Lightning prospect Tyler Johnson of the Syracuse Crunch was named the AHL’s Most Valuable Player on Friday, and responded to the honor by netting a hat trick in the Crunch’s 5-1 win over Norfolk later that night.
Former Crunch coach and current Lightning coach Jon Cooper took notice, and he wasn’t surprised.
“Not in the slightest,” Cooper said after the Lightning’s practice on Saturday.
“He’s probably got a little jump in his step. Not only a jump in his step just from coming up here then going back to his team, but his game probably slowed down a little bit, but to get news like that – which was totally deserved – you don’t want to go and lay an egg and he surely didn’t.”
Johnson played 14 games for the Lightning in the last two months, scoring three goals and three assists. He was sent back down to Syracuse on April 12.
The Spokane, Washington, native has an AHL-leading 36 goals and 64 points in 61 games with the Crunch this year. He was a free agent signing by the Lightning in March of 2011.
Practice Notes: Injured goalie Anders Lindback had a strong practice on Saturday and could start as early as Sunday against Carolina. Also, while Radko Gudas filled in for Sami Salo on the power play in Montreal (and the Lightning scored, though Gudas points out he never touched the puck), don't expect Gudas to be a mainstay on the Lightning's power play anytime soon. Though Gudas was introduced to man-advantage duty in Syracuse under Cooper, the Lightning coach said Gudas is slated for PK and 5 on 5 work in Tampa and Cooper is a believer in 5 on 5 plus one special team unit for most players - especially defensemen.
Gudas Jersey Buyers: Gudas said he probably won't keep No. 75 next year. He wore No. 3 in Syracuse in honor of his father, who wore No. 3. The 3-jersey is taken in Tampa Bay by Keith Aulie, but 13 and 33 are both open.
Bishop Mask: Ben Bishop's Lightning mask was supposedly delivered from Sweden to Tampa, but he was wearing his Senators cage during practice on Saturday. He was working with Franz Jean on being positioned for one timers delivered from behind the goal-line into the slot.
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
(3)Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 1 @ (2)Baie-Comeau Drakkar 2
Drakkar lead best-of-7 semifinals, 1-0
C Cedric Paquette, BLB: 0-0-0, E, 4 PIM, 2 SOG, 4 Hits
Playoff totals: 10 GP, 7-5-12, +5, 17 PIM
Season totals: 63 GP, 27-56-83, +29, 103 PIM
The Drakkar struck first in their semifinal series with the Armada, scoring a 2-1 win. The winning goal was scored on the power play near the mid-point of the final period.
Ontario Hockey League
(E2)Barrie Colts 2 @ (E1)Belleville Bulls 3
Bulls lead best-of-7 Eastern Conference Finals, 1-0
D Jake Dotchin, BAR: 0-0-0, -1, 7 PIM
Playoff totals: 9 GP, 0-3-3, +4, 19 PIM
Season totals: 66 GP, 4-18-22, E, 81 PIM
With Barrie: 28 GP, 2-6-8, -1, 42 PIM
With Owen Sound: 38 GP, 2-12-14, +1, 39 PIM
Belleville scored the game’s final two goals and Bruins first rounder Malcolm Subban stopped 26 shots to lead the Bulls to a Game 1 win over Barrie. Dotchin fought Garrett Hooey of Belleville in the second period.
(4)Florida Everblades 4 vs. (1)Reading Royals 3
Quarterfinals: Florida leads the best-of-seven series 1-0
D Charles Landry, FLA: 0-0-0, E, 0 SOG, 0 PIM
Playoff totals: 7 GP, 0-1-1, -1, 4 PIM
Season totals: 51 GP, 4-12-16, +7, 33 PIM
Florida, which never trailed in the opening match of the series, took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission but had to retake the lead after a lackluster start to the second period saw the game tied and fend off the Eastern Conference's top club during the course of the regular season for the better part of the final half of the contest. The host Royals doubled up the Everblades in shots, 37-16, hammering the visitors particularly hard with a 14-shot, 2-goal second period that Florida only salvaged by scoring on one of the mere 3 shots it managed to muster. Florida's special teams play, which was so critical to its first round success, shined again as the Everblades went 1-for-4 with the man-advantage while the penalty-killers negated 6 of 7 Royals opportunities. Jesse Deckert did an admirable job holding the fort, thwarting 34 of 37 shots against. Both teams square off again Saturday night in Reading.
Tyler Johnson isn't one for grand acceptance speeches.
After winning the award as the American Hockey League's Most Valuable Player, the Syracuse Crunch forward gave most of the credit to his teammates, the coaching staff and the organization.
Johnson preferred to show how he earned it. He registered his second hat trick of the season, leading the Crunch to a 6-1 rout of the Norfolk Admirals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday.
"I though tonight we played a good solid team game, a full 60," Johnson said. "I thought we played pretty well. If we keep doing that, I think we'll be alright."
Syracuse, which has points in five straight games, has a three-point lead over Binghamton in the East Division, and can clinch with a win or a Senators loss Saturday.
Wow. I feel like we need to issue a formal apology to all our friends in Norfolk for that savage beat down tonight.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the victory. For those wondering, Pat Nagle has been backing up Desjardins because Riku Helenius had some family issues back in Finland that required attention. Hopefully Riku will be back for the playoffs.
SYR Angelidis, (11) (Wyman, Brown), 14:20
SYR Johnson, (34) (Sexton, Wyman), 14:58
SYR Wyman, (13) (Palat, Johnson), 19:02
SYR Namestnikov, (7) (Devos, Connolly), 11:56
NOR Maroon, (25) (Guenin), 13:32
SYR Johnson, (35) (Palat, Sexton), 19:11
SYR Johnson, (36) , 7:48
Tyler Johnson, J.T. Wyman, and Mike Angelidis were the game's three stars. The freshly minted AHL MVP, Johnson, celebrated with an incredible 3 goal, 4 point effort to start off a 3 game weekend set that will be so critical for playoff position.
Brian Lee was +4 in the contest. Several members of the Bolt Prospects message board's heads just exploded after reading that. Mind you, he also took a major for slashing and got kicked out of the game. I would suspect a suspension may follow.
Two games remain in the regular season. Providence toppled Springfield tonight 5-3, which clinches the top seed in the East for Providence. However, with Springfield going down and Syracuse winning, the Crunch now move to within 2 points of the Falcons with a game in hand. The Crunch also expanded their division lead over Binghamton to 3 points after Bingo lost to Manchester tonight. Each team has 2 games left on their schedules, including the head-to-head matchup Sunday. The loss for Norfolk was a particularly bad one with the Admirals, at this moment, in a 4-way tie at 79 points for one of the last 2 playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. How deeply ironic would it be if Syracuse had to face Norfolk in the first round? That prospect looks much more remote after tonight, but it's still at least on the edge of the table right now.
So here's the schedule for Saturday: Springfield draws Adirondack (eliminated from playoff contention), Binghamton gets Hershey (one of the clubs in that 4-way tie), and Syracuse gets Worcester (eliminated from playoff contention). Syracuse can make the division elementary with a win, thereby clinching not less than the 3 seed for the playoffs. Jumping Springfield may be a harder task for the Crunch with the Falcons likely holding the tiebreak at the finish line with a 2 game lead in the regulation win column right now.
Some other accounting issues heading into the end of the regular season:
- Syracuse still leads the AHL in goals scored by 10.
- Tyler Johnson is 8th in the AHL in scoring and Brett Connolly is currently tied for 10th.
- Mark Barberio is in 6th amongst AHL defensemen in scoring.
- Johnson also leads the league in goals by 3 with Connolly tied for 4th.
- Johnson is also 6th in power play goals.
- Connolly is tied for tops in game winning goals.
- Ondrej Palat is tied for 8th in the league in helpers.
- Despite being in Tampa for about a month, Radko Gudas is still 6th in the AHL in penalty minutes.
- Gudas is also still leading the league in +/- with teammates Johnson, Palat, and J.P. Cote all tied for 3rd. Dmitry Korobov is tied for 8th.
- Barberio is 9th in the league in shots on goal.
Box score from TheAHL.com.