New and improved.
Anders Lindback stopped 27 of 30 shots for the win in his Lightning debut. That looks like a mediocre stat line, but it doesn't tell the whole story. Lindback was steady and poised in the third period when the Lightning were under siege from taking too many penalties, and a couple of the goals allowed came off of really poor play in front of Lindback. So, all in all, it was an excellent debut. That was Lindback's 32nd NHL decision, so he's now 9 away from graduating from prospect status on this site, which should tell you how young and raw he is. There's a high ceiling there.
06:24 TB Brewer (1), (Carle, St. Louis)
08:25 WSH Ward (1), (Wolski, Poti)(PP)
09:09 TB Lecavalier, (Aulie)
01:59 WSH Ward (2), (Chimera, Carlson)
05:11 TB St. Louis (1), (Lecavalier, Conacher)(PP)
18:15 WSH Wolski (1), (Ribiero, Hamrlik)
04:57 TB St. Louis (2), (Stamkos, Purcell)(PP)
13:24 TB Conacher (1), (Purcell)
16:42 TB Brewer (2), (Purcell, Stamkos)(PP)
Lecavalier (pictured) looked like a dominant, all-star caliber player tonight. He scored, he hit, he owned the faceoff circles. If he plays another 47 games and into the playoffs like that, the Lightning will be a contender. St. Louis was excellent as you'd expect, and the team got the kind of contributions you'd also expect from Stamkos and Purcell. Having Lecavalier, who at one time 4-5 years ago was the best player in the game, rise again to a high level makes the Lightning incredibly difficult to stop, especially considering Lecavalier brings other things to the rink with his size, strength, and experience that guys like Stamkos and Purcell can't.
Overall, the Lightning had sloppy moments like you'd expect and a couple of them ended up in the back of the net. They also had some trouble staying out of the box in the First Period, which I had feared going in. What should make Lightning fans very optimistic is that they absolutely dominated the last 40-50 minutes of tonight's game. They were fast, they were the first to pucks, and they looked like the type of team Guy Boucher can mold as he installs his system in the coming weeks. The defense is about a million times more mobile than last year's version, and you got the feeling that with time to polish up the rough edges they could have held down Washington even more in this game without the unforced errors. Oh, and Victor Hedman looks like a man beast. Whatever they have in the water in Astana, Kazakhstan, all the d-men need to drink it.
Keith Aulie had a helper, 1 shot, and 5 hits tonight in 10:10 of ice time. Tonight was his 77th NHL game, so he's now just five away from graduating from prospect status on Bolt Prospects.
Conacher had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +1 with 2 shots in 13:50 in his NHL debut. They're going to ease him in, but the fact he can retrieve pucks for Vinny and Purcell makes him valuable. You can see it.
Syracuse meets the post-lockout bump in the road.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for the loss.
RCH Mancari, (11) (Porter, Sundher), 14:17
RCH Flynn, (13) (Adam, Crawford), 4:41
RCH Rankin, (9) (Schofield, Varone), 7:05
SYR Nightingale, (1) (Johnson, Palat), 16:31
RCH Varone, (4) (Biega, Schofield), 14:14
Chemistry in hockey can be a weird thing. There are plenty of examples of teams that weather losing a key player and continue to play well. But, in the case of the Crunch, they're dealing with losing Keith Aulie, Cory Conacher, and P.C. Labrie to Tampa Bay, Taormina being down with an injury right now, and Richard Panik on a three game suspension. Clearly it was too much to overcome tonight as the team struggles to develop continuity. Even once Panik and Taormina return, it's a tall task to try to replace a defenseman with NHL experience, the reigning AHL MVP, and an emotional and physical leader like Nacho. Fans of the Lightning farm team have been a little spoiled over the last year plus and these next few weeks are going to be a little tough as Syracuse works through the changes. It'll settle down eventually. Jon Cooper's too good a coach not to get it settled down and back on track. However, be aware, this isn't going to be quite the same juggernaut it was moving forward.
Syracuse plays Lake Erie tomorrow while the big boys get going against Washington.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
For Mike Angelidis, one of the strengths of the Syracuse Crunch is its ability to remain positive.
Down by a goal in the third period to the Norfolk Admirals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday, the Crunch captain knew if his team poured on the pressure, it would find the game-tying goal.
Syracuse outshot Norfolk 23-4 in the third, finding the equalizer midway through the frame and and ultimately winning the game, 3-2, in the shootout. The Crunch has won five straight and seven of its last eight.
"It gets frustrating when you keep shooting the puck and missing the net or they're blocking shots," Angelidis said. "It's frustrating, but if you keep playing the game and you stay positive, good things happen."
Cory Conacher tries to not think about what could have been.
With the National Hockey League and the players’ association still working to resolve the lockout, the 5-8, 179-pound winger, who was expected to be a candidate for the Calder Trophy, knows that nothing is guaranteed.
"Even if the NHL figures it out and I get a chance to play in Tampa, I can't expect to be the best player and get all the points," Conacher said. "I have to do the little things that will help Tampa Bay win, and that's what is most important."
One season removed from hoisting the Calder Cup and being named the American Hockey League's Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player – the fourth player to achieve both in the same season – the 23-year-old Syracuse Crunch forward still doesn't take anything for granted.
It was a night of firsts for the Syracuse Crunch.
But unfortunately for the Crunch, the firsts didn't stop there.
The St. John's IceCaps registered their first victory of the year after trailing at the first intermission, as the Crunch blew a 4-0 lead in a 5-4 overtime loss.
"I wish I was a little happier about it," Conacher said of his achievement. "Maybe sometime down the road I can get it and get a victory out of it, too."
Crunch's epic collapse ends in overtime defeat.
Riku Helenius allowed 5 goals on 33 shots for the overtime loss in his first start since returning from Finland over the holiday break. A goaltender of his caliber should not be coughing up a 4 goal lead, and goaltending remains one of the big question marks of this Syracuse team.
SYR Conacher, (12) (Labrie, Barberio), 15:50
SYR Killorn, (12) (Oberg), 18:25 (PP)
SYR Aulie, (2) (Killorn, Conacher), 5:20
SYR Namestnikov, (1) (Connolly, Palat), 7:40 (PP)
STJ O'Dell, (5) (Mouillierat, Klingberg), 8:31
STJ Postma, (6) (Clark), 11:15
STJ Gregoire, (6) (O'Dell, Maxwell), 1:53
STJ O'Neill, (1) , 7:32
STJ Chiarot, (1) (Maxwell, Macenauer), 4:40
Cory Conacher was the game's second star.
Congratulations to Vladislav Namestnikov on his first goal as a professional.
This loss is going to leave a sour, sour taste in Syracuse's mouth. They built a 4-0 lead and looked to be cruising before the wheels started coming off, particularly in a third period where they were outshot, 10-3. Along with mediocre goaltending, the tendency to only play 40 quality minutes of hockey rather than a full 60 has been a big bugaboo for this team. And, if Syracuse is going to try to grab a championship this season, those are two things they desperately need to remedy.
Syracuse is at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Monday, where they'll try to vindicate themselves after tonight's performance.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Wherein #89 reminds us he's the reigning league MVP...
Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 20 shots for the victory.
SYR Barberio, (5) (Conacher, Connolly), 18:54 (PP)
SYR Conacher, (11) , 0:28
SYR Gudas, (3) (Wyman), 9:51
BNG Da Costa, (4) (Hoffman, Silfverberg), 11:07
SYR Brown, (6) (Palat, Conacher), 1:02 (PP)
BNG Silfverberg, (12) (Jessiman, Benoit), 5:23 (PP)
BNG Pageau, (2) (Jessiman), 11:35
SYR Angelidis, (5) (Wyman), 19:15 (EN)
Cory Conacher (pictured) and Mark Barberio were the game's first and third stars. Conacher's been exceedingly quiet with just 1 goal and 4 points in the 10 games prior to tonight, but his 3 point outburst signals perhaps "The Honey Badger" (not the LSU variety that ends up in rehab) is ready to start hitting the scoresheet regularly again.
Hard to believe Alex Killorn didn't score a goal tonight. His streak snaps at 6 games, although he did have 5 shots on goal tonight.
Syracuse outshot Bingo a mind-numbing 44-20 in the game, including 29-9 through the first 40 minutes. Almost dominant.
And now, the moment that we knew was coming and have been dreading. Norfolk comes to town Friday night, and the Crunch will try to take down the franchise for which they staked a record-breaking winning streak that may never be equaled. Mixed emotions.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
It has been stressed to Brett Connolly that he needs to drive to the net.
The 20-year-old Syracuse Crunch forward followed through against the Binghamton Senators Wednesday at the Onondaga County War Memorial, potting a pair of goals in the Crunch's 4-3 win.
"Coach has been all over me to do that," Connolly said. "That's where I've been scoring all my goals."
And the Panik attack continues...
Riku Helenius stopped 18 of 19 shots he faced for the victory.
SYR Conacher, (9) (Taormina, Connolly), 14:52
ALB Whitney, (1) (Henrique), 5:00
SYR Johnson, (11) (Panik, Palat), 10:26
SYR Killorn, (3) (Johnson, Palat), 13:04
SYR Panik, (8) , 8:17
Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik were the game's first and second stars. Panik extended his scoring streak to nine games, matching the other two longest streaks in the AHL this season. More importantly, Panik is now creeping into the league leaders in goals and points alongside fellow Crunch forwards Johnson and Cory Conacher. This is big news for the Lightning organization. If he translates his stellar play in November consistently over the rest of the year, he will be in Tampa Bay next season. There's never been any doubt Panik has the highest upside of any forward in the Lightning organization. If he puts it all together, he's Marian Hossa reincarnate, and the rest of the NHL should be wary of him joining a team that already has the likes of Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman.
Alex Killorn got the third goal of his rookie campaign tonight and it's hard not to be pleased with the 11 points he has in his first 16 games, but there's something instructive buried deeper in the stats. Killorn actually leads Syracuse in shots on goal with 49, ahead of Johnson's 47. The difference is that Johnson has an NHL shot and Killorn doesn't, yet. Developing an NHL shot can be done with hard work. Ask Vincent Lecavalier. And, if Killorn puts that work in, it can be the difference between a 5-10 year NHL career as a lower-liner and a 10-15 year career as a top two-liner. With the style of game he plays, which is a north-south, shoot first kind of game, if he fine tunes his shot he's going to score a lot of goals. He's an Ivy League guy, so I suspect he's capable of calculating the difference in career earning power in both scenarios. And, when he does, I'm fairly confident he'll find the cost-benefit of putting that extra time in will be well justified.
Syracuse ends their weekend set tomorrow afternoon in Worcester.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
JT Brown described his team as having a good feeling going into the first intermission Saturday.
Leading 1-0 over the Adirondack Phantoms, it only got better for the Syracuse Crunch, who scored four times in the first 12 minutes of the second period en route to a 5-2 victory -- their second straight -- at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.
"Our team has been playing well the past few games, and that's just the kind of thing we needed," Brown said. "We needed to put together a few good games to get ourselves rolling."