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Memorial Cup Game Night: 5-28-15

2015 MasterCard Memorial Cup
Tiebreaker

Quebec Remparts 5 vs Rimouski Oceanic 2

W Adam Erne, QUE: 1-1-2, +2, 0 PIM, 3 SOG, 2 Hits
Memorial Cup totals: 4 GP: 2-2-4, +1, 6 PIM
QMJHL playoff totals: 22 GP, 21-9-30, +18, 17 PIM
Season totals: 60 GP, 41-45-86, +21, 102 PIM
2013-2014 Season: 48 GP, 21-41-62, -3, 65 PIM

Quebec exacted some revenge on Rimouski, who defeated the Remparts in seven games for the QMJHL championship last week. Quebec won 5-2 Thursday in a rare Memorial Cup tiebreaker. The Oceanic beat the Remparts on Wednesday night, 4-0, setting up the tiebreaker. Thursday was the 17th time the two clubs have played each other since the start of the regular season. Adam Erne had an assist created when he carried the puck into the zone down the right wing and cut inside of a defenseman into the slot. The puck found its way to Anthony Duclair (Coyotes), who scored glove side. Erne’s goal came after Rimouski starter Philippe Desrosiers coughed up the puck behind the net, but managed to get a stick on the ensuing shot from Kurt Etchegary. Erne banged in the rebound before celebrating his second goal of the tournament. He also had a couple big hits in the game.

Thursday’s win by Quebec sets up a tournament semi-final game between Quebec and WHL champion Kelowna. The Remparts beat the Rockets in the tournament opener last Friday. The winner of the semifinals faces OHL champ Oshawa in the finals.

Syracuse to host 2016 AHL All-Star Classic


By Jeremy Houghtaling

David Andrews planted the seed before the last American Hockey League All-Star Classic in January.

The AHL president was in the office of Syracuse Crunch owner Howard Dolgon and made his case: The league would be playing its 80th season in 2015-16. Syracuse is one of the league's charter members. Would the Crunch want to host the 2016 all-star game?

"Over a period of a few weeks or a month or two, we chatted about it and tried to arrive at a formula for hosting it," Andrews said.

With many of the details ironed out, the AHL officially announced the Crunch would host the AHL skills competition on Jan. 31 with the All-Star Classic on Feb. 1 at the Onondaga County War Memorial.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-26-14 Rangers at Lightning

Game Four redux, unfortunately.

Eastern Conference Finals
Game Six

NYR-7
TB-3

Series Tied 3-3

Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 26 shots for the loss before giving way to Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed 1 goal on 7 shots the rest of the way. Bishop never looked completely comfortable in this game, but I can't really fault him on any of the 5 goals he allowed. The Rangers' first two goals had distinct puck luck elements to them off of soft point shots that hit traffic in front. The remaining 3 goals in the Third Period resulted from a complete defensive meltdown by the Lightning in front of Bishop, as they neglected to even attempt to play that side of the game down 2-1 coming out of the Second Intermission.

First Period
3:36 NYR Brassard (7), (Miller, Boyle)
15:30 NYR Yandle (2), (Brassard, Nash)
17:20 TB Callahan (1), (Stralman, Bishop)(PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
3:02 NYR Miller (1), (Brassard, Nash)
6:00 NYR Sheppard (1), (Moore, Glass)
7:14 NYR Brassard (8), (Miller, Nash)
7:50 TB Kucherov (8), (Johnson)
10:21 NYR Nash (5), (Yandle, Miller)(PP)
13:21 TB Kucherov (9), (Johnson, Nesterov)
18:19 NYR Brassard (9), (unassisted)(EN)

I'm just at a loss to explain what's transpired in both Game Four and Game Six of this series. I honestly can't fault the effort of the team in both games. As with Game Four, the Lightning had the majority of possession, shots, and chances through the first 40-45 minutes. Perhaps they didn't have the same quality of chances tonight as they did in Game Four, but still, they didn't necessarily deserve to be down 2-1 heading into the Third Period either. The Rangers rode a bit of puck luck and good goaltending to the advantage heading into the final frame. There, as in Game Four, the Lightning just absolutely left any pretense of playing defense in the locker room and just got burned to death because of it. They were so impatient to fly the zone to seek the equalizing goals they just absolutely went brain dead with turnovers and poor defensive zone coverage. Maybe it's better that Game Seven is on the road, because the team seems to have a healthy fear of those types of mistakes playing in the other team's barn that doesn't exist when they play at home lately.

I'll say this also: it's pretty clear if the Lightning are to win Game Seven it'll be a 5-on-7 victory, because the officiating tilted against the Lightning pretty hard tonight. For a team that had so much more possession, zone time, and the greater quantity of chances, the Lightning only got 2 power plays in the first 2 periods of the game, and none in a Second Period that they dominated. That just seems improbable bordering on impossible, and it's even more frustrating when you consider the phantom hooking call Nikita Kucherov got in the Second Period and the obviously embellished hooking call on Morrow that also came in the Second Period. When you contrast that against the pretty nasty slash Nikita Kucherov took away from the puck by Staal in this game (no call) and the pivotal non-call on a trip of Tyler Johnson that occurred early in the Third Period (again, no call), well...

I'll let you draw your own conclusions about which way the officiating will tilt in Game Seven. If I had my guess, it'll be an anything-goes affair where the refs will just about completely pocket their whistles and the Lightning will need a mixture of the defensive discipline they got in Game Five in MSG and the stellar goaltending they got against Detroit in their previous Game Seven in this playoff run. That's entirely possible, despite the media's breathless rush to proclaim the Lightning DOA based on the Rangers' all-time home Game Seven record. But, it requires the Lightning to buckle down mentally again like they did for Game Five. Honestly, they just need to realize they're still in a great spot. If you offered any team in the league the opportunity to play in Game Seven of their conference finals at the start of the year, they'd have taken it gladly and thanked you for the opportunity. That's all the Lightning need to take to heart after tonight. 7-3 aren't the numbers that matter. 3-3 and the chance to advance to the Stanley Cup finals with a single victory are. Things are never as bad as they appear, and a change of fortune and redemption are just a game away.

Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 2 penalty minutes in 11:00 of ice time.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Memorial Cup Game Night: 5-24-15

2015 MasterCard Memorial Cup
Round Robin

Quebec Remparts 4 vs Oshawa Generals 5 (OT)

W Adam Erne, QUE: 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, 3 Hits
Memorial Cup totals: 2 GP: 1-1-2, E, 2 PIM
QMJHL playoff totals: 22 GP, 21-9-30, +18, 17 PIM
Season totals: 60 GP, 41-45-86, +21, 102 PIM
2013-2014 Season: 48 GP, 21-41-62, -3, 65 PIM

Oshawa fought back from a late 4-3 deficit to tie the Remparts, then dominate overtime before claiming the win. After tweaking his knee in Quebec’s opener, Erne wasn’t his usual fast, gritty self on Sunday, but earned an assist after his hard wrist shot in the slot caromed off the end boards and right to linemate Dmytro Timoshov. The Gens got the game-tying goal from Tobias Lindberg, a Sens prospect chosen with the fourth rounder the Lightning sent to Ottawa as part of the Bishop-Conacher trade. Stephen Desrocher (undrafted) scored the overtime winner. Quebec (1-1) next plays on Tuesday in a rematch against Rimouski. Oshawa (2-0) has secured a spot in at least the semifinals.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-24-15 Lightning at Rangers

Tampa Bay whips New York at its own game.

Eastern Conference Finals
Game Five

TB-2
NYR-0

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 3-2

Ben Bishop stopped all 26 shots he faced behind a masterful defensive effort to get the shutout. He was challenged pretty hard by the talking heads in the media after allowing 10 goals total in the previous two games of the series, and he smothered what few chances the Rangers developed tonight. He was especially strong in the First Period as the Lightning played a classic road strategy where they successfully weathered the home club's early charge. In the end, U of Maine Justice reigned supreme, and were I a superstitious man I might be advocating having Nesterov hit Bishop in the tender bits during warm-ups before every game from here on out if that's the performance you end up getting out of it.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
13:29 TB Filppula (3), (Stamkos, Stralman)
18:22 TB Stamkos (7), (Palat, Kucherov)(PP)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Steven Stamkos, Bishop, and Valtteri Filppula were the game's three stars.

I am absolutely shocked at this result. Not so much that the Lightning won, mind you, but how they won was absolutely amazing. The Lightning essentially followed the Rangers' own recipe and baked up a sweet confection filled with defensive dominance. The Lightning typically do not play well without the puck. They are a possession team and they have looked lost for most of the past couple of years in games where the other team tilts the ice against them. Tonight, playing against an amped up Rangers team fresh off a 5-1 win on their home ice in MSG, they played a nearly flawless, defense-first road game where they comfortably absorbed the Rangers' pushes and eventually manufactured the goals they needed on a counter rush and late on the power play. At the heart of it all was a Herculean effort by the team's much-maligned penalty kill, which went 4-for-4 tonight and made the Rangers look positively non-threatening on their last 3 chances with the extra man. These are things I'm fairly certain the Lightning were not constructed for, and yet they executed that style with amazing efficiency. And, once they had that 2-goal lead, they put the lid on in the Third Period with a calmness they absolutely failed to muster in their Game Three victory that ended up getting pushed to Overtime.

So, I'll say this: If the Lightning continue to prove they can win games like this consistently when they don't have the lion's share of possession, I don't know how you can beat them in a 7-game series. They continue to shore up every major hole and weakness in their game little by little as these playoffs move along. Bad PK last year? Looked pretty good most of these playoffs. Non-existent power play all regular season? Now they're getting key goals at key times. Waiting on your franchise cornerstones (Stamkos and Hedman) to rise up and be the team's best players along with Bishop? Sure looked that way tonight. When you layer learning to play a strong defensive game without the puck and learning how to protect leads in tight games on top of that, they're on the verge of becoming positively terrifying to play against. And, imagine this: Vladislav Namestnikov, Jonathan Drouin, and Slater Koekkoek aren't even regular contributors to this team, yet. They'll be even more talented at this time next season. I won't throw the "dy" word out there quite yet, but you can see where this might be progressing. They haven't played their best hockey consistently yet, and yet they've still managed to put the veteran-laden President's Trophy winner on the ropes after disposing of the presumptive MVP netminder in the previous round and NHL royalty in the Red Wings in the opening series. It just shows how incredibly talented this team is.

Now, here's another test for the Lightning. Much like the Montreal series, you don't want this game to go to a Game Seven in their barn. You don't want to step foot in New York again until next season. Now: finish them. Put the offensive jump from Game Four together with the defensive play from Game Five and the finishing from Game Two and Game Three and put the Rangers away. Do so, and the team punches its ticket for the Stanley Cup Finals. To paraphrase Tyler Johnson, how cool is that?

Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 1 hit in 8:02, with his ice time limited in a tight game on the road with the team not holding last change. I have to say, I'm pleased how he's tightened up his game in the defensive zone after looking a little loose in that department in the Montreal series. He could be a monster in another year or two once he gets a full regular season in to develop further at the NHL level.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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