Holmqvist, Johan

Erlendsson Shows Love

Erik Erlendsson of the Trib blogs some kudos to Bolt Prospects in his Tuesday entry on the Lightning's offseason and the possibility of re-signing prospect defenseman Andreas Holmqvist. We blog kudos back to his blog, which has come along nicely over the past year.

Specifically regarding Holmqvist: suffice it to say he has some significant support behind him in the organization. And, considering the scouts who followed the Swedish league and Swedish World Championships team last season did deliver Johan Holmqvist and Andreas Karlsson to the team last season, it's not out of the realm of possibility to see an Andreas Holmqvist comeback on the horizon. I think the only thing that is precluding it might be a sense in the front office that they've already been fooled once by Andreas before. The former 2001 2nd round draft pick got a very lucrative one-way deal to come to North America the year before the lockout and was utterly putrid. The scouting report from that juncture of his career was not exactly glowing. His ability to play in his own third of the ice often took on the appearance of a deer trapped in headlights. Few who were there will forget his rookie training camp pairing with Mike Egener and how the two youngsters were abused shift after shift by the likes of Dimitry Afanasenkov (they made Affy look like Pavel Bure) in preseason scrimmages. Andreas also lacked anything resembling upper body strength. It's not that he didn't try to use his frame to body up people. He would lean on opponents and try to work along the wall. But the average ten year old could probably bench more than Holmqvist when he came across the Atlantic. Andreas also needed to work on his first step acceleration, but that was a minor point in comparison to the previous two strikes. The Lightning scouts around that time truly believed at the time Andreas' offensive skill set was NHL caliber. The young man is an incredible sight to behold when he runs a power play. Crisp skater. Sharp passer. Thunderously heavy shot. So Jay Feaster gave him the money, and probably felt luck a sucker every day for the next two years straight until Andreas went back to Sweden to play for Linkopings in the Elitserien. I don't blame him for being hesitant.

But, since going back to Sweden, Holmqvist has done just about everything you could ask of a young player to burnish his credentials for a comeback. He's had two solid offensive seasons and has been a semi-regular fixture on Sweden's Euro Tour teams. He even got a medal playing on the bottom pair for Sweden at last year's World Championships. This season he was mercilessly consistent the second half of the Elitserien season and had a strong playoffs helping Linkopings advance to the league finals before being knocked off by MODO for the championship.

To me, there's not a lot of risk in re-signing Holmqvist and it's a little bit of a no-brainer. I presume he can't command much more than a one-year, two-way, league minimum contract. If his agent can get anything more than that, well, then I want his agent to be my agent too. So if it's not a money issue then it comes down to organizational needs and the 50-man roster. From an organizational standpoint, in case anyone hasn't noticed, there's not a lot offensive defenseman prospects in this organization right now. There are even less right handed point shots. God forbid if Dan Boyle should ever get hurt. Holmqvist potentially kills those two birds and another: since Andy Delmore was traded to the Thrashers the Lightning have been lacking someone to run their power play at the AHL level. Holmqvist would probably spend at least the first half of the season in Norfolk and could handle the role. He was ruthlessly efficient on the power play during Linkopings' playoff run.

The 50-man roster might be the hurdle. The Lightning have a potentially large class of incoming prospects: as many as ten by my count if they can find a way to wrangle Vasily Koshechkin out of the last year of his rumored deal with Togliatti. Between players moving up to Tampa and prospects who probably won't be asked back I only see six or seven spots as definitely opening up. Whether or not the other three the Lightning would need to clear can become available might ultimately make the decision on a Holmqvist comeback.

NHL Playoff Game Day 4/22: Devils at Lightning

This is a tough pill to swallow. For the first time in franchise history the team has lost a series where I really believed they were the better team.


Johan Holmqvist allowed 3 goals on 26 shots in the loss. He did allow a bit of a softie on the short side for Jersey's first goal, but he was good. After his horrible Game One performance, I think Johan did a lot to regain the confidence of the franchise going into an offseason where decisions need to be made concerning the netminder's job. Brad Richards had both Lightning goals on the power play. Filip Kuba had a pair of assists in the game to atone for accidentally knocking over Holmqvist after a Tim Taylor turnover that resulted in the game winning goal. Vaclav Prospal and Vincent Lecavalier also had assists.

Going into the offseason, I feel a lot better about the team's blueline than I did 3-4 months ago. Dan Boyle is one of the best defensemen in the league and Filip Kuba earned every penny of his free agent deal from this summer. I was impressed with how Shane O'Brien quickly factored into the mix and Paul Ranger will be approaching 250-300 pro games by the end of next season so he should start to really hit his comfort zone as a player. It will be difficult if not impossible to retain Cory Sarich and the team might do well to find a younger, more mobile replacement for Nolan Pratt. Now is the time for one of the Lightning's young defensive prospects like Matt Smaby or Vladimir Mihalik or Mike Egener to step up as a player.

In net, Holmqvist probably did enough in the playoffs to earn the starting job going into next season. Marc Denis' nearly $3M per year contract is unsustainable from a budget standpoint and he may be traded or even bought out before next season. That leaves young Karri Ramo in the Lightning's backup role and, mark my words, he could be a Calder contender next season.

I think the most amount of work for this team needs to be done up front this summer. Lecavalier, Richards and St. Louis showed why they're paid premium dollars in this playoff series. The core is sound. The supporting cast, however, is horrible. There was no greater endictment of the Lightning's lack of offensive depth than the fact Andreas Karlsson spent all of today's game playing on the Lightning's second line and second power play unit. What do you do if you're the Lightning? That's got to be the biggest question of this offseason. They have some decent fourth line type pieces (Andre Roy, Nick Tarnasky, Evgeny Artyukhin) and some decent third line type pieces (Ryan Craig, Eric Perrin, Jason Ward should they retain him). The question is whether they can find a couple of more forwards with the skill to play on the scoring lines and possibly a natural third line center.

It's going to be an interesting offseason. If I was a young forward who hasn't fully established himself as a scorer in the league, I'd take a long hard look at Tampa. I have a feeling Lecavalier and Richards could make some young man a lot of money if they latch on here.

Game sheet from NHL.com.

NHL Playoff Game Night 4/20: Lightning at Devils

And now the Lightning will be swimming against the current in Game Six.


Johan Holmqvist allowed 2 goals on 13 shots. Yes, just 13 shots. The Lightning trounced Jersey in shots by a 31-14 margin. However, the bounces were not going the Lightning's way tonight and Brodeur's confidence seems to be growing. It's hard to get angry about how the team played. They outplayed the Devils by all objective measures. Shots. Scoring chances. Zone time. They all favored the Lightning greatly. Still, the team finds itself behind the eight ball trailing 3 games to 2 going into Sunday.

The good news is, the Lightning have survived this test before. Recall, the team rallied from a 3-2 series defecit to defeat Calgary for the cup in '04. The Lightning have some experience to draw on. But they need to get back to finishing their chances.

Game sheet from NHL.com.

NHL Playoff Game Night 4/18: Devils at Lightning

Buckle up, this could be a long series now.

TB-3 (OT)

Johan Holmqvist allowed 4 goals on 37 shots in the loss. He was great tonight though. No complaints. Gomez's OT winner was just a great shot. Martin St. Louis led the way with 1 goal and 1 assist. Eric Perrin and Vincent Lecavalier had the Lightning's goals. Filip Kuba, Brad Richards and Vaclav Prospal added assists.

The good news? New Jersey still can't stop the Lightning's big guns. They have no answer for Lecavalier, Richards and St. Louis. None.

The bad news? On balance this was probably the first game of the series where the Jersey skaters really outplayed the Lightning's skaters. Far too many turnovers by the Lightning to count. They must tighten up going into a critical Game Five.

Game sheet from NHL.com.

NHL Playoff Game Night 4/16: Devils at Lightning

The Lightning take a 2-1 series lead as the Devils still have no answer for Tampa's big guns.


Johan Holmqvist stopped 30 of 32 shots faced for the win. Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards each had 1 goal and 1 assist and Martin St. Louis had a pair of helpers but it was Vaclav Prospal's third period goal that finally snuffed out the Devils' hopes of stealing a Game Three road win. Filip Kuba also added an assist.

The Devils got a ridiculously lucky goal on a 2-on-1 centering feed from Zach Parise that bounced off a sliding Dan Boyle and in. Otherwise, this is a 3-1 win. Just like Game One should have been a 3-1 win. Almost like Game Two was a 3-1 win. The Lightning are having little trouble getting to three goals even against the much honored Martin Brodeur and it seems the only way the Devils can get to 3 goals themselves is if Holmer implodes. So long as Holmqvist continues to provide good goaltending, the Lightning should have the upper hand in this series.

Now the Lightning have put New Jersey in a situation where they've got to win 3 of the next 4 games to win the series. That's good, not great. Stepping on Jersey's throat by taking Game Four and getting this to a 3-1 series lead? That would be great.

Game sheet from NHL.com.

NHL Playoff Game Night 4/12: Lightning at Devils

With any kind of goaltending, the Lightning would've won this game 3-1.


Johan Holmqvist was awful in Game One. Awful. 5 goals on 24 shots in the loss and 3 of those were soft goals and the final goal of the game came on a terrible decision to move the puck rather than freezing it after he originally put his glove down on the biscuit on the play. Where do you go from here in net? Holmer's confidence might be 100% shattered right now. Denis has been publicly told to get lost, for all intents and purposes. And, while I have confidence in Karri Ramo and his abilities, he hasn't started a hockey game in close to a month and he's never started a game at the NHL level.

And the frustrating thing is the other 18 guys on the rink tonight for the Lightning definitely played well enough to win. They were the better team on balance. Vincent Lecavalier got loose for 2 goals. Martin St. Louis had 1 goal and 1 assist. Brad Richards, Dan Boyle and Vaclav Prospal all had assists. All the big guns, for the most part, got theirs and the Lightning also got particularly strong games from Jason Ward and Nick Tarnasky. Perhaps that's the silver lining: if the Lightning can find someone, ANYONE, who won't allow goals to go through them (the Devils' first goal), or to beat them on unscreened wristers from the side boards around the top of the circles (the Devils' second goal), or to get beaten on an emotionally deflating short side goal just moments after getting the game tied (the Devils fourth goal), then they should be able to handle New Jersey in this series.

On paper, the Lightning's goaltending situation is so much improved over last season, and yet there was something terribly Grahame-esque vs. Ottawa about Holmer tonight. Games Two and Three will be interesting.

Game sheet from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 4/7: Lightning at Thrashers

Lightning limp into the playoffs after missing out on a chance to move into the 6 seed in the shootout.

ATL-3 (SO)

Johan Holmqvist stopped 41 shots before allowing an uncustomary 3 shootout goals for his first career shootout loss. Vaclav Prospal and Filip Kuba had the Lightning goals. Kuba's 15 goals at season's end top Prospal's 14. Didn't see that one coming. Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Tim Taylor added individual assists.

The shootout loss slots the Lightning in as the #7 seed in the Eastern Conference. They will face #2 seeded New Jersey in the first round. Considering the Lightning were 3-1-0 in the regular season against the Devils and have one of the best records against the Devils over the past three seasons of any Eastern Conference team, this is definitely a series that the Lightning can win. The question is: are they right mentally after collapsing against Florida and evaporating in the third period and overtime against Atlanta in the regular season's final two games with so much on the line? Time will tell.

Game sheet from NHL.com.

Lightning Choke Harder

Most embarassing game in Lightning history. Ever.


Johan Holmqvist allowed 4 goals on 12 shots before being pulled for Marc Denis who allowed 3 goals on 19 shots the rest of the way. Both were attrocious and I'm sure John Tortorella wished he had dressed Karri Ramo tonight instead. Jason Ward and Nick Tarnasky had goals in garbage time. Brad Richards, Shane O'Brien, Nolan Pratt and Ruslan Fedotenko got garbage tome assists.

The Lightning loss coupled with Atlanta's win tonight in Carolina makes the Thrashers the division champions. The Lightning's complete inability to secure winnable games against Florida in the final month of the season is the cause, and the Lightning have absolutely no one but themselves to blame. They should have been the 2006-2007 Southeast Division champions. They gave the banner away.

Tomorrow's game in Atlanta takes on diminished meaning. The Lightning will either finish with the #6 or #7 seed depending on what they and the Rangers do in their final games. A Lightning win and Rangers regulation loss gives Tampa a first round series with Atlanta. Any other set of results gives the Lightning a first round matchup with New Jersey. More importantly, Saturday's game will be a key opportunity to rebound psychologically from tonight's collapse. No one in their right mind would want to limp into New Jersey with a couple of season ending losses under these circumstances and try to upset such a battle tested franchise.

Game sheet from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 4/3: Hurricanes at Lightning

Enjoy your tee times "champs".


Johan Holmqvist (just win baby) stopped 22 of 24 shots faced for the win. The Lightning got goals from Eric Perrin, Vincent Lecavalier and the The Showman, Dan Boyle. With all due respect to Marty and Vinny, Dan Boyle is, was, and always will be the most entertaining player on this club to watch night in and night out. If you spliced the genes of Bobby Orr and PT Barnum, the end product would be Dan Boyle. He is the NHL's best kept secret. He is also one of only a dozen or so players in this league who are worth paying money to see just in of himself along with the Crosbys of the world. He's that good, and he's got 20 goals this season to prove it. It's a crying shame the NHL doesn't recognize just what sensational marquee caliber player he is. Jason Ward, Nolan Pratt and Vaclav Prospal added assists.

The Lightning pull within 1 point of Atlanta in the division with the Thrashers holding a game in hand. And, with the Smirkin' Chikins having a date with Washington coming up, you're about to witness one of the handful of awkward occassions in my life where I've had to utter the phrase "lets go Caps". The math is painfully simple from here on out. Atlanta has to leave at least a point on the ice against either Washington or Carolina before the Lightning and Thrashers meet up in "Blue Land" (and it's recently annexed protectorate "Mortgaged the Future of My Franchise to Try to Save My Job Land" where Don Waddell presides as Prime Minister). If they do, the division title will be in play when the Lightning take the ice in the season finale with the #3 seed, the home ice, the division title and a percentage of the proceeds from Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue's last shady land deal all up for grabs. Don't choke Atlanta.

Game sheet from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 3/31: Capitals at Lightning

If Vincent Lecavalier played in a bigger market, there'd be no doubt who the MVP would be this season.


Johan Holmqvist stopped 23 of 25 shots faced for the win. Vincent Lecavalier had 1 goal and 2 assists to boost his season point total to 106. If you had a fever that high, you'd be dead. Dan Boyle had 1 goal and 1 assist and is now just one goal shy of the difficult to reach 20 goal mark for a defenseman. Also with 1 goal (shorthanded) and 1 assist Martin St. Louis goes into triple digits with a sick but still non-lethal 101. And, Cory Sarich had a multi-point night with 2 assists?!?!? Stock up on canned goods, people. Ryan Craig and Jason Ward had the other Lightning goals with individual helpers going to Paul Ranger, Andreas Karlsson, Filip Kuba and Vaclav Prospal.

With the win the Lightning keep pace with Atlanta three points back in the division with their head-to-head match up still on tap in the season finale. They gain two points on the Islanders, who lost tonight, and maintain their gap on victorious Toronto, Montreal and the Rangers.

Some numbers to consider as we enter the waning games of the season:
-As mentioned, with one more goal Dan Boyle will reach 20 goals for a defenseman.
-With 4 more points, Filip Kuba would reach the 40 point plateau. Difficult, but not impossible.
-Despite missing almost 10 games with a knee injury, Paul Ranger is 3 points shy of the 30 point plateau. Also difficult, but not impossible.
-Netminder Johan Holmqvist recorded his 26th win of the season last night. Even if the Lightning run the table, he cannot reach 30 wins. Darn the flu.

Game sheet from NHL.com.

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