be expected to do what it has done all season – produce points by the bunches in all situations.
"All three of those guys can fly," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "That's their best asset – they have speed. If you show that speed early and often, hopefully it will back off their defense and create some room in front of them as the series goes on."
Game Two goes according to plan.
Syracuse Leads the Best-of-Five Series 2-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 2 goals on 20 shots for the victory. He looked much more solid tonight in net. The team needs him to play like that moving forward if they want to reach their ultimate goal.
SYR Palat, (1) (Johnson, Taormina), 9:33
SYR Brown, (1) (Angelidis, Wyman), 10:41
SYR Johnson, (2) (Palat), 0:49 (SH)
SYR Connolly, (1) (Sexton, Devos), 14:36
POR Gormley, (1) (Shinnimin, Johnson), 16:50
POR Johnson, (1) (Lessio, Gormley), 9:40
I continue to be extremely impressed by Palat. He's been the complete package through 2 games in this series. Just like last season, good things happen when the man has the puck. I was also impressed with Vladislav Namestnikov, who got a lot more ice time with Richard Panik getting kicked out after a secondary altercation. Portland tried targeting Namestnikov, and Vladdy rose to the challenge. He was feisty and he landed some good hits in the Third Period, to go along with his usual puckhandling and playmaking.
Game Three is Thursday in Portland. This is where Zettler's going to earn his big boy coaching pants. Portland's going to throw everything they have left at Syracuse in the First Period, and if Syracuse is complacent, bad things will happen. Playoffs are about attrition as much as anything, and if you have a chance to finish an opponent off, you do it. Anything that extends a series is another set of shifts where one of your key players can get hurt, so you have to finish the drill ASAP, and with Providence falling behind 2-0 in their series and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton up 2-0 in theirs, it's looking like a very good Pens team is lurking on the horizon. Syracuse wants to be healthy and rested for that potential opponent.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Syracuse withstands Portland's best punch.
Syracuse Leads the Best-of-Five Series 1-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the victory. 2 of those goals were softies on wrap-arounds that Desjardins needs to wipe out of his game quickly moving forward in these playoffs. He scares me. Point blank, the guy scares me.
POR Dziurzynski, (1) (Werek), 10:53
POR Rundblad, (1) (Gormley, Martinook), 17:16 (PP)
SYR Johnson, (1) (Panik, Palat), 6:37 (PP)
POR Brown, (1) (Lane, Miele), 8:23
SYR Barberio, (1) (Palat, Johnson), 13:32 (PP)
SYR Sexton, (1) (Sustr, Devos), 7:54
SYR Panik, (1) (Palat, Johnson), 6:36 (PP)
Richard Panik, Tyler Johnson, and Radko Gudas were the game's three stars. While not terribly visible at even strength, Panik showed great hands around the net on the PP setting up Johnson's goal and outwaiting Portland's netminder on the game winner. Panik attack, y'all.
That, I suspect, was Portland's best chance to seize upset momentum in this series. They got a couple of softies out of Desjardins and had the 2 goal lead on the road with a chance to steal home ice in a short 5-game series. The Crunch kept chipping away at it though and eventually wore out the Pirates, who now may have to go without Boris Valabik for a few games after a vicious elbowing major that led to Panik's winner. Syracuse now just has to make sure Brett Connolly, the recipient of that elbow, is healthy along with Johnson and Mark Barberio, each of whom also got banged up during the game. All three returned to action, so hopefully everything is going to be fine.
As quiet as a 3 assist night can be, I thought Ondrej Palat along with Johnson were Syracuse's best players tonight. Palat also drew three penalties out of Portland on top of his scoresheet production.
Game Two is tomorrow night. We'll see what Portland has in the tank.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Down to one more to go.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 24 shots for the loss.
04:22 BOS Seidenberg (3), (Marchand, Seguin)
13:31 BOS Paille (10), (Campbell, Thornton)
Again, I'm looking for effort and competitiveness in garbage time of the season. The Lightning outshot a very good Boston team 30-24 in the Bruins' barn. They knew they were in a game tonight, and the silver lining of the loss is the Lightning remain in 3rd most ping pong ball position.
Alex Killorn] had 4 shots and 1 hit in 14:30.
Richard Panik had 2 shots and 3 hits in 14:11.
Radko Gudas had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:40.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie played 11:20.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the victory.
17:03 TOR Kessel (17), (Bozak)
05:54 TB Stamkos (29), (Thompson, Carle)
15:48 TB St. Louis (14), (Thompson)
19:36 TOR Lupul (11), (MacArthur, Franson)
03:13 TB Gudas (2), (Purcell, Stamkos)
13:08 TB St. Louis (15), (Aulie, Tyrell)
17:11 TB St. Louis (16), (Lecavalier)(EN)
Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, and Nate Thompson were the game's three stars. What a treat for the Lightning fans who stuck it out and went to the game to get to witness one of the franchise's greats posting a hatter, and how appropriate he polishes it off from an assist from #4. Hold onto nights like these, Lightning fans.
Luckily, the Lightning are still in third-most-ping-pong-balls position by 1 point, and you love to see W's. Strategically speaking, though, they'll be potentially shooting themselves in the foot if they win either of their last two games. Now, I'm not saying they should lay down, but I do think they need to consider giving a close-up inspection of the ice surface.
Alex Killorn was -2 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 16:33.
Richard Panik was -2 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 14:14. He will be on the way to Syracuse for the playoffs.
Radko Gudas was +2 and blew smoke past Reimer on the slap shot for his goal. 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:35. He will be headed to Syracuse too.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie was +1 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 13:01.