NHL Playoff Game Night: 4-18-14 Canadiens at Lightning

Montreal defense throws the net over the Lightning.

MTL-4
TB-1

Montreal Leads the Series 2-0

Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 23 shots for the loss before giving way to Kristers Gudlevskis, who allowed 1 on 4 shots the rest of the way. If Cooper had a wild hair to put Gudlevskis in for Game Three, the wraparound goal Gudlevskis allowed might've quieted that thought down. As for Lindback, the third goal went through him on a greasy little bounce back to Gallagher off the blocked shot and he whiffed on the poke check on Bourque's goal, but on balance he played reasonably well and kept the Lightning around for most of the game. Goaltending isn't the reason the Lightning are losing this series so far.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
2:34 MTL Desharnais (1), (Subban, Pacioretty)(PP)
10:35 MTL Bourque (1), (Vanek, Subban)

Third Period
11:46 MTL Gallagher (1), (unassisted)
14:39 MTL Bourque (2), (Eller)
18:01 TB Purcell (1), (Hedman, Filppula)(PP)

The first 10 minutes of the game took on the dimension of a lot of the regular season games between Tampa Bay and Montreal with the Lightning dominating possession and the Canadiens getting a few counter attacks in. That's where the Lightning need to get this series to get back into it. If possession is even or tilted in favor of Montreal, Price is probably too good to overcome. Unfortunately, in the second half of the First Period, a 4-minute minor on Stamkos started to take the starch out of the Lightning's offensive flow and when Desharnais scored the PP goal early in the Second Period after a ticky tack call on Panik, the offensive flow completely dissipated altogether. There's just too much inconsistency moving up the ice as a unit. Passing is off. Guys aren't consistently supporting their linemates. It wasn't as lopsided as the score indicates (shots were 27-26), but the Lightning need to get better within their structure to defeat Montreal's. It's a process, and they were certainly more together and composed than in Game One, and this series is nowhere near over. I reiterate the lesson of the 2003 series against Washington, when a young, talented Lightning team really looked terrible against a veteran Caps team in Game One and Game Two. Once they figured it out in Game Three, they swept the rest of that series. I have a feeling the Lightning may be capable of a similar breakout, but getting that first win is going to be the toughest. Hopefully the Lightning realize that and also realize the worst thing they can do at this moment is panic. Just win one game. That's all they need to worry about right now.

Mike Kostka had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 13:13. His lack of speed and strength and decision making with the puck were a bit of an issue again tonight. At this stage, if I'm Cooper, I'm going to try to spark something by throwing Mark Barberio in against his hometown team for Game Three in lieu of Kostka, but we'll see how he plays it.

Cedric Paquette was -1 with 12 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 10:18. He certainly wasn't at fault for the minus in the first Bourque goal where Salo was turned the wrong way, and he had a pretty glorious chance on Price in tight off a nice setup by Purcell. I like what Paquette brings, and on paper he's a playoff-style performer. But, needing a spark, again, if I'm Cooper I'm going in with Pyatt in Game Three.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 4-18-14 Crunch at Americans

It's officially a losing season for Syracuse.

SYR-1
RCH-5

Cedrick Desjardins allowed 5 goals on 24 shots for the loss.

First Period
RCH Schaller, (9) (Gillies, Irwin), 7:44
RCH Adam, (29) , 11:04
RCH Irwin, (7) (Varone, Ruhwedel), 12:42 (PP)

Second Period
RCH Deslauriers, (19) (Sundher, Porter), 2:49

Third Period
SYR Marchessault, (22) (Connolly), 3:33
RCH Varone, (18) (Larsson, Hutchings), 15:27

Syracuse falls to 2 games under .500 with 1 game left to play. It's disappointing the team didn't finish stronger to set up what you hope is a rebound year next season.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

KHL Playoff Game Day: 4-18-14

KHL Gagarin Cup Finals
(1)Magnitogorsk 0 vs. (3)Praha 3
Praha Leads the Series 1-0
Vasily Koshechkin, Magnitogorsk, Loss, 14/16, 2.01 GAA, .875 sv%
Regular season totals: 51 GP, 30-12-8, 9 SO, 1.88 GAA, .940 sv%
Playoff totals: 15 GP, 12-3-0, 2 SO, 1.68 GAA, .942 sv%

Petri Vehanen's 21 save shutout staked Praha to a 3-0 Game One win in the KHL Gagarin Cup Finals. Ex-Kings draft pick Justin Azevedo and ex-Devils draft pick Petr Vrana each had goals in the victory for Lev. Game Two is Sunday.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 4-16-14 Canadiens at Lightning

Young Lightning shy away from the moment.

MTL-5
TB-4 (OT)

Montreal Leads the Series 1-0

Anders Lindback allowed 5 goals on 44 shots for the OT Loss. Obviously the Lightning got outshot by a mile and only lost by a goal, so it's hard to complain too much about Lindback's play, but there were a couple of goals (Plekanec and Eller's goals) Lindback might want back. On the Plekanec goal, Lindback failed to get square to the shooter and was moving and on the Eller goal he got a piece but allowed it to get behind him and in. He's not the reason they lost tonight, and in fact he helped keep them in the game longer than they had any business being in the game. But, it's also fair to say he can play better, too.

First Period
10:09 TB Kucherov (1), (Brown, Paquette)
10:28 MTL Plekanec (1), (Emelin, Gallagher)

Second Period
13:24 TB Stamkos (1), (Kostka)
16:39 MTL Gionta (1), (Eller, Weaver)(SH)

Third Period
5:10 MTL Eller (1), (Gionta)
7:11 TB Killorn (1), (Johnson)
11:30 MTL Vanek (1), (Desharnais, Emelin)
13:27 TB Stamkos (2), (Killorn)

Overtime
18:08 MTL Weise (1), (Brière, Gorges)

Steven Stamkos was the game's second star.

I'm kind of struggling about how to approach this one. Montreal came into this game very well prepared and with a plan to put pressure on the Lightning and on Lindback. For the most part, though, the Lightning did a decent early job of matching that intensity and they eventually manufactured the early goal by Kucherov all alone in the slot for the finish, and things were looking very rosy... for about 19 seconds. 19 seconds later Radko Gudas got undressed around the corner on the rush and Lindback allowed a semi-soft goal on the resulting shot from the left wing circle and the game was instantly tied, and the team's confidence immediately dissolved. They played the next 20 minutes of hockey scared and looking every bit a team that was terrified of the magnitude of playoff hockey. They struggled to get out of their end. They mishandled pucks. Their passing betrayed them. They gave a rash of turnovers to Montreal.

With all that happening, Lindback managed to keep the game at 1-1 until midway through the Second Period when the Lightning started to make a bit of a push, eventually culminating in a great individual effort by Stamkos to get a 2-1 lead and the Lightning going on the PP at 16:06 of the period on a horribly undisciplined penalty by blockhead PK Subban. You had the feeling that the Lightning were about to really swing the game in their favor at that moment when Victor Hedman made a pinch that a blind man would've seen was ill advised resulting in the Gionta shorthanded breakaway goal, and the Lightning played pretty much the entire rest of the game on their heels. Their Third Period was as bad a period as I've seen them play all year and only an abnormally mortal Carey Price allowed the Lightning to stay in the game as long as they did. Also, I will say, credit to Alex Killorn who had a goal and an assist in the period and was one of the few Lightning forwards who played well (at least on the offensive end of the rink). In the end, though, Montreal simply had too much zone time and too many chances for the Lightning to overcome. They had a handful of dangerous chances in Overtime to steal the game, but that's all it would've been: a theft. They didn't deserve Game One, and in the end they didn't win Game One.

Now, if you want a silver lining: the Lightning can't possibly play worse than they did in Game One, so they only have one direction to go, which is up. They have some ongoing injury issues with Ondrej Palat leaving the game after knee-to-knee contact with Subban, an obviously hobbled Filppula, and Bishop still out of the lineup. But, with that put aside, it seems unlikely the Lightning will play another game the rest of these playoffs with that sort of fractured structure, poor passing, and timid approach because of the magnitude of the moment. I expect them to push back in this series, and if anyone is looking for a point of reference for a young Lightning team that struggled with the moment in their first few home playoff games before figuring it out, pop in the tape of Game One and Game Two against Washington back in 2003. This kind of tepid start can certainly be overcome.

Mike Kostka had a helper, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 23:46. He struggled a bit with the extra gear of the playoffs, to be honest, and made a couple of big mistakes on the Eller goal by failing to keep a puck in at the opposing blueline and then failing to pick up the trailer on the resulting odd-man rush. I'm interested to see if Cooper sticks with Kostka or gives Barberio a shot in Game Two.

Cedric Paquette had a helper, 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 4 hits, and he was 27% on draws in 11:28. He played a very gritty playoff game and hit everything that moved. But, in the end, he wears the goat horns for abandoning Weise in front of the Lightning net on the game-winning goal in Overtime. It wasn't an athleticism issue, in this case, it was a decision making issue at a time of the year when poor decision making gets magnified ten-fold. Like Kostka, I'll be interested to see if Cooper sticks with Paquette or if he goes to the press box and brings in Pyatt or another forward. I feel bad for the young man because he played a pretty good game, otherwise.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Erne, Vermin Score First Goals, But Crunch Fall in Shootout


By Jeremy Houghtaling

There were a few firsts in the last Syracuse Crunch home game of the season.

Adam Erne registered his first professional goal and Joel Vermin recorded his first goal in North America, but the Crunch ultimately fell in a shootout to the Adirondack Phantoms, 5-4, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Wednesday.

"That was the positive from tonight, those guys scoring a goal and getting their first professional goals," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "Joel, I thought it was a great shot -- on and off the stick real quick. And for Adam, it was the same thing. That was the positive tonight."

AHL Game Night: 4-16-14 Phantoms at Crunch

The score of the night, evidently.

ADK-5
SYR-4 (SO)

Cedrick Desjardins allowed 4 goals on 26 shots and 5 of 9 to convert in the penalty shot session for the Shootout Loss. Ugly stat lines all around.

First Period
SYR Vermin, (1), (unassisted) 6:27
ADK Bordson, (11) (Brown, Hagg), 8:54
ADK Holmstrom, (13) (Lauridsen), 19:46

Second Period
SYR Erne, (1) (Rankin), 3:25
ADK Serratore, (1) (Goumas, Alt), 7:16

Third Period
SYR Connolly, (21) (Marchessault, Erne), 8:20
SYR Rankin, (15) (Angelidis, Cote), 9:16
ADK Hagg, (1) (Alt, Cousins), 13:05 (PP)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
ADK- Cousins, Bordson, Noebels, Whitmore, Holmstrom
SYR- Rankin, Connolly, Richard, Gourde

Evan Rankin and Adam Erne were the game's first and third stars. Erne had an assist to go with his first AHL goal and Joel Vermin also scored his first AHL goal in the contest.

Syracuse remains at 1 game under .500 with 2 games remaining in the regular season.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Crunch Rookies Show Promise in Challenging Season


By Jeremy Houghtaling

This season’s crop of Syracuse Crunch rookies showed progress through adversity.

With injuries and call-ups thinning Syracuse’s depth, Crunch newcomers were asked to log important minutes, but coach Rob Zettler believes the experience they gained through the ups and downs will be good in the long run.

“There’s some good progress with our young guys,” Zettler said. “A lot of them ended up playing a lot more minutes than we anticipated because of call-ups and injuries, but at the end of the day, individually, it’s probably a good thing for them.”

Here’s a breakdown of the Crunch’s rookie class heading into the final week of the season:

Cedric Paquette: Although he wasn’t there to accept the plaques himself, on Saturday Paquette won the Crunch’s awards for Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player (shared with Vladdy Namestnikov).

Bolt Prospect of the Week: April 15, 2014

We continue our Bolt 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 Bolt Prospect of the Week for April 15, 2014 is … Andrey Vasilevskiy, G, Salavat Yulaev (KHL - Russia).

If last week was Andrey Vasilevskiy’s final week playing in Russia, he left a lasting impression on his home country.

The teenage phenom was spectacular in net for Salavat Yulaev Ufa, nearly carrying the team through the Eastern Conference Finals to the Gagarin Cup series. While the official record books will show Mettalurg winning the series, 4-1, it was much, much closer than it appeared.

Last week Vasilevskiy allowed two goals in 10 periods of playoff hockey – and lost two games.

NA Juniors Playoffs Game Night: 4-13-14

Ontario Hockey League

North Bay Battalion 3 @ Barrie Colts 2
Battalion win best-of-7 Eastern Conference Semifinals, 4-2

D Dylan Blujus, NB: 0-0-0, E, 2 PIM
Playoff totals: 13 GP, 3-1-4, +2, 14 PIM
Season totals: 55 GP, 4-26-30, +12, 56 PIM
2012-13 totals: 68 GP, 2-27-29, -8, 57 PIM

D Jake Dotchin, BAR: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Playoff totals: 11 GP: 3-2-5, +1, 13 PIM
Season totals: 63 GP, 11-25-36, +22, 121 PIM
2012-13 totals: 66 GP, 4-18-22, E, 81 PIM

Second-seeded North Bay became the first team in the series to win a road game, eliminating the Barrie Colts in Game 6, 3-2. The Battalion led 3-1 until Barrie scored with 13 seconds left on a goal by likely top-3 pick in 2014, Aaron Ekblad. Dylan Blujus and North Bay move on to the Eastern Conference Finals where they will face top-seeded Oshawa. Jake Dotchin’s junior career is likely over for Barrie as he is eligible to play in the AHL next season. He’s got a good chance at a contract from Tampa Bay. He could join the Crunch this week for Syracuse’s final three games.

AHL Game Day: 4-13-14 Crunch at Devils

Crunch drop back below .500.

SYR-0
ALB-4

ATO Charles Lavigne allowed 4 goals on 20 shots for the loss.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
ALB Boucher, (20) (Scarlett, Pesonen), 12:08 (PP)
ALB Boucher, (21) (Pesonen, Timmins), 15:24
ALB McKelvie, (9) (Zajac, Pesonen), 16:09
ALB Scarlett, (6) (Whitney, Boucher), 18:12 (PP)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Syracuse is 1 game under .500 with 3 left to play in the regular season. Their last game is next Saturday at Hamilton, at which point you'd assume a few more Crunch players will join the Lightning for depth purposes during their playoff run.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

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