The ultimate goal remains the same every year.
While every team in the American Hockey League chases the Calder Cup, the Tampa Bay Lighting’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, are looking to rekindle the magic that took them to the league championship series in 2013. Less than three years have passed, but the memories of 2013 seem to be shrinking in the rear view mirror.
The Crunch will take their first step toward that goal when they open the 2015-16 on the road against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Saturday.
“It’s gone by fast, without a doubt,” said Crunch head coach Rob Zettler. “The people have changed except for a couple, but it does feel like a while away. I feel like we’ve learned a lot over these last two years, and we’re continuing to grow. The goal, as always, is to make the playoffs and win the Calder Cup.”
Lightning overcome slow start to destroy Bruins.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 30 shots for the victory. He benefited from the fact that, at the other end, Tuukka Rask was pretty darned awful today.
2:59 BOS Krejci (2), (Krug, Bergeron)(PP)
11:02 BOS Eriksson (1), (Krug, Krejci)(PP)
15:42 TB Boyle (1), (Hedman, Namestnikov)
16:51 TB Palat (1), (Johnson, Stralman)(PP)
4:48 TB Boyle (2), (unassisted)
12:20 BOS Eriksson (2), (Krejci, Krug)(PP)
15:17 TB Stamkos (2), (Stralman, Johnson)(PP)
5:38 TB Drouin (1), (Condra, Hedman)
15:58 TB Filppula (1), (Killorn, Brown)
Brian Boyle was the game's first star. Only in Boston could a team get smoked 6-3 and still get 2 out of 3 star selections. Arrogance, thy name is Boston.
Speaking of arrogance, you get the feeling that the Lightning learned so much in last season's playoff run they've gotten to that elite level where they have the confidence to just toy with opponents. Regular season hockey might be child's play to this team, especially given how few roster changes there were to the Lightning. They came out flat and looked like they were going to get run off the ice down 2-0, and then ended up making it look easy as they cruised most of the rest of the way. I don't want to overstate it, because Rask really did allow two soft goals, but this Lightning team looks so much more deep and talented than the rest of the league they don't have to be perfect to kill you. Even better, it really looks like this Lightning team will be even better than last year's because they look like they'll have two elite scoring lines, four balanced lines overall, and a better power play. The latter was 2-for-4 today and you could see it coming on in the last contest.
The obvious nitpick is the penalty kill, which hasn't been sharp thus far this year. 1-for-4 on the PK is not sustainable.
When you play a matinee in Boston, I consider a day where your star player doesn't break his leg and the refs don't make some horribly controversial call against the Lightning a win. Getting two points was just gravy. My only regret was I didn't get to hear the NESN crew shriek in agony that their mighty Bruins (who missed the playoffs last year) could possibly get destroyed at home by the terrible Tampa Bay Lightning (who were Eastern Conference champs). I can hear the excuses from here.
In any event, after improving to 3-0-0, the Lightning have 6 points and are already halfway to the 10-game segment goal. The team is putting itself into good position to possibly build up a nice stock of insurance points right from the word jump, which is great considering some sort of Stanley Cup Final hangover would've been understandable.
Jokerit 1 vs. Ufa 5
Saku Salminen, Jokerit, DNP
Season totals: 5 GP, 0-1-1, +1, 0 PIM
Ufa forward Alexander Nesterov (no relation) had 1 goal and 3 points to lead Ufa to a 5-1 thumping of Jokerit. Ex-Oilers pick Linus Omark also had a helper in the win for Ufa.
Dinamo Riga 1 vs. Magnitogorsk 2
Vasily Koshechkin, Magnitogorsk, DNP
Season totals: 17 GP, 7-5-4, 0 SO, 2.08 GAA, .923 sv%
Caps first rounder Ilya Samsonov stopped 19 of 20 shots in Magnitogorsk's 2-1 win over Riga. Ex-NHLer Wojtek Wolski chipped in Magnitka's opening goal of the victory.
Ontario Hockey League
Peterborough Petes 6 @ Flint Firebirds 4
D Dominik Masin, PBO: 0-0-0, +3, 2 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 7 GP, 0-1-1, +10, 12 PIM
2014-15 totals: 48 GP, 7-19-26, -13, 68 PIM
D Matt Spencer, PBO: 0-1-1, +1, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Season totals: 8 GP, 2-1-3, +1, 8 PIM
2014-15 totals: 67 GP, 6-24-30, -15, 64 PIM
Peterborough got five points from overager Hunter Garlent (undrafted) and defeated the Firebirds in Flint, 6-4. Dominik Masin is plus-8 in his last two games, combined.
Cherepovets 1 vs. Novgorod 2 (OT)
Carter Ashton, Novgorod, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 13 GP, 3-0-3, -3, 10 PIM
Carter Ashton was scoreless in 17:04 of ice time in Novgorod's 2-1 OT win over Cherepovets. Ex-Avs pick Linus Videll had the OT winner and a helper in the match.
Khanty-Mansiysk 3 vs. Vladivostok 0
Nikita Gusev, Khanty-Mansisysk, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 5 SOG
Season totals: 19 GP, 6-6-12, +6, 4 PIM
Vladislav Fokin stopped all 38 shots he faced to lead Yugra to a 3-0 win over Vladivostok. Yugra got 2 goals and 3 points from 23 year old centerman Kirill Rasskazov in the win. Nikita Gusev was scoreless in 15:16 of ice time, but he did tie Rasskazov with a team high 5 shots on goal. Yugra, which has been one of the doormats of the league the past few seasons, has risen to 2nd on the Eastern Conference table with the win, 2 points shy of Novosibirsk for the top spot.
No. 3 Boston University Terriers 3 @ Union Dutchmen 5
D John MacLeod, BU: 0-0-0, +1, 2 PIM, 2 SOG
2014-2015 totals: 37 GP, 2-7-9, +19, 58 PIM
With Jack Eichel now in Buffalo, BU dropped its season opener at Union, 5-3.
No. 10 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks 2 @ No. 6 Minnesota State Mavericks 0
W Jimmy Mullin, MSU: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 0 SOG
Season totals: 2 GP, 1-0-1, -1, 0 PIM
2013-2014 totals (Miami): 19 GP, 1-6-7, 23 PIM
Omaha took both games in Mankato, the second of which was a 40-save shutout by freshman Evan Weninger.
*USCHO poll used
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 6 @ Saint John Sea Dogs 0
W Bokondji Imama, SJ: 0-0-0, -2, 2 PIM, 3 SOG, 1 Hit
Season totals: 5 GP, 2-1-3, -1, 4 PIM
2013-2014 Season: 59 GP, 13-15-28, +2, 137 PIM
W Mathieu Joseph, SJ: 0-0-0, E, 7 PIM, 2 SOG, 3 Hits
Season totals: 5 GP, 3-1-4, +3, 9 PIM
2013-2014 Season: 59 GP, 21-21-42, +18, 46 PIM
An ugly showing for the Sea Dogs at home. Joseph fought Tyler Hylland.
Val-d’Or Foreurs 2 @ Shawinigan Cataractes 5
W Dennis Yan, SHAW: 3-2-5, +4, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, 1 Hit, *First Star*
Season totals: 7 GP, 9-7-16, +3, 10 PIM
2014-2015 Season: 59 GP, 33-31-64, +23, 71 PIM
Dennis Yan had his second hat trick in as many days, and added two more assists in a 5-2 Shawinigan win over the Foreurs. Yan has 10 points in two games this weekend. Sweet fancy Moses.
Ontario Hockey League
Windsor Spitfires 3 @ Erie Otters 4
W Cristiano DiGiacinto, WSR: 1-0-1, E, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Season totals: 6 GP, 3-4-7, +3, 4 PIM
2014-15 totals: 63 GP, 21-24-45, -16, 100 PIM
Windsor turned a 3-0 deficit into a 3-2 game, but they couldn’t come all the way back after Erie hit four goals. Coyotes No. 3 overall pick Dylan Strome had an assist fo Erie.
Peterborough Petes 7 @ Saginaw Spirit 2
D Dominik Masin, PBO: 0-0-0, +5, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 6 GP, 0-1-1, +7, 10 PIM
2014-15 totals: 48 GP, 7-19-26, -13, 68 PIM
D Matt Spencer, PBO: 1-0-1, +2, 2 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 7 GP, 2-0-2, E, 8 PIM
2014-15 totals: 67 GP, 6-24-30, -15, 64 PIM
W Mitchell Stephens, SAG: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Season totals: 5 GP, 4-1-5, +2, 6 PIM
2014-15 totals: 62 GP, 22-26-48, -17, 44 PIM
Dominik Masin was a team-high plus-5, and Matt Spencer scored his second goal of the year, leading the Petes to a road win in Saginaw.
Western Hockey League
Kootenay Ice 3 @ Moose Jaw Warriors 4
D Brayden Point, MJ: 1-2-3, +4, 0 PIM, *Third Star*
Season totals: 4 GP, 6-6-12, +6, 2 PIM
2015-16 totals: 60 GP, 38-49-87, +6, 46 PIM
Brayden Point’s third point of the game was a primary assist on Dryden Hunt’s game winner with just over a minute left in regulation as the Warriors beat Kootenay, 4-3, Saturday. Point has been a game star in all four games since his return from Tampa Bay. He’s averaging three points-per-game.
Calgary Hitmen 4 @ Red Deer Rebels 5 (SO)
D Ben Thomas, CAL: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Season totals: 7 GP, 0-1-1, -5, 8 PIM
2014-15 totals: 60 GP, 7-24-31, +16, 28 PIM
Red Deer earned a split of its home-and-home series with Calgary, winning in a shootout Saturday. Former Carolina No. 7 overall pick Hayden Fleury was first star for Red Deer with a goal and an assist.
United States Hockey League
Omaha Lancers 4 @ Sioux Falls Stampede 1
G Kris Oldham, OMA: Did not play
Season totals: 3 GP, 2-1, 2.46 GAA, .923 sv%
2014-15 totals: 33 GP, 21-6-4, 2.49 GAA, .908 sv%, 1 SO
(University of Nebraska-Omaha commit)
Oldham sat after winning his start Friday night.
Bloomington Thunder 1 @ Sioux City Musketeers 0
D Ryan Zuhlsdorf, SC: 0-0-0, -1, 2 PIM, 2 SOG
Season totals: 5 GP, 0-1-1, -3, 6 PIM
2014-15 totals: 56 GP, 3-19-22, +25, 58 PIM
(University of Minnesota commit)
Bloomington completed a weekend sweep of Sioux City, though only four goals were scored in the series.
Crunch hang on for opening night win.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the victory. He didn't have a ton of work in the first half of the game, but made a handful of key stops at key moments in the second half of the contest to preserve the win, including a big glove stop at the end of the Third Period.
Click on any of the goals listed to see a GIF of the play.
LV Martel, (1) (Conner, Cousins), 16:31
It was kind of a tale of two games tonight, with Syracuse looking dominant in the first part of the game, only allowing the Phantoms chances on the odd unforced turnover and on the man advantage. They established a 4-1 lead in the Second Period and it had the look of a laugher, but they allowed Lehigh Valley to stick around and eventually spent the bulk of the Third Period protecting the dreaded 2 goal lead. They had a handful of very good forechecking shifts in the final frame to take some of the pressure off, but in the end it was a lot closer than it should have been.
Snap decision on this iteration of the Crunch is that they're very similar to last year's edition. Not surprising. They have decent speed but didn't look terribly threatening off the rush. Their bread and butter is still going to be the cycle and manufacturing those greasy goals, punctuated by the occasional laser beam from Marchessault (who was lethal tonight from the slot). With only one PP opportunity on the night, it's too early to judge if their extra man unit will be better than the travesty they called a power play last season.
As for the key newcomers, I thought Matthew Peca played a nice, responsible two-way game. He wasn't able to flash on the rush as I'd have expected, but I'm sure that'll come. Anthony DeAngelo got a helper for his first AHL point, but didn't get a chance to flash his offensive skill much in the game. Defensively, he reminds me a bit of Paul Ranger when Ranger was a rookie pro. That is to say, he's in the right zip code positionally, and even though he's not in perfect spots he's mobile enough to close the gap quickly. If he's anything like Ranger, he'll get sharper in that aspect as time goes on. Adam Erne had one very poor tripping penalty, but also showed a lot of the qualities that make him a valued prospect. He hits to hurt and he was very good on the cycle and on the forecheck in the Third Period as Syracuse was nursing the lead.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Lightning rock solid in their first road game of the season.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 25 shots for the victory. He didn't have to face nearly the quality of chances he did in the opener against Philly and was solid on the ones he did.
8:14 TB Condra (1), (Hedman, Filppula)
13:55 BUF Deslauriers (1), (Reinhart, Gorges)
19:34 TB Kucherov (1), (Johnson, Stralman)
8:53 TB Stamkos (1), (Callahan)
12:41 TB Brown (1), (Garrison, Coburn)
That's just a top-to-bottom solid effort by the Lightning. I thought Johnson was solid in his own right for Buffalo in net, but after weathering an early push by Buffalo in the First Period the Lightning depth and quality showed up. They got a goal from every single line and after allowing 11 shots in the First Period, they surrendered just 14 the rest of the way. Buffalo should feel fortunate it wasn't worse for them. The Lightning were 0-for-4 on the PP, but were getting the looks they wanted. This could've been a 6-1 or 7-1 win pretty easily, in my opinion.
If I had a nitpick, it would be that the Lightning were only 41% on draws today, and only 38% through the first couple of periods. You can make an argument the Lightning lost the Stanley Cup Final in the faceoff circles after Tyler Johnson broke his wrist, giving Chicago an avenue to artificially generate zone time and scoring chances they weren't otherwise getting in the run of play. That aspect of Tampa Bay's game has to improve over the course of the year.