Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 05/18/11 at 12:11 AM ET
On Tuesday night the Binghamton Senators handed the Charlotte Checkers a thorough 7-1 beating and have taken a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series for the Eastern Conference Championship in the Calder Cup playoffs. The BSens have two chances to close out the series on their own home ice. None of the three games so far has even been close.
Zack Smith led the way for the BSens, netting a hat trick. Bobby Sanguinetti scored the only goal of the game (in fact the only goal since game one) for the Checkers.
Charlotte was the lower seeded team in both of its previous playoff series, and they won both in six games. In each series, they needed to dig themselves out of a deep hole to win one of the games, and there was hope that they would repeat the accomplishment of overcoming a three goal deficit. In game five against the defending Calder Cup champs, they climbed out of a 3-0 hole to win the game 5-3. In the sixth and deciding game against the regular season champ WBS Penguins, the Checkers overcame the same 3-0 third period deficit to win that game 4-3. There was hope that the Checkers would repeat that by climbing out of the same three goal third period deficit in this game, but there was no more magic.
As they had done in the previous two games, Charlotte led the shot counter, but not where it really matters. The Checkers registered 38 shots on goal to 32 for the BSens. After the game was already way out of control, Justin Pogge relieved Mike Murphy, and he gave up two goals on just three shots.
The Senators did an amazing job of clogging up the middle of the ice and taking away the slot. The majority of Charlotte’s chances came from above or outside the circles. Low percentage shots. There weren’t any red-clad bodies in front of the net because the BSens refused to allow it. Full marks to them for playing a brilliant defensive game. And yes, they scored a bunch of goals too.
After the third Binghamton goal, you could see the frustration in Murphy. One of those goals was a little soft, and it was clear that he wasn’t able to put it behind him. The Checkers skaters, too, seemed to have lost their focus. The BSens, meanwhile, were totally dialed in from the goal out.
The Senators 19-year old goalie Robin Lehner deserves high praise here. Even if the Checkers shots weren’t of the highest calibre, he still had to make 37 saves in this game. He pitched a 35-save shutout in game two and keeps getting better as this playoff season goes deeper. On the other end of the ice, Mike Murphy is getting worse. He was in the top two of every goalie stats category before this series started, and now he’s dropped down to eighth in most categories. That’s what happens when you give up five goals in each of two incomplete games. Again, it’s not fair take the credit away from the Senators, but Murph hasn’t been himself. There have been some bad goals and they’re getting in his head.
Game four will be Wednesday night, and if the Checkers can find a way to win, game five will be Saturday in Binghamton. I’m not gonna lie. It doesn’t look good.
Meanwhile, out west, the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) have a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montréal Canadiens).
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.