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Juniors Game Night: 4-15-16

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 4 @ Saint John Sea Dogs 3 (OT)
QMJHL Second Round
Cape Breton leads best-of-7 series, 3-2

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

Imama was suspended seven games for this hit in Game 4. Seven is excessive and clearly a reputation ruling. The Dogs lost in overtime in Game 5, and could be eliminated Sunday in Sydney.

Western Hockey League

Moose Jaw Warriors 3 @ Brandon Wheat Kings 7
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Brandon wins best-of-7 series, 4-1

C Brayden Point, MJ: 0-0-0, -4, 0 PIM
Playoff totals: 10 GP, 6-10-16, -3, 10 PIM
Season totals: 48 GP, 35-53-88, +24, 36 PIM

Brayden Point’s junior career ended in Brandon Friday as the Wheat Kings eliminated the Warriors, four games to one. Moose Jaw’s captain, Point finishes his career with 324 points (134 goals) in 252 games. The Lightning have already signed him, so he’ll start his pro career next year. With AHL Syracuse ending their season this weekend, Point could be brought into Tampa as a Black Ace or at least to be around the team for a few weeks, as is sometimes done. Congrats to Point for an outstanding junior career.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 4-15-16 Red Wings at Lightning

Lightning coming alive in the postseason.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

DET-2
TB-5

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 2-0

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 32 shots for the victory. Bishop looked much more confident and under control in Game Two and the Lightning played a much tighter game in front of him defensively. That bodes really well for the rest of the series.

First Period
15:17 TB Kucherov(3), (Hedman, Johnson)(PP)

Second Period
3:30 DET Larkin(1), (Ericsson, Kronwall)
6:46 TB Boyle(1), (Drouin, Coburn)

Third Period
4:27 DET Richards(1), (Green, Tatar)(PP)
6:32 TB Johnson(1), (Killorn)
14:48 TB Johnson(2), (Kucherov, Garrison)
17:16 TB Killorn(2), (Carle, Killorn)(EN)

Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin, and Ryan Callahan were the game's three stars.

Somewhere in the course of this game a sneaking suspicion of mine that I've had all year was confirmed: the Lightning were sandbagging it most of the regular season. Deliberately? No. But it was clear they were sleepwalking through quite a few games and weren't playing with the same intensity Lightning fans were used to. It's human nature when you get within 2 wins of hoisting the Cup. I suspect now that they've been bit by the bug, it's hard to get up for anything but playoff hockey, but now that the postseason is here? My goodness. The Lightning have ratcheted everything up tenfold, and it's electric right now.

The First Period of this game was an absolute squash for the Lightning. The game could've easily been 4-0 after the opening frame after the Lightning hit two posts and a crossbar to go along with Kucherov's 5-on-3 PP goal. The defense was tighter. The breakouts were clean. The forecheck was swarming. For goodness sake, the power play even looked lethal with some of the best puck movement we've seen all season.

Detroit was lucky to even be in the game in the Second Period when a momentary lapse gave Larkin the tying goal after a saggy power play to start the middle frame. Still, and somewhat incredibly, the Lightning just didn't sag and got right back on their forecheck. And, even though the refs had a spate of (questionable) calls against the Lightning in the Second Period, the penalty kill was incredibly stout and they eventually pulled back ahead on a pretty no-look pass by Drouin to the trailer on a 3-on-2. Drouin played even better in Game Two than he did in Game One, and he was arguably the most dangerous Lightning forward in Game One to begin with. The puck is starting to follow him around the rink, which is the mark of a star player. It's kind of amazing he doesn't have a goal yet given the ridiculous number of scoring chances he's created already in the series, and he's playing a rugged-to-the-point-of-maniacal style of game. It's like they extracted some of Marchessault's crazy/angry and injected into Drouin, and it's pretty fun to watch.

Eventually Detroit equalized the game at 2-2 with Richards scoring through a screen on the PP after another Lightning penalty. Tampa Bay ended up surrendering 5 power play opportunities on the night, and that's 2-3 more than they should feel comfortable with against a power play as good as Detroit's. Mind you, a few of those calls were of dubious quality. Specifically, the Killorn holding call to start the contest and the Boyle interference call toward the end of the Second Period were gobsmacking. The latter was so bad Pierre McGuire on the NBCSN broadcast even went so far as to sarcastically remark it was... "unique." Indeed it was. Now, mind you, the officiating was bad at both ends and the refs probably did miss an accidental high stick by Hedman on Datsyuk in the corner in the Second Period that knocked out Datsyuk's teeth. In general, I'd say the refs have called the series so bizarrely to this point that they've fostered an environment of lawlessness that led to the shenanigans you saw at the final horn.

Ultimately the Lightning deserved the win tonight and they eventually got it on a pair of well crafted goals by Tyler Johnson and his linemates. Alex Killorn added the remote control goal off the boards in his own end into the empty net to rub salt into the wound. I just thought the Lightning were just far quicker to loose pucks than Detroit tonight, which led to another night with a high volume of scoring chances, and in the process they showed tighter defense and their goaltending settled down nicely. That's a good recipe for success, and the team has to be on a high tonight considering they've only trailed for a whopping 5:22 of this series so far. There needs to be some caution, though: the old timers will tell you it's not a series until a team wins a road game in a series. The Lightning did what they were supposed to do by holding serve at Amalie to start the Quarterfinals, but it was a homer series during the regular season and the Lightning have to know they've got a tough task still ahead of them in Detroit. At some point they'll need to pick off a game up there, in all likelihood, and it'll take a heavy lift to get that done. Hopefully they can ride that momentum into Game Three and get it right away with a view toward shortening the series and lessening the effects of potential attrition on an already thinly stretched roster.

Then close your eyes and imagine what happens when/if Stamkos and Stralman can work their way back into the lineup.

Now, about that thing that happened at the end of the game...

For those who didn't see it there was a scrum at the end of the contest that kicked off when noted thug Andrej Sustr (he reps his gang, the G-G-G-raffes) got into a little shoving match in front of Bishop's cage. No big deal. The teams piled up in a scrum. Again, no big deal. That happens a zillion times in the playoffs. Guys were pulling guys off the pile and pairing off. Same old song. Then Justin Abdelkader lost his damned mind, rolled onto Mike Blunden's back while Blunden was pinned to the ice at the bottom of the pile, and started throwing about a half dozen big right hands to the back of Blunden's head. Blunden, prone and defenseless on the ice because he was pinned with his back to Abdelkader, ended up with nine stitches for cuts that either happened within the pile or from his face hitting the ice while he was getting punched in the back of the head. In any event, he was bleeding like a stuck pig by the time the refs pulled Abdelkader up off of him on a play that was just flat out an assault. Abdelkader completely, absolutely, 100% snapped. If it's the regular season, that's a suspension. No doubt in my mind. In the playoffs? I doubt he'll get more than the whopping game misconduct he got with 50-some seconds left in a game his team was losing by 3 goals (big punishment there, NHL). The guy's a dirty player, and if the league won't do something about him I hope the Lightning have a big lead in the Third Period of the closeout game and Blunden gets his chance for a little sweet revenge, because the guy has had it coming since last season. He's involved in so many sketchy plays that end up with injuries to opposing players, and he needs to answer for it. And, if it goes down like that, I'm certain whoever does settle up with Abdelkader will get a few thank you cards from other team's players too.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 4-15-16 Crunch at Comets

Crunch cough up three unanswered in the Third Period.

SYR-1
UTI-3

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 2 goals on 24 shots for the hard luck loss.

First Period
SYR Vermin, (9) (DeAngelo, Richard), 0:09

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
UTI Kenins, (5) (Hensick, Subban), 7:16 (PP)
UTI LaBate, (10) (Grenier, Gaunce), 15:20 (PP)
UTI Pedan, (7) (Bancks), 18:42 (EN/SH)

Syracuse's season continues to wind down. The good news is they're still playing hard despite the harsh reality they won't be headed to the postseason.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

KHL Playoff Game Day: 4-15-16

KHL Gagarin Cup Final
CSKA 1 vs. Magnitogorsk 2 (OT)
Magnitogorsk Leads the Series 3-2
Vasily Koshechkin, Magnitogorsk, Win, 30/31, 0.92 GAA, .968 sv%
Playoff totals: 17 GP, 13-4-0, 3 SO, 1.53 GAA, .948 sv%
Regular season totals: 50 GP, 22-15-9, 4 SO, 2.12 GAA, .925 sv%

Ex-Blue Jackets pick Sergei Mozyakin scored 5:09 into Overtime to put Magnitogorsk within 1 win of their second Gagarin Cup championship in three seasons, as they defeated CSKA 2-1 in Game Five. Mozyakin also had Magnitka's other goal. After allowing a howler from center ice in a Game Three loss, netminder Vasily Koshechkin has allowed just 1 goal in the past 125+ minutes of the series.

Juniors Playoffs Game Night: 4-14-16

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Shawinigan Cataractes 6 @ Charlottetown Islanders 4
QMJHL Second Round
Shawinigan leads best-of-7 series, 3-2

W Dennis Yan, SHAW: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG, 0 Hits
Playoff totals: 10 GP, 4-4-8, +7, 22 PIM
Season totals: 62 GP, 32-37-69, +8, 86 PIM

Shawinigan won Game 5 on PEI to give the Cataractes two wins in three games in Charlottetown. They return home with a chance to clinch the series Sunday.

Juniors Playoffs Game Night: 4-13-16

Western Hockey League

Brandon Wheat Kings 6 @ Moose Jaw Warriors 2
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Brandon leads best-of-7 series, 3-1

C Brayden Point, MJ: 1-0-1, -3, 2 PIM, *Second Star*
Playoff totals: 9 GP, 6-10-16, E, 10 PIM
Season totals: 48 GP, 35-53-88, +24, 36 PIM

After beating Brandon, 7-1, one night ago, Moose Jaw fell Wednesday to the Wheat Kings, 6-2. Braydon Point was second star in what could have been his last game in front of his home crowd. Brandon can close out the series Friday in Manitoba. Point is already signed and is destined for AHL Syracuse next season.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 4-13-16 Red Wings at Lightning

Mirror Jon Cooper and the Lightning manufacture a key Game One win.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

DET-2
TB-3

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 1-0

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 36 shots for the victory. The stat line looks good, but Bishop did not look comfortable in this game. That's actually a hopeful sign for this series. Bishop had a bit of a shaky performance and the Lightning still managed to get a big win. You have to figure Bishop will find his form and settle down.

First Period
6:23 TB Kucherov(1), (Johnson, Killorn)

Second Period
2:11 DET Green(1), (DeKeyser, Tatar)
4:07 DET Abdelkader(1), (Quincey)
9:29 TB Kucherov(2), (Coburn, Nesterov)

Third Period
8:52 TB Killorn(1), (Johnson, Kucherov)

Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, and Alex Killorn were the game's three stars.

Let's recap: the Lightning came into this game sans Stamkos and Stralman with some question marks about the health of Johnson. Ben Bishop looked uncomfortable all night long. Detroit got the benefit of some puck luck on at least one goal and, I would argue, of the officiating in the game, as well. The Lightning still fought through it and got the win. If you believe puck luck balances out and that Bishop will find his form (I won't blow smoke that the officiating against an Original Six team will ever even out for Tampa Bay in this league) there's a lot to be hopeful about as the Lightning look to survive and advance deeper into these playoffs where, hopefully, some healthy reinforcements await.

It was not without blemishes. The defensive coverage tonight was poor and the Lightning continue to retreat off their blueline against the rush far too easily without Stralman. Detroit got a ton of good scoring chances that they outright blew tonight. Needless to say, the Lightning need to tighten up defensively. And, they need to improve their discipline against a Detroit team that needs their dangerous power play to score goals to win. Grit and guts were a good enough spackle tonight, though.

Credit to Mirror Universe Jon Cooper for some excellent line combinations and player usage tonight. You know it was Mirror Universe Jon Cooper because he's growing a goatee... and because Jonathan Drouin started the game... and because Jonathan Drouin played 17:39... and because Jonathan Drouin saw key shifts late in the Third Period of a 1-goal game. Really, it wasn't that difficult a choice for Mirror Jon Cooper to make, because Drouin played a whale of a game. You can ding him for being a little overspirited physically tonight and in jumping offside on the Hedman goal that was overturned on replay, but you can also make a strong argument he was the best player on the ice tonight. He was creating chances and he was playing with an absolutely nasty edge to his game. That's some of the best hockey Jonathan's played in a Lightning uniform, bar none. It's enough to make you wonder what this team could look like if it can stay alive long enough to get Stamkos and Stralman back. It could be the most potent lineup the Lightning have ever iced if Mirror Jon Cooper can keep regular Jon Cooper stuffed in the mirror universe.

And, of course, credit to the Lightning for not sagging after Hedman's 3-on-2 goal was disallowed. That was a real maturity-testing moment, and they passed with flying colors as they surged like crazy after that play. Not only did they get the Killorn goal, but they also should've had the insurance marker with Coburn banging one off the crossbar staring at an open cage. When you consider they could've easily had 3 goals over a span of about a 5 minute span in the Third Period, you realize Detroit should probably feel a little lucky too that they hung into the game.

Side note: there's a big difference in quality between the was Mrazek was playing at this time last year and Jimmy Howard this year, and if the Lightning can keep the pressure up, it should mean the goals flow a little easier for Tampa Bay.

Another side note: I hate Justin Abdelkader, and I hope all the bad things in life happen to him and only him.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

KHL Playoff Game Day: 4-13-16

KHL Gagarin Cup Final
Magnitogorsk 1 vs. CSKA 0
Series Tied 2-2
Vasily Koshechkin, Magnitogorsk, SO, 30/30, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 sv%
Playoff totals: 16 GP, 12-4-0, 3 SO, 1.57 GAA, .947 sv%
Regular season totals: 50 GP, 22-15-9, 4 SO, 2.12 GAA, .925 sv%

Vasily Koshechkin rebounded from an off Game Three to blank CSKA on 30 shots for a huge 1-0 Game Four win. 23 year old undrafted Czech centerman Tomas Filippi had the game's lone goal for Magnitka.

Juniors Playoffs Game Night: 4-12-16

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Saint John Sea Dogs 1 @ Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 4
QMJHL Second Round
Best-of-7 series tied, 2-2

W Bokondji Imama, SJ: 0-0-0, E, 17 PIM, 1 SOG, 3 Hits
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

Imama was tossed for boarding and could be facing another suspension. Imama hit the puck carrier so hard (from the side it appears) he flew into the boards and was injured. (Watch) Game 5 is Friday.

Shawinigan Cataractes 6 @ Charlottetown Islanders 2
QMJHL Second Round
Best-of-7 series tied, 2-2

W Dennis Yan, SHAW: 1-0-1, E, 4 PIM, 3 SOG, 2 Hits
Playoff totals: 9 GP, 4-4-8, +8, 22 PIM
Season totals: 62 GP, 32-37-69, +8, 86 PIM

Yan’s fourth goal of the playoffs, scored on the power play, gave the Cataractes a 2-0 lead in the first period they’d later relinquish. Shawinigan responded with four unanswered goals to take the 6-2 win. Game 5 is Thursday.

Western Hockey League

Brandon Wheat Kings 1 @ Moose Jaw Warriors 7
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Brandon leads best-of-7 series, 2-1

C Brayden Point, MJ: 1-0-1, +1, 0 PIM
Playoff totals: 8 GP, 5-10-15, +3, 8 PIM
Season totals: 48 GP, 35-53-88, +24, 36 PIM

The Warriors made home ice stand up Tuesday with a resounding 7-1 win over the higher-seeded Wheat Kings. Brayden Point got in on the fun, scoring his fifth goal of the playoffs. Moose Jaw had a 4-0 lead after two periods, then gave up the first goal of the third before adding three more. Game 4 is Wednesday.

Lightning Sign D Matthew Spencer to Three-Year Rookie Contract

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Matt Spencer to a three-year, entry-level contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Spencer, 19, skated in 60 games with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League this past season, recording five goals and 24 points to go along with 46 penalty minutes. He ranked third among all Petes defensemen for assists with 19 during the regular season. The 6-foot-2, 204-pound defenseman also appeared in seven OHL playoff games, posting one assist and 13 penalty minutes.

The Guelph, Ontario native has played in 191 career OHL games, all with Peterborough over the past three seasons, posting 12 goals and 69 points to go along with 143 penalty minutes.

Spencer was selected by the Lightning in the second round, 44th overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft.

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