First, I must be completely honest. I did not pay 100% to this game. I was running a show (ballet…. the ballet always interrupts hockey watching! Good thing I love the ballet!) Therefore, some of my observations may not be as thorough as I’d like them to be. Because much of my game-watching was done from a muted laptop, I’m sure I missed a lot. But hey, some observations are better than no observations, right?
Now…. my own personal observations, in no particular order:
- Rob Madore. I was not surprised in the least that he was the starter for the Checkers last night. I also believe he will continue to play in that role, but, and I mean this is the most positive of ways, he’ll be on a short leash. A couple of bad games (that are his fault or his teammates, and I must say I believe it will be the latter more than the former), and he may get replaced by one of the Checkers other two willing and able goaltenders. In what has become Madore’s true fashion, he was able to stop shot after shot. This was particularly important in the first period, when the Barons outshot the Checkers 13-5. Not only that, but the Checkers had an entire powerplay where they didn’t register a single shot on the Barons goalie, Yann Danis.
- After the first period and the disgustingly unbalanced SOG stats, all I could think was YIKES. As it’s been in the past month it seems, the Checkers came out a bit sluggish, but whatever was said in the room between periods seemed to work, because the second period was a drastically different pace, and one that favored Charlotte. SOG were nearly equal, and the Checkers scored two goals. The first was from Justin Shugg, one of only two Justin’s that remains on the Charlotte roster (insert sad faces here). Shugg’s goal was a beautiful one, coming of of a rebound while the Checkers were on their second powerplay of the game.
- The next came from Brody Sutter, younger cousin of Brett who was possibly the biggest star of the Checkers playoff run two years ago. Brody’s goal was a slick one, a wraparound goal on the backhand. The Checkers had the lead, but it was for a very brief period of time.
- In a span of only 21 seconds late in the second period, the Barons scored two more goals. With only eight seconds left in Charlotte’s penalty kill, Mark Arcobello scored a wraparound goal, catching the visiting team off guard a bit in the midst of a line change, and there was little that could be done to prevent that Barons goal.
- Moments later, the Barons Josh Green scored another on Rob Madore, thanks in part to some sloppy defensive play by Charlotte.
- A penalty at the whistle to end the second period and another right after it expired early in the third period would have given the Checkers nearly four straight minutes on the powerplay, but they didn’t need it. On his first shift of the second power play, Zach Boychuk scored, tying the game for the Checkers.
- The remaining 17 or so minutes of regulation were scoreless for both squads, taking them to overtime.
- It only took a couple of minutes in overtime for the Checkers to end the game. Brody Sutter’s game winning OT goal was a gorgeous deflection off of Brett Bellemore’s shot.
- Last night, Mike Murphy was the backup to Rob Madore, and John Muse was a healthy scratch. It was a pleasant surprise, seeing Murphy’s name on the scoresheet. Does this mean in the “goalie rankings” he’s moved up to number two? Maybe. Murph is, of course, the winning-est goaltender in Checkers history, and nobody can ever forget his stellar performance in the 2011 playoffs that saw him relieve Justin Pogge of his starting duties just a couple of games into the first round. Charlotte went on to make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals where they were defeated by the eventual Calder Cup winning Binghamton Senators.
- I was really impressed with Brock McGinn. Though he didn’t make it onto the score sheet, he continued to be physical and has no problem using his body at the right times to make big plays. He appeared to be hit late in overtime, but left the ice on his own. Here’s hoping it was nothing serious!
- Once the sluggishness of the first period was over, the Checkers played like a team I recognize. While they seemed to slip a bit late in the second period, they generally stayed strong and physical throughout the second and third periods. Overtime, though it was only a few minutes long, was completely controlled by Charlotte. More play like this will result in plenty more playoff games won by the Checkers.
- Game two is tonight at 8p.m. I will be watching, as always, from a lightbooth while working a ballet performance. Let’s Go Checkers!
A few links to get you through game day two:
From Tend the Farm: Charlotte Beats OKC In Overtime, Takes 1-0 Series Lead
From The Charlotte Observer: Checkers rough up Barons
From Paul Branecky: Brody Sutter’s OT goal wins game 1