Let me preface this by saying I began writing this before last night’s game against Syracuse. It was an abysmal performance. Pogge was nothing close to stellar, and got pulled after two periods when the score was 6-1. Murphy had a perfect third period, stopping all seven shots, but that wasn’t enough for a comeback for the Checkers who were down by five. This was Pogge’s seventh removal from a game, forcing once again, Murph to come in cold for the final period. I don’t even want to talk about that game. It was disgusting!
The Checkers record against the Penguins is less than stellar, at 1-4-1. After today’s game, the teams meet once more, also in Wilkes-Barre, next month. Mike Murphy’s lone start came in October in Charlotte, and resulted in a 4-3 loss. He had ice time in two other games in January. The first came in Charlotte on January 4 when starter Justin Pogge appeared to just give up in the fourth period and the team pulled him with nine minutes to go. (I not-so-fondly remember that game. It was a turning point in my observation of the Charlotte netminders, and the unequal treatment they were getting regarding starts. Despite Pogge having a terrible game and Murphy being strong in relief, the team played him again the following evening, which resulted in a shoot-out loss).
Later in January on the 26th, Pogge was pulled again while facing the Penguins on the road. The team didn’t take their time waiting for a meltdown for him, and after allowing four goals on 14 shots, Murphy came into the game in relief during the first period, and allowed only two goals on 29 shots in the remaining 44 minutes. Despite Murphy’s strong play and a hard rally by the skaters who scored three goals once Murphy was put in net, he took the loss for the team.
The Checkers lone win against Wilkes-Barre came in a rather dramatic 9-5 win on January 23. The two teams were awarded 74 PIMs, Pogge getting four of his own for roughing. He seems to play well when he gets riled up.
Strictly by the numbers, Pogge’s record against the Penguins is 1-2-1. Murphy is 0-2. But as I often like to point out, these numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Murphy only has one actual start, but has 111:20 of ice time, nearly two full games. Pogge, who has started five times against WBS, has 248:19 on the ice. And the goals allowed average and save percentage of Pogge is quite abysmal. So when you think about who has the better record against the Penguins, is there really a definitive answer? Despite the fact Pogge has helped the team gain three points versus the Penguins, I’m not sure I can give him the stamp of approval as the better record holder.
After last night’s performance (or complete lack there of) in Syracuse, if Pogge gets the start tonight in Wilkes-Barre, yours truly is going to be one irate Checkers fan. Play like that should NEVER be rewarded with a back to back start. Tonight’s game is a crucial one. Charlotte has got to figure out a way to beat the Penguins on a more regular basis, especially since there’s a very good chance they will be our first-round playoff matchup. I truly believe that Murph is our best shot at a win, if he’s given a fair shot, and by a fair shot, I mean actually getting the start and having the skaters play in front of him the way I know that they can.
Lets go Checkers!