Quiet around here, eh? With eight rounds of the NHL Playoffs filling the puckworld's airwaves this week, it's both too much and not enough. Too much (if there is such a thing) thrilling playoff hockey every night and twice on Sundays. With the home team out of competition till October, there's not enough motivation to really give a flip who wins.
With that in mind, some stories and links to get you through the early post-season duldrums, starting with the Hurricanes minor league affiliate in Charlotte. The Checkers held on to even their first round series versus the defending Calder Cup Champions Hershey Bears last night. Fresh from victory at the NCAA Frozen Four 10 days ago, 19-year-old defenseman Justin Faulk played his first pro game for the franchise, and Mike Murphy returned from a concussion suffered 3+ weeks ago. Murphy was recognized as the AHL's 2nd star of the night in the win. Former Bear Oskar Osala contributed his first goal of the series and centerman Zac Dalpe continues to impress every night. Highlights and post-game comments from Game 4 (Faulk wears #3, Dalpe is #19):
And the official recap and stats are here: Checkers Dodge Hershey Comeback, even series at 2-2
Dodge shot game-winning goal | CharlotteObserver.com Hounding the puck and driving the net, the Charlotte Checkers turned up the intensity of their play Wednesday night to defeat the Hershey Bears at Time Warner Cable Arena 3-2.
Game 5 of the series (and the last in Charlotte) will be Friday night and the Canes have a special ticket discount for all who are looking to get there and cheer for the Canes prospects. The attendance has yet to exceed 4,000 for the first two games, but a big turn-out is hoped for tomorrow night. Game 6 will be in Hershey Sunday afternoon (yes, that's Easter) and if necessary, Game 7 is Monday, also in Hershey, making for a potential 5 games in 7 days.
The N&O's Chip Alexander has been in Charlotte covering the series this week, talking with the prospects closest to making the jump to Raleigh next season: To catch the eyes of the Hurricanes - NewsObserver.com Dalpe would like to think he will have a place on the Carolina Hurricanes' roster next year, in the NHL. So do such Checkers as Drayson Bowman and Zach Boychuk, Bobby Sanguinetti and others.
From the Hershey side of things: Charlotte Checkers even series with win over Hershey Bears | PennLive.com Since a rough first period in Game 3 of the East Division semifinals, Charlotte Checkers goalie Mike Murphy has turned into a difficult obstacle for the Hershey Bears. Murphy, who made 35 saves, was the prime difference in Charlotte’s 3-2 Game 4 victory over Hershey Wednesday night.
After the jump, a collection of Jeff Skinner stories and interviews following the announcement that he was one of the finalists for the Calder Trophy, more on Justin Faulk, what the new TV deal means to the NHL, and looking at the Canes who'll be playing for their countries in Europe next week.
Made the rounds as a Calder Trophy Finalist this week.
Must listen: HNIC Radio talks with Jeff Skinner upon the nomination for the Calder Trophy Tuesday afternoon, audio, 8:29. I'm pretty sure that's Jeff Marek leading the interview, but I would love to know who the former Hartford Whaler is, with the Quebecois accent, who asks Skinner about Ron Francis. Anyone know who that might be?
From 620theBuzz's Mike Maniscalco and Mark Thomas morning show here in Raleigh, the story Skinner won't be acting out the Hangover in Vegas - WRALSportsFan.com and just the audio.
And in studio Tuesday at NHLNetwork's On the Fly. I think maybe he is sorta a little bit humble during this special time for him and his family fershurr I guess.
Plus a few more columns on the three finalists and those who didn't make the cut in one of the best Rookie classes in recent years.
Calder Trophy Finalists: Couture vs. Grabner vs. Skinner - Puck Daddy When the NHL's writers converged on Raleigh for the All-Star Game, they experienced the Bieber-mania that surrounded Skinner locally. It left an impression. You combine that with leading the NHL in rookie points and closing strongly as the votes were being cast, and Skinner has to be considered the favorite here.
Calder Trophy favours the goal scorers - James Mirtle, The Globe and Mail NHL's top rookies are all forwards this time around. Part of the problem is that it's so difficult to compare players at different positions. How do Carlson's 37 points match up against Skinner's 63? And Crawford's 33 wins on a Chicago team that was dead in the water before he took over in goal?
Faulk Steps Right in For Checkers - Paul Branecky, Tracking the Storm Blog As rapidly as Justin Faulk has risen through the ranks, he never seems to have much trouble adjusting to his new surroundings.
Canes Now - Faulk steps into pressurized situation "You definitely don't like to leave a team, especially when you're a freshman. But when you're faced with either playing pro hockey or college hockey, it's always a dream to play pro hockey and it's tough to turn down."
The Hockey News: The Hot List: Faulk makes the grade In this week's list of players we can't wait to see in the NHL one day, we profile Justin Faulk of the Charlotte Checkers.
More Checkers in the news
UPDATED Checkers Notes: Murphy, Dalpe Step up for Charlotte - Branecky/TTS Blog "Murphy has responded well two games in a row after being out for a long period of time," said Checkers coach Jeff Daniels. "He's a big-time goalie."
Radio voice Jason Shaya had his latest 10 thoughts up at in-house blog Checkers Chatter this week. As always, an excellent read. A sample, at #10: We've been saying it all year. Dalpe will be a bona fide star for the Canes.
Canes Now - Jared Staal still looking to move up "I ended up coming down to Charlotte and played, I thought, pretty well for a while. Then, about 20 games into the season I got sent down. Obviously, I wasn't too thrilled about it. I did go down there and I guess was counted on a little bit more."
Checkers' good-guy Dalpe leads playoffs vs. Bears | CharlotteObserver.com Zac Dalpe wants to stay in Charlotte. We need to keep Zac Dalpe in Charlotte.
April 19: Watertown Daily Times | Minor Updates with Mike McKenzie At times it was pretty tough and frustrating being injured while living in the hotel. The team would go on the road and I would be stuck by myself all weekend with not much to do and no car to take me anywhere.
The #3 goalie in Charlotte, now that Mike Murphy has returned to action, is Bobby Goepfert. Goepfert is also known as @Geffman47 who just surpassed the 1000 follower mark on twitter, which he observed with this very funny "Twog": They said it couldnt be done. A flash in the pan. A one hit wonder....
Good reads on Playoff Hockey
Mark Recchi Hoping History Will Repeat If Bruins Follow Carolina's Blueprint to Rally Past Montreal - NESN.com "It was just that the guys believed in each other," Recchi said of Carolina's comeback. "I joined the team with 20 games left and saw how much the guys believed in what they were doing and they stayed with it. They stayed with what they were doing and they believed in it. Cam Ward came in, that was his first game in Game 3 and he kind of ran with it after that.
Fascinating profile of the Tampa Bay Lightning's rookie coach: Like father, like son for Lightning coach Boucher Guy Boucher's coaching philosophy was shaped at a young age thanks to his father, Wilfrid.
About that $2 Billion TV deal
Red Light: NHL’s new TV deal is a winner Ebersol and his negotiating team wanted a high degree of exclusivity for this product. They feel they can best maximize its value by not having to compete in the advertising marketplace with the teams’ local rights-holders in the playoffs and with another national cable network for weekly games. That’s what they are paying the NHL for, and one reason the rights fee is as high as it is.
Why the NHL's new TV deal with NBC, not ESPN, is great for hockey and the Flyers - Broad Street Hockey NBC has committed to much, much more. Versus and NBC will broadcast 100 regular season games next season, including a new national game on Black Friday. 100 regular season games is roughly three or four per week. That's a ton of hockey on national television, and it sounds even better in the playoffs.
IIHF World Championships
Not much happening yet, but a couple resources to check in with from time to time before the first game next weekend.
I know of 4 players from the Canadian and Finnish teams plus a TSN journalist who are on twitter giving you behind the scenes insight on what the experience is like. You can follow them at this list: @HMof2/IIHF2011. Let me know if you discover more so I can get them in the mix.
Our Canes Country Calendar has all the games for Canada (Skinner), Finland (Ruutu) and Germany (recently signed defensman Justin Krueger ) listed. I haven't seen if Denmark will be inviting goal tender Frederik Andersen (Canes 7th round pick in 2010) again this year. If so, I'll be sure to add those in on the calendar as well.
I link this story from TSN.ca to highlight one comment to suggest what this experience means for Skinner (and a very good reason he's participating): Nonis happy with changing attitude towards World Championship Commenter adds: "in fact Hockey Canada's only interest in this tourny is to give 18-19 and 20 year olds who could be in the mix for future olympic teams international experience..."
Canada Lines: Nash-Stewart-Duchene; Kane-Tavares-Skinner; Ladd-Spezza-Eberle; Vermette-Zajac-Clutterbuck
Not as easy to find the intense coverage of the Finns that Team Canada gets, but here are some links you're sure to like.
From Helsinki: Tuomo Ruutu at Mercy of Tornados "We had so many tornadoes, I always struggle to get out from under. My flight was supposed to go at 2pm, but I was delayed until the next morning at 6," Tuomo Ruutu told the evening newspaper.
Sami Lepisto, recently of the Blue Jackets and the Coyotes, is among those who will be on the Finn team. Thanks to twitter, we also know he will be Ruutu's roommate in Slovakia. He also told us that Team Suomi now has it's own customized shoes: Finnish national ice hockey team got its own Reino footwear.- MTV3.fi
Auld Lang Syne