Players receiving qualifying offers were defensemen Lukas Krajicek, Matt Smaby, Matt Lashoff and Mike Lundin; forwards Martins Karsums, Blair Jones, Radek Smolenak and Lauri Tukonen; and goaltender Karri Ramo. Both Smolenak and Ramo have signed contracts to play in the KHL next season.
Craig Kowalski allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory.
NOR Keller, (17) , 5:51
NOR Segal, (24) (Jones), 7:47 (PP)
NOR Segal, (25) , 12:25
NOR Segal, (26) , 3:22 (SH)
NOR Graddock, (1) (Zingoni), 5:23
NOR Keller, (18) (Lundin), 9:50
BNG Smith, (7) (Hennessy, Bois), 11:07 (SH)
On paper, the Admirals had no business even being competitive in this game. Norfolk had nothing to play for other than pride and the possibility to climb out of the division basement. At the other end of the rink, Binghamton came into this game tied with Philadelphia for the final playoff spot in the division and desperate for points. Norfolk's bottom lines and bottom pairings were riddled with ATO's due to call-ups and injuries. This should have been a cake walk for Binghamton, but just like their last game out against the Penguins, the core of this Admirals team absolutely refuses to lay down.
In my mind, over the past two years Darren Rumble has developed into a hell of a coach. He got several of these young players like Radek Smolenak to start believing in themselves down the stretch of last season, and this season he's instilled a sense of pride in a minor league system that hasn't had any since they were the Atlanta Knights of the IHL.
I think the team tonight also took the guess work out of who you keep and who you let go. All of the top-six forwards and top-four d-men from this game need to be retained, which means Geoff Kinrade needs a contract. With the further development of this clubs young players and the introduction of some new talent like Dana Tyrell, next season is one where the Admirals should legitimately be a playoff team.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
This team could be incredible if Lawton could find some defense without blowing up some other part of the team.
Karri Ramo allowed 5 goals on 30 shots for the loss. Despite allowing 5 goals, he actually didn't play all that badly. Two of Pittsburgh's goals came on breakaways and a third came on an uncovered player allowed to move in on Ramo all alone down the slot. The game winning goal was a case where Ramo was clearly interfered with after stopping the initial shot on the breakaway. Another goal came on a feed that went through the box on the PP down low to give Sid Crosby a clean look on Ramo moving laterally. Other than Cooke's goal to start the third period, which wasn't a bad goal so much as an untimely one, there's nothing I would fault Karri with. The decision is the 41st of Ramo's career, graduating him from prospect status here at BP.
05:00 PIT Fedotenko (16), (Staal, Kennedy)
10:08 PIT Crosby (31), (Malkin, Kunitz)(PP)
11:12 PIT Crosby (32), (Kunitz, Malkin)(PP)
01:08 PIT Cooke (12), (Staal, Letang)
04:31 TB Halpern (6), (Szczechura)(SH)
08:59 TB St. Louis (30), (Stamkos, Krajicek)
09:43 TB Szczechura (4), (unassisted)
11:43 PIT Sykora (25), (Fedotenko)
19:19 TB Halpern (7), (Karsums, Bochenski)
19:47 PIT Staal (22), (unassisted)(EN)
I give credit to the coaches and the players that no one laid down in the third period. It would've been damned easy to quit, but the Lightning came back and really gave the Pens a run for their money. They were one missed goaltender interference call away from getting to overtime. So, the heart is there, and for the most part the offensive potential is there. What's really lacking right now is two things: defense and penalty killing. The defense will get better by virtue of a healthy Andrej Meszaros and Paul Ranger. The penalty killing can't possibly get any worse. I don't know the stats, but the PK has been absolutely rancid the second half of this season.
Ryan Malone broke his hand blocking a shot in this game, making him the fifth key Lightning player to be shelved with a serious injury. He had already proven that last year wasn't a flash in the pan by potting his 26th goal. I give him credit. He's won me over. The injury may open up an opportunity for someone from Norfolk to get a two game cup of coffee. Blair Jones? Justin Keller? Juraj Simek?
Lets go Avs.
Noah Welch had 4 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:13 against the organization who drafted him.
Zenon Konopka was -1 with 2 hits in 9:58 and was 60% on draws. 9:58? Seemed like a lot more, in a good way. There are games where Konopka is nothing more than a circus clown, and then there are games like tonight where he plays hockey and he's a difference maker. He was a split second away from landing a shoulder-to-chin hit on Matt Cooke that would've made him a hero in Tampa Bay forever, and he about chewed the ends off the boards on the forecheck. Very well done.
Matt Smaby was +1 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 22:56. Tonight was Smaby's 41st game of the season, meaning he joins Ramo as a freshly minted Bolt Prospects Alumni.
David Koci had 3 hits and 17 penalty minutes in 6:00 of ice time. His fight against Eric Godard seemed like the emotional tipping point of this game. Again, very well done.
Paul Szczechura had 1 goal, 1 assist, and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, and 4 shots in 16:00. He also was 33% on draws. I don't know what it is about Pittsburgh, but when Szczechura sees that jersey he seems to duck into the nearest phone booth and turn into Superman. I still don't think Szczechura is in his best shape, but he was flying tonight. That's the best game he's played in months, and the kind of game he needs to get on tape if he wants to make the team next season.
Martins Karsums had 1 assist, 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:23. He was fairly invisible, despite the impressive stat line.
Matt Lashoff was -1 with 1 hit in 17:23. I don't know if he got hurt or if the coaching staff was sending a message.
Vladimir Mihalik had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 19:41. Mobility is obviously an issue with Vladdy, but his lack of decisiveness remains a bigger concern to me.
The Lightning pull out a critical win in the Tavares/Hedman sweepstakes.
Karri Ramo allowed 3 goals on 36 shots before allowing 1 of 2 shooters to convert for the shootout loss. Since the Lightning's drubbing against Carolina, Ramo has rebounded (perhaps a bad choice of words in Karri's case) to go 2-0-3. He's got a nice .919 save percentage over that span, too, by my count. Rebound control remains an issue, but he's making the first saves, which is critical. He could save the Lightning a small fortune by proving he can be Smitty's backup with continued good performances down the stretch.
06:12 ATL Kozlov (22), (Enstrom, Armstrong)
17:49 ATL White (20), (Kozlov, Kovalchuk)(PP)
03:50 TB Stamkos (17), (Krajicek, St. Louis)
05:12 TB Stamkos (18), (Lashoff, Lecavalier)(PP)
12:52 ATL Kovalchuk (37), (White, Enstrom)(PP)
15:36 TB Prospal (18), (Krajicek)
The Lightning managed to crawl back into this game after laying down in the First Period the same way they laid down in the Third Period against the Caps. They're fortunate the Thrashers stink in that regard and let them get back to even.
Steven Stamkos continues his steady march to 20 goals as he racked up his 17th and 18th tonight. Keep shooting, young man. It's hard to believe he only had 6 goals at the end of the month of January. In his last 16 games, Stamkos has 11 goals and 16 points. That pro-rates to a 56 goal, 82 point campaign over 82 games. That's not to say he'll stay this hot for a full year next season. But, to me, with an entire offseason to train and build his body and the work ethic he's already displayed, I would not be shocked at all to see him pot 40 goals and 80-90 points next year. I think the league was lulled into a false sense of security about Stamkos when he didn't come out of the hockey womb a preformed point-a-game player and when Barry Melrose decided to chuck #91 under the bus after he was fired. Hopefully Stamkos' amazing late season productivity continues to fly under the radar and sets him up to storm the league early next season. I suspect I'll almost feel pity for teams who have to choose between dying by Stammer or Vincent Lecavalier's hand next year with the two playing on opposite scoring lines. Almost.
Have the Lightning actually won a game in the third jerseys, by the way? If someone knows the team's record with them on, by all means post it. I suspect it's almost terrible enough to warrant burning the new threads.
Matt Smaby was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 24:37. This was a good rebound game after going -4 against Washington.
David Koci had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 6:45.
Paul Szczechura was -1 with 1 shot in 12:41.
Martins Karsums had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:19. He was better tonight.
Richard Petiot was -1 with 6 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 23:11. He was awful in the first period as Atlanta took advantage of his slow feet. To his credit, he got it back together in the final 40 minutes. I like him as a #8 or #9 d-man who can come up from Norfolk if there's an injury.
Matt Lashoff had 1 assist and 2 penalty minutes and was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 28:18, which led the team in ice time. 3 games in a Lightning jersey: 3 power play assists. You can't complain about that kind of production. He deals a good pass for a one-timer, which can get a defenseman paid on a power play that features shooters like Stamkos, Lecavalier, and Martin St. Louis. His skating allows him to potentially eat big minutes like he did tonight, too. Darren Eliot claimed tonight that his skating had somehow been "exposed." It's a shame that someone swapped out his Thrashers flavored Kool-Aid for bad moonshine. Here's to hoping his eyesight returns to him soon.
Norfolk weathers the third period storm to continue to improve their home record.
Crag Kowalski allowed 1 goal on 38 shots for the win.
NOR Keller, (16) , 11:01 (SH)
WBS Letestu, (21) (Caputi), 17:19
NOR Bochenski, (27) (Jones, Lundin), 3:52 (PP)
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Third period collapse.
Riku Helenius allowed 4 goals on 36 shots for the loss. He had a shutout through 40 minutes and ended up taking the "L."
NOR Segal, (22) (Zingoni), 15:41
NOR Keller, (15) (Jones, Konopka), 16:35 (PP)
ALB Samson, (17) (Carson, Dodge), 6:11
ALB Clarke, (3) (Weston, Angelidis), 11:57
ALB Roy, (1) (Dodge, Samson), 16:11
ALB Dwyer, (18) (Tifu, Petruzalek), 16:57
NOR Konopka, (13) (Keller), 18:43
ALB Dwyer, (19) (Angelidis, Carson), 19:14 (EN)
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Ahhhh, so that's what a team playing like it has some pride looks like.
Riku Helenius allowed just 1 goal on 27 shots for the win to even his season record at 7-7-0. His .934 save percentage is gaudy.
NOR Jones, (16) (Konopka, Lundin), 2:23 (PP)
LOW Bergfors, (16) (Magnan), 12:18
NOR Keller, (14) (Jones, Potulny), 17:06 (PP)
Jones has 5 goals and 6 points over the past 3 games and over the past 10 games he has 6 goals and 12 points. Keller is now 1 goal shy of his AHL career best and over the past 18 games he has 9 goals and 18 points. Both players are in the final years of their entry level deals and are playing to prove they have some sort of future in the organization. Lately, they've played well enough that, in my mind, they've earned a few games at the NHL level to show management what they can do against the big boys. Jones, in particular, is a guy who I think can compete at the next level if he approaches the game the right way.
The Admirals move back to 4 games under .500 for the season.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Keller is also getting in line for a recall.
Riku Helenius stopped 24 of 26 shots for the win to even his record at 4-4-0 this season. He is now sitting on 1 shutout, a 2.18 GAA, and a .938 save percentage. What's the definition of a "good problem" to have? Karri Ramo and Mike McKenna acquitting themselves fairly well in the NHL while your young #1 starter is out injured, Helenius playing well in the AHL, and young Dustin Tokarski standing on his head in junior. That is a "good problem" to have.
BNG Mauldin, (12) (Regin, Hamel), 11:54
BNG Mauldin, (13) (Fata, Regin), 17:56
NOR Potulny, (8) (Brookbank, Jones), 1:27
NOR Jones, (11) (Lundin, Konopka), 14:44 (PP)
NOR Bochenski, (21) (Keller, Konopka), 3:43
NOR Keller, (11) (Bochenski), 11:08
I find it fascinating that, despite spotting him a significant head start, Keller has caught Blair Jones in the goal department. Jones still has a mammoth lead on Keller in assists and a better points per game number, but that may be a little inflated with power play assists with Blair playing the point position so much. This may be another really good problem for the Lightning organization to have if Keller and Jones continue to hit the scoresheet and, along with Brandon Segal, continue to push for late season recalls.
For those who have been wondering, Vladimir Mihalik has been out with a nasty concussion.
Norfolk climbs back to 3 games under .500. I think the season would be considered a success, given the rocky beginnings, if the team could climb to a winning record. It could be the foundation of a return to the playoffs next season with the Admirals getting an injection of a little more speed and skill with guys like Dana Tyrell coming on board.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Is there a player hotter than Segal these days?
Riku Helenius allowed 2 goals on 36 shots for the win.
NOR Rosehill, (4) (Potulny, Quick), 4:35 (PP)
NOR Keller, (9) (Bochenski, Jones), 12:49 (PP)
BNG Hamel, (19) (Regin, Karlsson), 1:39 (PP)
NOR Segal, (20) (Smolenak, Szczechura), 15:44
NOR Keller, (10) (Bochenski), 7:36
NOR Segal, (21) (Smolenak, Quick), 16:06
BNG Kudelka, (7) , 19:59
Norfolk moves back to 4 games under .500.
Box score from TheAHL.com.