This season will be remembered 5 years from now as a minor speed bump on the ride of a lifetime.
Dwayne Roloson allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the victory. If that was Roli's last NHL game, I'm glad the boys played him out with a win.
TB Purcell (22), (Lecavalier), 17:49
TB Purcell (23), (Lecavalier, Brown), 1:12
WPG Antropov (15), (Miettinen, Kane), 8:53
TB Stamkos (60), (St. Louis, Lee), 3:29
WPG Slater (12), (Clitsome, Enstrom), 4:59
WPG Slater (13), (Wheeler, Ladd), 19:07
TB Purcell (24), (Hedman), 1:08
Teddy Purcell and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars.
This game had just about all the elements you wanted to see to reaffirm that the Lightning, despite the struggles of this season, are on a path to longterm prosperity. Despite all their problems and despite unilaterally disarming at the trade deadline, the club finished 2 games over .500. Yes, there's several things to fix both between the pipes and defensively, as evidenced by the team finishing worst in goals against, but these guys aren't losers, even when the going gets tough. They have the character winning organizations are premised on.
Individually, the big story will obviously be Steven Stamkos' 60th goal and his second Richard Trophy. He's the best young player in the game, but we all knew that. I was far more intrigued by the B stories in this game.
Teddy Purcell's second half seems to me to be a clear sign he's ready to erupt into stardom next season, and the thing Lightning fans should be giddy about is that Teddy can produce on both Stamkos and Lecavalier's line. That gives the coaching staff a lot of flexibility.
Another B story is the young defensemen on this team. These are young guys who bring the kind of elite mobility that Guy Boucher's system really needs, and they started to produce down the stretch of the year. No offense to guys like Pavel Kubina, who did yoeman's work for the team, but the new blood has the pace to play this system the way it ought to be played. I'm looking at Victor Hedman ending the season with points in 7 of his last 9 games. I'm looking at Brian Lee with points in 4 of his last 5 games of the season, and 8 points in 20 games with the Lightning, which pro-rates to a 33 point season. Here are two guys I believe can and should be in the 30-40 point range next year, and, heck, even Eric Brewer was showing more toward the end of the season. You mix in what I believe Brendan Mikkelson has shown, and that's 4 guys to invest some hope in. You go out on the free agent market and add 1-2 more good defenseman and get a healthy Marc-Andre Bergeron into the mix, and you'll get a top-7 that can play Boucher's system well.
Beyond that, there's an obvious need in goal that Steve Yzerman has clearly stockpiled a ridiculous amount of draft picks to address. Between the draft picks and the amount of quality young forward prospects in this organization, I dare say Yzerman will not be outbid by anyone.
And then there's what we can expect to see added from Norfolk and their ongoing 25-game winning streak next year, and the youth in the system, as a whole.. More youth, more speed, and more confidence at the forward position. The likely AHL defenseman of the year in Mark Barberio. Two goaltenders playing out of their minds in Norfolk and another guy in Finland, Riku Helenius, who also just can't seem to lose. It's an embarassment of riches, and you will see a training camp next season where you may very well see darn near 30 NHL caliber players fighting tooth and nail for 23 spots. Good problems to have.
Keith Aulie had 3 hits in 11:48. He's on Norfolk's Clear Day roster, which means he should be sent down after Lightning exit interviews and begin what I feel will be a critical 20-30 games worth of development in his young career. The crucible of the AHL playoffs could make him into a player to be reckoned with.
J.T. Brown got his first NHL point, an assist, and was +2 with 2 shots in 13:52. J.T., my friend, before you leave Tampa, beg Steven Stamkos to let you go train with him with Gary Roberts. Promise him your first born. Do whatever it takes to go spend this offseason getting ready to take the pounding of an 82 game NHL season, because if you do, you might have the talent to be a Calder Trophy winner next season. But, for you, that award will be won in June, July and August, not October through April.
J.T. Wyman was -3 with 1 shot in 13:25. Wyman finishes the season with 40 NHL games, 1 shy of what he needs for graduation from prospect status on BoltProspects. Ain't that a shame? He'll start from scratch next year needing 39 games to graduate via the 82 game rule on the site.
The Admirals get to Jason Wiemer, and oddly their journey didn't take them to The Hideaway.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. His 21 wins is tied for 12th in the league, as he continues his push to try to give Norfolk two goaltenders in the top-10 in the AHL in victories.
NOR Barberio, (13) (Oberg, Johnson), 18:15
BNG Downing, (9) (Dziurzynski, Hamilton), 16:34
NOR Johnson, (30) (Gudas, Jackson), 2:51
NOR Smith, (23) (Segal, Cote), 16:46
Tyler Johnson, Janus, and Jean-Phillipe Cote were the game's three stars. Johnson becomes the second Admiral to hit 30 goals.
Mark Barberio hit 60 points for the season with his goal tonight. Soak that in for a moment.
24 consecutive victories for the Admirals, and this one happens to clinch the AHL equivalent of the President's Trophy. The club will have home ice throughout the playoffs for as long as they survive. With 4 games left to go in the regular season, the only question left on a team level is who their fiirst round opponent will be, and as of this moment, it would be the Manchester Monarchs. The rest boils down to personal goals. Specifically, will Richard Panik get to 20 goals.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Brian Bellows, for the Eastern Conference top seed win!
Dustin Tokarski allowed 1 goal on 26 shots for his 30th victory of the season, which leads the league. It's his 11th straight win, personally, and he raised his save percentage to .912 with his effort tonight. He's trying to track down his personal best as a pro, his .915 save percentage from his rookie campaign.
NOR Ouellet, (15) (Panik, Barberio), 8:09 (PP)
WBS Lerg, (25) (Grant), 14:23
NOR Barberio, (12) (Johnson), 12:23 (PP)
Mark Barberio, Tokarski, and Michel Ouellet were the game's three stars. Barberio continues to lead the league's defensemen in scoring by a wide margin of 13 points, and he's now 1 point shy of the 60 point plateau for the year. It's hard to imagine any scenario where he doesn't win hardware as the league's top defenseman.
Panik attack, y'all.
There will be two banners raised in Norfolk in the Fall. The victory, the Admrials' 50th of the season, puts away the Eastern Conference top seed (bring on the "z"), and they now have the opportunity to zero in on clinching the top spot in the entire league. They have a 10 point lead on Oklahoma City with the Barons still with 6 games left to play, so the magic number is 2 for the AHL equivalent of the President's Trophy, as the Barons can't catch Norfolk in ROW. The Barons are currently in action, leading Hamilton, but if they stumble, then Norfolk will clinch that distinction tonight, as well. Norfolk has just 5 games remaining in the regular season. They draw Binghamton on Friday and Saturday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Jaroslav Janus started his third game in three nights and stopped 27 of 30 for his 7th consecutive victory.
NOR Smith, (22) , 15:00
BRI Frischmon, (8) , 1:17 (SH)
NOR Barberio, (10) (Conacher, Johnson), 17:16 (PP)
NOR Panik, (14) (Smith, Johnson), 19:28 (PP)
BRI Mouillierat, (7) (Riley, Oleksy), 7:50
BRI McNeely, (7) (Sinkewich, Rakhshani), 11:14
NOR Barberio, (11) (Johnson, Ouellet), 13:12 (PP)
NOR Panik, (15) (Labrie), 15:52
NOR Johnson, (24) (Panik, Ouellet), 17:32 (PP)
Barberio's 2 goals moved him to 11 on the season, which is 2 better than his rookie campaign last year. He holds an 11 point advantage on St. John's defenseman Paul Postma for the league lead in scorers amongst blueliners.
Tyler Johnson has moved into 3rd amongst all AHL rookies in scoring, 3 points back of Gustav Nyqvist of Grand Rapids and 16 points back of teammate Cory Conacher.
Panik is enjoying the month of March so far with 3 goals and 8 points in 5 games. Today's Panik attack was his first 3-point game of his career.
Wednesday night in Norfolk becomes a big game for two reasons now. It was always going to be a big game with the rival Pens in town lurking 8 points back with a game in hand. But, now, it becomes even bigger with the Admirals' ridiculous, video game-like winning streak hitting 15 with a chance to run to 16. If the Admirals pull of the win against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, they hop a bus to Charlotte on Friday with the opportunity to tie the all-time AHL record for consecutive victories at 17. If they pull that off, the rematch is in Charlotte at 3 pm on Sunday, with a chance to make history. It will not be easy. The Pens currently are the 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and the Checkers are the 3 seed in the West. But, at least its not another 3 games in 3 nights marathon like this weekend was.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 21 shots for his 26th victory of the season. He's now 1 back of his career high of 27 wins. He remains locked in mortal combat with Ben Bishop of Binghamton, who also has 26 wins.
NOR Ouellet, (12) (Kostka, Devos), 12:13 (PP)
NOR Angelidis, (13) (Picard, Ouellet), 4:15
NOR Ouellet, (13) (Panik, Johnson), 12:48 (PP)
NOR Picard, (4) (Gudas, Jackson), 18:33
SPR Calvert, (12) (Joudrey), 12:26
SPR MacLeod, (6) (St. Pierre, Regner), 17:14 (PP)
NOR Devos, (5) (Neilson, Barberio), 18:52 (PP)
Mark Barberio hit 50 points for the season with a late power play assist. He holds a 9 point edge on Brian Connolly of Abbotsford for the league lead amongst blueliners. With 33 points, Mike Kostka lurks in a tie for 5th in points in that category.
Jon Cooper just broke TheAHL.com. Evidently, they only show 10 game winning streaks on the website, as the standings are currently not properly registering the Admirals unbelievable 11 game streak. They've opened up an 8 point lead in the division on the idle Penguins and a 12 point lead on the idle Bears. Resetting their sights higher, they've also opened up a 6 point lead on St. John's for the conference's top spot, although St. John's has 5 games in hand. Nonetheless, they need to give Cooper the hardware.
P.S. Panik attack, y'all!
Norfolk finishes their week against Springfield tomorrow night. The normal warning about beating the same team on back-to-back nights when you paste them pretty good on the first night applies.
Box score from TheAHL.com.