Players receiving qualifying offers were defensemen Lukas Krajicek, Matt Smaby, Matt Lashoff and Mike Lundin; forwards Martins Karsums, Blair Jones, Radek Smolenak and Lauri Tukonen; and goaltender Karri Ramo. Both Smolenak and Ramo have signed contracts to play in the KHL next season.
You get the sense Norfolk and the Lightning farm system has finally turned the corner.
Craig Kowalski allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the victory, including stopping 21 of 22 in a Katey-bar-the-door final frame.
WBS Henrich, (3) (Wallace, Jeffrey), 7:53
WBS Bissonnette, (9) (Daoust, Vitale), 8:30
NOR Sgroi, (2) (Buck, Simek), 10:47
NOR Smolenak, (24) , 15:59
NOR Buck, (1) (Swanson, Simek), 6:13
NOR Jones, (20) (Lundin, Segal), 10:56
WBS Vitale, (2) (Bissonnette, Lovejoy), 16:52
ATO Brandon Buck was the game's first star, with Kowalski and Blair Jones being named second and third stars respectively.
Jones capped a season in which he was an iron man playing all 80 games with his 20th goal. It's the first 20 goal campaign of his career. Mike Lundin got his 29th point, finishing just shy of the 30 point plateau.
Norfolk was the nastiest spoiler in the east in the final couple of weeks of the season. They knocked Binghamton out of the playoffs last night and they denied Wilkes-Barre/Scranton the division title in tonight's game. That's with a lot of ATO's playing on the team's lower lines and lower pairing. Impressive. Like I said last night, Darren Rumble is becoming a hell of a coach. We may see him in Tampa Bay some day. The Ads jump from 29 wins and 65 points a season ago to 33 wins and 75 points this season. Post mortem in the following days.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
This team could be incredible if Lawton could find some defense without blowing up some other part of the team.
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.
05:00 PIT Fedotenko (16), (Staal, Kennedy)
10:08 PIT Crosby (31), (Malkin, Kunitz)(PP)
11:12 PIT Crosby (32), (Kunitz, Malkin)(PP)
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.
Undermanned Admirals finish their home schedule with a tough loss.
Riku Helenius allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the loss.
PHI Kane, (16) (Syvret, Ross), 0:42
PHI Curry, (5) (Clackson, Ross), 11:21
NOR Zingoni, (6) (Jones, Segal), 2:32
NOR Jones, (19) (Lundin, Smolenak), 10:18 (PP)
PHI Kane, (17) (Syvret, Ross), 5:17 (PP)
PHI Laliberte, (26) (Kane, Guenin), 19:59 (EN)
Blair Jones was named the game's second star with his 19th goal of the season. The knock on Blair has been his consistency and his defensive play. Still, he finds himself just one goal shy of the magic 20 plateau. I'm still hoping he gets a game or two with the Lightning before the end of the year.
Mike Lundin now has 27 points. 30 is a do-able goal for the former Black Bear.
The good news is that Albany got pasted by Binghamton, so the Ads and Rats are still tied in the race to see who will occupy the division basement.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
No quit in Norfolk.
Craig Kowalski allowed 2 goals on 36 shots for the win.
HER Bourque, (21) (Giroux, Kronwall), 0:51
NOR Jones, (18) (Konopka, Lundin), 14:55 (PP)
NOR Smolenak, (22) (Wishart, Segal), 16:36
NOR Swanson, (1) (Wishart, Konopka), 10:48
HER Giroux, (55) (Bourque, Kronwall), 1:01
ATO forward John Swanson, who was signed today out of St. Cloud State, potted the game winning goal in his first pro game and was named third star. Well played. Kowalski was the game's first star.
Radek Smolenak potted his 22nd goal of the season while Blair Jones inched closer to the 20 goal plateau by lighting the lamp for the 18th time this year. There are still questions about Jones' intensity, no doubt, but 20 goals has to make you stand up and take notice.
Ty Wishart returned to the ice for the first time in about three weeks and hit the scoresheet for helpers in duplicate for the first multi-point game of his pro career.
It kind of snuck up on me: but Mike Lundin has 26 points now in Norfolk. He has a very real opportunity to hit 30 points in about 50 AHL games with the Admirals. I know Darren Rumble really likes Lundin, but the question remains about how well he fits with what Rick Tocchet is trying to do in Tampa Bay. There's no doubt in my mind, though, that his time in the AHL this year has been beneficial to his development and some NHL team is going to reap the rewards next season with a better player.
Norfolk's win, its 30th of the season, and Albany's loss inches the Admirals within 1 point of climbing out of the division basement with 6 games to go in the season. The Admirals also improved to 20-14-4 on home ice with the victory. Norfolk's final two home games of the season are this weekend, meaning the worst the Admirals could finish on their home rink is 4 games over .500. However incremental it may be, there is progress in Norfolk, VA.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
The Lightning pull out a critical win in the Tavares/Hedman sweepstakes.
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.
06:12 ATL Kozlov (22), (Enstrom, Armstrong)
17:49 ATL White (20), (Kozlov, Kovalchuk)(PP)
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)
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.
Vengeance wore a blue jersey tonight.
Craig Kowalski allowed 2 goals on 34 shots for the win.
NOR Bochenski, (26) (Konopka), 19:53
BNG Mauldin, (17) (Regin, Hamel), 0:16
NOR Smolenak, (19) (Lawrence, Quick), 0:53
NOR Simek, (6) (Jones, Henley), 1:23
NOR Zingoni, (4) (Konopka, Boyle), 1:52
NOR Jones, (17) (Simek, Hooton), 9:20
BNG Mauldin, (18) (Regin), 11:08
Kowalski and Radek Smolenak were the game's first and second stars. Smolenak is just one goal away from hitting 20 for the first time in his professional career. Meanwhile, Blair Jones moved just 3 goals shy of accomplishing the same feat.
Two Chris Lawrence sitings in as many nights?
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Third period collapse.
Riku Helenius allowed 4 goals on 36 shots for the loss. He had a shutout through 40 minutes and ended up taking the "L."
NOR Segal, (22) (Zingoni), 15:41
NOR Keller, (15) (Jones, Konopka), 16:35 (PP)
ALB Samson, (17) (Carson, Dodge), 6:11
ALB Clarke, (3) (Weston, Angelidis), 11:57
ALB Roy, (1) (Dodge, Samson), 16:11
ALB Dwyer, (18) (Tifu, Petruzalek), 16:57
NOR Konopka, (13) (Keller), 18:43
ALB Dwyer, (19) (Angelidis, Carson), 19:14 (EN)
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Tired Admirals get stomped on the road.
Riku Helenius allowed 3 goals on 12 shots for the loss before being pulled for Craig Kowalski who allowed 1 goal on 21 shots the rest of the way.
WBS Letestu, (17) (James, Taffe), 8:36 (PP)
WBS Letestu, (18) (Jeffrey, Taffe), 12:37 (PP)
WBS Minard, (29) (James, Goligoski), 17:17 (PP)
WBS Jeffrey, (8) (Bissonnette), 12:09
NOR Bochenski, (25) (Keller, Konopka), 19:59 (PP)
Blair Jones' goal scoring streak is snapped at three games.
Box score from TheAHL.com.