Last night I didn’t chat with many people after the game. I interviewed head coach Dean Evason and the game’s number one star Kevin Henderson. That was it. So, in lieu of a standard Chatterbox being short and a Scouting the Enemy for the Checkers still being pretty relevant to the last meetings between the sides, I figure I’ll blend some audio, video, notes, and musings this morning!
Last Night’s 4-1 Ads Win
Coming into last night’s game I felt the best and worst games of the season so far have been against the Grand Rapids Griffins. The best: 11/13, Griffins 1-2 Ads (video highlights). The worst: 11/20, Ads 0-5 Griffins (Video Highlights). After last night I think I have a new best. That was one of the best start to finish jobs of the entire season for the Ads.
We talked an awful lot in the early months of the season of that let down period for the Ads. Sometimes it was the opening period. Other nights it was in the third. When it came to the early season Texas road trip it was the second period. Last night, start to finish, that team played great – played great against the Western Conference’s best team – and actually managed to beat them while playing their style of hockey.
The first period, while the shots don’t tell the story, was pretty well controlled for the Ads with a few good chances that missed out. In the second period, ker-blammo. I’m not exactly sure if the coaching staff wanted to play a breed of hockey that was that wide open but, if the other team isn’t going to disrupt the speed or deny odd man rushes, why not?
I think the second period could easily be summed up in the space between the Salomaki penalty call of the second period and his subsequent goal after breaking out of the box from that penalty. The Ads scored quickly on the four-on-four situation caused by the penalty (Sissons). When the Griffins take to their abbreviated power-play – Watson gets a takeaway from neutral ice, skated in all alone from the blueline, and narrowly misses out on a shorthanded goal. Then the Griffins power-play expires… Ryan Sproul and company are leaving the ice to change… and completely ignore the fact that Salomaki is out of the box with Henderson’s clearance setting him up for a breakaway – which he made look all fancy-like with a forehand to backhand finish (video).
It’s a game like last night that can really put some life into a team. The hope here is for the Ads to not instantly crash back down to Earth with a poor result against a woeful Charlotte Checkers group (we’ll get to them soon). With a good weekend put in last weekend, two wins and earning a point from an overtime loss, this team looks to have found its groove.
Remember when the news came that Joshua Shalla and Filip Forsberg were joining the mix? There were lots of bodies in camp. Which is good for two reasons. One, you now have an even higher stake of internal competition just to make it out on the ice and log minutes. Two, reasons like this previous weekend where the injury bug came around. Over last weekend the team was without Mike Liambas, Joonas Rask, Anthony Bitetto, and Scott Valentine for all at least one game. Bitetto missed one game due to an illness and returned the next day. That turned out to be a good thing because Valentine crashed into the boards the night Bitetto was out and injured his leg. Rask, who was on the receiving end of a boarding hit by Steve Pinizzotto as well as a body splash from him after the fact, hurt his right shoulder from the incident and missed all last weekend.
Last night, Mike Liambas returned to the ice after missing all of last week. He looked back up to speed and played his usual style of gritty and aggressive forechecking and backchecking. Whatever knock he took while playing in Grand Rapids, which there were many to choose from, it didn’t show last night.
Not expected to return this weekend are Joonas Rask and Scott Valentine. Evason said that the two are day-to-day types of injuries. Considering he typically talks in “short or long term” speak that is a good indication that these are not injuries that will keep them out for a significant amount of time.
Dean Evason on matching up against Grand Rapids this year:
Evason on Darling’s continued development in net:
Evason on the second period performance:
Evason talks about the status of Rask and Valentine:
Evason discusses the maturity of the rookies, Sissons and Salomaki:
Evason comparing Sissons and Salomaki:
Evason in regards to the team’s wide skill set:
Kevin Henderson talks about the team rebounding since losses in Grand Rapids:
Henderson on his assist on Salomaki’s breakaway goal:
Henderson talks about his recent play on a line with Austin Watson:
Checkers: Scouting the Enemy
The Charlotte Checkers enter tonight’s game with a record of 12-16-0-1 good for twenty-five points in twenty-nine games played. They currently sit thirteenth in the AHL’s Western Conference (as opposed to last night’s Griffins who are now tied atop the conference with the Abbotsford Heat). In their respective division, the West‘s West, they are fourth behind Abbotsford, Texas, and Oklahoma City.
As was the case a month ago, where the Ads split two games in Charlotte, the Checkers are a team struggling to find consistency. Just when Charlotte looked to be getting hot, winning four-straight games in mid-December against the San Antonio and Norfolk, they ran into the Toronto Marlies – losing two games in two days at home. The team has gone 6-4-0-0 from their last ten games.
Things have been improving for them and largely down to the play of Zach Boychuk. In December Boychuk has scored 8 goals and 3 assists. Even the AHL website got into the Boychuk hotness this month. He’s been the man behind the success for the Checkers this season.
UPDATE: Aaaaaand he’s gone.
CAROLINA HURRICANES: Recalled forward Zach Boychuk from Charlotte (AHL); placed forward Jiri Tlusty on injured reserve.
— NHL Transactionist (@NHLTransactions) December 27, 2013
Another player to really watch for is left winger Chris Terry who always seems to be lethal in this match up. He has an incredible shot and already has 11 goals to pair with his 12 assists. Along with Boychuk, Terry is a weapon that the Ads defense will need to control and disrupt throughout tonight’s game if they are to have success.
Thoughts on tonight’s game? How does last night have you feeling for this game? Will the offense continue? Considering Darling played last night… one might expect Magnus Hellberg gets in net tonight… how would you feel if that’s the case?