FLORIDA PANTHERSOur NHL affiliate steamrolled its way through the final portion of its regular season and will enter the playoffs on a six-game win streak that includes impressive 5-1 and 4-0 victories against its first-round opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Those wins allowed the Panthers to claim home-ice advantage in the first round but weren’t quite enough to claim the division title, as Carolina held on to that distinction despite dropping its last three contests.
Gustav Forsling, who has thrived since his promotion to the team’s top defensive pairing, had three points (1g, 2a) in three games last week and continues to lead the team’s contingent of former Checkers players that also includes centers Eetu Luostarinen and Lucas Wallmark. A handful of would-be/could-be Checkers have stepped up to the plate as well, with Grigori Denisenko (four points in his last four games) and Spencer Knight (4-0-0 as a pro) helping the Panthers down the stretch.
As of this writing the Panthers’ playoff schedule had not yet been released. The winner of their series against Tampa will move on to face the winner of Carolina/Nashville.
SYRACUSE CRUNCHThough the AHL will not have a formal playoffs this year outside of the Pacific Division’s tournament, Syracuse and Utica still managed to pull off a five-game, home-and-home series in May. Though many Panthers prospects that had spent much of the year in Syracuse have moved up to the Panthers’ taxi squad in these late stages of the season, the Crunch still got the better of the match-up with three victories.
Of those prospects, Chase Priskie posted a goal and a plus-3 rating on Friday, while fellow defenseman Lucas Carlsson posted three assists and a cumulative plus-6 rating in his last four games. Rookie center Henry Bowlby had his most productive stretch of the season with five points (2g, 3a) in four games.
The Crunch have just one game remaining in their season this Saturday at Rochester.
GREENVILLE SWAMP RABBITSOur ECHL affiliate won three of four games last week to continue to solidify its playoff positioning down the stretch. With 12 games still to play, the Swamp Rabbits continue to hold the second seed in the East Division, are 10 points clear of the cutoff line and control their own destiny despite playing more games than every team below them in the standings.
Panthers prospect Patrick Bajkov continued his strong late-season play with five points in four games last week, including the game’s only goal last night. He now ranks third on the team with 33 points in 44 games.
NET = PROTECTED ✅— Greenville Swamp Rabbits (@SwampRabbits) May 11, 2021
It takes 1 to get 2 tonight in Orlando! pic.twitter.com/uVLfFPb4sX
IN OTHER NEWS
- The NHL playoff field is set and, as of this writing, 22 former Checkers were set to take part. They range from Riley Nash, who was on the inaugural AHL team in 2010 and is now a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, to 10 players who were a part of our most recent season. Carolina (12) and Florida (three) have the most former Checkers, with Vegas (two) the only other club with more than one.
The NHL playoff field is set! Here's a guide to help you follow some familiar faces along the way. pic.twitter.com/5PE1CfDXcn— Charlotte Checkers (@CheckersHockey) May 11, 2021
- Could Alex Nedeljkovic be the Hurricanes playoff starter? We’ll find out at some point this week, but he’s certainly made the case. His 1.90 goals-against average and .932 save percentage lead the entire league - stats that are no fluke as he also has the largest sample size of any Hurricanes goaltender with 23 games played. Not bad for someone who began the season on waivers.
Strive to be as casual as Ned with this save and swat pic.twitter.com/UwbdcQfWHG— y - Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) May 8, 2021
- The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association announced its list of nominees for the Masterton Trophy, which is awarded to the “player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.” Former Checkers Zac Dalpe and Dustin Tokarski earned nods from those who cover the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres, respectively.
- Rookie defenseman Max Gildon, who’s played on loan with AHL Bakersfield this season, was a guest on the prospect-focused Panthers Pipeline podcast that will be a must-listen for Checkers fans moving forward.
.@gildonmax joins @jamesoncoop & @dougplagens for the inaugural episode of Panthers Pipeline!— x - Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) May 9, 2021
He talks his first season in @theahl, being a Texas-born player, and more.
? » https://t.co/t2v8NCZMHd pic.twitter.com/asgLWeqk5U
- Martin Necas continued to light it up with goals in three straight games, two of which were shorthanded and one of which looked like this:
Like this wasn't going to result in a goal pic.twitter.com/YhbgrsdYFu— x - Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) May 6, 2021
- Morgan Geekie was the finisher on another all-Checkers goal featuring linemates Steven Lorentz and Max McCormick.
Not. Done. Yet. pic.twitter.com/M0OvOiW6vu— y - Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) May 9, 2021
- A few older-school former Checkers had overtime winners recently. First, Victor Rask got it done for Minnesota on Saturday:
- Then, Justin Faulk did the honors for St. Louis last night:
- After a bizzare first half of the season that saw him bounce around from organization to organization and never getting a chance to play, Anton Forsberg has found a home in Ottawa. On Wednesday, the Senators rewarded him with a one-year contract extension and he rewarded them with 30 saves in a 5-1 victory.
- New Jersey Devils fans voted Janne Kuokkanen, who had 10 points in 16 games, as their Player of the Month for March.
- Kuokkanen finished the season with 25 points in 50 games, including this goal in the Devils’ final game of the season on Monday.
Coo coo for Kuokkanen— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) May 10, 2021
?: Sharangovich pic.twitter.com/JD58lmVQAS
- Nicolas Roy scored this goal to tie the game in the third period of an eventual overtime win over St. Louis. His Vegas team has a chance to clinch the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best team in the coming days.
- After scoring just one point in 35 games with Carolina to start the season, Haydn Fleury has three in 12 outings for his new club in Anaheim, including this goal on Wednesday.
- Aleksi Saarela is the latest former Checker to capture a championship in Europe as his Lukko team won the Finnish title earlier today. He tied for fourth in playoff scoring with eight points in 11 games, including this goal on Saturday.
- Former Checkers captain Roland McKeown joined the Hurricanes’ taxi squad on Wednesday. He had played the earlier portion of the season in the Swedish Hockey League, where he recorded nine points in 24 games and helped Skelleftea to the playoff semifinals.
The #Canes have hailed a cab for defenseman Roland McKeown, who recorded nine points (4g, 5a) in 24 SHL games this season.— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) May 5, 2021
He'll join the team on the ice once his travel quarantine is complete.https://t.co/osxKGlKslJ
- Joey Keane, who finished last season with Charlotte following a trade for Julien Gauthier, made his NHL debut in the Hurricanes’ final regular-season game last night.
- Andrew Poturalski remains in control of the AHL scoring race with 40 points in 41 games. He’s got a six-point lead over the next-highest active player. Ryan Murphy continues to lead league defenseman with 26 points in 34 outings. Both are expected to participate in the Pacific Division’s limited playoff.