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Quick Strikes: Carter Verhaeghe named to the 2018-19 AHL First All-Star Team

And there’s a playoff game tonight!

Courtesy of Scott Thomas Photography

The Prospects

Do you ever just not want to read what people outside of your own site have to say about the Tampa Bay Lightning? I mean, that’s literally my job here, but give me a moment. Let’s lead with some awesome news about Syracuse Crunch player Carter Verhaeghe. For his outstanding play this season, he’s been named to the AHL First All-Star Team. From the look of it, he’s joining some excellent company.

We also have some transaction news ahead of the AHL playoffs. The Lightning have sent Cameron Gaunce back to the Syracuse Crunch, and signed two other players to PTOs. Interesting news, right? I guess some juggling has to happen when all three teams in the system are in playoffs.

Tampa Bay Lightning re-assign Cameron Gaunce and sign two players to PTOs for Syracuse Crunch [Raw Charge]

The PTO players have the feeling of what the Lightning and Crunch did at the end of last season. In an effort to rest some players, the Lightning brought up ECHL players to fill in the gaps as they finished out the last week of the season.

Nick Bligh is a 26 year old, 6’0 185 pound center. Bligh was never drafted and went the NCAA route playing with Dartmouth College where he compiled 42 points in 96 games. Like Bligh, Jack Stander went the NCAA route after failing to be drafted. He spent four seasons playing for Canisius College putting up 29 points in 147 games played.

In a related move, my home-town Orlando Solar Bears got back some players. Jonne Tammela and Matthew Spencer are back to assist the Solar Bears in their playoff push against the Carolina Stingrays. They dropped the first game 2-0 behind the goaltending of Connor Ingram. [Pro Hockey News, Don Money]

The battle between Milner and Solar Bears netminder Connor Ingram was simply specatcular. Like Milner, Ingram was almost perfect from a positioning standpoint, stopping all but the one shot by Mitchell to equal his opponent.

Solar Bears vs. Stingrays game two is tonight at Amway Arena, 7 PM.

Believe it or not, there are some prospects who aren’t on the Crunch yet. The two Coles (Koepke and Guttman) were in Buffalo trying to lead their respective teams to victory in the NCAA’s Frozen Four. Seldo was there and he asked Cole Koepke the hard hitting questions you would expect: [Raw Charge]

What’s your favourite chip flavour?

Salt & Vinegar.

Do you have the blue bags in Minnesota?

Yeah?

In Canada we have green bags and it throws me off.

What? That would mess me up. I’d think I was grabbing jalapeno or something.

Koepke and the University of Minnesota-Duluth advanced with a 4-1 win over Providence while Cole Guttman and the Denver Pioneers lost in overtime to UMass, 4-3.

The Bolts

I know this sounds crazy, but Playoffs Alex Killorn is likely just a product of good shooting percentage, or so I hear from the editor of Pension Plan Puppets.

Shooting Percentage rules in the NHL playoffs [PPP]

I’m the big wet blanket here, saying that Killorn is just a guy who has had some luck (and a couple of his playoff seasons are really not exceptional at all). Klutch Killorn is way more fun and much was made on the television coverage about that. It is fun, and I’ll understand anyone who wants to narrativize on the results because it is fun. But it’s not a genuine evaluation of the player.

GeoFitz had some thoughts about Wednesday’s game. [Raw Charge]

Losing the first game isn’t the end of the world either. In the previous 11 playoff series for the Lightning, going back to the 2013-14 playoffs, the team is 4-7 in game ones. Following four of those game one losses, the Lightning went on to win the series, include two Gentlemen’s Sweeps of winning the next four to finish the series out in five games. There’s still a chance for the Lightning to do that. Oh, by the way before I forget, two other home teams lost last night as well with the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets falling.

Loserpoints spilled all our secrets to the Blue Jackets SBN site, Jackets Cannon. Know thy enemy: a Q&A with Raw Charge [Jackets Cannon]

The depth players to get to know are Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak. Cirelli has been one of the best defensive forwards in the league all year and he sprinkles in enough offense to have top six potential for most NHL teams. He anchors the third line in Tampa and we already saw how great they can be in game one.

And this was very sweet: Stanley Cup guardian Mike Bolt thinks the trophy would like to come back to Tampa Bay [Creative Loafing]

“I fell in love with Tampa back in ‘04,” Bolt — who’s neutral on who he roots for in the NHL — told CL during the Cup’s Thursday afternoon visit to the Tampa postcard mural in downtown. That’s the last time the Lightning won the Stanley Cup, and Bolt (yes, that’s his real last name) has been to town a few times since then.

He said that he loves the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, Bolts fans and the beautiful weather. Bolt, a Toronto native born and raised in the Golden Horseshoe area in southern Ontario, has enjoyed watching Tampa’s downtown develop and tells everyone around the league that Tampa Bay is one of the NHL’s best markets.

OK so then I did a Google News search for Tampa Bay Lightning and the headlines all include the phrase “bounce back,” “stunned,” or “humbled”, and I really don’t feel like wading through the bullshit to find the gems. Here’s my search string in case you’re feeling much more masochistic than I am. Enjoy!

Playoffs recap from last night, by JustinG

Take it away, Justin!

Toronto 4, Boston 1 (Toronto leads series 1-0)

Boston became the fourth home team to lose their series opener as Toronto came into the Garden and beat them 4-1. Mitch Marner scored twice (including on a penalty shot) as he continues to drive up the cost of his next contract. The Holdout (William Nylander) and The Hero (John Tavares) each added a goal while Fredrick Anderson stopped 37 shots. Patrice Bergeron, one of the likable Bruins, scored for Boston. [Pension Plan Puppets]

They said the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t hold a lead. They did. They said the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t play a full 60 minutes of hockey. They did. They said the Toronto Maple Leafs couldn’t beat the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. They did.

Washington 4, Carolina 2 (Washington leads series 1-0)

Andrei Svechnikov scored twice for the Carolina Hurricanes. Unfortunately that was the only offense the upstart ‘Canes could muster. Washington held off a late surge to open their defense of the Stanley Cup with a victory. Niklas Backstrom scored twice and Alex Ovechkin scored his 62nd playoff goal (in his career, not the game, because that would be a record) as the Caps jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. Unlike the Lightning, they were able to hold onto the lead. Lars Eller added an empty net goal to seal the game. John Carlson tied a NHL record by assisting on all three first-period goals. [Japers’ Rink]

So when T.J. Oshie took a penalty with 3:31 left, everyone in the building understood this contest was going to come right down to the wire. But a valiant last-minute effort from penalty killers like Nic Dowd, Brooks Orpik, and Lars Eller successfully staved off the danger, and an empty-net dagger from Eller finally put this one away. The Capitals were your 4-2 victors in Game 1.

Calgary Flames 4, Colorado Avalanche 0 (Calgary leads series 1-0)

Who had Mike Smith recording the first shutout of the 2019 playoffs? You did? Nope, no you didn’t. You didn’t even know he was starting tonight. The former Lightning netminder stopped 26 shots as the Flames beat the Avalanche 4-0 to open their season. It was Smith’s first playoff shutout (and his first playoff win) since May 20th, 2012 when he stopped all 36 shots against the Los Angeles Kings. Granted he hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2012, but still that’s a pretty healthy stretch between clean sheets.

Matthew Tkackuk (who was 14-years-old the last time Smith was in the playoffs) scored twice (only 26 more to match his papa’s career playoff total). Mikael Backlund and Andrew Mangiapane had the other two markers for the Flames. Just for fun, Smith also assisted on Tkachuk’s empty-net goal. [Mile High Hockey]

The Avalanche could do nothing but throw their hands up in wonderment on how they could get anything past Smith, as was evident when Nathan MacKinnon collected the puck, turned on the jets and fired an absolute laser that Smith nabbed with his glove like the reflexes of a cat.