Koekkoek, Slater

NHL Game Night: 4-2-15 Lightning at Senators

Lightning nearly steal both points.

OTT-2 (OT)

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 34 shots for the OT loss. His rebound control wasn't all that great tonight, but he was sparkling on first shots, which was nearly good enough to complete the larceny.

First Period
5:03 OTT Stone (20), (Turris, MacArthur)
16:53 TB Drouin (4), (Stralman, Filppula)(PP)

Second Period

Third Period

4:43 OTT Wiercioch (3), (Stone, Turris)

Bishop was the game's third star.

Most of the Lightning's injured players actually participated in the morning skate today, which signals to me that if tonight's game had been a priority some of them would have gone. As it was, it was clear that getting rest and getting healthy was deemed more important than still pursuing the division title. Fair enough, under the circumstances, and it reflected in a pretty flat First Period by the team. However, as the game wore on, I think the Lightning realized there were points to be stolen on the table and their intensity improved as the game went on. They got 1 point to keep pace with Montreal tonight, but couldn't thieve the 2nd. Still, it's more than I would've expected from the body language I saw in the First Period. They trail Montreal by 1 point with the Habs holding a game in hand and the Lightning having 3 games left on the slate. They would hold the ROW tiebreaker, which looms large if they can get some help and Montreal stubs their toe a couple of times in their last 4 games.

One other point of interest, pun intended, is the Lightning got their 12th point tonight in this 10 game segment. In other words, the Lightning hit 12 points in every 10 game segment of the season but 1, and the miss was an 11 point segment. They may not be consistent game to game, but their frighteningly consistent segment to segment, which is very good compared to last season when they had about 3 misses, as I recall, along the way. Maturation.

Slater Koekkoek had 3 shots, 1 hit, and 3 blocked shots in 17:55. He was a stud tonight. He was active in all three zones and particularly in clearing out his front porch. You saw the total package of what Koekkoek can do and he nearly had an OT winner jumping into the play, to boot. Very impressive.

Luke Witkowski had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:19 to go with 2 PIMs. He didn't play a perfect game, but he played a good one. I think, in particular, when the game got chippy in the Second Period it got right into Luke's wheelhouse and he started to really come alive.

Nikita Nesterov was -2 with 4 shots, 5 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 19:38. The IT tells you the coaching staff appreciates what he's doing, but he's had some hard luck where his good two-way play hasn't paid off with pluses with the Lightning forwards struggling to pot goals.

Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 hit and was 55% on 11 draws in 9:50. IT was down tonight, and it was hard to tell if he got dinged or if it was a coach's decision. Vladdy is at 40 NHL games this season, which means his next appearance will mark his graduation from prospect status on the website.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 3-31-15 Lightning at Maple Leafs

The needle hits E in Toronto.


Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the loss. He wasn't the reason the team lost, but one or two semi-soft goals definitely made the sledding a lot more comfortable for Toronto. In a game like this, the Lightning really needed Andrei to be flawless.

First Period
8:53 TOR Kadri (17), (Lindstrom, Brennan)(PP)
12:03 TOR Booth (7), (unassisted)
18:04 TB Callahan (23), (Palat, Kucherov)(PP)

Second Period

Third Period
0:24 TOR Rielly (8), (Kadri, Gardiner)

Shots were 41-28 Lightning, so I'm not going to say the Lightning were somehow dogging it or that they had a let down in a trap game. I just think they almost emptied out the tank against Montreal, so they simply couldn't muster the same intensity level and didn't have the extra gear against Toronto. Not with all the injuries they are trying to work through, anyway. And, the Leafs got a great performance from Reimer, which compounded things.

I hate to see the Lightning's division title hopes in peril like this, on the one hand. On the other, I don't want to see this team dead dragging tired going into the opening round of the playoffs, either. It's a boon to be able to get Bishop some rest like he did tonight, and it might also be a silver lining if circumstances allow them to take their foot off the gas the last couple of games of the year and give guys like Palat and Paquette a little more time off to get right for the postseason, on top of all the guys who are already on the shelf.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 2 shots in 15:31. Didn't look horribly out of place, and the old Joe Reekie number looks good on him. Thought he showed as advertised. I feel like he'll challenge for a roster spot in the Fall, and his progress will be very important for the success of the team next year. You figure he'll either make the squad or be the first call up from Syracuse if he doesn't make it.

Luke Witkowski had 2 shots, 6 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:50. 3 giveaways is a little bit of an ugly number, but all in all he handled the extra workload reasonably well.

Nikita Nesterov was -1 with 5 shots and 2 hits in 22:11. The minutes don't lie. He's the guy the coaching staff turned to in order to fill the gap, and I suspect they're not at all displeased.

Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot and 1 hit in 15:12 and was 56% on draws. He's 2 games from graduation from prospect status on the site.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Day: 3-28-15 Lightning at Red Wings

When things go completely pear shaped...


Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the loss. He was fairly sharp, although he seemed to let his focus waver a bit on the third goal, in which Nyquist beat out an icing call to one hand the puck on net.

First Period

Second Period
5:25 DET Andersson (2), (Quincey, Weiss)
7:19 DET Abdelkader (23), (Nyquist)
9:19 DET Nyquist (24), (Quincey)

Third Period
18:21 DET Glendening (11), (unassisted)(EN)

The game today was almost inconsequential. Jason Garrison was lost at 3:43 of the First Period after being boarded by Justin Abdelkader. At best, it appeared that Garrison might have a sprained shoulder. At worst, you might have some more severe damage to that shoulder or to the collar bone, etc. Looked like weeks to me. Compounding the issue, Cedric Paquette severely hurt his left leg bounding into the post to break up an EN attempt by Abdelkader at the close of the game. That looked like end of season, to me. It's really a shame, too, because I though Dump Truck was one of the few bright spots in today's contest. As it is, best case scenario, the Lightning are going to limp through the final games of the regular season and hope that they get Coburn and Garrison back for the postseason. Worst case, neither will be ready. And Paquette? Let's just say it's a very good think Namestnikov has come on the way he has, because I'm not sure the Lightning will be getting Ceddy back until the Fall.

The Lightning's division title hopes may have taken a mortal hit with the day's injuries, and their viability as a club that can have staying power in the playoffs has also potentially taken a nasty hit. Namestnikov will no doubt just slide into Paquette's roster spot, but there will likely need to be an emergency recall for Garrison while that situation sorts itself out. Garrison's a left sider, so while Luke Witkowski has gotten a look earlier this season, I'm left to wonder if perhaps Slater Koekkoek will get his first taste of the NHL now.

As for the game, it was one of those contests where the circumstances that unfolded seemed to just suck the life right out of the Lightning. It didn't help that the officiating was awful. Abdelkader probably should've gotten 5 and the gate for the hit on Garrison, and there were several other boarding calls on Detroit that went completely uncalled in the First Period. The Lightning survived that, but never found their legs and eventually saw the game snowball against them in the Second Period as the Wings managed to get a couple of goals off delflections and that one-hander that aren't normal goals. I wouldn't call them fluky, but they're just not things you see often, and that has a way of knocking the wind out of your sails, too.

Nikita Nesterov was -2 with 2 shots in 15:41. It was looking like he might be earmarked for a return to Syracuse at some point. Now, it's looking like he's going to be a regular in the team's top six the rest of the way in the regular season. His turnover led to Detroit's second goal, and he showed some signs of rust today, in my opinion. He had a harder time with the pace after being out of the lineup for so long. Hopefully, he catches back up quickly.

Vladislav Namestnikov was -1 in 10:11. Like everyone in white not named "Paquette" or "Morrow", his energy was off tonight. The Lightning announced they were burning one of their last two full callups before the game to keep Vladdy on the roster the rest of the year. Wonder if they can get a "take-back" with what happened to Paquette.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-20-15 Penguins at Crunch

Syracuse goes Koekkoek in Overtime.

SYR-2 (OT)

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 1 goal on 28 points for the victory. That's just 1 goal allowed in the last couple of games.

First Period

Second Period
SYR Gourde, (25) (Dotchin, Courtnall), 8:17

Third Period
WBS Kostopoulos, (14) (Pouliot), 11:22

SYR Koekkoek, (4) (Marchessault), 4:52

Slater Koekkoek and Gudlevskis were the game's first and second stars. If you look at the last 11 games, Slater has 1 goal and 9 points in that span, with a +6 rating. He's definitely turned a corner in his development in the past few weeks, as he's now sprinkling in the offensive contributions with his reasonably steady defensive play.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 2-28-15 Comets at Crunch

Gudlevskis gets his groove back.


One night removed from allowing 7 goals, Kristers Gudlevskis allowed just 1 goal on 39 shots to lead the Crunch to the win. Streakiness, thy name is Kristers Gudlevskis.

First Period
SYR Richard, (8) (Deschamps, Koekkoek), 6:24
UTI Shinkaruk, (7) (Blain, Huskins), 14:01 (PP)

Second Period
SYR Gourde, (21) (Namestnikov, Gudlevskis), 7:45 (PP)

Third Period
SYR Richard, (9) (Blujus, Ashton), 8:27
SYR Marchessault, (16) (Koekkoek, Namestnikov), 17:49 (EN)

Gudlevskis, Tanner Richard, and Kevin Lynch were the game's three stars.

Don't look now, but first rounder Slater Koekkoek is starting to pick up some steam with 6 helpers in his last 5 games, including back-to-back 2 helper nights. He's also +6 over that span.

Syracuse sits 1 point behind Hershey now for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 2-5-15 Lightning at Stars

Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.


Andrei Vasilevskiy shined, allowing 3 goals on 36 shots for the victory. The Lightning would've had zero chance of winning tonight without Vasilevskiy.

First Period
3:11 TB Stamkos (28), (Callahan, Barberio)
6:42 TB Hedman (6), (Stamkos)

Second Period
15:21 DAL Klingberg (10), (Seguin, Goligoski)
15:36 DAL Goligoski (2), (Fiddler, Horcoff)

Third Period
12:27 TB Johnson (18), (Kucherov, Killorn)(PP)
13:41 DAL Daley (13), (Ja. Benn, Demers)
16:23 TB Johnson (19), (Boyle, Palat)
18:43 TB Kucherov (18), (Palat)(EN)

Tyler Johnson and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars. Brian Boyle was robbed.

This was, in many ways, role reversal from the Lightning's performance in St. Louis. The Lightning were on their heels most of the night, ultimately getting outshot 36-29, and probably should've been run out of the barn if it weren't for the goaltending they got from Vasiy. Then things got really weird when Jason Garrison got hurt, forcing Brian Boyle to take shifts on defense where he made the play of the game on a clean check on Jamie Benn at center ice that eventually led to his point shot that was deflected in by Johnson for the GWG. Yes, Brian Boyle, from the point, on defense (not in the Conservatory with the Candlestick). Honestly, you can't feel too guilty about it because they deserved so much better against the Blues. So, things evened out on this little mini trip.

Unfortunately, if Garrison's injury is of any real severity, it puts the Lightning in a very tough spot with the California trip looming. Yzerman's basically got a week to bring someone in or he'll have to do something he probably doesn't want to do like raid the already thin cupboard in Syracuse. Paging Slater Koekkoek?

Luke Witkowski was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 13:47. It was a hard luck minus with Daley's shot off the rush hitting Witkowski's leg and deflecting past Vasiy.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 12-19-14 Crunch at Wolf Pack

The yak is still on the loose.


Kristers Gudlevskis stopped all 24 shots he faced for the victory and his first shutout of the campaign. He's won his last 4 starts allowing just 3 total goals in the last 3 of those starts, while running his season save percentage back up to .906 in the process. Now things get very interesting in Syracuse, once Vasilevskiy returns, because this is what we expected coming into the year. These are two of the best prospect netminders around, and they'll be in a knock-down, drag-out for starts all season long. The competition is going to push both guys to play better than they ever thought possible. It's going to be great to see unfold.

First Period

Second Period
SYR Richard, (5) (Koekkoek), 2:12
SYR Namestnikov, (3) (Nesterov, Marchessault)

Third Period

Gudlevskis and Tanner Richard were the game's first and second stars. As of this posting, Richard's +18 mark is second best in the AHL behind the +21 of Manchester's Nick Shore. I should also point out that, on top of the game winning helper he had tonight, Nikita Nesterov hasn't had a minus game in a full month, when he had a -1 outing on 11/19 against Hartford. He's been +9 since that game, taking him up to +9 for the year. He was -2 last year and the 13 points he has in 28 games this season is 3 off the 16 he posted as a rookie in 54 games last season. So, like Richard, here's a player who had some holes in his game who seems to be rounding the corner a bit. Nice to see. Slater Koekkoek, oh by the way, has helpers in 3 of the last 4 games.

Tomorrow, Syracuse draws Albany at home.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 11-1-14 Crunch at Senators



Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the victory. Goal support: Kristers has it, tonight.

First Period

Second Period
SYR Marchessault, (3) (Dotchin, Paquette), 1:38
SYR Koekkoek, (1) (Blujus, Richard), 9:05 (PP)
BNG Pageau, (3) (Wideman, Robinson), 10:23
BNG Puempel, (2) (Dzingel), 12:26

Third Period
SYR Kunyk, (2) (Paradis, Gourde), 3:06
SYR Vermin, (3) , 4:39
BNG Wideman, (7) (Mullen), 6:48 (PP)
SYR Smith, (2) (Dotchin), 12:13
SYR Paquette, (4) (Vermin), 17:05

Joel Vermin and Cedric Paquette were the game's first and second stars. Defenseman Slater Koekkoek scored his first AHL goal in the contest, as well. And, there was #blujuspalooza happening on that goal, too.

They really faced down a hot goaltender last night, which happens, and were unfortunate to get shut out, but the scoreboard wasn't indicative of the team's play. They were doing a lot of the right things to snap their offensive funk, and the floodgates finally came open for them tonight. Hopefully they stay open now even if Paquette has to go back to the Lightning with Alex Killorn getting hurt again up top.

Syracuse gets Norfolk on Friday.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Crunch Rookie Koekkoek Eyes NHL

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Slater Koekkoek is confident about his path to the National Hockey League.

Despite a shoulder injury prematurely ending his final junior season, Koekkoek led the Windsor Spitfires' blueline in goals, assists, and points last season. But the Tampa Bay Lightning 2012 first-rounder is focused on rounding out his defensive game as he begins his professional career with the Syracuse Crunch.

"There's always pressure being a first round pick. It's a label and people are going to talk about it," Koekkoek said. "But everybody has their own road to the NHL. There's a lot of guys in the NHL that went after me, and there's some guys still not in the NHL that went before me. There's no timetable. I'll develop as fast as I can, and hopefully get called up whenever they need me."

AHL Game Night: 10-12-14 Wolf Pack at Crunch

Crunch clipped in OT.

SYR-3 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for the loss in his AHL debut.

First Period

Second Period
SYR Richard, (1) (Gourde, Marchessault), 1:35 (PP)
HFD Lindberg, (1) (Bourque, Mueller), 2:25 (PP)
SYR Paquette, (1) (Samson, Koekkoek), 4:37
HFD Mueller, (1) (Bodie, Bourque), 9:36
SYR Paquette, (2) (Vermin, Cote), 11:02

Third Period
HFD Hrivik, (1) (Kristo, Bodie), 6:35 (PP)

HFD Lindberg, (2) (Bourque, Allen), 4:53

Cedric Paquette was the game's third star. Slater Koekkoek also made his AHL debut, chipping in an assist on Paquette's first goal.

Syracuse faces Springfield on Friday.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

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