Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 12/29/09 at 07:03 PM ET
On Monday night, the Hurricanes went to face the best team in the East on hostile ground. Not only were the Caps the best team in the Eastern conference, but they were until last night undefeated in SE divisional play. Perhaps they saw the Hurricanes coming and decided to take the night off. Perhaps they were shelled by the team trading away its captain. Perhaps something else. Carolina did not look like the worst team in the league, and they spanked the Caps 6-3.
In the third period of Saturday’s game against the Flyers, the Carolina coaching staff gambled on on reconstructing a top line of all centers. They put Jussi Jokinen, Matt Cullen and Eric Staal together. It was a chance, and it worked beautifully in that game and even better Monday night against the Capitals. Saturday night, they combined for six points in just one period of play. Monday night, they combined for ten points. It’s way too early to know for sure, but it looks like this new top line is a great idea.
Jokinen Cullen and Staal sparked a third period comeback on Saturday, scoring three unanswered goals to force overtime against the Flyers. Jokinen had two goals while Cullen and Staal each had two assists. Although the Canes lost the game in the shootout, those three played really well together, even if Staal is way out of position at right wing. Although one of their goals was scored on the power play, each player also ended up on the plus side of the +/- ledger.
On Monday, Eric Staal had a huge night with five (2/3) points and a +4 rating, Jussi Jokinen added three (1/2)and a +4 rating and Matt Cullen pitched in with another two assist night and another +2 rating. Jokinen and Staal are both making last minute auditions for their respective Olympic teams, while Cullen is just trying to help the Canes.
It’s hard to argue with success, and I’d say that this newly formed line is a huge success. They finish the 09 portion of the schedule with the traditional New Year’s Eve home game at 8:00pm. This year’s opponent is the Rangers, who defeated the Canes 3-1 just eight days ago. We’ll hope for continued success with the new big line.
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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.