Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 02/01/09 at 01:04 AM ET
On Saturday night, the Hurricanes again had a “must win” game at home against the hapless Thrashers. With goals by Matt Cullen and Ray Whitney and a shutout by Cam Ward, they got the job done. The 2-0 win was the third shutout of the season for Ward and the 101st win of his career.
I’ve seriously got to tip my hat to Atlanta netminder Kari Lehtonen. Without his brilliant play, it could have easily been 8-0.
Cam Ward was sharp in the shutout, but he only faced 19 shots. Lehtonen faced more than that in the first period alone.
For the second time in as many games, Carolina registered a shorthanded goal. They had gone 49 games without one, and they were the last team to get one. On Thursday, Chad LaRose scored on the setup by Matt Cullen. Tonight, the roles were reversed just like Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly in “True West”. Time of the goal was 7:41 of the first.
Ray Whitney scored his sixteenth goal of the season with just 1:31 remaining in the opening period. Matt Cullen made a pretty chip pass from the bench area to Whitney, who streaked in alone. Because it was late in the period and the ice was iffy to begin with thanks to a college basketball game earlier in the day, Whitney had to settle the puck before making his move. He still had time to deke and beat Lehtonen, who faced 21 shots in the first period alone.
After losing five games in a row, Carolina has now won four of its last five games. Due to the invasion of the Ringling Brothers circus, the Canes will be forced onto the road for three games out west followed by four days off before returning home on February 12.
With a shorthanded game-winning goal and an assist, Matt Cullen was the best skater for sure. He received the game’s first star. Chad LaRose had an assist and a very active and energetic night. He was given the third star, while Cam pitched a shutout and got the second star. This is all good and well, but it’s impossible to deny that Lehtonen had a phenomenal night. If I could award the stars, I would do them thusly:
THIRD STAR Cam Ward, CAR—- 19 saves, shutout
SECOND STAR Kari Lehtonen, ATL—- 38 saves
FIRST STAR Matt Cullen, CAR—- GWG (sh), assist
Worth noting: Rod Brind’Amour had just 13:10 of TOI and only took eight faceoffs. I still think there’s something wrong with him and he’s not telling anyone. His ice time and role have diminished so much, I wonder how long it’ll be before he becomes a healthy scratch.
The Canes will have two days off before starting their Western trip in Vancouver on Tuesday. The Canucks are struggling, as they have lost seven games in a row and are, as I type, down 2-0 in the first against Minnesota. There was a highly publicized fight in practice the other day, and they’re having a whale of a time keeping the puck out of their own net. They’re scoring goals just fine, but they’re giving up five and six goals a night. Perhaps for them, the low-scoring Hurricanes are exactly the elixir they need. Carolina is playing that pre-lockout type of game where the objective seems to be not to score more goals, but to surrender fewer. Not exactly an offense-oriented scheme we have here.
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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.