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Quick Strikes: Lightning and Crunch both looking better in their most recent games

Also: Cory Conacher discusses “Miracle, Baby” with ESPN Syracuse

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Lightning

-The Tampa Bay Lightning lined up at Montreal last night to take on the Canadiens. Going into the game, the coaching staff seemed to be tinkering with the team’s line up.

In practice yesterday, Ondrej Palat was moved to Tyler Johnson’s line and Alex Killorn was back on the line with Anthony Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph, his most common linemates during last season.

The biggest changes were on the blueline. Jon Cooper separated the McDonagh-Cernak pair, probably the most balanced and defensively reliable pair on the Tampa Bay Lightning roster last season. At practice, Eric Cernak worked with Victor Hedman, which should give Hedman more space for offensive action. Ryan McDonagh found himself on a pair with Kevin Shattenkirk.

As of gametime, it sure seemed like some of the changes were sticking, at least:

Going into the game, forward Mathieu Joseph emphasized playing the right way...

...While Tyler Johnson stressed mentality:

So...Did the tinkering help? Well....Good news, Bolts fans!

The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Tuesday night meaning they’ve now alternated wins and losses in their last four games. The Bolts got goals from Braydon Coburn, Steven Stamkos, and Tyler Johnson in the victory. Andrei Vasileksiy was the best player on the ice for either team making several stellar saves and ensuring that the lead held up under multiple flurries of heavy pressure from Montreal.

Coburn especially enjoyed the game, and showed it by scoring against his old friend Cory Price.

After the game, Stamkos credited both Vasilevskiy and the team’s penalty kill for holding down the game.

-The Lightning’s home game on Saturday, October 26th will be Alzheimer’s Awareness Night.

The Crunch

-After a weekend sweep of the Cleveland Monsters, the Syracuse Crunch are looking much better than they were two weekends ago, writes Justin in this week’s Crunch Corner.

While it’s still too early to see the identity of this season’s team, there are some carryover trends from last season. When they get space in the neutral zone they can generate speed and cause issues for their opponents. Their power play (33%) is lethal and the penalty kill is solid.

So far Coach Groulx has started each game with different line combinations. Despite being a veteran-heavy team, the players haven’t had much game action together, so it might be another few games or so until he figures out the right combination. One thing he hasn’t done much of so far is tinker with the combinations throughout the game. He’s giving them a chance to get used to each other and find some chemistry. It will be interesting to see if some of the combinations (especially the Dennis Yan-Gemel Smith-Cory Conacher line) stay together for Wednesday’s game.

-Conacher was on with Brent Axe on ESPN Syracuse yesterday, promoting both the team’s opening night festivities this weekend and his new biopic, Miracle, Baby, which was screened this past weekend at the Syracuse International Film Festival.

-Crunch goalie Scott Wedgewood has a new mask:

-I...I don’t know what’s happening here, but Future Captain (TM) Daniel Walcott is always a good sport.

-Speaking of the captaincy:

The Solar Bears

-Members of the Orlando Solar Bears, the Lightning’s ECHL affiliate, broke down their jersey numbers in the team’s practice report from yesterday.

7 – Tyler Bird: Bird, a Massachusetts native, wears the number 7 in honor of Hockey Hall of Famer Phil Esposito, whose number 7 was retired by the Boston Bruins in 1987. “He’s a legend at [TD Garden],” explained Bird.

-Those going to see the OSB this weekend need to be aware of road closures due to IMMERSE 2019.

The Game

-Hardev has thoughts on the Toronto Marlies, AHL farm club of the Toronto Maple Leaf. Many, many thoughts. So many thoughts.

Man, oh man. Jeremy Bracco looked like he was playing junior hockey out there while everyone else was playing professional hockey. Sloppy with the puck, lazy without it. I don’t really know what to say. I was really hoping that Bracco would prove me wrong over the summer and come back with a smidgen of attention towards his play without the puck. The offense is undeniable, that’s not an issue. He won’t get to the NHL without understanding how to back check. He just won’t. And I’m positive I’m not the only one to have yelled this in his ear over the last 12 months. Brad Marchand Batman? Maybe?

-2019 first overall pick Jack Hughes has been facing a boatload of criticism over his reported “slow start.” But is his start really that slow? Not when you compare it to a host of other players, including Lighting captain Steven Stamkos.

Another All-Star, Stammer went his first seven without finding his name on the score sheet. He finished his rookie season with a modest 46 points in 79 games but dominated with 51 goals and 44 apples in his sophomore season. He remains one of the league’s top scorers today.

-Early-season NHL is so fun!

-Sidney Crosby has a “Learn to Play Hockey” program that’s in a league of its own.

For the first time in its 53-year history, the Johnstown Warriors Cambria Youth Hockey Program rostered an all-girls team (12-and-under) for the 2019-20 PAHL season. They call themselves “Crosby’s Girls” since all 17 girls started out participating in Sidney Crosby’s unique Little Penguins “Learn to Play Hockey” program.


“Every single girl, all 17 of them, started with Little Penguins. That’s why we have a team now,” Hudspeth said. “This doesn’t happen without him. We are so grateful.”

-Monday was Kids Day at the New Jersey Devils game, and they came up with a hilariously different promotional tool.

Says Geo: “Miles Wood skipped Leg Day.”

-The Devils may just be in the market to replace head coach John Hynes after a slow start. Who might get the nod?

This season was supposed to be a big one for the Devils. But with the season nearly 10% over, it’s time for them to start pondering which changes they should make. Changing the roster likely won’t help, as they’ve already tried making massive changes there. The next logical place to look is behind the bench.

-Two former Syracuse goalies came together to chat when Mike McKenna had recently-retired netminder Michael Leighton on his podcast this week.

-Max Pacioretty of the Vegas Golden Knights is 30, but he doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

“My body feels a lot better than it did last year at this time,” Pacioretty said before the season. “Now I’ve just got to go out there and play and put it all together.”

-”Yer a wizard, goalie.”

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