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AHL Game Night: 4-7-17 Crunch at Senators

Crunch choke in ongoing listless crawl to the finish line.

SYR-3
BNG-4 (OT)

Mike McKenna allowed 4 goals on 26 shots for the loss. My goodness was he awful tonight.

First Period
9:28 BNG Varone (15), (Akeson, Blunden)
16:22 SYR McGinn (8), (Richard, Blujus)

Second Period
14:57 SYR Ikonen (5), (McGinn, Thomas)

Third Period
9:22 SYR McGinn (9), (Condra)(PP)
15:45 BNG Akeson (20), (Varone, Rumble)
15:54 BNG Rodewald (18), (unassisted)

Overtime
1:01 BNG Paul (15), (Rumble, McCormick)

Tye McGinn was the game's second star.

At this time of year, if you get to under 6 minutes left in a game with a 2 goal lead, that's got to get you 2 points in the standings. Having failed to accomplish that, the Crunch still linger 3 points back of Toronto for the lead in the North Division. Syracuse will make the postseason, but a 3-4-1-2 record in their last 10 points to the probability they won't stick around long unless they find some consistency and some ability to make some situational plays in a hurry.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-7-17 Lightning at Canadiens

Carey Price FEARS Yanni Gourde.

TB-4
MTL-2

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 29 saves for the win, including a couple of brilliant jaw-dropping saves to put a national TV audience on notice. From here on out, there's a crime wave coming any time you play Tampa Bay. #Vasilarceniy

First Period
11:42 TB Gourde (5), (Kucherov, Witkowski)
19:50 TB Kucherov (40), (Palat, Point)

Second Period
9:59 MTL King (9), (Lehkonen, Nesterov)
14:19 TB Killorn (19), (Conacher)

Third Period
4:36 MTL Lehkonen (17), (unassisted)(SH)
4:57 TB Gourde (6), (Conacher, Dotchin)

Gourde and Nikita Kucherov were the game's first and second stars.

I'm done talking about the heart of this Lightning club. They just bounced Toronto and Montreal in back-to-back games on the road despite the slim odds they have to make the playoffs. They've got character and refusal to quit. It'll still take an inside straight for Tampa Bay to make it to the big dance, but kudos to them for making Toronto earn it. Worst case scenario, this is a club with a freshly minted 40 goal scoring superstar in Kucherov, one of the best emerging goaltenders in the game in Vasilevskiy, Brayden Point laying in the weeds to become another star in his own rights, and plenty of other talent coming with them. Jon Cooper's found a formula down the stretch here that, at a minimum, portend very very good things for next season.

A little over 2 months ago this team was dead last in the Eastern Conference. It's Game 81 on April 7th and they're still playing meaningful hockey. Give these guys credit for what they've done and the resiliency and chemistry they've found.

Luke Witkowski had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot and 4 hits in 11:25.

Greg McKegg was 64% on 11 draws in 10:59.

Jake Dotchin had a helper and was +2 with 4 hits in 17:03. I still have it in my head there's a sweet spot of around 17-18 minutes where Dotchin goes from being a good player to a really good player.

Gabriel Dumont had 1 shot, 6 hits, 2 blocked shots, and was 58% on 12 draws in 13:48.

Gourde had 2 goals and was +3 with 3 shots and 2 hits in 14:57. He was also 38% on 8 draws. Fun fact: Yanni Gourde has 3 of his 6 goals this season against Carey Price. True story.

Adam Erne was -1 with 4 hits and 2 blocked shots in 9:40.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-6-17

Ontario Hockey League

London Knights 2 @ Erie Otters 0
Western Conference Semifinals
London leads best-of-7 series, 1-0

W/C Mitchell Stephens, LDN: 1-0-1, +1, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Playoff Totals: 8 GP, 4-0-4, +1, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 51 GP, 22-32-54, +19, 26 PIM

D Erik Cernak, Erie: 0-0-0, -2, 2 PIM, 2 SOG
Playoff Totals: 5 GP, 1-3-4, +6, 2 PIM
2015-2016 Season: 41 GP, 4-11-15, +7, 35 PIM

C Anthony Cirelli, Erie: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, 13/18 FO
Playoff Totals: 4 GP, 4-2-6, +4, 2 PIM
Season Totals: 51 GP, 25-39-64, +36, 12 PIM

W Taylor Raddysh, Erie: 0-0-0, -1, 2 PIM, 7 SOG
Playoff Totals: 5 GP, 3-8-11, +8, 6 PIM
Season Totals: 58 GP, 42-66-108, +67, 37 PIM

London did the unthinkable Thursday, shutting out the high-powered Otters in Erie. The Otters scored 29 goals in their 4-game sweep of Sarnia in the first round. Flames pick Tyler Parsons stopped 46 shots for the shutout. London only managed 12 shots on Troy Timpano (undrafted), but scored on two of them. One of those was Stephens’ second period goal, which turned out to be the game-winner.

NHL Game Night: 4-6-17 Lightning at Maple Leafs

As sun continues to sink on the season, Lightning continue to fight against the darkness.

TB-4
TOR-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the victory. Another really strong performance down the stretch by Vasilevskiy, who has answered all of my questions about whether he's ready to be the starter in the affirmative.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
7:34 TB Point (15), (Palat, Hedman)(PP)
9:42 TOR Kadri (32), (Hunwick, Bozak)
11:50 TB Kucherov (39), (Hedman)

Third Period
2:00 TB Bournival (2), (Sustr, Hedman)
14:11 TB Point (16), (Palat, Dotchin)

Victor Hedman, Brayden Point, and Vasilevskiy were the game's three stars.

Even as the Lightning's mathematical odds were dwindling ever closer to zero due to other results around the league, Tampa Bay reaffirmed their character in a convincing win over a Toronto team ready for a playoff coronation. There was a lot of, in my opinion unfair, hand wringing in the Lightning fan base after their loss to Boston with copious accusations that the Lightning somehow lacked heart in the game. Reiterating what I said after the game, I think the real culprit was the fatigue of trying to maintain a pace above .700 in the standings for close to two months with injury problems and trade deadline departures piling up around the team's ears. The truth is the complacency of the first two-thirds of the season caught up with the Lightning in Boston, as it was almost inevitably bound to do. But, that shouldn't invalidate the resolve the Lightning showed the final third of the campaign in fighting hard enough to still be playing meaningful games in April. That's no small feat, and a testament to both the coaching staff and the character of the team and its young, emerging stars. Tonight was the Lightning giving an RSVP for better things ahead next season.

With Ottawa defeating Boston in a Shootout tonight, the Lightning are now 3 points out of a playoff spot with 2 games left to play. Toronto still looks extremely likely to slip into the playoffs even despite tonight's effort and eliminate the Lightning, but credit to the Lightning for making them earn it.

Luke Witkowski had 2 hits in 4:53.

Greg McKegg was +1 with 1 hit in 9:16. He was also 38% on 8 draws.

Jake Dotchin had a helper, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 20:43, and made friends and influenced people all throughout the metro-Toronto region stepping up at his blueline for an awkward leg to leg hit on Leafs golden child Austen Matthews.

Gabriel Dumont returned from paternity leave to deliver 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 12:21. He was also 33% on 12 draws.

Yanni Gourde was 15% on 13 draws in 13:51.

Adam Erne had 1 shot and 2 hits in 11:54.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 4-5-17 Crunch at Devils

Organization-wide limp to the finish line continues.

SYR-0
ALB-3

Mike McKenna allowed 3 goals on 32 shots for the loss. Just a little goal support, please.

First Period
17:40 ALB Lappin (10), (Quenneville, MacDonald)(PP)

Second Period
2:12 ALB Lappin (11), (unassisted)(SH)
9:14 ALB Gibbons (14), (Lappin)(SH)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Yet another critical divisional loss for the Crunch puts them 4 points back of Toronto for the top spot in the North Division. The big tell is Syracuse's -6 goal differential for the year, which speaks to the fact they might not be quite the club their 10 games over .500 mark suggests they are.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-5-17

Ontario Hockey League

Owen Sound Attack 1 @ Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 4
Western Conference Semifinals
Sault Ste. Marie leads best-of-7 series, 1-0

W Boris Katchouk, SSM: 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 4 SOG
Playoff Totals: 6 GP, 5-4-9, +4, 2 PIM
Season: 66 GP, 35-29-64, +18, 46 PIM

The second-seeded Greyhounds drew first blood in their conference semifinal series with No. 3 Owen Sound, winning Game 1, 4-1. Katchouk had his five-game playoff goal streak snapped, but he contributed an assist. Game 2 is Friday.

Crunch's Koekkoek Focused on Having Long Playoff Run


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Slater Koekkoek isn't sitting around and waiting for his phone to ring.

Unable to be called up unless there are injuries to the Tampa Bay Lightning's defensive corps, the Crunch defenseman has embraced more of a leadership role with in Syracuse.

With six key North Division games remaining in the regular season, Koekkoek's main focus is taking the Crunch deep into the playoffs.

"Any time a guy comes down here, they're hoping it's not for long," Koekkoek said. "I'm not sitting here and pouting about it. I'm trying to make the most of it. I love the guys down here. We're working hard and hopefully go on a long playoff run."

NHL Game Night: 4-4-17 Lightning at Bruins

Vampire Lightning see their season sputter to its end in Boston.

TB-0
BOS-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 37 shots for the loss. He might want the last one back, but for the most part Vasilevskiy was very good tonight and simply didn't get an ounce of goal support. It's happened to Vasiy too often this year and hopefully next season that trend will change, because he's played really well since Bishop was traded and will be one of the team's best players for several years to come.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
5:56 BOS Stafford (7), (Krejci, McQuaid)
16:06 BOS Pastrnak (33), (Nash, Miller)

Third Period
9:12 BOS Chara (10), (Krug, Backes)(PP)
18:58 BOS Pastrnak (34), (Krejci)(EN)

I think the spirit was willing for the Lightning tonight, but they just didn't have much more than fumes left in the tank after a month of maintaining a fairly blistering pace to give themselves the chance to play meaningful games in April. They had a very good push to open the game, but lost steam after the first 5-10 minutes. They should've gotten a lift after Brad Marchand was kicked out and given a major penalty for cup checking young Dotchin, but there was too much (possibly fatigue-induced) complacency on the resulting power play, and after failing to score with the man advantage Boston surged and pretty much blew the Lightning off the ice. The big, obvious lesson is that games in October, November, and December matter as much as the ones in March and April in the points column. The Lightning simply dug too deep a hole to realistically climb out of. Were injuries a factor? Sure. But complacency early in the season was a big factor, too.

It's a painful lesson, but one I think the Lightning will take to heart. I'm actually not as upset with this season given some of the seeds I saw planted in this stretch run. I look at this team and I see some echoes of the '01-'02 team's performance as they learned how to compete and win in the month of March. The two teams obviously aren't perfect mirrors, as this Lightning team is far more established as a legitimate NHL team, but there are still some important parallels you can take away. Specifically, I'm very heartened by the experience guys like Vasiy, Point, Dotchin, and Drouin gained playing key roles in this run, and how Kucherov started to assert himself as the main man since late February and Palat started to get his Palat-ness back. That's not to say there won't be roster changes. There are certainly passengers on this team (Killorn, Brown, and Sustr come to mind), some of which suffer from lack of athleticism/talent while some suffer from stagnation/complacency. And there are others who simply aren't NHL players who have been forced into the lineup due to injuries (Dumont, Vermin, and McKegg come to mind). But you could see a core reforming that will be supplemented when Stamkos and others return and get healthy. It obviously remains to be proved, but I really think the Lightning will be better for this bump in the road knowing there's also a ton of fresh talent headed to Syracuse next season like Stephens, Cirelli, and Joseph who bring a lot of character and energy to the pro ranks. After two seasons where the organization played more games than any other in the league, this might just be a quick, deep breath for the team before it presses on again in its pursuit of a Cup next year.

Luke Witkowski had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 8 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 10:16. As one of the fresher guys in the lineup, he was one of the most effective. I'm kind of in a tough spot in my appraisal of Witkowski. I like his character, but I don't see an NHL future for him on defense because he's just too stiff on his pivots and I'm not entirely sure he's versatile enough to be a new age Ben Clymer and move to forward full time, either.

Gregg McKegg had 1 shot and 2 hits in 9:27 and was 50% on 8 draws. He's good on draws, but I don't see much else there. His skating and hockey sense are subpar for the NHL level.

Jake Dotchin had 1 shot and 3 hits in 20:09, but unfortunately may be a gelding after getting speared in the groin by Brad Marchand. It's a dirty play I hope Dotchin gets to avenge next season. Dotchin's been the biggest surprise of the year, no doubt. Had Dylan Blujus stayed healthy, I doubt Dotchin would've even gotten this opportunity. Now that he has, though, he looks like you can definitely pencil him onto the NHL roster for next year. His skating has been adequate and he's showed surprising hockey sense to go with the assets we knew he had. He's strong as an ox, physical, and has a booming shot. I just hope he doesn't turn back into a pumpkin in training camp next year.

Yanni Gourde was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 17:45. He also got killed in the faceoff circles going 21% on 14 draws. I think Yanni Gourde will be an NHL player next year, but probably not with Tampa Bay as he's an unrestricted free agent. I won't go so far as to say he'll be a 30 goal scorer like Marchessault has been since leaving Tampa Bay, but he's a guy who can help a team that's looking to get better.

Adam Erne was -1 and had 1 shot and 2 hits in 9:04. With Brian Boyle out the door, I think Erne may stick next season because the team will need some size up front. He's a tantalizing mix of strength, deceptive speed, and skill just waiting to come together.

Joel Vermin had 1 shot in 10:16. Enjoy the NLA next season, Joel.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-4-17

Ontario Hockey League

Windsor Spitfires 2 @ London Knights 3
Western Conference Quarterfinals
London wins best-of-7 series, 4-3

W/C Mitchell Stephens, LDN: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 4 SOG
Playoff Totals: 7 GP, 4-0-4, +1, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 51 GP, 22-32-54, +19, 26 PIM

Comeback completed. London, who was down 3-1 in the series, built a 2-0 lead in Game 7 against the Spits before Windsor drew even at 2-2. London scored on a late power play then held on for the 3-2 win. Stephens and the Knights advance to play top-seeded Erie beginning Thursday. That series will feature four Lightning prospects: Stephens, Erik Cernak, Taylor Raddysh, and Anthony Cirelli.

Bolts Sign G Connor Ingram to Entry-Level Contract

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed goaltender Connor Ingram to a three-year, entry-level contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.

Ingram, 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, has played in 158 career WHL games with the Kamloops Blazers, posting a 2.68 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage with an 81-50-18 record. He posted career-highs this season in 45 games with a 2.44 goals-against average, .927 save percentage, a 26-14-4 record and five shutouts. Ingram led the WHL for save percentage and ranked second among goaltenders with more than seven games played for goals-against average. He appeared in six WHL playoff games this season, recording a 2.18 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage. Ingram was named the Blazers’ most valuable player in each of the previous two seasons.

The Imperial, Saskatchewan native played in four games with Team Canada at the 2017 World Junior Championships, recording a 2-1 record and a 2.57 goals-against average with one shutout, helping Canada to the Silver Medal.

Ingram was selected by Tampa Bay in the third round, 88th overall, of the 2016 NHL Draft.

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