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. The two games against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before the All-Star break were given away by the Checkers. Those were two losses that shouldn’t have happened. Officiating aside, Charlotte beat themselves on both nights. The first loss against Toronto this past weekend, however, was a complete breakdown. It was ugly from start to finish. But full credit to the team using whatever they had in the tank to beat a very good Marlies team Saturday night in front of a big crowd on the road. The coaching staff demanded a response and they got one.
2. During the three-game losing streak Charlotte was doomed by too many players trying to individually change the game rather than working in concert with their teammates. It’s not only difficult to watch, it rarely ever works—which makes it a waste of time and energy. There was a growing frustration only assuaged by the victory on Saturday night.
3. Julien Gauthier’s shorthanded breakaway goal on Saturday wasn’t only impressive because of the move he used to score. The determination to beat the Marlies defense to a loose puck was incredible. His size and speed combined with his hands made him unstoppable.
4. The best rivalry right now in the NHL is between Calgary and Edmonton. The league could definitely use more of these rivalries in this era. I grew up with Detroit and Colorado battling each other for supremacy and each game was something you stopped and watched. It brought the absolute best from each team. Please note: Detroit won the rivalry.
5. Putting any Charlotte player aside, Marlies defenseman Timothy Lilegren is the best defenseman not in the NHL.
6. And in case you’re wondering, I’d say Jack Studnicka is the most impressive young player we’ve seen since watching Mikko Rantanen skate for San Antonio.
7. Morgan Geekie has the third-longest point streak in franchise history at 11 games. He’s one game behind both Gregg McKegg and Ryan Murphy. But it’s his play away from the puck and his compete level that head coach Ryan Warsofsky praised last week during pregame interviews. All of this is a great sign for a kid working extremely hard at every aspect of the game.
8. The next six games (all at home) are the most consequential of the season. Losing three games in a row set the team back in the standings despite a month of mostly winning hockey. The Checkers simply can’t afford to play anything less than their best against the three teams heading to the Coliseum in the next two weeks.
9. All goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic does is win and collect trophies. Of course he leaves the AHL All Star game with more hardware. When does the kid lose? It’s actually starting to get annoying! He was pivotal for Charlotte on Saturday night shutting down the Marlies.
10. Haydn Fleury, now a regular in the Hurricanes’ lineup, looks more comfortable with every game. I thought he was excellent against Vancouver in the shootout win. Good for Haydn, a player who is absolutely determined to play his best every game.