I may not have much faith in this club's ownership or the GM, but I believe in Rick Tocchet.
Mike Smith stopped 31 of 32 shots for the win. He never looked completely settled or comfortable tonight, but the team played great in front of him.
05:21 PHI Lupul (15), (Carter, Carle)(PP)
14:48 TB St. Louis (17), (Stamkos, Recchi)
15:13 TB Meszaros (2), (Malone, Recchi)(PP)
16:51 TB Craig (2), (Pettinger, Hall)
12:34 TB Lecavalier (18), (unassisted)(PS)
I said after the debacle in San Jose that the last 36 hours was going to be a real test of whether or not Rick Tocchet has gotten these guys to buy into what he's doing in Tampa Bay. It would've been easy for these guys to lay down against a physical Philadelphia team on a short turnaround after a West Coast swing. They're down in the standings and they just got embarassed. It would've been so simple for these guys just to not show up tonight.
Test passed. A+. I don't know if these guys can play much better than they did tonight. Philly had no answer. They outhustled and outmuscled a Flyers franchise that has lived playing that style for some 30+ years. I'll say it again: I don't trust this ownership. I blame Len Barrie for a lot of the garbage that's happened this season, and Oren Koules is the guy whose bright idea it was to bring in Barry Melrose. I don't have a lot of faith in Brian Lawton either, as I'm not sure his philosophy meshes perfectly with what Tocchet is doing and he clumsily unloaded an entire clip in his foot with the Lecavalier situation. But Rick Tocchet? Mike Sullivan? Wes Walz? Cap Raeder? I believe in what these coaches are doing. I hope the rest of the clowns in ownership and the front office shut their yaps and quit the power plays and the backroom politics and take a look at what is happening on the ice. Rick Tocchet and his staff are building something here. Give the man what he needs to finish the job, and then get the hell out of the way.
Steve Downie had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 2 hits in a pesty, pesky 11:22. I love players in the Darcy Tucker/Sheldon Keefe agitator mold like fat kids love chocolate cake, and I can't wait until Downie is a full time member of this team.
David Koci had 10 penalty minutes in 6:55.
Kevin Quick had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 10:07. Other than a pretty stinky early shift, he was good tonight in a game where, on paper, you'd expect him to struggle against a big, physical opponent. He's changing the pecking order in this organization with every shift.
Courtnall plays in BCHL All-Star Game ... Fadden and TC lose to Backlund and Kelowna ... Tokarski honored in pregame ceremony before making his 2009 WHL debut.
By Corine Gatti
NORFOLK, Va. - Norfolk defenseman Andy Rogers did not anticipate the difficulty or adjustments he would endure at the start of his professional career. Now, it's a fight to prove to himself and to the brass upstairs that he can move on.
Riddled with injuries and the usual lack of maturity found in many players, Rogers was slipping behind on the depth charts. After two seasons of moving off the radar, Rogers entered the final year of his three-year entry-level contract this season and the 22-year-old started to hush critics. Before the 2008-09 campaign, Rogers had a solid outing at camp for Tampa Bay. He climbed out of obscurity and moved up in the depth charts and prospect rankings during the fall. Rogersâ€™ skating developed further this season, along with working developing better gap control. The Calgary, Alberta native earned 16 to 24 minutes of ice time under the leadership of Norfolk coach, Darren Rumble, according to Admirals General Manager Mike Butters.
The USHL has announced their lineups for the 2009 USHL Prospects/All-Star Game to be held February 4 in Sioux Falls. Lightning prospect and Western Michigan University commit Luke Witkowski was named to the defensive squad for the West Division.
Teams are selected by a vote from league coaches.
Witkowski, a 2008 6th round pick, stands 6'2" and weights 200 pounds. The Force captain leads all Fargo defensemen in scoring with three goals and 10 points in 29 games this season. He also leads all Force players - and is fifth in the league among defensemen - in plus/minus with a plus-15 rating. He is second in the league among defensemen behind teammate Steve Spinnell (undrafted, Miami Univ. commit) in penalty minutes with 76.
Last season, Witkowski scored 13 points (3 goals) in 59 games with the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets - his first in the USHL. Luke will begin his collegiate career at WMU next fall.
Tri-City Americans 5 @ Chilliwack Bruins 1
C Mitch Fadden, TC: 1-1-2, +2, 0 PIM
Season totals: 33 GP, 15-23-38, +10, 19 PIM
With TC: 25 GP, 13-20-23, +8, 17 PIM
In a game broadcast on FoxSportsNet, the Americans outshot the Bruins 42-20 en route to a rather easy 5-1 win. Fadden extended his points streak to six game with a goal and an assists. He has 6 goals and 3 assists for 9 points in 6 January games so far after only scoring twice in December. His first assist came on a cross ice pass through traffic to the side of the crease from just inside the blueline that looked an awful lot like Brad Richards.
Vancouver Giants 6 @ Medicine Hat Tigers 2
C James Wright, VAN: 0-1-1, -1, 0 PIM
Season totals: 41 GP, 14-19-33, +18, 22 PIM
Vancouver was playing without Evander Kane, who was at the Top Prospects Skills Competition.
The Lightning finally implode under the weight of injuries and youth.
Karri Ramo allowed 7 goals on 42 shots in the loss. He was mediocre on a night where the Lightning needed a lot better to stay competitive. His rebound control wasn't there all night, although a couple of the rebound goals San Jose got came off of initial shots that were tipped on the way in. Still, you saw the difference tonight between what Mike Smith has been doing all season in controlling rebounds and what Ramo couldn't do.
02:17 SJ Setoguchi (20), (Thornton, Murray)
14:19 SJ Thornton (10), (Marleau, Blake)(PP)
07:47 TB Stamkos (5), (Recchi, Artyukhin)
10:00 SJ Thornton (11), (Setoguchi, Marleau)
17:21 SJ Michalek (10), (Cheechoo, Vlasic)(PP)
19:56 SJ Clowe (18), (Pavelski, Michalek)(PP)
00:34 SJ Pavelski (12), (Michalek, Murray)
02:12 SJ Plihal (5), (Staubitz, Semenov)
This is a critical next 36 hours or so for the coaching staff. They can't allow the team to quit or pout based on what happened tonight. They went 2-2-0 on the west coast swing. Is that perfect? No. But, it's acceptable given the rash of injuries on defense and the fact they had to play two games with just 3 or 4 NHL caliber defensemen. The team showed briefly tonight that their system can work, even against a team as deep and as talented as San Jose, just like it worked against LA and Anaheim. This is where Tocchet's got to make sure the room stays fully invested in the foundation that's being laid.
David Koci was +1 with 12 penalty minutes and 5 hits in 9:08. He got some shifts on defense in the third period once things got out of hand. When you're down six goals, why the heck not?
Paul Szczechura left the game after 3:10 of ice time with an injury.
Kevin Quick was -1 with 1 shot in 15:40 in his NHL debut. He made an ill-advised pass that eventually led to San Jose's last goal. Other than that, he wasn't bad. He didn't look timid and he used his wheels to keep pucks moving and the play in front of him. I was struck by how much better he looked at this level than Mihalik or Wishart. It's just 1 game for Kevin, and it was just 1 game for Wishart, but I have to wonder if the pecking order in the organization may get a second look now.
Vladimir Mihalik was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 4 blocked shots in 15:25. He really needs a brain transplant. With his size and athleticism, he could be a world beater if you could wire the six inches of gray matter between his ears properly.
Taking care of business.
Mike Smith allowed 1 goal on 30 shots in the win.
18:16 TB Artyukhin (4), (Stamkos, Mihalik)
18:57 TB Recchi (10), (Lecavalier, Prospal)
05:48 TB Lecavalier (17), (St. Louis, Krajicek)
18:02 LA Harrold (3), (Kopitar)
They fell asleep in the second half of the second period, but other than that it was a very solid, workmanlike effort by the Lightning. It was actually pretty phenomenal considering the team only dressed five defenseman, and one of them played under a dozen minutes.
David Koci had 15 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 2:28.
Paul Szczechura had 1 hit, 1 blocked shot, and was 33% on draws in 11:54.
Vladimir Mihalik had 1 assist and 1 blocked shot in 11:19.
Tonight is the 41st game of the season for Steven Stamkos, which graduates him from prospects status according to Bolt Prospects' criteria. Congratulations to the 2008 #1 pick. The change will be reflected on the release of Bolt Prospects' 2008-2009 Midterm Rankings.