NHL Game Night 12/21: Maple Leafs at Lightning

A star is born?

TOR-1
TB-2

In his first NHL start, Karri Ramo stopped 31 of 32 shots faced for the win.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
Toronto 16:36, Matt Stajan 9 (Alexander Steen)
Tampa Bay 18:41, Jason Ward 5 (Vincent Lecavalier, Mike Lundin)

Third Period
Tampa Bay 19:18, Vincent Lecavalier 23 (Martin St. Louis, Shane O'Brien)

Fate played the cruel trick of scheduling my girlfriend's company's holiday party on this night, of all nights. Three years I've been covering this kid since all the way back when the only people keeping an eye on him were Karri Kettunen and the couple dozen people showing up to Lahti Pelicans Junior A games, and I have to Tivo his first NHL start? What the heck?

By Ramo standards, believe it or not, I thought he played a pretty mediocre game. He struggled with his rebound control and as far as his positioning goes I thought he played a little deep in the net and overplayed to one side on occassion. Those areas will need to improve, and my expectation is that they will.

Bottom line though, he stopped pucks. Just stop pucks. The Lightning don't need the second coming of Patrick Roy (yet). They just need someone steady who isn't going to spot the opposition cheap goals and isn't going to panic and allow one goal to snowball into giving up three or four goals in a period. He did that tonight and as long as he continues to do that, I'm willing to bet Torts will keep starting him.

Kudos to the Lightning for playing a pretty good game defensively in front of Ramo too, defensemen and forwards alike. They knew they had a rookie in net and they knew they needed to step up and hustle for the new guy. They didn't play a perfect game defensively, but when they made mistakes they generally busted their humps to rectify the situation. I don't recall any clear cut odd man rushes tonight and there weren't any breakaways, and that's how you break a rookie in. They played hard for Karri, and Karri rewarded them by making 2 goals stand up for a win.

Of course, then again, there were those final 7 minutes when suddenly it seemed like several Lightning players were suddenly brain dead (Shane O'Brien I'm looking at you) and where easy clears became unforced turnovers and harrowing moments in the Lightning zone. Scary stuff, which I suppose made Lecavalier putting the finishing touch on the 2-on-1 to win it that much more cathartic.

Mathieu Darche played 15:04 with 3 shots and 3 hits.

Mike Lundin played 15:01 and was +1 with 1 assist, 1 shot, 2 blocked shots and, as rare as a Loch Nest Monster sighting, 1 hit. Of course he also got his world absolutely rocked on a hit in the first period.

Jay Leach played 6:26 with 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in his third career NHL game. Atta boy Jay.

Blair Jones got a whopping 3 shifts and 50 seconds of ice time. In what little he's played so far, I think he's looked good on the forecheck but he's getting absolutely owned in the faceoff circles.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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New Coach?

Maybe Torts has become a new coach. Tarnasky 11:24, Karlsson 15+; or maybe it was the injuries... But these are a couple of the guys I felt all along could help. I thought Gratton and Luc were the weakest links... But we still got smoked at crunch time. Sometimes Hvaleck looks like the best player on the ice; other times... What is it going to take to get him to finish? Too bad we can't get P..... back!

when will the other shoe drop?

Ramo played good enough (with some defensive help, for sure) to give us a Nordic goaltending duo as a regular rotation, I think. Now when the holiday freeze is over, will Denis complete the cycle by getting some starts up in Norfolk? It would seem only fair, although I'm sure the Ads would much rather have folks sent down for scoring help.

Scoring Help Would be Appreciated

We have scored 1, yes that's right, 1 goal in the last three games. So any scoring help would be appreciated. But frankly, looking at the situation in Tampa, I don't see any help in that area available. And I understand MacDonald took a puck to the face last night with some lost dental work and facial and mouth lacerations. So you may be looking this way again. If you come calling for a replacement, I think Karl Stewart is going to be the one. He has been playing center here, a despite his size is a crash and bang type who would do well in a 4th line center role. If that happens, we'll just have to go and comb the ECHL rosters for a replacement. However I heard that Chris Lawrence is ready to return so he could possibly take Stewart's place if he is recalled. So if that is the case some ECHL team may be safe from us coming and calling.

Denis should be sent down here after the Christmas movement freeze is over. Let him get some playing time here rather than making the popcorn in Tampa. You will be paying him at is 2.8 mill rate whether he makes popcorn in Tampa or is playing in Norfolk. Never know, he may just rejuvenate his game enough in Norfolk that some desperate team may take a chance on Denis on recall waivers. That would help the profit margin in Tampa if that was to happen.

Denis

That explains why the popcorn is so expensive at the games in Tampa. :-)

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