1. TAKING THE LEADThe Checkers took care of business in Tuesday’s Game 3, topping the Marlies by a lopsided score of 5-1. The victory pushed Charlotte ahead to a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals, their first lead in the series. These mark the first two losses this postseason for a Marlies team that will surely punch back in tonight’s contest.
“We just need to play the game the right way, put it behind them,” said head coach Mike Vellucci. “They came out really hot in that last one but Ned held us in there for a while and then once we got our legs going we were better off.”
May 17TOR 2 @ CHA 1
May 18TOR 3 @ CHA 5
May 21CHA 5 @ TOR 1
May 23CHA @ TOR
May 24CHA @ TOR
May 26*TOR @ CHA
May 28*TOR @ CHA
2. PLAYOFF POTURALSKIAndrew Poturalski continues to shine during this playoff run, picking up another goal in the Game 3 victory. The forward now shares the Calder Cup Playoffs scoring lead with San Diego’s Adam Cracknell – who has played in two more games – ranks second in goals and is tied for fifth in assists.
“Potsy is the leading scoring in the league, he’s put up points, he’s worked hard, he’s been a leader for us,” said Vellucci. “He’s played through some bumps and bruises but he’s a character guy and hopefully he can continue that.”
Poturalski, who has recorded a point in nine of the 10 games he has played during this run, is now the all-time franchise leader in career postseason points (20) and assists (12) and is tied for the lead in goals (8). He has also already set new franchise records for most points (15) and goals (7) in a single postseason and is two shy of tying Brett Sutter’s assist record as well.
3. GEEKIE GETS IT DONEWhile Poturalski has held a slight edge throughout the playoffs thus far, Morgan Geekie has been right there turning in a stellar run as well. The rookie is tied for third in Calder Cup Playoff scoring and just two behind Poturalski’s league-leading mark. Geekie has been a picture of consistency during this postseason, finding the scoresheet in all but one of the Checkers’ playoff games to this point.
4. KILLING ITThe Checkers knew coming into this series that they would have their work cut out for them facing a lethal Toronto power play, but they have been more than up to the task so far. The Marlies had a staggering seven man advantages in Game 3 but were shut out for the first six, only converting on their last opportunity in the waning minutes of regulation. In fact, before that late tally, the Checkers had successfully killed off nine consecutive Toronto power plays.
“Our kill did a great job but we have to stay composed and make sure that when they’re taking runs at our guys we don’t retaliate,” said Vellucci. “Sometimes you have to take a punch or a trip for the team and turn the cheek and live for another day.”
On the flip side, the Checkers are looking to kickstart their own power play, as they have gone scoreless across seven man advantages during this series.
5. NED STANDS TALLThe AHL’s most outstanding goalie in the regular season has continued to elevate his game in the postseason, as Alex Nedeljkovic set a postseason career high with 33 saves in the Game 3 victory. In fact, dating back to Game 2 the netminder logged 92:58 of shutout hockey against the high-powered Marlies until their late power-play goal in Game 3.
On the other side, the Checkers continued to pepper Kasimir Kaskisuo – who had played the entire playoff run for Toronto – until the Marlies pulled him after two periods of Game 3 for Michael Hutchinson. The veteran didn’t fare much better in net, surrendering two goals on five shots in his 2019 postseason debut.
6. FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERSAfter struggling to find a spark throughout the first part of the series, Charlotte’s offense has caught fire. After notching five unanswered tallies in their Game 2 comeback victory, the Checkers racked up another five in Game 3 to give them 10 straight goals against a Toronto team that entered the series having surrendered a total of 11 goals through the first two rounds. The Checkers have gotten that offensive outburst from throughout the lineup, as eight different skaters have provided the 11 goals during the Eastern Conference Finals.
“We talked about it all year, if we can get scoring from the whole lineup, it’s hard to shut down just one line. We’ve been able to do that this series and every other series, get scoring from every line and our defense, they’ve played a big role in getting us on the board.”
7. DYNAMIC TRIOReunited for round three, the line of Patrick Brown, Tomas Jurco and Martin Necas have once again been an offensive force for the Checkers. The team captain turned in a career-high three points in Game 3, picking up primary assists on the team’s first two goals and then finishing off a one-time feed from Necas in the third, while Tomas Jurco came away with his second-straight multi-point game and his third in the last six games.
“Brownie brings a lot to that line as far hunting pucks down, going to the net, being that center-lane drive guy. He’s winning faceoffs, he’s doing the grunt work and then those guys have high skill. If you look at Jurco’s goals, they’re all around the blue paint. He’s done a great job getting there.”
8. TUNE INYou can tune in to tonight's broadcast with a subscription to the league’s streaming platform AHLTV, or you can attend our official watch party at The Burger Co. on Morehead.
As always, the radio broadcast also will be available via the Checkers app or this link, so tune in and tweet Jason Shaya to let him know you’re listening!