Sunday night hockey is always nice to have on the calendar. When a hot Western Conference team comes to town, and they are coached by a former coach of the home team, it is particularly intriguing. Such was Sunday night’s tilt that saw the Winnipeg Jets visiting the Carolina Hurricanes.
To say the Jets are hot would be an understatement. Going into Sunday night’s game, they were in second place in the Central Division and had 85 points. The Jets had won six of their last eight games, including their last on Mar. 2, a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.
The Hurricanes were riding two wins in a row and sitting one point out of a wild-card playoff spot behind the Florida Panthers. The game had all the makings of a hard-fought contest and did not disappoint in that regard. However, the result did disappoint Hurricanes fans.
Patrik Laine is Legit
Patrik Laine broke the ice early, loading up what looked to be a shot at Hurricanes goaltender, Cam Ward, that ended up staying low and blowing into the back of the net. At 19 years of age, Laine is having an electrifying season, leading the team in goals prior to Sunday night’s game with 33. His 22 assists and total of 55 points are second on the Jets only to Blake Wheeler’s 73, 55 of which are assists. The goal was assisted by the 22-year old Nikolaj Ehlers, and 25-year old Joe Morrow.
Laine had his third multi-goal game in the last four games and has seven multi-point nights during his streak. He has 10 goals and six assists in the eight-game stretch, and 35 goals overall.
To say Laine is legit is a gross understatement. He is lethal with the puck. He is still young but plays like a seasoned veteran. His hockey sense and presence of mind are beyond his years and makes the Jets a team to worry about come playoff time. Add Wheeler to the mix and reliable goaltender play by Connor Hellebuyck and the Jets will definitely be a team to watch in the post-season.
To further prove just how lethal he can be, Laine blasted a shot from the slot on a power play opportunity in the first period that hit the crossbar. He got another chance in the early stages of the second period and shot from the same slot. The Hurricanes’ Brock McGinn, misjudging his placement on the first Laine blast that barely missed, made the same error in placement and this time Laine was money. The Jets were up 2-1 and it’s likely that there was no doubt in the arena that a hat trick might just be in the cards for Laine.
What is so tough about Laine is his release when he shoots. It’s just a little bit out of the ordinary, and makes defending his shots, fired with incredible speed and accuracy, all the more difficult to defend. He scored twice from the same spot, and it would have been three times if not for a slight inaccuracy.
After the game, Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters said of Laine’s shot, “It comes off his stick different. It comes off his stick jumping off his stick. I thought he was real dangerous.”
Bizarre Bounce Dooms Hurricanes
Laine is sick with the stick, and while he did not get a third goal for the hat-trick Sunday night, he did get a third point on an assist of a fluke goal by Paul Stastny.
There was little Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward could do to defend against the pinball-like shot. The goal was credited to Stastny, who was in the right place at the right time. The referee did not show up on the score sheet for the unintentional assist. It turned out to be the winning goal and doomed the Hurricanes to a 3-2 loss and no points, and no movement up on the playoffs ladder.
Hurricanes Not Too Shabby
Even though the Hurricanes lost, it should not deter their belief in what general manager Ron Francis said – that he thinks the team as constructed can make the playoffs. The Jets are a very good team, and the Hurricanes hung in there with them to the very end. If not for that bizarre goal, they game might have gone the way of the Hurricanes.
Teuvo Teravainen got another goal, as did Jordan Staal. The game was hard-fought and close-checking, not the typical fast sprinting affair that suits the Hurricanes a bit more. There are no moral victories, especially when there are no points. But, the ‘Canes played 60 minutes with a Western Conference team that is primed to go deep in the playoffs. But, there are very few games left, and the Hurricanes cannot afford to leave points on the ice if they want to play in the postseason.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.