1) I’ve called several hundred games in my career and after enough time you believe you’re prepared for whatever transpires on the ice. After this Sunday’s loss to Oklahoma City in stunning fashion, I was at a loss for words. To see a comeback by the Checkers end in the last minute of the third period in a tie game was difficult to watch and try to comprehend or explain.
2) It should be noted that while the Checkers played three games in three nights with horrendous travel, the Barons were rested at home waiting for the Checkers to get to town. Plans to use a “sleeper bus” which has enough bunks for players to lie down and sleep through the night fell through when the bus broke down. It took about 45 minutes to get a coach bus replacement and after three stops, the team made it to the hotel at 7:15 a.m.
3) This previous weekend marked the first time in team history that it had ever gone 0-3 in a three-in-three series.
4) Looking back on Saturday and Sunday the worst part of all of it was the unnecessary penalty trouble. Giving OKC two five-on-three opportunities in one game was one of the nails in the coffin. The Barons had 12 power plays in two games and scored four times. There is no good excuse for being undisciplined against one of the top power-play teams in the league.
5) When the Hurricanes told Chris Terry and Zach Boychuk they were being sent down to Charlotte, both men had the chance to skip the Checkers'' Friday night game against San Antonio and fly directly to Oklahoma City. Instead, both requested to play Friday because they knew the importance of that game for Charlotte. They both went on to play four games in four nights. Things like that speak volumes about their character.
6) The Checkers have three players in the top 15 in scoring in the AHL (Boychuk, Terry, Palushaj), the second-ranked power play and a goalie who has a terrific save percentage (John Muse, .918%). It will be very hard to explain if the Checkers miss the postseason. They have to salvage the year with four wins in regulation in the last four games for a chance to make the playoffs.
7) Is there any doubt that the Grand Rapids Griffins’ head coach, Jeff Blashill, will win the honors for coach of the year in the AHL this season? Winning a Calder Cup in his rookie season behind the bench last year was an incredible achievement. This year the Griffins have been plagued with call-ups to the Detroit Red Wings and yet they manage to be amongst the best teams in the league and are vying for the top seed in the Western Conference. It’s hard to imagine that Blashill isn’t an NHL head coach soon. Blashill and the Griffins will be in Charlotte this Thursday and Sunday at Time Warner Cable Arena.
8) Learned today that Tennessee will abolish the so called “jock tax.” Under this law, professional athletes, except for pro football players, are to be taxed $2,500 when they play in Tennessee and no more than $7,500. Under the most recent CBA, it was the owners who paid the tax for their players, not the athletes themselves.
9) Congrats to Anaheim/Norfolk goaltender, and perhaps the future of American goaltending, John Gibson, for winning his first NHL game in fine fashion with a shutout victory over Vancouver last night. We saw Gibson a lot this season and he struggled against the Checkers all year, so we didn’t really get to see him at his best. He has an incredibly bright future.
10) If the Red Wings make the playoffs, is anyone considering Gustav Nyquist for the Hart Trophy? With Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg out, he carried Detroit on his back for months. If he played the entire year in the NHL, he could’ve scored 50 goals. He may be the next Pavel Bure with his hands, speed and ability to raise his game when needed most. In 2008, the Wings won the Stanley Cup and drafted Nyquist in the 4th round. Not a bad summer.
11) Matthew Ford, who was a teammate of Sean Dolan at the University of Wisconsin, started his pro career right here in Charlotte in the ECHL. He has become an incredible force for Oklahoma City this season. He’s a great kid and one of the hardest working players on the ice every night. He’s scored over 20 goals again this season ... it’s just a shame that so many have come against the Checkers this year.