NHL Game Night 12/2: Lightning at Flyers

Wow. Radek Smolenak.

TB-3
PHI-4 (OT)

Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 32 shots for the loss.

First Period
02:58 PHI Carter (17), (Timonen, Lupul)(PP)
11:50 TB Recchi (6), (Jokinen, Prospal)(PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
00:36 PHI Richards (9), (unassisted)(SH)
04:36 PHI Carter (18), (Hartnell, Lupul)(PP)
04:57 TB Prospal (5), (St. Louis, Eminger)(PP)
15:25 TB Downie (1), (Smolenak, Stamkos)

Overtime
02:05 PHI Richards (10), (Timonen, Carter)(PP)

Steve Downie was named the third star of the game. He was the the fourth most impressive prospect the Lightning had in the game, to me, but ok. I get it. He's a former Flyer.

I was really impressed with the two callups, particularly Smolenak. I wish there had been more 5-on-5 play in the game so he could have played more. I really liked the energy he had on a line with Artyukhin before R2 got nicked on a boarding major from Scotty Upshall in the first period. Obviously, you can see the flaw in Smolenak's game: he's not a speed merchant. But, you know, there was no fear in the young man. Sometimes these callups get into these games and they act like they're afraid to get a puckmark on their tape because maybe NHL tape is expensive, or something. Not Smolenak. First shift he gets the puck down low and makes a power move to get a shot off from the angle. Third or fourth shift he fights Aaron Asham. Third period he's out there battling down low again and getting off a hard shot from the angle to try to tie up the game. And he gets rewarded with the assist on the tying goal as one of his long slappers generates a rebound for Downie to send the game to OT. That's probably the best NHL debut we've seen from a player since Paul Ranger came up a few games into 2005-2006. Honestly, if he keeps playing like that, one of these old fogies is out of a job.

Paul Szczechura, very quietly, played some big minutes in this game both at even strength and on the penalty kill. And, you know, that's high praise if you're an NHL rookie in your first game and the coach puts you out there on the PK. It shows the kind of intelligence Szczechura has, and I'm not surprised Tocchet instantly started leaning on the young man. He's just one of those guys who is a coach's dream. I don't think his scoring really projects to the NHL level, and you can see he's still maybe a quarter step slow, but he can outthink 95% of the players he's going up against, and that means he'll have a solid NHL career.

Bottom line, the Norfolk kids did good tonight, and I loved the energy the new blood brought to the table. And, you know, there's other kids down there knocking on the door like Brandon Segal,Matt Smaby, and Blair Jones. I think it's time to get some of the AARP members out of Tampa and mix some youth and enthusiasm into the team, especially on the forward lines.

Steve Downie had 1 goal and was +1 with 4 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 10:43.

Paul Szczechura had 3 shots and was 30% on draws in 15:16.

Radek Smolenak had an assist and was +1 with a fighting major, and a game high 6 shots on goal in 9:45. And he gets a gold star from me.

Steven Stamkos had 1 assist, 4 shots, and was 60% on draws in 16:47.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.