Honest question: how does Don Waddell keep his job every year? It took him eight seasons to finally get the Thrashers into the playoffs and they embarass themselves. Thoroughly. Look, Espo managed to get the Lightning into the playoffs by year four on a pittiful shoestring budget. Waddell gets resources out the ying yang and somehow manages to make hamburger on a steak budget.
Then again, maybe it's just payback for a certain Thrashers fan making sure she rigs the HF rankings every season?
So the Thrashers will definitely lose Tkachuk to free agency. Dupuis looks like a decent bet to follow. Zhitnik is still under contract for another year, but he's also old as dirt. If he's all that's left of trading three first round picks, seriously, how can Waddell keep his job? Because he finally got the Thrashers into the playoffs after nearly eight years of futility? Can Atlanta Spirit LLC really be that gullible? Probably.
Oh, and Marian Hossa continues to cement his reputation as a Yashin-esque playoff choker, followed closely by Ilya Kovalchuk whose raw natural abilities are only matched by his immense, gargantuan selfishness. It's a shame the Lightning didn't get that one more goal in the shootout in the season finale. Atlanta's mental softness has been apparent for years now and I'm not even in the slightest surprised at how easily they were picked apart.
Buckle up, this could be a long series now.
Johan Holmqvist allowed 4 goals on 37 shots in the loss. He was great tonight though. No complaints. Gomez's OT winner was just a great shot. Martin St. Louis led the way with 1 goal and 1 assist. Eric Perrin and Vincent Lecavalier had the Lightning's goals. Filip Kuba, Brad Richards and Vaclav Prospal added assists.
The good news? New Jersey still can't stop the Lightning's big guns. They have no answer for Lecavalier, Richards and St. Louis. None.
The bad news? On balance this was probably the first game of the series where the Jersey skaters really outplayed the Lightning's skaters. Far too many turnovers by the Lightning to count. They must tighten up going into a critical Game Five.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
In today's Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, reporter Mike Mastovich states the future of Johnstown Chiefs coach Frank Anzalone, one of only four ECHL coaches with 300 wins (332), is in limbo.
â€œIâ€™ve been in Tampa. The hockey operations situation is in the hands of (Lightning GM) Jay Feaster,â€ Anzalone told the newspaper. Anzalone attended the Tampa Bay Lightningâ€™s playoff game against visiting New Jersey on Monday night after meeting with Feaster for his year-end evaluation. â€œI donâ€™t know 100 percent what they are or are not doing. Obviously I will be affected by hockey operations systems, whether I like it or not.â€
To read the full article, see the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat.
Everett 2 @ Prince George 8
Prince George wins best-of-7 series 4-2
The Everett Silvertips entered the 2007 WHL Playoffs with the league's best record, its top seed, and the top ranking in the entire Canadian Hockey League. In fact, Everett was ranked No.1 in the CHL 14 of the last 15 weeks of the season. They entered Game 3 of their Western Conference Semifinals series with Prince George with a 2 games to 0 lead on the Cougars, seemingly coasting to the WHL Conference Finals.
The Lightning take a 2-1 series lead as the Devils still have no answer for Tampa's big guns.
Johan Holmqvist stopped 30 of 32 shots faced for the win. Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards each had 1 goal and 1 assist and Martin St. Louis had a pair of helpers but it was Vaclav Prospal's third period goal that finally snuffed out the Devils' hopes of stealing a Game Three road win. Filip Kuba also added an assist.
The Devils got a ridiculously lucky goal on a 2-on-1 centering feed from Zach Parise that bounced off a sliding Dan Boyle and in. Otherwise, this is a 3-1 win. Just like Game One should have been a 3-1 win. Almost like Game Two was a 3-1 win. The Lightning are having little trouble getting to three goals even against the much honored Martin Brodeur and it seems the only way the Devils can get to 3 goals themselves is if Holmer implodes. So long as Holmqvist continues to provide good goaltending, the Lightning should have the upper hand in this series.
Now the Lightning have put New Jersey in a situation where they've got to win 3 of the next 4 games to win the series. That's good, not great. Stepping on Jersey's throat by taking Game Four and getting this to a 3-1 series lead? That would be great.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
In an April 14 article by Mike Mastovich of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown Chiefs President Jim Weber promised that changes are coming.
â€œLast year we went farther in the playoffs and Iâ€™m not happy that we took a step back,â€ Weber told the paper. â€œI gave this system two years. Iâ€™m starting a reassessment process, everything from top to bottom. Iâ€™m going to take into consideration some things the fans said and things people in the hockey operation said. In the end, Iâ€™m going to take full responsibility for doing what is right for the entertainment factor for the fans as well as the on-ice product.â€
Mastovich notes the Lightning handled personnel moves during a 33-33-6 fifth-place season and â€œitâ€™s no secret that without Tampa Bay assigning the majority of the players and offsetting many expenses associated with hockey operations, this team would be history in Johnstown.â€
He also states that the constant player movement between Johnstown and Springfield was detrimental to the team, leaving them embarrassingly short on players some nights, and fans â€œfrequently complained they were bored watching players attempt to execute [Tampa Bayâ€™s] system.â€
Head Coach Frank Anzalone told the newspaper fans should be proud of Chiefs players this year despite the teamâ€™s first round exit. However, he also stated: â€œYeah, everybody wants to quote-unquote go deep in the playoffs and win Kelly Cups. But you have to have a team built for that. This organization is built to develop hockey players.â€
Prince George 4 @ Everett 3
Prince George leads best-of-7 series 3-2
The Prince George Cougars scored four third period goals Saturday night to erase a 3-0 deficit and put the highly-favored and top-seeded Everett Silvertips on the brink of elimination. The game winner for Prince George came near the 12 minute mark of the third on a power play goal by Colorado Avalanche draft pick Chris Durand. Everett outshot the visiting Cougars 39-23 for the game, including 21-4 in the second period. Real Cyr (undrafted) came up big in net for the Cougars, earning third star honors. Vladimir Mihalik, who injured his ankle blocking a shot in Game 4, had an even rating with an assist and minor penalty for Prince George. Dane Crowley was scoreless and had an even rating for the Silvertips. Game 6 shifts to Prince George on Monday night.
The Lightning will take home ice back with them to Tampa for Game Three and Game Four.
Johan Holmqvist digs himself out of the considerable hole he excavated in Game One stopping 34 of 36 shots faced for the win. Character. It takes guts to fail that spectacularly in your playoff debut and then come back two nights later and shake it off. Brad Richards had 2 assists in the game with the Lightning getting goals from Filip Kuba, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. Eric Perrin, Jason Ward, Paul Ranger and Vaclav Prospal added assists. Lecavalier and Holmqvist were named first and second stars of the game respectively.
What we learned from the first two games in New Jersey? If the Lightning get good goaltending (not even great goaltending) they will likely win this series. New Jersey cannot contain Lecavalier and St. Louis for 60 minutes. 30-40 minutes? Maybe. But they can't hold those two down for the full 60. Tonight it took Torts moving St. Louis onto Richards' line to get the two untracked, but sooner or later they're going to get theirs. And the Devils don't have anything near that reliable offensively. So, the way I see it, the Devils can only win one of two ways: Holmqvist and the Lightning goaltenders give the series away or Brodeur steals it. Otherwise, the Lightning skaters are better than the Devils'. Period.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
The Lightning's affiliation with Springfield ends with a whimper.
Jonathan Boutin allowed 2 goals on 34 shots in the loss. The Falcons finish the 2006-2007 season by being shutout in their final two contests. Appropo. Boutin was named third star of the game for his efforts.
PRO Leach, (2) (Krejci, Walter), 10:53 (PP)
PRO Lashoff, (11) (Dempsey, Walter), 1:00 (PP)
Game sheet from TheAHL.com.
No hardware for the Lightning's European prospects...
Despite a power play goal by Lightning prospect Andreas Holmqvist, Linkopings fell in Game Six of the Elitserien finals 3-2 to MODO. MODO wins the series and the championship 4 games to 2. Holmqvist also had 2 penalty minutes in the game. Former Springfield Falcon Zdenek Blatny had a goal in the match for MODO.
Holmqvist concludes the postseason with a more than respectable 4 goals and 9 points in 13 games. Holmqvist also added 35 penalty minutes and an even rating. He will likely play for Sweden in the upcoming World Championships. A strong showing at that tournament could prompt the Lightning to re-sign Holmqvist and bring him back into the fold in North America.