The Charlotte Checkers are headed to summer vacation after dropping their first round playoff series 3-2 to the Chicago Wolves. In a matchup in which they were heavy underdogs, the Checkers put up a great fight for a young team that gave the division’s top seed all they could handle.
Ultimately, what plagued them during the regular season trickled its way into the playoffs. After a league worst power play during the regular season, the trend continued into the playoffs where the Checkers went 0 for 10 with the man advantage in the series. The team continuously tries to make an extra pass with the man advantage and it ends up cleared down the ice.
The penalty kill, although not quite as anemic as the power play, was also in the bottom third during the regular season. While the Checkers killed off eight of nine power plays in the first four games of the series, the penalty kill allowed two goals in Game 5. Special teams will need to be evaluated during the offseason and addressed before the 2017-18 season opener.
That said, there was a lot to like out of the series including the strong play of Lucas Wallmark. Wallmark had a strong second half of the season and finished 2nd on the team in scoring behind rookie Andrew Poturalski. Wallmark was the best player in the series and will be heavily relied on heading into next season.
Tom McCollum’s play deflated after Game 3 and he looked shaky in Games 4 and 5. However, McCollum’s postseason play - to say nothing of his final month of the season - should not be frowned upon. He is the reason the Checkers competed down the stretch and secured a playoff spot. Going into next season, he brings a calming force in net and the Hurricanes should attempt to acquire him to remain between the pipes for Charlotte. Rookie Alex Nedeljkovic is not ready for the AHL workload yet and Daniel Altshuller is too inconsistent to carry the team.
It’s best to start booking your tickets and plan on making a trip to Charlotte next season. With top prospects Aleksi Saarela, Wallmark, Jake Bean and Janne Kuokkanen expected to play heavy minutes heading into the 2017-18 campaign, Charlotte will be an exciting team to watch with a good chance of significant success next season.