While the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s season came to a bitter end nearly two weeks ago, many of the team’s top prospects continue showcasing their talents. This is because the Syracuse Crunch are two wins away from advancing to the AHL‘s Eastern Conference Finals.
Led by AHL MVP Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, the Crunch seem to be doing everything right. It didn’t matter that lots of guys spent time with Tampa Bay, causing lines to be shuffled and reshuffled a number of times. Heck, seeing coach Jon Cooper get promoted midseason didn’t hurt much either as the team just kept going and, for the most part, winning.
Saturday night’s 5-3 Game 2 win over the Springfield Falcons (Columbus Blue Jackets) was huge in more than one way. First and foremost, the Crunch have two chances (both at home) beginning May 15 to close things out.
Another noteworthy accomplishment regarding this game is that Johnson scored the first playoff hat trick in Crunch history. His 13 postseason points tie Chris Bourque for the league lead. Maybe I’m jumping the gun a little, but could the Lightning please give their fans a chance to see this guy full-time next season?
Other players capable of breaking out at any time for the Crunch are Richard Panik (six points) and Brett Connolly (only four points, but finished ninth in regular season scoring). Goaltender Cedrick Desjardins is also worth keeping an eye on, with a 5-0 record and fairly good 2.40 GAA thus far.
Though 2013 might have ended on a sour note for the Lightning, another deep playoff run by their prospects could result in a second consecutive Calder Cup championship. Even more importantly, it should give fans hope for an incredibly bright future.