Where to even start with Saturday’s eventful win over the Islanders?
The Canes continued their early-season trend of somehow pulling out wins despite not playing their best hockey, allowing a franchise-record 60 shots in the 4-3 victory. Cam Ward responded to sitting out the last two games in favor of Michael Leighton in a big way, raising his save percentage from .891 to .914 and making a clutch save on Doug Weight’s penalty shot with under a second left that would have tied the game.
Update: Just in from Elias Sports Bureau - Saturday's game was the first time since March 12, 1989 that a team has allowed 60 shots in regulation and still won. Pittsburgh beat Chicago 6-5 despite being outshot 62-28 - extremely close to Saturday's 60-28 margin.
As great as it was to see Cam put in that performance and as encouraging it is to know that both goaltenders have gotten off to good starts, tomorrow night’s game in Montreal could get ugly if Carolina doesn’t bring a more consistent effort. Their most complete game thus far was arguably the loss to Detroit, and the Canes will have to step up in the same way against another early favorite.
Unfortunately, Brandon Sutter and Joni Pitkanen, who were both injured on Long Island, won’t be available to help them do that. Sutter is on his way back to Raleigh where he’ll be further evaluated after suffering a concussion courtesy of a frightening open-ice hit by Weight. Pitkanen will be out 3-4 weeks after tearing a meniscus (Press Release).
According to the N&O, Dwight Helminen will be recalled to fill Sutter’s spot in the lineup. Helminen, who had a good training camp with the Canes, has two goals and two assists in six games for Albany. Update - now official.
While there isn’t a timetable for Sutter’s return yet, I don’t imagine it will be anytime soon. We saw with Matt Cullen last season how long it can take to shake off the effects of something like that, and at this early point in the season and with such a young player, I don’t think it makes any sense to rush him, even with other players out with injuries. Take your time and get well soon.
Some other thoughts:
- The Canes had a lot of depth on defense to start the season, and they might end up having to use every bit of it. With Pitkanen and Frank Kaberle out, Anton Babchuk and Josef Melichar are in the starting six, and Casey Borer, Bryan Rodney or Brett Carson could come up from Albany if something else occurs.
With two regulars out, the early contributions of Dennis Seidenberg and Niclas Wallin can’t be understated. Seidenberg played nearly half of the Islanders game (28:25) and led all participants with four blocked shots, while Wallin posted a +2 plus/minus rating and is now tied for the league lead with a +9. Terrific work by those guys.
- There’s been a lot of debate across the hockey world about the legality of open-ice hits to the head after Sutter’s injury. If you haven’t seen it yet, GM Jim Rutherford stated his case quite strongly with TSN’s Bob McKenzie yesterday.
It’s easy to take this position because, pardon the expression, we’ve been hit quite hard with that type of incident recently, but if the league could come up with an objective way to define and regulate that type of thing, I’d be all for it. What about you?
- Huge game by Chad LaRose, who scored his first two goals of the season and very nearly had another when a review determined his first-period effort didn’t cross the line. The Canes will need that going forward.
- I knew Josef Melichar reminded me of somebody, but I didn’t put it together until he got into games and I saw him in the helmet. Is he the Czech Eric Lindros? You decide.