NHL Game Night: 3-18-10 Sabres at Lightning

Wait'll next year.

BUF-6
TB-2

Antero Niittymaki allowed 5 goals on 27 shots for the loss. Will he be back next year? I'm almost inclined to advocate completely changing the tandem in net for next season.

First Period
BUF 5:19, Pominville 19 (Roy, Lydman)(PP)
BUF 13:56, Myers 10 (Hecht)
BUF 16:23, Pominville 20 (Tallinder)

Second Period
BUF 9:25, Roy 19 (unassisted)(SH)

Third Period
TB 8:06, Downie 18 (Stamkos, St. Louis)
TB 17:22, Lecavalier 21 (Stamkos, Purcell)(PP)
BUF 18:14, Vanek 23 (Roy)(EN)
BUF 19:26, Pominville 21 (Connolly, Lydman)

The season is over, and I'd be shocked if either the coach or the GM survive the offseason. Who won the Olympic Break power struggle? Nobody. I could've told you that then, too. I would hope a guy like Mark Parrish, who probably won't be in the long term plans of the organization, would be returned to Norfolk to try and bolster their playoff chances. From here on out, it's time to start evaluating players for next season. Teddy Purcell and Paul Szczechura need to be under the microscope and I would think there needs to be a cup of coffee for a couple of young prospects in Norfolk like, perhaps, Dana Tyrell to see how close they are to the show for next year. The team also needs to decide if Niittymaki, Kurtis Foster, Andrej Meszaros, Matt Smaby, and Mike Lundin will be back next season. On that list, Niitty, Foster, and Lundin are going into free agency. The team also needs to decide what they're going to do with the enigmatic Paul Ranger. I wonder where Ryan Malone fits too after evaporating in the second half once removed from a line with Stamkos and St. Louis.

The good news is that a pretty good foundation has been laid. Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman are studs. Martin St. Louis is Martin St. Louis. Vincent Lecavalier has redeemed himself after a subpar first half, in my mind, and ought to stick around. Steve Downie has been excellent and is two goals shy of 20 for the season. The team is just a few pieces away: a steady goaltender and some more veteran defensive depth. The problem is that, as Lightning fans well know, steady goaltenders don't grow on trees. That'll be the challenge of whoever will be running this team come the NHL Draft. That's another silver lining. I don't feel this is a team that necessarily ought to be picking in the top 5-10 of the draft, but if they have to miss the playoffs, they might as well cash in with either another talented young d-man or a winger.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.