NHL Game Night: 3-31-12 Jets at Lightning

Impressive debuts and #91 with a hammer.

WPG-2
TB-3 (OT)

Sebastien Caron made his first start in a Lightning jersey and was excellent stopping 26 of 28 for the victory. Let him play out the season and earn himself an NHL contract somewhere for next season, I say.

First Period
TB Malone (19), (unassisted), 15:37

Second Period
WPG Miettinen (5), (Kane, Stuart), 6:20
WPG Wellwood (18), (Byfuglien, Stapleton), 9:28

Third Period
TB Malone (20), (Purcell, Hedman)(PP), 7:25

Overtime
TB Stamkos (56), (Lee), 0:45

Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars. Congratulations to Ryan Malone, who raced from 15 to 20 goals in the hockey equivalent of a blink of an eye this week. It'd be fun to see what Malone could do if he could stay healthy for an entire season. Stamkos, for his part, sets a new NHL record with 5 overtime game winning goals in a season, as he continues his push to get to 60 goals. Pretty cool.

What I really enjoyed about this game was the way the young players received opportunities and showed something. Brett Connolly looked good, Victor Hedman kept up his points streak and got in a little scrap, and I'll write about J.T. Brown in a bit. Even Keith Aulie had a pretty positive game, in my mind, and it seemed like Brendan Mikkelson got to play a ton, too. Oh, and Brian Lee was damned impressive with 6 hits tonight. You're seeing a lot of good young pieces playing well in both Tampa Bay and in Norfolk, and you've got the best young player in the game in Steven Stamkos. Mix in another lottery pick, and this season's going to seem like a minor pothole in the grand scheme of things. My only regret is that, in beating Winnipeg, the team may have lost an opportunity to get into the top 5-6 picks of this draft. Some scouting organizations judge this a 5 player draft, as far as impact players go. I judge it a 5+1 or 2, right now, especially given the situation with Sarnia's Alex Galchenyuk losing so much time to injury this year, a la Connolly in his draft year. And I still want that little, mean-spirited Dan Boyle clone from Red Deer. The Lightning would be picking 9th now, pending the outcome of the lottery drawing, based on my quick look at the standings. Maybe they can get the ping pong balls to bounce their way and still move up 4 spots into the top-5.

Aulie had 1 shot and 3 hits in 13:37. He was good tonight. I know, I was surprised, too. He was physical. He had some interesting little offensive zone forays. He wasn't a pylon. That was more like it. And, you can now tell your children where you were when Keith Aulie finally broke the 13 minute barrier in a game that wasn't completely out of hand.

J.T. Wyman had 4 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 7:26. Old J.T. overshadowed by new J.T.

J.T. Brown had 2 shots in 13:33 in his NHL debut. Color me impressed. He's a very, very good skater and he showed some decent early chemistry with both Vincent Lecavalier and Brett Connolly, and those are two players that aren't the easiest to read off of because they're both creative stickhandlers. He looked pretty responsible defensively in terms of his positioning, too. You can tell he was well coached at Minnesota-Duluth. I don't know if he can be as physically active at 170 pounds in the NHL as he was in college, but I'm looking forward to him getting on the Steven Stamkos training regime this offseason and seeing him add that element into his game next year, because his college film will remind you of Jeremy Roenick, at times. That was a quality signing.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.