Tampa Bay Lightning
Most "ginormous-est" win of the season thus far.
Johan Holmqvist played well stopping 26 of 28 shots for the win. Vincent Lecavalier had an MVP caliber performance with 1 goal and 2 assists on 11 shots on goal in the victory. The goal was his 50th of the season and Lecavalier now sits at 103 points through 78 games. Wow. Vaclav Prospal also had a multi-point night with 1 goal and 1 assist and Martin St. Louis and the scoring machine that is Filip Kuba had the other Lightning goals. Shane O'Brien and Paul Ranger had individual assists.
The win moves the Lightning back to within 3 points of Atlanta in the division with a game in hand. The most minute stumble by the Thrashers could set up an epic season finale with first round home ice and a division banner at stake. In addition, the Lightning open up a 3 point lead on 9th place and leapfrog the Rangers into 6th in the conference.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Now that the new affiliation agreement between the Lightning and the Norfolk Admirals is in place, I want to take this opportunity to welcome Ads fans to Bolt Prospects. I've seen a lot of questions being asked around the internet about the Lightning's minor league system and their previous affiliations in the AHL. I would encourage anyone who has questions to poke around Bolt Prospects. Check the blog archives for stories and game reviews. And, by all means, feel free to register here at Bolt Prospects and talk to the growing community of Lightning fans.
For those wanting to know even more, I would recommend spending some time here on Bolt Prospects thumbing through the player profiles on the Prospects page. Bolt Prospects prides itself on having the most complete and most detailed Lightning prospect profiles on the internet and we're the only site on the web that conducts evaluations of a team's prospects three times a season, so we think we've developed a very valuable source of Lightning prospect information.
For those wanting to know where the Lightning minor league system is going, I think it's important to look at it's past. With that in mind, I would point you toward this article I wrote in May of 2003 prior to the Lightning's full affiliation with Springfield which details the team's history of minor league affiliations. Although I'm loathe to point any web traffic toward Hockeys Future, to my knowledge the article is the most complete history on the Lightning's minor league system.
Finally, for those looking for information about who the Lightning might be bringing into the system for next season's team, I would suggest taking a look at one of our prior blog posts here on Bolt Prospects which speculates on eight possible additions to the organization once the summer hits. While it is just speculation at this point, I think it's a decent starting point as a primer for the offseason to come. And, with the exception of one addendum I would make in that we have learned the Lightning are making a run at signing goaltender Vasily Koshechkin this summer, I think it's pretty complete.
In closing, I'd just like to add one thing about the Lightning organization and their minor league operation. A lot of negative things have been written about the Lightning's affiliation in Springfield over the past three years. Much of it is probably fair because although I honestly believe the Lightning's minor league system has improved greatly over that time period, especially in terms of their talent level, the results did not come in Springfield. But, while it is true to say the team's youngsters have underperformed over the past three years (especially this year), it's not true to say the Lightning don't care about their developmental system or about winning at the AHL level. Over the past three years Jay Feaster and the Lightning have invested heavily to acquire numerous veteran free agents to try and help the Falcons and in a proven winning coach in the AHL in Steve Stirling. We cannot promise that the transition to our organization and our system of play will be pain free and easy. Obviously it hasn't been over the past few years in Springfield. But, I can promise that the Lightning organization will always put forth an honest effort to make the Admirals a winner and to acheive the ultimate long term goal of winning championships at the AHL level.
The Virginian Pilot reports the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League announced today they have signed a five-year affiliation deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Pilot reports Tampa Bay executive vice president and general manager Jay Feaster said at the press conference that the Lightning was not happy with the on-ice results at Springfield and vowed to put a winning team in Norfolk.
Norfolk has never missed the AHL playoffs.
Current Springfield head coach Steve Stirling and assistant coach Darren Rumble will remain under contract to the Lightning and will coach the Admirals next season.
Tampa Bay will provide the Admirals with the full roster of players.
In the Lightning's official press release, Feaster said:
â€œWe are very excited by the opportunity to partner with such an outstanding organization as Norfolk and such a committed owner in Ken Young. Throughout our discussions and negotiations Kenâ€™s passion for and commitment to his team, the organization and the wonderful fans of the Admirals has been abundantly evident and we look forward to working with him for a very long time.
â€œWhile the development of players has always been important to the Lightning organization, the need to develop players is even more critical as a result of the NHLâ€™s new collective bargaining agreement. We are committed to the ongoing development of our players and we remain convinced that our players will develop faster and more completely in a winning organization.â€
Young added the following:
â€œI could not be happier to have the Admirals affiliated with the Tampa Bay Lightning. We are thrilled to be able to partner with such a successful and first-class organization for the next several years. Personally, I have watched the Lightning from their inception and through winning the Stanley Cup. I am confident that our fans in Hampton Roads will continue to see winning hockey at the highest level.â€
For more information on Young and the affiliation history of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Hampton Roads, Virginia, see tampabaylightning.com.
Marc Denis allowed 3 goals on 17 shots for the loss before being replaced by Johan Holmqvist who stopped 7 of 7 shots in relief before Florida tacked on a pair of empty net markers. Brad Richards and Filip Kuba had the Lightning goals. Jason Ward, Eric Perrin and Martin St. Louis added assists.
Four games left in the season and the Lightning no longer control their division title and at night's end they will likely be just 2 points out of 9th place. Oh yeah, and they've got to go on the road and play the defending champions next in Carolina. Heckuva time to start squeezing the sticks too tightly.
If Jason Ward is smart, he'll take less to stay in Tampa and continue playing on Brad Richards' line.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
According to an article in tomorrowâ€™s Virginian Pilot, the Norfolk Admirals will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. Thursday at which they are expected to announce that the Tampa Bay Lightning will be their new NHL affiliate.
The Lightning will fill the void created last Monday when the Chicago Blackhawks, the Admirals' NHL partner for the past seven years, announced a 10-year AHL agreement with Rockford, Ill., beginning with the 2007-08 season.
Tampa Bay and Springfield (Mass.), the Lightning's current AHL affiliate, exercised an "out" clause and mutually agreed to terminate their deal with two years remaining. Springfield promptly agreed to a three-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers.
For more information, see: Admirals Expected to Affiliate with NHLâ€™s Tampa Bay Lightning