Adorbs. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)
The first four periods of Connor Carrick’s NHL career went badly. In just 80 minutes of play, 19-year-old was on the ice for four goals against and also took a penalty that led to a goal. Nevertheless, Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates insisted that he was not on a short leash. In his fifth frame of big-league ice time, Carrick was redeemed.
After being called for a phantom hooking penalty midway through Washington’s home opener Thursday, Marcus Johansson sprung Carrick with a beautiful breakout pass as the young defensemen exited the box. After a nice move on Calgary Flames goalie Karri Ramo, Carrick’s first NHL goal was in the back of the net.
“I was going through scenarios in my head in the box: one, go back and play defense; two, change; three, it lands on my tape and I was thinking what would I do,” he told reporters after the game. “It worked out for me.”
Carrick’s goal got a rally going, with the Caps scoring two more goals in the period (Ovi slap, Ovi snipe) to pull within one. In the third, Nick Backstrom tied it, and Ovi and Grabovski pulled it home in the gimmick.
“I thought Connor’s goal was huge,” head coach Adam Oates said. “You could tell it got the guys fired up and then the guys scored off it.”
Afterwards, Ovi thanked the young defenseman for his efforts, plopping a towel of shaving cream atop Carrick’s head before yelling “F—king right!” as he ran away. It, to be trite, was a dramatic turnaround for Carrick. Barely an adult, he was a goat in his first NHL game, at a rink he used to go to cheer on his favorite team. Forty-eight hours later, he was surrounded by a dozen reporters, joking his way through 10 minutes of question and answer.
“He took a lot of heat for last night, a lot of it unfair,” Oates said of his redemption. “Some of the goals he was on for he wasn’t the primary candidate for the mistake. I think because of his age he took a lot of heat. Your first goal, it weighs on you. I’m sure it just relaxed him so much. He made some great plays, some great reads.”
Carrick, though, said he found his game Thursday to be much improved, albeit still tepid.
“It’s game two, I’m a couple away from feeling comfortable,” he told me. “Tonight, it felt a little more natural. There was a lot on me that night. I could’ve handled it better, but I’d like to think I rebounded.”
“You gotta control what you can, because there’s a lot of things that you can’t,” he added.
Media by Ian Oland.