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CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-24-15

Ontario Hockey League
Western Conference Finals

West-2 Erie Otters 5 @ West-1 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 2
Best-of-7 series tied, 1-1

D Anthony DeAngelo, SOO: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 10 GP, 0-14-14, +14, 10 PIM
With SSM: 26 GP, 15-36-51, +33, 51 PIM
With Sarnia: 29 GP, 10-28-38, +1, 64 PIM
Season totals: 55 GP, 25-64-89, +34, 115 PIM
2013-14 totals: 51 GP, 15-56-71, -34, 90 PIM

Sault Ste. Marie lost its first game of the playoffs and first in 13 games overall, falling 5-2 at home to Erie in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. Anthony DeAngelo was scoreless for the third straight game. Connor McDavid had two goals for Erie and fellow likely top-4 pick Dylan Strome also had two. The Otters scored three goals on six shots in the third period, though one was an empty-netter. Game 3 is Sunday in Erie.

Western Hockey League
Eastern Conference Finals

East-2 Calgary Hitmen 4 @ East-1 Brandon Wheat Kings 9
Brandon leads best-of-7 series, 1-0

D Ben Thomas, CAL: 0-1-1, -1, 0 PIM
Playoff totals: 12 GP, 0-4-4, -3, 2 PIM
Season totals: 60 GP, 7-24-31, +16, 28 PIM
2013-14 totals: 72 GP, 7-24-31, +11, 39 PIM

Calgary erased a 2-0 deficit to tie top-seeded Brandon 2-2 early in the second period, then the Wheat Kings rattled off seven of the game’s next eight goals. Game 2 is Saturday in Brandon.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 4-24-15 Crunch at Penguins

Can't stop the bleeding.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Game One

SYR- 1
WBS- 5

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Leads the Series 1-0

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 4 goals on 20 shots for the loss before giving way to Adam Wilcox, who allowed 1 goal on 15 shots the rest of the way. Coach Zettler is tasked with the impossible task of choosing between a streaky goaltender who appears to have gone completely cold and a rookie ATO who has never won a professional game for Game Two. Flip a coin.

First Period
WBS Uher, (1) (Kuhnhackl, Rowney), 16:52

Second Period
WBS Kapanen, (1) (Megna), 6:03
WBS Rowney, (1) (Goers, Uher), 6:34
WBS Kapanen, (2) (Goers, Megna), 7:43
SYR Peca, (1) (Angelidis, Vermin), 14:00

Third Period
WBS Syvret, (1) (Rowney, Sheary), 12:32

Syracuse entered the playoffs having won just 1 of their last 10 down the stretch, and they got dominated tonight. It's not just that they didn't get the goaltending, but they also got outshot 35-23 as well, which gives you an idea of run of play. There's a small silver lining with Matthew Peca getting his first pro playoff goal, but it's super, super small. The Pens pinned a -4 on Syracuse's offensive bell cow, Jonathan Marchessault, and if Marchessault's line can't win their shifts, then Syracuse likely has no prayer.

Honestly, I've got no helpful suggestions or tweaks that I can suggest at this juncture. I kept waiting for this team to gel with all the roster changes and ATO additions down the stretch, and it simply hasn't happened.

Game Two is tomorrow night.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-23-15

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
Semifinals

QMJHL-4 Quebec Remparts 4 @ QMJHL-2 Moncton Wildcats 1
Quebec leads best-of-7 series, 1-0

W Adam Erne, QUE: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, 1/5 FO, 0 Hits
Playoff totals: 12 GP, 11-3-14, +4, 6 PIM
Season totals: 60 GP, 41-45-86, +21, 102 PIM
2013-2014 Season: 48 GP, 21-41-62, -3, 65 PIM

After more than a week of waiting, the Quebec Remparts were back in action Thursday night, defeating the Moncton Wildcats in Game 1 of their league semifinal series. The Wildcats played Game 7 of their quarterfinal match-up against Halifax on Tuesday. Quebec spotted Moncton a 1-0 lead after the first period before scoring four times to end the game. Game 2 is Saturday.

Ontario Hockey League
Western Conference Finals

West-2 Erie Otters 3 @ West-1 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 6
Sault Ste. Marie leads best-of-7 series, 1-0

D Anthony DeAngelo, SOO: 0-0-0, +3, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 9 GP, 0-14-14, +15, 10 PIM
With SSM: 26 GP, 15-36-51, +33, 51 PIM
With Sarnia: 29 GP, 10-28-38, +1, 64 PIM
Season totals: 55 GP, 25-64-89, +34, 115 PIM
2013-14 totals: 51 GP, 15-56-71, -34, 90 PIM

Sault Ste. Marie drew first blood in their highly anticipated match-up against second-seeded Erie with a 6-3 win Thursday. The Greyhounds skated out to a 3-0 lead before future Edmonton Oiler Connor McDavid scored a natural hat trick to tie the game. The Soo responded with three more goals to claim the win. Lightning prospect Anthony DeAngelo was scoreless for the second straight game. It was the first time since early November that he went two games in a row without earning at least a point. Game 2 is Friday.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 4-23-15 Lightning at Red Wings

Miracle in Motown.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Game Four

TB-3
DET-2 (OT)

Series Tied 2-2

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 24 shots for the OT victory. The softie from distance he allowed in the Second Period appeared to be the soul crushing final nail in the game (and possibly the Lightning's season). But, that was before Tyler Johnson became a legend...

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
5:42 DET Nyquist (1), (Zetterberg, Abdelkader)
14:24 DET Andersson (1), (Sheahan, Jurco)

Third Period
14:34 TB Johnson (3), (Stralman)
15:51 TB Palat (1), (Johnson, Garrison)

Overtime
2:25 TB Johnson (4), (Hedman, Palat)

Tyler Johnson and Anton Stralman were the game's first and third stars.

Make no mistake, the Lightning stole this game. With under six minutes to play in the Third Period, this team was getting fitted for a toe tag. They were done. They were absolutely dominated from the start of the Second Period on and it looked like tee times were just around the corner. And then, somehow, Tyler Johnson pylonized Darren Helm on the rush around the corner and made it 2-1, and then he found Ondrej Palat on the rush to make it 2-2, and then he finished off an Overtime 3-on-1 on the rush to complete perhaps the most impossible, miraculous moment in Lightning postseason history.

I'm still stunned it happened, and don't know exactly what happens from hereon out. I thought after Game Two that Petr Mrazek's veil of invincibility was put to bed, and that didn't work out so well. So, I'm not ready to kick dirt on the young netminder or the Red Wings' grave after that win. With that said, it has to have some sort of effect on your morale when you have a series darn near won and you wet the bed with under six minutes left to go in a game you lead 2-0 that you've absolutely dominated. Now the Lightning head home to start a 3-game series where they have home ice advantage with a lot of belief that they can do... well... just about anything after that victory.

On the downside, the power play again went 0-for-4 and we're still waiting for Steven Stamkos to light the lamp in this series. I'd say it was a complete swing and a miss for the franchise cornerstones tonight, but Victor Hedman's sweet assist on the Johnson OT winner was obviously huge. I'm beginning to think we may just need to accept the fact Hedman's not a natural PP QB running things in the offensive third from the point despite the fact he's absolutely dominant on the rush.

By the way, refs, don't think we didn't notice that pick on Drouin that wasn't called on Detroit's second goal and that phantom call on Ben Bishop for the unimaginable crime of standing in his crease while a Detroit player skated by and tripped over him. Bummy performance by the officials.

Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:40. The coaching staff had to be more guarded with Nesterov's use on the road with the Wings having last change. So, we may see more of him in Game Five at home that we've seen in Game Three and Game Four.

One final post script: when you win a game like that, you kind of have to win the series now, don't you?

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 4-21-15 Lightning at Red Wings

Out-of-sync Lightning reach a crossroads.

Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Game Three

TB-0
DET-3

Detroit Leads the Series 2-1

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 20 shots for the loss. The man got no goal support, so I can't exactly fault him.

First Period
8:46 DET Datsyuk (2), (Tatar, Ericsson)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
6:42 DET Sheahan (1), (Abdelkader, Zetterberg)
19:11 DET Glendening (2), (Ericsson)(EN)

Well, that was simultaneously frustrating and embarrassing. Fresh off of dominating Game Two, the Lightning decided to take their foot off the gas in Game Three. That, coupled with some poor puck luck (3 posts and 3 missed open sides) and the re-disappearance of the team's power play (0-for-6), led to the Lightning reaching their first real crisis of faith of the postseason (btw, in the Lightning's 2 losses in the series they were a combine 0-for-13 on the PP, so this isn't brain surgery, is it?). They're either going to implode under this pressure now, or they're going to hunker down and refocus on the basics and good habits.

What basics? First, the passing tonight was atrocious. It's been a little off all series, but it was really off tonight, with the Lightning missing a lot of potential chances to break in on Detroit because passes were 6-12 inches off target. Giving and receiving passes is pretty basic, and the Lightning need to get back to completing those fundamentals well. The power play, obviously, needs to click. Mind you, then should've had at least 1 PP goal on the 5-on-3 chance that Tyler Johnson clanged off the crossbar, but the work needs to continue on having a moving power play that puts pressure on Detroit and has less instances where the puck touches the boards and puts the Lightning in a position where they're retrieving the puck rather than attacking with it. That means bodies moving and correct pass/shot selection, timing, and precision. Last, the physicality of Game Two nearly evaporated in Game Three. Detroit would love nothing better than to play an antiseptic tactical game with shot totals in the low-20's, because they've been playing their system forever. The Lightning need to pummel their D like they did in Game Two and get them out of their comfort zone, because opportunities will flow from there.

Beyond those basics, here's a basic issue we've talked about all season long that reared its head yet again: your two franchise cornerstones have got to be your best players. Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, at this point of their careers, should be the Lightning's bell cows. They should be leading this team to the promised land and anything you get from the Triplets, the 4th line, etc., should be gravy. Hedman, like in Game One, played another fairly benign 23 minutes of hockey where he wasn't terrible, but he certainly wasn't the assertive Victor Hedman that can absolutely take over games. And Stamkos had 2 shots and only 3 shot attempts all game long while still seeking his first goal of this postseason. That's not going to cut it. These two guys have got to be the ringleaders. If they are, everything will fall in place behind them.

Also, sometimes even the best laid plans just need to be crumpled up and set on fire, and that's the case with the third line of Vladislav Namestnikov, Valtteri Filppula, and Cedric Paquette. That's three centermen, two of which don't really play wing all that well, and they've been a train wreck in this series. Tonight they got totally exposed on the road with Detroit having last change. That line's got to be broken up. Got to be. They're bad. Were it my choice, and assuming Garrison's available, I believe I'd risk losing Paquette's contributions on the PK to sit he and Namestnikov for Garrison and Drouin in Game Four, playing 7 defensemen. My goal would be to put my 18 best even strength players on the rink while also using the extra shifts available in an 11 forward lineup to try to light a fire under Stamkos, because sparking 91 may be a matter of postseason survival at this juncture.

Just so I can't be accused of being all negative, the bright side of Game Three was the continued emergence of Andrej Sustr as a two-way rock star. It's like, upon potting that back door goal in Game Two, Sustr had a moment like John Belushi in the Blues Brothers in the church scene with James Brown when he his mission to save the orphanage. Those rays of truth hit him, the angels sang, and the Godfather of Soul confirmed that yes, Andrej Sustr has seen the light. The last 1-1/2 games he's played the kind of assertive 2-way game he played with Syracuse in their Calder Cup finals run a few years back, where instead of being a pin cushion absorbing the other team's offensive pressure, he uses his hockey sense to create offense and put some pressure on theirs. It's a beautiful thing, and if he keeps it up the future looks bright with he and Nesterov both playing well in this series.

Nikita Nesterov was -1 in 15:27. I'd like to see him get back to shooting the puck more. He's taken more of the facilitation role on the PP in the last 2 games, and that's fine when it's clicking, but when you're 0-for-4 halfway through a game, time to simplify and create some greasy goals for your teammates, in my opinion.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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