It was a tall task expecting the Carolina Hurricanes to get their first win of the season against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, but that's exactly what the Canes did in defeating the Boston Bruins 3-2 at the RBC Center Wednesday.
Carolina got its goals from the defense, third line and fourth line, and goalie Cam Ward outdueled two-time Vezina winner and reigning Conn Smythe Trophy recipient Tim Thomas to push the Canes to 1-2-1.
1. Sometimes you find chemistry in the strangest places, and it seems Paul Maurice has found some in the pairing of rugged defensemen Tim Gleason and Bryan Allen. Normal logic dictates that you pair up your defensive-minded blueliners with a more offensive partner, which Maurice attempted to do to start the season. But since the teaming-up of Nos. 5 and 6, the Canes' new shutdown duo is yet to allow a goal and has combined for three assists. They led the team in ice time, each playing more than 23 minutes, and Gleason had 6:15 and Allen had 4:39 on the penalty kill, which went a perfect 5 for 5.
2. Maurice can't help but be pleased with the effort put forth by his leadership trio Wednesday. On top of Gleason's stellar performance, captain Eric Staal and Brandon Sutter also played a huge part in the win. Staal was literally big in Joni Pitkanen's game-opening goal, screening Thomas while Pitkanen patiently whistled a puck past the Bruins goalie. Then Sutter's line got the eventual game-winner when Sutter, Patrick Dwyer and Jiri Tlusty outworked the B's and Tlusty eventually beat Thomas for his first goal of the season. All three letter-wearers contributed to Carolina's PK success, plus were solid in all three zones. Effort trickles down, and Carolina's leadership group has been putting in the work.
3. Penalties are still an issue, especially the way in which Carolina is piling up PIMs. The Hurricanes were guilty of two too many men calls Wednesday, plus Tlusty's high-sticking infraction was an absolutely reckless play that has no excuse. The Hurricanes have been shorthanded a 21 times and allowed five power play goals — both league highs — through four games, and the kinds of penalties the team is taking is a concern. Yes, the Canes have the 12th fewest penalty minutes per game (11.5), but all of their infractions have been minor penalties and thus aren't inflated by fighting majors or misconducts.
Number To Know
33 — Combined blocked shots on the season for defensemen Allen, Jay Harrison and Gleason. Allen leads the league with 15, while Harrison has 10 (tied for fifth) and Gleason has eight (tied for 12th). Look no further for the reason Carolina is allowing 31 shots per game through four games — 2.2 fewer than they did last season — despite averaging nearly two more minor penalties per game through four outings. Allen had seven blocks Wednesday, while Harrison added five.
Jiri Tlusty — This was a toss-up between Tlusty and Anthony Stewart, who both scored third-period goals for the Canes to lead them to victory. But Tlusty gets the nod — despite his aforementioned penalty — because of the every-shift urgency in his game. Tlusty had a team-high five shots, chipped in on the penalty kill, and was buzzing around the ice all night. I have been more patient with Tlusty than most observers, and it looks like the 23-year-old might finally have a chance to convince others that he belongs in Carolina's top nine. The caveat, of course, is Tlusty's ability to stay healthy. But right now he is making the most of his minutes by shooting the puck and finishing his checks.
Zac Dalpe — It's hard to find a goat in this effort, and Dalpe isn't really deserving of the "honor." So this goes more to the circumstances Dalpe has been put in. Like last season, Maurice has put the rookie forward on the fourth line and hasn't given him the chance to move up. He's averaging a team-low 7:39 per game but it hasn't diminished his hustle as he continues to try and force Maurice's hand. Unfortunately, right now it seems his only chance to move up is if he supplants Chad LaRose on the top line.