After Wednesday night's clunker, I didn't think it could get worse. I thought they'd come out with all cylinders firing. I though wrong.
It wasn't so much that Carolina stunk. They certainly did, but Atlanta showed up and played 60:00 of hockey. They played better offensively, defensively, in transition, and in every way imaginable. Although they are the league's worst team in terms of penalty killing, they killed all four Carolina power plays. At times, they shut down the power play so effectively that it looked like Carolina was the shorthanded team.
In fact, that's how the whole game can be summarized. Carolina looked like they were shorthanded all night.
Maid Marian Hossa got the game winning goal at 5:41 of the first on a mini-breakaway. From the left side half-wall, Todd White hit Hossa with a pass in the slot. Hossa took the pass on his backhand side, and slowly dragged it to his forehand and easily beat Cam Ward. Ilya Kovalchuk got the secondary assist.
At 14:59 of the first, Maid Marian struck again on a pretty give-and-go with Todd White. The whole thing was started with a bad turnover by Bret Hediguchi just inside the Atlanta zone. Hedican's turnover was far and away the worst play of the game, and he earned the "Tevvy" for it.
The stat sheet says that Carolina outshot Atlanta 31-24, but Carolina's chances weren't very good, and they seldomly challenged the 34-year old Johan Hedberg. Hedberg became not only the second consecutive Swede, but the second consecutive Johan to beat the Canes. The winner at Tampa on Wednesday was Johan Holmqvist.
There was one good thing about Carolina's play. Chad LaRose was the hardest working player in red, and he drew all four of Atlanta's penalties. Unfortunately, the Canes couldn't capitalize on any of them, but he worked hard to put his team in a good position.
Carolina won't have much time to reflect on their loss, or mope about it. They'll stay home tomorrow for another SE division matchup. It'll be the Panthers for already the fourth time this season. After losing 4-2 in Sunrise on Halloween night, the Hurricanes have won the last two against the Panthers. Most recently on Monday night, when they won 4-3 but lost Erik Cole to a neck injury.
Fortunately for the Canes, neither Tomas Vokoun nor Craig Anderson is named "Johan" and neither is from Sweden. This will give the Hurricanes the decided edge. I've already looked into it, and Florida doesn't have any Swedish goaltenders in their system.
Speaking of Swedes, defenseman Nic Wallin is expected to return to the lineup tomorrow night against the Kitties. He's missed nine of the last ten games including the last seven in a row with a groin issue. This should help matters a lot, as it will get "Avi" Tanabe back in the press box.
The Kitties will almost certainly be facing Johnny Crackers between the pipes. The last time they saw Grahame was on November 3 in Raleigh when the Canes won 4-2. Last season, the Kitties were 1-2-3 in games versus Grahame.
Tomas Vokoun is the clearcut starter in Florida, and the Canes are 2-1-0 against him this season. Prior to this season, the last time the Canes saw Vokoun was in The Year of the Cup. After Frantisek Kaberle scored on a penalty shot in overtime against the Preds, Vokoun launched his goalie stick into the protective netting above the endboards, earning him an insignificant game misconduct penalty.
Carolina's goaltending, then, earns them an edge. Florida's forwards are looking better than Carolina's right now. The return of Nic Wallin would give Carolina an edge in the "defense" department.
Carolina should win the game on better goaltending. We'll see.
Neither Carolina nor Florida will be televising the game, so it'll be Chuckandtheletterk for me.
Oh yeah. Three stars. The three stars for Friday's game are:
THIRD STAR Ilya Kovalchuk, ATL --- 1 goal, 2 assists
SECOND STAR Todd White, ATL --- 2 assists
FIRST STAR Marian Hossa, ATL --- 2 goals, 1 assist