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Juniors Playoffs Game Night: 5-4-16

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Shawinigan Cataractes 2 @ Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 4
QMJHL Finals
Rouyn-Noranda leads best-of-7 series, 1-0

W Dennis Yan, SHAW: 0-1-1, -1, 2 PIM, 3 SOG, 1 Hit
Playoff totals: 16 GP, 8-5-13, +4, 28 PIM
Season totals: 62 GP, 32-37-69, +8, 86 PIM

The Huskies drew first blood in the Q finals, winning 4-2 Wednesday. Dennis Yan had an assist on a third period goal that gave Shawinigan a 2-1 lead. The Huskies scored the game’s next three goals. Game 2 is Friday. Rouyn-Noranda is the former club of current Lightning star Nikita Kucherov.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-3-16 Lightning at Islanders

Hit me with your best shot...

Eastern Conference Semifinals

TB-5
NYI-4 (OT)

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 2-1

Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 39 shots for the win. He was the victim of some very sloppy play by his defense tonight, and while his stat line is not impressive on its face, it included about a half dozen ten bell saves in key moments of the game that allowed the Lightning to maintain contact and eventually steal the win.

First Period
7:55 NYI Bailey(1), (Kulemin, Hamonic)
19:47 TB Callahan(1), (Killorn, Filppula)(PP)

Second Period
8:10 TB Hedman(2), (Johnson)
14:50 NYI Leddy(1), (Clutterbuck, Cizikas)

Third Period
2:27 NYI Bailey(2), (Hickey, Prince)(PP)
3:25 TB Namestnikov(1), (Filppula, Killorn)
11:23 NYI Clutterbuck(2), (Cizikas)
19:21 TB Kucherov(7), (Drouin, Hedman)

Overtime
2:48 TB Boyle(2), (Hedman, Callahan)

Brian Boyle and Victor Hedman were the game's first and second stars.

The Islanders made it pretty clear going into this game they were determined to transform this series into a street fight rather than a hockey exhibition. After being dominated for much of the last 90 minutes of hockey in Game One and Game Two in Tampa Bay, the Islanders were busy splicing up hype videos glorifying Erik Condra's concussion (classy) and trying to start scrums in pregame warmups (Hamonic running into Boyle). There was no equivocating about the night's agenda: the Islanders were going to try to pound the skill out of the Lightning. And, to be honest, they nearly succeeded. In the First Period, Jonathan Drouin made an ill advised attempt to cut to the center of the ice that led to a bone-jarring hit by Hickey that put Jonathan Drouin into the quiet room until deep into the Third Period. With Drouin out and the Lightning playing a skeleton crew of 10 forwards and about 4.5 NHL caliber defensemen, the Isles fourth line waged a night-long campaign to pummel the Lightning into turnovers and mistakes. Back and forth they fought, with the Lightning amazingly answering Bailey's second goal of the night with a Namestnikov equalizer on the very next shift in the Third Period. But, eventually it all took a toll that put the team into a 4-3 hole midway through the Third Period after Jason Garrison (who had an awful case of the yips all game long) threw away a puck off of Cizikas' skate on what became a perfect centering feed to Cal Clutterbuck for what appeared to be the winning goal.

And then, out of the locker room, young Jonathan Drouin strode forth like a boss... the stuff of legend.

With the extra attacker pulled and under one minute to play, Drouin (who also absorbed a pretty nasty high stick that drew blood from his nose after returning midway through the Third Period) swooped down the left wing boards probing for a sliver of a crease through the Islander defense. Then, at the moment of truth, he found Nikita Kucherov (the finisher of #ThatLine) dead center of the slot. Bang. Bang. In the blink of an eye the Islanders' perfectly laid plans were obliterated by a player who they thought they had buried less than two periods earlier. And, the indignity was just beginning...

Recall that revenge is a dish best served cold (an old Klingon proverb, as the late great Ricardo Montalban would remind us).

Early in overtime, Brian Boyle crushed Thomas Hickey at the Isles blueline, forcing a turnover that eventually led to a 3-on-2 rush. The puck found the trailer, Victor Hedman, who in Hedman-esque fashion missed the net. The bounce found Boyle at the side of an open cage. Kisses to Travis Hamonic. Drive home safely, everybody. Lightning lead the series 2-1.

Was it artful? No. The Lightning's puck management was terrible in this game, and for a wide swath of the Third Period it looked like the Islanders' plan to pull the Lightning's collective punk card was going to work. But both the Lightning and Jonathan Drouin ultimately proved tonight that if you take a shot at them, you best not miss. And, you'd better be sure you kill them, or they're fully capable of rising back up and taking you out. That's the resilience of a team that, over the last calendar year, has been in a lot tougher spots and faced a lot deeper adversity than what they faced in that SUV showroom in Brooklyn tonight.

Now the series rolls onto Game Four, where a fragile young Islanders team that isn't overly skilled to begin with will have to manufacture a win to stay viable in the series. They just gave the Lightning their best shot and were less than a minute from victory before getting absolutely humiliated by the two tormentors (Drouin and Boyle) they probably least expected and least wanted to have the satisfaction. The Lightning, on the other hand, have already accomplished their mission in Brooklyn. They've wrestled home ice back from the Islanders and they move into Game Four playing with a heaping stack of the house's chips. Advantage: Lightning. They have a golden opportunity to apply the right pressure to end this series quickly while Stralman, Brown, and Stamkos continue to get healthier by the day and the Caps and Penguins continue to kill each other in protracted, bloody warfare on the other side of the Eastern Conference bracket. For a Lightning team that pretty much did everything the hard way in last year's postseason en route to a painful loss in six games in the Stanley Cup Final, this is a chance to set all their ducks in a row in nearly perfect fashion and give themselves the best possible strategic chance to win it all this year.

Matt Taormina played 2:43. He got 4 shifts all game. I'm not sure he got one after a glorious turnover that nearly ended up in the back of his own net. I'd expect to see him out of the lineup in Game Four.

Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 11:35. With Taormina and Nesterov hardly cloaking themselves in glory tonight, the coaching staff gave Koekkoek a little extra responsibility. And, with the exception of one really awful turnover in the Third Period on a failed breakout pass, he handled it pretty well, including some penalty kill time. Perhaps a silver lining of Stralman breaking his leg and Carle getting nicked up will be that Koekkoek plays enough to get a higher level of comfort from the coaching staff to feed him some minutes. Athletically, he's far better equipped to handle it than a lot of the other options available.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Juniors Game Night: 4-30-16

United States Hockey League

Bloomington Thunder 4 @ Dubuque Fighting Saints 3
Eastern Conference Finals
Best-of-5 series tied, 1-1

D Ryan Zuhlsdorf, DBQ: 0-0-0, E, 6 PIM, 2 SOG
Playoff totals: 6 GP, 0-2-2, +5, 6 PIM
Season totals: 46 GP, 0-27-27, -2, 59 PIM
(University of Minnesota signee)

Dubuque limited Bloomington to just 19 shots on goal, but they scored on four of them to take Game 2, 4-3, and tie the series at one game apiece. The Saints scored all three of their goals in the third period. Zuhlsdorf had a holding penalty and a double minor for roughing. Game 3 is Friday in Indiana.

NHL Playoff Game Day: 4-30-16 Islanders at Lightning

Lightning begin to establish their dominance.

Eastern Conference Semifinals

NYI-1
TB-4

Series Tied 1-1

Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 20 shots for the victory. He didn't face a lot of good chances, but he made the key situational saves as he rebounded from that fragrant performance in Game One. It's not at all surprising he played well in a rebound game.

First Period
6:03 TB Johnson(3), (Palat, Hedman)
11:55 TB Drouin(1), (Filppula)
15:15 NYI Kulemin(1), (Hickey, Quine)(PP)

Second Period
11:59 TB Hedman(1), (Johnson, Drouin)(PP)

Third Period
17:42 TB Johnson(4), (Garrison)(EN)

Victor Hedman, Jonathan Drouin, and Tyler Johnson were the game's three stars. I'd give an honorable mention to Ondrej Palat, personally.

Game One begged the question of what this series will look like once Bishop and the Lightning tighten up their game, and Game Two answered that question: pure dominance. The young Islanders, probably lacking the playoff experience to see the gathering dark clouds, ultimately had no clue what was about to hit them. The Lightning forechecked them like crazy, with speed that just tormented the Islanders D all game long as they gave away turnovers and lost 50/50 pucks en masse. The only thing that saved the Islanders from complete humiliation was the Lightning becoming the victim of some ticky tack calls in the First and Second Periods that yielded the Islanders' only goal on the Kulemin deflection of Hockey's point shot. Other than that, the Islanders barely got a sniff all game long and that's amazing considering that, with Matt Carle out, the Lightning were down to about 4-1/2 NHL caliber defensemen. That didn't matter, though, with the Lightning in the Isles end all game long.

On a tangential note: if you want to see what this series probably boils down to, go ahead and split screen how the Isles played protecting a multi-goal lead in Game One (turtle shelling) and how the Lightning played protecting a multi-goal lead in Game Two (pushing like crazy for the 3 goal advantage). One of these teams knows how to win in the playoffs and the other hasn't been in these situations. School's in session.

Oh, and Greiss is mortal. Drouin's goal was pretty soft, and I think we're about to see a reversion to the mean for Greiss. That's to say, I think he's a competent goalie, but if the Isles are expecting him to steal multiple wins to wrestle this series away from Bishop and the Lightning, that's probably a bridge too far for him to cross.

Now the series moves on to Brooklyn where the Lightning just need to get 1 of 2 games to get home ice and control of the series back. At this hour, given how dominant the Lightning have looked over the past about 90 minutes of hockey, that seems like a low bar to clear.

Matt Taormina was +1 in 5:31 of ice time.

Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 1 shot in 6:47 of ice time. He nearly got the kill shot goal in the Third Period, but overall he and Taormina simply weren't going to see the ice much in this game unless the Lightning really, really had broken it open.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Juniors Playoffs Game Night: 4-29-16

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Saint John Sea Dogs 3 @ Shawinigan Cataractes 6
QMJHL Semifinals
Shawinigan wins best-of-7 series, 4-1

W Bokondji Imama, SJ: 0-1-1, +1, 2 PIM, 3 SOG, 3 Hits
Playoff totals: 10 GP, 1-3-4, E, 25 PIM
Season totals: 47 GP, 7-12-19, -3, 84 PIM

W Mathieu Joseph, SJ: Did not play (injured – out for playoffs)
Playoff totals: 5 GP, 5-2-7, +4, 8 PIM
Season totals: 58 GP, 33-40-73, +35, 57 PIM

W Dennis Yan, SHAW: 1-0-1, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, 2 Hits
Playoff totals: 15 GP, 8-4-12, +5, 26 PIM
Season totals: 62 GP, 32-37-69, +8, 86 PIM

Dennis Yan and the Cataractes advanced to the QMJHL Finals with a 6-3 home win in Game 5 against the Sea Dogs. Anthony Beauvieller (Islanders) had two goals and five points for Shawinigan. Boko Imama returned for Saint John, and may have played his final junior game Friday. He is eligible for the pros next season should the Lightning choose to sign him. He could also return to juniors as an overager and the Lightning would retain his rights for another year. Mathieu Joseph’s remarkable season officially ends, though he was out for the remainder of the playoffs with a severe cut on his calf that required surgery. He’ll head back to Saint John next year. Yan and Shawinigan await the winner of Moncton and Rouyn-Noranda, Nikita Kucherov’s former team.

United States Hockey League

Bloomington Thunder 1 @ Dubuque Fighting Saints 7
Eastern Conference Finals
Dubuque leads best-of-5 series, 1-0

D Ryan Zuhlsdorf, DBQ: 0-0-0, +3, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Playoff totals: 5 GP, 0-2-2, +5, 0 PIM
Season totals: 46 GP, 0-27-27, -2, 59 PIM
(University of Minnesota signee)

Captain Keegan Ford (undrafted, Michigan Tech commit) had two goals and two assists from the blueline to lead the Saints to a 7-1 shellacking of Bloomington in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Ryan Zuhlsdorf, who is the only NHL draft pick in the series, finished plus-3 in the win. The Thunder, who upset Cedar Rapids in five games in the conference semifinals, had a 1-0 lead after the first period.

Juniors Playoffs Game Night: 4-28-16

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Shawinigan Cataractes 4 @ Saint John Sea Dogs 3 (OT)
QMJHL Semifinals
Shawinigan lead best-of-7 series, 3-1

W Bokondji Imama, SJ: Did not play (suspended)
Playoff totals: 8 GP, 1-2-3, -2, 23 PIM
Season totals: 47 GP, 7-12-19, -3, 84 PIM

W Mathieu Joseph, SJ: Did not play (injured – out for playoffs)
Playoff totals: 5 GP, 5-2-7, +4, 8 PIM
Season totals: 58 GP, 33-40-73, +35, 57 PIM

W Dennis Yan, SHAW: 0-0-0, -1, 2 PIM, 3 SOG, 1 Hit
Playoff totals: 14 GP, 7-4-11, +5, 24 PIM
Season totals: 62 GP, 32-37-69, +8, 86 PIM

Dennis Yan was back in the Cataractes lineup after being suspended for Game 3 due to a cross-checking penalty. He did not register a point in Game 4, where Shawinigan used an overtime goal to take a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Sea Dogs. Former Lightning camper Philippe Cadorette stopped 36 of 39 shots in the win. Danny Moynihan (undrafted, camped with San Jose) got the game-winner. Shawinigan can punch their ticket to the QMJHL Finals with a win at home Friday. Lightning prospect Boko Imama can return for Game 5.

Juniors Playoffs Game Night: 4-26-16

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Shawinigan Cataractes 7 @ Saint John Sea Dogs 3
QMJHL Semifinals
Shawinigan lead best-of-7 series, 2-1

W Bokondji Imama, SJ: Did not play (suspended)
Playoff totals: 8 GP, 1-2-3, -2, 23 PIM
Season totals: 47 GP, 7-12-19, -3, 84 PIM

W Mathieu Joseph, SJ: Did not play (injured – out for playoffs)
Playoff totals: 5 GP, 5-2-7, +4, 8 PIM
Season totals: 58 GP, 33-40-73, +35, 57 PIM

W Dennis Yan, SHAW: Did not play (suspended)
Playoff totals: 13 GP, 7-4-11, +6, 22 PIM
Season totals: 62 GP, 32-37-69, +8, 86 PIM

Shawinigan scored seven goals for the second straight game, taking a 2-1 series lead against the Sea Dogs. Yan was suspended for a cross-check.

Juniors Playoffs Game Night: 4-23-16

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Saint John Sea Dogs 1 @ Shawinigan Cataractes 7
QMJHL Semifinals
Best-of-7 series tied, 1-1

W Bokondji Imama, SJ: Did not play (suspended)
Playoff totals: 8 GP, 1-2-3, -2, 23 PIM
Season totals: 47 GP, 7-12-19, -3, 84 PIM

W Mathieu Joseph, SJ: Did not play (injured – out for playoffs)
Playoff totals: 5 GP, 5-2-7, +4, 8 PIM
Season totals: 58 GP, 33-40-73, +35, 57 PIM

W Dennis Yan, SHAW: 2-0-2, +1, 2 PIM, 3 SOG, 0 Hits
Playoff totals: 13 GP, 7-4-11, +6, 22 PIM
Season totals: 62 GP, 32-37-69, +8, 86 PIM

Shawinigan broke open a close, 2-1 game in the second period with five unanswered goals. Dennis Yan scored two of them; one on the power play. The Cataractes needed a Game 2 win after dropping Game 1 in overtime. The series now shifts to Saint John Tuesday tied, 1-1.

United States Hockey League

Green Bay Gamblers 1 @ Dubuque Fighting Saints 2 (OT)
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Dubuque wins best-of-5 series, 3-1

D Ryan Zuhlsdorf, DBQ: 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Playoff totals: 4 GP, 0-2-2, +2, 0 PIM
Season totals: 46 GP, 0-27-27, -2, 59 PIM
(University of Minnesota signee)

The Saints got a goal from Brett Boeing (undrafted) at 16:55 of overtime to win the game and the series. Dubuque moves on past the higher-seeded Gamblers (sorry, Jon Cooper) and will face the winner of Cedar Rapids and Bloomington for the conference title. Cedar Rapids is currently up 2-1 in the series. Hunter Miska (Undrafted Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth commit) stopped 37/38 shots in Dubuque’s win. Zuhlsdorf had a secondary assist on the Saints’ regulation power play goal.

Juniors Playoffs Game Night: 4-22-16

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Saint John Sea Dogs 6 @ Shawinigan Cataractes 5 (OT)
QMJHL Semifinals
Saint John leads best-of-7 series, 1-0

W Bokondji Imama, SJ: Did not play (suspended)
Playoff totals: 8 GP, 1-2-3, -2, 23 PIM
Season totals: 47 GP, 7-12-19, -3, 84 PIM

W Mathieu Joseph, SJ: Did not play (injured – out for playoffs)
Playoff totals: 5 GP, 5-2-7, +4, 8 PIM
Season totals: 58 GP, 33-40-73, +35, 57 PIM

W Dennis Yan, SHAW: 1-0-1, -1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG, 2 Hits
Playoff totals: 12 GP, 5-4-9, +5, 22 PIM
Season totals: 62 GP, 32-37-69, +8, 86 PIM

Saint John drew first blood in its series against Shawinigan, stealing home ice advantage with a 6-5 overtime victory in Game 1. Yan scored his fifth goal of the playoffs, which temporarily tied the game at four in the third period. The Sea Dogs got the game-winner in the first minute of overtime. The winner of this series advances to the QMJHL Finals.

United States Hockey League

Green Bay Gamblers 1 @ Dubuque Fighting Saints 6
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Dubuque leads best-of-5 series, 2-1

D Ryan Zuhlsdorf, DBQ: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Playoff totals: 3 GP, 0-1-1, +2, 0 PIM
Season totals: 46 GP, 0-27-27, -2, 59 PIM
(University of Minnesota signee)

Dubuque is one win away from advancing to the conference finals after defeating the visiting Gamblers 6-1 Friday. Game 4 is Saturday in Iowa.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 4-21-16 Red Wings at Lightning

Bishop single handedly sends Detroit to the golf course.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

DET-0
TB-1

Tampa Bay Wins the Series 4-1

Ben Bishop sparkled, stopping all 34 shots he faced for the series clinching shutout victory. He carried his teammates tonight, and administered elite-level U of Maine Justice.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
18:17 TB Killorn(3), (Callahan)

Bishop and Alex Killorn were the game's first and third stars, respectively.

Man, was this ever an important win. The Lightning looked gassed tonight, and with nagging injuries to the likes of Tyler Johnson stacking on top of more serious injuries to Brown, Stamkos, and Stralman, the team just was completely lacking in energy tonight with the exception of one or two players like Jonathan Drouin. As the game winded on and they squandered a bevy of power play opportunities in the First and Second Period, it was clear Bishop was going to have to steal the win, and he ultimately did. A Mrazek turnover behind his cage was picked off by a hustling Ryan Callahan, and the Lightning sent the Red Wings home for the second straight year. Burn the tape of everything but that goal and the handshake line, and lets move on.

On the other side of the Atlantic Division playoff bracket you have to sincerely hope that the Islanders and Panthers choose to kill each other in a bloody murder-suicide that lasts the span of the full seven games. Let the bodies hit the floor, please. Do I ultimately have a preference between the two? Well, I might slightly prefer to play the Islanders because Florida has the more established netminder in Luongo, but the Isles have the better overall depth and high-end scorers so it's a near wash. A healthy, energetic Lightning team has a very good chance of advancing against either one, though, and that's why Bishop's heroics tonight were so important.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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