Linopings dropped the opening game of their semifinal round series 3-2 today to Vastra Frolunda. Fredrik Norrena sat on the bench while Jonas Fransson took over starting duties for the club. Shane Willis actually played third line center in the game while Andreas Holmqvist once again performed his customary 1st pairing defensive duties.
Karri Ramo might not get his chance to battle Tuukka Rask again. HPK disposed of Ilves 2-1 in overtime today to claim a 2-0 lead in their SM-liiga quarterfinal series. Miika Wiikman carried the load for HPK stopping 22 of 23 shots faced en route to being named second star of the game.
Metallurg Magnitogorsk got a late goal by Stan Chistov to knock of Lada Togliatti 4-3. Vasily Koshechkin took his third loss of the postseason. Lada now trails Metallurg 2-1 in the series.
Omsk defeated CSKA 3-2 to sweep their quarterfinal series. Omsk has yet to lose a game in these playoffs. Nikita Alexeev did not play for Avangard.
Bolt Prospects moves a player to graduated status if they play in 41 or more games in one season or if they play 82 or more total combined NHL games. Already this season the Lightning have graduated two players: Paul Ranger and Evgeny Artyukhin. Within the next couple of weeks they should be joined by a third. With 36 NHL games under his belt, Ryan Craig is just 5 appearances away from bidding adieu to prospect status and establishment as a full time NHLer. Presuming he plays in every game until then (knock on wood) Ryan Craig will graduate from prospect status on Monday, April 3rd at home against the Florida Panthers.
Craig, like Artyukhin and Ranger before him, will remain on our Midterm Rankings until Bolt Prospects releases our final 2005-2006 rankings at the conclusion of the Memorial Cup tournament once all Lightning prospects' seasons have come to a close.
A bit of disclosure ahead of time: Chad and I worked for Shane Malloy when he was online editor at HockeysFuture before the print version of HockeysFuture failed and he was deposed by the current regime at that website. To his credit, Malloy dreams big which is why he has since landed gigs with FoxSports, NHL.com and segment time on XM Center Ice while the folks at HF are still struggling to get articles posted (let alone quality articles).
Anyway, he wrote FoxSports' list of the Lightning's Top-10 prospects.
1. Stanislav Lascek
2. Vladimir Mihalik
3. Andy Rogers
4. Ryan Craig
5. Radek Smolenak
6. Matt Smaby
7. Paul Ranger
8. Justin Keller
9. Doug O'Brien
10. Gerald Coleman
HM: Mike Egener
First of all, I don't know if Malloy reads our website, but he's definitely heard our cries about the name obsessed hockey media not recognizing the Lightning are building up quality depth by making good draft picks in the late rounds. It was so nice to read a rankings article from a major media outlet that actually had a clue in that regard. True, he misses the boat with the usual boilerplate line bashing the team's goaltending depth, but this article is a 1000% better reflection of the state of the Lightning's system versus the kind of uninformed drivel you'll find coming out of THN and HF these days. A media organization actually doing some research and arriving at the objective conclusion that the Lightning do indeed deserve some credit; what a concept eh?