I will be live blogging this one using the B2 feed as the Falcons try to snap their own losing streak. Starting lineups:
And the main attraction: Jonathan Boutin in net.
SPR-1 (End 3rd)
1. Bridgeport- Smith, (unassisted)
What a slooooowwww pace to this game. The balance of play was carried by Bridgeport which isn't really being challenged very hard physically in the corners and have had their forecheck working all game long. They're generating scoring chances but to the Falcons' credit, they blocked a ton of shots in this period. Bridgeport's lone goal came on a turnover by Harlan Pratt in the corner when there was a miscommunication with Doug O'Brien. A subsequent centering attempt ping ponged off O'Brien to a wide open Sound Tiger for an easy point blank score. Boutin, who looked composed, under control and was following the puck well in the period, didn't have a chance on that one.
Best scoring chance of the period came on a nice play early in the first when the Falcons used their point men well. Brad Tiley moved the puck for the left point to the center point to Gerard Dicaire who made a nice diagonal pass to the left circle for Campbell who couldn't finish. Scoring chances have been few and far between though. The Falcons really need to try and get Bridgeport into the box to shift the pace of this game. As of now, the Sound Tigers aren't being challenged much. As a PS, Zbynek Hrdel hasn't looked out of place on the Falcons' second line.
2. Bridgeport- Smith, (Tunik, Flache)
3. Springfield- Reid, (H.Pratt)(PP)
Jonathan Boutin really struggled with his rebound control in that period. By my count he allowed four pretty bad rebounds on long shots, one of which ended up in the back of the net. On three of those, Jonathan was unscreened. That's mental. I know and he knows he is technically better than that. On the other side of the coin, he also made an unbelievably quick recovery save on the first of those rebounds and he did make the save of the game thus far to keep the Falcons in this thing sliding post to post on a Bridgeport 3-on-1 to rob a shooter with his left pad. That is a save I doubt Eklund or Coleman, heck even Burke or Grahame, would have made.
Timo Helbling had a wide open chance in the slot early in the period and decided to shoot the puck well over the net. Shame, because for much of the period it was about the only quality chance Springfield had on Madden. That's not to say the Falcons aren't getting stronger on the forecheck as the game goes on. They're starting to draw some calls and they finally cashed in after some very poor looking power plays. A very stupid double minor late in the period by Bridgeport ended up in the back of the net when a long Harlan Pratt slap shot hit a defender in front and squirted to Darren Reid in the slot who buried the power play goal. He earned it stripping a Sound Tigers defender who looked like he had an easy clear earlier in the shift. Falcons have the second half of the double minor and momentum going into the third.
Jonathan Boutin deserved better. I can't give him the A+ tonight for the five bad rebounds he kicked around, but he gave the Falcons every opportunity to win this game. In the third period he was magnificent. On one save he moved quickly and efficiently from his right post to the top of his crease to get square and stifle a great chance by Wyatt Smith in the slot. And that's one thing I think he was absolutely fantastic in tonight. When I saw him in Johnstown's opener earlier this year he played at times a little out of control, overplaying his angles at time. He was deadly efficient tonight moving around his crease. Giguere efficient. Dare I say it considering he's wearing that #35 right now, Khabibulin efficient. The problems I saw in this game with the rebounds and some polishing he needs to his stickhandling are easily correctable. That kind of athleticism and technical capability to play under control and technically efficient are not something as easy to bestow. He's taken a lot of shots to his reputation deserved and undeserved because of his nomadic junior career, but he showed why he was a first day draft pick tonight, especially in the third when he later stoned Bergenheim on a partial breakaway in the third and then bailed out Jay Rosehill on a bad turnover in the corner that allowed a Sound Tiger to roll out from behind the cage 1-on-1 against Boutin. 19 saves on 21 shots on the game. I remain very excited about his future.
Darren Reid was named the second star for his goal. He had a nice game and in general I'd like to see Graham play that third line more. It's kind of ridiculous how little Tarnasky plays considering he was just in the NHL for nine games. The Milley/Vesce/Campbell line was very ineffective tonight and I would've liked to have seen some of their minutes peeled off to Tarnasky and Reid. In general the team got in good position on dump ins to win loose pucks, but they just could not seem to win any one-on-one battles to sustain the forecheck and start the cycle. On defense, I really wonder at what point you send Rosehill back to Johnstown and recall Egener. Rosehill is a nice prospect, but he isn't ready to play a lot of minutes at the AHL level quite yet and it shows.
Finland's starting goaltender Miika Wiikman was shelled in 40 minutes of play leaving Fredrik Norrena to pick up the pieces in a third period of mop up duty as Finland was steamrolled by the Czech Republic 6-2 today. Norrena gave up 1 goal in relief. Wiikman, you'll recall, is Lightning goaltending prospect Karri Ramo's tandem mate with HPK.
Here's a simply intriguing story wedged in the middle of Erik Erlendsson's Lightning Notebook in the Trib today. As reported earlier this week, Bruce Landon is heading to Tampa in December to attempt to hammer out an affiliation with the Lightning through 2010. On the face of it, it seems like a natural fit.
However, Erlendsson notes the (worthless, bottom feeding) Florida Panthers have been making noise about moving into a full affiliation in Orlando, former home of the IHL's Solar Bears. The Panthers currently share an affiliation with the Buffalo Sabres' affiliate in Rochester. Jay Feaster cannot allow the Panthers to set up shop in Central Florida thereby cutting into the Lightning's territorial base. So events may conspire that could see the Lightning set up AHL shop in Orlando.
Certainly, that situation would be a boon for Central Florida based fans of the team interested in seeing their young prospects develop. An AHL affiliate within driving distance would be fantastic for the Lightning fan base. On the other hand, one of the reasons that the Lightning and other clubs have balked at putting a team back in Orlando is the increased team travel costs. The AHL is primarily a Northeastern league, and distance is a disadvantage for the Orlando market. And, unfortunately, a decision to move to Orlando would hurt a Springfield market that has already had more than its fair share of being kicked while down.
The Lightning's contract with Springfield expires after this year, so we should see the resolution of this situation very soon.
As reported last night, Stan Lascek had four assists for Chicoutimi in a 6-0 win over PEI. With the four points, and only a goal and assist from teammate Maxime Boisclair, Lascek pulled into a tie with Boisclair for the QMJHL scoring lead with 49 points in 22 games (17-32-49). Lascek was the game's first star.
Speaking of Boisclair, in a recent edition of The Hockey News, Boisclair states that Tampa Bay moved him from his natural wing position to center during the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in September where he was trying out for the club, and because of the unfamiliarity with the position, Boisclair was extremely unhappy with his impact in the tournament. Boisclair was not offered a contract by the Lightning, but hopes to attend another NHL camp in the fall.
With the exception of Arthur Femenella, all Lightning NCAA prospects were in action Friday night. Femenella's team, the University of Vermont, did indeed play, but Femenella was scratched. Highlighting the night for Baby Bolts was Mike Lundin of Maine, who had an assist in a 9-2 Hockey East win over UMass-Lowell, and Matt Smaby, who had an assist as North Dakota beat WCHL opponent Minnesota Duluth 5-3. Also, P.J. Atherton, though scoreless, had a plus-two rating for Minnesota, who crushed Alaska-Anchorage 9-0. John Wessbecker (UMass), and Dusty Collins (Northern Michigan) both went scoreless i
Stan Lascek had 4 assists and was named the game's #1 star tonight for Chicoutimi. So don't throw yourselves off any bridges just yet.
And the Chiefs still haven't won a game.
It's good to see Justin Kelly in the lineup and scoring a goal for the Chiefs. He's a player Johnstown definitely needs. It's also good to see Chateau du Bow Wow's penthouse suite occupant, Adam Henrich, get a goal tonight. Still, Morgan Cey's pro debut was ruined in the shootout despite stopping a staggering 26 of 28 shots faced. The good news is with Kelly and Henrich in the lineup along with Greco and Egener already in place, the Chiefs managed 44 shots on goal tonight, perhaps showing signs of turning the corner.
Game sheet from ECHL.com.
OK, OK, is this finally rock bottom?
I would've preferred Gerald Coleman's debut had come under better circumstances. The Tampa Bay Lightning just blew a two goal lead and allowed themselves to be beaten by an ECHL level goaltender. That's the plain, unvarnished truth.
I have no doubt that the word of closed door players only meetings is right around the corner. There needs to be a "come to Jesus" for this team. And it's clear to me that it is no longer Dave Andreychuk and Tim Taylor's ship to fix. They have fulfilled their charge to nurse a bunch of kids into an NHL contender and Stanley Cup champion. Those kids are all grown up, and those kids are the ones who now need to step up and take ownership of what is happening to this team.
There are about $15 million dollars being tied up in three players on this team: Lecavalier, St. Louis and Richards. We can talk about the unstable goaltending or the fact Darryl Sydor couldn't defend his way out of a wet paper sack right now, but that ignores the obvious. In all of these games where the Lightning knew going in they had a goaltender with flagging confidence or a wet behind the ears rookie between the pipes they still only managed to score a couple of goals against Atlanta, New York and Montreal. The timely goal scoring has simply not been there.
Much of the reason for that is that the Tampa Bay Lightning simply have not made the commitment in moment-of-truth situations in this six game losing streak to make the hard, dirty play. To shoot the puck and crash the net. This team is still looking for answers in tic-tac-toe plays that never work when you're struggling instead of putting on their hard hat, grabbing their lunch pail and doing what it takes to get points in crunch time.
It's time to start making that commitment again. It's time to start talking about accountability again. But the one's stepping up in those closed door meetings to talk about accountability need to be the $15M men. It's time to grow up. It's time the torch was passed. It's time that Vincent Lecavalier no longer leads the team in zeros and the end of his check but also he leads vocally in the dark times. And no, I'm not blaming Vinny or saying he's dogging it. Quite the contrary, he's one of the few players on this team playing decent hockey right now. But he can't just sit back anymore while Dave Andreychuk and Tim Taylor do all the heavy lifting in the locker room. Nor can Brad Richards. Nor can Martin St. Louis. This is their time, and if things are going to turn around they need to make this, unequivocally, their team. Right now.
By the grace of God, this team plays in such an awful division 2 games under .500 can still find you in second place ahead of Florida. But that won't last forever. It's time to get back to work.