Tampa Bay Lightning
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.
Back in early October, the BP staff made goalie prospect Karri Ramo the 2nd highest ranked prospect in the organization, with the caveat that it wouldn't be a stretch to think that this young Finnish netminder would be an NHL backup by the All-Star break.
Well... ok, maybe not the All-Star Break, but Damian Cristodero of the St. Pete Times is reporting in his blog that Bolt head coach John Tortorella has named Karri Ramo as Johan Holmqvist's backup for the playoffs. This is a huge opportunity for the young goalie, and sets up Ramo as the prospect mostly likely to make the Tampa squad out of training camp next season.
Lightning limp into the playoffs after missing out on a chance to move into the 6 seed in the shootout.
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.
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.
Just saw this headline on Yahoo's ticker..
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