I’d like to take a minute to flashback to February 6th 2010. The Carolina Hurricanes were without All – Star goaltender Cam Ward due to an upper – body injury and veteran backup goaltender Manny Legace had the night off after playing the first game in a back – to – back situation.
Looking in at that point in time Justin Peters was little more then a prospect. Coming up in the OHL, playing his last season with the Plymouth Whalers whose owner is none other the the Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, Carolina drafted him in the second round of the 2004 NHL entry draft. After splitting the first two years with the the Florida Everblades in the ECHL and Albany River Rats (now Charlotte Checkers) in the AHL Peters finally got his call-up to play the New York Islanders.
It was his first career NHL game and you couldn’t have asked for a better performance from the rookie goaltender. Peters was peppered by Frans Neilson, Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson, and John Tavares to the tune of 35 shots on net. The 23 year old Peters held his ground and stopped 34 shots to earn the first star of the game and pick up his first career win in a 3 – 1 game on the road.
Now let’s bring it back to tonight (or last night depending on when this finally gets posted)
Just like two years ago, the Carolina Hurricanes were without All – Star goaltender Cam ward due to a lower – body injury, an issue that was aggravated late into Saturday’s 3 – 4 loss to the New York Islanders. The Hurricanes veteran backup goaltender Brian Boucher, who was acquired over the offseason, wasn’t an option due to an injury suffered back in December, so the start fell on the shoulders of Justin Peters.
Two years after getting his first career win Justin Peters was playing in just his 27th NHL game, tonight’s game versus the Capitals was his 20th career start. The 25 year old Peters started three out of the four games he played (going 1 – 3 – 0) and started three out of the four of those games (he replaced Cam Ward in the third period against the New York Islanders.) Before tonight’s game Peters had a .911 save percentage and had a 3.65 goals against average. This was Peters second career game against the Capitals, his last meeting was on March 18th 2010.
The Washington Capitals have historically out played the Carolina Hurricanes (who are 50 – 68 – 11 -1 all – time versus) but tonight things didn’t go the way they planned. In the first 40 minutes the Capitals had a few good scoring opportunities, including a shot that trickled past Justin Peter and slid to the outside of the goal post, but the Capitals just couldn’t catch a break. The Hurricanes weren’t looking to catch a break, they were making opportunities happen by playing hard in the offensive zone and neutral zone (20 takeaways compared to Washington’s 4) and even harder in the defensive zone by limiting Alex Ovechkin (who’s led the league in shots) to just one shot all night and the Hurricanes had 19 blocked shots. After 60 minutes of play Justin Peters made 17 saves on 17 shots to get his first career shutout in a 5 – 0 blowout.
Without a doubt the Month of February will be a memorable one for Peters and a big congratulation to him, not like he’s on a stacked team or faced a weak team, he deserves some credit. The Hurricanes are on a six game home stand, not playing again until Thursday when the Anaheim Ducks fly to Raleigh for the only time this year. It’s being speculated that Cam Ward will, or should, be ready to play against the Ducks, so the question is who gets the next start?
I’m by no means suggesting that Justin Peters is going to start the majority of the games here on out but for a variety of reason I believe that Justin Peters has earned the right to start in net in the team’s next game.
Statistically you want to go with the hot hand, and recently that has been Peters who has a shutout and has allowed only 3 goals on 64 shots (compared to Cam Ward who has allowed 6 goals on 54 shots.) Peters has never faced the Ducks, which could be seen as a negative, but looking at it in a positive light you could say that because Peters is an unknown to the Ducks shooters he has the advantage of them not being able to target his weak areas. Now I’ll play devil’s advocate (and save you the time) pointing out that Cam Ward is 2 – 0 – 1 against the Ducks and has already faced them once this month in a 3 – 2 overtime loss (so he has some knowledge on how to best play Anaheim’s offense.)
So the next point I’ll give, as reason to why I think Peters should get the start, is because in my opinion this organization needs to show that they have the same faith in Justin Peters that they have in Brian Boucher. By this I mean that if you look at the playing time Boucher got, 7 games with 5 starts, between the start of October and start of December compared to what Justin Peters has had, five games with four starts from the time Boucher got injured in December until today, the organization has consciously (or perhaps unconsciously) shown they have little faith in Peters. I understand that Peters played a few days ago, but if Ward didn’t need to miss time I doubt Peters would see another game this month. Giving Peters the green light after getting a shutout is a big confidence boast, especially if he wins, which isn’t impossible as he’s beaten the 3rd place San Jose Shark this month.
Finally, while the Hurricanes have Boucher locked in until the end of next year at 35 it’s quite possible that they’ll try to move him over the summer and let Peters be the permanent number two guy (if they can lock him up, being a RFA.) This team wanted, or said they wanted, to bring in Boucher to reduce Cam Wards workload (after he started a league high 74 out of 82 games the previous season.) But Boucher is 0 – 4 – 1 this season, and if he can’t rebound them keeping him around becomes pointless, especially when you could give those starts to Peters. Obviously, like I’ve previously mentioned, as Ward gets older (he will be 28 this month) it will be harder for his body to recover from the rigorous workload so balancing his playing time will become more important each year. Peters may never be the number one guy for this team, but give him they playing time to be a reliable backup.
Your call: Who should the Hurricanes start in net against the Anaheim Ducks?
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