Quick Strikes: The Tampa Bay Lightning organization rings in the new year
Things are in a very strong position here in TamaCuseLando Land, and we have the proof right here.
Welcome to 2019, Lightning Land. If the position the organization ended 2018 in is any indication, it’s going to be a good year. The Tampa Bay Lightning, the Syracuse Crunch, and even the Orlando Solar Bears ended the year riding pretty high. The organization as a whole is strong, very strong, maybe stronger than it has ever been.
Of course, it must be acknowledged that hockey time and real time are measured differently. The hockey season runs October-April/June, while real time runs December-January. The phrase “last year” when used in hockey articles tends to really mean “last season,” a time period which may or may not actually line up with a difference in the number year. Honestly, a new year in the real world doesn’t actually change much in the hockey world, but that doesn’t make the place the organization is in on the first day of 2019 any less significant.
Just where is that place? Well, as of yesterday afternoon, it was here:
Ridiculous stat of the day: Of the 62 NHL and AHL teams, Tampa Bay's plus-50 goal differential leads all teams.— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) December 31, 2018
Sitting in second place is their #AHL affiliate in Syracuse at plus-42.
Granted, Syracuse had their 10-1 victory over Utica helping that stat, but...still. That’s a pretty damn impressive combination. Then, there was this (after the Lightning’s victory):
The @TBLightning and @SyracuseCrunch finished the 2018 portion of their schedules with a combined record of 51-15-4 (.757) pic.twitter.com/w8gYMzUwnz— AHL Communications (@AHLPR) January 1, 2019
Going into last night’s game at Anaheim, the Lightning were truly rolling as the best team in the NHL. Geo broke down their run over the past month and a half during his game day preview:
The Lightning have won five straight and have collected points in 14 games in a row. Going back to 11/15 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Lightning are 18-2-1. During this stretch, the Lightning have played some of the best hockey we’ve seen from this core group. That’s despite having key contributors Andrei Vasilevskiy and Anton Stralman missing time due to injury.
The Lightning went on to win that game in OT, by a 2-1 final. After the Lightning’s victory, their record for the 2018 portion of the season was 19-2-1. Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up his 100th NHL victory.
Not a bad way to finish 2018, huh?— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) January 1, 2019
Congrats, Vasy!! 🦁⚡️ #TBLvsANA pic.twitter.com/XwcUPo6Ve2
The Crunch, while not quite so far ahead of everyone else in the AHL as the Lightning is in the NHL, was also making noise over the past month and a half. Since their Sunday, November 11th victory against the Hershey Bears, the Crunch is 17-3-1. They’re first in the North Division (by points percentage). Head coach Ben Groulx is in the All-Star game.
#SyrCrunch Head Coach Ben Groulx will coach the North Division at the 2019 #AHLAllStar Classic.— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) December 31, 2018
Groulx has earned this honor twice in three seasons as Crunch head coach.
📝: https://t.co/ZyHix1z2w0 pic.twitter.com/HjUIcXo0yx
As always, coach Ben was eager to deflect attention from himself and onto the players and coaches he works with when talking about this honor.
“You got to be happy with our place in the standings obviously, but we’re more a day-to-day coaching style here.”#SyrCrunch Head Coach Ben Groulx on where the team is 30 games in. pic.twitter.com/8vtJKVJOvZ— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) December 31, 2018
To top it all off, their rookie defenseman - and Lightning prospect - Cal Foote was announced as the AHL Player of the Week for last week.
The American Hockey League announced today that Syracuse Crunch defenseman Cal Foote has been selected as the CCM/AHL Player of the Week for the period ending December 30, 2018.
Foote notched four goals and an assist to go with a plus-7 rating in three games last week, helping the Crunch reach the top of the North Division standings.
With five points last week, including a game-winning goal, @SyracuseCrunch defenseman Cal Foote is the @CCMHockey / AHL Player of the Week.— AHL (@TheAHL) December 31, 2018
→ https://t.co/rIMWHDpMhz pic.twitter.com/Sdy1DDduPJ
Syracuse was also celebrating the accomplishments of another one of their rookies yesterday. The team voted Ross Colton as their own personal Player of the Week after his strong performance.
On a five-game points streak with a first career two-goal game.— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) December 31, 2018
That’s @Toyota Player of the Week @roscoldash. pic.twitter.com/G4DUn80WOf
Speaking of Colton, he must be doing something good because Scott Thomas had a lot of photo highlights from this past month of the forward. Here, have a gallery of them.
Scott also took some time photographing a local hero meeting with Crunch fans this past weekend. WNBA star Breanna Stewart dropped the puck at this past Saturday’s game, and Scott posted some highlights of her autograph session to his Twitter.
It was exciting to photograph @breannastewart with the fans at last weekend's #SyrCrunch game. Ms. Stewart is a wonderful role model and example for #CNY young athletes. pic.twitter.com/rDLbTvgbTw— Scott Thomas (@sthomasphotos) December 31, 2018
The Crunch is also doing something else well: Rocking Slater Koekkoek’s conditioning assignment. The defenseman, in Syracuse to get himself back into “game shape,” played over twenty minutes during the Crunch’s game on Saturday, and was on the ice for their overtime winner.
“A lot of new faces, a lot of young guys, so it’s an energetic and fun team.”— Syracuse Crunch (@SyracuseCrunch) December 31, 2018
Slater Koekkoek on the #SyrCrunch after joining the team for a conditioning assignment. pic.twitter.com/mCLA0K8dIx
The last leg of the organization, the Orlando Solar Bears, also ended 2018 on a high note.
Orlando finishes the 2018 portion of their schedule with a 16-12-3-0 mark and 35 points, good for fourth place in the ECHL’s South Division. They sit 12 points behind first place Florida, and two points behind Jacksonville and South Carolina for second.
Tracey also pointed out that eight players have seen time with both Orlando and Syracuse since October.
-Binghamton of the AHL, farm team of the New Jersey Devils, is going to be without their veteran goalie for the rest of the season. Eddie Lack has underwent hip surgery.
This is another tough break for Lack, who turns 31 this week (which is hard to believe since I covered him as a top Canucks prospect in Manitoba). He only has played 27 NHL games with three NHL teams since the start of 2016-17, and his time in Binghamton has been difficult.— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) December 31, 2018
-The World Juniors Championship tournament saw an unusual event on Sunday: an award of two penalty shots from one play.
And this is where the game, as we had previously known it, changed forever. Samorukov dragged down Lehmann on a breakaway, and when Lehmann got back up to try and get a scoring chance off anyways, Samorukov took him down again. Officials immediately awarded Switzerland not one, but two penalty shots, which boggled the minds of those online...Essentially, because Lehmann was fouled by Samorukov but still maintained possession of the puck, play was allowed to continue. Samorukov taking Lehmann down a second time, on the same play, warranted a second penalty shot — but Switzerland would only have one goal count, regardless.
-Are you into the Swedish Under-20 development leagues? If you are, do I have an article for you!