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."
Russia 1 vs. France 2
Vasily Koshechkin, Russia, Loss, 17/19, 2.03 GAA, .895 sv%
Tournament totals; 1 GP, 0-1-0, 0 SO, 2.03 GAA, .895 sv%
Wow. In one of the biggest upsets in recent World Championships history, France upended Vasily Koshechkin and Russia 2-1. Wow. Dallas Stars forward Antoine Roussel scored the game winning goal for Team France. Did I mention, wow?
Slovakia 3 vs. Latvia 5
Jaroslav Janus. Slovakia, Loss, 15/17, 3.00 GAA, .882 sv%
Tournament totals: 1 GP, 0-1-0, 0 SO, 3.00 GAA, .882 sv%
In a milder upset, Latvia upended Slovakia 5-3. Jaroslav Janus came into the game at the start of the Second Period and took the backdoor loss allowing 2 goals on 17 shots in defeat. Ex-Predators draft pick, Latvia captain, and damned fine hockey player, Lauris Darzins had a hat trick for the Latvians, including the game winning goal.
Sweden 0 vs. Canada 3
Steven Stamkos, Canada, 1-0-1, E, 0 PIM, 5 SOG
Tournament totals: 4 GP, 3-4-7, +3, 0 PIM
Steven Stamkos scored a power play goal that turned out to be the game winner in Canada's 3-0 blanking of Sweden. Ex-Lightning goaltender Mike Smith turned away all 33 shots he faced for the shutout for the Canadians. Stamkos is now tied with 3 others, including New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk, for the tournament lead in scoring.
USA 4 vs. Finland 1
Ben Bishop, USA, DNP
Tournament totals: 3 GP, 2-1-0, 0 SO, 3.04 GAA, .873 sv%
Matt Carle, USA, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 4 GP, 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM
Nate Thompson, USA, 0-1-1, +1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Tournament totals: 4 GP, 0-1-1, -1, 2 PIM
Nashville Predators forward Craig Smith had a hat trick to lead USA to a comfortable 4-1 win over co-host nation Finland. Colorado's Paul Stastny continued his strong tournament for the Americans, notching 2 assists in the victory. Nate Thompson assisted on Stephen Gionta's goal to round out the scoring for Team USA. Ben Bishop sat backup to John Gibson for the match as Gibson stopped 31 for the win.
With top seed in the East, Providence, narrowly escaping a first round scare against Hershey tonight, the schedule for the second round of the AHL playoffs is now set. Third seeded Syracuse will travel to second seed Springfield for the start of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup. Old-timers will recall the Falcons were once a Lightning affiliate before Tampa Bay began their productive affiliation with the Norfolk Admirals that ended after a Calder Cup campaign last season. The full series schedule will be as follows:
Eastern Conference Semifinal
SPRINGFIELD vs. SYRACUSE
Game 1 - Fri May 10 7:00 PM Syracuse at Springfield
Game 2 - Sat May 11 7:00 PM Syracuse at Springfield
Game 3 - Wed May 15 7:00 PM Springfield at Syracuse
Game 4 - Fri May 17 7:00 PM Springfield at Syracuse
Game 5 - Sat May 18 7:00 PM * Springfield at Syracuse
Game 6 - Tue May 21 7:00 PM * Syracuse at Springfield
Game 7 - Wed May 22 7:00 PM * Syracuse at Springfield
Ontario Hockey League
(W1)London Knights 4 @ (E2)Barrie Colts 6
Barrie leads best-of-7 OHL Finals, 3-1
D Jake Dotchin, BAR: Did not play
Playoff totals: 14 GP, 1-4-5, +6, 25 PIM
Season totals: 66 GP, 4-18-22, E, 81 PIM
With Barrie: 28 GP, 2-6-8, -1, 42 PIM
With Owen Sound: 38 GP, 2-12-14, +1, 39 PIM
Barrie swept London in the Colts’ barn and finds itself one win away from being OHL champions. Jets prospect Mark Scheifele had four goals and an assist for Barrie to give him 10 points in his last two games. Lightning prospect Jake Dotchin did not play as he served the last game of a five game suspension for a check-from-behind. He can return for Game 5, which is Friday night in London.
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
(1)Halifax Mooseheads 7 @ (2)Baie-Comeau Drakkar 4
Halifax leads best-of-7 QMJHL Finals, 3-1
C Nathan MacKinnon, HAL: 1-1-2, +1, 7 SOG, 0 PIM, 0 Hits
Playoff totals: 16 GP, 10-21-31, +15, 10 PIM
Season totals: 44 GP, 32-43-75, +40, 45 PIM
W Jonathan Drouin, HAL: 1-3-4, +2, 1 SOG, 0 PIM, 0 Hits
Playoff totals: 15 GP, 11-23-34, +20, 14 PIM
Season totals: 49 GP, 41-64-105, +48, 32 PIM
Halifax scored six goals on seven shots in the second period to run away with Game 4 and take a 3-1 series lead. After two scoreless games Jonathan Drouin had a goal and four points. Nate MacKinnon had one and one. The series could end in Halifax on Friday night.
Note: With the Lightning picking No. 3 in this summer’s draft, it is expected they will choose either MacKinnon or Drouin with their first round pick. While that could change, we will follow both prospects for the duration of their playoff run as we did with Steven Stamkos after the Lightning won the 2008 draft lottery.