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NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-22-17 Predators at Lightning

First string Lightning (closer to, at least) dismantle Preds.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory. He looked pretty locked in staring down multiple breakaways and keeping a clean sheet until a garbage goal late in the Third Period spoiled his shutout bid.

First Period
0:33 TB Hedman, (Stamkos, Kucherov)
15:37 TB Kucherov, (Stamkos, Palat)(PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
3:26 TB Gourde, (Callahan, Killorn)
14:05 NSH Watson, (Petterson, Girard)

Vasilevskiy, Steven Stamkos, and Matthew Peca were the game's three stars.

Playing against a B-team Nashville roster, I'm not going to celebrate this game too heartily, but I think it had the fingerprints of a lot of the things I feel give the Lightning the potential to have a very good season this year. Vasilevskiy's going to have a monster year, in my opinion, now that he enters as the clear number one netminder. Hedman and Kucherov continue to grow as team leaders as they did late in the last campaign. Steven Stamkos looks good in his return from injury and I like the initial form of the top two lines in appears Jon Cooper is forming. The only thing this game was missing was a scoring outburst by Brayden Point, but I expect that'll come in time, too. Long story short: I'm probably more bullish on the Lightning's outlook going into this season than a lot of my Bolt Prospects colleagues and tonight's performance added a little touch of validation to that opinion (as much as a preseason win can, I suppose).

Mathieu Joseph was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 11:33.

Dennis Yan was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 8:02.

Ben Thomas had 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 3 hits in 20:55.

Peca was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 13:15. He was also a gaudy 90% on 10 draws.

Matthew Spencer had 1 shot in 18:06.

Daniel Walcott had 4 hits in 14:13.

Erik Cernak was +1 with 3 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 16:16. He's shown well in camp and his exhibition game performances and appears to be moving up the organizational depth chart at right D.

Mikhail Sergachev had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 20:03. Eat those minutes young fella. Eat those minutes.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-20-17 Lightning at Hurricanes

Junior Lightning strike back in Carolina.

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Petr Budaj allowed 2 goals on 20 shots through the first 40 minutes before giving way to Michael Leighton who allowed 1 goal on 12 shots the rest of the way for the back door win.

First Period
6:33 TB Erne, (Brown, Dumont)
12:37 CAR Wallmark, (Lindholm, Necas)(PP)

Second Period
2:29 TB McGinn, (Stephens)
4:28 TB Sergachev, (Point, Conacher)
9:25 CAR Ryan, (Miller, Hanifin)

Third Period
12:02 TB Katchouk, (Cirelli, Howden)
18:24 CAR Aho, (Skinner, Linholm)(PP)

Mikhail Sergachev and Anthony Cirelli were the game's first and second stars. Nice to see a younger Lightning lineup pull out a game on the road against a Carolina lineup that included more of their first choice players in front of their home crowd. These back-to-back games, if anything, have helped confirm the quality of the Lightning's prospects as many of these players move into their seasons in the junior and minor league ranks.

Slater Koekkoek had 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 4 blocked shots in 19:01.

Boris Katchouk had the GWG and was +1 with 1 shot in 12:52.

Libor Hajek had 1 shot in 17:47.

Brett Howden had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 12:19. He was also 38% on 8 draws.

Cal Foote was -1 with 1 shot and 5 blocked shots in 18:36.

Matthew Peca had 2 shots and 1 hit in 17:28. He was also 43% on 7 draws.

Mitchell Stephens had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 11:10.

Cirelli had a helper and was +1 with 9 penalty minutes, 4 shots, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 16:01. He was also 17% on 6 draws. His penalty minutes game for a brawl started after boarding a Hurricanes opponent.

Adam Erne notched his second of the preseason and was +1 with 3 shots, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 12:54. It will be tough, waiver eligibility being a concern, for Erne to make the Lightning out of camp. That said, I feel he gives the team a dimension it lacks as a creative power forward and from a pure hockey standpoint, he'd be on my first choice 23-man roster.

Erik Cernak was +3 with 2 shots, 7 hits, and 4 blocked shots in 20:27. The stay-at-homer's dream box score.

Sergachev had a goal and was +3 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 22:16. I'm not shocked. He's the real thing. I don't believe a 30+ point season is a reasonable expectation for Sergachev as a rookie, if he makes the squad, but I do believe he can be a solid minutes eater in his premiere campaign if the team keeps him in Tampa Bay.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-19-17 Hurricanes at Lightning

Junior Lightning nearly pull off comeback against Canes.

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Michael Leighton allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the loss. The veteran netminder will enter the season the number one for AHL Syracuse.

First Period
3:46 CAR Williams (1), (Carrick, Teravainen)(PP)

Second Period
4:03 CAR Taravainen (1), (Rask, Carrick)(PP)

Third Period
TB Erne (1), (Peca, Conacher)(PP)

Alexei Lipanov was the game's third star.

It was a choppy game with the flow marred by a lot of penalties, compounded by the discontinuity of two rosters dotted with a lot of youth getting a quick look before guys get returned to junior.

Lipanov was scoreless in 15:42 with 2 shots and was 50% on 4 draws.

Boris Katchouk had 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 2 hits in 13:11.

Libor Hajek had 3 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 19:57.

Taylor Raddysh had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 13:52.

Cal Foote had 3 shots and 2 blocked shots in 21:56.

Matthew Peca had a helper and 4 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and he was 25% on 12 draws in 17:10. He had a nice setup to Erne for the Lightning's lone goal (that counted) on the evening.

Anthony Cirelli had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot and was 67% on 3 draws in 15:06.

Adam Erne had a goal, 1 shot, and 3 hits in 12:05.

Daniel Walcott had 3 shots and 3 hits in 13:07.

Oleg Sosunov played 16:37.

Alexander Volkov had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 3 hits, and was 60% on 5 draws in 16:38. He had the potential game tying goal waved off for goaltender interference late in the final frame.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 6-13-17 Crunch at Griffins

Crunchning Death Star runs aground in Grand Rapids.

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Grand Rapids Wins the Series 4-2

Mike McKenna allowed 4 goals on 26 shots for the loss.

First Period
14:09 SYR Gourde (8), (Conacher)

Second Period
0:18 GR Ford (8), (Nosek)(PP)
7:51 SYR Taormina (5), (Bournival, Lynch)
11:50 GR Callahan (6), (Street)
18:10 SYR Gourde (9), (Masin, Taormina)

Third Period
3:50 GR Bertuzzi (9), (Frk, Nosek)
12:41 GR Frk (5), (Lashoff, Nosek)

Yanni Gourde was the game's third star.

It's a painful way for the season to end. The Crunch were 20 minutes away from forcing a somewhat improbable Game Seven encounter before the wheels finally came off. It's been a special team and a special, likely one-off, moment in time for Syracuse. The Crunch are likely to have a youth movement next season, particularly at forward. This veteran laden team will likely move along to the NHL, in a few cases, or to other teams/leagues in quite a few others. The big upside of this run for the Tampa Bay Lightning? In my opinion, it's a lot of quality minutes in pressure situations played by defenseman prospects like Slater Koekkoek, Jake Dotchin, Dominik Masin, and Ben Thomas.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Crunch Set Tone With First Shift, Beat Griffins in Game 5


By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch’s offense set the tone on the first shift.

Kevin Lynch’s goal 17 seconds in got the Crunch rolling and the team netted five goals before the first intermission, as Syracuse routed the Grand Rapids Griffins, 5-1, in Game 5 of the Calder Cup Finals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday.

The Crunch cut the Griffins’ series lead to 3-2, with Game 6 set for Tuesday in Grand Rapids.

“That first 17 seconds was unbelievable,” Crunch goalie Mike McKenna said. “We got the puck deep. We got four or five hits — they looked like the Hanson Brothers — and then it’s in the net. What that does for your bench and seeing Kevin’s raw emotion after scoring that goal? It’s huge, for sure. It really sets the tone.”

AHL Playoff Game Night: 6-10-17 Griffins at Crunch

Crunchning Death Star destroys one last opponent in the home barn this year.

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Grand Rapids Leads the Series 3-2

Mike McKenna allowed 1 goal on 37 shots for the victory. That's a quality performance at a moment the team really needed it with their backs against the wall.

First Period
0:17 SYR Lynch (3), (Dumont, Bournival)
4:33 SYR Brodeur (1), (Erne, Walcott)
14:05 SYR Froese (6), (Gourde, McGinn)
17:19 SYR Conacher (12), (Thomas, Gourde)(PP)
19:16 SYR Thomas (5), (Gourde, Conacher)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
5:58 GR Street (8), (Hicketts, Paetsch)

Yanni Gourde, McKenna, and Cory Conacher were the game's three stars.

It's not surprising that Syracuse was able to dig deep and have this kind of performance in an elimination, or that Grand Rapids had a slight let down after getting out to a 3-1 series lead. As an aside, this makes those three one goal losses sting all the more. Syracuse finds themselves in the position of being a solid +3 in goal differential in this series despite being down 3-2.

The bottom line for Syracuse is that if they stay out of the box and play with their best energy, they've still got a shot to win this series. The key is to not fall in the media trap/frame of thinking about "winning two games in Grand Rapids." You have to focus solely on Game Six and proving you can win one game in Grand Rapids. If you do, of course it's possible to pick off the second one. Tuesday's the day we'll see if that question gets answered affirmatively.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Late Flurry Not Enough For Crunch in Game 4 Loss to Griffins


By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch’s late flurry wasn’t enough.

The Crunch cut their three goal deficit to one in the third period and created chaos in front of the Griffins’ net on a 6-on-4 near the end of regulation, but Jared Coreau finished with 31 saves to lift Grand Rapids over Syracuse, 3-2, in Game 4 of the Calder Cup Finals at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday. It’s the first time the Crunch have lost on home ice this postseason.

Grand Rapids leads the series 3-1, with Syracuse set to host Game 5 Saturday.

“We had a good start, then for some reason it seems they took the momentum of the game for 25, 30 minutes, and then we got it back in the third period,” Crunch head coach Benoit Groulx said. “We had chances. Never quit. Showed a lot of character, but their goalie was good at the end. They blocked many, many shots.

“I thought we did many good things, but they’re a good team and that’s playoff hockey.”

AHL Playoff Game Night: 6-9-17 Griffins at Crunch

Undisciplined, frustrated Crunch on the brink.

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Grand Rapids Leads the Series 3-1

Mike McKenna allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the loss.

First Period
10:00 GR Street (7), (Callahan, Tangradi)
17:48 GR Renouf (1), (unassisted)

Second Period
10:33 GR Renouf (2), (Tangradi)
11:45 SYR Gourde (7), (Conacher, McGinn)

Third Period
7:29 SYR Bournival (8), (Dumont, Koekkoek)

Yanni Gourde was the game's three stars.

What a frustrating spot for the Crunch to be in, falling behind 3-1 in the series with all three losses coming by one goal margins. As with Game One, in particular, a lot of difficulty tonight was the Crunch getting into penalty trouble. That doesn't always kill you directly with goals, but it allows your opponent to build possession and momentum and it chops up your flow and ability to get on track offensively. Now, after dropping their first game of the playoffs at home, the key for Syracuse is to not try to get it all back in a single period. The old cliche of "one game at a time" applies: the mission is to pick off Game Five and extend the series back to Grand Rapids and just give yourselves a chance for the comeback.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

Crunch Win Special Teams Battle, Game 3 Against Griffins


By Jeremy Houghtaling

The Syracuse Crunch won the special teams battle in a crucial Game 3.

The Crunch netted a pair of power play markers and held the Griffins off the board with the man-advantage, as Syracuse topped Grand Rapids, 5-3, in Game 3 of the Calder Cup Finals Friday.

The Crunch cuts the Griffins’ series lead to 2-1, with Game 4 set for Friday in Syracuse.

“I believe our specialty teams were good tonight,” Syracuse head coach Benoit Groulx said. “Our PK was solid. We had good sticks, blocked shots, our goalie was good. Our power play go had two goals. That was them the other night with three goals on the power play and a solid PK. Tonight it’s us.”

AHL Playoff Game Night: 6-7-17 Griffins at Crunch

Crunchning Death Star greets Griffins to Syracuse home ice.

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Grand Rapids Leads the Series 2-1

Mike McKenna allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the victory.

First Period
7:00 SYR Froese (5), (Koekkoek, Bournival)
9:17 GR Bertuzzi (8), (Frk, Nosek)
15:31 SYR Vermin (8), (Taormina, Erne)
16:28 SYR Vermin (9), (Peca, Thomas)(PP)

Second Period
6:58 GR Turgeon (1), (Campbell, Russo)
13:22 SYR McGinn (5), (Taormina, Conacher)(PP)
15:18 SYR Conacher (11), (McGinn, Gourde)
16:38 GR Criscuolo (5), (Bertuzzi)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Joel Vermin, Tye McGinn, and Cory Conacher were the game's three stars.

There's still a lot of work to be done in Game Four and Game Five on home ice, but you get the sense the Crunch started to take the momentum of the series a little bit with their first match on home ice. After dropping a pair of painful 1-goal losses in Grand Rapids, Syracuse drew blood with the first convincing win by either team of the series. It means nothing without the follow-up effort to get the series all square, though, Like I said, still a lot of work to do.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

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