Holmqvist, Johan

NHL Playoff Game Night 4/12: Lightning at Devils

With any kind of goaltending, the Lightning would've won this game 3-1.

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Johan Holmqvist was awful in Game One. Awful. 5 goals on 24 shots in the loss and 3 of those were soft goals and the final goal of the game came on a terrible decision to move the puck rather than freezing it after he originally put his glove down on the biscuit on the play. Where do you go from here in net? Holmer's confidence might be 100% shattered right now. Denis has been publicly told to get lost, for all intents and purposes. And, while I have confidence in Karri Ramo and his abilities, he hasn't started a hockey game in close to a month and he's never started a game at the NHL level.

And the frustrating thing is the other 18 guys on the rink tonight for the Lightning definitely played well enough to win. They were the better team on balance. Vincent Lecavalier got loose for 2 goals. Martin St. Louis had 1 goal and 1 assist. Brad Richards, Dan Boyle and Vaclav Prospal all had assists. All the big guns, for the most part, got theirs and the Lightning also got particularly strong games from Jason Ward and Nick Tarnasky. Perhaps that's the silver lining: if the Lightning can find someone, ANYONE, who won't allow goals to go through them (the Devils' first goal), or to beat them on unscreened wristers from the side boards around the top of the circles (the Devils' second goal), or to get beaten on an emotionally deflating short side goal just moments after getting the game tied (the Devils fourth goal), then they should be able to handle New Jersey in this series.

On paper, the Lightning's goaltending situation is so much improved over last season, and yet there was something terribly Grahame-esque vs. Ottawa about Holmer tonight. Games Two and Three will be interesting.

Game sheet from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 4/7: Lightning at Thrashers

Lightning limp into the playoffs after missing out on a chance to move into the 6 seed in the shootout.

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Johan Holmqvist stopped 41 shots before allowing an uncustomary 3 shootout goals for his first career shootout loss. Vaclav Prospal and Filip Kuba had the Lightning goals. Kuba's 15 goals at season's end top Prospal's 14. Didn't see that one coming. Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Tim Taylor added individual assists.

The shootout loss slots the Lightning in as the #7 seed in the Eastern Conference. They will face #2 seeded New Jersey in the first round. Considering the Lightning were 3-1-0 in the regular season against the Devils and have one of the best records against the Devils over the past three seasons of any Eastern Conference team, this is definitely a series that the Lightning can win. The question is: are they right mentally after collapsing against Florida and evaporating in the third period and overtime against Atlanta in the regular season's final two games with so much on the line? Time will tell.

Game sheet from NHL.com.

Lightning Choke Harder

Most embarassing game in Lightning history. Ever.

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Johan Holmqvist allowed 4 goals on 12 shots before being pulled for Marc Denis who allowed 3 goals on 19 shots the rest of the way. Both were attrocious and I'm sure John Tortorella wished he had dressed Karri Ramo tonight instead. Jason Ward and Nick Tarnasky had goals in garbage time. Brad Richards, Shane O'Brien, Nolan Pratt and Ruslan Fedotenko got garbage tome assists.

The Lightning loss coupled with Atlanta's win tonight in Carolina makes the Thrashers the division champions. The Lightning's complete inability to secure winnable games against Florida in the final month of the season is the cause, and the Lightning have absolutely no one but themselves to blame. They should have been the 2006-2007 Southeast Division champions. They gave the banner away.

Tomorrow's game in Atlanta takes on diminished meaning. The Lightning will either finish with the #6 or #7 seed depending on what they and the Rangers do in their final games. A Lightning win and Rangers regulation loss gives Tampa a first round series with Atlanta. Any other set of results gives the Lightning a first round matchup with New Jersey. More importantly, Saturday's game will be a key opportunity to rebound psychologically from tonight's collapse. No one in their right mind would want to limp into New Jersey with a couple of season ending losses under these circumstances and try to upset such a battle tested franchise.

Game sheet from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 4/3: Hurricanes at Lightning

Enjoy your tee times "champs".

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Johan Holmqvist (just win baby) stopped 22 of 24 shots faced for the win. The Lightning got goals from Eric Perrin, Vincent Lecavalier and the The Showman, Dan Boyle. With all due respect to Marty and Vinny, Dan Boyle is, was, and always will be the most entertaining player on this club to watch night in and night out. If you spliced the genes of Bobby Orr and PT Barnum, the end product would be Dan Boyle. He is the NHL's best kept secret. He is also one of only a dozen or so players in this league who are worth paying money to see just in of himself along with the Crosbys of the world. He's that good, and he's got 20 goals this season to prove it. It's a crying shame the NHL doesn't recognize just what sensational marquee caliber player he is. Jason Ward, Nolan Pratt and Vaclav Prospal added assists.

The Lightning pull within 1 point of Atlanta in the division with the Thrashers holding a game in hand. And, with the Smirkin' Chikins having a date with Washington coming up, you're about to witness one of the handful of awkward occassions in my life where I've had to utter the phrase "lets go Caps". The math is painfully simple from here on out. Atlanta has to leave at least a point on the ice against either Washington or Carolina before the Lightning and Thrashers meet up in "Blue Land" (and it's recently annexed protectorate "Mortgaged the Future of My Franchise to Try to Save My Job Land" where Don Waddell presides as Prime Minister). If they do, the division title will be in play when the Lightning take the ice in the season finale with the #3 seed, the home ice, the division title and a percentage of the proceeds from Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue's last shady land deal all up for grabs. Don't choke Atlanta.

Game sheet from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 3/31: Capitals at Lightning

If Vincent Lecavalier played in a bigger market, there'd be no doubt who the MVP would be this season.

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Johan Holmqvist stopped 23 of 25 shots faced for the win. Vincent Lecavalier had 1 goal and 2 assists to boost his season point total to 106. If you had a fever that high, you'd be dead. Dan Boyle had 1 goal and 1 assist and is now just one goal shy of the difficult to reach 20 goal mark for a defenseman. Also with 1 goal (shorthanded) and 1 assist Martin St. Louis goes into triple digits with a sick but still non-lethal 101. And, Cory Sarich had a multi-point night with 2 assists?!?!? Stock up on canned goods, people. Ryan Craig and Jason Ward had the other Lightning goals with individual helpers going to Paul Ranger, Andreas Karlsson, Filip Kuba and Vaclav Prospal.

With the win the Lightning keep pace with Atlanta three points back in the division with their head-to-head match up still on tap in the season finale. They gain two points on the Islanders, who lost tonight, and maintain their gap on victorious Toronto, Montreal and the Rangers.

Some numbers to consider as we enter the waning games of the season:
-As mentioned, with one more goal Dan Boyle will reach 20 goals for a defenseman.
-With 4 more points, Filip Kuba would reach the 40 point plateau. Difficult, but not impossible.
-Despite missing almost 10 games with a knee injury, Paul Ranger is 3 points shy of the 30 point plateau. Also difficult, but not impossible.
-Netminder Johan Holmqvist recorded his 26th win of the season last night. Even if the Lightning run the table, he cannot reach 30 wins. Darn the flu.

Game sheet from NHL.com.

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