From the drop of the puck to the final horn, the Aeros were no-shows tonight. And when I say Aeros, I mean every Aero except Matt Hackett, who was exceptional before being pulled.
"You know what, we didn't show up. Bottom line. I didn't do a good job," said coach John Torchetti. "Got to do a better job tomorrow prepping the team, bringing our battle level a whole lot higher. They came out hungry. They wanted to prove something to us, and they did in the first game, and we've got to come out and prove it back tomorrow."
It's not often a goalie gets a star of the game after allowing 4 goals, but that's at the heart of everything that went wrong in this game. Shots were 19-3 in the first period, after which the Aeros were only down 1-0.
The pressure continued in the second, with shots racking up at the same pace (or not racking up, if you're the Aeros), and then the avalanche of goals began with a power play goal. They went on to score two more, all 3 within 2:11 of each other.
Before the 3rd goal, Hackett butterflied to make a save, the puck went to the other side, so he pushed to slide across the crease, but didn't budge. From there on out, it felt like something with Hackett wasn't right. He was pressing his blocker into the front of his hip/groin area and seemed to be hurting but playing through it.
On the 3rd goal, he went down awkwardly and puck slid under his pad and in. He stayed down and athletic trainer, Jody Green, came out to check on him. He was determined to stay in, but it was clear that when he pushed up with his right leg, there was a hitch as his hip starts to straighten out.
If you remember how Harding looked a couple of seasons ago as he labored through the end of the season with a wrecked hip, it reminded me of that, though not as bad. And indeed, his mobility was so out of whack, the 4th goal was essentially due to the fact that he couldn't recover from being down.
At this point, Hackett gets the hook, breaks his stick into chunks over the crossbar in (completely understandable) frustration, and Mike Brodeur, who missed all of the season after hip surgery, took over.
"He probably could have went a little bit crazier coming to the bench. We've got to do a better job for him," Torchetti said.
Of course, this is the playoffs, so fast-forward to the post game chat with Torchetti and we got this: "He's fine. He's fine. I'm not going to leave him in for that. He battled his ass off for us all night and I'm not going to leave him in that situation. I'm not going to do that for him because it's just not right"
Will he be in tomorrow? "With bells on."
Okay. Needless to say, while I hadn't, at that point, planned to go to morning skate, I am now, just to see how Hackett is moving. I know a hurt goalie when I see one, but if he CAN play, I know he will. I guess we'll see how he's feeling tomorrow.
The Barons got one goal on Brodeur, but he only saw 11 shots in 23 minutes, so they'd clearly let off the gas a bit. Shots in the third were a much less insane 8-5.
The teams meet again Friday night at 7:30. The Aeros watched film of the goals against before Torchetti even came out to talk to media.
"But it wasn't just the goals. We didn't come out and battle. They won the battles and we didn't. End of subject. There's nothing to it. They out-played us, they out-worked us in our own barn. We've got to do a better job and come out harder tomorrow," he said.