Joe Corvo, the game's first star, celebrates with the fans following Carolina's 3-1 win Thursday over Toronto at PNC Arena. - Jamie Kellner
The Carolina Hurricanes continued their hot streak Thursday, returning to PNC Arena after a six-game road trip and coming away with a 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Jussi Jokinen scored for the second straight game and the patchwork defense performed admirably to give Carolina a 3-1 win at home over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here's a closer look at Thursday's win.
1. The Hurricanes’ defense — made up of regulars Justin Faulk and Jay Harrison, sometimes-regulars Jamie McBain, Joe Corvo and Bobby Sanguinetti, and NHL neophyte Michal Jordan — played great, regardless of the circumstances. The Leafs were limited to just 23 shots — only 18 at even strength — and had very few legitimate scoring chances. Harrison blocked eight shots on his own, and the forwards helped by dominating in all three zones. Dan Ellis benefited, earning his third win of the young season.
2. It's hard to believe the Maple Leafs came into Thursday's game on a four-game winning streak and hadn't been beaten since Carolina defeated them 4-1 on Feb. 4. Toronto looked lost all night, not protecting the puck (Eric Staal was credited with five takeaways alone) and looking demoralized as wave after wave of Hurricanes applied endless pressure to Ben Scrivens. It clearly frustrated captain Dion Phaneuf, who went after ex-teammate Tim Brent at the end of the second period and earned a roughing minor. Players often take out their frustrations on the opposition, but for Phaneuf to go after Brent — who is much smaller and a guy who plays the game the right way — reeked of desperation, and it's not how you expect your captain to handle himself.
3. Seeing Chad LaRose as a healthy scratch isn't like having Rod Brind`Amour or Ryan Smyth in the press box, but it was surprising, nonetheless. The fact is, LaRose isn't playing well (as I mentioned following the Islanders game), and this could have been as much about putting out the best team as it was about sending a message. Everyone knows LaRose's struggles aren't due to a lack of effort, but Tim Wallace and Andreas Nodl are outplaying him, and Kevin Westgarth was needed on a night when Colton Orr could easily decide to do something, well, Colton Orr-ish. LaRose has given Carolina a lot of value over the years, but right now his $1.9 million price tag is the worst deal on the books.
Number To Know
16.7 — Percentage of shots taken by Eric Staal that have been recorded as missed shots. Staal has 50 shots on goal and 10 missed shots so far this season, and his ratio of misses is way down from previous years. The past four seasons, Staal has missed 28.5 percent of his shots (1,207 shots on goal, 481 misses) and has been consistent with those numbers (between 26 and 31 percent in each of those campaigns). Even in 2005-06, his most productive season, Staal missed 27.2 percent of his shots. But those numbers are down dramtically this year even though he's registering shots on goal at a pretty standard rate for him (3.8 per game). Whether it's the increased talent on his line, better decision making or a statistical anomaly, whatever Staal is doing is working.
Joe Corvo — Corvo, the Hurricanes' oldest player at 35, had to be a stabilizing force with four guys under 25 joining him on the blue line. He went beyond that, logging a season-high 20:30, getting a goal and an assist, and being a plus-2 for the third time in four games. Corvo clearly struggled to start the season, but if any player on Carolina can go on a run based on confidence alone, it's No. 77. Right now, he's playing great and doing so with conviction.
Jiri Tlusty — C'mon, no empty net goal? Yeesh. (That's all I have — not much to dislike about this effort)