It took a bit longer than usual, but it's David Shaw in overtime! #27!
Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 24 shots including a ten bell save in overtime to get his 13th straight victory. He now is unlikely to best his .915 (currently .913) rookie save percentage, but he's improved his career marks in every other major statistical category this year, and his 32 wins are a lock now to be the best in the AHL.
NOR Conacher, (36) (Killorn), 19:24
BNG Hoffman, (21) (Gryba, Dziurzynski), 15:17 (PP)
BNG Puempel, (1) (Conboy), 17:13
NOR Killorn, (2) (Oberg, Kostka), 13:21 (PP)
NOR Barberio, (14) (Kostka), 2:04 (PP)
It's been interesting with all the hardware being thrown in Norfolk's direction to players like Cory Conacher and Mark Barberio how there's been a little unstated internal pressure here at Bolt Prospects to reassess the situation at the top of our prospect rankings. Now, there's no doubt that Conacher and Barberio are fantastic players, but a night like tonight shows what Alex Killorn brings to the table. As expected, he's getting more comfortable with his teammates, and he was the best Admiral on the ice tonight. He made a great play to set up Conacher on the Admirals' first goal (no-look, behind-the-back, Harlem Globetrotters type stuff), and with Conacher sitting for what appeared to be disciplinary reasons from late in the second period on, Killorn played a ton during Norfolk's successful comeback bid. His power play goal was another Killorn classic, where he used his speed down the wing to blaze around the corner and then deked to his backhand to finally penetrate the forcefield that McKenna seemed to have up behind him. Point being, Killorn belongs in the same sentence with those players. When you consider this is just his 9th pro game, the fact he can already dominate a night like this is impressive. With the playoffs yet to go, look for him to put up a strong defense of his spot on the rankings. I'm really looking forward to it.
Should we be concerned it took the Admirals putting forth this much effort to put away the league's worst team, Bingo? No. This was the Senators' last game of the season, and they had nothing else to play for. This was Game Seven of the Stanley Cup and the Super Bowl all wrapped into one for them, and the Ads still outshot them 49-24. Only McKenna's brilliance kept this from being a slaughter.
Norfolk finishes their regular season tomorrow night against Adirondack, which was eliminated from playoff contention earlier today. That leaves 3 teams vying for the final two spots in the Eastern Conference: Portland, Syracuse, and Manchester. The plot thickens for all three teams after today's results. Manchester beat the paste out of Hershey 5-1, moving them into a tie with idle Portland at 81 points. Syracuse was embroiled in a struggle with Connecticut, but they managed to sneak by in the shootout. So here's the state of play heading into tomorrow's deciding games. Syracuse holds 7th at 82 points. They control their destiny. Manchester holds 8th because while both Manchester and Portland have 81 points, Manchester leads in ROW by 2 over both Syracuse and Portland. That means the Monarchs win any tiebreaker against both teams. Portland sits in 9th. Manchester draws the toughest opponent tomorrow in 2nd place St. John's. Portland gets 12th place Providence. Syracuse gets 14th place Albany. Throw the records out in a situation like this though. Norfolk draws the 8th seed when the dust settles tomorrow.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
No one finished in close on the power play like Dave Andreychuk, and no one finishes games stronger than the Norfolk Admirals.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. He held the game close and gave the team in front of him plenty of time to blow the game open, finally, late in the third period.
BNG Schira, (4) (Hamilton), 13:12
NOR Labrie, (14) (Picard), 18:27
NOR Smith, (24) (Oberg, Segal), 17:11
NOR Johnson, (31) (Killorn, Conacher), 17:53
NOR Conacher, (35) (Killorn, Cote), 19:47 (EN)
Tokarski and Trevor Smith were the game's first and second stars.
I've never in my life seen a team that is this good late in hockey games. True, they won their fair share of games during the first half of this 25 game winning streak by blowing teams out quickly in the first period, staking themselves to 3 goal leads early. But, that hasn't happened lately. Teams go against the Admirals very prepared and very resolute to try to break the streak from the opening drop of the puck (hence the line brawl in the First Period of tonight's game). So, there's been a lot of games in the second half of the streak that get into the Third Period either tied or one goal games.
Something amazing seems to happen, though, when this team gets down into the final 10 minutes of a hockey game. I don't know if its their young legs. I don't know if it's their team speed. I don't know if it's their unflagging confidence. Whatever it is, this club buries teams late. They don't just get a one goal lead and try to sit on it. They don't just hit and run, they knock you over and then step on your throat.
The Ads will finish their regular season on the road with three games next weekend: Albany Friday, Binghamton Saturday, and Adirondack Sunday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Brian Bellows, for the Eastern Conference top seed win!
Dustin Tokarski allowed 1 goal on 26 shots for his 30th victory of the season, which leads the league. It's his 11th straight win, personally, and he raised his save percentage to .912 with his effort tonight. He's trying to track down his personal best as a pro, his .915 save percentage from his rookie campaign.
NOR Ouellet, (15) (Panik, Barberio), 8:09 (PP)
WBS Lerg, (25) (Grant), 14:23
NOR Barberio, (12) (Johnson), 12:23 (PP)
Mark Barberio, Tokarski, and Michel Ouellet were the game's three stars. Barberio continues to lead the league's defensemen in scoring by a wide margin of 13 points, and he's now 1 point shy of the 60 point plateau for the year. It's hard to imagine any scenario where he doesn't win hardware as the league's top defenseman.
Panik attack, y'all.
There will be two banners raised in Norfolk in the Fall. The victory, the Admrials' 50th of the season, puts away the Eastern Conference top seed (bring on the "z"), and they now have the opportunity to zero in on clinching the top spot in the entire league. They have a 10 point lead on Oklahoma City with the Barons still with 6 games left to play, so the magic number is 2 for the AHL equivalent of the President's Trophy, as the Barons can't catch Norfolk in ROW. The Barons are currently in action, leading Hamilton, but if they stumble, then Norfolk will clinch that distinction tonight, as well. Norfolk has just 5 games remaining in the regular season. They draw Binghamton on Friday and Saturday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Bob Halkidis (yes)!
Dustin Tokarski stopped all 32 shots he faced for the victory. In Saturday's game, he broke his previous mark for wins, and tonight's shutout, his 5th, sets a new personal best for shutouts as a pro. He also ran his winning streak to 10 games and ran his save percentage for the year up to .911. He leads the league in wins by 3 at 29 and he's now tied for second in shutouts, 1 back of Ottawa's Ben Bishop.
NOR Palat, (8) (Barberio, Johnson), 12:27 (SH)
NOR Panik, (19) (Ouellet, Johnson), 17:34 (PP)
Tokarski and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and second stars. While Johnson saw his goals streak snapped tonight, he ran his points streak to 13 games.
Don't look now, but with 40 points, Richard Panik is now tied for 15th in scoring amongst AHL rookies. The Panik attack is 1 goal shy of the magic 20 goal plateau.
Happy Birthday to Ondrej Palat, who celebrated with the game winning, shorthanded goal.
Among the wonderful things the Admirals win streak has already done, we can add this blog's first ever reference to former Lightning defenseman Bob Halkidis.
Standings-wise, the Admirals' magic number for clinching the division has now dropped to 2 points. A Norfolk win Friday or a Wilkes-Barre Scranton loss to Connecticut gets it done. In the conference, tonight's critical 4-point win did a lot to advance things for the Admirals, as they dropped that magic number from 10 to 6 with a single victory. A win Friday will make everything almost elementary. Norfolk could run their lead on St. John's to 15 points, with only 8 games remaining on the IceCaps' schedule, and there would be no way for St. John's to catch the Admirals in ROW, meaning the magic number will actually drop to 1.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
And the streak reaches Rudy Poeschek.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 38 shots for the victory. He raised his save percentage to .908 and posted his 9th straight win and 28th overall for the season in his first start back from Tampa Bay. Looked like a standard Dustin Tokarski effort to me. He'll be tough on himself even though the first goal was on a breakaway, the second one appeared to go through him on a one-timer, and the third was off a rebound he might want back. But, in general, his movement and positioning was pretty well spot on and he made the key saves he needed to to get the win. Classic Tic.
NOR Palat, (7) , 1:00
ALB Zharkov, (15) , 13:29 (SH)
ALB Tedenby, (4) (Gelinas, Whitney), 8:42 (PP)
NOR Killorn, (1) (Conacher, Devos), 15:02
NOR Johnson, (29) (Panik, Barberio), 1:06
NOR Picard, (6) (Palat, Kostka), 13:55
ALB Anderson, (10) (Mills, Harrold), 18:39
Johnson's got goals in 9 straight games and is now 1 shy of a 30 goal rookie season.
I watched tonight's game specifically to see how Killorn is fitting in, and the answer is: seamlessly. They've put him on what I would classify their second line with Conacher and Devos, and he doesn't get lost in the wash. He's assertive and he's noticeable. He's playing a nice, simple north-south game down the wing with speed and shooting it every chance he gets. He tied for the team lead in shots last night and he did so again tonight. He's also sticking his nose in on the wall and he got his first pro goal tonight by going to the front of the net to the danger zone. He found an open path to the cage laterally from the left wing board down low along the goal line, and Conacher hit him with a nice feed, and then he made a pretty little finish switching forehand to backhand in tight with a d-man coming down on him. I'm looking forward to seeing him in a few weeks in the playoffs once he gets better accustomed to his teammates and we see more of the playmaking side of his game, too, but there was nothing tonight that I saw that made me believe we have made any mistakes ranking him so highly on this website. He's the real thing, and I think his effectiveness on each shift may be helped by the fact he's not going to have to log 20-25 minutes a night like he did for Harvard. He's also come to the right place to develop in a hurry playing for the Rookie Whisperer, Jon Cooper. Tonight, 3 of the 4 goals were scored by rookies, which has been the norm for much of this streak. Just add Killorn to the list.
Palat is playing on what is Norfolk's top line right now with Johnson and Richard Panik, and what I really have been shocked by is the development of Palat physically over the course of the last year. This isn't a guy who believes corners are only for bus stops and mail boxes anymore. This guy digs, and despite his size, he wins his fair share of battles. When you couple that with his playmaking abilities, you have yourself a player.
The most impressive prospect tonight, to me, was Panik, though. I am giddy at the development of Panik over the past few months. He wasn't perfect tonight in the sequence that led up to Albany's extra-attacker goal, but put that aside, and the tape of this game and the Admiral's win in the second game a week ago against Charlotte will show you just what a dynamic all-around player he has become in a short time. Last week was the dazzling between the legs goal and the hands. If you watch him, he's like guys like Lecavalier in that he'll try to do some really creative things that most players won't attempt in pro hockey, because he can. He did that once or twice tonight too on plays where he tried some setups that just missed clicking. Also, tonight, you saw the power game out of Panik. The turnover on Palat's goal was the direct result of Richard coming to destroy someone on a hit, and later in the game he absolutely killed Vladimir Zharkov finishing off a clean check that clearly dinged up Zharkov. The Panik attack is continuing to evolve, and whereas a month ago you might have been able to dismiss him as a guy who was living off the power play, right now he's playing the kind of game that projects well in all phases. Heck, Cooper's even using him with Conacher on the PK, and he's doing a really good job with that, too. If he continues to work as hard as he has been over the past little bit, the sky is the limit for this young man. He could be an All-Star caliber NHL player if he keeps his head and his heart in it. Remember, a year before his entry draft, Panik was projected as a top-10 pick before the bottom fell out due to some things that were beyond his control (limited ice time for his Czech Extraliga club) and some that were in his control (not training like a professional). So, the talent is there, and God bless Jon Cooper for reaching Panik and getting him on track.
Norfolk's win is it's 20th in a row (hence the Rudy Poeschek reference), and thanks to St. John's and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton going head-to-head tonight, a win tonight was going to help one of their magic numbers. Because the IceCaps knocked off the Penguins 2-0, Norfolk moves their division lead out to 14 points with the Pens holding 1 game in hand. So, with 8 games left in the regular season, the magic number for the division is close at hand (4 points, assuming the Admirals manage at least 1 more regulation/OT win). They also maintained an 11 point gap in the conference on St. John's, with the IceCaps holding 2 games in hand. So the Admirals have a magic number for the conference of about 10 points (ties get complicated, of course). Wednesday, St. John's comes to Norfolk to start a 2 game set with the Admirals, so winning those games will whittle that magic number down for the conference in a hurry, and by this time next Friday, the Admirals could have a lot of things effectively wrapped up, if they can keep on this streak another couple of games.
For those wondering, the team also holds a 6 point lead on Oklahoma City for the best mark in the AHL, with the Ads surrendering 1 game in hand. So, the magic number for home ice throughout the playoffs would be at about 13 points right now (again, ties get complicated).
Box score from TheAHL.com.