When Syracuse Crunch coach Jon Cooper looked at his defense at the beginning of the season, he saw seven players and a question mark.
Dmitry Korobov, set to play his first season in North America, was up against more than smaller ice surfaces and more physical play. The Belarusian had to deal with a language barrier, and due to the ongoing lockout, NHL-level competition – not only from the opposition, but to crack the Crunch lineup.
“We didn’t know what Dmitry was, and when we’re fully healthy with the eight guys, I don’t know if you can sit here and say who’s one through eight,” Cooper said. “We have a bunch of ones in their own way.”
Crunch comeback from a flat opening 40 falls short.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 36 shots for the loss.
WBS Smith, (6) (Reese), 3:09
SYR Panik, (9) (Gudas), 18:58
WBS Bennett, (5) (Holzapfel, Peters), 8:49
WBS Dumoulin, (1) (Holzapfel, Dupuis), 17:53 (PP)
WBS Holzapfel, (5) (Bennett), 9:24 (PP)
SYR Connolly, (7) (Devos, Korobov), 10:45
SYR Devos, (2) (Barberio, Brown), 17:23 (PP)
WBS Smith, (7) (Zatkoff), 19:53 (EN)
Syracuse was outshot 30-12 through two periods before winning the shot battle in the final frame, 14-7. Flat as a pancake? I'd say so. That's got to be one of the bigger challenges for Coach Cooper. This is a deep, talented team that has already climbed the mountain. They're going to have games like this where they think they can just roll their helmets out on the ice and win, and that doesn't happen at any level of professional hockey.
Richard Panik completed his masterpiece of a November with a goal. He had a point in all 11 games in the month, finishing with 8 goals and 15 points in that span. For a guy whose biggest knock has been inconsistency, this is a huge statement, and he's even managed to raise his season totals to a point a game with 9 goals and 18 points in 18 games, despite a slow October. I'll re-ask the question: by definition is he not the AHL Player of the Month? As of this posting, the Panik attack is tied for 13th in the league in scoring with the likes of first rounders like Nino Niedereiter and Zach Boychuk. Can he extend it deep into December?
Dmitry Korobov slid into the league lead at +14, going +2 in a game where most of his teammates pulled minuses. There's a lot to like about big #44.
Syracuse will face Connecticut tomorrow, hopefully having learned their lesson that they need to be prepared to go at the drop of the puck. Don't give the opposition a two period head start.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
This week 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.
This week’s winner, as we say on Twitter, “is good at the hockey.”
The Prospect of the Week for November 26 is … Tyler Johnson, center, Syracuse (AHL – USA)
Tyler Johnson doesn’t get the most attention on the Syracuse roster, that title may go to everything-award winner Cory Conacher, top AHL defenseman Mark Barberio, or even everything-championship winner Dustin Tokarski. Such is the “first world problem” Tyler Johnson and his fans must endure with the near embarrassment of riches on the Lightning farm right now.
The Sharks get bit by one of Syracuse's star rookies.
Dustin Tokarski allowed one goal on 26 shots for the victory.
SYR Brown, (2) (Connolly, Cote), 2:14
SYR Brown, (3) (Nightingale, Devos), 5:55
SYR Johnson, (12) (Panik), 6:16
WOR Kearns, (7) (Pelech, Kennedy), 16:37
SYR Johnson, (13) (Killorn, Taormina), 13:33 (PP)
SYR Korobov, (2) (Connolly, Brown), 14:05 (PP)
SYR Brown, (4) (Connolly, Devos), 17:31
J.T. Brown (pictured), Tyler Johnson, and Brett Connolly were the game's three stars. This was inevitable. J.T. Brown has too many gifts to not have an outburst like this from time to time, especially when he's playing with guys like Connolly who are just as talented and creative.
Lost in the jet fuel fumes of Brown's game is the fact Tyler Johnson just pulled into the league lead in goals with 13 in 17 games. TJ could hit 60 goals this year. He's got one of the best shots in the league, amazing wheels, and a talented supporting cast around him. Conacher got all the awards last year, but we may well see Johnson carrying the bulk of the hardware in 2012-2013.
The Panik attack hit 10 games today with an assist on one of Johnson's goals. There's one more game left on the schedule for Syracuse in November, and here's an interesting philosophical question for the league to ponder. If a player gets a point in every single game in a month, should not said player be the Player of the Month? Am I wrong? Right now, Richard Panik has 7 goals and 13 points in 10 November contests.
Dmitry Korobov scoring his second goal of the season gives me an opportunity to dote on the young KHL transplant. At +12 he's tied for third in the AHL in +/-, and 2 goals and 5 points in his first 14 games in North America is nothing to sneeze at. The big Belarussian is going to get better as he continues to settle in, and he's already pretty darned good.
Syracuse sits in first in the Eastern Conference, and has another 3 games in 3 nights weekend starting on Friday against the Penguins.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
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.