Inside the Eye: Holiday Edition

Story by Bob Fennel and file photos by Tom Mousseau for CaryCitizen.

Cary-lina, N.C. – Santa Claus was good to the Carolina Hurricanes this past holiday week with an OT win over Ottawa and a victory over the Devils.

Yes Kirk, There Is A Santa Claus

The Carolina Hurricanes won their first game in overtime this season with a very exciting and well played game as Tuomo Ruutu tipped in a blast from Jay Harrison. The Canes and the Senators have both played 35 games, both have 118 goals scored by opponents.  Ottawa sits in the 7th playoff position with the difference in the standings attributed to the Senators scored 19 more goals than the Canes.

Hockey Math 101: If the Canes scored just 1 goal in 19 games to match the Senators in goals scored, the Canes would be atop the Southeast Division.  That’s how close this team is.  They need a strong forward, especially on the line with Staal and Skinner.

Nodl Scores Second Goal In Two Games

The Canes took advantage of the Senators getting into Raleigh at 4 a.m., so it looked like the game plan was to have a fast paced game.  Two lines of the Canes did a good job of keeping the puck in the Sens end.  Jamie McBain stopped the puck at the blue line, sent it into the corner where Riley Nash swept it over to Adreas Nodl.  Nodl caught the pass behind the goal line, went to the corner and made a hard centering pass to the top of the crease.  Nash, in his 2nd NHL game, went to the net and did a good job using his size to get the inside position.  Nash and Matt Carkner got tangled, the puck hit a skate and went in the net. The goal was initially given to Nash but switched to Nodl after the NHL reviewed the film.  The Canes then had 1:51 of a 5 on 3 and despite the Senators never clearing the puck over the blue line, the Canes couldn’t score.  Not a good omen as one of hockey’s theories is if you score on a 5 on 3 you’ll win, if you don’t you’ll lose.  But tonight we found out Santa overpowers hockey theories. Ottawa must have been tired as they iced the puck 3 times in a 2 minute span but give the Canes credit as they looked like the better team in the first.

Of course no sooner than I jotted that down on my notepad, the Sens held the puck in the Canes end during a line change.  Filip Kuba was late on the change and came racing to the right point.  Nick Foligno made a nice lead pass hitting Kuba in stride as he let go a hard slap shot that had eyes as it went passed a screened Cam Ward.  The defense has to help Ward and clear the crease.  Shots after 1: Canes 19, Senators 6

Refs Missed A Good Game

The Senators top line started the second and Coach Paul MacLean must have put an emphasis on aggressiveness and shooting as they were determined to give Ward more work.  The Canes didn’t let that first shift affect their game plan as they quickly switched the game to the Sens end.  Drayson Bowman used his speed for a one man rush but was interfered by Jared Cowen.  Again the Canes failed to score on the power play.  Hockey Math Lesson 102: you want to target 20% on the power play. Top teams are well over 20%, Vancouver is 26.1%.  The Canes are at 13.2%, 28th in the league.  If they hit 20%, they’d have 10 more goals, more than likely at least 10 more points and in strong playoff position.

The Canes really miss Jeff Skinner as he is a solid skater who is hard to push off the puck.  Read into that: the Canes had some wrong personnel on the power play.  One of the many benefits of attending a game is the ability to single out and watch a player.  Justine Faulk and Bowman are excellent skaters, have great balance and both will have long NHL careers. Bowman is a shooter with shots on goal always on his mind.  He has great speed and always has his stick in good position both on offense and defense.  Faulk isn’t the largest defenseman but uses leverage and his skating skills to his advantage. Staal perfectly timed a pass at the Sens blue line, went in on Craig Anderson and it certainly looked like he was hooked just as he shot.  Another case where 15000 sets of eyes saw something different than the 2 sets on ice wearing the orange arm bands. While there wasn’t any scoring in the period, it was entertaining hockey.  Shots after 2: Canes 29, Sens 14

Good “D”

Both teams appeared to be cautious and not wanting to make any mistakes early in the third.  The Canes were forechecking better than the Senators but the Senators were using their size and skill a little better than the Canes.  After a rebound into the lower corner of the faceoff circle, Jaroslav Spacek got his stick between the legs of Jason Spezza.  As soon as a player sees an opposing player’s stick between his legs, you can count on them falling down to draw a penalty.  There was a tense moment late in the Sens power play. Jay Harrison used his height to snare a lob over the blue line.  The puck landed next to Chad LaRose  and Spezza.  Spezza won the puck and had a shot hit the post.  Down in the other end, Staal won a battle along the boards, made a pass to Bowman who took 2 strides to the net, got the puck on his forehand only to have Anderson make a good poke check knocking the puck away.  On their next shift, Bowman dug the puck out of the corner, made a nice pass to the crease with LaRose and Staal in front.  LaRose got pushed on his backside, Staal got crosschecked in the back and the refs let the play go on.   Shots after 3: Canes 38, Senators 23

Overtime

The Canes have not won an overtime game this season.

At the start of the OT period, the fans let the Canes know they’re behind them and wanted a win.  Initially the Senators had the better control of the puck as they got a second wind. Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokenin jumped over the boards and were determined to make an impact on the game.  Harrison gave an outlet pass up to Jokenin who charged down the left wing. Jussi drew the defense to him then made a beautiful drop pass to Harrison who unloaded a bomb.  Ruutu, as so often the case, was paying the price at the top of the crease, and tipped the puck in for the win.  I haven’t seen the Canes celebrate as a team over a win like that in a long time.   Normally a team congratulates the goalie at the goal, by a soft head butt or a pat on the top of the mask, but after this game, Ward skated to center ice to greet the whole team with everyone high fiving each other.

Thank you, Santa. That was what I wanted.

 

The Carolina Hurricanes beat the New Jersey Devils, 4-2 in a heated game the day after Christmas  at the RBC Center.

Canes Have Two Game Win Streak, Beat Devils 4-2

The Carolina Hurricanes beat the New Jersey Devils, 4-2 in a heated game the day after Christmas at the RBC Center.  The Devils have had the Canes’ number over the past 10 games or so.  Future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur was not in net as he’s having a sub-par season at 9-9 with a goals against average over 3 and save percentage under .900 for probably the first time in his career. Johan Hedberg was in goal.

Sutter Scores Another Shorthanded Goal

Early in the first the Canes had a power play that did nothing.  Give the Devils credit as they are #1 in the NHL for penalty kills.

Midway in the period on a scrum along the boards between the two teams, Tuomo Ruutu did what all players want to do at some point in their career and ‘accidently’ pulled the skates out from under a Devil while attempting to dig for the puck. Unfortunately the refs weren’t sympathetic and the Devils had a power play.  The Canes penalty kill team, while not all that busy lately as the team has been playing smart, disciplined hockey with few penalties, were successful on both Devils’ power plays. On this power play, after a save directed to the corner by Cam Ward, Tim Gleason banked a pass off the boards to Brandon Sutter.   Sutter and Alexei Ponikarvosky rushed up ice for a 2 on 1.  Sutter used Poni as a pass decoy then pinpointed a shot off the far post for another shorthanded goal.

About 5 minutes later, Ryan Carter slammed Gleason hard into the boards for a major penalty and game misconduct. Bryan Allen lifted Carter off Gleason like you would your 8 year old nephew on top of your 4 year old son on Christmas afternoon after a day with the relatives.  Allen was given a penalty for roughing without throwing a punch.  I’m sure the NHL will be having Carter sit out a few games after the film review.

It was very noticeable that there is no love lost between these two teams.  After the power play, the line of Jussi Jokinen, Ponikarvosky and Ruutu did an excellent job forechecking, using their speed, size and skill.  Chad LaRose had a breakaway but his backhand shot was thwarted by Hedberg.  LaRose made a nice play by centering the rebound to the crease but nobody on the Canes was there.  Shots after 2: Canes 10, Devils 11

Devils Held To Two Shots

With the Canes in the middle of a line change while on the attack, Gleason shot the puck towards the net from the left point into traffic, Tim Brent took a whack at it, Poni touched the puck over to an open Ruutu who leisurely but firmly put the puck in the net.   The Canes did a great job forechecking and keeping the Devils top line off the score board.  Sutter’s line ($3.6 mil) was especially effective against Patrik Elias’ ($16.5 mil) so it’s not always money.   A lot has to do with line mates.

Devil Adam Henrique is paid $625,000 and is among their top scorers and has big, strong line mates.

Late in the period, Anthony Stewart picked up the puck at his own blue line, passed to Andreas Nodl who returned the pass to Stewart breaking down the left wing.  Nodl then made a smart dash to the net for a 2 on 1, with Stewart wristing a shot in from 35’ out for a demanding 3-0 lead.   A TV timeout happened with 1:09 left and it couldn’t have occurred at a better time as the Devils were pressing with their top line shooting at every opportunity but few getting passed the defense.  Just as time expired, Dave Clarkson slammed Dwyer into the boards on a cheap shot.  Shots after 2: Canes 23, Devils 13 (yes, only 2 shots this period)

The Goalie Saves, He Doesn’t Shoot, He Scores!

About 5 minutes into the third, the Canes were knocking on the Devils’ door and with nearly every player in the crease, the ref stood on the back of the net looking over, seeing the puck did not blow the whistle until Mark Fayne pushed the net off its moorings for a delay of game penalty.  The Canes again failed on their 4th power play but the chemistry between Ruutu and Jokinen was fun to watch.  The Canes’ fourth line was aggressive and played strong on the puck.  Stewart grabbed the puck along the boards, went to the net with 2 Devils holding, hooking and slashing without a call in typical 3rd period officiating.  Staal had an excellent opportunity to break his scoring drought but just as he wound up the puck took a bounce over his stick.   With about 7-1/2 minutes to go Anton Volchenkov passed the puck from behind Ward’s net to Dave Clarkson at the left point whose one timer slap shot found its way into the net. Five minutes later, Volchenkov dumped the puck that Gleason blocked just below the belt. Volchenkov picked up the loose puck, Ward made a nice save but Henrique was left alone for the easy rebound to cut the lead 3-2.  Late in the period, the Devils pulled the goalie for an extra skater, after one save by Ward, the puck went behind the boards then over to Ilya Kovalchuk who passed out to the left point but missed his player.

The puck slid 185’ – right into the middle of the net.  Ward was the last Cane to touch it so he gets credit for the goal.   Best line of the night: by

Coach Kirk Muller in the post game with the media when asked who would be in goal when the Canes play in Pittsburgh the next night: “He’s (Ward’s) on a goal-scoring streak, he’d be tough to take out.”

Shot Totals: Canes 34, Devils 25

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