Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 11/07/10 at 10:29 PM ET
On Friday night, the Hurricanes played one of their worst games of the season, but they used the back-to-back situation to their advantage and bounced back with a nice 3-2 win over Florida at home on Saturday night. On Friday they allowed 50 shots and seven goals. On Saturday, in front of a packed house, they cleaned that up quite a bit and allowed just 20 shots and two goals.
It’s still early in the season, but there’s very much a flat line to the level of play. It’s encouraging that they’ve bounced back from a bad game, but it’s not time to get happy about it until they can put together several good games in a row. They won two in a row to start the season, and they’ve lost two in a row two times since then, but there haven’t been any other highs or lows. They’ll have an opportunity to win their second in a row on Tuesday night when they play a struggling Oilers team at the RBC Center. After that, the rest of the week will be difficult, with a home game on Thursday against the Flyers and a Saturday game at Montréal.
Once again, the JET line was terrific, and Jeff Skinner is making the front office look brilliant.
The first period of the game was a snoozefest. Carolina clamped down on the Panthers, allowing them only four shots on goal in the first frame. The Canes registered nine shots, but none good enough to beat Scott Clemmensen. Carolina committed no penalties, while the Panthers committed one.
The second period was more of the same. Carolina’s only two penalties of the game occurred in the middle stanza, and they killed off both shorthanded situations. They also limited the visitors to just five shots in the period for a game total of nine after two periods. On the other end of the ice, Florida committed three penalties in the period, including two in a span of 13 seconds. This gave Carolina a lengthy five-on-three, which was a scenario they failed to take advantage of in Sunrise on Friday.
Eric Staal notched the first marker of the game at 7:51 of the second, during the long five-on-three. They had five forwards out there, and clearly meant business. During the power play, Clemmensen made some very nice saves against heavy shots by Jeff Skinner. Finally, though, with 18 seconds left on the first penalty, Staal found the net. Sergei Samsonov and Skinner got the assists.
Carolina went back on the power play almost immediately, but they couldn’t get another goal, and it was just 1-0 after 40 minutes.
At 2:21 of the third, Jeff Skinner was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a beautiful play by Erik Cole and chip the puck in for his fifth goal of the season. Cole made a strong move to the goal, circling behind and hitting the kid with a perfect pass. Cole had two guys draped all over him and they weren’t paying attention to Skinner, who was parked at the front of the goal mouth. The pass was right on his tape, and all he had to do was tip it in. Tuomo Ruutu got the secondary assist.
The two-goal lead was short lived. The Panthers were more aggressive in the final period, and they registered 11 shots in that period, compared to nine for the first two periods combined. Darcy Hordichuk, who was once part of a trade between the Predators and Hurricanes, scored for the Cats at 3:21. Mike Weaver sent a shot intentionally well wide of the net, and the lively rebound from the end walls went right out to Hordichuk, who chipped it in from a bevvy of players in the goal mouth.
Captain Staal scored again at 11:41 to restore the two-goal lead when his wrist shot from the top of the right circle deflected off a Panther player down low and got past Clemmensen. The goal was unassisted, and proved to be the game winner.
The final two and half minutes proved to be a chess match, and it got a bit tense. Pete DeBoer lifted his goaltender pretty early, with more than two minutes to play, hoping to get two goals with the extra attacker. Eric Staal was on the ice for the Canes, and he stayed out there until the final horn, trying to get the hat trick goal. It was a really long shift for him, and it didn’t pay any dividends.
Michael Frolik scored a ridiculous goal at 19:17 to make things really interesting. From the Carolina bench area, he fired a shot from the outside hashmarks of the left circle. Somehow, from that crazy location, it found its way between Cam Ward’s blocker and his body. I’m not entirely sure that it was even supposed to be a shot. Ward wasn’t expecting it, and neither was anyone else in the building. Proof though, that good things happen when you throw the puck at the net. Bryan McCabe and Dennis Wideman got the assists.
After 14 games, the team is a perfectly level 7-7-0. This pace won’t be good enough to earn them a playoff position, but they didn’t win their seventh game until game #29 of last season, so there’s no reason for panic. It would be nice to see them string together a couple of wins, especially against Eastern Conference teams.
There’s plenty of reason, though, to be excited about the play of Jeff Skinner. He might deflect praise, and some commentators might say that he’s had some luck, but it’s clear that he’s a very skilled player. On his goal Saturday night, it’s true that Cole set him up perfectly, but he still had to fight for his position in that dirty area of the ice. He still had to have the smarts to be where he was and to have his stick down to accept the perfect pass. He’s had a few of those goals this season where he was the recipient of a perfect set-up, but in each case, he still had to work hard away from the puck to gain the spot of ice. And he still had to have the courage to go to those areas against guys who outweigh him by 20 pounds and six inches. He’ll have plenty of goals where his stickhandling and skating are on display, but those dirty goals count just as much in the boxscore as the breakaway goals or the blistering one-timers. He is, by far, the best rookie skater so far. The Caps young goaltender MIchal Neuvirth is putting on an incredible show between nets to put him in the conversation for Calder. If the season ended today, it would be between those two guys and nobody else even close.
Meanwhile, down on the farm:
The Checkers have won two games in a row after dropping a shootout decision on Friday night. They have earned at least one standings point in seven straight games and have just wrapped up a grueling five-games-in-six-nights set. In that set, they went 3-0-0-2. Justin Pogge stopped 41 of 42 shots in a 3-1 win at Norfolk (Tampa Bay) on Saturday, and Mike Murphy stopped 42 of 44 in a home game this afternoon in a 4-2 win against the defending Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears (Capitals).
It’s not surprising that the Checkers allowed so many shots on goal when they played three days in a row and five of six. They’ll have a rare day off on Monday before facing the same Bears at home on Tuesday. The SOG total won’t be quite so high.
The Checkers and Hurricanes will both play home games on Veterans/Remembrance/Armistice Day.
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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.