Monday, June 4, 2012

A Classic Goal-Scorer's Move by Jeff Carter

By Larry Wigge

It's a classic goal-scorer's move, you wind around the net and consider your options. But ...

What options did former 46-goal scorer Jeff Carter have while he was circling the opponent's net? Was he really going to pass or shoot in overtime for the Los Angeles Kings in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals?

Option No. 1 came when he was behind the net -- he could pass on either side. Option No. 2 came in the corner near the goal line, where he could have gambled on shooting the puck from a from weird angle and hope for a deflection or a rebound. Option No. 3 came as he was coming out in the faceoff circle, he could have fired across at an angle and maybe a screen would prevail.

Time was not a concern. The game was on the line. Drama and trepidation was  with Carter on each stride. That leads us to the third option, putting the game in Carter's hands .. a position most goal-scorers would like.

"I was just looking for anything, really," Carter explained. "Playoff hockey, you're just looking to put it on the net anytime you can. It's usually a cheesy goal. But Dustin Penner did a great job getting in front of Marty Brodeur out there and, to be honest with you, I don't know if he saw the shot."

Carter took a rising wrist shot across his body from the high slot, which made the goal difficult for Brodeur to handle -- and it didn't hurt to have teammate Dustin Penner creating a screen in front of the goalie.

Said Carter, "I think it is, by far, the biggest goal I've scored."

Scoring goals has not been easy for the London, Ontario, native, who once scored 46 in the 2008-09 season and followed that with 33 and 36 goals.

It was a strange 12 months for one of the NHL's top goal-scorers.

After being traded by Philadelphia to Columbus in a draft day trade for Jakub Voracek and a first- and third-round picks. He found the net for only 15 goals in 39 games with the Blue Jackets. It was even worse when he was sent to the Los Angeles Kings for defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round pick ... and Carter found the twine for only six goals in 16 games.

And he has only scored five goals in helping the Kings roll to 14-2 playoff run.

"It's good to see him score," said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. "He's a goal-scorer. You're counting on him to score a big goal."

But a day later Carter was showing another side to him. He showed the inner feelings that might have been going through his head and he did his skate-around Brodeur's net.

Carter and Mike Richards were with the Flyers two years ago, when they watched as Chicago's Patrick Kane scored the overtime winning goal in the Stanley Cup finals. The goal was scored in Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center ... in Flyers country.

Nothing hurt Carter more than coming so close and still losing and to watch Kane and Blackhawks on Philadelphia's home ice in Game 6 of the 2010 Cup finals.

"You work so hard to get there and then you come up short, it's tough to swallow," Carter said, still wincing over the Blackhawks victory. "It definitely is motivation for anyone. That's something that sticks out in the back of your mind. It's not something you want to deal with ..."

Still clearing his head over his last comments, Carter continued, "It's probably one of the worst nights I've felt in hockey. If you can't get motivated by that.

"But a lot of guys don't get a second chance. A few guys in the room are getting that second chance and we're going to do everything in our power to come out on top this time."

Carter still had other feelings lingering on his mind about his performance in Columbus and L.A.

"A lot people are doubting me out there," he said. "I know that. I look at this as winning the Stanley Cup ... and proving them all wrong." 

GM Dean Lombardi made one, two or three calls to Columbus GM Scott Howson with interest in Carter.

"He's a rare breed, one of those natural goal scorers," said Howson. "But when we could get Jack Johnson and a first round pick back, we thought that was a good deal for us."

Even though Carter didn't start scoring goal, captain Dustin Brown saw how all the piece on the Kings went into place.

"We were a one-line team and easy to check before the trade," said Brown, said of the Kings inability to score goals. "The addition of Carter was great for Richards and it gave us two lines the other team had to worry about. It changed the way we played."

Leaving Philadelphia wasn't one of Carter's favorite things.

"Well, it was obviously a tough situation for us leaving Philly," he said. "We  loved it there. We loved our time. We signed long deals to potentially finish our careers there.

"It was a tough situation. We had a lot of thinking to do. Took a little while to get over that. It's funny how things work out. We're both in L.A. now, two wins away from the Stanley Cup. Couldn't be happier."

Then, going to Columbus, where the team was struggling. Losing always sucks.

"It wasn't an easy situation obviously," Carter said. "Being in Philly for six years, all you do there is win, right? That's really all you know. They teach you the right way there.

"Going to Columbus, it was a team that was struggling. Obviously there were some expectations going into the season. Things didn't work out the way everybody had hoped."  

Mike Richards pays the cleaning lady and walks Arnold, an ice cream-eating black lab. Jeff Carter’s job is to supply dinner most nights at the beautiful Manhattan Beach house they’ve shared ever since their hockey careers improbably reconnected in late February, just a few months after the Philadelphia Flyers split them apart.

Jeff Carter, still thinking about scoring goals like the one he scored in Game 2, said, "It's funny how things work out."

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