With the Lightning going on a bit of a run, picking up points in 8 of their last 10 games, the team has played itself out of the second position for the draft lottery and now sits 1 point above Colorado in the standings. Considering the Avalanche's talented young center, Paul Stastny, just broke his foot and will probably be out for the remainder of the season, the Lightning may end up locked into the third position in the draft lottery. That would mean the odds would overwhelmingly favor the club picking third or fourth in the upcoming 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Picking in one of the first two slots in this draft would be fairly easy. London center John Tavares and MODO defenseman Victor Hedman have rightfully dominated the draft discussion. Picking third is a different animal altogether. It's a scenario not unlike the 2001 draft when the Lightning lost out on the opportunity to draft Ilya Kovalchuk or Jason Spezza when Atlanta won the draft lottery and pushed the team down to pick number three.
The good news is, I don't think the Lightning are going to get stuck with a lemon like Alex Svitov if they don't wind up in the top two picks. There are quality players on the board that should add to the core of the Lightning rebuilding project. Here's my board thus far:
1.) C John Tavares, 6'0" 198 lbs, London (OHL)
2.) D Victor Hedman, 6'6" 220 lbs, MODO (SWE)
More on the flip
The Lightning stole a point they didn't deserve.
Karri Ramo allowed 3 goals on 36 shots for the overtime loss. The 13 save second period he put on was the kind of mind-bending play that he used to display regularly as a rookie with Springfield in the AHL a couple of seasons back. Can you critique the goals he allowed? Sure. His mechanics were awkward on Montreal's first goal and he was completely out of his sorts on the Latendresse wraparaound goal. That said, the Lightning would've lost this game 7-2 easily without Ramo's play tonight. It wasn't just the saves: it was deflection save after deflection save. The athleticism is absolutely undeniable, and if you project Karri to, say, Mike Smith's age, you start to understand why the Lightning have so much hope tied up in the young man. He has gotten points in each of his last six starts, which is somewhat phenomenal given the defensive corps (corpse may be more accurate) assembled in front of him.
11:09 MTL Kovalev (20), (Tanguay, Schneider)(PP)
05:48 MTL Latendresse (12), (Kostopoulos, Markov)
10:26 TB Koci (1), (Hall, Craig)
14:43 TB Krajicek (2), (unassisted)
01:45 MTL Koivu (15), (Markov, Plekanec)
The first 40 minutes of this game were, other than Ramo, an embarassment for the Lightning. Were it not for the fact that the team has to play in Washington tomorrow night, a bag skate might still be in order, whether they stole a point late or not.
Noah Welch was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 11:33.
Matt Smaby was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 5 blocked shots in 23:34.
David Koci scored his first NHL goal and was +1 in 4:06. Call him the sniper: one shot one kill. He practically leapt right out of his skates when he realized what he had done.
Martins Karsums had 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 8:37.
Richard Petiot was -1 with 4 penalty minutes, 4 hits, and 5 blocked shots.
Matt Lashoff was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 1 hit, and 3 blocked shots.
N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 3/25
Three Lightning prospects helped their clubs to opening round sweeps, while goaltender Torrie Jung and his Oil Kings finished their season. Also, Fadden returns to First Star status and Tokarski wins another close one.
N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 3/24
Lightning prospects go 6-0 on the night - and all were on the road, including three Q teams on the verge of sweeps.
Great ending to a horrifically boring game.
Mike McKenna was very strong stopping 33 of 34 shots for the win.
04:21 CBJ Hejda (3), (Williams)
10:55 TB Malone (25), (Lashoff, Stamkos)(PP)
03:04 TB St. Louis (28), (Stamkos, Petiot)
These two teams should be banned from playing games against each other. Fortunately, they rarely hook up. However, rarely should be reduced to never, ever, because they historically produce some of the biggest snoozers.
Good to see Steven Stamkos with a pair of helpers to continue his robust late season charge. He's now over a point a game in his last 17 contests.
The Lightning are playing themselves out of the opportunity to draft John Tavares or Victor Hedman. It brings up some interesting philosophical debates if they pick third or fourth? Take big Jared Cowen, who is a man child but is rehabbing a knee? Take the speedy Matt Duchene or Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson? Or sacrifice some burst for grit and character with Evander Kane? This is where I'm glad I'm not a scout whose livelihood depends on making the right choice. One or two in this draft is easy. Three or four is several sleepless nights and several heartfelt conversations pleading with the deity of your choosing.
Noah Welch played 14:38 in the game. He didn't break anything.
Matt Smaby had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 23:56. That's the line I'd like to see with Matt. He would've been +1 were it not for a bad bounce off of him and in for Columbus' lone goal. Team leading IT for big 32.
David Koci had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 8:07, as a winger, where he needs to be.
Martins Karsums had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:23. He's drawn a good card playing with Lecavalier and Prospal at even strength, but he's done squat with it so far.
Richard Petiot had 1 assist and was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 21:06.
Matt Lashoff had yet another power play assist, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 23:49. The Lashoff trade continues to pay off like the loosest slot machines on the Vegas Strip. The hand wringing about the Lightning having to turn the power play over from Murphy to Lashoff a week ago is a distant, somewhat laughable memory.