|Curtis McElhinney has been stout of late|
While I have been an advocate of having him spend some time in the AHL, his few games back in the lineup while healthy have shown him to be definitely NHL ready. The injury has nothing to do with his previous struggles, so that is the sole positive note from the whole thing.
On the game front, the CBJ came out and played a sound defensive game on legs that seemed to have left a lot of energy in the St. Louis game. It was a slow game, but the CBJ managed a decent forecheck, and keep the shot count tilted their way for a lot of the first period. Curtis McElhinney picked up where he left off against St. Louis, continuing a very solid run of play. This is an interesting time for CMac, because this is an audition for a contract next year. Forsberg hasn't been bad, and he hasn't gotten a lot of support, but he's not looking NHL ready. Another season in the AHL would be fine on his development track, and if McElhinney can win some games in this stretch with Bob out, another contract is a good idea. On a personal note, I am glad to see him play so well, as it has been a long road for him.
We acquired McElhinney during the nadir of the Arniel debacle, as a throw in on the trade of Antoine Vermette to Phoneix. McElhinney was an unrestricted free agent who was on injured reserve, and out for the rest of the season following hip surgery. The CBJ signed him to a two way deal in the offseason, and in 2011-12 he spent the year in Springfield, playing very well, and proving his durability. The following year was the lockout, and Mike McKenna and Mike Smith were signed to provide goal tending in Springfield, while McElhinney was given an NHL contract to back up Bobrovsky.
This next stretch is critical for a lot of players on this team. The trade deadline looms, March 2, and this team wants to show Jarmo and JD that they can win no matter how beat up they are. This would provide incentive to Jarmo and JD to keep the group together. McElhinney and Bobrovsky work well together. If this stretch goes well for CMac it is probably time to sign him again. He is a very cost effective contract, and you could give him a nice raise and not lose that aspect. In addition, perhaps its time for him to see more regular game action, spelling Bobrovsky on a more regular basis, as an attempt to prevent future injuries to Bobrovsky. You can't make noise in the playoffs without an effective backup goal tender. Your number one guy has to have something in the tank when the playoffs start. It's not going to happen this year, but I like our chances next year. There is a whole lot of foundation being laid this year that supports that notion.
As far as the game, if it's tied 0-0 at the end of two, that's a good road game, especially on the second night of a back to back. All you have to do is win one period. Cam got it going with the first goal, Foligno followed up with an insurance goal. Which was good to have because Ottawa finally got on the board with 5 minutes left in the game. The CBJ withstood the push, and regained some possession towards the end. Ottawa finally pulled the goal tender, and Scott Hartnell lobbed a back hand wedge shot over Karlsson's head (LOL) into the empty net. The look on Karlsson's face was priceless. Then Letestu skated past a motionless Ottawa defense to score with 12 second left, cause Lehner to throw his stick in frustration, and all of a sudden it was a laugher. Eleven goals in 2 games does something to budge the 1.3 gpg from the previous 3 games.
Monday Scott Hartnell plays in his 1000th NHL game. I look forward to cheering him loud and long for that accomplishment. He's a good guy to have on our team.