Ten questions for this year's Lightning prospect season...
Palat on the spot.
Syracuse Wins the Best-of-Five Series 3-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on just 18 shots for the victory. Once again, he allowed another wraparound goal that was on the soft side and once again the team bailed him out. Mind you, he made some incredible saves in Overtime to make up for it, but as the competition level rises in the next round Desjardins has got to get better.
POR Miele, (1) (Bolduc, Brown), 15:57 (PP)
SYR Gudas, (1) (Taormina, Sexton), 6:57 (PP)
POR Bolduc, (1) (Miele, Lessio), 0:19
POR Johnson, (2) (Stone, Conner), 10:47 (PP)
SYR Angelidis, (1) (Wyman, Barberio), 13:59
SYR Palat, (2) (Connolly, Sustr), 18:48
SYR Palat, (3) (Taormina, Johnson), 19:43
Ondrej Palat was the game's first star. Oddly enough, I thought his first two games of the series were better than tonight, but he was in the right places at the right times for the two biggest goals of the series.
Let me tell you a little something about Brett Connolly, who turned 21 today and celebrated by knifing Portland in the heart late in regulation. Hopping on the ice as the sixth attacker to try to tie the game late in the Third Period, the puck came to Connolly who circled through the neutral zone and cut down the left wing boards into the offensive zone. For the life of me, I thought Portland's defenseman had the angle on Connolly at the blueline and would squeeze him off, or at least get enough of him to separate the puck. Nope. Connolly has deceptive speed a la Alex Killorn and he squirted by without being touched, went to circle behind the net, and just before he went behind dished a beautiful little backhand pass to Palat for the stuff. Tie game. What an individual play by Connolly. Truly cold blooded.
Let me also tell you a little something about faceoffs. Gudas' power play goal came directly from a bang-bang play off a faceoff win by Dan Sexton. And then, with just 17 seconds left in Overtime, Palat's second goal came off a faceoff win by Tyler Johnson that led to a Taormina shot that gave Palat the rebound he needed to send the Crunch to the first round pay window. Those quick plays off clean faceoff wins in the offensive zone are instant scoring chances, and almost as valuable as forcing turnovers out of your opponent.
It's not all good news, though. Although Syracuse outshot Portland 45-18, I suspect the scoring chances don't reflect the disparity. There was a distinct lack of GMT in this game for the Crunch. GMT = goal mouth thrills. Syracuse got a lot of traffic and a lot of greasy chances in the first two games of the series and they were absent tonight, with the exception of a few shifts by the Angelidis line. As the level of competition goes up in the next round, more GMT is required. If you don't muck it up in the high traffic areas, you invite a night like tonight where Portland's goaltender gobbled up a lot of clean, unscreened, undeflected shots.
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference tonight, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finished off their own sweep of Binghamton and Manchester won their first game of their series. Springfield still holds a 2-1 edge, but the series continues on. Top seed Providence is down 2-0 to Hershey. If either Providence or Springfield get upset (and Providence going down looks distinctly possible right now) Syracuse will get home ice for a second round series against the Penguins. Tough opponent. It'll be a great series.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Stop winnin' for MacKinnon.
Anders Lindback allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the loss.
5:00 TB Carle (5), (St. Louis)
13:14 TB Malone (6), (Lecavalier, Hedman)
16:54 FLA Bjugstad (1), (Strachan, Brennan)
00:54 FLA Fleischmann (11), (Huberdeau, Shore)
05:47 TB St. Louis (17), (Purcell, Stamkos)
05:30 FLA Upshall (4), (Selleck)
13:53 FLA Fleischmann (12), (Huberdeau, Kuba)
19:11 FLA Goc (9), (Huberdeau)
Martin St. Louis was the game's first star.
Man, was that Third Period ever a tank job General Patton would've been proud of? The team got Marty his multi-points to likely lock up the scoring race, and then strategery ensued. The Lightning locked up the third most ping pong balls and await the outcome of Colorado's game to see if they get more.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:33. Killorn finishes just a scant few games shy of graduation from prospect status in the lockout shortened year.
Mathieu Roy was -1 in 14:07, enjoying the NHL paycheck.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 10:37.
Down to one more to go.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 24 shots for the loss.
04:22 BOS Seidenberg (3), (Marchand, Seguin)
13:31 BOS Paille (10), (Campbell, Thornton)
Again, I'm looking for effort and competitiveness in garbage time of the season. The Lightning outshot a very good Boston team 30-24 in the Bruins' barn. They knew they were in a game tonight, and the silver lining of the loss is the Lightning remain in 3rd most ping pong ball position.
Alex Killorn] had 4 shots and 1 hit in 14:30.
Richard Panik had 2 shots and 3 hits in 14:11.
Radko Gudas had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:40.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie played 11:20.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the victory.
17:03 TOR Kessel (17), (Bozak)
05:54 TB Stamkos (29), (Thompson, Carle)
15:48 TB St. Louis (14), (Thompson)
19:36 TOR Lupul (11), (MacArthur, Franson)
03:13 TB Gudas (2), (Purcell, Stamkos)
13:08 TB St. Louis (15), (Aulie, Tyrell)
17:11 TB St. Louis (16), (Lecavalier)(EN)
Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, and Nate Thompson were the game's three stars. What a treat for the Lightning fans who stuck it out and went to the game to get to witness one of the franchise's greats posting a hatter, and how appropriate he polishes it off from an assist from #4. Hold onto nights like these, Lightning fans.
Luckily, the Lightning are still in third-most-ping-pong-balls position by 1 point, and you love to see W's. Strategically speaking, though, they'll be potentially shooting themselves in the foot if they win either of their last two games. Now, I'm not saying they should lay down, but I do think they need to consider giving a close-up inspection of the ice surface.
Alex Killorn was -2 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 16:33.
Richard Panik was -2 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 14:14. He will be on the way to Syracuse for the playoffs.
Radko Gudas was +2 and blew smoke past Reimer on the slap shot for his goal. 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:35. He will be headed to Syracuse too.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie was +1 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 13:01.
The AHL has announced the schedule for the opening round, best-of-five series in the AHL playoffs. Syracuse, as the 3 seed, will be squaring off with the Portland Pirates, which are the 6 seed. The series will begin Saturday night in Syracuse and proceed under a 2-2-1 format as follows:
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals – Series “C” (best-of-5)
3-Syracuse Crunch vs. 6-Portland Pirates
Game 1 – Sat., Apr. 27 – Portland at Syracuse, 7:30
Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 28 – Portland at Syracuse, 7:30
Game 3 – Thurs., May 2 – Syracuse at Portland, 7:00
*Game 4 – Fri., May 3 – Syracuse at Portland, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sun., May 5 – Portland at Syracuse, 7:30
Syracuse will be required to submit their playoff roster to the AHL by 3 pm on Monday. Several players currently with the Tampa Bay Lightning may be on that roster including Alex Killorn, Richard Panik, Radko Gudas, Dana Tyrell, Keith Aulie, and/or Pierre-Cedric Labrie. The Lightning's final regular season game is on Saturday night against the Florida Panthers.
Competitive? Check. Strategic? Check.
Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the loss in his return from a high ankle sprain. I'm going to chalk up his first period performance to rust and compliment him on shutting the door the rest of the way. That's what good goaltenders do after they stub their toes in the opening frame.
00:16 CAR Semin (12), (E. Staal)
10:45 CAR Tlusty (20), (Semin, Corvo)
18:46 CAR Tlusty (21), (E. Staal, Semin)
10:07 TB Stamkos (28), (Salo, St. Louis)(PP)
02:16 TB St. Louis (13), (Lecavalier)
Martin St. Louis was the game's second star.
Again, the big thing for me in garbage time of the season is seeing effort and competitiveness. This string of 1-goal losses may not be the greatest for morale, but they show a team that is still trying and, whether we like to admit it or not, they're helping the Lightning strategically by improving potential draft position. Carolina leapfrogging Tampa Bay now puts the Lightning with the third most ping pong balls, 3 points ahead of Colorado in the standings. And, after 40 minutes, Colorado currently leads in their game 4-2. If they hold on, the Lightning move closer to having the second most ping pong balls.
Why is that important? This is a 3+1 draft, which is to say there are 3 really coveted franchise caliber prospects and 1 wild card (Nichushkin). If the Lightning are in position in the top-3, they might be able to land top defenseman Seth Jones. But, even if they can't, having the opportunity to draft one of the two coveted forwards out of the QMJHL gives the Lightning a lot of flexibility. They could trade the pick for an NHL defenseman. They could hold onto the pick, use it, and trade one of the valuable young forwards they already have for an NHL defenseman. Or, they could trade down and try to extract a king's ransom and take multiple defensemen later in the top-60 in a very deep draft. The world definitely opens up if the Lightning pick in the top-3.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 1 shot in 15:27.
Richard Panik was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 shots in 13:03.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 5 hits in 14:10.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 2 penalty minutes, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 12:11.
Another respectable, competitive effort in garbage time of the season.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the loss.
04:04 MTL Galchenyuk (9), (Gallagher, Drewiske)
15:05 MTL Gionta (13), (Plekanec, Pacioretty)
17:36 TB Panik (5), (Hedman, Killorn)(PP)
05:07 TB Lecavalier (10), (Pouliot, Hedman)
19:13 MTL Gionta (14), (Weber, Ryder)
At this stage of the season, I'm looking for effort and competitiveness more so than wins. Baby steps.
With 4 goals and 19 points now in 40 games, we can start to take a peek at what Victor Hedman might be at in an 82 game season. It comes out to a very respectable 8 goal, 39 point season. Bear in mind Hedman's gotten a greener light since Cooper took over behind the bench, which is why I'd expect his scoring pace to pick up.
Alex Killorn had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 13:08. It's been interesting to see his ice time slowly turned down. Projected over 82 games, Killorn's 7 goals and 19 points in 34 games pro-rates to 17 goals and 46 points. Pretty good rookie numbers.
Richard Panik had a goal and was -1 with 3 shots, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 10:59. That scoring line on his power play goal, being assisted by Killorn and Hedman, was like a telegram from the future. It's a much smaller sample set of 22 games, but his 5 goals and 9 points projects to about 19 goals and 34 points in an 82 game season, which is pretty good given how small his average ice time numbers are. It might be hard to consider holding him off the team next season.
Radko Gudas was -1 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 20:35.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie played 10:19.
Semi-respectable result in garbage time of the season.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 36 shots but then allowed 2 of 3 to score in the penalty shot for the old SOL.
01:23 WPG Ladd (17), (Wheeler, Little)
10:27 TB St. Louis (12), (unassisted)
08:37 WPG Wheeler (16), (Ladd, Bogosian)
17:54 WPG Ladd (18), (Wheeler, Bogosian)(PP)
05:19 TB Labrie (2), (Thompson, Gudas)
11:17 TB Stamkos (27), (Carle)
WPG- Santorelli, Ladd
Winnipeg should consider themselves extremely fotunate to have survived Tampa Bay's deployment of the secret weapon, P.C. Labrie.
Alex Killorn had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 17:39.
Richard Panik was +1 with 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:56. Interesting to see his ice time nudging up toward Killorn's.
Radko Gudas had a helper, 1 shot, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 16:11.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie laid waste to a Pavelec rebound and all in his path for a goal, a +1 rating, 2 shots, and 3 hits in 10:49. If he gave Labrie anymore ice time, Cooper would have to turn himself in for war crimes.
Feel the Nichushkin-mentum.
Mathieu Garon allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the loss including his obligatory 1 that he'd want back.
04:09 BUF Ennis (10), (Vanek, Ehrhoff)(PP)
08:00 BUF Hecht (4), (Gerbe)
12:37 BUF Porter (4), (Flynn, Ott)
13:30 TB Pouliot (8), (Brewer, Lecavalier)
The Lightning outshot Buffalo 33-22 with most of that coming once they spotted the Sabres the 3 goal lead. I have no idea what sort of weird sports psychology issue makes a team only start playing harder once they fall behind big. It's bizarre. That's something for Jon Cooper to sort out in the offseason. In the meantime, the Lightning will be looking at one of the big three draft prospects or possibly Traktor Chelyabinsk power forward Valery Nichushkin in their future.
Alex Killorn had 3 shots in 20:26.
Richard Panik was -2 with 2 shots and 1 hit. The biggest challenge for a young player isn't proving you can be brilliant as Panik was last night. The biggest challenge is proving you can do it consistently, and Panik was a non-factor tonight.
Radko Gudas was -1 with 5 hits and 2 blocked shots in 17:40.