Ten questions for this year's Lightning prospect season...
Palat on the spot.
Syracuse Wins the Best-of-Five Series 3-0
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on just 18 shots for the victory. Once again, he allowed another wraparound goal that was on the soft side and once again the team bailed him out. Mind you, he made some incredible saves in Overtime to make up for it, but as the competition level rises in the next round Desjardins has got to get better.
POR Miele, (1) (Bolduc, Brown), 15:57 (PP)
SYR Gudas, (1) (Taormina, Sexton), 6:57 (PP)
POR Bolduc, (1) (Miele, Lessio), 0:19
POR Johnson, (2) (Stone, Conner), 10:47 (PP)
SYR Angelidis, (1) (Wyman, Barberio), 13:59
SYR Palat, (2) (Connolly, Sustr), 18:48
SYR Palat, (3) (Taormina, Johnson), 19:43
Ondrej Palat was the game's first star. Oddly enough, I thought his first two games of the series were better than tonight, but he was in the right places at the right times for the two biggest goals of the series.
Let me tell you a little something about Brett Connolly, who turned 21 today and celebrated by knifing Portland in the heart late in regulation. Hopping on the ice as the sixth attacker to try to tie the game late in the Third Period, the puck came to Connolly who circled through the neutral zone and cut down the left wing boards into the offensive zone. For the life of me, I thought Portland's defenseman had the angle on Connolly at the blueline and would squeeze him off, or at least get enough of him to separate the puck. Nope. Connolly has deceptive speed a la Alex Killorn and he squirted by without being touched, went to circle behind the net, and just before he went behind dished a beautiful little backhand pass to Palat for the stuff. Tie game. What an individual play by Connolly. Truly cold blooded.
Let me also tell you a little something about faceoffs. Gudas' power play goal came directly from a bang-bang play off a faceoff win by Dan Sexton. And then, with just 17 seconds left in Overtime, Palat's second goal came off a faceoff win by Tyler Johnson that led to a Taormina shot that gave Palat the rebound he needed to send the Crunch to the first round pay window. Those quick plays off clean faceoff wins in the offensive zone are instant scoring chances, and almost as valuable as forcing turnovers out of your opponent.
It's not all good news, though. Although Syracuse outshot Portland 45-18, I suspect the scoring chances don't reflect the disparity. There was a distinct lack of GMT in this game for the Crunch. GMT = goal mouth thrills. Syracuse got a lot of traffic and a lot of greasy chances in the first two games of the series and they were absent tonight, with the exception of a few shifts by the Angelidis line. As the level of competition goes up in the next round, more GMT is required. If you don't muck it up in the high traffic areas, you invite a night like tonight where Portland's goaltender gobbled up a lot of clean, unscreened, undeflected shots.
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference tonight, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finished off their own sweep of Binghamton and Manchester won their first game of their series. Springfield still holds a 2-1 edge, but the series continues on. Top seed Providence is down 2-0 to Hershey. If either Providence or Springfield get upset (and Providence going down looks distinctly possible right now) Syracuse will get home ice for a second round series against the Penguins. Tough opponent. It'll be a great series.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Stop winnin' for MacKinnon.
Anders Lindback allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the loss.
5:00 TB Carle (5), (St. Louis)
13:14 TB Malone (6), (Lecavalier, Hedman)
16:54 FLA Bjugstad (1), (Strachan, Brennan)
00:54 FLA Fleischmann (11), (Huberdeau, Shore)
05:47 TB St. Louis (17), (Purcell, Stamkos)
05:30 FLA Upshall (4), (Selleck)
13:53 FLA Fleischmann (12), (Huberdeau, Kuba)
19:11 FLA Goc (9), (Huberdeau)
Martin St. Louis was the game's first star.
Man, was that Third Period ever a tank job General Patton would've been proud of? The team got Marty his multi-points to likely lock up the scoring race, and then strategery ensued. The Lightning locked up the third most ping pong balls and await the outcome of Colorado's game to see if they get more.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:33. Killorn finishes just a scant few games shy of graduation from prospect status in the lockout shortened year.
Mathieu Roy was -1 in 14:07, enjoying the NHL paycheck.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 10:37.
Down to one more to go.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 24 shots for the loss.
04:22 BOS Seidenberg (3), (Marchand, Seguin)
13:31 BOS Paille (10), (Campbell, Thornton)
Again, I'm looking for effort and competitiveness in garbage time of the season. The Lightning outshot a very good Boston team 30-24 in the Bruins' barn. They knew they were in a game tonight, and the silver lining of the loss is the Lightning remain in 3rd most ping pong ball position.
Alex Killorn] had 4 shots and 1 hit in 14:30.
Richard Panik had 2 shots and 3 hits in 14:11.
Radko Gudas had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:40.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie played 11:20.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the victory.
17:03 TOR Kessel (17), (Bozak)
05:54 TB Stamkos (29), (Thompson, Carle)
15:48 TB St. Louis (14), (Thompson)
19:36 TOR Lupul (11), (MacArthur, Franson)
03:13 TB Gudas (2), (Purcell, Stamkos)
13:08 TB St. Louis (15), (Aulie, Tyrell)
17:11 TB St. Louis (16), (Lecavalier)(EN)
Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, and Nate Thompson were the game's three stars. What a treat for the Lightning fans who stuck it out and went to the game to get to witness one of the franchise's greats posting a hatter, and how appropriate he polishes it off from an assist from #4. Hold onto nights like these, Lightning fans.
Luckily, the Lightning are still in third-most-ping-pong-balls position by 1 point, and you love to see W's. Strategically speaking, though, they'll be potentially shooting themselves in the foot if they win either of their last two games. Now, I'm not saying they should lay down, but I do think they need to consider giving a close-up inspection of the ice surface.
Alex Killorn was -2 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 16:33.
Richard Panik was -2 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 14:14. He will be on the way to Syracuse for the playoffs.
Radko Gudas was +2 and blew smoke past Reimer on the slap shot for his goal. 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:35. He will be headed to Syracuse too.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie was +1 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 13:01.