Features

Articles that are feature stories.

Crunch's Top Line Looks To Keep Rolling in Round 2


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Although all the weight isn’t on their shoulders, the Syracuse Crunch’s top line knows its importance.

Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Richard Panik have provided six of Syracuse’s 12 postseason goals, including two out of the four in each game. Those six markers include all three game-winners, two of which came in overtime.

With the No. 2 seed Falcons looming when the Eastern Conference Semifinals begin in Springfield Friday, the top line will be expected to do what it has done all season – produce points by the bunches in all situations.

"All three of those guys can fly," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "That's their best asset – they have speed. If you show that speed early and often, hopefully it will back off their defense and create some room in front of them as the series goes on."

Prospect of the Week: April 25, 2013

We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for April 25 is … Tyler Johnson, C, Syracuse (AHL – USA).

Repeat.

For the second year in a row, a prospect in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization won the AHL’s Most Valuable Player Award as Tyler Johnson of the Syracuse Crunch was given the honor last week. Johnson follows Cory Conacher, last year's winner, as the second Bolt prospect to win the award. Conacher has since moved on to the Ottawa Senators organization via trade.

What to Expect from Mark Barberio

In the old days of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Mark Barberio may be a 2-year veteran at this point in his career.

The Lightning had little organizational depth and if prospects showed flashes of NHL ability, they were called up to the big club and thrown to the proverbial wolves.

When new general manager Steve Yzerman took over, he changed all that, and Barberio is a prime example of his player development philosophy.

Zettler Anxious for First Win


By Jeremy Houghtaling

As he waits for his first win behind the Syracuse Crunch bench, Rob Zettler has gone through a range of emotions.

He’s excited and energetic, and comfortable yet anxious. Although his tenure has started with three straight losses, he knows it hasn’t stemmed from a lack of trying.

“These guys all want to win as much as I do,” Zettler said of his team. “I'm not worried about their effort. I'm not worried about how they played. We just have to find a way to get the W."

Prospect of the Week: April 3, 2013

We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for April 3 is … Matthew Peca, W, Quinnipiac (NCAA – USA).

Matt Peca made sure his Quinnipiac Bobcats would advance to the Frozen Four in their first national tournament last week.

Trade Analysis: Bishop Takes Conacher

Tampa Bay Lightning Rookie of the Year candidate and reigning AHL Most Valuable Player Cory Conacher was traded with a fourth round pick to the Ottawa Senators for goaltender Ben Bishop today.

Bishop, 6-foot-7, 214 pounds, has played in 13 games with the Senators this season, posting an 8-5-1 record with a 2.58 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. He also has one shutout. Bishop’s eight wins are tied for the team lead, while he ranks tied for eighth in the NHL for save percentage among goaltenders with 10 or more games played. He also played in 13 games with the Binghamton Senators of the AHL this season, posting an 8-3-2 record with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage.

Prospect of the Week: March 27, 2013

We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for March 27 is … Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay (NHL – USA).

Undrafted and undersized, Tyler Johnson has been huge for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

What to Expect from Jon Cooper

I was hoping I’d get to write this.

“#TampaCuse” went on steroids Monday as Tampa Bay announced that Syracuse coach Jon Cooper is joining his 10 former students with the Lightning as head coach.

Cooper’s story is well documented. He was a practicing lawyer who had a dream to be a hockey coach and then went out and won a billion games and a handful of championships.

Prospect of the Week: March 19, 2013

We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for March 19 is … Dylan Blujus, D, Brampton (OHL – Canada).

For years Lightning prospect followers have pounded their fists on their computer tables in demand of a right-handed defenseman capable of impacting a game at both ends of the ice. They got their wish last June when the Bolts selected Brampton (OHL) defenseman Dylan Blujus in the second round (40th overall).

Blujus had just completed a 34-point season with the Battalion and was a prime candidate for a breakout season offensively in 2012-2013.

That hasn’t exactly happened for the young Amherst, New York, native, as he just finished his third OHL season with fewer goals and points than his second season despite playing more games. Not everything shows up on the stat sheet, obviously, and Blujus has further developed his physical game while playing big minutes for a defense-first club.

What to Expect from Tyler Johnson

Two years and one week ago, Tyler Johnson’s mind was on two WHL scoring titles and helping his hometown Spokane Chiefs increase its win totals.

The undrafted, undersized sniper had no clear track for his hockey career when the Tampa Bay Lightning came calling and signed the free agent to a three-year entry-level contract.

His race to the NHL was now set, but how quickly he’d break through the ribbon was up to him.

He immediately rewarded the Lightning by finishing tops in the WHL in goals with 53 in 2011, and was just one point shy of being its top scorer with 115 points in 71 games.

The following year – his first year pro – Johnson made Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman look like a genius when the Washington state native scored 31 goals and 68 points and was an integral part of a championship Norfolk Admirals team that went down as one of the best in AHL history.

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