I am not really sure what to say after that game. There are so many talking points.
But let me start here...
Braden Holtby has played against the Checkers 6 times this season, counting tonight....in 4 of those games he has allowed 5 goals.
In the other two...1 goal...total. We need THAT Braden Holtby to show up on Sunday and the one that played tonight to stay away.
Let me also say this...the defense (and forwards) need to help out more. Personally I think there were 3 goals that Braden should have kept out but on all three there was a Checkers player standing right near the crease with no Bear in sight.
So don't get me wrong...this wasn't just Braden tonight. It was everyone in the Hershey zone.
In fact...Braden made 3 of the best saves you will see in a hockey SEASON. In the 1st it was a ridiculous glove save and then in the 3rd he made a diving save and a 'stand on your head' kick save where he legitimately made a pad save with his legs at the crossbar and his head on the ice.
But that just shows you how Hershey played in their own zone. When your goalie makes 3 incredible saves in one night and STILL allows 5 goals....you have a problem.
How do you fix it? I have 2 ideas.
Bench Patrick Wellar and/or Phil Oreskovic. Neither of them are great skaters and yet they are playing together??? Wellar got flat undressed in the 3rd period by a Checker forward. He got caught flat footed constantly.
Who do you put in? Well, that is an excellent question. I think Zach Miscovic is obviously one but until Sean Collins returns from Washington I am not sure there is anyone. But at least you would get one of the two out of the lineup.
I know Miscovic was banged up recently so maybe that is why he didn't play but if he is healthy he should be in.
Honestly I think Hershey outplayed Charlotte for much of the game. They got a few unlucky bounces including the 'own goal' when Gordon tried to clear the puck and instead it bounced off another Bear (Souray?) and right past Holtby. Unfortunate.
For much of the game Hershey was playing a physical game, getting to loose pucks, and being smart (read: patient) with the puck. And then it all went away. It started in the 2nd period and got better to start the 3rd before it completely deteriorated and all hell broke loose.
All of a sudden no one was doing anything they were supposed to. And passes were being intercepted every single time. Lazy passes and risky ones.
In the end it cost them the game.
Since the Capitals affiliation began Hershey has lost the 1st game of a series 5 times. Once each year. They managed to win the series 3 times after losing the 1st. 4 times the first game was on home ice. 2 of those times they came back to win.
But this is only the 2nd time in the last 5 years that Hershey has dropped a game 1 in a round prior to the Eastern Conference Finals or the Calder Cup Finals.
The other time...07-08 to Wilkes-Barre. That was in the 1st round and Hershey hosted game 1 due to scheduling conflicts.
The Bears are 3 losses away from ending their season much earlier then they want to.
Braden must be better. The defensive play must be better. If that happens I am still confident that Hershey will win this series.
There is still a lot of hockey to play.