I think this says all you need to know from last nights game 1:
"Speed to burn has been a hallmark of the prolific Charlotte Checkers in 2010-11," Tim Leone wrote. "Charlotte's explosiveness was an ever-present threat..."To read Leone's full recap follow this link.
The one thing that I noticed the most in Game 1 was the speed of the Charlotte team. They routinely skated right around Bears like they were standing still. (Although, sometimes they were just standing still...right Wellar?)
Last year Bourque and Wilson joined Coiner, Perry, and Gordo in the top 6 to provide plenty of speed.
There are some players on the scratch list that add speed, namely Dmitri Kugryshev. But who do you take out for him? He isn't a top 6 guy yet and the bottom 6 forwards are much better in the speed category and I thought they all played well.
So you aren't going to match it. So now you have to figure out a way to marginalize it.
Coach Mark French definitely felt like the team did that in periods 1 and 2. Or at least he was happy with the outcomes and effort in those periods.
I would agree that the Bears played better in the first 2 periods. They held the Checkers to 16 shots while they registered 27 in the first 2 periods. So while it was tied 3-3 after two you could argue that all of the Checkers goals were anomalies and the Bears were playing much better than Charlotte.
Goal 1 was a rebound that was partially the result of Gordon's lazy backcheck and Braden Holtby's lack of rebound control. It was a playoff type goal that Braden should have stopped in my opinion.
Goal 2 was an "own goal" scored when (this is how I saw it) Gordon tried to clear the puck but instead hit his defenseman (Souray?) and the puck bounced right in the net. Fluke.
Goal 3 was a shorthanded goal by the Checkers in the 2nd period. Yes it was a good goal. No, it wasn't a true fluke. But how many times do teams score shorthanded?
Assuming for a second that those the 2nd and 3rd goals don't happen every game then you could make the argument that in most games, played the same way, Hershey would have been up 3-1 after 2 periods.
Obviously that didn't happen. But what I am saying is...Hershey played well enough to win.
For 45 minutes.
Most of the final period was just horrible hockey from the Bears. Lazy passes. Minimal hitting. Poor positioning. Embarrassing hustle.
Flat out...bad hockey.
And French noticed. Phil Oreskovic (according to Leone) was pulled from the defensive rotation for the 3rd period. That seems to signal a change coming for game 2 which is good because if there is one thing Oreskovic is definitely not good at it would be quick or mobile. And against a team with as much speed as the Checkers you need to maximize your own team speed.
Overall I wasn't disappointed watching the team until the 3rd. I was hyped and absolutely pumped for the game through the first 45 minutes of the game.
At which point it seemed like Hershey stopped playing their game.
And that resulted in a 5-4 game 1 loss.
Hershey enters game 2 only 3 more losses from heading to their summer vacation. They are still only 4 wins from the 2nd round but now they have to win 4 in 6 with 3 of those games in Charlotte.
Possible? Without question.
But 60 minute efforts are going to be necessary. The Bears won't win with 45 minute games. And that is something that has troubled this team all season long.
Hopefully it ceases being a problem beginning now.