This season will be remembered 5 years from now as a minor speed bump on the ride of a lifetime.
Dwayne Roloson allowed 3 goals on 31 shots for the victory. If that was Roli's last NHL game, I'm glad the boys played him out with a win.
TB Purcell (22), (Lecavalier), 17:49
TB Purcell (23), (Lecavalier, Brown), 1:12
WPG Antropov (15), (Miettinen, Kane), 8:53
TB Stamkos (60), (St. Louis, Lee), 3:29
WPG Slater (12), (Clitsome, Enstrom), 4:59
WPG Slater (13), (Wheeler, Ladd), 19:07
TB Purcell (24), (Hedman), 1:08
Teddy Purcell and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars.
This game had just about all the elements you wanted to see to reaffirm that the Lightning, despite the struggles of this season, are on a path to longterm prosperity. Despite all their problems and despite unilaterally disarming at the trade deadline, the club finished 2 games over .500. Yes, there's several things to fix both between the pipes and defensively, as evidenced by the team finishing worst in goals against, but these guys aren't losers, even when the going gets tough. They have the character winning organizations are premised on.
Individually, the big story will obviously be Steven Stamkos' 60th goal and his second Richard Trophy. He's the best young player in the game, but we all knew that. I was far more intrigued by the B stories in this game.
Teddy Purcell's second half seems to me to be a clear sign he's ready to erupt into stardom next season, and the thing Lightning fans should be giddy about is that Teddy can produce on both Stamkos and Lecavalier's line. That gives the coaching staff a lot of flexibility.
Another B story is the young defensemen on this team. These are young guys who bring the kind of elite mobility that Guy Boucher's system really needs, and they started to produce down the stretch of the year. No offense to guys like Pavel Kubina, who did yoeman's work for the team, but the new blood has the pace to play this system the way it ought to be played. I'm looking at Victor Hedman ending the season with points in 7 of his last 9 games. I'm looking at Brian Lee with points in 4 of his last 5 games of the season, and 8 points in 20 games with the Lightning, which pro-rates to a 33 point season. Here are two guys I believe can and should be in the 30-40 point range next year, and, heck, even Eric Brewer was showing more toward the end of the season. You mix in what I believe Brendan Mikkelson has shown, and that's 4 guys to invest some hope in. You go out on the free agent market and add 1-2 more good defenseman and get a healthy Marc-Andre Bergeron into the mix, and you'll get a top-7 that can play Boucher's system well.
Beyond that, there's an obvious need in goal that Steve Yzerman has clearly stockpiled a ridiculous amount of draft picks to address. Between the draft picks and the amount of quality young forward prospects in this organization, I dare say Yzerman will not be outbid by anyone.
And then there's what we can expect to see added from Norfolk and their ongoing 25-game winning streak next year, and the youth in the system, as a whole.. More youth, more speed, and more confidence at the forward position. The likely AHL defenseman of the year in Mark Barberio. Two goaltenders playing out of their minds in Norfolk and another guy in Finland, Riku Helenius, who also just can't seem to lose. It's an embarassment of riches, and you will see a training camp next season where you may very well see darn near 30 NHL caliber players fighting tooth and nail for 23 spots. Good problems to have.
Keith Aulie had 3 hits in 11:48. He's on Norfolk's Clear Day roster, which means he should be sent down after Lightning exit interviews and begin what I feel will be a critical 20-30 games worth of development in his young career. The crucible of the AHL playoffs could make him into a player to be reckoned with.
J.T. Brown got his first NHL point, an assist, and was +2 with 2 shots in 13:52. J.T., my friend, before you leave Tampa, beg Steven Stamkos to let you go train with him with Gary Roberts. Promise him your first born. Do whatever it takes to go spend this offseason getting ready to take the pounding of an 82 game NHL season, because if you do, you might have the talent to be a Calder Trophy winner next season. But, for you, that award will be won in June, July and August, not October through April.
J.T. Wyman was -3 with 1 shot in 13:25. Wyman finishes the season with 40 NHL games, 1 shy of what he needs for graduation from prospect status on BoltProspects. Ain't that a shame? He'll start from scratch next year needing 39 games to graduate via the 82 game rule on the site.
The Admirals get to Jason Wiemer, and oddly their journey didn't take them to The Hideaway.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. His 21 wins is tied for 12th in the league, as he continues his push to try to give Norfolk two goaltenders in the top-10 in the AHL in victories.
NOR Barberio, (13) (Oberg, Johnson), 18:15
BNG Downing, (9) (Dziurzynski, Hamilton), 16:34
NOR Johnson, (30) (Gudas, Jackson), 2:51
NOR Smith, (23) (Segal, Cote), 16:46
Tyler Johnson, Janus, and Jean-Phillipe Cote were the game's three stars. Johnson becomes the second Admiral to hit 30 goals.
Mark Barberio hit 60 points for the season with his goal tonight. Soak that in for a moment.
24 consecutive victories for the Admirals, and this one happens to clinch the AHL equivalent of the President's Trophy. The club will have home ice throughout the playoffs for as long as they survive. With 4 games left to go in the regular season, the only question left on a team level is who their fiirst round opponent will be, and as of this moment, it would be the Manchester Monarchs. The rest boils down to personal goals. Specifically, will Richard Panik get to 20 goals.
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.
Jaroslav Janus started his third game in three nights and stopped 27 of 30 for his 7th consecutive victory.
NOR Smith, (22) , 15:00
BRI Frischmon, (8) , 1:17 (SH)
NOR Barberio, (10) (Conacher, Johnson), 17:16 (PP)
NOR Panik, (14) (Smith, Johnson), 19:28 (PP)
BRI Mouillierat, (7) (Riley, Oleksy), 7:50
BRI McNeely, (7) (Sinkewich, Rakhshani), 11:14
NOR Barberio, (11) (Johnson, Ouellet), 13:12 (PP)
NOR Panik, (15) (Labrie), 15:52
NOR Johnson, (24) (Panik, Ouellet), 17:32 (PP)
Barberio's 2 goals moved him to 11 on the season, which is 2 better than his rookie campaign last year. He holds an 11 point advantage on St. John's defenseman Paul Postma for the league lead in scorers amongst blueliners.
Tyler Johnson has moved into 3rd amongst all AHL rookies in scoring, 3 points back of Gustav Nyqvist of Grand Rapids and 16 points back of teammate Cory Conacher.
Panik is enjoying the month of March so far with 3 goals and 8 points in 5 games. Today's Panik attack was his first 3-point game of his career.
Wednesday night in Norfolk becomes a big game for two reasons now. It was always going to be a big game with the rival Pens in town lurking 8 points back with a game in hand. But, now, it becomes even bigger with the Admirals' ridiculous, video game-like winning streak hitting 15 with a chance to run to 16. If the Admirals pull of the win against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, they hop a bus to Charlotte on Friday with the opportunity to tie the all-time AHL record for consecutive victories at 17. If they pull that off, the rematch is in Charlotte at 3 pm on Sunday, with a chance to make history. It will not be easy. The Pens currently are the 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and the Checkers are the 3 seed in the West. But, at least its not another 3 games in 3 nights marathon like this weekend was.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 21 shots for his 26th victory of the season. He's now 1 back of his career high of 27 wins. He remains locked in mortal combat with Ben Bishop of Binghamton, who also has 26 wins.
NOR Ouellet, (12) (Kostka, Devos), 12:13 (PP)
NOR Angelidis, (13) (Picard, Ouellet), 4:15
NOR Ouellet, (13) (Panik, Johnson), 12:48 (PP)
NOR Picard, (4) (Gudas, Jackson), 18:33
SPR Calvert, (12) (Joudrey), 12:26
SPR MacLeod, (6) (St. Pierre, Regner), 17:14 (PP)
NOR Devos, (5) (Neilson, Barberio), 18:52 (PP)
Mark Barberio hit 50 points for the season with a late power play assist. He holds a 9 point edge on Brian Connolly of Abbotsford for the league lead amongst blueliners. With 33 points, Mike Kostka lurks in a tie for 5th in points in that category.
Jon Cooper just broke TheAHL.com. Evidently, they only show 10 game winning streaks on the website, as the standings are currently not properly registering the Admirals unbelievable 11 game streak. They've opened up an 8 point lead in the division on the idle Penguins and a 12 point lead on the idle Bears. Resetting their sights higher, they've also opened up a 6 point lead on St. John's for the conference's top spot, although St. John's has 5 games in hand. Nonetheless, they need to give Cooper the hardware.
P.S. Panik attack, y'all!
Norfolk finishes their week against Springfield tomorrow night. The normal warning about beating the same team on back-to-back nights when you paste them pretty good on the first night applies.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
The Admirals tie a winning streak record from the heady days of Head Coach Jim Johnson. 8 straight wins for Norfolk, even as the Lightning call up several of their players.
Jaroslav Janus stopped 25 of 28 shots he faced for the victory. From the, "no way that can be right," file: Janus (pictured) is 3-0-1 against Hershey this season. Bear in mind Hershey is the second highest scoring team in the AHL behind just Norfolk. And, yet, they tremble before the might and power of Jaroslav Janus between the pipes.
NOR Barberio, (8) (Dimmen, Conacher), 2:21
NOR Ouellet, (11) (Picard, Kostka), 15:58 (PP)
HER Pope, (5) (Mink, Carman), 17:07
HER Bourque, (25) (Eakin, Mink), 0:16 (PP)
NOR Segal, (15) (Ouellet, Picard), 1:29
HER Greentree, (4) (Potulny, Bourque), 13:19 (PP)
NOR Segal, (16) (Barberio, Panik), 16:35 (PP)
After assisting on Segal's game winning goal, prospect Richard Panik took a rather nasty slash to the leg by Kyle Greentree that sent him to the dressing room. Panik attacked, y'all? Expect that issue to be cleaned up Wednesday when the Ads play the Bears for the last time this season.
Defenseman Evan Oberg was a healthy scratch and may be on his way to join the Lightning after Victor Hedman's injury earlier this afternoon. One thing we know, this is a man who will not pull a Nikita Alexeev and miss his flight, if that's the case.
Tonight went as well as possible for the Admirals, as they not only opened up a 6 point lead on the Bears, but with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins losing to Syracuse tonight, they also have moved 2 points ahead of the Penguins to claim uncontested hold of the top spot in the division. They've also tied St. John's for the most points in the Eastern Conference, although the Ice Caps hold 3 games in hand on the Admirals.
Norfolk draws the Pens at the Mohegan Sun Slot Machine Gamble-plex tomorrow, with the opportunity to open up a 4 point lead on the Pens and an 8 point lead on the idle Bears. With a name like the Mohegan Sun Slot Machine Gamble-plex, you know the Admirals will be looking for the pay window.
Box score at TheAHL.com.
Admirals come back to take first place in the East Division.
NOR 3 (SO)
Jaroslav Janus allowed 2 goals on 21 shots before stopping 7 of 9 in the penalty shot session for the shootout win.
SYR Gordon (1), (Holzapfel, Cumiskey)(PP), 11:36
SYR Gordon (2), (Holzapfel), 0:19
NOR Barberio (7), (Johnson), 7:16
NOR Panik (12), (Palat, Barberio)(PP), 9:02
SYR- Jacques, Holland
NOR- Kostka, Johnson, Ouellet
With under 14 minutes to go, it looked like the Admirals were going to get tripped up again in the back-to-back scenario against the same opponent. It's a challenge NCAA coaches have been fighting against forever, and it's a unique challenge to Norfolk because of the team's geographical location relative to the rest of the league. But then the Admirals came back and did their thing, finally outshooting Syracuse 43-21 and making sure they got the 2 points they needed for the sellout crowd at Scope.
With the Penguins losing to Albany, the Admirals moved out to a 2 point lead in the East Division with the win, and they maintain a 3 point edge on Hershey, as the Bears defeated the Monarchs today. The Penguins do hold 1 game in hand on the Admirals and the Bears hold 2 games in hand. But, for the moment, the Admirals are where they need to be to have the best chance of success heading toward the postseason. Norfolk is off until next Friday, when they start their weekend road swing against Binghamton. They then have critical matchups against Hershey on Saturday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
And, Nacho kicks the extra point!
Dustin Tokarski allowed 4 goals on 22 shots for the victory. Much like Dwayne Roloson against the Sharks last night, here's a young man who loves his goal support. Despite his ugly save percentage on the night, by collecting his 23rd win of the year, Tic moved back into a tie with Peoria's Ben Bishop for the league lead in wins.
NOR Kostka, (8) (Johnson, Smith), 2:43 (SH)
SYR Holzapfel, (9) (Jacques, Caputi), 5:07 (PP)
SYR McMillan, (8) (Sexton, Carle), 9:37
NOR Johnson, (18) (Conacher, Fornataro), 16:11 (PP)
NOR Picard, (3) (Smith, Palat), 19:16 (PP)
NOR Conacher, (29) (Oberg, Barberio), 5:45
SYR Holzapfel, (10) (Gordon), 5:58
NOR Angelidis, (12) (Kostka), 9:57 (SH)
NOR Smith, (21) (Kostka, Oberg), 12:00 (PP)
NOR Labrie, (12) (Dimmen, Conacher), 13:00
SYR Schofield, (7) (Palmieri), 14:40
Mike Kostka and Trevor Smith were the game's first and second stars. Kostka, for the moment, sits in a tie for 5th amongst all defensemen at 31 points in 48 games. Mark Barberio still paces the field at 43 points in 51 games, and he's opened up a 4 point gap on second place.
Lost in the sizable shadow of Kostka and Barberio, though, has been the play of suitcase virtuoso Evan Oberg (pictured). He now has 16 points in 33 games this season, but the bulk of those points have come recently. He has 10 points in his last 10 contests, which is impressive while pulling dual duty in between his role as the Mayor of Concourse B at Norfolk International Airport.
Ondrej Palat has 5 points in his last 4 games. Impressive, but Tyler Johnson raised Palat with 7 points over the same span. It took nearly 5 months, but Johnson has run down fellow rookie Carter Ashton in both points and goals. The two are now knotted up at 18 goals a piece and TJ's now moved 1 point ahead of Ashton at 35 for the season.
Lapping the entire field of rookies, league-wide, is phenom Cory Conacher. His 29 goals and 60 points are 4th amongst all scorers, and his tally tonight moved him out of a 3-way tie for the top spot in goals. Consider the possibilities, Lightning fans. The organization could have the goal scoring champions at both the NHL and AHL levels in the same season. That's quite the feather in the Lightning's cap.
Norfolk's victory allows them to keep pace with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the top spot in the East Division, and by virtue of Hershey losing a 6-0 decision to Providence, they've opened up a 3 point lead on the third place Bears. Winning the East Division looks like it may be CRITICAL to the Admirals' chances come the playoffs. They want to avoid a possible 4/5 matchup against the Bears or Penguins in the first round and get a less experienced club from the Atlantic or Northeast in the first round, instead.
The Admirals rematch Syracuse tomorrow. As always, we stress how difficult it is to beat the same team on back-to-back nights, especially when you thump them the first night. Let's see if Norfolk has learned that lesson yet.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
That's all, folks?
Mathieu Garon allowed 3 goals on 26 shots for the loss. He also stopped a Kyle Turris penalty shot in the contest.
OTT Karlsson (10), (Spezza, Butler), 1:04
OTT Spezza (23), (Kuba, Karlsson)(PP), 16:32
OTT Spezza (24), (Butler, Michalek), 12:37
OTT Spezza (25), (Gonchar)(EN), 18:58
You got the sense the Spezza goal that got the score in this game to 3-0 really made reality set in for the Lightning. They can't afford to be losing back-to-back games right now and they can't afford to be losing 4-point games against teams they're competing against for position in the conference, and they just did both. With the loss, you'd have to expect the Lightning to be sellers at the deadline with several potential UFA's as rental opportunities for playoff-bound teams like Pavel Kubina, Dominic Moore, and Brett Clark. Unfortunately for the Lightning, it's difficult to envision them finding pieces such as a goaltender or some more Mikkelson-esque defensemen to receive in return to help rebuild the roster.
I will be interested to see how the post-deadline roster looks, and whether the Lightning will give some prospects in Norfolk an extended look before the end of the year. Particularly, I'd like to see Mark Barberio get a chance against NHL speed to see where he's at, particularly in his own third. The Lightning need d-men almost as much as they need a goaltender, and it seems foolish not to use this time to diagnose a guy who is currently the AHL's leading scorer amongst d-men.
The other thing is that Guy Boucher might just need to throw caution to the wind at some point, accept the mistakes young #14 is going to make, and start feeding Brett Connolly some scoring line ice time. If the Lightning can get a guy like Connolly or one of their other forward prospects to a point they feel more comfortable about them next season, it'll make it more comfortable for them to deal a veteran forward like Ryan Malone, assuming he'd allow it, to get some defense or goaltending help.
The good news is that I'm optimistic this season is a pot hole and not a ditch. There's a lot of good talent in the system, and the Lightning really are just 2-3 players away from being right back to elite status. And, no, those players aren't Scott Stevens and Patrick Roy. But, they do need to be guys who are a better fit for the current system and are a lot more clutch than what the current group has shown this year.
J.T. Wyman was -1 in 5:26.
Laying the smacketh down.
Dustin Tokarski allowed 3 goals on 25 shots but got a wee bit more goal support than last night to carry him to his 21st win of the year. That matches Tic's win total from all of last season and he now will zero in on his career mark of 27 wins set in his rookie campaign as his next milestone to beat.
NOR Panik, (11) (Palat, Johnson), 2:48
NOR Kostka, (7) (Barberio, Palat), 4:36 (PP)
NOR Conacher, (26) (Barberio, Panik), 5:07 (PP)
NOR Conacher, (27) (Smith, Johnson), 8:20 (PP)
ADK Brown, (6) (Klotz, Kessel), 4:23
NOR Angelidis, (11) (Picard, Cote), 3:31
ADK Kalinski, (9) (Manning, Akeson), 4:02
NOR Smith, (19) (Labrie, Ashton), 13:23
ADK Manning, (3) (Kessel, Holmstrom), 14:38 (PP)
NOR Johnson, (16) (Fornataro, Devos), 17:36
Phantoms d-man Cullen Eddy messed with the bull and got the horns, earning a game misconduct for elbowing rookie phenom Conacher. The Ads proceeded to score 3 power play goals on the subsequent 5 minute major, including 2 by Conacher himself.
Conacher did not manage a hat trick, but, by virtue of an assist added on Conacher's first goal, Richard Panik posted a first period Gordie Howe hat trick for the opening goal, a power play assist, and then a fight with ex-Admiral Dan Jancevski. When Panik attacks, Adirondack trembles.
Barberio crossed the 40 point threshold with his 2 power play helpers tonight. He's now at 41 points in 48 games, pushing him 2 points ahead of Brian Connelly of Abbotsford for the lead amongst d-men. For his part, Mike Kostka has quietly pushed up into a tie for 11th amongst d-men in scoring with 27 points in 45 games.
Norfolk picks up 1 point on Hershey, which fell in a shootout tonight, and keeps pace with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. So, the Ads are 1 point back of the Bears and 4 points back of the Pens in the division. Both the Bears and Pens hold a game in hand on Norfolk. Norfolk heads to Charlotte tomorrow to face the Midwest Division (don't ask) leading Checkers.
Box score from TheAHL.com.