Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 03/31/10 at 11:23 PM ET
When Carolina’s Brandon Sutter scored his 20th goal on Wednesday night against Les Habitants, it meant that he has accomplished something special. The 20-goal plateau has been reached by 92 other players this season, so that isn’t the special part. What’s special about it is his combination of offense and discipline. He became the first player since the 1999-2000 season to reach 20 goals while spending only two minutes in the penalty box.
Sutter’s lone infraction of the season was a hooking penalty at Florida in a 6-3 loss on December 18. Since then, he has appeared in 43 games, averaging 16:29 of ice time without committing a single penalty. According to Paul Branecky at hurricanes.com, the last player to have 20 goals with just 2 PIMs was Sergei Berezin, ten years ago.
This should be the first of many 20-goal seasons for the Canes’ 2007 first round draft pick.
Berezin finished the 1999-2000 season with 39 (26/13) points and just the 2 PIMs in 61 games played. He also accomplished this feat in 1996-97 when he had 41 (25/16) points and 2 PIMs in 73 games played. At the end of the day, this is not Berezin’s legacy. On January 27, 2002, while playing for the Canadiens, the Russian scored the 10,000th home-ice goal in the history of that franchise. He had just been acquired in a trade the previous day when the Habs sent Brian Savage and a 2002 third round selection to the Phoenix Coyotes.
Brandon Sutter is at the very beginning of what will probably be a very fruitful career. He’s already proven himself to be a very reliable two-way player with outstanding hockey smarts. Given his pedigree, that’s not a surprise. However, he’s come along further and sooner than any of us imagined he would. Most notably, his strength in the faceoff circles. He’s second on the team in faceoffs taken and is also second on the team in faceoff winning percentage. He’s already better than the captain in that department, and as he gets heavier and stronger, he should get even better at that.
It’s nice that Suttsy is playing such a well disciplined game. He’s routinely congratulated for playing smartly, with his stick always on the ice. Of course he’s going to stay out of the box if he continues to do that, but I’d like to see him become a little more physical. As defensively reliable as he is now, it might be even better if he’d be more apt to hit a guy.
Either way, at some point in the not too distant future, I would expect to see an A on the front of Sutter’s sweater. And a lot more of his sweaters in the stands of the RBC Center.
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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.