Talent Overcomes Effort – Charlotte Wins 5-4 in OT

A win is a win but this one was ugly, Charlotte played very loose defensively and Justin Peters gave up some weak goals but Zach Boychuk bailed the team in with a beautiful OT breakaway winner top shelf over Jake Allen’s blocker.

Also very disappointing was the loss of two defensmen during the game. Bobby Sanguinetti took a vicious hit to the head from Cody Beach in the second and did not return for the third.  Hopefully this will lead to a long suspension for someone who looks like nothing but a goon in his first AHL game.  I looked up his stats on hockeydB and in only nine ECHL games this year he has 40 PIM and a ton more in juniors.  Later in the game Marc-Andre Gragnani left with what looked like a hand injury and did not return.  Two great offensive D-men down in one game is going to hurt going forward and hopefully both are not too badly injured.

The main problem on defense was sloppy clearing, turnovers in the defensive zone and forwards chasing the puck (this directly lead to the second goal).  Justin Peters also gave up a couple of real soft goals but maybe he was tired from the lack of support in front of him?

A couple other observations:

  • Jared Staal does finally look as if he is getting what it takes to play at this level, puck handling was better and he started to play more physical!!!!!!
  • Justin Faulk continues to make really bad decisions with the puck in the defensive zone looking for home run passes.
  • Michal Jordan puck handing has regressed from what I saw at the end of last year.

Charlotte knew they where more talented than Peoria but did not have the same effort or heart and it almost cost them tonight, hopefully they will take this performance and come out and stomp the Rivermen tomorrow night.

Nice to have Wilson back trying to motivate a team and crowd that was dead tonight for long stretches.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE AGGRESSIVE FORECHECKING TEAM THAT PLAYED SUNDAY? That is two straight games where they laid back and looked more like they wanted to play the Paul Maurice system.

Looking forward to seeing the team again tomorrow and hoping they come out ready to play a whole 60 minutes and crush Peoria!!

Missed Opportunities Finally Catch-up Checkers Fall 3-2 in a Shoot-out

All in all the Checkers came out and put up another good effort against the top team in the Western Conference.  In the end the team came up a little short but still pulled out 3 of a possible 4 points and thanks to help from San Antonio and Rockford, extended their lead in the Midwest a little bit.

1. John Muse was once again rock solid in net, there was not too much he could have done to stop either goal.  Both goals the Checkers gave up were due to break downs in the defensive zone.  The first came off of a bad pass turnover and the second (with only 2 minutes left in the game) came as a result of the team not being able to clear the puck.  The intitial shot on goal hit someone and went right to stick of another OKC player who had a wide open net.

2.  Both teams missed some open nets but the Checkers really did not take advantage of all the gifts OKC gave them.  First were the back to back 5-3 power plays the Checkers had in the first period that they were not able to convert.  Next was the Penalty shot Zach Boychuck missed badly on in the third period which would have iced the game.  Finally both Chris Terry and Bobby Saguinetti had breakaway’s in OT that were shut down by OKC’s goalie.

3. The 2 assists Evgenii Dadonov had were both beauties.  All Dolan and Roy had to do was shot the puck as Dadonov threaded both passes in perfectly leaving the goalie no chance to make a save.

4. The Penalty Kill looked great again and did a nice job of staying in their lanes even when they could not clear the puck.  I believe the Checkers only allowed one PP goal against the entire month of February, very impressive considering the amount of road games and travel they had to endure.

5. Have to give props to OKC’s goalie David LeNeveu.  He bounced back well after a poor showing the night before and is the single biggest reason OKC got 2 points from this game.  He stayed calm and in perfect postion everytime the Checkers came in on him on a breakaway or odd man rush.

6. Nicolas Blanchard scored his second one punch knock down of the season, this time of Philippe Cornet.

7. A bit of bad luck in the shoot-out got the Checkers as well.  Matt Pistilli beat LeNeveu in the 6th round but it hit the post.  This would have been the game winner as Muse stopped his man that round.

8.  Great back to back crowds as the Checkers drew over 25K for the weekend.  Hopefully a few thousand of these folks will be attending futre weekday evening games.

9.  Stuck around to watch the post game jersey auction.  The craziest part was watching a phone bid battle over Brett Sutter’s jersey.  The lady there live wound up beating the phone bidder but not until the jersey went for over $1300.  All in all nice to see the community contribute a ton of money to cancer research.

Checkers Dominate Barons 6-2

Editor’s Note:  Thanks again for the write-up, Allan.  I had to be a lighting designer for the night, for a fantastic show, but I would have rather been at a hockey game!  I hope tonight’s game has a huge turnout!  Pink in the Rink is ALWAYS a favorite of mine, and one of the best causes the Checkers support!  Let’s Go Checkers!

Well I for one was glad to be able and sit back and watch the home team hand it to the visitor.  Those have been few and far between this year at TWC arena.  Let’s start with what little bad happened in the game.

1. On their first PP the Checkers gave up a 2-1 shorthanded break which Muse got beat on bad but the post came to the rescue, could have been a totally different game if that had gone in during the first period.

2. Rasmus Rissanen got tripped into the boards during the first period and did not return–he reappeared in the third with the rest of the injured Checkers wearing a sling on his right arm.  NOT GOOD–my guess is Ryan Donald will be coming back up from Florida for tomorrow’s game, he did not play in Florida’s loss tonight.  If not Donald I guess someone else will be brought up in short order on a PTO.

3. I do not know what happens in between the 2nd and 3rd period but the Checkers came out flat again in the 3rd.  Luckily they had a 5-0 lead because they gave up 2 goals in 4 minutes to start the period and looked like they had no interest in playing hard like they had for the first 40 minutes.

Anyway enough bad now the good:

1. The PK was great again, they killed all 3 penalties fairly easily and even got a good run at a short-handed goal.

2. A.J. Jenks was a beast on the second PP unit.  He just forced in his first goal and had a great deflection on his second.  Wish he would have got a little more time in the 3rd period to try to get a hat trick but all in all he is looking like a steal as a throw-in in the Matsy trade.

3. Justin Shugg made a great play on the breakaway he got in the 3rd period which finally put the game away.  His goal came right after OKC’s second goal in the third and shifted everything back towards the Checkers.

4. Matt Pistilli was all over the place in the first period and came close to putting in 2 goals himself.  Great energy all night and 2 well deserved assists.

5. Zach Boychuk played a very good two-way game tonight and put a perfect pass onto Sutter’s stick for a goal right after he came out of the penalty box ona 2-1 break that finished the night for OKC’s starting goalie.

6. The PP looked good–they did a good job as a team of holding the puck in and got a lot of traffic in fron of the goalie.

7. Muse overall did a good job of rebound control and besides a few shaky moments in the 3rd period looked like his old reliable self.

Big win over a very good team and with all the hits, boarding, and fights tonight the season finale between these teams tomorrow evening should be a great game. No love lost between these teams.

Rockford at Charlotte – Another Third Period Not to Remember

Few quick thoughts and observations from Charlotte’s 3-2 loss to Rockford.

1. Overall the Checkers were coasting to an extent during the whole game, even with the 2-0 lead the team had the look of players ready for the all-star break.  As the lead started slipping they did not get urgent until it was too late.

2. To add to the coasting losing Dalpe to an injury and Bowman for 17 minutes for policing the hit to Dalpe really sucked the energy out of the team.

3.  The first power play looked great with Sanguinetti putting an absolute laser into the back of the net.  The 3 minutes they got on the boarding major was ugly and was really the turning point of the game.  Charlotte could have put Rockford away but that kill really gave the Icehogs some momentum going forward.

4. The 5-3 PK in the first period was huge by Muse and the PK unit.  They kept to their lanes, Muse made some nice saves and they applied just enough pressure to cause Rockford to mess up on their own a few times.

5. Muse continues to look good as a rookie free agent signing but his rebound control needs to get a little better and he is still adjusting to making saves around screens.  Rockford’s last 2 goals were both screened out pretty well (including somewhat of a screen by our D on the last goal).

6. AJ Jenks had one of the best open ice hits the Checkers have had this year down near the goal.  This kid looks even bigger than his stats and moves well for his size.  Hopefully he continues to progress but if he winds up with Staal and Soryal on 4th line do not expect a ton of offense.

7. As much as I point out Soryal on the 4th line–he had one of his better offensive games in a while.  Puck control and passing were more crisp and he avoided bad penalties.

8. I’m no coach but Boychuck and Dadonov need to be on different lines, both play a similar game and dont look like they complement each other very well.  Plus they are two small guys on a the same line trying to back check and knock people off the puck.

9. A little more on Dalpe’s hit/injury.  Honestly it did not look intentional but it is exactly why organized hockey needs to increase the penalty for any type of boarding.  Its going to take a lot to get players mind-sets to change when they are going that fast but as players get bigger and faster more and more guys are going to go down on plays as simple as an extra push from an elbow.

10. Good luck to Nash on his lastest recall–he has been a great player all year even though his numbers are not huge.  He came through big time when Matsumoto was traded and gave 110% even he had to center the 4th line and was not given as many offensive chances.

11. February is going to be a tough month for the team only 10 games but 7 of the next 8 are on the road. They also have two 3 games in 3 days and 3 games against the best team in the AHL Oklahoma City.  If they come out of this stretch with a winning record the team should be well on their way to winning the division.

Observations from a 4-2 Checkers win

Once again, I forgot to post this.  I’ll add my own thoughts at the end of Allan’s recap. – J

 

1. Good job of holding it together after giving up another 3rd period lead.  The team stuck to how they had played the whole game and when they got the lead back the D stepped up and shut Grand Rapids down.

2. Coach Daniels mixed the centers up a good bit on the 4th line and it paid off on the first goal. Matsumoto kept the play alive in the corner and made a good feed back to the point for Jordan. Jordan ripped a nice shot and Soryal and Staal both were in front causing traffic.  Soryal got his stick on it for a nice deflected goal.

3. Overall the PP looked better, but not great, they almost scored twice in the last 16 seconds of the first period.  Dalpe did a nice job of staying with the blocked shot in the second period which led to a rebound and a wide open net he put away.  They did give up an awful three on one shorthanded rush that Grand Rapids messed up.  Still need to pass a little quicker to open up the other team.  Missing Samson on the PP unit really makes a difference.

4. The PK unit was very solid and did a much better job than against Hershey but I’m sure every AHL team does better on the PK when not facing Hershey.

5. Grand Rapids had a goal waved off in the second that was questionable but they got it back when the puck went off Rissanen’s skate right back to Grand Rapids for an easy goal late in the second period.

6. Chris Murray absolutely destroyed Trevor Parkes in a second period fight.  Parkes nailed Murray in the corner and he went right back after him near the penalty box.  I was surprised the refs let it go as long as they did.  Murray kept landing pretty clean shots on Parkes who was just trying to pull Murray down to stop it.  Only bad part was Murray taking an additional minor penalty to get the fight started.

7. Not sure what started Boychuck and Tatar’s fight but it did not last long as Tatar pulled Boychuck down pretty fast and it was over.

8. While the fourth line played pretty well for most of the game they got burned bad on the equalizer in the second period.  The forwards got sucked in pretty deep and a turnover led to a breakout the  other way and a pretty easy one-two goal.  Defensively having McNicoll and Staal on the same line is not that great because both can be knocked off the puck fairly easily for different reasons.  Coach Daniels mixing the centers up on that line had been working better till that point.

9. Congrats to Rasmus Rissanen for the game winner and his first AHL goal.  He only scored 5 goals in 2 years in the WHL but you can see the speed and puck handling ability coming around as he continues to play.  I think he surprised the whole Grand Rapids team with the aggressivness of his rush and Joey MacDonald was not ready for that little wrist shot.  Rissanen and Krueger continue to get more comfortable with puck handling and should add some more bonus offense by the end of the year.

10. The Checkers pretty easily handled the 6-5 empty net situation at the end of the game with Terry sniping a beauty from the red line to finish the game off.

11. Good game by the team as they continue to battle it out while waiting for the reinforments to return from injury and the NHL.  I do hope they give Sean Dolan a SPC to keep him with the team or at least so they can send him to Florida instead of his previous ECHL team South Carolina.

 

Jenni’s Thoughts about Hershey and Grand Rapids:

  • I cringed a bit in the third when Chris Terry got that breakaway goal last night, and ended up crashing into Joey MacDonald.  He would have had a fair chance to shoot the puck, but the Grand Rapids player (I didn’t jot down his name, only the play that occurred) grabbed Terry from behind and not only kept CT from shooting the puck, but also caused both skaters to go crashing into MacDonald in a play that almost resembled the fateful one that resulted in MacDonald missing 11 games due to a concussion in November.
  • My jaw dropped when the first goal of the night was scored… really?  A line with Matsumoto, Soryal and Staal? I hope that was a line change and not an actual, intentional line because there is no stranger center with those two wingers than I have ever seen.  Granted, it worked, but that doesn’t make it less odd.
  • The more I watch them, the more I like watching both Justin Krueger and Rasmus Rissanen.  Neither one of them score a lot of goals, but is that really what defensemen are supposed to do?  Rissanen took a couple of dumb penalties in the first, but he’s a really smart player who learns from his mistakes and seems to adapt pretty well.  He played a clean remainder of the game, and who can forget him scoring the game winner!
  • Kudos to the Checkers organization on their continued awesomeness.  First of all, I hear the “Checkers with the Checkers” event was fantastic.  I hate I missed it!  Secondly, thank you to the organization AND the fans that showed up yesterday.  11,000 plus on a Sunday afternoon is pretty great!
  • While the Checkers came away with only one point against Hershey, there are a lot of positives to take from those games.  While down a skater, the Checkers made it to the shootout, which in and of itself is a huge feat.  The second game was a loss by Charlotte, but there were great things happening on the ice.  Hershey is a team that blows away their opponents, and wins hockey games with scores of 5-2 or 6-4.  Charlotte isn’t like that, at all.  The fact that the Checkers lost by one goal in each game is a big deal, and something that should be built upon.  Hershey, partially as a result of their wins in Charlotte, took over the number one spot in the league. (For the record, the Checkers are in fourth… not too shabby!)
  • Overall, the feel of both Hershey games was playoff hockey.  It was disciplined, and hard-hitting, and just incredibly impressive as a fan of the Charlotte team.  If they can continue with that kind of focus for a full 60-minutes each game, this team can go far!

 

Special Teams rule again Checkers fall 4-3

Yours truly, the Editor, forgot to post this… whoops!  Better late than never!  Post game from the Bears game on Thursday.  Let’s Go Checkers!

 

Observations from a tough 4-3 loss to Hershey:

1. Even after the 2-0 first period lead Hershey looked fresher and faster than the Checkers–being down a forward the night before caught up with the team a little.

2. The first goal was caused by a nice bit of forechecking by Matsumoto, he knocked it off the stick of the D-man right to Blandchard who fed it to Terry.  It happened so fast that Holtby was still standing straight up when it went in.

3. Pistilli put two nice moves on the defense which allowed him to put a shot on net which went off the D-man’s skate and in with 27 seconds left in the first.  The goal was a little lucky but the moves that gave Pistilli the shot were not.

4. Potulny power play goal came right at the end of a 4-on-3 situation when the Checkers could not get it out of the zone. Murphy lost sight of the puck off a rebound and Borque made a perfect pass to a wide open skater.

5. Micfliker’s goal was a perfect tic tac toe play that had the penalty kill confused and Hershey made it look so easy I thought I was watching a video game.

6. Same thing on Potulny’s second goal which was a one-timer set up by a good face-off win and a one-time pass right to Potulny out front, it almost looked like Hershey was toying with the Checkers at that point.

7. Kane’s goal was set-up by a lazy pass by Matsumoto just inside the Hershey zone which set-up a 2-1 break out. Sanguinetti really did not committ to either the shooter or passer and Murphy was doomed.

8. I really hope Matthew Ford get some kind of suspension for his boarding call on Blanchard.  About two minutes left in the game, Charlotte was totally gassed and he just took a run and went high in the corner for no real good reason.  Blanchard was bleeding and had to be taken straight off the ice.

9. Boychuck scored on the ensuing five minute major by getting in close to the cease and getting a dirty goal.  Nice to see Boychuck working an area he usually stays away from.  The Checkers got a couple more close on net in the final minute but alas no equalizer.

10. If the game had gone to overtime the Checkers would have been down to 10 forwards–Bowman went off in the second and did not return and the aforementioned hit to Blanchard.  Bowman going out really drained some energy and pulled a good defensive forward out for the decisive third period.

11. The refs made up for the lack of calls the night before, stuff they let go Wednesday was called Thursday.

12. I really hope any  other team in the East knocks Hershey out of the playoffs.  They are a great team but it is also a team paid for to win the Calder Cup not develop talent. When the Caps need to rebuild/really develop draft picks this team is going to be hurting.

13. The Checkers had to be hurting from the night before but against a team this fast the lazy passes and just going into the corner with the puck were not going to cut it.

14. The power play looked bad, Hershey attacked and pressured the puck and the Checkers constantly turned it over and were lucky not to give up a short handed goal in this one.

15. Sean Dolan looked very good on the 4th line even without much help from his wings.  He is pretty good on the face-off, does a decent job holding the puck and makes heads up passes.  He also got a few shifts on the PK unit so Coach Daniels must see something as well.  If he goes back to the ECHL I’m sure he will be back up with a team in the AHL before the year is out.

16. Considering the injuries (before and during the game) and the call-ups the Checkers did a good job against a stacked AHL team but it is still rough to watch another 3rd period lead vanish–a theme this year that needs to go away.

Special teams huge in the 3-2 shoot-out loss

Observations from the Checkers 3-2 Twelve Round Shootout loss to the Hershey Bears:

1.  All in all great effort by the Checkers especially being down to only 11 forwards two of which have only recently joined the team from the ECHL.

2. Even strength, the Checkers were the better team.  The Bears PP made all the difference. The Bears just park the massive Graham Mink in front of the net and he sets a great screen.  This completely caused the first goal as Murphy did not get a clean look at the point shot and it wound up going between his legs.

3. The second PP goal is on Murphy, it was just him and Micflikier at a hard angle and Murphy left a gap up top for the shooter–it was almost the same goal Sutter had for a game winner in the Playoffs last year against the WBS baby Pens.  The PK unit did a decent job and had all but killed that penalty off.

4. The cross ice pass from Beca to Boychuck was a beauty and Zach easily put it away to tie the game. The team looked a little down after the second but came right back out and out hustled the Bears in the third.  great bounce back period.

5. Speaking of not finishing the Checkers has a ton of chances in the first (odd man rushes, nice passes etc…) that they could not finish and it came back to bite them.  Pistilli missed more chances than I care to count he hustled like crazy all night but if he had finished a few times…….

6. The Terry–Matsumoto—Blanchard line was the only one Coach Daniels did not tinker with being down a foward.  The other 3 lines were a mix and match of whatever wing was fresh at the time.

7. Sean Dolan held his own as fourth line center and Matt Beca played much better as the game went on.  Justin Soryal by far had the least TOI and did nothing offensively and considering they only had 11 forwards it makes you wonder that if everyone is healthy he might be looking at a few press box games.

8. The defense looked good all night  and everyone jumped up in the rushes a little bit to give some of the forwards a break.

9. Murphy while he made some SUPER saves looked a bit off—he got beat bad twice as Hershy hit the post both times, spit out more rebounds than usual and bit too hard on some players moves.  Of course that is where he made one of the best saves I’ve seen in awhile laying on his back with an open net on Matt Ford–you could see his face in the replay and he was not a happy camper.

10. Everyone that was there reacted in some way to Micflikier just getting CRUSHED by Rasmus Rissanen behind the net.  Micflickier got him back in front the Checkers bench (it looked like an elbow).

11.  The refs did a nice job of letting everyone play and the only so-so penalty was Bellmore against Micflickier which was more of a big guy on a little guy and the little guy doing some acting.  But other than that everything else was pretty obvious and nothing ticky-tac.

12. Overtime was basically two very tired teams playing for the shoot-out.  The only real good chance was for Hershey with 3 seconds left when the Checkers just stood around and let them set up a one time deflect play that Murphy did a nice job stopping.

13. 12 round shoot-out and it is pretty easy to breakdown.  If the Checkers went high on Sabourin they beat him–when Hershey went five hole on Murphy they beat him.  The Checkers got everything on net while Hershy actually had a complete whiff on a shot and quite a few wide.  Pistilli redeemd himself with a really nice forehand backhand move that I thought for sure was going to be the game winner in the sixth round.  Blanchard came up big in the 11th (never remember him being anywhere near a shoot out before) and Sanguinetti rung the post the the 12th.  I have no idea what Murphy was doing on the final shooter, he looked like a soccer goalie that had to guess a side.  Mitchell did not have that great of a move but oh well.

14.  Again, great game against what is a REALLY good Hershey team if the Checkers play even strength hockey again like that tonight and shore up the special teams they will be in good shape for a win.

Editor’s note:  Once again, huge thank you to Allan for his post-game thoughts.  While I was able to watch the game online, you just don’t REALLY see what’s happening on a tiny computer screen.  The few thoughts I have are as follows.  

  •  I was SO IMPRESSED by the Checkers.  This was playoff style hockey, if you ask me, and the team came out with the same intensity they did last April when they beat Hershey.  
  • Considering Charlotte has MAJOR injury problems right now (Nash, Staal, Durno, Shugg, Roy) and the three call-ups in Raleigh, it was a great team effort.  
  • Mike Murphy is a goalie god.  Sure, he wasn’t perfect, but he made some saves that were just jaw-dropping, awe inspiring.  I couldn’t believe them! 
  • Allan and I definitely agree… SPECIAL TEAMS lost the game for Charlotte.  I knew it was going to come down to that monster Power Play and Penalty Kill by the Bears, and it did.  I’m looking forward to another awesome match up tonight!
A couple of quick notes about tonight:
  • Derek Joslin was recalled by the Hurricanes.  Chris Murray is on his way to Charlotte from Florida.
  • Jared Staal took part in the optional skate this morning.  Hopefully he can go tonight, as 12 forwards would definitely be better than 11!

Checkers Shut Down 2-0

More insight on last nights matchup from Allan.  Hoping tonight is a different game from the one we saw last night!  Let’s Go Checkers!

 

Not a lot good to say about this game, the team as a whole looked slowed and flat footed.  A few notes and observations.

1. Jared Staal looked AWFUL; he got moved up to Matsumoto/Terry line and I hope to never see that again.  Turnovers, got pushed off the puck constantly, poor stick handling and I swear it looked like he was trying to get to bench as soon as he could to get a change.  Bring back Scott Pitt from Florida at least he showed he wanted to play in the AHL. Staal needs to be right back down to the fourth line tomorrow.

2.  Both goals were caused by a lot of standing around, San Antonio walked in and was allowed 2 uncontested passes on the PP goal and Rissanen lost his man on the second goal which was stuffed in on the post.

3. The only line that showed consistent hustle and pressure was the Boychuck/Nash/Pistilli line.  They caused by far the most chances and seemed to be the only forwards that went all out for 60 minutes.

4.  Glenn Wesley was at the game scouting for the Canes–I sit very close to where the Raleigh group observes and he spent a lot of the game shaking his head.  He also stopped taking notes and packed up with about 5 minutes left, he knew the outcome well before the final horn.

5.  Matt Beca played pretty well in his first AHL action, hopefully the team will take a longer look at him and sit other players who aren’t giving it their all.

6. Dov Grumet-Morris gave up no cheap goals but was never really challenged, I remember him last year on a call up to the Conn. Whale shutting down the Checkers again.  He played for the Greenville Road Warriors (ECHL) last year (my hometown team I follow) and based on his play in the ECHL and AHL I do not know why he has not got a longer look from a team.  I hope he is not in net tomorrow.

7. The main positive is that the Checkers go right back onto the ice tomorrow and hopefully will erase this poor performance.

Thoughts from the 3 in 3 last weekend

Another great post from Allan… he and I chatted earlier this week about having a hard time recapping a frustrating weekend.  I’m glad he was able to do it.  It’s hard to write about a couple of losses that shouldn’t have happened, but hey, it’s something to build on, and the Checkers still lead the Midwest Division.  Let’s Go Checkers!

 

All in all the end of the homestand last weekend was not too pretty.  The Checkers only got 2 out of a possible 6 points against teams that honestly did not have the same speed or potential scoring ability as the Checkers.

1.  The power play just looks terrible, lots of turnovers, slow passes at the point and WAY TOO MANY Shorthanded goals and chances for the other team.  Charlotte leads the league with 4 shorthanded tallies but has given up a horrible 3 and without some good goal tending that number would be a lot higher.

2.  Too many times guys are skating around looking for a pretty pass or high light shot instead of getting the puck on net. Of course not many guys seem ready to go camp out in front and do the dirty work to put in rebounds.

3.  The forwards got caught quite a few times playing in too deep and then not hustling back which has led to quite a few 3 on 2 breaks when the Checkers really had not put on enough offensive pressure to warrant not being able to back check.

4.  The Penalty Kill has looked better but they still laspe at times and let fowards coming off the bench to get behind them and they press a little too hard for shorthanded chances which makes it easier for the other team to get back into the zone easily.

5. Dumb penalties–especially in the game Friday against Texas–Blanchard and Bowman both took horrible penalties away from the puck which helped lead to the loss.

6. Coach Daniels had an interview where he said “he was mixing up the lines more to avoid getting stale”  well too much might be even worse, every game had some type of change on the lines.  At some point when you find 3 guys that are all in sync with each other leave it alone.  Daniels does a great job of using all 4 lines pretty close to even in 5 on 5 play so it is not a case of TOI.  Get 3 forwards on the same page and let them play at least 2-3 games together before mixing it up.

I dont want to sound too down on a first place team but they REALLY should have not lost to either Texas or Lake Erie this weekend.  This team has a ton of talent and a lot of NHL scouts are watching due to the Canes struggles.  They need to take advantage of this time when this whole group is together because the situation in Raleigh is not going to allow that forever.  Anyway know onto some better thoughts:

1. The goal tending is still great and is saving the team from its lack of scoring.  Justin Peters made all the saves he could against Lake Erie and all the goals against were on the D.  Murphy beside a brain cramp is awesome (Congrats on the call-up and making the history books in his first NHL appearance even though it is a dubious record for someone who has not given up a NHL goal yet!!!)

2. Nicolas Blanchard and Justin Soryal are just putting out pure heart and hustle every game.  Neither is a talented goal scorer but they fight and skate hard every shift and the rest of the players need to take a cue from them.

3. Chris Murray continues to play solid D and did a decent job on the PP unit Monday.

4. Justin Kruegar and Rasmus Rissanen are both solid stay at home D-men as rookies and if they add just a little offense to their games will cause a lot of problems for other teams.

5. Brett Sutter just continues to show why he should really be up in Raleigh with his two-way play and the fact he never shows that he gets down when reassigned.  It will be a shame when he is no longer in a Checkers uniform.

6. Jerome Samson is still almost impposible to knock off the puck in the corners and boards and why he is not getting more of a shot at least on the 4th line in Raleigh is beyond me.

Well good luck this weekend taking on Texas and San Antonio bring home 4 points and increase the division lead!

Five in Row Checkers WIN 3-2

Observations from a scrappy win over the Texas Stars

1. That was not the Checkers best effort against a team that is struggling in the Western Conference.  Coach Daniels summed it up pretty well in the post game interview calling out the team for the way they played for most of the first period.  The team had a lot of sloppy passes and seemed to be slower than Texas.

2. I think the team got a little passive after the GREAT goal by Zac Dalpe early on–he got going on a nice outlet pass from Chris Terry and with a defender draped on him still managed to put on a nice forehand backhand move to beat the goalie low corner.

3. Mike Murphy seemed a bit out of sorts early on spitting out a rare long rebound which lead to the first goal and then giving up the second goal by guessing wrong on what Luke Gadzic was going to do out front.  Of course the defense did not help much on either goal espcially the second one where they left Gadzic just standing there with no one on him near the net while everyone took part in some puck watching. Mathieu Roy left his man on the first goal giving him an easy put back on the rebound.

4. Welcome back to Brett Sutter!  The Captain came out with a ton of energy after just being reassigned by the Canes.  The goal that tied it up was just pure effort to keep it behind the net and stuff it home on the wrap-around.  This was the turning point of the game because it really woke the team up and the intensity was there for the rest of the game.

5. On the ensuing face-off Nicholas Blanchard completely laid out Francis Waither (also just recently reassigned by Dallas) in a fight that was completly one-sided.  Waither left bloodied and did not return until about six minutes into the second period.

6. While the PP did not score they got some good looks and shots, but Michal Jordan still looks completely uncomfortable playing on the unit.  The team did a get job keeping it in the zone on their only PP of the second period and Jon Matsumoto broke straight in on the goalie and beat him five-hole right after the PP had expired for what was the game winner.

7.  While he did not look good in the first, Murphy was spot on for the rest of game as was the PK unit.  The big moment was killing off 35 seconds of a 5-3 with less than six minutes left in the game.  Everyone stayed in their lanes, kept Murphy from being screened and did not panic when they could not get it clear.  Texas had the third ranked PP in the AHL coming in and the Checkers shut them out 0-5.

8. Wasn’t pretty but they got the job done and if this team starts scoring like they did last year with the goalie tandem they have the entire AHL will be trouble.

9. Notes on the lines etc…. Justin Shugg was a scratch (as well as Staal) I actually thought Soryal might get the night off to add a little scoring but Daniels ran a true grind line out there (Soryal, Sutter, Blanchard) and it paid off. Durno moved to wing on the third line and the second line was Terry, Daple and Boychuck. Tons of speed but that line was the one that got caught not playing D on the second goal.