Playoff Notebook: Preparing to Bounce Back
The Checkers hit the ice in Springfield on Tuesday for the first time since their Game 1 loss.
The focus for the skate was a simple one: preparing to bounce back.
"I think it's just collectively rebounding from not the effort that we wanted," said team captain Zac Dalpe.
"We're working on some stuff that we can do better tomorrow," said forward Alexander True.
With a few days to digest the tough 6-0 defeat, it was a dialed-in group on the ice for the midweek practice.
"There's some stuff that we can clean up," said True. "That wasn't our best game, I think we just look at our own game and see what we can do better and go from there."
Proceeding on from a loss like that presents the question of whether to cherry pick some things that went right versus simply moving on - or a combination of the two schools of thought.
"I think a bit of both," said Dalpe. "There were obviously some positives - I thought we were right there in the first period. Second period there was special teams and then a few shifts got away from us in the third. But that being said it was 6-0 so you have to turn the page a bit."
At its core though, Tuesday's practice boiled down to the key points that the coaching staff has hammered home all season long.
"Just to be clean and make sure that we're connected as a five-man unit," said rookie forward Cole Schwindt. "Just put that game behind us and get ready for the next one."
The Atlantic Division Finals have a unique quirk in their scheduling, as both teams get two full days off between Games 1 and 2.
For the Checkers, that gave them the chance to do some bonding.
"We got away from the city of Springfield for a bit yesterday and went to Boston," said Dalpe. "I think it brings everybody's spirits up a little bit. Obviously you spend a lot of time with one another, but in a different setting, in a different city without having to be at the rink, I think it's good for the group."
In the grind of the eighth month of the season, a quick getaway can be a positive force on the room.
"That fuels the morale," said Schwindt. "We're a really tight-knit group here. Getting to explore the city a bit yesterday was fun."
That's how the Checkers spent the first half of their two-day gap in the series, but now it's back to business.
"Now we're back at the rink and we're ready to go," said Schwindt.
"I think it's a good mix of getting away from the rink and then being back and having a good practice," said Dalpe.
The Checkers were shut out for the first time this postseason in their Game 1 loss to Springfield despite pumping 35 shots on goal.
Charlotte finished the regular season with the 11th ranked offense in the AHL and have notched at least four goals twice during their playoff run thus far. The key now is to get things back in motion.
"We just have to play better," said True. "We know we can score goals, so if we just play like we know we can, I don't think that we're going to worry about scoring goals."
When it comes to kickstarting that aspect of their game, the team knows it's all in the details.
"Goals will come in bunches once we do the right things," said Schwindt. "Getting it behind their D, working together down low, getting some offensive zone time, getting some extended stuff down there, I think that will definitely help us thrive and fuel our offense."
Part of finding that offense is sparking the power play, which was held off the board in four opportunities in Game 1 and is 0-for-11 over the last three contests.
"Just maybe a little harder mentality," said Dalpe. "I don't want to say we were going through the motions, but you don't want to treat the two minutes as a break either, you need it as momentum for your team. That's what we're going to try to do."
The Checkers didn't find themselves down in their second-round matchup with Bridgeport, taking a pair of games on the road before dropping one and then closing the series out.
Falling in the opening contest of round three has the Checkers behind in these Atlantic Division Finals, but they're certainly not rattled.
"I talked at the start of the playoffs about how we're going to react to things," said Dalpe. "We kind of got punched in the mouth there, so to speak, and as a leader you have to be vocal and hardworking in practice. You have to let them know it's not the end of the world. Obviously we're down 1-0 but tomorrow is a new game."
This is a Charlotte squad that is no stranger to adversity, so the morale remains high.
"It's positive," said True. "It's a good atmosphere around the room. Guys are professional, they're taking care of themselves. It's a good atmosphere."
With a large contingent of the roster experiencing their first taste of playoffs at this level, it's the experienced leadership group that has kept the team on an even keel and prepared to bounce back.
"There's no panic in the locker room," said Schwindt. "Hearing from the vets, they've been here before. You're not going to go through the whole playoffs without losing one game. So we're ready to go."
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