Szczechura, Paul

Smaby/Ramo Become Bolt Prospects Alumni

Tonight is a pretty special night for the staff here at Bolt Prospects. Tonight marked the 41st decision of the NHL career of Karri Ramo. It was also the 41st game of the season for Matt Smaby. Both are milestones for graduation from prospect status here at Bolt Prospects. Both young men are now considered NHLers in our eyes.

It's somewhat fitting that these two players should graduate on the same night. There have only been four players who have ever held the title of top rated prospect on this site. Smaby was the first when we debuted the rankings at the start of the 2005-2006 season. He held the title shortly for half a season before giving way to his teammate Ramo, who was standing on his head as a rookie for Springfield in the AHL. Ramo held the top spot before giving way to top draft pick Steven Stamkos, who graduated from prospect status earlier this season. Steve Downie earned the top spot in our Midterm Rankings shortly after Stamkos' graduation.

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NHL Game Night 4/7: Penguins at Lightning

This team could be incredible if Lawton could find some defense without blowing up some other part of the team.

PIT-6
TB-4

Karri Ramo allowed 5 goals on 30 shots for the loss. Despite allowing 5 goals, he actually didn't play all that badly. Two of Pittsburgh's goals came on breakaways and a third came on an uncovered player allowed to move in on Ramo all alone down the slot. The game winning goal was a case where Ramo was clearly interfered with after stopping the initial shot on the breakaway. Another goal came on a feed that went through the box on the PP down low to give Sid Crosby a clean look on Ramo moving laterally. Other than Cooke's goal to start the third period, which wasn't a bad goal so much as an untimely one, there's nothing I would fault Karri with. The decision is the 41st of Ramo's career, graduating him from prospect status here at BP.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
05:00 PIT Fedotenko (16), (Staal, Kennedy)
10:08 PIT Crosby (31), (Malkin, Kunitz)(PP)
11:12 PIT Crosby (32), (Kunitz, Malkin)(PP)

Third Period
01:08 PIT Cooke (12), (Staal, Letang)
04:31 TB Halpern (6), (Szczechura)(SH)
08:59 TB St. Louis (30), (Stamkos, Krajicek)
09:43 TB Szczechura (4), (unassisted)
11:43 PIT Sykora (25), (Fedotenko)
19:19 TB Halpern (7), (Karsums, Bochenski)
19:47 PIT Staal (22), (unassisted)(EN)

I give credit to the coaches and the players that no one laid down in the third period. It would've been damned easy to quit, but the Lightning came back and really gave the Pens a run for their money. They were one missed goaltender interference call away from getting to overtime. So, the heart is there, and for the most part the offensive potential is there. What's really lacking right now is two things: defense and penalty killing. The defense will get better by virtue of a healthy Andrej Meszaros and Paul Ranger. The penalty killing can't possibly get any worse. I don't know the stats, but the PK has been absolutely rancid the second half of this season.

Ryan Malone broke his hand blocking a shot in this game, making him the fifth key Lightning player to be shelved with a serious injury. He had already proven that last year wasn't a flash in the pan by potting his 26th goal. I give him credit. He's won me over. The injury may open up an opportunity for someone from Norfolk to get a two game cup of coffee. Blair Jones? Justin Keller? Juraj Simek?

Lets go Avs.

Noah Welch had 4 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:13 against the organization who drafted him.

Zenon Konopka was -1 with 2 hits in 9:58 and was 60% on draws. 9:58? Seemed like a lot more, in a good way. There are games where Konopka is nothing more than a circus clown, and then there are games like tonight where he plays hockey and he's a difference maker. He was a split second away from landing a shoulder-to-chin hit on Matt Cooke that would've made him a hero in Tampa Bay forever, and he about chewed the ends off the boards on the forecheck. Very well done.

Matt Smaby was +1 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 22:56. Tonight was Smaby's 41st game of the season, meaning he joins Ramo as a freshly minted Bolt Prospects Alumni.

David Koci had 3 hits and 17 penalty minutes in 6:00 of ice time. His fight against Eric Godard seemed like the emotional tipping point of this game. Again, very well done.

Paul Szczechura had 1 goal, 1 assist, and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, and 4 shots in 16:00. He also was 33% on draws. I don't know what it is about Pittsburgh, but when Szczechura sees that jersey he seems to duck into the nearest phone booth and turn into Superman. I still don't think Szczechura is in his best shape, but he was flying tonight. That's the best game he's played in months, and the kind of game he needs to get on tape if he wants to make the team next season.

Martins Karsums had 1 assist, 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:23. He was fairly invisible, despite the impressive stat line.

Matt Lashoff was -1 with 1 hit in 17:23. I don't know if he got hurt or if the coaching staff was sending a message.

Vladimir Mihalik had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 19:41. Mobility is obviously an issue with Vladdy, but his lack of decisiveness remains a bigger concern to me.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 4/4: Lightning at Islanders

2-1/2 hours of my life I'll never get back.

TB-1
NYI-3

Mike McKenna allowed 3 goals on 21 shots for the loss. That might've been his worst game as a member of the Lightning. Each of the Islanders' first two goals are ones Mike probably would like back and he made another big puck handling error that he managed to get away with. He's got one more start scheduled this season, and that's probably a good thing. You'd hate to go out like that after a pretty successful year.

First Period
00:23 NYI Park (14), (Joensuu)

Second Period
14:52 NYI Martinek (5), (Gervais, Joensuu)(PP)
16:38 TB Pettinger (6), (Karsums)(PP)

Third Period
09:14 NYI Bailey (7), (Comeau, Gervais)(PP)

The Lightning waited 35 minutes tonight to start playing. Watching grass grow would've been more exciting.

Noah Welch had 3 hits and 3 blocked shots in 19:04. He's been decent the past two games, which is shocking considering how poorly he'd previously played.

Zenon Konopka had a fight, 1 shot, 1 hit, and was 67% on draws in 7:42. He earned his game check.

Matt Smaby was beastly with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, 7 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 22:22. He's been so much better since taking a game off to nurse his foot injury. Graduation Tuesday. Bring your digital cap and gown.

David Koci had 15 penalty minutes in 6:34. Former Lightning farm hand Mitch Fritz threw him around like a rag doll.

Paul Szczechura was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 15:33. He was also 38% on draws.

Martins Karsums had 1 assist and was -1 with 6 penalty minutes, 2 shots, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 12:02. Like Welch, he's playing better in these past two games.

Matt Lashoff was -1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 27:17. He lost a couple of physical battles that resulted in one puck going in the net and one being rung off the post. He didn't do his younger pairing partner any favors.

Vladimir Mihalik was -1 with 1 shot in 13:05 paired primarily with Lashoff. I thought this was his best NHL game thus far, but that may not be saying much. He looked more confident, but he's still a little slow to react to the play. The guy's a mountain and he had 0 hits. That's still a problem. I was, admittedly, surprised he got the call over Ty Wishart or Kevin Quick.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 4/3: Lightning at Devils

Waiting for this team to mature is painful sometimes.

TB-4
NJ-5 (OT)

Karri Ramo allowed 5 goals on 39 shots for the overtime loss. Really, it was a tale of two games for Karri. He was playing very well through the first 32 minutes or so of the game, and then he made an incredibly stupid decision to throw his stick that resulted in a penalty shot and the wheels started to fall off a little. About two minutes later Karri, who I think was a little rattled and out of focus, didn't come out and challenge a shot from a rush coming down the wing and got beat glove side and suddenly the Lightning went from being solidly in control to being in a dog fight. The lesson is an important one: in regular season hockey, one mistake generally doesn't kill you. It's when you allow yourself to lose focus and things start to snowball that you lose hockey games. Karri was screened on New Jersey's third goal and hung out to dry on a bad line change on the game winner. He might want the rebound back on Jersey's fourth goal, but that wasn't egregious to me. But it was that one lull in focus that probably cost the Lightning a second point. Tonight was Karri's 40th NHL decision, so he will graduate from BP prospect status with his next one, but there's still much for the 22 year old to learn.

First Period
01:38 TB Artyukhin (6), (Melichar)

Second Period
05:09 TB Stamkos (21), (St. Louis, Lashoff)(PP)
13:05 NJ Shanahan (6), (unassisted)(PS)
14:50 NJ Pandolfo (5), (Langenbrunner, Oduya)
18:29 NJ Langenbrunner (26), (Rolston, Parise)(PP)

Third Period
02:41 TB Malone (26), (unassisted)
10:35 NJ Langenbrunner (27), (Zajac, Parise)
14:06 TB Karsums (1), (Pettinger, Krajicek)

Overtime
01:21 NJ Parise (43), (Zajac, Martin)

It wasn't exactly a banner night in the goaltending or the defensive department, but there were some positives to point to up front. Steven Stamkos tied Brad Richards' Lightning rookie record for goals at 21. That record's good as gone.

Ryan Malone scored his 26th of the season, which is pretty remarkable considering how lost he looked with injuries early in the year. I confess, I wasn't a big proponent of the Malone deal in the offseason, because he didn't have a proven track record that merited handing him that much money. Well, now he's got a track record. He's one goal shy of matching last year's 27 goals and one would think with some health and some stability behind the bench, 30-35 goals should be within his reach next year. People have been comparing Ryan to Fredrik Modin, and I don't think the comparison is really that apt. Freddy was better along the wall and was far more of a sniper. Ryan isn't as good as he could be along the wall at his size and is more of a garbage man, although he has surprisingly good hands in open ice as evidence by his de-jocking on Brodeur on the breakaway tonight. In some ways, he's kind of the answer to the question, "What if Dave Andreychuk could skate?"

Noah Welch was +2 with 3 hits in 19:44. I can't believe I just typed that either.

Matt Smaby was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 4 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 26:00. One of those minuses came on that bad change in overtime. Smaby is now 2 games away from graduation here at BP. Considering Tocchet's been rotating Ramo and McKenna, that means there may be a double graduation coming up Tuesday against the Penguins.

David Koci was +1 with 5 hits in 8:47.

Paul Szczechura was +1 with 1 blocked shot and was 38% on draws in 14:33. I thought he came out flying in the first period, but faded as the game went on. Maybe it was conditioning?

Martins Karsums can say he scored his first NHL goal on Martin Brodeur. How cool is that? He had 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:54. He also picked off a pass in the neutral zone and nearly generated a nice scoring chance for himself earlier in the game. He was better tonight than most every game thus far in a Lightning jersey.

Matt Lashoff dispenses PP assists like a Pez dispenser. He also had 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in a team high 27:40 tonight. He's got 7 assists in 9 games in a Lightning uniform. There ain't nothing wrong with that kind of production.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 3/21: Thrashers at Lightning

The Lightning pull out a critical win in the Tavares/Hedman sweepstakes.

ATL-4
TB-3 (SO)

Karri Ramo allowed 3 goals on 36 shots before allowing 1 of 2 shooters to convert for the shootout loss. Since the Lightning's drubbing against Carolina, Ramo has rebounded (perhaps a bad choice of words in Karri's case) to go 2-0-3. He's got a nice .919 save percentage over that span, too, by my count. Rebound control remains an issue, but he's making the first saves, which is critical. He could save the Lightning a small fortune by proving he can be Smitty's backup with continued good performances down the stretch.

First Period
06:12 ATL Kozlov (22), (Enstrom, Armstrong)
17:49 ATL White (20), (Kozlov, Kovalchuk)(PP)

Second Period
03:50 TB Stamkos (17), (Krajicek, St. Louis)
05:12 TB Stamkos (18), (Lashoff, Lecavalier)(PP)
12:52 ATL Kovalchuk (37), (White, Enstrom)(PP)
15:36 TB Prospal (18), (Krajicek)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
ATL- Kozlov
TB- NONE

The Lightning managed to crawl back into this game after laying down in the First Period the same way they laid down in the Third Period against the Caps. They're fortunate the Thrashers stink in that regard and let them get back to even.

Steven Stamkos continues his steady march to 20 goals as he racked up his 17th and 18th tonight. Keep shooting, young man. It's hard to believe he only had 6 goals at the end of the month of January. In his last 16 games, Stamkos has 11 goals and 16 points. That pro-rates to a 56 goal, 82 point campaign over 82 games. That's not to say he'll stay this hot for a full year next season. But, to me, with an entire offseason to train and build his body and the work ethic he's already displayed, I would not be shocked at all to see him pot 40 goals and 80-90 points next year. I think the league was lulled into a false sense of security about Stamkos when he didn't come out of the hockey womb a preformed point-a-game player and when Barry Melrose decided to chuck #91 under the bus after he was fired. Hopefully Stamkos' amazing late season productivity continues to fly under the radar and sets him up to storm the league early next season. I suspect I'll almost feel pity for teams who have to choose between dying by Stammer or Vincent Lecavalier's hand next year with the two playing on opposite scoring lines. Almost.

Have the Lightning actually won a game in the third jerseys, by the way? If someone knows the team's record with them on, by all means post it. I suspect it's almost terrible enough to warrant burning the new threads.

Matt Smaby was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 24:37. This was a good rebound game after going -4 against Washington.

David Koci had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 6:45.

Paul Szczechura was -1 with 1 shot in 12:41.

Martins Karsums had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:19. He was better tonight.

Richard Petiot was -1 with 6 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 23:11. He was awful in the first period as Atlanta took advantage of his slow feet. To his credit, he got it back together in the final 40 minutes. I like him as a #8 or #9 d-man who can come up from Norfolk if there's an injury.

Matt Lashoff had 1 assist and 2 penalty minutes and was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 28:18, which led the team in ice time. 3 games in a Lightning jersey: 3 power play assists. You can't complain about that kind of production. He deals a good pass for a one-timer, which can get a defenseman paid on a power play that features shooters like Stamkos, Lecavalier, and Martin St. Louis. His skating allows him to potentially eat big minutes like he did tonight, too. Darren Eliot claimed tonight that his skating had somehow been "exposed." It's a shame that someone swapped out his Thrashers flavored Kool-Aid for bad moonshine. Here's to hoping his eyesight returns to him soon.

10 more games to go. We'll see if Blair Jones and/or Justin Keller get late season recalls. I would advise it with these two players having their contracts up this offseason.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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