The Rochester Americans and Abbotsford Heat face off tonight for Game 1 of their Calder Cup playoff series. The Amerks missed the playoffs the last two seasons after having two of the worst teams in franchise history. A pretty remarkable turnaround, big thanks to the wallet of Amerks Owner Curt Styres.
A few quick things before the part about Matthias:
** Rory Fitzpatrick is a healthy scratch, that’s the biggest news. Mathieu Roy is in. Roy has only played in one game for the Amerks and is coming off of an ankle injury. Sucks for Fitzpatrick, but a healthy Roy is probably better. Is game #1 of the playoffs the time to really take a gamble and expect 20 minutes out of the guy? Groulx is taking a gamble, hopefully it pays off.
Has the Captain of a team ever been forced to sit in game 1 like this? Rory didn’t sound too happy in his comments to Kevin O at Hockey O-Zone. It’s part of the game, but… why make him the captain if you don’t think you can count on him?
** Rob Tallas, the Panthers goalie coach has already left town. At least Salak and Plante got some help this week.. back to being on your own boys. Is Tallas limited to three days of travel? The Panthers are out of the playoffs, what else does he have to do? Unreal.
** Panthers GM Randy Sexton will be at the game tonight watching. Doesn’t really mean all that much, but good to know someone is here to check out the prospects.
** Abbotsford Heat head coach Jim Playfair was on the ice with his team for the their gameday skate. Was Groulx with the Amerks? Nope. Does he have to be? Has never been his style but it is the playoffs. Just an observation.
The common question around this time of year is talking about the veteran players and them leading the younger players in the playoffs. A lot of times it’s because they have been in this situation before. Those with experience can offer advice about what’s different, menatally preparing and really explaining what’s on the line.
That’s not always the case though, just ask Shawn Matthias who is only 22 years old. Matthias has just as much “big game” experience as anyone else on this team. He played for Canada in the 2008 World Juniors tournament and won a gold medal. He also played in the Memorial Cup tournament when he played for the Belleville Bulls in the OHL. He’s been in big games like this before.
Matthias said, “I have my playoff experiences, I think I’m ready for it and know what to expect.” He also went on to say that it’s important in the regular season but even more so in the playoffs, “knowing when your team a needs a goal or your down a goal you have to battle hard.”
When talking about playoff experience (in general, not just pro level), he’s played in more playoff games than Mike York and Jeff Taffe combined.
In one season Matthias went from getting boo’ed by the peanut gallery in the balcony in Rochester to playing in 55 games in the NHL this season with the Florida Panthers. He has only played in 27 games for the Amerks this season and a lot of people may have forgotten about him, but don’t count out his past experiences and the time he spent playing in the NHL.
“Even though i haven’t been here most of the year I feel like I’m one of the guys which just shows the character of our team,” Matthias said. “Teams like that usually do pretty well this time of year.”
It’s pretty clear that he hates being asked about last season, for obvious reasons but there’s a clear difference and improvement in the way he plays. He skates faster. He’s better defensively. He plays more physical. He’s done what you’re supposed to do, improve.
“This is the time to show up. If you’re not ready to play you’ll be out of place. This is the biggest time of year, some guys who scored a ton of points in the regular season are a no show in the playoffs,” Matthias said. “This is where you see who the big players are. I definitely want to show up every night and give the team a chance to win.”