During the season, Checkers broadcaster Jason Shaya checks in each week with his 10 Thoughts - a series of observations about the team and the hockey world in general.
1. Not sure how long Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek is out and, therefore, there's no telling how long Alex Nedeljovic will be with Carolina. At this moment, the acquisition of Dustin Tokarski is keeping everyone in Charlotte calm. He was a perfect 7-0 during the regular season and has proved many times in his career that he is an elite goalie in the AHL who already has a Calder Cup to his credentials.
2. In the AHL, not only do you deal with roster movement stemming from your own injuries, you also have changes resulting from the NHL club. In this case, the Hurricanes are both winning most every night and continually racking up injuries, which depletes the Charlotte roster. This is akin to fighting a war on two fronts. In the long term, it's unsustainable. But as of now, both teams are managing to defy the odds.
3. Can't say enough good things about Andrew Poturalski. He is the reason the Checkers finished the Providence series in four games. He is the most crucial player in the entire lineup. I have no doubt NHL teams will be lining up to sign him to a nice contract this summer, of which I should get a portion for pumping his tires every night.
4. Morgan Geekie led the WHL in playoff goals scored last season and his team didn't even make it to the finals. Now, scoring at a goal a game pace in the post season, Geekie is proving again that he can elevate his play at the most important times. He's only 20 years old and yet seems to be in total control as the Checkers' first-line center. He is second in team scoring and also a +7, which is tied for the team lead in that category with Poturalski.
5. The Hershey Bears goaltending stole the show in the first round against Bridgeport. Vitek Vanecek had a 1.49 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage in two games played, while rookie Ilya Samsonov finished with a 1.61 GAA and a .945 SV%. If Charlotte beats Hershey, it's because they found a way to get pucks by both these goalies. Hershey will have the luxury of using a fresh goalie in back to back scenarios.
6. With four assists in four games, Nic Roy was quietly a positive factor down the middle in the first round. While his line hasn't scored at the same pace as it was late in the regular season, Charlotte will be fine if Roy plays as he did in the opening round. Also, Julien Gauthier had several good scoring chances against Providence. He and Roy have the ability to create game-breaking moments that we often saw – especially from Gauthier – late in the regular season.
7. On Sunday afternoon, with no morning skate, having not played in an actual game in weeks, and after sitting and watching a hockey game for over an hour, Curtis McElhinney stepped into the crease in the second period against the Islanders and showed no rust whatsoever. There's a lot to love about the Canes right now but watching that was among the most remarkable things I've seen in a while. That isn't easy to do at all but McElhinney is a rock-solid pro.
8. John Forslund is calling the Hurricanes vs Islanders series for the national broadcast. During Game 2 of the series his use of the word "we" was misinterpreted by Isles fans during a play in which he and color analyst Eddie Olczyk were verified by replay in their assumption that the original call regarding a shot by Jordan Eberle did indeed hit the post rather than go into the net. Islanders fans were sensitive to any potential bias by Forslund, who we all know calls games for the Canes on Fox Sports. Not that anyone needs my opinion backing up John because his reputation precedes him, but I've never met anyone committed to getting it right more than him. Accusing him of bias is a joke. He doesn't operate that way. He's the best broadcaster in sports and instead of freaking out over words, maybe just sit back and enjoy the game.
9. The Checkers’ need for consistent secondary scoring is going to be the key factor towards getting through Hershey and onto the conference finals. I think that Tomas Jurco and Martin Necas are close to being the strong combination they were the last month of the season in order to facilitate scoring depth. Also, with Bean and Nedeljkovic gone for now, the Checkers have to find a way to replicate their ability to quickly move the puck to the forwards away from the forecheck.
10. The two biggest games of the season take place on Friday and Saturday. It's nice to have some rest between games but the fury of the second round will take place immediately after puck drop in Game 1 of this upcoming round. The Bears were one of the best teams in the AHL since January and beat Charlotte twice in Hershey this year when they were on their extended winning streak. Bojangles was very loud during both home games and we believe it will be even louder come this weekend. Pre-game show starts at 6:45 on Friday night. We will have highlights of the opening round, an interview Mike Vellucci concerning the latest roster updates and more analysis from people far more important than I.
12 wins to go.