by Kate Shefte
A surprise Matt Cullen shot zoomed past a sleeping Ray Emery’s pad and made a beeline for the goal line. The crowd stood up in anticipation. It seemed destined for the back of the net...but somehow bounced harmlessly off the goal post, miles away from the nearest ‘Canes player searching for a rebound and was swept away by a Flyers player.
That’s sort of how opening night went for the Carolina Hurricanes in a nutshell.
The Hurricanes were shut out by Ray Emery in his Flyers debut thanks to a stagnant power play and a quick two-goal spurt from the Flyers at the start of the second period. The ‘Canes, shut out only once in the entirety of last season, matched that record in their very first game of 2009-2010 (thanks to our buddy Dennis from the Asheboro Courier-Tribune for that interesting statistic.) The ‘Canes fell to 1-2-2 in season openers since the lockout.
Eric Staal drilled in a rebound after a massive scrum in front of the net early in the game, giving the complacent crowd one of its only chances to cheer. The referee immediately waived it off because Andrew Alberts made a quick hand pass right in front of the net before the goal. Not a fantastic way to start your tenure in Carolina.
The first fight of the year happened quickly, and it was a quickie. After Flyers goon Daniel Carcillo hit Ray Whitney from behind, Tim Gleason wasted no time in pulling off his pads and circling with Carcillo. After Carcillo landed one good punch, Gleason tackled him in one of his more convincing wins to date.
Alberts made up for his earlier gaff by plastering Philadelphia’s Simon Gagne with five minutes remaining in the first. Not bad…but hardly an even exchange.
With less than a minute remaining in the first, Sergei Samsonov received a four-minute double major for high sticking. As anyone who watched the game saw, that proved to be the ‘Canes’ undoing, even though in coach Paul Maurice's opinion, the 'Canes played better after the Flyers broke the game open.
"We passed up a lot of good opportunities to get the puck to the net and it slowed our game down," Mo said. "Then once they got the two, we put a lot more chances on the net."
The Flyers came out of the gate with the power play and scored twice within the first minute. Jeff Carter picked up a loose rebound at Ward’s feet that the goaltender and his two teammates just didn’t see. 22 seconds later, Mike Richards snapped one past a screened Ward and gave 2007 No. 2 overall pick James Van Riemsdyk his first NHL point.
The Flyers sat back and watched as the ‘Canes did everything but score. As someone who watches the Flyers fairly regularly, I feel comfortable saying this was exactly how the Flyers wanted the game to unfold – tough (see: undisciplined) and fast with not a lot of action in the neutral zone, with a defense that collapses on you every time you get a whiff of that sweet, sweet goal crease air.
"I think we could have done a little bit better job of getting to the top of the crease and making [Emery's] life a little more difficult," Staal said after the game. "We've got to get ugly and crash the net."
Philadelphia handed the ‘Canes multiple power play opportunities to even it up – “multiple” meaning nine full man advantages. And the team had chances. Staal had a shot go off post during power play, Rod Brind’Amour whiffed on open net and a Chad LaRose shot went just wide late.
Cam Ward played well, but Ray Emery was clearly the hero in this game. Aaron Ward played his heart out, blocking shots left and right (it seems whoever wears the No. 4 for the ‘Canes automatically gets shot-blocking duties. Dennis Seidenberg, live from Helsinki, Finland with his Florida Panthers, would no doubt agree) but the rest of the new acquisitions were nearly silent. Joni Pitkanen sat out the game as a precautionary measure after surgery and Jay Harrison filled in admirably in his stead.
But overall, a very uninspired effort from the ‘Canes on opening night. The team looked like it was on the back end of a road trip, having played four games in one week in March, so let’s hope there’s some sort of karmic upheaval and tomorrow night they turn in the right sort of effort against Boston, when they actually are on the latter end of a back-to-backer. Boston was blown out against Washington Thursday night and will no doubt be looking for revenge.
And that whole “Eastern Conference Semis” thing…that’s all water under the bridge, right? Certainly they’ve forgotten about that by now...