Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 03/16/11 at 10:40 PM ET
On Wednesday night, the Hurricanes had a glorious chance to climb within a breath of the eighth place Buffalo Sabres. One day after beating the Sabres on the road, Carolina was in their own barn hosting the Maple Leafs. Carolina knew that a win would put them in a standings points tie with the Sabres and that this would force the Sabres to win their next game on Saturday. Carolina also knew that the Leafs were breathing down their neck. At this point in the season, when you’re two points out of eighth, every game is the most important game of the season. This certainly was that.
The Canes got out to a 1-0 lead with—believe it or not—a power play goal in the first period. Unfortunately, that Chad LaRose goal was the only one for the home team.
Dion Phaneuf leveled the score at 19:01 of the first of his two power play goals on the night. Midway through the second, he potted another power play marker just six seconds into a hooking penalty against Carolina’s Brandon Sutter. Unbelievably, Tyler Bozak of the Leafs scored again just twelve seconds after Phaneuf. And that’s all it took.
Leafs netminder James Reimer had an outstanding night, making 36 saves to lead his team to victory.
If Carolina had been able to win, things would look very good for a potential playoff berth. Instead, their playoff chances took a big hit. With eleven games left to play and the need to earn three points more than Buffalo, it’s going to take a near-perfect finish. At the very least 8-3, but probably more like 9-2. They’re not capable of that. I’m not throwing in the towel, but from a realistic standpoint, it looks pretty bleak.
While the power play woes have been talked into the ground, another big issue for the Canes is one that’s much simpler than that. They’re just not scoring goals at all. Only twice in the last 21 games have they scored more than three goals. While the New Jersey Devils are proving that it’s possible to pull of a complete 180, Carolina just doesn’t have the tools for that.
On Friday, Carolina will be back in action at home against the Islanders. The Isles are playing with some confidence, so they’re not the pushover that their record might suggest. It might already be too late for the Hurricanes, but if they lose against the Isles, it’s definitely over.
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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.