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 Checkers were down 2-0 going into the third period on Friday night. After the Checkers won in overtime a player told me that head coach Mike Vellucci's instruction and message to the team was masterful and went a long way towards helping a young team breathe easy and win the game. Over 20 years of head coaching experience comes in handy in the playoffs.
2) Julien Gauthier was on the ice and a big part of both game winning goals the last two games. He had the secondary assist on the game-winner on Friday and on Saturday he was screening Pens goalie Tristan Jarry on the Didier wrist shot in the third period.
3) Starting next season, the NHL will allow the corners of both zones to have in-ice advertisements like you also see in the neutral zone. I read a lot of angry comments on Twitter from fans who are upset that potential revenue could go into the hands of the owners. I wonder if people realize many NHL teams operate at huge losses that can often reach tens of millions of dollars per season. As in any business, the entrepreneur is always the last to get paid and the sole person responsible for covering costs in a revenue shortfall. If corporate partners freely spend advertising dollars with teams in the hopes of increased visibility and sales, then why the outrage that this revenue stream would further finance teams across the league? The employee vs employer struggle is one of the dumbest notions continually perpetuated by professional malcontents.
4) Bill Peters walked up to me on the Hurricanes plane before my game in Toronto and introduced himself, something he didn't have to do. The next day, Tripp Tracy asked him if he had any advice for me before my first NHL broadcast. Peters told me that he knew I'd been a pro for a long time and to relax, have fun and he'd make sure they got a goal for me in the first ten minutes. In my brief interaction with him, he was very kind and I wish him luck as the new head coach of the Calgary Flames.
5) Until someone beats the Pittsburgh Penguins, they are the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Matt Murray still hasn't lost a playoff series in his career.
6) The Detroit Red Wings should get the first overall pick in the draft lottery this weekend. Why should that be so? Because anything else would be unfair.
7) There is no question that WBS will come out flying on Thursday night against Charlotte. The first ten minutes will be crucial for both teams. If Charlotte can find a way to survive the onslaught and even push back, it will go a long way. I think Thursday will be the most emotional and physical battle of the games so far.
8) A scout said to me after watching both Charlotte games this weekend that he was truly impressed with the compete level of Valentin Zykov. For a kid who spent the latter part of the season in the NHL, Zykov hasn't missed a beat since his reassignment and he looks like one of the best of the Checkers’ forwards in the playoffs.
9) Another player who deserves high praise is Haydn Fleury. In the AHL, his skill level is on full display. The coaching staff has encouraged him to do what he does best: make plays, join the rush and create offense. There may not be a better puck mover than Fleury in the league and he always seems a step ahead of the opposition. He will continue to be a vital part of any success moving forward.
10) The crowd on Friday night at Bojangles’ Coliseum was one of the loudest I've ever heard in Charlotte. In the last minute of play, the Checkers were charged with an icing despite the obvious play of Alexi Saarela to negate the call by skating down the ice. When the whistle blew, thousands of people stood and went berserk in protest. This was over an icing, mind you. They were clearly engaged emotionally. After the winning goal was scored, fans left the building chanting and singing. Amazing.
If you want to join the Watch Party on Thursday (Saturday/Sunday if necessary), head to The Burger Company at 1500 West Moorehead St. in Charlotte. The broadcast begins at 6:50 pm on Thursday night. You can listen on the Checkers app or AHLLIVE.com