Syracuse hangs on hard against one of the league's perennial powers.
Riku Helenius allowed 3 goals on 26 shots for the victory, in a successful return to North American hockey. This battle between Helenius and Dustin Tokarski for the top spot between the pipes in Syracuse is going to rage all season, and both guys are going to be better for it. It's an embarrassment of riches to boast two guys who won championships last season in the AHL and Finnish SM-liiga, respectively. Good. Problem. To. Have.
SYR Angelidis, (2) (Wyman), 11:23 (SH)
SYR Johnson, (3) (Conacher, Palat), 5:36
HER Mitchell, (1) , 7:26 (SH)
HER Almeida, (1) (Taffe, DiSalvatore), 14:36
SYR Conacher, (2) (Taormina), 18:44
SYR Connolly, (1) (Barberio, Conacher), 5:02 (PP)
HER DiSalvatore, (1) (Kundratek, Taffe), 13:04 (PP)
Cory Conacher (pictured) and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and second stars. For my money, Conacher was the best player in the league the first half of last season and Johnson the best in the second half. Why wouldn't they lead the Crunch in the home opener this year? With a little offseason rest, Conacher looks every bit the pesky scorer that tore up the league to start last year.
No offense to our friends in Hershey, but I have to confess to being a little stunned that this year's version of the Bears is the least stacked, on paper, I've seen in a while. Sure, there's some fine players like Orlov and Holtby, but without the likes of Bourque or Giroux, this year's team lacks the fear factor of many recent editions. It's going to be interesting to see how the division plays out over the course of the season.
The Crunch travel to Albany next on Friday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Despite the large void the NHL lockout created, the hockey season is already long underway. Various amateur and professional leagues throughout North America and Europe have wrapped up their preseasons and are set to begin or are already in the thick of regular season action.
The Lightning's new AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, open their 2012-2013 season tonight with an impressive roster that boasts the nucleus of last season's Calder Cup-winning roster and an infusion of talent with varying professional experience: (J.T. Brown, Brett Connolly, Danick Gauthier, Riku Helenius, Dmitry Korobov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jared Nightingale, Matt Taormina and J.T. Wyman). In the absence of big-league action, watching much of the (currently foreseeable) lifeblood of the Lightning's future skate and bond together is a much-welcomed tonic.
The Tampa Bay Lightning assigned 18 players to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL ahead of what appears to be an NHL lockout, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Among the players moving to New York are reigning AHL Most Valuable Player Cory Conacher, former No.6 overall pick Brett Connolly, and last year's late-season signing, J.T. Brown. Others include recently signed prospects Vladislav Namestnikov, Danick Gauthier, Dmitry Korobov, and Riku Helenius. The additions of Connolly, Brown, Namestnikov, and Korobov will make the Crunch a stronger team, which is scary considering they were already among the favorites to claim the Calder Cup.
The full list of new Syracuse residents includes forwards Brown, Conacher, Connolly, Gauthier, Alex Hutchings, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik; defensemen Mark Barberio, Radko Gudas, Korobov, Charles Landry, Dan Milan; and goaltenders Helenius, Dustin Tokarski, and Pat Nagle.
We'll offer some opinions shortly on who could end up in ECHL Florida with the Everblades and who likely stays in Syracuse.
The strength of the Lightning organization remains at the forward positions, where the team still boasts an impressive mix of star veterans like Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Ryan Malone, and the game's best young star, Steven Stamkos. The team will spend some of its offseason tweaking its third line, and they made overtures to Swiss star Damien Brunner to try to improve their scoring depth on the wings. But, ultimately, the team should feel pretty solid offensively. Keeping the puck out of the back of their own net has always been the bigger challenge.
With the Lightning prospect season finally completed, it is now time to turn our attention to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. While the team's prospect system enjoyed unprecedented success, the team's struggles at the NHL level last season left the Lightning with a draft pick bonanza after a bevy of pre-deadline deals. Heading into the draft, the Lightning currently holds a pair of first round picks, and at least one second round pick following the trade of picks 37 and 50 to Nashville in the Anders Lindback trade.