Jaromír Jágr is a great hockey player. He is an elite hockey player. He’s been honing his hockey skills for a long time. At 42 years of age, he is still playing at a very high level. Monday night in Raleigh, he exuded greatness once again and the Carolina Hurricanes fell to his New Jersey Devils, 2-1.
The game was a tale of contrast. The hockey acumen and confidence of Jaromír Jágr contrasted with the hand-wringing frustration of the Hurricanes and their fans. After an uneventful and scoreless first period, the second period began in like fashion. There was a lot of back and forth and neither team was setting the tone or emerging as dominant. Then at 7:11, the Hurricanes got a really nice goal from Justin Faulk to take a 1-0 lead.
The early lead is something that the team has worked hard for in every game, and seemed to generate a feeling of momentum for the ‘Canes. But that old guy on the other team had other plans.
Jaromír Jágr is a horse
That’s what Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said when asked after the game what he thought about Jaromír Jágr playing in his 1,500th career NHL game Monday night:
What adjectives are adequate to describe a 42-year old who is still significant in the NHL? Elite? Fantastic? Monday night in Raleigh, it was just plain great as Jaromír Jágr made the game look easy and fun. At 14:45 off of a seamless assist from Scott Gomez, Jágr fired a perfectly placed snapshot past Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward.
Jaromír Jágr does make it look easy and fun. His fifth goal of the year knotted the game as one all. Fifth goal? Oh, I meant his 710th career regular season goal. He followed that up with a beautiful assist from behind Cam Ward to Adam Henrique. 2-1 Devils.
It would turn out to be the game winning goal, and Jaromír Jágr’s 12th assist on the season. With it, he passed Marcel Dionne for fifth place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list at 1,772. Next in line is his former linemate from their days in Pittsburgh, Ron Francis. The Hurricanes General Manager/Executive Vice-President has 1,798. He certainly may pass him this year.
It was impossible to come away from having watched Jaromír Jágr play, to not realize that I had been privileged to watch one of hockey’s all-time greatest players. Of course, he may continue to play for several more years. This may not have been his final performance in Raleigh. While it is frustrating to watch the ‘Canes lose, it is always special to see a player like Jaromír Jágr exude greatness. For a great read on Jaromír Jágr, my colleague Ross Bonander did a fabulous job here.
After the game, I asked a visibly frustrated Bill Peters if he had any idea how to get the team out of its current place of not being able to score goals. He responded by saying I had asked the “million-dollar question”
I was intrigued that he was so candid. But, that’s Bill Peters. He’s going to tell it like it is, good or bad. He mentioned possibly changing the lines and putting Eric Staal on the wing and Elias Lindholm in the center. I believe that the is going to “find a way” as he said, and his team will begin to get some pucks into the net. Jeff Skinner said it pretty well:
“It’s frustrating. We’ve got to bear down on our chances, find a way to get to the tough areas and get some goals. It’s not enough.”
It is frustrating. Frustrating for the players, the coaches, and the fans. The sparse 9,815 who showed up Monday night were no doubt frustrated that their team is not really stinking it up, but just can’t seem to score. Whatever the problem is, let’s hope they figure it out soon. The million-dollar question needs to be answered quickly for the Carolina Hurricanes. It’s not too late, but it’s getting close for this season’s hopes.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.