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.

AHL Game Night: 3-17-10 Admirals at Penguins

And now things get really tight in the playoff race.

NOR-1
WBS-2

Dustin Tokarski allowed just 2 goals on 25 shots, but his first period softie allowed to Jesse Boulerice ended up being the margin of defeat.

First Period
WBS Boulerice, (4) (Conner, Lee), 4:23
WBS Johnson, (13) (Haddad, Wagner), 13:19 (PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
NOR Fornataro, (9) (Wishart, Fadden), 15:22

It was a beautiful stickhandling play by Matt Fornataro that helped pull the Admirals to within one goal late in the game. Defenseman Ty Wishart got his 31st point of the season on the play, but he should be chastized along with Vladimir Mihalik for some very soft play along the wall in the defensive zone, especially in the first period. The soft goal, the soft play along the wall, and a disgustingly bad 0-for-8 power play doomed the Admirals in this one. That, and Mitch Fritz losing his mind at the end of the second period, including the ever-classy crotch chop to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton crowd, drawing a double minor and game misconduct that killed off about a quarter of the third period for a Pens team that only held on by one goal.

On the bright side, the two pro debuts went pretty well tonight. Carter Ashton almost had a beautiful goal chipping the puck between two defenders and showing surprising burst to split them and get himself a breakaway. He got in too tight on the backhand, though, and couldn't lift the puck to notch the goal. He had another chance a few minutes later when he spun out in front from behind the net on his backhand. Had he been a little more patient, he could've taken another half stride and maybe stuck it in far post. Richard Panik had one good chance from the slot, but the defining play for him was a downright nasty check he threw coming back into the Admirals zone. Downright nasty. In case you didn't know, he's strong as a bull.

Norfolk's lead over the Pens is down to 1 point with the Pens holding 1 game in hand. Uh oh. Norfolk has 11 games left to play in the season: 3 on the road and 8 at home. Norfolk draws Adirondack at Scope on Friday.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Barberio a Finalist for Top Defenseman Award

Lightning prospect Mark Barberio, a 2008 sixth round pick of the Bolts, has been named by the QMJHL as a finalist for the Emile "Butch" Bouchard Trophy, awarded to the league's top defenseman.

Joining Barberio as finalists are his Moncton teammate David Savard, a 2009 fourth round pick of the Blue Jackets, and Joël Chouinard of Drummondville, a sixth round pick of Colorado in 2008.

Barberio set career highs in goals, assists, points, and plus/minus this season, finishing with 17 goals, 43 assists, 60 points, and a plus-39 rating. He finished fifth in the league in points among defensemen, sixth in goals, fifth in assists, and seventh in plus/minus.

NHL Game Night: 3-16-10 Coyotes at Lightning

Two one goal losses and the season keeps slowly and painfully slipping away.

PHX-2
TB-1

Antero Niittymaki allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the loss. Beats me. When he stinks the team scores in bunches. When he plays well, it all dries up. Go figure.

First Period
PHX 7:56, Fiddler 7 (Stempniak)
PHX 9:45, Lombardi 16 (Wolski, Doan)

Second Period
TB 16:07, Fedoruk 3 (Bochenski, Parrish)

Third Period
NO SCORING

This is another case where the Lightning will go back at season's end and probably kick themselves for that one little mistake (Matt Smaby) or that one missed scoring chance (Brandon Bochenski).

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Ashton and Panik Join Admirals

(Norfolk Admirals release) NORFOLK, Va. – The Norfolk Admirals have added Tampa Bay Lightning prospect forwards Carter Ashton and Richard Panik to their roster. Ashton has been assigned to the Admirals by the Lightning from his junior team while Panik has been signed to an Amateur Tryout Contract (ATO).

Ashton, 18, a 6-foot-3, 207-pound right wing from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, split this season between the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League. In 28 games with Lethbridge, he posted 13 goals and 26 points. He was then traded to Regina, where he scored 11 goals and 25 points.

Panik (“PAN-ihk”), 19, a 6-foot-2, 203-pound right wing from Martin, Slovakia, split this season between the Windsor Spitfires and the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League. In 33 games with Windsor, he posted nine goals and 18 points. After being acquired by Belleville, Panik notched 12 goals and 23 points in 27 games.

NCAA Playoffs Game Night: 3-14-10

No.19 Vermont Catamounts 1 @ No.11 New Hampshire Wildcats 0 (OT) (Sunday)
Hockey East Quarterfinals – Game 3. Vermont wins Best of 3 series 2-1.
C/W Matt Marshall , UVM: Did not play.

Season Totals: 33 GP, 1-4-5, -4, 14 PIM

After not losing on home ice to a Hockey East opponent all season, UNH dropped games 2 and 3 to Vermont, both by 1-0 scores, and now the top-seeded Wildcats are out of the HEA playoffs. Vermont got two shutouts from Rob Madore (undrafted) after he gave up six goals in game one and was pulled, and an overtime goal from 1985-born New Hampshire-native Jay Anctil (undrafted) in Game 3 – Vermont’s 51st shot on Brian Foster (Panthers 5/05) - to move on. They will now go to TD Garden in Boston to face No.4 Boston College in the semifinals. No.19 Maine faces No.20 Boston University in the other HEA semifinals. Don’t expect Marshall, who has yet to play for the eighth seeded Catamounts in the playoffs, to suit up anytime soon with Vermont riding this momentum.

Ads’ Fadden Learns To Mature Quickly

Clear the pucks after practice.

Check.

Clean the team bus, without volunteering.

Gotcha.

No inimical stares - just good ol’ work habits prescribed by his teammates.

It’s all part of being a rookie for Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Mitch Fadden, shifting from youth to maturity with the club’s farm affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals.

How’s the forward’s first taste of the professional ranks?

Bittersweet.

KHL Playoff Game Day: 3-15-10

Eastern Conference
(8)Ekaterinburg 1 @ (1)Yulaev 8
Yulaev Wins the Series 3-1
Denis Kazionov, 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Season totals: 51 GP, 5-3-8, -18, 20 PIM
Playoff totals: 4 GP, 0-0-0, -3, 6 PIM

Ekaterinburg's chance for a Cindarella ending came to a screeching hault in an 8-1 series clinching Game Four win by Yulaev. Ex-Predators forward Alexander Radulov had 1 goal and 3 assists in the game for Yulaev. Denis Kazionov played 11:59 in the match, completing his first full season as a regular KHL player.

(7)Chelyabinsk 2 @ (2)Magnitogorsk 3 (OT)
Magnitogorsk Wins the Series 3-1
Vasily Koshechkin, Magnitogorsk, Win, 30/32, 1.57 GAA, .938 sv%
Season totals: 49 GP, 25-16-8, 8 SO, 1.96 GAA, .927 sv%
Playoff totals: 4 GP, 3-1, 0 SO, 1.62 GAA, .944 sv%

Magnitogorsk ended the upset dreams of seventh seeded Chelyabinsk with a pair of goals by Denis Platonov, including the overtime winner. Ex-NHLer Stan Chistov also had a goal for Magnitogorsk.

Three Lightning prospects have made it through to the conference semifinals in the KHL. In the East, 2nd seed Magnitogorsk and Vasily Koshechkin will square off against 3rd seed Kazan and Dmitri Kazionov. Meanwhile, in the West, Cindarella 8th seed Dynamo Riga and Martins Karsums will face 2nd seed KHK MVD.

CHL Game Night: 3-14-10

[b][i]QMJHL[/b][/i] [b] St. John Sea Dogs 2 @ Moncton Wildcats 5[/b] [i]D [b][url=/mark-barberio]Mark Barberio[/url][/b], MCT: 2-0-2, +2, 2 PIM, 2 SOG[/i] Season Totals: 65 GP, 17-43-60, +39, 72 PIM In a game broadcast on NHL Network, Barberio and Moncton defeated top-seeded St. John to end the regular season on a winning note. Barberio scored twice, the first on the power play when he pinched in from the point and buried a cross-crease pass. The second came while shorthanded into an empty net. Moncton finishes with the league’s third-best point total at 102, two points behind Drummondville and seven behind St. John. They’ll play Cape Breton in the first round. After a slow start to the season in the goal department, Barberio finished with a bang, scoring 14 times after Christmas. Barberio set career highs in goals (+1), assists (+12), points (+14), and plus/minus (+31). He finished fifth in the Q in points among defensemen, sixth in goals, fifth in assists, and seventh in plus/minus. Barberio and Moncton should have a long playoff season ahead, at least until the conference finals, which should be vs. the same Sea Dogs they defeated Sunday night. [b][i]OHL [/b][/i] [b] Sudbury Wolves 2 @ Ottawa 67’s 3 (OT)[/b] [i]W [b]Matias Sointu[/b], SBY: 0-1-1, +1, 0 PIM [/i] Season Totals: 51 GP, 8-21-29, -3, 24 PIM [i]With Sudbury: 29 GP, 5-14-19, -8, 18 PIM With Ottawa: 21 GP, 3-7-10, +5, 6 PIM[/i] With Niagara’s loss, Sudbury was a second point away from avoiding Barrie in the East’s first round, but it was not to be as Sointu’s former team scored in overtime. The Wolves, who had 59 points on the year, will indeed play Alex Hutchings and Barrie, who finished the year 57 points better than Sudbury. Sointu finished the regular season very strong, scoring nine points in his last seven games. [b]OHL Scoring Race[/b] Speaking of Hutchings, he finished the year fourth in the OHL in goals (tie - 47), 14th in points (81), first in shorthanded goals (11; 7 more than anyone else), first in game winning goals (tie – 11), second in insurance goals (tie – 7), and fifth in plus/minus (+44). Overall, Plymouth’s Tyler Seguin (48-58-106) and Windsor’s Taylor Hall (40-66-106), who will battle for the No.1 draft spot this summer, finished tied for the league lead in points. [i][b]WHL[/b][/i] [b] Vancouver Giants 3 @ Seattle Thunderbirds 4 (OT)[/b] [i]C/W/D [b][url=/james-wright]James Wright[/url][/b], VAN: 0-0-0, -2, 4 PIM (boarding, roughing)[/i] Season Totals: 21 GP, 6-13-19, -3, 17 PIM [i]With Tampa Bay: 43 GP, 2-3-5, -9, 18 PIM [/i] The Giants, who have struggled the last two weeks, played ninth place Seattle for a chance to enter the playoffs on a win streak, but were foiled by T-Birds goalie Calvin Pickard (2010 eligible), who stopped 51 shots in a First Star performance. Wright, a noted two-way player who skated for Tampa Bay of the NHL for most of the season because of his two-way abilities, finished his regular season with Vancouver with a surprising minus-3 rating. Wright and Vancouver will have to regroup as they enter the playoffs against seventh-seeded Kamloops. In other WHL news, Calgary’s Brandon Kozon (Kings 6/09) won the league scoring title by one point over Regina’s Jordan Eberle (Oilers 1/08), 107-106.

NHL Game Night: 3-14-10 Penguins at Lightning

The Pens get the benefit of the bounce.

PIT-2
TB-1

Antero Niittymaki allowed 2 goals on 39 shots for the loss. He certainly did everything he could to give the Lightning a chance to win and seems to be getting hot again. A hot Niitty is probably the only chance the Lightning have down the stretch.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
TB 8:09, Lecavalier 20 (Fedoruk, Hedman)

Third Period
PIT 2:20, Dupuis 17 (Staal, Cooke)
PIT 5:17, Gonchar 10 (Crosby, Ponikarovsky)(PP)

The difference in the game was the goofy bounce Pittsburgh got on their first goal and the solid goaltending of Fleury in the first period. It makes you wonder though why this team could play poorly and lose in overtime against the worst team in the conference (Toronto) and then turn around and beat the best (Washington) and take the defending champs (Pittsburgh) to the brink. If they played with the same intensity they did in the first period of this game, they'd be sitting on 80-90 points in the standings already. That's frustrating in the near term, as this team's playoff chances are becoming slim. In the long term Lightning fans should take heart. A young team like this is going to figure that out, and have the chance to be an elite team when they do.

Congratulations to Vincent Lecavalier on his 10th straight 20 goal season. That's 10 straight seasons of excellence, no matter how you slice it.

Also, congratulations to Steven Stamkos for making Matt Cooke a stain on the ice during a third period power play. Now that's young leadership you can believe in.

Paul Szczechura had 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 13:01. He was also 56% on draws and almost had the first goal of the game on a 2-on-1 feed from Lecavalier that was turned aside by Fleury. I must apologize to Szczechura for missing that his last game against the Caps (3-12-10) marked his graduation from prospect status on Bolt Prospects. So, he got an extra night of coverage tonight so that we can extend congratulations to him on becoming a full-time NHLer with 41 and now 42 games played this season. He'll likely be the last graduate of the 2009/2010 class that included Downie, Hedman, and Wright already.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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