Which Carolina Hurricanes player has been hot and came to compete Saturday night against the New York Rangers? The same guy that had one of his best games of the season a few nights ago against the Ottawa Senators. None other than goalie Anton Khudobin.
With ten games left in the season, out of the playoffs, and no real optimism about the upcoming draft, it would be easy for a spring swoon to settle in over the Hurricanes. It appeared that might have been the case in their last outing against the Montreal Canadiens. The ‘Canes got handed a 4-0 whoopin’ that was just awful.
The loss was not a “Khudobin nightmare” as much as it was another outing where Carolina was just not putting forth the kind of effort needed to compete. Quite the contrast from their previous effort against the Senators. Coach Bill Peters summed it up, saying, “We didn’t get physically engaged in the game for the most part at all.”
It’s been characteristic of the Hurricanes all year, this Jekyll and Hyde routine I wrote about last month. There is an all-too frequent analysis after games that speaks of “lack of effort” or “not starting on time.” As a writer who is also a fan, I can tell you that it gets old. It is just bizarre that professional athletes so often are said to have lacked effort.
Hot Hurricane here
Anton Khudobin made his fourth straight start in the game against the Rangers. Cam Ward has been recovering from an illness. The team has not suffered during his stretch of starts, at least not because of his play. Khudobin is playing like it is December, not in meaningless March.
Khudobin’s not Carey Price or Pekka Rinne, and likely never will reach that type of elite status. But, he is playing with heart and laying it out as if the Hurricanes were two points out of a playoff spot, instead of having a “magic number” of three to be eliminated.
Anton Khudobin with a fantastic sequence of saves. Denying the Rangers from point blank twice. @NHLCanes still up 1-0.
— Mike Maniscalco (@mikemaniscalco) March 21, 2015
The ‘Canes scored first on a great effort by Elias Lindholm, his 16th goal of the season. The team looked energetic and up to the task of playing the Metropolitan Division leaders. The start did not resemble an 8th place team versus the first. Lindholm’s goal ignited the crowd and the team.
In large part due to Khudobin’s play as the hot Hurricane, the first period ended with Carolina up 1-0, with every reason to be confident about their chances. Shots on goal were nearly even – seven for the Rangers and eight for the Hurricanes. On the surface, seven does not appear to be much for Doby to have faced, but they were quality blasts by the Rangers, and he stood firm.
Period two was a different story. The Rangers smothered the Hurricanes’ offensive efforts, allowing them only five shots on goal to their fourteen. New York tied the game on a goal by J.T. Miller, a perfectly executed play off of a face off in the Hurricanes’ zone.
Khudobin, as well as he was playing, was not going to shut the Rangers out. That takes nothing away from his play or his effort. Especially after this happened:
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) March 22, 2015
Jesper Fast scored an absolutely amazing goal. It gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead, and I bet if he could have, Khudobin would have tipped his mask to Fast. Some plays are just that good, and that was one to admire, no matter which to team has your loyalty. What a great goal!
It’s key to note that Anton Khudobin kept his team close. This was a powerful team that had come to play, and the game could have easily gotten out of hand. Doby kept the Hurricanes in it, giving them an opportunity to win.
Ryan Murphy tied the game at 14:27 in the third. It was quite a relief to finally get the puck past Rangers goalie, Cam Talbot, as he was having quite the great game, also. It appeared to be one of those nights where nothing would go in the net, as Carolina stepped up their shots on goal but just couldn’t score.
Tied at two, the game went into overtime and ended up with the Rangers winning in a shootout. This would have been much more exciting a finish with the overtime idea I recommended in an article on January 9th on how to fix the overtime mess. But, the
shootout it is, and the Hurricanes came away with one point.
The hot Hurricane is Anton Khudobin. If Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, and Alexander Semin would step their collective games up to match the effort of Khudobin, this team would be a much bigger threat.
20-year hat tip
The ‘Canes honored television play-by-play broadcast veteran, John Forslund for twenty years with the organization. Forslund is in the company of elite hockey broadcasters for sure, and is a real asset to the Hurricanes.
— Michael Smith (@MSmithCanes) March 21, 2015
Congratulations, John Forslund! Here’s to another twenty and another run for the Stanley Cup in Carolina. Let’s hope it’s before your next twenty are done.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.