A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Canes top Thrash 4-3 in overtime

The Hurricanes began their six game road trip on the right foot by beating Atlanta 4-3 (OT) in the back end of a home-and-home series.
On the season, the Canes have split the only two home-and-home series they've had, the other coming last week versus the Rangers.

Before the recap, there are several good things that happened in this game, aside from the obvious picking up two points in a divisional matchup.
  1. We solved Atlanta. After dominating them for the first two years they were in the league, we've been on even ground the past two seasons. This season, we lost both of the previous matchups. It feels good to finally get past their ninth string goaltender.
  2. Our power play was hot. I believe the correct nomenclature is "shit hot". They connected on the first two power play opportunities, and although they didn't connect the rest of the night, they finished two out of five on the PP. Added to that, the Canes scored a really nice shorthander.
  3. Eric Staal sends a big FUCK YOU to Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk had rubbed Staalsy the wrong way with his over-the-top goal celebration after he broke away from Staal in Raleigh on Sunday afternoon for his second goal of the game. Revenge was sweet as Staal was breaking away shorthanded from Kovalchuk in Atlanta on Tuesday. Kovalchuk tried to hook Staal down (and certainly Staal would have been awarded the penalty shot had he not scored), but Staal finished the play for his second goal of the game, and didn't really celebrate, but glared Kovalchuk down.
  4. Unheralded Justin Williams extended his point streak to eight games with a goal and an assist. During the streak, he has 12 points (5/7). Williams came to Carolina late last season in the Daniil Markov trade, and was fairly impressive. During the lockout, he had a mediocre season in Sweden. Just before the new NHL got underway, Williams vowed that this would be the season that everyone would know his name. If he continues to play like that, he'll be right. Because of his speed, he's one of the players who benefits the most from the new anti-clutching and grabbing NHL.

Winning is great, but the one thing that would have made this better is if we had won in regulation. Every point matters in divisional play. We can go to overtime against non-conference opponents until the cows come home, but in conference games, and especially in divisional games, we have to win in regulation.

Enough of that.... Recap.

  • Atlanta came out of the gates running. At 1:13, Greg DeVries let go of a "harmless" 60-foot wrist shot from the top of the right faceoff circle that miraculously found its way through a stunned Cam Ward.

  • Before we could catch our breath, Atlanta scored again. At 3:39, Marc Savard tipped in a shot to finish an absolutely gorgeous play in which Maid Mirian Hossa played the part of tic, the name's Bondra... Peter Bondra played tac and Savard played toe.

  • At 14:09 of the first, with the Canes on a power play, Justin "Viva La France" Williams put the Canes on the board by slamming it home after Matt Cullen corralled the rebound of a Frank Kaberle bomb

  • At 2:04 of the second, while Carolina was enjoying their second power play opportunity, Eric Staal displayed incredible reflexes by batting a loose puck out of mid-air from about 8 feet out. The goal was briefly reviewed for the possibility of a high stick, but was deemed good. Erik Cole and Cory Stillman got the helpers.

  • While Viva La France was in the box on a questionable "goaltender interference" penalty, Eric Staal robbed DeVries in our own zone and scampered away on a shorthanded breakaway. Kovalchuk tried to hook him down, but Staal fought him off and destroyed Garnett stick side at the 7:37 mark of the second. It was Carolina's fifth shorthanded tally of the season, and Staal's second.

  • At 19:39 of the second, Atlanta tied it up on a power play goal from Bobby Holik. Just as a penalty to A-Hutch expired, ending a five-on-three, Savard found Holik alone in the right face off circle, and just like that it was knotted at three.

  • There was no scoring in the third, and it didn't take much of overtime to decide it.

  • Just :32 into the extra frame, Kaberle launched a slapshot from the top of the left circle that went just above Garnett's left shoulder, hit the post and in. Brindy and Viva La France were credited with assists

  • Andrew Hutchinson ended the game with a -1 rating, and did not make it onto the score sheet. He still has just two points on the season.

    Up next: Friday night at Dallas. This is a team that has WAY more Finns than should be legal. One would be okay. Two would be stretching it. But they've got FOUR Finns on their forward lines alone. Perhaps we (and I mean that in the royal, editorial sense) should start referring to Dallas as "New Helsinki". Coach Lavi will get a good look at Bill Guerin and Mike Modano, both of whom will certainly make the final Team USA roster for Torino '06.

    Sunday, November 27, 2005

    Thrash destroy Canes again

    For the second time this season, the visiting Atlanta Thrashers beat the crap out of the Canes.
    Russian sensation Ilya Kovalchuk had two goals and two assists, leading the Thrash to a 5-2 victory.

    I didn't go to the game, and it wasn't on normal cable. I didn't watch it at all, but I did listen to most of it on the radio.

    To continue a frightening trend, the Canes went 0-6 on the power play while allowing Atlanta to go 2-7 on their power plays. Earlier in the season, our PP was looking pretty good, but we've changed the system, and it isn't working.

    One semi-positive thing to take from this game is that we were back to good form in the faceoff % category. We won 58% of the draws in total, and 60% of the offensive zone draws.

    Another positive thing is that we were able to rally from a two goal deficit and tie the game. However, we crumbled late, giving up two goals in the final 8 minutes. There was also an empty netter.

    Yet another has been the play of Andrew Ladd. He scored his second NHL goal in as many games, and finished the game with a +1 rating.

    Bad news is that we can't seem to do anything about Ilya Kovalchuk. He had two goals in our first meeting, a 9-0 steamrolling by the Thrash. He had four points tonight. We had better figure out a way to stop him when we visit Atlanta for the back end of a home-and-home on Tuesday.

    The Canes will be headed out on a very long road trip. Six games in two weeks. Included will be our tour of the Pacific Division. After that, we will play 12 out of 15 at home.

    Andrew Hutchinson was held pointless, and still has two points on the season.

    Like I say, I didn't watch the game, and it's hard to tell on radio, but Jenn and Andy have awarded the Tevvy to Cory Stillman.

    Saturday, November 26, 2005

    Canes win shootout thriller 4-3

    After losing three straight games, the Canes had their work cut out for them against the visiting Maple Leafs. During the skid, our lead in the Southeast Division, which had been nine points, had dwindled to only two points.

    Good news came early, as the Canes had re-gained the services of Captain Rod Brind'Amour and alternate captain Glen Wesley. The impact wasn't as great as was expected, but it's still nice to have the ice general back out there. Normally, Brindy wins about 74% of his faceoffs, but he only won 53%. As a team, we won 51% overall and 54% of the draws in the offensive zone. Better than it had been without Rod, but not back up to 74%.

    Another bit of good news was that the special teams were clicking. We converted two of our nine power play chances, and we scored one of the five times we were shorthanded. We allowed them to score one power play goal, but the good bit is that we only took five penalties. On that note, the bad news was that the scorer on the Leafs PP was the much hated Jeff O'Neill.

    Yet another bit of good news that came early, and ended up being great news was that Andrew Hutchinson was back in the lineup. After being scratched a bunch of times, then going on the IR, it was beginning to look kind of dark in my quest for a hot dog with cheese. Hutch came through with two assists, moving me 25% along that path.

    Without further ado, the recap:

    At the 4:40 mark of the first, while the Canes were enjoying their first power play of the game, Bret Hedican unleashed a bomb from the left point that found its way past Tellqvist. Brind'Amour and HUTCHINSON assisted on the play.

    At 18:45, with AWard in the bin for holding the stick, the Leafs put together a goal scoring play featuring assists by Alex Steen and Mats Sundin. The fella who scored the goal was the much hated and much booed Jeff O'Neill.

    While the Canes were serving a too many men on the ice penalty, Eric Staal make a takeaway in neutral ice, came in on a two-on-one and slipped one in from the right faceoff dot. That was his 16th goal of the season, and his first shorthanded.

    Ten minutes later, at the 13:14 mark, Jason Allison scored a beauty of a goal with assists from Tomas Kaberle and McCabe.

    The next goal was a very confusing one that had to go upstairs for verification. At 17:42, there were a slew of players out front, and nobody could get a good stick on it. It slid over the line (was reviewed and allowed to stand). Initially they gave it to Brind'Amour, but they eventually deemed that he never touched it, and the goal went to Andrew Ladd, his first NHL point. Williams and HUTCHINSON were given assists.

    At 11:23 of the third, Kilger knocked one in to knot it at three, and there would be no more scoring in regulation.
    Or overtime.

    First to shoot in the shootout was Mats Sundin. Denied.

    Radim Vrbata went first for the Canes. He came in with some pretty neat moves and scored easily. 1-0.

    Next up, under the blanket of thunderous boos, was Jeff O'Neill. Denied.

    Matt Cullen went next for the Canes, and went all the way in on Tellqvist before shooting it in. 2-0. Shootout over.

    No Tevvy was awarded in the game, but I have to give an honorary Tevvy to former Canes winger Bates Battaglia. More on that later.

    Friday, November 25, 2005

    HNIC -- Leafs at Canes

    The Leafs come to town tonight for another matchup. On the season, the Canes are 1-0-1 with the Leafs.

    Heading into the game, we're on a 3 game skid with lots of injuries to blame. Namely, the loss of Captain Rod Brind'Amour to a groin injury. He leads the league in faceoff percentage, and we've really been struggling in that category in his absence. Also, our power play has been struggling and Cory Stillman has been a turnover machine, which led to his demotion to second line.

    Tonight, our goals are simple:
    • Get the power play active
    • quit turning the puck over in our offensive zone
    • win faceoffs, particularly in the offensive zone
    • keep that lousy Jeff O'Neil bastard off the scoresheet
    • boo O'Neil and Ed Belfour relentlessly

    Details and photos when I return late tonight.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2005

    Sens 5 - Canes 3. Canes first losing streak extends to 3 games

    On Tuesday night, the Canes had a home matchup with the mighty Ottawa Senators. A matchup that scares me. A matchup we've had twice already this season and won both. This time, however, I correctly guessed that we would lose.
    We're banged up. We're tired. We don't deserve to win three in a row against arguably the best team in hockey. There's a number of other excuses, legitimate or not.

    Amazingly, though, it wasn't what I thought it would be. I thought that Ottawa's big line of Alfredsson/Heatley/Spezza would steamroll all over us, but it ended up being a little different from that.

    This game was not in my ticket package, nor was it televised on Fox Sports South, so I can't give a thorough report. I know... I know. I need to get the Center Ice package.
    If you wanna buy it for me, I'll gladly accept your donation.

    Even though the big line collaborated for what proved to be the game winning goal, each guy finished the game with a -1 rating. Spezza, who netted that goal, and assisted on one other, was the game's first star.

    Special teams ended up being a big factor in this game. Carolina is playing tremendously on even strength, but they've fallen into a special teams rut lately. On their power play, especially, they've been ice cold. On Tuesday they were 0-5 on the power play and surrendered a shorthanded goal in the game's fourth minute. That isn't a good start.

    Ottawa was 1-4 on their own power plays.

    Judging from the scoresheet alone, Carolina's big line of Cole/Staal/Stillman played really well. Staal had a goal and an assist, Cole had two assists, and Stillman had a goal. Five total points for that line to four for Ottawa's big line. Cole was named the game's second star.

    Eric Staal's goal was particularly beautiful, as he had to fight off a very pesky Chris Phillips. He came in one-on-one against Phillips, who did an excellent job of denying Staal any room to work, but Eric somehow found a way to get off a shot that Hasek couldn't stop.

    This game featured something that the Senators are very familiar with: the Canes rallied from an early two goal deficit to tie it up. Craig Adams potted a goal late in the first that tied the game at two. This time, however, the Canes wouldn't be able to pull out the win. After the Sens scored the only goal in the second, and Carolina's Cory Stillman answered in the second minute of the third, that would be all the Canes could do. Ottawa's big line got their goal in the fifth minute, and Peter Schaeffer got an empty-netter with one second remaining.

    Carolina now leads the season series 2-1. I'd really like to see this as an Eastern Conference Finals matchup, but that's a LOOOOONg way off.

    Here's a stat line that may have slipped under the radar:

    Craig Adams: (+2) 24 shifts for 19:18 ice time, 1 shot, 1 goal, 100%, 4 hits, 2 takeaways, 1 blocked shot (I LOVE that the NHL is tracking that stat again)

    This is a guy that we thought we had seen the last of, and even after we re-acquired him, we thought he would play at Lowell the entire season. Our recent injury situation forced us to bring him back, and he's played really well. He and Kevyn Adams have amazing chemistry. If Craig sticks around, they might be able to do some really good stuff on that line.

    Another surprising stat line for the Canes:

    Andrew Ladd: (even) 11 shifts for 8:40 of ice time, 3 shots taken, 4 hits

    Amazingly, Mikey C didn't hit anybody in the game.

    Although he's been removed from the IR, A-Hutch remained a healthy scratch. Still on zero points for the season.

    Up next for the Canes is another tilt with the Leafs on Friday.
    Our cheerleader/anthem singer will have another chance to get "O Canada" right. She hasn't botched the lyrics, but she's messed up the delivery.
    We'll stay put at the RBC Center for a Sunday shot to redeem ourselves against Atlanta, who crushed us 9-0 two weeks ago.
    Neither game will be on Fox Sports South, who is broadcasting something like 65 of the 82 games this season.

    Monday, November 21, 2005

    Get Well, #2

    All hatred of Red Wings aside, I wish to express my heartfelt best wishes for the speedy recovery of defenseman Jiri Fischer, who suffered a seizure while sitting on the Red Wings bench during the first period of Monday night's game against the Predators. At first, officials wanted to resurface the ice, add the remainder of the first period to the second period, and finish the game as normal.
    However, after an extended period of time with paramedics working, they decided to call the game.

    For a short time, Fischer was not breathing and his heart had stopped beating. Fortunately, crews used the difribrilator to bring him back.
    Hospital officials say that Fischer is in "stable" condition, and breathing on his own. They do not know what caused the seizure.

    I don't know whether the 1-0 score will hold up, or if they'll play a full game later, or play the remainder later. None of this matters, though. It's just a game.

    Addendum to sweater rules

    I didn't initially mention this because it had been addressed by Mr. Gölbez, but now I need to mention this because I'm going to modify my rules.

    It is ALWAYS okay to wear a national team sweater to a game at any level. I'm not crazy about the current team USA sweater, but if you can find this one, the replica of those worn at the 1932 Olympic Games in Lake Placid, you'd be super cool. Heck, even the 1980 replica is cool. Despite the grumblings of certain people, the wearing of this team USA sweater would make a woman about 301% hotter.

    Although I would frown upon the wearing of a sweater of an NHL team not playing in the arena that night, and I would have serious reservations about wearing the sweater of a minor league team to an NHL contest, there are other "teams not playing that night" that are allowed.
    • A collegiate sweater is typically okay. Better if:
      • it's an NCAA (rather than club) team
      • you went to school there, or
      • someone on the ice that night played there

    • As mentioned, national team sweaters are always okay. I even allow for the bending of other rules with national team sweaters. More on that later.

    This is important, and it should go without mentioning, but here goes:

    Only wear officially licensed merchandise, please. If you give people an inch, they'll take a mile, and they'll end up wearing an ugly unlicensed piece of crap like this

    or worse, they'll end up wearing what has to be the worst sweater EVER, from some bush-league inline hockey team.

    Okay, here's where it gets tricky:
    It's okay to wear an NHL sweater to a minor league game if one of the teams on the ice is affiliated with that team OR the NHL team is nearby. For example, if you're going to a home game of the Lowell Lock Monsters versus the Albany River Rats, it would be geographically appropriate to wear a Boston Bruins sweater and because of NHL affiliation, it would be appropriate to wear Hurricanes, Avalanche (Lowell is affiliated with both) or Devils (River Rats parent club) sweaters.

    Here's where I allow bending of the rules. If you're a little old lady, AND you're wearing a Czech national team sweater, it's okay for you to have the number 1 and the name "GRANDMA". I have no problem with that. I actually saw this last night.

    I don't care how old you are, or what your gender is, you NEVER, EVER go for the full tuck. The half-tuck is only marginally acceptable, and that's provided that your name is Rod Brind'Amour, Pavol Demitra, Jaro Jagr, or Wayne Gretzky. See Jes Gölbez's rant for further details.

    Sunday, November 20, 2005

    Canes struck by Lightning

    The well-rested City of Tampa¹ Lightning came into Raleigh and beat up on the home team 5-2. This was our third game in 72 hours, and we're quite a bit banged up, but the fact of the matter is, we were outplayed.

    Once again, a very telling statistic is that Carolina only won 37% of the draws. That stat is generous because I can recall a few draws that we "won" but didn't control the puck. Worse was that we only won seven out of 20 offensive zone draws. Those are missed opportunities. We absolutely HAVE to get Rod Brind'Amour back, who is day-to-day with a groin injury.

    Added to that key injury, we have the following laundry list of injuries:

    To ease the pain a little, we indeed called up Andrew Ladd from Lowell to make his NHL debut tonight. Despite the loss, he looked pretty good out there. He certainly didn't do anything to hurt us, and he delivered a big league check to Darryl "this is my other brother Darryl" Sydorduring his second shift as an NHLer.

    On to the game recap:

    At 7:15 of the first, Brad Richards (who is riding the bench on my fantasy team) knocked one in from a few feet out as a slew of folks were crowding the net. From my seat, right behind the north goal, it looked like he kicked it in, but the officials didn't see it that way, and none of the Canes complained.

    At 1:27 of the second, Justin "Viva La France" Williams broke away and made a good shot that Grahame appeared to have stopped. However, the puck was trapped under his pads, and before the whistle blew, Grahame carried the puck into the net with him.

    At 6:20 of the second, Vinny LaCavalier scored a really pretty goal from a tough angle at the bottom of the right face off circle. Prospal made a really nice pass and Cam Ward was so far out of position, all the horseman had to do was not fan on it. After this goal, the jerkwad Tampa Bay fan sitting right beside me got his face on our regional tv coverage.²

    Only two minutes later, Ruslan Fedotenko scored an impossible goal, as he came into the zone on a one-on-four situation. That's right... four Canes in front of him. He worked his way into the slot and fired an innocent shot that somehow found its way into the net.

    At 16:01, Justin Williams was on another breakaway shorthanded, but was hauled down and was awarded the penalty shot. Instead of trying to get really fancy, he made a little move, and just shot. It cleared Grahame no problem.

    Up until that point, things were okay. The power play wasn't working, but there was more than a period remaining and we were only down one. However, it got ugly after that.

    Two Tevvy-worthy plays helped Tampa seal the deal in the third period.

    At the 5:44 mark of the final frame, Martin St. Louis scored from close in on a play that was created by a Cory Stillman turnover deep in our own zone.

    The final goal of the game is the one on which the Tevvy must be awarded to Bret Hedican. He was trying to help out in front of our net, but it looked to me like it went in from his stick. Modin got the credit for it, but from my perspective, nine rows back directly behind the goal, it sure looked like Hedican's stick. Unfortunately, my DVR's memory is full, so I didn't get the game, and I can't get a good look at it on replay, but that's my story.³

    Actually..... now that I think of it, I might be to blame. I've already written about my superstitious ways. Well, tonight, I did something differently, and I'm afraid it cost us the game. I only had one beer. Yeah. Normally, I have two, but I went for a soda on the second go-round.

    Dammit! Sorry. I won't let it happen again.

    Unfortunately, for the weary Canes, there is no rest. We've got four games over the next nine days. After that, we embark on our tour of the Pacific Division teams. That trip will be five road games in nine days. We better buckle down.

    ¹ I must attribute this habit of referring to "Tampa Bay" as City of Tampa to Gregg Easterbrook, who writes the brilliant Tuesday Morning Quarterback weekly column at NFL.com. It irks him, and me, that although the city is named TAMPA, they feel the need to call their sports teams TAMPA BAY, after the body of water rather than the city. GREEN BAY, on the other hand, ... ... never mind.

    ² I'm not calling the guy "jerkwad" simply because he was rooting for the visiting team. I have a well documented history of being able to enjoy the presence of visiting fans. I call him "jerkwad" because he arrived a few minutes into the second period and spent a significant portion of the time chatting away on his cell phone. I'm not the only hockey bloger who hates cell phone talkers. He was also wearing flip flops. Grown men shouldn't wear flip flops unless they're (a) at the beach, or (b) in a locker room.

    ³ There was just enough space on the DVR's memory to get that goal. It WAS NOT off Hedican's stick, but his inability to get his stick between the puck and our net didn't help matters any.

    Saturday, November 19, 2005

    Canes at Rangers

    Saturday afternoon gave us the back end of a home-and-home with the Rangers in Madison Square Garden. This time, the Blueshirts emerged victorious 4-3.

    It didn't take long for the Rangers to get on the board. Martin Straka put a great shot behind Gerber stick side from an impossibly tough angle to make it 1-0 at the 4:14 mark.

    Minutes later, at the 10:34 mark, Eric Staal erased any doubts about his health by ripping a wrist shot bomb from about 40 feet out near the top of the left faceoff circle. Weekes, who had already made some quality saves on Radim Vrbata, couldn't answer the bell this time. Staal went by the old rule when playing against Weekes: go high, stick side. The goal came unassisted as he and Erik Cole came charging in on a two-on-one.

    At the 15:22 mark, Aaron Ward earned the Tevvy by putting the puck in his own net as the Rangers were applying smothering pressure on their first power play. They accredited the goal to Nylander, simply because he was the last Ranger to touch it, but it was clearly off of AWard's stick.

    AWard would also take a very stupid roughing penalty in the second, which was followed by an undisciplined cross-checking penalty to Bred Hedican, putting the Rangers on a five-on-three. Just as the Ward penalty expired, but before he could get back into position, Petr Prucha made it 3-1 at the 9:22 mark of the second. Jagr beautifully set Prucha up, who was waiting on the doorstep. Jagr's pass was right on the tape, and there was nothing Gerber could do about it.

    Carolina had a few power play opportunities in the second, but the Rangers were outstanding on the kill. Our best chance came on an Adams Family collaboration, Craig pounding away at a rebound from Kevyn's shot. Shady 80, though, was up to the task.

    At 9:10 of the third, Michal Rozsival made it 4-1, tapping in a centering pass from Jagr. Nylander got the secondary assist on that, their third power play goal of the game.

    At 11:47, Mikey C unleashed a slapshot from the blue line that was incidentally re-directed by Nik "Evil Swede" Nordgren. As I'm writing this, the goal is credited to Commy, but I'm sure they'll eventually change it, as replays showed that Nordgren redirected it.

    At 18:34, Carolina finally connected on a power play. They had actually pulled Gerber, giving them a six-on-four advantage. After Eric Staal barely missed out on a golden opportunity about 30 seconds prior, Justin Williams tapped in a rebound to make the score 4-3. Watching the replay, Justin Williams had to make a brilliant move to set himself up. The rebound kicked out to his left skate, and he very calmly kicked it over to his forehand and he put it in the net no problem.

    Despite a frantic effort in the final 90 seconds, we just couldn't tie it up.

    Some potentially bad news for the Canes: Erik Cole had to leave the game with a foot injury in the second period and did not return. His status for tomorrow's tilt with City of Tampa is unknown.

    One HUGE factor that might go unnoticed in the scoresheet is that Carolina only won 33% of the draws. Our Captian, Rod Brind'Amour is best in the league at faceoff per centage, and we really demonstrated how weak the rest of us are at that very thing. Sometimes winning the draw directly leads to goals, and sometimes it's just a nice intangible. Either way, we like it better when we have that on our side. We're still not sure when Roddy will return.

    If something crazy has happened and Colesy is unable to play for Sunday, we might see Andrew Ladd or Chad LaRose called up from Lowell and pressed into immediate service.

    Incidentally, Andrew Ladd scored two goals in Lowell's 4-3 loss to Portland on Friday night. He now has 11 points (7/4) on the season. Meanwhile, LaRose has 14 (8/6) and Keith Aucoin, who I once referred to as "schmuck" has 17 (8/9).

    Big stats:
  • Carolina was 1-6 on the power play, while the Rangers were 3-5. Carolina's failure to produce on the PP is in large part because of the Rangers' excellent work on their PK units. There's no excuse for us to have allowed the Rangers to convert as frequently and easily as they did. Not to take anything away from the excellent PP work by Jaromir Jagr, but we had some defensive lapses.
  • Jagr was silent in our 5-1 victory in Raleigh, but he was amazing today in their 4-3 win. He assisted on three goals, and the other was unassisted. Perhaps better, though, was Michael Nylander, who scored the unassisted goal and assisted on the other three.

    Once again, Mikey C finished with a +2 rating, which was tops in the game. Remember: power play goals do not count in the +/- column.

    AWard gets his first official Tevvy, to Ray Whitney's two. If I get to feeling inspired, I might go back and issue retroactive Tevvies, but I doubt I'll do that. If I keep up with issuing the Tevvies, I'll post a running tab of who's got them.

    Up next: a Southeastern division showdown with the Bolts. As a precaution ... The hockey game is at 7:00, not 1:00. Also, there will be two basketball games played in the arena earlier in the day, and they'll have a very fast changeover time. The ice may be shitty tomorrow night.
  • Friday, November 18, 2005

    more on sweater etiquette

    I know this is something that's been beaten into the ground lately, but I'll throw in my two cents about sweater etiquette.

    I have some opinions regarding this that may rub people the wrong way. If I directly or indirectly use you as an example, try not to be offended.

    Michael Fedor of Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic wrote about it to some extent here.

    Jes Gölbez came up with his own rules of hockey sweaters, taking yet another shot at the poor defenseless Swedes in the process.

    I know someone else(I'm thinking Christy at behind the jersey) wrote about jersey etiquette, but I can't recall off the top of my head.

    I've gone to lengths to express my likes and dislikes in team sweaters, specifically the third sweaters. I haven't, though, written about fan etiquette concerning the sweater.

    Here are my rules:
    1. DO NOT wear your sweater to your pre-game meal. Leave it in the car, hanging in the left side rear window, team crest facing out. Wearing the sweater into the restaurant unnecessarily exposes the sweater to the possibility of getting mustard stains. In the special case of the Preds third sweater, the hue of which would conceal mustard stains, you still need to leave the sweater in the car. You might (and should) get your ass kicked for owning one of those monstrosities and wearing it anywhere besides the game.
    2. DO NOT wear the sweater of a team who isn't in the building that night. What are you trying to prove? Ballcaps, t-shirts, sweatshirts are okay, but don't wear a Devils sweater to a Kings-Ducks game. Special provision for, in the above example, a Scott Niedermayer sweater. I think you get the point there. Otherwise, it just doesn't make sense. You might has well wear a football jersey.
    3. DO NOT attempt to customize your sweater yourself. It will look horrible. If you need after-market customization or modifications, have it done at your team's gift store. Your iron-on job looks like crap, and you know it.

      .... here's the one that might cause waves....

    4. DO NOT put your own name on the sweater. I know, I know. It makes you feel closer to the team. If you really must do this, though, you should use your name and the digits 00. You have to know that certain numbers are off limits. Obviously, only a jackass would get the number 99 and put his own name with that. In my opinion, you should also respect the list of retired numbers for your team and the numbers of the captains. Actually, I think that any number belonging to a significant player on your team should be avoided. I suggest 00 because the NHL does not recognize zero as a first digit for a sweater number, nor do they recognize a zero on its own. Generally, numbers in the 50's or above are safe, but do some research just to be sure. I think it's slightly disrespectful to breach this. It also looks goofy when you have (as one Hurricanes fan does) the name "Williams" going with the number 17. 17 is off limits, and we actually have a Williams.
    5. DO continue to wear the sweater of a player even if he has been traded. Unless, as Jes suggests, the player has disgraced your city.
    6. DO NOT under any circumstance wear your sweater in conjunction with short pants. Try to wear it only with blue jeans, but anything other than long pants is unacceptable.
    7. DO treat your sweater as if it is a very nice article of clothing. Don't ever wad it up and throw it in the back seat of your car. Don't fold it up and shove it in a drawer. Allow it to hang up, and give it some space in your closet.

    There are plenty of other rules I believe in, some of which have already been touched by Jes and/or Michael. This'll do for now.

    hot dog with cheese, here I come

    Today, the Hurricanes activated Andrew Hutchinson from the IR and put Glen Wesley on the IR retroactive to November 5. Wesley is out with a groin injury, and is eligible to return as soon as Saturday, but I'm guessing he'll be held out at least one more game.

    I'm really hoping that we can find a way to give Hutch some significant playing time. I sure would like that hot dog with cheese.

    Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Canes cruise over Rangers, or, "How Kevyn Got His Groove Back"

    Tonight's game was a terrific success by almost all accounts. And there was a natural hat trick¹ to boot.

    Playing without the services of Captain Rod Brind'Amour and Alternate Captain Glen Wesley, we knew that we had our work cut out for us against the Atlantic Division leading New York Rangers. We were also without the Czech Condor, Josef Vasicek. The Canes answered the bell in a big way, winning 5-1 over the road-weary visitors.

    In lieu of the Cap and one alternate, Kevyn Adams and Cory Stillman both wore the A, which isn't unusual. However, tonight, Mr Kristi Yamaguchi wore an A as well. He played a pretty solid game tonight even though he (Bret Hedican)probably hasn't slept a wink in a week. Kristy just gave birth to their second daughter Wednesday night.

    First, I want to get into something I saw outside the arena that made me really proud. I walked past a group of tailgaters who were blasting their country music and eating hotdogs and whatnot. It's not the country music that made me smile, though. I actually hate country music. If you wanna know what I listen to, visit my other blog, which I always write while listening to music, and I always mention what I'm listening to. What made me smile is that these guys look like the antithesis of hockey fan, but they were having a really charged conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of the callers to the post game call in show from Tuesday night. That's hockey, baby.

    The first period started out pretty slow. Not a whole lot of action, and no penalties were called until the 14th minute.

    At the 18:53 mark, with Carolina enjoying a four-on-three power play, Eric Staal rifled a blistering slap shot from about 50 feet out, at the top of the right faceoff circle. The goal came unassisted as he kept a clearing attempt in the zone and unleashed the clear shot.

    Only 34 seconds later, Michael Nylander scored on an easy tip-in after Ray "The Wizard" Whitney turned the puck over deep in our own zone on the four-on-four. For that play, and for a notable failure to keep the puck in on a PP sequence, Whitney earned the Tevvy for the night.

    The rest of the game was a little more fast-paced, with Kevyn "There's no I in Kevyn" Adams tallying a natural hat trick. The first goal came at the 3:30 mark of the second with assists from Radim "Czech Connection, party of one" Vrbata and Justin "Viva La France"² Williams. On the goal, a power play had just elapsed and Adams was able to streak into the zone ahead of two Rangers and put it past Lundqvist.

    Adams' second goal (unassisted) came deep in the second period, at the 17:01 mark. It was way nicer than I remember it being, and watching it on the DVR made me think of a similar second period goal he scored (coincidentally) against the Rangers in the 2002-03 season. See the top ten goals link above, and wait for goal #4 to see what I'm talking about. Kevyn wrapped around and made a nasty little back hand shot go short side on Lundqvist. This time, he didn't have the fancy toe drag move, or undress any of the Rangers d-men, like he did in '03, but it was sweet nonetheless.

    The third Adams goal came at the 11:33 mark of the third on a nicely executed odd-man rush. Vrbata and A Ward assisted Adams who easily finished the play with a wrister from the slot to achieve the first hat trick of his career. Actually, these were also the first three goals this season for Kevyn.

    Some lucky fan won themselves a brand new John Deere lawn tractor, which will later be autographed by Kevyn Adams.

    The fifth and final goal came on a shorthanded chance by Justin "Viva La France" Williams. The play was all him, as he broke up a pass in our own end and singlehandedly carried the puck into the offensive zone and wristed it in.

    Good stuff that might not have been noticed:
    • Not only did we prevent Jaro Jagr from scoring, but we kept him off the scoresheet entirely, and he finished the game at -3.

    • Mikey C finished with a +2, leading all D-men in that category

    • Craig Adams had seven hits, tops in the game. One of these hits was instrumental in allowing Kevyn to score his second goal.

    • Radim Vrbata quietly snuck in two assists and finished the game with a +2. He's making a strong case for his place on the team.

    The Gerber Baby was great again tonight, but he didn't have to stand on his head at any point. If not for a lapse by Whitney, he might have recorded another shutout.

    Eric Staal was injured at some point in the third and went to the room with an "upper body" injury. Hopefully it isn't serious.

    I say the game was a success by almost all accounts because our power play was 1-8. We can't get away with that if we want to continue to win. I know we're banged up right now, but that's not good at all.

    With the win, the Canes improved to 14-3-1. Tampa also won, so our lead over them in the Southeast remains at 8 points, with the Canes having three games in hand. The 29 points ties us with Les Habitants for the Eastern Conference lead. Carolina has one game in hand on the Habs.
    In the West, Detroit lost, but their 31 points remains tops in the League. Carolina also has two games in hand on Detroit.

    On tap for Friday nightSaturday afternoon: the second half of the home-and-home with the Rangers. A matinee, followed by a flight home for a Sunday night home matchup versus the defending Stanley Cup champs.

    ¹ We all know what a hat trick is. That doesn't need explanation. However, the natural hat trick is significantly less common. It's when a player scores his three goals consecutively, with no other goals occurring during the span.

    ² During one of the stoppages of play, the jumbotron showed several players responding to the question "Other than Raleigh, what's your favorite city?" Justin Williams' answer was "France". It's funny because it's France, and also because he chose an entire country when he was supposed to chose a city.

    HNIC --- Rangers at Carolina

    It's Hockey Night in Carolina again....

    Jaromir Jagr, Kevin Weekes and the Rangers come to town for a showdown at the RBC corral.

    I'm about to head off for Raleigh, and I'm trying something different this time.

    I always wear the same jeans, the same underwear, the same t-shirt, the same shoes, and the Vasicek sweater. I'll be doing that again tonight. Here's the change though.... Usually I shower and shave just before leaving. I've been clean shaven for every game I've been to this season, and we won all of those games. (I did not go to the home game when Atlanta kicked our ass).

    Today, I have about five days of facial hair growth. I can tell everyone I'm growing a "playoff beard". I hope this change in ritual doesn't mess me up, or more importantly, I hope it doesn't mess the Canes up. You know how superstitious I can get.

    Details and photos when I return.

    Since when is bashing Sean Avery more important than Canes updates????

    I don't know what came over me. I somehow was more driven to post another anti-Steve Avery post than to write about the Hurricanes 2-1 road victory over the mighty Ottawa Senators

    Ottawa, who has allowed far and away the fewest goals in the NHL thus far, has only lost three games. Two of those three have come at the hands of my Carolina Hurricanes. Once in the RBC Center and once in the Corel Centre. In each game, Martin "The Gerber Baby" Gerber has shone. In Raleigh, Gerber stopped 45 of 47 shots after giving up two very early goals. In Ottawa, Gerber gave up a late goal en route to stopping 35 of 36 Senators shots. In those two games against the Eastern Conference favorite, Gerber has stopped a total of 80 shots, while allowing three goals. That's a save % of .964.

    Here's what was important about Tuesday's game:

    MIKEY C!!!!! Mike Commodore got the game-winning goal on a play that Eric Staal created. Commy deserves to have his season-long hard work rewarded with the glory of a game-winning goal against a very strong conference opponent.

    The Stillman/Staal/Cole line stayed strong. Staalsy had an assist on the game winner and everybody on that line finished the game +1.

    Our goalkeeping (in this case, Martin Gerber) was outstanding. Gerbs did a terrific job keeping one of the best teams in the league at bay. And in their own building, no less.

    Ray Whitney also stayed strong. He scored the first goal, allowing the Canes to cash in on the power play. In 11 games, the Canes newcomer has 15 points(5 G/10 A), and has only been shut down twice.

    The Sens played some outstanding defense, limiting the Canes to 1-7 on the power play. Actually, on a few of our power play opportunities, we failed to register any shots on net while allowing shorthanded chances. Credit is definitely due to the Ottawa killers.

    On the other side, Carolina was even better on the PK. Ottawa had eight power play chances, including two five-on-three situations, but came up empty on each try. The difference, though, is that while all the credit is due to the Ottawa PK units, the credit for Carolina's success is due to Martin Gerber. He was absolutely en fuego.

    Up next, the Canes play a home-and-home with the New York Rangers.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005

    Idiocy reigns, Avery fined AGAIN

    After Sean Avery ran his mouth about his displeasure with being fined for diving, the league saw fit to fine him again. This came as no surprise to me (see yesterday's post), but apparently this jerkwad still doesn't know when to quit. Where I was wrong, though, is that the fine can be no greater than $1,000.
    The comment, or perhaps just one of the comments in violation of By-law 17.4:
    ''No question that this is a way to do something to me,'' Avery told the paper. ''It has nothing to do with diving. How can (director of hockey operations) Colin Campbell, or whoever it is, sit at a desk and make that call? They should send the tape to all seven members of the competition committee and let them look at it.''

    Yes, that's right, Sean. The League is conspiring against you. So much so that it let your dirty hit go unpunished.

    I would be very surprised if Avery takes his two fines like a man and shuts the hell up. I'm more inclined to believe that he's still going to have a lot to say, and will have many more fines to deal with.

    Monday, November 14, 2005

    I still don't get it.

    Sean Avery is finally in trouble, but it isn't what you think.

    It wasn't this comment, back in February:
    "I think they can eliminate a lot of Europeans who are mediocre and are taking a lot of jobs"

    It wasn't this comment, regarding Denis Gauthier's clean hit on J-Ro, in September:
    "I think it was a clean hit," he explained on Tuesday. "I think it was typical of most French guys in our league with a visor on, running around and playing tough and not back anything up."¹

    It wasn't even a vicious dirty check from behind into the boards against Simon Gimache (who happens to be "French" and who also happens to wear a visor). He was given the appropriate five minute major plus one game misconduct penalties, but he was assessed no fine or further reprimand from the League. I, for one, think it was a premeditated attack. I was hoping he'd get a suspension on the order of 10 games, but it seems like that's not going to happen.

    He got in trouble for... are you ready for this ....

    The League has fined Avery $1,000 for diving incident in a November 3 game against the Coyotes. Apparently, the League will warn you once and fine you the second time. He had been warned about diving in the October 19 game against the Avalanche. A third offense will mean a $2,000 fine, and a fourth offence would mean a single-game suspension.

    Are you reading this, Erik Cole?

    Avery is appealing the ruling, and without even seeing the evidence, I think he might have a case. I hate to say anything supportive of Avery, but the thing that may go in his favor is that there was no penalty called. It was only after the game that they decided he had dived.

    Genius that he is, Avery had this to say about that:
    "I don't have a comment on it right now," Avery told the newspaper. "If I lose the appeal, I'll have plenty to say then. It's an issue I will not let go."

    Sean, let it go. It's just a thousand dollars. The League has made it very clear that remarks disparaging to the game or to the League will not be tolerated. There are not clear-cut fines or suspensions, but the "new" rules specifically mention that public criticism of the game or its officials will result in fines. I'm guessing that they might be more than a thousand dollars.

    ¹ Those "French" "sissies" probably know how to gerundize verbs, you ass-clown.
    "Running around ... not back anything up"?
    C'mon, man!

    Big Joe on IR, Adams family together again

    Josef Vasicek has landed on the IR. He hurt his knee in Friday's 1-0 victory over Florida, and the results of the MRI affirmed a ligament tear, which could mean he's gone for four months. (News & Observer story). To fill his void, the Canes have called up Right Wing Craig Adams, who was recently re-acquired from Anaheim and was intended for use in Lowell. I always liked C. Adams for his tenacity and his ability to throw down when needed. However, and I've written about this before, we don't need that aspect of his game. We've got the Bull, whose primary function is "agitator" and we've also got Mikey C who will also throw down. In case you haven't noticed, Mike Commodore (aka "Mikey C") has quickly become one of my favorite players. That isn't my theme today, though.

    I joked about this before, when we acquired Craig a few weeks ago, but now there really is a need for the team seamstress to get busy sewing the "K." plates on the back of Kevyn's sweaters.

    I actually haven't covered this before, but to answer the question that some of you may have, Kevyn and Craig ARE NOT BROTHERS. They aren't even related. Nor are they related to TV's Gomez and Morticia Addams. According to legend, Gomez Addams' family name had been Adams (with one D), but they added the second D to distinguish their family name from that of "the other prominent Adams family" from which two US presidents emerged.

    Despite his lack of offensive production, losing Vasicek is going to hurt a lot. Adding Craig Adams isn't really the answer. The good bit is that we'll get to see more of Radim Vrbata, who has been working really hard in his limited ice time. The bad bit is that we are one more injury away from having to recall Krispy. Actually, I think if it came to it, we'd probably call Chad LaRose, who was the final cut, before we'd call Brendl.

    I wonder how all of this works on the Gölbez evil index. Vasicek, a Czech (therefore a +), goes on the IR. Enter Craig Adams, who was born in Brunei. Although the official ruling is that "players from non-traditional countries tend to be neutral", I would think that there would have to be a special provision for players from Asian countries. Because of the extreme nature of the non-traditionalism of their nations, they should receive a plus rating. The only other examples I can think of are Richard Park, David Tanabe (a former Cane), and the Kariya brothers. What do you think?

    Anyway, in Vasicek's absence, we should expect to see fellow Czech Radim Vrbata (+) get lots of ice time, and we should expect to see the "evil" Swede, Nik Nordgren(-) get increased playing time. What I really hope we don't see is messing with the second line. Staal Cole and Stillman have been spectacular together, and it would be a real shame to move anybody around.

    Sunday, November 13, 2005


    The Streak had to end sometime. I didn't expect it to end in this fashion, though.

    We got absolutely smoked by the visiting Thrashers on Saturday night, 9-0.

    I picked a really good game to skip, and I've gotta say that this one would have tested my resolve to never, ever leave a sporting event until the final horn sounds. Sure, I do it all the time with minor league baseball games, but if you think people go to minor league baseball games to watch baseball, you're sorely mistaken. And they don't use a horn in baseball anyway, so I'm still good.

    Also, the game wasn't televised locally, so I can't give much of a rundown.

    We started "the Gerber baby" in net, but after he gave up a couple of early goals, he was lifted in favor of "the other Cam", Ward. In giving up seven goals on 33 shots, Cam was anything but "steady".

    Fortunately, the second place Lightning, over whom we have a nine point lead AND two games in hand, were idle.

    Up next, a trip to Ottawa for a Tuesday night tilt with the Senators, and their chance at redemption.

    Today, it's football. I'll go down to Charlotte to watch the Carolina Panthers host the New York Jets. It's also my dad's 63rd birthday.

    Friday, November 11, 2005

    Canes at Cats

    Heading into this game, we hoped that two long streaks would be continued. The Panthers came in on a horrible six game losing streak while the Hurricanes were on an eight game tear.

    With another brilliant game by Martin Gerber, we won 1-0. The victory extended our win streak to 9, extended their loss streak to 7, and widened our lead in the Southeast division.

    There was a big scare very early. Eric Staal fell awkwardly and appeared to twist his knee. In the process he banged his head against the ice pretty good. Fortunately, it wasn't serious in any way. He returned just a moment later.

    Erik Cole was awarded his third penalty shot in the last 40 minutes of game play. He missed. We might see a bunch of this for the remainder of the season, as he seems to be getting loads of breakaway chances. He became the second player in NHL history (Esa Pirnes -- Los Angeles Kings, October 10 & 12, 2003) to take penalty shots in consecutive games.

    Luongo was giving up a lot of big rebounds, but was able to answer the bell every time.

    Mikey C made some really nice defensive plays. This has been a common theme. I really like what he's brought us.

    Martin Gerber looked good, but made one play worthy of Tevvy consideration. With a penalty to Marty Gelinas expiring, he made what he thought would be a clearing pass to center ice, but Gelinas came out of the box to meet it, and came in all alone. Nothing came of that.

    Radim Vrbata looked really good. He had already had some great scoring chances that were denied by Roberto Luongo, and he created several other really good chances in the second. Unfortunately for him, his efforts didn't bear fruit. But don't think that we're not noticing.

    Another player who continues to play very well every night, but will never get accolades is Mikey C. I already said it on this post, but this is a live update, so I have to say it again. He absolutely CRUSHED Marty Gelinas late in the second, which prompted Gelly to throw a little tantrum on his way back to the bench.

    On our fifth power play opportunity, we finally connected. After a good deal of hard work, we got an easy one from Eric Staal. It was his 12th goal of the season, meaning that he's already surpassed his goal total from 2003-04. On the play, he was beautifully set up by Erik Cole and Ray Whitney, each of whom tallied their 10th assist.

    Radim Vrbata had a beautiful scoring chance fall just short as it clanged off the left post early on. Again, although it didn't show in the scoresheet, the coaches and real fans have taken notice. He deserves lots of playing time. He might get a chance, as Vasicek had to leave the game after heavy knee-to-knee contact with a Panthers skater. Hopefully, the injury won't be serious, but he may be held out tomorrow against the Thrashers just as a precaution.

    Nothing really to report in the third period. Two missed power play opportunities, and a couple of dandy stops by Luongo.

    So for the second time in seven days, "the Gerber baby" shuts out the Florida Panthers.

    Since Tampa had already lost, this means we widen our lead to nine points in the Southeast Division.

    Up next: a home game versus the Thrashers on Saturday night. I have a ticket, but I can't go. Fortunately, we have a ticket exchange program, so I'll get to go to a different game that I wouldn't otherwise go to.

    To those of you who still think that ESPN is good ....

    Most of the credit for this should go to Chris McMurtry over at Hockey Country for pointing this out....

    The crack staff at ESPN.com apparently doesn't know the difference between Jason Spezza (pictured on top) and some dude in the minors.
    According to their boxscore of the Ottawa-Boston game on Thursday night, it was not Spezza who got secondary assists on both of Heatley's goals. Instead, they gave credit to Daniel Paille.
    Yeah, I know. There's nobody by that name on the Sens roster. In fact, there's nobody by that name on any NHL roster.

    Daniel Paille plays left wing for the Rochester Americans, the AHL squad for the Buffalo Sabres. He was selected by Buffalo with the 20th overall pick in the 2002 entry draft, and has not played in any NHL games.

    I don't have any idea how ESPN screwed that up so badly. The two players are nothing alike.

    #20, Rochester Americans Left wing.....shoots left.....6'0"...197 lbs
    born: 04.15.84 in Nelland, Ontario

    #19, Ottawa Senators Center ..... shoots right ..... 6'2"....206 lbs
    born: 06.13.83 in Mississauga, Ontario

    I could understand if they had mistaken one fourth line winger for another, but this is silly. Jason Spezza is one of the biggest names in hockey, and they confused him with a dude in the minor leagues for a different team.

    Oh boy.

    Remembrance Day / Veterans Day

    In honor of this, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, a non-hockey post:

    In Flanders Fields -- by Leiut. Col. John McCrae
    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    Who wants to come over to play video games?

    Apparently, yours truly is one of the thousands of lucky winners in the Mountain Dew/Xbox 360 contest.

    Yeah, I won one of those fancy new game systems before you can buy it. Without sending me an e-mail telling me that I'd won, they sent me a bunch of shit (hats, tshirts, coupons for free Mountain Dew) so I could throw a party. I guess they'll send me the game console sometime next week.

    Although I've heard really good things about that Call of Duty game, my first game will undoubtedly be NHL2K6. The EA NHL2006 won't be offered on that platform.

    I don't play video games other than sports games, so this is kind of strange for me. I guess I'll also get the new Tiger Woods.

    If you wanna come over for video game hockey, or golf, or WWII, let me know. But you don't get to be the Canes.

    Cole, Gerber make it eight straight

    On the road in Buffalo on Wednesday night, the Hurricanes stretched their winning streak to eight games. Including the overtime loss at Toronto the Canes have earned at least one standings point in 11 consecutive games.
    Erik Cole made NHL history, but before I get to that, I have to back up a little.
    Remember the other day when I griped about the Kerry Fraser-Tim Peel officiating tandem? Fraser has always been one to call diving penalties, and to be honest, Erik Cole is well known as a diver, but when Tim Peel called the diving penalty on Cole as he was breaking away towards an empty net, that was kind of absurd. The penalty denied Eric Staal a hat trick, and one fan a John Deere lawn tractor. In case you missed it the first go-round, here's my initial rant about that. I initially accredited that diving call to Kerry Fraser, but it was actually Peel who made the call. The point still remains that as long as it's a game that Fraser is running, those calls will be made.

    I didn't mention it, but when we had the same officiating crew the next home game, Tim Peel stopped by the room to talk to Erik Cole before the game. In a move that Cole called "classy", Peel apologized, admitting that he made a mistake. Nobody in their right mind would dive in a situation like that. While the apology impressed Cole, Sara Kruszka of Raleigh still doesn't have a lawn tractor. She is owed more than an apology.

    Tonight, at the HSBC Arena, Tim Peel was again one of the officials. In a karmically perfect twist of fate, Erik Cole made NHL history by being the first player to ever be awarded two penalty shots in the same game. The first came 8:37 into the third period with the Canes up 3-1, and the Sabres enjoying a power play. Cole made a nice pokecheck in neutral ice, which created a breakaway in which he had a step on two Sabres. One let him go, while Jochen Hecht hooked him down. On the penalty shot, Cole made a really nice move to drag it from his forehand to the backhand at the last second, then lift it up over the shoulder of Biron to go top shelf. On the second penalty shot he kept it on the forehand, faked to the backhand t the last second, and just missed, as Biron was up to the task.

    Eric Staal was good for one assist tonight, making his total for the season 27 points (11g /16a).

    Cory Stillman added his 11th, 12th and 13th assists of the season.

    Ray Whitney continues to be a superb addition to our squad, getting our first goal of the night with five minutes to go in the first. He has appeared in eight games, and has recorded four goals and nine assists. He has been held scoreless in only one game thus far.

    Thomas Vanek, who I selected as my pre-season choice for rookie of the year, scored his first and second NHL goals for the Sabres to go with the 10 assists he has. He also demonstrated that he is a very gifted player and a natural scorer. He was, by the way, selected fifth overall in the 2003 entry draft. The same year that Eric Staal was taken by the Canes with the #2 overall pick. If not for some stellar work by Martin Gerber, Vanek might have had four goals.

    A-Hutch is out with a hip flexor, and is also still unsigned.

    Next up: a road game at Florida on Friday.

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    LaRue hands Kings the win on Saturday night. Plus: Sean Avery continues to be a very stupid man.

    By now, everyone has probably heard of the controversy surrounding the shootout in LA on Saturday night. I'd like to propose that regardless of how many times J-Ro struck the puck, the goal should not have been allowed, and referee Dennis LaRue (a 14 year veteran) should have immediately ruled it "no goal, no review." All the talk that I've heard and read concerns how many times Roenick played the puck, but a look at the rules concerning goalie protection suggest that the goal should have immediately been called "no goal" on the ice without any option for review.

    First of all, if you haven't seen the clip of it, here's the highlight package from that game, including the shootout "goal" by Roenick. You'll need to see the goal first. It's hard to tell with that shot whether or not J-Ro played the puck twice, but like I say, it doesn't even matter.

    Rule 78 a from the NHL Rulebook says:
    If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
    Just in case, rule 78 b says:
    If an attacking player initiates any contact with a goalkeeper, other than incidental contact, while the goalkeeper is outside his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.
    If you ask me, Roenick initiated the contact, and Vokoun was inside the crease, so this would fall under 78a.

    Wait, though... There's more.

    Rule 78 d:
    If (i) a goalkeeper initiates contact with an offensive player who is in the goal crease; and (ii) such contact is (a) initiated by the goalkeeper in order to establish position in his goal crease; and (b) results in an impairment of the goalkeeper's ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

    Even if you can make a case that Vokoun initiated the contact, he was decidedly trying to establish himself in the crease, and the contact impaired him. Even if you have to resort to 78d, still no goal.

    Wait... there's EVEN MORE.
    You can clearly see that Vokoun was knocked into the back of the net. There's even a rule about that. Rule 78 j states:
    In the event that a goalkeeper has been pushed into the net together with the puck after making a stop, the goal will be disallowed. If applicable, appropriate penalties will be assessed.
    It certainly is possible, and the replay makes it look like there's a decent chance that Vokoun had the puck lodged under his pad, and the collision with Roenick pushed him and the puck together into the net.

    Aside from ALL OF THAT, the video over at TSN.ca has the overhead shot, which clearly shows that J-Ro played the puck twice. No goal. It should absolutely be no goal.

    Bad, bad, bad. Bad official!

    Of course, LA was already up 1-0 in the shootout, but Nashville was denied their third and final chance because of a bogus goal. Maybe also, they ought to have taken advantage of their power play opportunities to run away with the game early on.
    Still though, a bad ruling by a veteran official.

    What somehow got overlooked because of all that drama is that Sean Avery was at it again. He was given a five minute major and a game misconduct for viciously checking Simon Gamache into the boards from behind. Gamache, by the way, is Quebeçois (or, as Avery would say, "French") and wears a visor. I think Bettman ought to hand down a multiple-game suspension given Avery's previous comments with specific reference to such players. I doubt very much that his hatred of visor wearing French players and the vicious hit on the defenseless player were coincidental. The hit can also be seen on the TSN highlights of the game.

    Decide for yourself, but you've heard my take. If you disagree with me, feel free to let me know where I'm off the mark on either the Roenick goal or the Avery hit.

    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    Canes continue rolling

    The Canes won again tonight, to the tune of 2-0 over the visiting Florida former Canes Panthers. Some trends continued and some were ended:

    First, though, the introduction of a new feature at red and black hockey...
    The couple who sit beside me and I have decided that while the media gets to appoint the three stars of the game, we three will award a Tevvy every time. The Tevvy, though, is not an award of distinction. The Tevvy is given to the Canes player who makes the most (or the most costly) mistakes. Even in a winning effort, there's usually one player who screws up a bunch.
    Tonight's Tevvy goes to: Ray Whitney. Ray took two penalties in the course of the game, made some bad passes, committed two giveaways, and had a couple of other ugly plays.
    Good job buddy!

    I'm sure every fan in the RBC Center (which does NOT, contrary to the dreams of NC State basketball fans, stand for Raleigh Basketball Court) is under the impression that something that they are doing is causing the Canes to continue in their winning ways. As sports fans, we're given to rituals and superstition. Don't pretend for even a second that you don't have any superstitions regarding how you dress, sit, eat or drink duing a game. Some of us think that we have to wear the exact same underwear, socks, shoes, undershirt and player's sweater to every game. I was terrified that my normal game-night boxer shorts were dirty and by not wearing them, I would cause us to lose. We didn't. Maybe it's the t-shirt.

    Aside from that silliness, some serious things were different about tonight's game than most of our previous games.

    Although we came out slow for the billionth time in a row and outscored our opponent in the third period, we did not have to come from behind to win this one. It's a good feeling. In fact, we shut them out, which is an even better feeling.

    Eric Staal continued his scoring streak, assisting on one of our goals, but was not able to continue the multi-point game streak. Yeah, it's sad that he "only" tallied one point, but getting the win in regulation against a division opponent is the important thing.

    For the first time in a few games, I didn't have any desire to boo or otherwise heckle any of the visiting players. They've got three guys who are not only former Canes, but among the fan favorites when they were here. Gary Roberts might be questionable, but I respect him a lot. Hilly was absolutely a fan favorite for his great brand of defense, and his uncanny ability to score right off the face-off. Gelinas will always be loved around here for his heroism during the 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs. That and his somewhat demonic blood-red playoff beard. Aside from that, it's impossible to dislike Roberto Luongo. He's had a less-than-stellar season for fantasy hockey team owners, but I am in awe of his game. He made some unbelievable stops tonight, which kept the game uncomfortably close. Maybe I could find a way to dislike Olli Jokinen, but not enough to aggressively boo him.

    Even though we had the same referee tandem from the other night (Fraser and Peel), Erik Cole managed to avoid the diving call tonight. I will admit that Cole has a tendency to overact, embellish, or otherwise exaggerate a fall, I am also of the opinion that Kerry "Captain Hair-spray" Fraser has a vendetta against Cole.

    For the first time ever, I didn't take a single picture at the game. Sorry.

    A-Hutch was a healthy scratch again. He still has zero points.

    I still have to pinch myself to prove that I'm not dreaming about this fantastic start we're off to. Who knows how long it'll last, but we've got to enjoy it while it lasts.

    Friday, November 04, 2005

    Staal rocks, Canes roll, but Fraser ruins all the fun (for one fan, anyway).

    On Thursday, the Canes continued their shockingly good play, beating the Leafs 4-3. We are now 9-2-1, including 6-0 at home.

    Another trend that continued was that the visiting team got on the board first and the Canes came out flat. I'm not sure what's going on, but they've been doing this and getting away with it. Once they get it together and come out of the gates strongly, we'll be unstoppable. We did not, however, continue the trend of falling behind by two goals. That was fun, but I'm glad we didn't do that again tonight.

    Somehow, some way, Eric Staal continued his blistering pace. He had a goal early in the second on a breakaway, then a helper on Ray Whitney's goal later in the second, and another goal late in the third to tie it at three. Three more stats points, bringing him to 25 (11/14) on the season. For the record, Eric Staal only had 11 goals in 81 games in 03-04.

    The game-winner came from Erik Cole, who also had a helper on Staal's first goal. Cole was named the game's third star, but he was pretty busy hanging out in the penalty box also. Two times, he was called for diving, including one that negated what would have been Staal's third goal, an empty netter, with under a minute to play. Cole has always had a tendency to embellish or even dive. Kerry Fraser was officiating tonight, and he loves to make sure those diving penalties get called.

    This makes the second home game in a row in which Eric Staal "sort of" had a hat trick. Against the Flyers, he had three goals, but one of them wasn't credited to him until after the game was over. No hats on the ice. Tonight, he had three goals, but Fraser's love of penalizing Cole negated it. Hats on the ice, but the goal was wiped off. In that case, there should have been matching penalties and the goal allowed to stand. I am certain that Cole embellished, but I am also certain that he was hooked. He had a step, and we were breaking away on an empty net, so the hook should definitely have been called. It didn't effect the outcome of the game, but it did deny one fan a brand new lawn tractor.

    I, and the woman who sits next to me had a good time giving Jeff O'Neill the business. He had absolutely no impact on the game, only getting one shot on net. We also had a good time giving it to Ed Belfour, asking him to "show us the money", and letting him know that he sucks. Truthfully, he played really well( especially in the third), making some brilliant saves, managing to keep it close. Aside from his solid play, the Leafs didn't have a chance.

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    To boo or not to boo?

    There will be different Jeff O'Neill camps when the Maple Leafs visit the RBC Center for the first time on Thursday night.

    One group will warmly welcome him back with cheers and well wishes. He was, after all, a pretty freakin solid player for a couple of years. He was a huge part of our run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2002, and had been one of the fan favorites. He endured tragedy when his brother was killed in an automobile accident this summer and left town for good shortly thereafter.

    I, on the other hand, will be in the other camp. For the entirety of the 2003-04 season, he was lazy and unproductive. He had become increasingly difficult for the coaches and players to deal with, and he was generally regarded as a malcontent. Nobody likes that. I vaguely recall him making some Allen Iverson-like comment about how he didn't need to practice. During the lockout, he chose to hang out with Pavel Brendl and Keith Tkachuk, getting fat and drunk instead of making an effort to stay in shape. To make himself look even worse, he was arrested for DUI in the spring (his second such charge).

    To be fair, I made that up about hanging out with Brendl and Tkachuk. I just had to pick on the fat guys.

    Also, to be fair, I am truly sorry for the loss of his brother. Even before that, though, he was beginning to express the desire to be traded.

    I will boo him soundly on Thursday night. I booed him all season when he played for us in 2003-04, and I won't stop now. Playing for the Leafs is reason enough to get booed around here.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    A look at some numbers.

    The Canes are, for the moment, smoking hot. At 8-2-1, we've got 17 points. That puts us in first place in the Southeast division and third in the Eastern Conference only to Ottawa's 18 points and Montreal's 19. By the way, we have two games in hand compared to Montreal.

    The Detroit Red Wings have come out of the gate like lava through the streets of Pompeii. They, however, are expected to be a juggernaut. They are every season, and will be expected to have a stellar season every year until the end of time.

    This, though, is fun. Nobody outside this state has ever taken us seriously. Unless you are actually a Canes fan, or your name is James Mirtle, you probably said at some point during the preseason words to the effect of "I can't believe they still have a team ... They should get demoted to the AHL" or "Do they actually have fans?". True, we don't have a very good history with bringing in fans. From the Whaler days, playing in the shopping mall, to the Greensboro days, when we literally couldn't give tickets away.... That, however, isn't my point.

    We're off to a terrific, and yes, (even to me) surprising start. We earned our 17th point in our 11th game. We have won five in a row, and have earned at least one standings point in seven straight games. By comparison to the 2003-04 season:

    • We didn't get our 17th standings point until a 0-0 tie with Tampa on November 23 (our 21st game)

    • We didn't get our eighth win until a 3-2 win at Edmonton on December 9 (our 28th game)

    • Our longest win streak was two games

    • Our best standings-point streak was five points is four games (tie, tie, tie, win)

    Also, we have set an NHL record by overcoming two goal deficit in four straight games. Ideally, we'd like that to stop, but it's neat for trivia.

    People around the league are starting to whisper about us, and they're starting to shout about Eric Staal. He's won the NHL offensive player of the month award, and has been the talk of many pundits, bloggers and fans. I can't say enough about the guy, how much he's improved, and how much good he's done for the organization and for the promotion of the sport in this decidedly non-traditional market. I just hope that our newest fans will still be there if we go on a long losing streak.


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