Players reported for camp today and most spent it taking care of various chores: a gauntlet of paperwork, photos and media inquiries. The only players scheduled to hit the ice for a (private) practice were those from the recently completed rookie camp squad.
Amid all of the bustle, Bolt Prospects was able to catch up with some of the staff and players. Here are some takeaways and select quotes:
Tonight is the 41st game of the season for Steven Stamkos, which graduates him from prospects status according to Bolt Prospects' criteria. Congratulations to the 2008 #1 pick. The change will be reflected on the release of Bolt Prospects' 2008-2009 Midterm Rankings.
A good win for the Lightning and their young netminder.
Karri Ramo stopped 29 of 32 shots for the win in his first NHL start of the season.
03:28 TBL St. Louis (16), (Lecavalier)(SH)
01:41 TB Prospal (9), (Lecavalier, Artyukhin)
08:42 ANA Ebbett (2), (Morrison, Hedican)(PP)
17:51 TB Malone (11), (St. Louis, Meszaros)(PP)
18:28 ANA Montador (3), (Morrison, Ebbett)
18:40 ANA Pronger (8), (Getzlaf, Miller)
10:50 TB Malone (12), (Halpern, St. Louis)
This is the kind of win that helps build psychological toughness for the club. After not showing up for the third period in Phoenix and then giving up two quick goals at the end of the second, it would've been easy for the Lightning to implode in the third against Anaheim. But, they didn't. They can draw on the experience the next time they face some adversity.
Similarly, Ramo rebounded from seeing his soft goal late in the second chased by a quick tying goal 18 seconds later to shut the door stopping 8 of 8 shots in the final frame to take with win. You can't underestimate how important that is for a young netminder like Ramo who has struggled the first half in Norfolk. This is a critical juncture for Karri with a job in Tampa likely open when and if Olaf Kolzig is moved at the trade deadline. Ramo is in the final year of his entry-level deal, and he appeared a lock to move up in March at the start of the year, but confidence in the netminder has flagged slightly. Getting a big win in Anaheim will hopefully help him regain his swagger over the next month and a half once he gets sent back to Norfolk and give him the momentum he needs to seize the backup job in Tampa Bay.
Matt Smaby was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:45.
Paul Szczechura had 2 hits and was 47% on draws in 15:52.
Steven Stamkos was a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career. Tonight would've been his graduation from prospect status at Bolt Prospects, but that will have to wait for the game against the Kings.
What a sad, ugly third period.
Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 27 shots in the loss.
08:36 TB Meszaros (1), (Halpern)
12:17 PHX Jokinen (14), (Doan, Michalek)
00:46 PHX Mueller (9), (Reinprecht, Doan)(PP)
14:43 TB Halpern (2), (Prospal, Recchi)(PP)
08:09 PHX Turris (6), (Hale, Reinprecht)
The team just looked like it was skating in quicksand in the final frame.
Matt Smaby had 3 hits in 11:31.
Steven Stamkos had 2 shots and was 50% on draws in 10:49.
That's more like it.
Mike Smith stopped 27 of 28 shots for the win.
02:48 TB Eminger (3), (Jokinen, Hall)(PP)
16:20 TB St. Louis (14), (Lecavalier, Prospal)
01:00 TB St. Louis (15), (Prospal, Eminger)
18:16 TB Malone (10), (Halpern, Mihalik)
19:38 ATL Christensen (2), (Slater, Boulton)
I'll have to investigate who broke code by uttering the "s" word before the game was over to cost Smith the goose egg.
You get a new appreciation for the difference between an NHL defenseman and a minor league defenseman watching what getting Krajicek back in the lineup does for the team. You also have to admire the toughness of Andrej Meszaros and you see that when Eminger's offensive game shows up, along with the MVP line, the Lightning are very potent offensively.
Matt Smaby had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 14:58. I believe when Ranger and Heward come back, that Heward should be sent back to Norfolk of the AHL and Smaby should be the new #7 defenseman. It's time for him to learn his craft at the NHL level.
Vladimir Mihalik got his first NHL assist in 6:52 of ice time. Hopefully this emergency recall will energize Vladimir to reapply himself when he goes back to Norfolk. He pouted a bit when he was sent down at the start of the season. The psychology will be different on an emergency recall, I hope.
Steven Stamkos had 1 shot and was 20% on draws in 11:35. He's now 2 games away from his Bolt Prospects graduation from prospect status.
Not as close as the score indicates.
Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 28 shots in the loss.
05:05 TB Craig (1), (Hall, Pettinger)
06:41 TB Prospal (8), (Lecavalier)
14:46 CAR Williams (2), (Brind'Amour, Seidenberg)(PP)
15:57 CAR Larose (9), (Seidenberg, Pitkanen)
06:21 CAR Pitkanen (4), (Williams, Whitney)
The Lightning could only muster 19 shots in the game, and after a good first 10 minutes the team was completely dominated by Carolina.
Ty Wishart was -1 with 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 7:53. He looked lost, tenatative, and slow. He's not ready for primetime.
Matt Smaby had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 18:50. His mistakes were a bit more pronounced in this game.
Paul Szczechura had 1 shot in 10:47. He's sort of fallen off the face of the earth since his big game against Pittsburgh.
Vladimir Mihalik had 1 shot and 2 penalty minutes in 10:47, and 3 giveaways. Athletically he's capable of playing at the NHL level. Metally, he's not there yet.
Steven Stamkos was 50% on draws in 9:50. Non-factor.
Thin Lightning defensive corps gets thinned out even more.
Mike Smith allowed 7 goals on 35 shots in the loss.
03:58 WSH Collins (1), (Ovechkin, Morrisonn)
08:02 WSH Steckel (5), (Bradley, Jurcina)
18:29 WSH Green (9), (Ovechkin, Backstrom)
00:58 TB Lecavalier (15), (Prospal, St. Louis)
02:37 TB Malone (9), (Halpern)
02:48 WSH Bradley (4), (Gordon)
19:44 TB Lecavalier (16), (Prospal, St. Louis)
08:07 WSH Gordon (5), (unassisted)
12:22 TB Recchi (9), (St. Louis, Meszaros)
12:47 WSH Clark (1), (Nylander, Green)
18:14 WSH Ovechkin (26), (Backstrom)
Paul Ranger and Lukas Krajicek were already scratches when Jamie Heward got sent to the hospital in the third period with a concussion. It left the Lightning with an incredibly short bench at the end of the game, with the coaching staff not having much confidence in recall Vladimir Mihalik.
Matt Smaby was -2 with 1 shot, 6 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 21:22. He has 13 hits in his last two games. That's something, although he was also on the ice for five Capitals goals (albeit, he was saddled with Eminger as a pairing partner).
Paul Szczechura was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 3 blocked shots in 15:13.
Vladimir Mihalik had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 13:22. He saw precious little ice though after Heward went down, which is telling.
Steven Stamkos was -1 with 3 shots and 1 hit and he was 50% on draws in 12:20.
I think you ball this one up and forget about it, considering all the injuries and other odd circumstances. The good news is: Lecavalier and St. Louis woke up.
Ou est Lecavalier et St. Louis?
Mike Smith allowed just 1 goal on 30 shots, but then allowed both Montreal shooters to score in the penalty shot session for the shootout loss.
13:18 TB Prospal (7), (Malone, St. Louis)(PP)
00:46 MTL Latendresse (5), (Lapierre, Kostopoulos)
MTL- Kovalev, Lapierre
The Lightning's best players tonight were, in no partocular order, Smith, Ryan Malone, Andrej Meszaros, and Evgeny Artyukhin. Absent from that list? Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. It's not rocket science: if those two don't score, the Lightning are going to struggle to defeat quality opponents like Montreal. They're getting excellent goaltending and some secondary scoring. Heck, they're even getting some inspired play from their defensemen at times. So now it's up to Lecavalier and St. Louis. They need to turn up the volume over the next two months to get this team over the hump.
It was nauseating to be outnumbered by Canadiens fans in our own barn. They were well behaved, at least. I mean, I wasn't stepping over drunks and weaving between fist fights like I would if we were invaded by Flyers fans. Still, I would've loved nothing better than to answer their annoying little "Go Habs Go" chant with a little "Go Home Habs."
Matt Smaby had a team high 7 hits in 15:47 filling some of the ice time vacated by a scratched Marek Malik. He did some good things. He's looked better in this recall; good enough for me to think that maybe he needs to replace Jamie Heward on the roster. He made some mistakes again, sure. But, like I said after the last game, as long as they are mistakes of aggression I'm more willing to live with them. And, it's not like his veteran bretheren on the Lightning blueline don't make mistakes in their own rights. Steve Eminger is working hard to make me go gray early in life by backing off shooters and routinely letting them walk the puck into the slot.
Paul Szczechura was -1 with 1 hit and was 57% on draws in 10:34. He's taken a bit of a step back since that amazing game against the Pens.
Steven Stamkos had 1 shot, 2 hits, and was 67% on draws in 11:45. He had one really awful power play shift in the third period. Other than that I thought he was ok.
The Lightning are finally starting to establish an identity in the post-Tortorella era.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 29 shots in the win.
07:06 TB Stamkos (4), (Smaby, Jokinen)
14:03 TB Artyukhin (3), (Recchi, Jokinen)(PP)
03:09 FLA Booth (13), (unassisted)
04:52 TB Lecavalier (13), (St. Louis, Malone)
16:27 FLA Horton (7), (Stillman, Weiss)(PP)
16:53 FLA Booth (14), (Frolik, McCabe)(PP)
19:54 TB Lecavalier (14), (St. Louis, Malone)
04:42 TB Malone (8), (St. Louis, Ranger)
07:46 TB St. Louis (13), (Lecavalier, Malone)
13:57 FLA Weiss (6), (Booth)
I haven't seen a Lightning team play this physical is about 12.5 years. You can see, it's starting to sink in and become the new identity of this team. Rick Tocchet has found a real nice energy line with Artyukhin, Szczechura, and Pettinger, and he's got some other bangers like Hall and it's starting to get contagious. I noticed Andrej Meszaros and Mark Recchi starting to take the body more recently and tonight, my goodness, Vaclav Prospal was in seek and destroy mode on a couple of plays. When you start getting a finesse playmaker like Prospal to lower the boom, you've got something cooking.
The other side of the equation, as I said last night, is that the first line has to get cooking, and they did tonight. The Lightning are getting secondary contributions, but they're meaningless unless Lecavalier and St. Louis can manufacture a couple of goals themselves between them on a nightly basis. Lecavalier's goal late in the second period settling down his tee shot off a Marty St. Louis rebound was a big, big goal; maybe the biggest of the year thus far.
The Lightning are now 6 games under .500 and I think they now need to go into the same mode Norfolk is in: try to get this thing back to .500 over the next month or so and then go from there.
Matt Smaby had 1 assist, 2 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 12:57 tonight. He made some mistakes, but they were mistakes of aggression, which I think the coaching staff is more able to live with than passive mistakes.
Paul Szczechura had 4 shots, 1 hit, and was 50% on draws in 10:08.
Steven Stamkos had 1 goal, and was +1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and he was 60% on draws. He might've stolen Smaby's first NHL goal from him on the tap in (Smaby got his first NHL point on the resulting assist). As with Smaby, Stamkos isn't playing perfect, but he's at least playing aggressive. Controlled aggression: that's what this team's motto needs to be.