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 … Syracuse’s Top Gun line (AHL – USA).
Tyler Johnson is sharing the wealth.
Johnson had a hat trick and seven total points (2 GP, 4-3-7) last week as the Crunch came off a week-long break with two wins over Springfield in Massachusetts. Syracuse holds a 2-0 series lead on the Falcons entering Wednesday’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals.
Johnson has won our Prospect of the Week three times in the last six weeks and we’re running out of ways to say he’s good at the hockey, so we’re giving the award to his line, made up of Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Richard Panik. The line was recently named the Top Gun line, though it has also been called the PTPer (Prime Time Players via Dick Vitale). Regardless of what people are calling it, the line is on fire.
Stacy Roest sees something in Cedric Paquette.
Roest, a developmental coaches working with the Syracuse Crunch practice squad, knows the transition from the junior to professional ranks means a faster pace and stronger competition.
But Paquette, the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2012 fourth-rounder, has the drive.
"He's the ultimate competitor," Roest said of Paquette. "He's a really high compete kid. He has a really good shot. His skating has to come a ways, but he's a good player."
The PTP'ers put on a special teams clinic.
Syracuse Leads the Series 2-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the win. Luv that goal support.
SYR Panik, (3) (Palat, Johnson), 1:02 (PP)
SYR Angelidis, (2) (Brown), 1:15
SPR Russell, (1) (Audy-Marchessault, Prout), 14:40
SYR Johnson, (4) (Connolly, Palat), 8:31 (PP)
SYR Johnson, (5) , 14:05 (SH)
SPR Vogelhuber, (2) (Goloubef, Joudrey), 14:29
SYR Johnson, (6) (Panik, Palat), 6:47 (PP)
SPR Jenner, (2) (Holden, Audy-Marchessault), 8:04
Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars. Johnson gets the hat trick and the PTP'er line ends up +4 in goal differential on special teams with 3 PP goals and a SH goal. No chance. Springfield's got no chance if they keep letting the Johnson line scorch them like this.
Syracuse now heads home with the 2-0 series lead and Springfield has no answers so far defensively, plus McElhinney's gotten torched through 2 games. Game Three is Wednesday night. Meanwhile, in the East's other series, Providence held serve at home and has a 2-0 series lead of the Penguins, making it look like a Syracuse/Providence matchup is on the horizon.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Syracuse draws first blood, and nearly hits an artery.
Syracuse Leads the Series 1-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 2 goals on 24 shots for the victory. Goal support is a beautiful thing.
SYR Barberio, (2) (Panik, Johnson), 8:40 (PP)
SYR Panik, (2) (Johnson, Palat), 9:00
SPR Drazenovic, (2) (Holden, Craig), 10:06 (PP)
SYR Brown, (2) (Wyman, Korobov), 11:26
SYR Connolly, (2) (Sexton, Taormina), 18:13
SYR Johnson, (3) (Palat), 10:10
SPR Craig, (1) (Holden, Johansen), 19:58 (PP)
Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars. In the marquee matchup between the AHL's best line over the past 1-1/2 years and a very good goaltender, Curtis McElhinney, round one goes to the PTP'ers. Interestingly, all three of Syracuse's lines clicked in the First Period clock cleaning that ended Game One early on, but make no mistake, this series comes down to whether McElhinney can make enough saves to keep games close and allow Springfield to leverage the goaltending advantage they have on paper. And, to do that, he has to stop Palat/Johnson/Panik.
Game Two is tomorrow night, and with home ice advantage already stolen away, Syracuse is playing with house money. A Game Two victory possibly means a short series, and in the war of attrition that is playoff hockey, that can pay big dividends in future rounds.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
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."