Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 04/07/11 at 11:59 PM ET
Two shutout games have given Carolina control of its own playoff destiny with two games left to play. On Wednesday night, the Hurricanes surprisingly shut out the visiting Detroit Red Wings 3-0. On Thursday night, the Atlanta Thrashers shut out the New York Rangers by the same score.
The Rangers have 91 standings points—two better than Carolina, and have just one game to play. They must win their last game against the Devils on Saturday AND get help from Carolina to make the playoffs. Carolina, on the other hand, can control their own fate. If they win their last two games, they’re in.
Carolina also has the benefit of playing their final game after New York has already played its last game. They’ll know what, if anything, they need to do to get in. If Carolina beats Atlanta on Friday night and the Rangers lose on Saturday afternoon, Carolina’s final game won’t matter. At that point, Carolina will have enough standings points to tie the Rangers and win tiebreakers. In that scenario, even with a final game loss, Carolina is in the playoffs. On the other hand, if Carolina loses to Atlanta on Friday night and the Rangers beat New Jersey on Saturday, there is nothing that the Canes can do to get in.
Wednesday’s game went without a post, and my only explanation is that I fell asleep.
During a second period power play, defenseman Derek Joslin scored his first goal as a Cane, and it ended up being the game winner.
Late in the second, rookie Jeff Skinner scored his 30th goal of the season on a nifty wraparound created by his figure skating skills. He’d been all over the ice creating headaches for the Wings all night long, and his efforts finally got payoff.
Just seconds after Carolina killed a huge double minor penalty in the third, Erik Cole scored his 25th of the season. Eric Staal assisted on all three goals and now has 75 (33/42) points in 79 games. Skinner has 59 (30/29) through 80 games.
Cam Ward made 42 saves in his fourth shutout and 36th win of the season. He now has 2144 saves this season. The NHL didn’t start tracking saves until the 1983-84 season, but only ten other goalies have had more than 2000 saves in a season. Roberto Luongo did it in consecutive seasons (2003-04 and 05-06) for the Panthers. Curtis Joseph did it in consecutive seasons (1992-93 and 93-94) for the Blues. Dominik Hasek did it in consecutive seasons (1996-97 and 97-98) for the Sabres. Given that Ward has two games left to play, he should end up with 2200 saves, give or take ten. This would put his save total at fourth best all-time (since they started tracking saves) behind Felix Potvin’s 2214 for the Leafs in 1996-97, Luongo’s 2275 for the Panthers in 2005-06 and Luongo’s 2303 in 2003-04.
Carolina got a boost when the Rangers lost on Thursday, which put Carolina in control.
On Friday night, the Canes will be in Atlanta against the Thrashers, who have nothing to gain or lose. They might have some interest in playing spoiler, and they won’t have any pressure, so they’ll play a relaxed game. Hopefully, they’ll be too relaxed or too tired from their inspired performance at MSG.
On Saturday, the Devils will absolutely want to play spoiler to the Rangers. They will also want to close their season with a win. No matter what, though, it’ll be Carolina’s biggest game of the season even though they’re not playing. By 3pm, Hurricanes players and fans will know what needs to happen. At 7, the Canes will host the Lightning, who likely will have no way to improve or lose playoff position. There’s a chance that they’ll take the night off, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to see any of these games. I’ll be in Charlotte, attending the final two Checkers games of the season. They’ve secured a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs, and barring a really bizarre turn of events, they’ll be the “road” team, playing against the defending Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears in the first round.
The next 48 hours will be very exciting.
Filed in: | Red and Black Hockey | Permalink
Tags: atlanta+thrashers, cam+ward, carolina+hurricanes, detroit+red+wings, eric+staal, jeff+skinner, new+jersey+devils, new+york+rangers, tampa+bay+lightning
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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.