Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 01/31/10 at 12:32 AM ET
On a rare snowy day in Raleigh, the Hurricanes welcomed one of the best teams in the league in the Chicago Blackhawks. Andrew Ladd and a few other Hawks had a slumber party at Eric Staal’s house, but the Canes weren’t as kind to the visitors once they got inside the RBC Center. Carolina stretched their winning streak to four games with a 4-2 victory. With tonight’s result, the Blackhawks have not won in North Carolina since a 4-1 victory on January 14, 1998. Jeff Hackett was the goalie for the Hawks that night.
A big storm came through on Friday night, dumping at least eight inches of snow on most of North Carolina. Everything was business as usual at the RBC Center, though. NC State played a basketball game and the Canes game went on without a hitch. The crowd was a sparse 7000, but those who drove through the ice and snow were treated to a great game.
Eric Staal didn’t score a goal, but he had one assist, stretching his scoring streak to seven games. Sergei Samsonov, Jussi Jokinen, Brandon Sutter and Matt Cullen scored goals for the Canes, but Cam Ward was the big hero. 39 saves against the Hawks is nothing to sneeze at.
Sergei Samsonov scored a bang-in goal at 19:50 of the first. Cristobal Huet made a series of saves, but the puck squirted out of his equipment and behind him in the blue ice. Samsonov was in the right place at the right time to put it in.
The Blackhawks controlled the game in the second period. And the third for that matter. Cam Ward was forced to make amazing save after amazing save late in the second period and throughout the third. Perhaps none was bigger than a fantastic glove save against Patrick Kane from point blank range with about 50 seconds to play.
Marian Hossa scored a nifty goal at 6:46 of the second, putting on a show below the circles, then backhanding one past Ward.
Jussi Jokinen snuck one by Huet at 17:53 of the middle period. Huet made a stop on the shot, but he struggled with the puck a little bit. Instead of catching it or blockering it away, he once again knocked it under and behind himself. It just barely trickled over the goal line. After a brief review, the on-ice call of “goal” was upheld.
Later in the game, two more plays would go under review, and each of them were situations where Cam Ward made a save right on the goal line. In both cases, the on-ice call of “no goal” was upheld.
Former Cane Andrew Ladd knotted the game at two at 7:43 with a blazing wrist shot from the left circle.
The Hawks had spent a lot of time in the Canes zone, and they were definitely controlling the flow of the game. It looked like they were about to take control of the scoreboard, but Carolina struck with two quick goals to take their momentum away. First it was young Brandon Sutter with his 13th of the season on a beautiful goal-crashing play at 9:08. Chad LaRose took a shot from the top of the left circle that Sutter tipped from near the left post. He didn’t just lazily go to the corner or behind the net. He went to the net hard and stopped right in front. A savvy play by a great young player.
Before the substitute PA announcer could even announce the goal, the Canes got on the board again when Matt Cullen scored at 9:34. And that was it for the Hawks.
The Canes withstood a furious rally in the closing minutes, fought off a penalty to end the game, and never stopped playing.
Had Ward been playing this well in October and Novermber, and if the Canes been giving him goal support, he’d be making the trip to Vancouver. And if a bullfrog had sidepockets, he’d carry a handgun. And if ifs and buts were candy and nuts…...
The Hurricanes won nine games in January, have 45 points, and have now passed Toronto in the standings. Even though they’re “only” 11 points out of the playoffs, it’s still virtually impossible for them. Like I’ve said, though, they’re playing well, making the fans happy, and the players are starting to have fun.
Now that they’ve climbed all the way to 28th in the NHL, it may be hurting their chances at locking in the #1 overall pick, but this is not a draft that has a clearcut #1. Hall and Seguin. Seguin and Hall. Whether the Canes pick first or fourth might make little to no difference. They’ll get a prospectively excellent player at that slot. And if they trade away Ray Whitney or Matt Cullen at the trading deadline, they’ll probably end up with bonus picks in the second round. Jim Rutherford has already made it clear that this summer will be one of major rebuilding. Whether that’s through the draft, through free agency, or through promotion from the Rats remains to be seen.
On that front, there were a few rumblings last week about the possibility of the Canes placing an AHL team in Charlotte. While it makes geographical sense for the team and the fans, it doesn’t make sense for the league unless other American League teams move to the Southeastern United States. The Canes affiliation with the Albany River Rats expires this season, but there’s no reason to think that the Rats won’t be staying put. If another team, especially one with an expiring NHL affiliation, moves to Charlotte, I could see it, but I’m not going to hold my breath for AHL hockey in North Carolina.
The Canes will take their four game winning streak on the road for two games in Alberta and two in New York. The four game trip starts Monday in Edmonton and ends Saturday on Lawn Guyland.
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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.