Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 02/19/11 at 04:46 PM ET
On Friday night, the Hurricanes sent Rod Brind’Amour’s sweater to the rafters, where it will hang alongside Ron Francis and Glen Wesley. New NHL regulations dictate that sweater retirement ceremonies must take place before the pre-game skate, and the pre-game skate can be no more than 30 minutes before puck drop. So the ceremony was at 7:00 and the game at 8:00.
The ceremony was excellent and Roddy handled it very well. He doesn’t enjoy being the center of attention, but he handled himself and the spotlight quite well. During the pre-game skate, every player from both teams wore special sweaters with Brind’Amour’s name and number. It was appropriate since Brindy played all but a handful of games for the two franchises. Still, I thought it was a display of tremendous class from the Flyers.
Carolina had great jump coming out of the gates, and they got off to an early 2-0 lead. Philly pushed back, killed a ton of penalties, climbed back in it and got an equalizing goal late in the third. It looked like the game was headed to overtime, but Erik Cole brought the over-capacity crowd to its feet with his second game-winning goal in the last three games.
Carolina got a bit of good news as the Buffalo Sabres lost in regulation and so did the Rangers. This means that Carolina is in eighth place with a bit of breathing room. They’re just two points behind the Rangers with a game in hand. The Rangers will play against the Flyers at home on Sunday and will be in Raleigh on Tuesday night. If all goes well, Carolina will have a chance to leapfrog the Blueshirts into seventh place on that night. That assumes that Carolina gets at least one point at home against the Devils on Saturday, the Rangers lose in regulation to the Flyers on Sunday and Carolina wins in regulation on Tuesday.
In Friday’s game, the Hurricanes were superb in the first period, matching Philadelphia’s physical play and notching two quick goals out of the gate. In the second period, the Canes had a number of power play chances including a full two minutes of five-on-three, but failed to score. They in fact gave up a shorthanded goal in the middle frame. While it’s easy to groan about the inability to score a goal in seven power play chances, it’s important to credit the Flyers for shutting it down. There are a lot of good reasons that they’re the top team in the east, and their penalty killing is just one of those reasons.
During the long five-on-three, the Hurricanes utilized a five-forward system for most of the penalty, and it didn’t amount to anything. With all five forwards down low, they didn’t get any shots off. After switching back to a conventional power play, the defensemen were able to keep the zone and also to unleash some bombs from the points. Against a team like the Flyers, it’s probably better to keep the defensemen out there on the power play. Not only are the Flyers the eighth best team in the league at killing penalties, but they are the league leader with nine shorthanded goals.
Chad LaRose had a huge goal early in the first, tipping in a Joe Corvo point shot. Just seconds before the goal, Rosie was knocked down behind the Philly net. Instead of crying and chirping in the ear of the official, he got back to work and was in the right place at the right time with his stick on the ice for the tip-in. It was his sweater-matching 59th goal of his career. It was almost fitting that the was the guy to get things started. He was one of the groomsmen in Brind’Amour’s wedding this past summer and he has a work ethic similar to that of Roddy. He’s regarded as a mini-Brindy because of his almost pathological dedication to fitness.
Jeff Skinner scored his 22nd of the season in the first, and he now has 46 (22/24) points in his first season. That’s the most of any NHL rookie by far. The player with the next most points is Logan Couture of the Sharks with 37 (24/13). Couture is technically a rookie, but he played 25 games with the Sharks last season. I’m biased, but I don’t think there’s much of a question as to who is the best rookie in the league this season.
Erik Cole was enormous. His game-winning goal at 16:57 of the third was his seventh GWG of the season and his second in the last three games. His season hasn’t been spectacular in terms of his stats, but he’s been great all season long. He has “just” 35 (17/18) points, but seven of his goals have been in the third period and another two in overtime. Seven game winning goals. In the last ten games, he has nine (4/5) points including three game-winners. He’s been quite good in the clutch, and he’s also been a big influence for the kid Skinner. He doesn’t wear a letter on the front of his sweater, but he’s a big-time leader. The fact that he has taken Skinner under his wing is proof of that.
On Saturday, the Canes will have to play the scorching hot New Jersey Devils. They had a horrendous first half of the season and may be too far out to be thinking about their playoff chances, but they’ve won six games in a row and twelve of their last fifteen. In fact, they’ve only been beaten in regulation one time in their last seventeen games. This is pretty scary. They’re still twelve points out of a playoff position and will have to continue this ridiculous pace to have a chance of climbing in. It reminds me so much of last year’s Carolina team.
Puck drop at 7:00 tonight for the second of four straight home games and the back end of the only back-to-back home set this season. The only other game of special interest for the Canes will be the Thrashers at Edmonton.
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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.