Bobrovsky and Darling: Clash of Titans

In a game where blinking may only be allowed once by a goaltender, Scott Darling of the Carolina Hurricanes blinked twice. His titanic opponent, Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets only blinked once, and the Jackets skated off the ice with a 2-1 overtime victory over the Hurricanes.

In a game that seemed at times like a heavyweight prize-fight, Bobrovksy and Darling took the best blows that their opposing teams threw at them, and kept standing tall.

Breaking Through Walls Not Easy

In the end, it was Sonny Milano and Jeff Skinner who got the puck through the walls, but unfortunately for the ‘Canes, Milano did it two times to Skinner’s once. First of all, Newton’s laws of physics obviously don’t apply to NHL hockey, because this goal by Milano was in direct violation to all of them:

Bad angle? No problem. Very little space between Darling and the goal? No problem. But, that is one of the points of this article. Darling and Bobrovsky were both so “on” their games, that it took a very difficult, seemingly impossible shot to get in past the Hurricanes goaltender. It was simply impossible, amazing and incredible all rolled into a shot that gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead.

Milano’s breaking of the scoring stalemate did not happen until around the midway point of the third quarter. Bobrovsky and Darling refused to break up to the point when Milano squeezed the puck past Darling.

No, this was not Matt Murray versus Pekka Rinne – elite battling an elite peer in-goal. It was “elite” versus “brand new starter,” and while Darling has been around, he has been primarily a backup until this season. Tuesday night was literally his second start as the Hurricanes’ starting goalie. But, he was up to the task and the enormity of facing the 2017 Vezina Trophy winner did not seem to faze him at all.

Related: A Look Back – Rod Brind’Amour Starts Carolina’s Storm Surge

Skinner Breaks Through

Bobrovsky stopped 37 of the 38 shots on goal that he faced. The one that got by him was launched by Skinner, of course. Ever since last season, Skinner has been elevating his game and has taken the reins of leadership at crucial times to either keep his team in games, or help them win. Last December, in Skinner Hitting on All Cylinders, I pointed out this emerging leadership role: Jeff Skinner has emerged as the leader of the team in demonstrating effort, determination and a will to win. The former Calder Trophy winner is not back to old form, but is in fact charting new territory, carving a place in this season that currently seems endless in its potential. That determination has not waned, as he demonstrated Tuesday night that not even Bobrovsky at his best could keep him off the board:

Catching Bobrovsky at the top of the crease and sending the puck to the back of the net tied the game late in the third period, Skinner once again giving the Hurricanes a chance to win.

While the final outcome was an overtime loss for the ‘Canes, they came away with an all-important point. That two games with points in both so far this season. For some teams that may not seem like a big deal, but for a time that has swooned in October’s past, the start of the 2017-18 season for the Hurricanes is fabulous.

Related: Carolina Hurricanes Jersey History

Milano Breaks Hearts

While the sellout crowd from Saturday night’s home opener was a big boost for the home-team, Tuesday night’s contest was less-attended. But, the fans that were there saw two titans refusing to budge until late in the game. They say old-fashioned grinding hockey. Darling stopped 25 of 27 shots on goal, the second one also being from Milano. When Milano lit the lamp, it broke the hearts of the fans that were there, because after Skinner tied the game, there was every reason to think that the Hurricanes could win.

Scott Darling Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Scott Darling (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

Overtime hockey is exciting. But, what can be an advantage one minute can turn and bite you in the next few seconds. The Hurricanes came blazing down the ice on a three-on-one play with Sebastian Aho staring at a big gap over Bobrovsky’s left shoulder. Aho shot the puck, but it limped off of his stick and went wide, leaving the Hurricanes open for a Blue Jackets rush of its own. Milano ate Darling up and that was the game, 2-1 Blue Jackets.

The Metropolitan Division is going to be full of similar games as this all season. It boasts some fantastic goaltenders, and Bobrovsky is at the top of a lot of lists when it comes to goalies in that division. But, on Tuesday night, there were two titans guarding their nets. While ultimately one walked away with the win and the other with the loss, Darling has nothing to feel bad about. He went toe-to-toe with the goalie recognized last year as the best in the NHL, and held his own.

The Hurricanes hit the road for four games, facing the Winnipeg Jets Saturday, October 14.