John Tortorella's trial balloon regarding sending The Kid down to the minors is in the process of being shot down, doused in gasoline, lit on fire, and then having the fire smothered by having it repeatedly run over by the Zamboni. Wow.
Karri Ramo set a career high in saves tonight stopping 38 of 39 shots in a sterling first star performance to raise his record to 7-10-3 in this rookie campaign. And he did it with style tonight too, chipping in a power play assist and flashing leather like Carl Crawford on the final play of the game to preserve the win. Anyone who wants to send this young man to the minors next season is smoking pine cones. He might already be better than Mike Smith, and in 4 years when he is the same age as Smith is now there's little doubt in my mind Ramo's going to be in a much higher rent district in terms of his career trajectory. He's the real deal. Again, the average 21 year old would've crumbled after losing in overtime to Washington the way he did. Ramo is teflon. It doesn't stick to him, and that's why he's damned near bust-proof as a prospect.
Matt Smaby played 18:42 in his first extended screen test for next season. The Lightning moved Smaby onto a pairing with Dan Boyle and he responded with an even rating and 2 hits. Other than a puckhandling gaffe in the second period which almost led to an Eric Staal ten bell scoring chance, he was error free and got a regular PK shift and was out on the ice to help kill the 6-on-4 at the end of the game. Very impressive. I wonder if Smaby is moving ahead of Mike Lundin on the depth chart. I have a feeling if he doesn't blow it, the coaching staff will be perfectly happy to leave him paired with Boyle, getting solid minutes, learning his craft, and gaining momentum heading into next season.
Jussi Jokinen hit 40 points for the season with a multi-point game tonight and Jeff Halpern continues to earn his place as the people's champion on this team, scoring his 19th of the season tonight. These two guys were nowhere statistically playing limited minutes in Dallas. They've exploded offensively since coming to Tampa.
I have been astonished at the work ethic of this Lightning club over the last month of the season. It would've been the easiest thing in the world for this team to lay down after the deadline deals that sent Richards and Prospal out of town. That hasn't happened. In fact, this team is working harder now than any Lightning team since the 2003-2004 Lightning team that bled the will out of Calgary in seven games. The saying is "The harder you work the luckier you get." If it's true, the Lightning's ping pong ball is coming up on April 20th, because they're working harder than 90% of the teams in the league right now, even though pride and jobs are all they have left to play for.