Competitive? Check. Strategic? Check.
Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the loss in his return from a high ankle sprain. I'm going to chalk up his first period performance to rust and compliment him on shutting the door the rest of the way. That's what good goaltenders do after they stub their toes in the opening frame.
00:16 CAR Semin (12), (E. Staal)
10:45 CAR Tlusty (20), (Semin, Corvo)
18:46 CAR Tlusty (21), (E. Staal, Semin)
10:07 TB Stamkos (28), (Salo, St. Louis)(PP)
02:16 TB St. Louis (13), (Lecavalier)
Martin St. Louis was the game's second star.
Again, the big thing for me in garbage time of the season is seeing effort and competitiveness. This string of 1-goal losses may not be the greatest for morale, but they show a team that is still trying and, whether we like to admit it or not, they're helping the Lightning strategically by improving potential draft position. Carolina leapfrogging Tampa Bay now puts the Lightning with the third most ping pong balls, 3 points ahead of Colorado in the standings. And, after 40 minutes, Colorado currently leads in their game 4-2. If they hold on, the Lightning move closer to having the second most ping pong balls.
Why is that important? This is a 3+1 draft, which is to say there are 3 really coveted franchise caliber prospects and 1 wild card (Nichushkin). If the Lightning are in position in the top-3, they might be able to land top defenseman Seth Jones. But, even if they can't, having the opportunity to draft one of the two coveted forwards out of the QMJHL gives the Lightning a lot of flexibility. They could trade the pick for an NHL defenseman. They could hold onto the pick, use it, and trade one of the valuable young forwards they already have for an NHL defenseman. Or, they could trade down and try to extract a king's ransom and take multiple defensemen later in the top-60 in a very deep draft. The world definitely opens up if the Lightning pick in the top-3.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 1 shot in 15:27.
Richard Panik was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 shots in 13:03.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 5 hits in 14:10.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 2 penalty minutes, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 12:11.
Wow. I feel like we need to issue a formal apology to all our friends in Norfolk for that savage beat down tonight.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the victory. For those wondering, Pat Nagle has been backing up Desjardins because Riku Helenius had some family issues back in Finland that required attention. Hopefully Riku will be back for the playoffs.
SYR Angelidis, (11) (Wyman, Brown), 14:20
SYR Johnson, (34) (Sexton, Wyman), 14:58
SYR Wyman, (13) (Palat, Johnson), 19:02
SYR Namestnikov, (7) (Devos, Connolly), 11:56
NOR Maroon, (25) (Guenin), 13:32
SYR Johnson, (35) (Palat, Sexton), 19:11
SYR Johnson, (36) , 7:48
Tyler Johnson, J.T. Wyman, and Mike Angelidis were the game's three stars. The freshly minted AHL MVP, Johnson, celebrated with an incredible 3 goal, 4 point effort to start off a 3 game weekend set that will be so critical for playoff position.
Brian Lee was +4 in the contest. Several members of the Bolt Prospects message board's heads just exploded after reading that. Mind you, he also took a major for slashing and got kicked out of the game. I would suspect a suspension may follow.
Two games remain in the regular season. Providence toppled Springfield tonight 5-3, which clinches the top seed in the East for Providence. However, with Springfield going down and Syracuse winning, the Crunch now move to within 2 points of the Falcons with a game in hand. The Crunch also expanded their division lead over Binghamton to 3 points after Bingo lost to Manchester tonight. Each team has 2 games left on their schedules, including the head-to-head matchup Sunday. The loss for Norfolk was a particularly bad one with the Admirals, at this moment, in a 4-way tie at 79 points for one of the last 2 playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. How deeply ironic would it be if Syracuse had to face Norfolk in the first round? That prospect looks much more remote after tonight, but it's still at least on the edge of the table right now.
So here's the schedule for Saturday: Springfield draws Adirondack (eliminated from playoff contention), Binghamton gets Hershey (one of the clubs in that 4-way tie), and Syracuse gets Worcester (eliminated from playoff contention). Syracuse can make the division elementary with a win, thereby clinching not less than the 3 seed for the playoffs. Jumping Springfield may be a harder task for the Crunch with the Falcons likely holding the tiebreak at the finish line with a 2 game lead in the regulation win column right now.
Some other accounting issues heading into the end of the regular season:
- Syracuse still leads the AHL in goals scored by 10.
- Tyler Johnson is 8th in the AHL in scoring and Brett Connolly is currently tied for 10th.
- Mark Barberio is in 6th amongst AHL defensemen in scoring.
- Johnson also leads the league in goals by 3 with Connolly tied for 4th.
- Johnson is also 6th in power play goals.
- Connolly is tied for tops in game winning goals.
- Ondrej Palat is tied for 8th in the league in helpers.
- Despite being in Tampa for about a month, Radko Gudas is still 6th in the AHL in penalty minutes.
- Gudas is also still leading the league in +/- with teammates Johnson, Palat, and J.P. Cote all tied for 3rd. Dmitry Korobov is tied for 8th.
- Barberio is 9th in the league in shots on goal.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Another respectable, competitive effort in garbage time of the season.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the loss.
04:04 MTL Galchenyuk (9), (Gallagher, Drewiske)
15:05 MTL Gionta (13), (Plekanec, Pacioretty)
17:36 TB Panik (5), (Hedman, Killorn)(PP)
05:07 TB Lecavalier (10), (Pouliot, Hedman)
19:13 MTL Gionta (14), (Weber, Ryder)
At this stage of the season, I'm looking for effort and competitiveness more so than wins. Baby steps.
With 4 goals and 19 points now in 40 games, we can start to take a peek at what Victor Hedman might be at in an 82 game season. It comes out to a very respectable 8 goal, 39 point season. Bear in mind Hedman's gotten a greener light since Cooper took over behind the bench, which is why I'd expect his scoring pace to pick up.
Alex Killorn had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 13:08. It's been interesting to see his ice time slowly turned down. Projected over 82 games, Killorn's 7 goals and 19 points in 34 games pro-rates to 17 goals and 46 points. Pretty good rookie numbers.
Richard Panik had a goal and was -1 with 3 shots, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 10:59. That scoring line on his power play goal, being assisted by Killorn and Hedman, was like a telegram from the future. It's a much smaller sample set of 22 games, but his 5 goals and 9 points projects to about 19 goals and 34 points in an 82 game season, which is pretty good given how small his average ice time numbers are. It might be hard to consider holding him off the team next season.
Radko Gudas was -1 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 20:35.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie played 10:19.
Semi-respectable result in garbage time of the season.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 36 shots but then allowed 2 of 3 to score in the penalty shot for the old SOL.
01:23 WPG Ladd (17), (Wheeler, Little)
10:27 TB St. Louis (12), (unassisted)
08:37 WPG Wheeler (16), (Ladd, Bogosian)
17:54 WPG Ladd (18), (Wheeler, Bogosian)(PP)
05:19 TB Labrie (2), (Thompson, Gudas)
11:17 TB Stamkos (27), (Carle)
WPG- Santorelli, Ladd
Winnipeg should consider themselves extremely fotunate to have survived Tampa Bay's deployment of the secret weapon, P.C. Labrie.
Alex Killorn had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 17:39.
Richard Panik was +1 with 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:56. Interesting to see his ice time nudging up toward Killorn's.
Radko Gudas had a helper, 1 shot, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 16:11.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie laid waste to a Pavelec rebound and all in his path for a goal, a +1 rating, 2 shots, and 3 hits in 10:49. If he gave Labrie anymore ice time, Cooper would have to turn himself in for war crimes.
Feel the Nichushkin-mentum.
Mathieu Garon allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the loss including his obligatory 1 that he'd want back.
04:09 BUF Ennis (10), (Vanek, Ehrhoff)(PP)
08:00 BUF Hecht (4), (Gerbe)
12:37 BUF Porter (4), (Flynn, Ott)
13:30 TB Pouliot (8), (Brewer, Lecavalier)
The Lightning outshot Buffalo 33-22 with most of that coming once they spotted the Sabres the 3 goal lead. I have no idea what sort of weird sports psychology issue makes a team only start playing harder once they fall behind big. It's bizarre. That's something for Jon Cooper to sort out in the offseason. In the meantime, the Lightning will be looking at one of the big three draft prospects or possibly Traktor Chelyabinsk power forward Valery Nichushkin in their future.
Alex Killorn had 3 shots in 20:26.
Richard Panik was -2 with 2 shots and 1 hit. The biggest challenge for a young player isn't proving you can be brilliant as Panik was last night. The biggest challenge is proving you can do it consistently, and Panik was a non-factor tonight.
Radko Gudas was -1 with 5 hits and 2 blocked shots in 17:40.