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. Last night’s game featured scouts from the Islanders, Jets, Avalanche, Flyers, Capitals and Oilers in attendance, not to mention members of the Tampa Bay and Carolina hockey staffs.
2. Playoff hockey looks very different then what we are used to during the regular season. One of the biggest changes is the number of shots that are blocked. While there is no better shot blocker than the Checkers’ Josiah Didier, Syracuse’s team shot blocking was able to frustrate Charlotte, especially on Tuesday night.
3. If I had to predict a statistic that would determine a team’s chances to win in the postseason, it would be goal differential. It’s no surprise that in the NHL Tampa Bay has scored 97 more goals than given up this season. That’s incredible.
4. If Wilkes-Barre/Scranton loses their game on Friday night to Lehigh Valley, Charlotte will clinch a spot in the postseason without playing that night. Either way, the Checkers will indeed clinch soon enough and then will wait to see who their opponent ends up being in the first round. Right now it’s Providence.
5. Martin Necas is playing some of his best hockey right now. In his last seven games he’s picked up 10 points (4G, 6A), including two power-play goals in Ovechkin-like fashion on Wednesday night. He deservedly ended as the game’s first star.
6. Last night in a scary moment, Syracuse goalie Martin Oullette was run into by Julien Gauthier. The paramedics went to work immediately to take him to the local hospital. As we understand it, he suffered a lower-body injury that will keep him out for a while. What you may have missed is that Zack Stortini left the Checkers dressing room and stood and talked with Ouellette while he was outside waiting to be placed into the ambulance. There is no better gentleman I’ve met in this game than Zack.
7. Charlotte has led the AHL standings since November 10th. I think it’s safe to say a team like this doesn’t come around very often. For years, the Checkers would get to the final week of the season and still not know if they’d make the postseason.
8. It’s hard to beat last year’s trade deadline acquisition of Greg McKegg, but Tomas Jurco is coming close. Everyone knows how highly skilled Jurco is, but what I’ve noticed is how high his compete level is. He wants to win and his work with Necas has been stellar. Also, Dustin Tokarski showed why Checkers VP of Hockey Ops Derek Wilkinson was so high on bringing him over from Hartford when he played an incredible game against Rochester last weekend. There isn’t much Tokarski hasn’t accomplished in his career and his experience will go a long way.
9. Patrick Brown has eclipsed his career high in goals with 15 and tied his high in points with 28. He will most definitely surpass that by season’s end. He’s a consummate professional and he’s playing the best hockey of his career.
10. With Hurricanes draft pick Stelio Matteos signing an ATO with Charlotte, I’m guessing head coach Mike Vellucci works him into the lineup at some point soon.