First of all, I would like to announce a proposal. I think that the Charlotte Checkers should temporarily change their name to the Charlotte Honey Badgers, or at least adopt the ferocious little creature as their playoff mascot. (If you haven’t seen the youtube video about Honey Badgers, check it out here) I have a few key reasons for this necessary name change.
- Honey Badgers are known for their ferocious defensive abilities.
When you think of Michal Jordan, Brett Bellemore, Justin Faulk and Co., isn’t that a phrase that comes to mind?
- Honey Badgers are considered to be very serious poultry predators. In my opinion, the flightless birds that we are playing could be considered poultry, so I do believe our team is preying on the WBS poultry.
- Honey badgers are fearless and tough animals. They are known to savagely attack their enemies when escape is impossible.
- Honey Badgers are tireless in combat (a.k.a. Playoff Hockey) and can wear out much larger animals in physical confrontations (like the Bears of Hershey).
- Mike Murphy left practice early, cementing the fact that he is starting in goal tonight (as if there was any doubt based on the way he is playing!)
- Matt Pistilli and Zack FitzGerald both skated with the team, but it appears both will be healthy scratches again tonight. Seeing FitzGerald at practice made me miss him more during recent games. He has a special energy about him that can’t be replicated, but it is frustrating when he takes so many minor penalties, which does not bode well during the playoffs.
- For an “optional” skate, it was very structured with specific drills and routines that the players followed.
- The Checkers continue to look strong, and were very focused at practice.
- The team and the black aces shared ice time during their optional skate.
- As opposed to the structure of the Checkers pre-game skate, the Pens had very few drills or organization, which is something that seems more of the “norm” for game-day skates, but not at all what the Checkers did. Overall, it was just a casual get the feet moving, shoot some pucks kind of skate.
- After tonight’s skaters left the ice, John Curry and the black aces stayed for a full-on black ace practice with Bill Guerin and Asst. Coach Alain Nasreddine. They did some drills I’d never before witnessed in all of the practices I’ve seen by Hurricanes organization teams. One involved two nets, facing the boards, and a goalie in each net. I would have understood it more without the dueling goaltenders…
- I was impressed that during the skating drills, the coaches participated with the players, and clearly both Nasreddine and Guerin are still in the game.
- I was jealous of the fact that there was a visible media presence at the Pens skate, but not at the Checkers skate. Ahh, Charlotte, one day we’ll have our very own beat writer to cover the team!
- I don’t think there is another organization in the league with the number of character guys that the Hurricanes have. On game day, deep into the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, at least four players made a point to stop and talk to a little boy who was at practice. One of them gave him their stick, and Riley Nash went back into the room to get the kid a signed puck. And it’s not just this that makes me mention their character. It’s time and time again, I hear about players spending their personal time visiting the children’s hospitals in town (Mike Murphy is the number one best at this!), interacting with the fans during games and at practices, and being so approachable. The Hurricanes organization has always been known for this, and it’s so wonderful to see such a high level of character at the minor league level as well.
- Like Brad Thiessen, Jason Shaya’s weakness appears to be high blocker side. Checkers PR guy Mike Lappan was able to sneak a couple of pucks past him after practice.
- Justin Pogge is winning me over. Maybe I’m just less bitter since who I believe is the more stable starter is getting the playing time, but maybe he has changed too, and it’s impressing me a great deal. The pair of Pogge and Murphy seems to have more comradery, and less rivalry than they did at times during the season when there was no definitive starter, and each was fighting for playing time. Often, when Pogge was starting games back in January, he would monopolize warm-up time, not letting Murphy take any shots. Now, they seem to share that coveted ice-time equally, and Pogge seems much more supportive, giving Murphy feedback during TV timeouts, etc. As a whole, Pogge seems to be interacting with more of his teammates. He’s still a slightly crazy goalie (as they all are) with a number of bizarre habits and rituals, but he also seems to have come down a bit to a more level place. He’s started taking shots at the end of every pre-game warmup, from the entrance to the home team vomitorium at the TWCA to the defensive end net, and makes a number of them! Chip Alexander wrote a piece about the tandem in today’s Observer.