All I want for Christmas is my hockey team to get the chip back on its shoulder. Right now this club is doing nothing to dissuade its critics up north from the idea the 2004 Stanley Cup team was nothing more than a flash in the pan. Question is, do these Lightning care enough to prove it wasn't?
Vincent Lecavalier was given a one game suspension for a high sticking incident that was ruled to be intentional and thus did not play tonight. Pavel Kubina also did not play and thus the team went with 5 defensemen tonight. John Grahame stopped 27 of 30 in the game before the Sabres tacked on an empty net goal. Honestly though, it means little if the club is going to provide so little goal support for him.
Paul Ranger played 20:18 of even hockey. Ryan Craig played 10:08 and registered three shots on goal. Darren Reid played 7:43. Evgeny Artyukhin, after taking an early hooking call, was the low man amongst rookies with 6:26 of ice time.
I hope this team takes the opportunity over the next two days to reflect on where it is, how it has allowed itself to fall so far behind in its own division, and what will happen if they don't show up to work ready to play 60 minutes of desperate hockey on Monday.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
The losing streak grows to three games...
The Falcons' gloss as road warriors has definitely lost its luster in the past couple of weeks. Goaltender Gerald Coleman stopped 25 of 30 in the defeat and the Falcons are now just 2 games over .500. Recalls Adam Henrich and Justin Kelly played, but failed to hit the scoresheet. Organization wide, it seems, this holiday break comes at a good time to regroup.
Game sheet from TheAHL.com.
In a move that is possibly indicative of who Finland's starter will be for the upcoming World Junior Championships, Karri Ramo defeated Latvia 3-1 yesterday in exhibition play. Finland outshot Latvia by over a 4 to 1 margin leaving Ramo to make just 8 saves on a miniscule 9 shots.
If they had played 60 minutes of hockey instead of 30, they'd have won this game.
It was surprising to see this Lightning team come out so flat in the first period considering what transpired in the game against Carolina. The good news is that, despite the loss, I think John Grahame played very well stopping 32 of 35. He made a handful of very good saves late in the 2nd period that gave the Lightning an opportunity to steal a point or two. But, alas, their penalty kill was running around a bit when Tom Poti blasted a slapshot from the high slot right up Broadway to win the game.
Ryan Craig has already settled into John Tortorella's regular rotation with 14:42 of ice time tonight and 1 shot on goal. He's exceptional at mucking on the forecheck below the goal line as he demonstrated again tonight, however his skating is a liability on the rush as evidenced by a turnover he made in the second period when a Ranger defenseman simply stepped up, not respecting his skating, took the puck and sent his team away on an odd man rush that nearly resulted in a goal and did result in Paul Ranger taking a penalty.
Ranger played a stronger, more physical game tonight and was reqarded with more ice time. He was a -1 in 19:27 tonight blocking three shots. Evgeny Artyukhin played a more modest 8:49 with one shot on goal and sat for much of the second half of the game after taking a goaltender interference penalty while driving to the net on a one-on-one play. Darren Reid had one shot on goal in 3:38 of ice time. As with Tarnasky earlier this season, I don't believe it is positive to play a prospect so little over a long period of time. I'm sure Reid isn't complaining about the extra zeros on his paycheck, but it's not the best for his development if Torts doesn't have enough faith in Reid to play him more than the six shifts he got tonight.
For the Lightning as a whole, it doesn't get any easier with Buffalo next on tap. Hard to believe, but the Lightning have now allowed more goals this season than they've scored with an overall differential of -1 on the season.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Stanislav Lascek's Chicoutimi Sangueneens of the QMJHL remain in first place in the latest Bank of Montreal CHL rankings. The Sangueneens have been in the #1 slot for three weeks in a row now and currently hold a 26-7-1-2 record this season. Lascek leads the way for the Sangueneens and the QMJHL as a whole with 78 points in 35 games. Lascek and his teammate Marek Zagrapan will be featured performers for Team Slovakia in the upcoming U-20 World Junior Championships. The Bank of Montreal rankings are decided through the votes of a panel of NHL scouts.
Stanislav Lascek currently ranks in the top-10 in the QMJHL in all of the following statistical categories:
Shorthanded goals (T-7th)
Shots on goal (2nd)