Hello NHL? Please take notice....Erik Cole is officially back! Remember the guy who scored 30 goals in 60 games last year? The guy with speed to burn, who usually blew right by any defenseman who tried to get in his way? The guy who was so versatile that he could score on a slap shot, tip-in, backhand flip, or a finesse deflection? That guy was back last night in the RBC wreaking havoc in the Washington zone most of the evening and it was a sight for sore eyes! Erik Cole had his 4rth career hat-trick, Cam Ward had his first career regular season shutout, and the Canes dominated the Caps in almost every aspect of the game to win 5-0.
Brent Johnson started in goal for the Caps and played very well in the first two periods. He made several tough saves keeping the game 2-0, even though the Canes outshot the Caps substantially. In the 3rd period the wheels came off though and Johnson ran out of magic. Trevor Letowski got his first goal of the season on a nice move and Eric Staal got his 10th which rounded out the Canes scoring. The boys did a nice job of keeping the foot on the gas and didn't slack off like they have done in the past after taking an early lead. After a nerve-racking segment in the 2nd period where the team took 3 consecutive penalties and had to kill off an extended time of 5 on 3, it was pretty much all Hurricanes. The penalty kill was amazing for the team all night, as it has been the past several games. The powerplay could still use some improvment, but I'm not going to complain about anything for this game. Everyone played well!
The obvious stars of the game were Cam Ward and Erik Cole. While both had outstanding games, Bubba's choice always goes against the grain a bit so last night's Bubba's Star is going to the entire Canes defense! They did an outstanding job of containing Semin and Ovechkin as well as the rest of the Caps. While Ward had an excellent game, the defense did extremely well limiting the Caps to only 20 shots on goal and by killing several penalties. Ovechkin and Semin had about that many shots on goal all by themselves in the last game, so this was a remarkable improvement.
Tomorrow night the place will be rocking again as the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town. They have to play Ottawa tonight, so finally we get an advantage as they will arrive a bit tired and will have to play 2 nights in a row. We need to take advantage of this situtation and keep the pressure on them. They do have a young team though so perhaps the back to back scenario won't affect them that much. This game will be a joy to watch, anyway. I'm not a huge Crosby fan, but he's undeniably a major talent and you never know what you will see with him on the ice. This will be the first time I have seen the young Staal and Malkin play in person, so that is something else to look forward to. The Pens are a different team than the one we handled easily earlier in the year and this should be a tough, close game regardless of any back to back situation. Oh yeah, and there is the little issue that this will be the first time Orpik and Cole will be on the ice together since last year's questionable hit which ended up threatening Cole's career. Will that drama affect the game? Hopefully the Canes will use any extra motivation to advance on the scoreboard and will not spend unnecessary time in the penalty box trying to get even in a bad way. In any event, I look for the Canes to win again and continue to build on their home ice success. Go Canes!