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

Monday, October 30, 2006

house cleaning

Although I refuse to clean my actual home, I like to tidy this place up once in a while. Usually this means dropping/adding blogs to the roll. That's what I'm doing today.

Unfortunately, Hurricane Season, which was Carolina's MVP network blog is being dropped. It's former author claims that he has a new job and doesn't have time for the blog anymore. The real reason is that he's a long time Avalanche fan and was only writing the Canes blog as a way to validate his ride on the bandwagon last spring. On a serious note, that blog is up for grabs if anyone wants to start writing it.

In the Crease, one of many fine Sabres blogs, has apparently given up the ghost (again). She hasn't written anything since game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. If she's remained silent during her team's phenomenal start, I assume she's not doing this anymore.

One recent add is Predspage. Far and away the best Preds blog I've come across. To be frank, most of the others I've seen are written by 14-year old puck bunny wannabes. This guy has excellent between games analysis and great game commentary. Even if you don't care for the Preds third sweater themed color scheme on his page, the content more than makes up for that.

Most recently, I've added the Ducks-centric Girl With a Puck. Because guys like girls who like hockey. Seriously, one of a very few Ducks-specific blogs out there, and a good one at that. An entertaining read with a very personal touch. Sure, there's some squee, but not nearly as much as some other female bloggers. Because one never knows when one might "bump into" Sami Pahlsson at Panera Bread, she carries an unsigned official Ducks puck (and, presumably, a silver Sharpie) with her at all times. Good planning. My friend Jenn once "ran into" Chad LaRose and Eric Staal at Panera Bread, but was unprepared for the occasion.

Abel to Yzerman is gone (changed URL?), and I think I'm still missing some others. Feel free to recommend adds to me. Sadly, though, I can't list them all. Hey, I don't make the cut on Mirtle's page. Everyone has to have standards.

Eventually, I still plan to have pull down menus with a more complete list for each team. For now, I'll stick with listing the ones I read (nearly) every day.

Because all the cool kids are already doing it, I'm going to start listing my own "3 stars of the game" in my game recaps. Hopefully, I'll quit being slack about those recaps, and not use "oh but I have two jobs" as an excuse for being a lazy blogger.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Canes rip Bolts, weird things happen.

On Saturday night, the Hurricanes hosted the Lightning, who had embarrassed the Canes 5-1 just two nights previous. Fortunately, things worked out for the Canes, as they emerged with a 6-4 victory. Some rather strange things happened along the way. I'll blame "Hallowe'en" for the freakish stuff. I'll get to that later.

The visitors got on the board first at 5:38 of the first. It was their first shot of the game, and Cam Ward got a really clean look at it, but it beat him anyway. Vinny Prospal fired it from near the right point, and with little traffic out front, Ward should have handled it easily. He didn't, and the Bolts had a 1-0 lead. Paul Ranger got the only assist.

About three minutes later, things started to get really crazy. Eric Staal started a scoring binge at 8:23. From the bottom of the right circle, he took a really sharp angle to beat Marc Denis inside the left post. Viva got the lone assist on the power play goal.

Nine seconds later, Kevyn Adams gave the Canes the lead. The Bolts committed a really bad turnover, leading to a great scoring chance by Craig Adams. Denis handled it, but K-Ads stuffed in the rebound. The place went nuts. CrAdams got the only assist.

Just as the PA announcer started to announce the goals, the Canes lit the lamp again. Erik Cole and Ray Whitney executed a picture perfect give-and-go, resulting in the goal at 9:06. Rod Brind'Amour got the secondary assist. Three goals in 43 seconds. That set a new franchise record for the fastest three goal burst, but isn't even close to the NHL record of 20 seconds.

There would be no more scoring in the first. After 20 minutes, things looked really good. They were skating well, they were dominating play, and they had built a 3-1 lead. Actually, the Bolts had only taken two (2) shots on goal in the firs period.

At 5:14 of the second, Eric Staal got his second marker of the night. I haven't reviewed the game yet, but it looked to me like his shot from down low banked off Erik Cole's skate out front. I guess they ruled that it was off a Lightning skate, because Staalsy was given the credit. There were a lot of legs out in front, and it definitely bounced in off somebody's skate. It was a power play goal, and the assists went to Rod Brind'Amour and Anton Babchuk. Marc Denis was replaced by the Swede - Johan Holmqvist

At 12:23, Ruslan Fedotenko brought the Bolts to within two. The Bolts were on the power play, and Filip Kuba ripped a shot from the high slot. Fedotenko barely got a stick on it to re-direct it. Kuba and The Horseman (Vincent LaCavalier) got the assists.

Somewhere around the 14:00 mark, Erik Cole had a breakaway chance that was denied when he was flat-out tackled by a Bolts skater. He slid into the net, knocking it off its moorings. Referee Kevin Pollock made some sort of strange gesture that suggested he was about to award a penalty shot, but changed his mind at the last nanosecond. Not only was there not a penalty shot, but there wasn't even a penalty. No obstruction-holding, or tripping, or obstruction-interference. Nothing. The gesture that Pollock actually made was to point to where the ensuing faceoff was to take place.

A few minutes later, The Horseman made things really interesting. At the 16:41 mark, he got a power play marker with an easy stuff-in of a rebound. Vaclav Prospal (who I refuse to call "Vinny") and Dan Boyle got helpers.

Scott Walker scored a goal from the right dot at 17:34 of the second. He and Eric Staal were in on a semi-break. Don't look now, but Scott Walker (who needs a nickname) has a solid chance of becoming my favorite player.

At 0:55 of the third, Scott Walker scored again, putting him 2/3 of the way to a natural hat trick. It was an easy stuff-in, a complete garbage goal that was the result of poor rebound control by Holmqvist. A garbage goal is still a goal, though. They all look pretty in the box score. Ray Whitney and Rod Brind'Amour got the assists.

Marty St. Louis wrapped up the scoring at 11:32 of the third. Just as a penalty to Mike Commodore had expired, he got one past Cam Ward. Kuba and Boyle got the helpers.

John Tortarella pulled his keeper with about 2:00 to play and his team trailing by two goals. They couldn't create any magic, nor could Carolina notch an empty netter. Eric Staal and Scott Walker both had good chances to complete their hat trick, but Martin St. Louis made some really nice plays to prevent any further scoring.

What about the "weird stuff"? I saw two things tonight that I've never seen before. Both in the third frame. At some point, Erik Cole had puck bounce around off some sticks, and ended up on the inside of his helmet. Somehow, the puck got lodged between the bridge of Cole's nose and the shield.
Also, Glen Wesley's stick got stuck in the glass on the sidewall. Some crazy way, the blade of his stick came up on the plexiglass and got stuck in the tiny microscopic gap between glass and the metal support stanchion. Possibly, it was in the hinge to the referee's gate. Either way, it was stuck there. He couldn't free it, so he had to leave it there. Despite the fact that it was sticking out, and could have been dangerous, the refs allowed play to continue.

At about 16:00, Tim Gleason had to leave the game. He was checked into the end wall on what seemed like a harmless innocent play. He got up a little slow, grimaced, left the ice, and immediately went to the locker room. We never saw him again, nor did we hear anything about his status. It has the earmarks of a dislocated shoulder, which would certainly be very bad news. He re-appeared later, letting us breathe a sigh of relief.

For the record, the "official" three stars went to Brind'Amour(3), Walker(2) and Staal(1). If I were handing them out, I would have given them to LaCavalier(3), Staal(2) and Walker (1).

In other news, the Sabres aren't invincible.

Next up for the Canes: Wednesday night at Atlanta.

Friday, October 27, 2006

RBH glossary in the works!

Due to a number of confused looks, and a number of requests for clarification on my nicknames, I'm in the midst of working on a Red And Black Hockey glossary of terms and nicknames.

Jes Golbez has one. Battle of Alberta has one from last season and an updated one for this season. I think there are a few others out there as well.

This is something I've thought about doing for a while, and now that the demand is high, I need to get started. Unfortunately, having two jobs leaves less free time than I've ever had, and I just got a hand injury which makes typing a little more difficult than usual, but I'll get started on some of the nicknames that I use.

It turns out I've never explained it thoroughly in this forum, so here are some of the strange nicknames explained:

  • Justin Williams -- "Viva"

    • This dates back to the beginning of the 2005-06 season. During every home Canes game, the jumbotron people throw together some clips that are meant for the fans to get to know the players a little better. They're all asked the same series of questions such as "what's you favorite ice cream" and "do you prefer comedies or dramas" and "who's the biggest goofball in the locker room". Once per game, we get to see all the players answer the same question. Early last season, the question was "Other than Raleigh, what's your favorite city?" Most players said New York, Eric Staal said Cary, and Justin Williams gave a very strange answer. I swear that he said "France". Which is funny because France isn't so much a city as it is a country. A few other people heard the same thing. Turns out we were wrong. He said "Phoenix", but my mis-hearing it led to a great nickname.
      I decided with the couple next to me that we needed to have some fun with our boy having "France" as a favorite city. For the rest of that game, every time Williams came with the puck on our end of the arena, we all yelled out "Vive la France", French for "Long live France". It would be a few weeks before we realized that we were wrong, or that the Canes PR folks had covered up. You can see the jumbotron clip here. I still suspect that they cut and spliced his "Phoenix" after the fact.

      Anyway, our yelling out "Vive la France" was a bit cumbersome, so we decided just to call him Viva for short. It's a bastardization of the original, an improper spelling, and a bit of an improper pronunciation if we wanted to be true to the original French. However, "Viva" looks better in print and flows off the tongue better than "Vive".

    There you have that one. See why I didn't explain that in the comments section?

  • Anton Babchuk -- "Yentl"
      Most hockey players get a nickname that is a variation on their first or last name. For example, Eric Staal is "Staalsy". Erik Cole is "Colesy". Craig Adams is "Craiggers" or "CrAdams". Those are pretty cut and dry. When it came time for me to assign a nickname to Anton Babchuk, the first thing that came naturally was "Babs". Barbara Streisand is also called "Babs". She wrote, produced, directed and starred in a film called Yentl. Most of us have seen that movie, but few will admit to it. That movie is set in Poland, and Anton Babchuk hails from Kiev, Ukraine (about 250 miles from the Polish border). That geographical proximity from one "Babs" to a fictional character played by the other "Babs" led me to the decision to assign that nickname to him. The facts that the movie character was a cross-dressing woman and Anton Babchuk has long luxurious flowing locks of curly gold (read: "girly hair") make the analogy work even more.

      Barbara="Babs"=Yentl :: Babchuk="Babs"="Yentl".

      I know. It doesn't make sense, but it doesn't have to.

  • Chad LaRose -- "Sharpie"
      At a season ticket holder's event last season, some friends of mine were standing in line to get their sweaters autographed by all the players. Obviously, some of the players had longer lines, while others had none at all. When they got to Chad LaRose, he was thrilled just to have them asking him at all. He was also excited that they asked him to sign on the previously untainted black part of the team crest. Most folks ask for autographs on the white or red sections of the logo. When they asked him to use the silver sharpie to sign there, he said "Really?!?! I get to use the silver Sharpie?!?!". His enthusiasm was genuine, unlike some former Canes players whose initials are Bates Battaglia and Sean Burke. My friends were as amused as Chad was tickled. They decided then and there that his new nickname should be "Sharpie".

  • To my knowledge, very few other people use these nicknames, and I don't even use "Yentl" that much myself. Of the three, I realize that the only one that has ANY chance of catching on is Viva. I also realize that the chance is very very slim.

    If BOA can have their "Orbs of Power", then I can have my "Viva".

    More nicknames and some other common use terms will be added to the glossary in the very near future.

    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    Canes win in overtime

    For the first time in two weeks, the Canes played a home game. They pulled out an overtime win against the hot Thrashers 5-4. Certainly, you'd rather win divisional games in regulation, but they'll gladly take the two points.

    Unfortunately, between working two jobs, the quality and quantity of posts here is going to suffer. This will be no exception.

    Carolina got markers from Eric Staal, Scott Walker, Andrew Hutchinson and Ryan Bayda in regulation.

    In the overtime period, Anton "Yentl" Babchuk got the game winner. It didn't happen anything like what you would expect when you hear "Anton Babchuk got the game winner". You would think that he drilled a one-timer or a right point slapshot through heavy traffic whilst on the power play. You would think wrong.

    Viva was down on the goal line to the left of the goal. He saw Babchuk in the high slot completely alone. Babs took the pass, came in on Kari Lehtonen, and used finesse rather than power to get the goal. He forced Lehtonen to make a commitment to an early shot. A really nasty toe drag move later, Babchuk lifted a soft backhander past the befuddled Lehtonen for the winner. It was the kind of fancy move that would make Alexander Ovechkin or Maxim Afinogenov jealous.

    Tonight, the Canes go back on the road for the front end of a home-and-home with the Bolts. I'll have a better recap of that one.

    Sunday, October 22, 2006

    Canes lose two more, Sabres win two more

    While I was off dorking away at my Scrabble tournament, my Hurricanes lost the last two games of their seven game road swing. On Friday, they lost 5-4 to the undefeated Sabres, and on Saturday they lost 4-3 in overtime to the Islanders. They managed to earn seven standings points on the seven game trip, but they would have liked more, and felt like they should have gotten more.

    First things first. I did well enough to take third place out of 19 players in my division. In Friday's random pairing round robin, I crushed all three opponents, building a huge cumulative point spread. I was the #1 seed going into Saturday's games, and protected my position by going 6-2 on Saturday in games versus other players seeded in the top four. After each game, the pairings are re-seeded, and you always play opponents closest to you in the standings. Going into Sunday, I was tied for first with a 9-2 record. I lost twice in a row against the guy who finished first, then beat the guy who finished fourth. In my final game, I was tied for second place with four losses, but lost to the guy I was tied with. So I finished with 10 wins and five losses, a cumulative point spread of +607 and $90 in prize money. I figure I'll get to play in one more tournament in the low division, then I'll get bumped up to the next division where I would probably be on the low end of the middle of the pack.

    I still haven't watched the DVR of Friday night's game, but I got all the text messages (thank you). When I powered up my phone late Friday, there were quite a few of them! From what I read in the newspaper, it sounded like the Canes were able to match the Sabres speed and skill, but were outshot by a wide margin. Also, the Sabres did an excellent job of shutting down the Canes power play. Even though the Canes were able to convert one of their five power plays, they only mustered a grand total of three shots while on a man advantage.

    In that game, both teams scored once on the power play, and once shorthandedly. Carolina's shorthanded goal was special, though. It was the first 3-on-5 goal in Carolina Hurricanes history, and the first in the NHL this season. Last season, there was only one of those in the whole league. Late in the game with the Sabres leading 5-3 and enjoying a 5-on-3 advantage, Tim Gleason made a great move laying his stick on the ice to deny a Sabres pass. Erik Cole sprung up ice on a one-on-one, took a shot which Ryan Miller stopped, but gave a big rebound to Mike Commodore who stuffed it in. That's the only part of the highlights that I've even seen.

    In a bit of crazy news (perhaps some karmic payback), even the guys called up to replace injured guys are getting injured. Keith Aucoin, who was called up to replace the injured Andrew Ladd, suffered a broken foot, and will be out. However, there will be no need to recall Jesse Boulerice. Ladd will probably be back in the lineup on Wednesday at home against the Thrashers.

    On Saturday, the Canes had John Grahame between the pipes. They fell behind 2-0 to the Islanders. Viva got them right back in it with two third period markers. One shorthanded, and one on the power play. Later in the third, Rod Brind'Amour got a tip in of a Ryan Bayda shot to give the Canes the lead. However, they gave up a late power play goal to Mike Sillinger, after which Jason Blake laid down on him and kissed him on the mouth. Did anyone else notice that? Still later in the third, the Canes committed another penalty, which would carry over to the overtime period. Tom Poti scored just 23 seconds into that fourth frame to give the Isles the win.

    While that was happening, the Sabres were busy pasting the Bruins for their eighth straight win. They're good. They're "scary good". And if that isn't enough, the AHL Rochester Amerks are also undefeated. Mark from BFLOBLOG has the details. It's wicked early for this kind of talk, but a Stanley Cup for the big team and a Calder Cup for the little team? Holy crap!

    The North Carolina State Fair is finally over, and the Canes can return to their barn. They'll be home against the Thrashers on Wednesday.

    Friday, October 20, 2006

    Big game tonight. I'm not watching

    On Friday night, the Canes will visit the HSBC Arena for a game against the glowing hot Sabres. They'll follow that with a Saturday game on Long Island. I won't be able to watch the Buffalo game, and I may or may not get to watch the Islanders. I'll be in Raleigh all weekend playing in a Scrabble tournament. Three games tonight, eight on Saturday and four on Sunday.

    I'll be DVRing both games for later review, and I probably won't be able to get anywhere near a TV until well after 11:00 tonight, so if you know my cell phone # and you are feeling generous, I'd really appreciate updates on the Sabres game.

    I have a few friends and co-workers who are native Buffalonians including two people I have seen almost every day of my life for the last 8 years. It's been fun this week jawing at each other.

    Carolina is playing MUCH better than they were two weeks ago on opening night, and although they're even more short-staffed than they were then, I really like the way they've played in the past three games.

    Buffalo, on the other hand, is looking like a juggernaut. Perhaps opposing teams are mesmerized by the "slug", but you can't discredit their speed and skill. They're a very good team that will again go far in the playoffs.

    This matchup reminds me of one last year on October 22. The undefeated Ottawa Senators came to town with a 6-0 record, looking like world beaters. Carolina fell in an early hole that night, but rallied to win the game. Carolina moved into first place that night and never relinquished it. They will again have an opportunity to put an end to a team's perfect season. This time, they won't have the opportunity to move into first place yet, but a win would be huge nonetheless.

    As always, Kevin from BFLOBLOG has a well written post about the key game. Due to prior (and more important) obligations, he won't be in the arena tonight, and might not be able to provide the excellent post-game report that he usually does.

    I won't have anything on this blog until at least Sunday night. See you then.

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Viva breaks out, Canes win again, three is the magic number

    On Monday night, as the Canes hit the midway point of their 7 game, 14 day road trip, they handily defeated the Lightning by a 5-1 margin, earning their third win in a row. After getting off to an exceptionally slow and low scoring start, this was the third straight game in which the Canes scored the first three goals of the game. Also, Justin "Viva" Williams would notch his first three goals, and Rod Brind'Amour would record three points.

    Although the stats sheet shows that the City of Tampa had more shots on goal than did Carolina, the Canes were very much in control of this game. If there was a time of posession by zone chart, it would slant heavily towards Carolina. Cam Ward had another great outing, turning aside 34 shots en route to his third consecutive win. This time, he was 133 seconds shy of pitching his first career regular season shutout.

    Two of Carolina's top guns from last season got their first goal of this season, and hopefully they will be on track looking ahead. Also, the new guys continued to look good.

    At 4:28 of the first, Rod Brind'Amour finally got his first tally of the season. The play was beautifully begun with a long bomb pass by David Tanabe to Viva. It ended with Erik Cole taking a shot from just below the right faceoff dot. The shot glanced off Brindy's skate and into the Tampa net. Cole and Viva got assists.
    The really nice two line pass by Tanabe was just the first of many good things that he did, giving the trepedacious Canes fans room to breathe with regards to the embattled once and present Cane.

    At 3:11 of the second, Viva finally got in the goals column on sort of a crazy play. Marc Denis (sorry, but I can't help but think of the Blondie song "Denis" here) came WAY too far out of his crease to play a puck in front, and misplay it at that. Becuase the goaltender was way out of position, the Tampa skaters had to scramble, and were all out of whack positionally. There was some chaos in front of the net, and Viva banked a shot in off Denis' back from benind the goal line. I'm not entirely sure that it wasn't meant to be a pass to Eric Staal out front, but it ended up in the net. Statistically speaking, it was a wrist shot from 12 feet out. Shot distances are measured not from the goal line, but from the end wall. Still, though, the goal line is 11 feet from the end wall, so it probably should have been called a wrist shot from 10 feet out. It's all academic, but it's fun to belabor points like that after a win. Eric Staal and Scotty Walker got the assists.

    At the 9:08 mark, the Canes forged ahead, scoring a power play goal on a completely beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play. Eric Staal, who has been manning the point on power plays, did a really nice job keeping a clearing attempt in the zone. He hit Ray Whitney with a pass from the left point to the slot, and Whitney passed to Belanger, just off the left post. There was nothing Denis could do. It was Belanger's second goal of the season. Ray Whitney picked up his fifth assist and Eric Staal his third.

    At 17:21, the Canes notched another power play goal. Brindy hit Anton Babchuk for a really amazingly hard one-timer from the center point. It was a rising shot that first appeared to go straight in. However, it was later ruled that Viva got his stick in there for the re-direct. It was Viva's second goal, Babchuk's first assist, and Brindy's fifth. Everyone always talks about how hard Babchuk's shot is, and this was a good example of it. Some folks use words like "howitzer" or "cannon".

    Very early in the third, Viva got his third goal to complete the hat trick. Ray Whitney sent him a pass that was deflected off a Bolts player's skate, and Viva neatly deposited the puck in the net from the left face off dot. 0:37 was the time. "The Wizard" got the primary assist, and Brindy picked up the second, for his third point (1/2) of the night.

    Nikita Alexeev spoiled Cam Ward's shutout bid by slamming home a big rebound out front at the 17:47 mark. Dimitri Afanasenkov and Luke Richardson got the helpers.

    In addition to the hat trick by Viva, the productive night from Brindy, and the continued success of the new guys, there were some other really good things about the game. Carolina was superb on power play. They converted three out of seven power plays, including two out of three in the second period of play. They also played a very well disciplined game. They only committed five penalties, and they killed all three Bolts power plays.

    Carolina is doing all of this on the road. In the midst of a very long trip. And they are doing so while their roster has been decimated from injuries. Once again, prominent defensemen Bret Hedican and Glen Wesley sat out. Also, Andrew Ladd has been placed on the IR, and Trevor Letowski will be out indefinitely. Add that to Frantisek Kaberle and Cory Stillman, who were already on the IR, and our team is looking like a M*A*S*H* unit.

    The Canes will actually return to Raleigh to sleep in their own beds and practice on their own ice, but the road swing continues with a Friday night game in Buffalo and a Saturday night game on Long Island.

    For the Buffalo game, I will look forward to the comments of the guys from BFLOBLOG, who will be in the HSBC Arena that night. It's good to know that those boys are all safe and sound after last week's suckerpunch of a snowstorm. The Sabres are undefeated as I write this, but will take on the always pesky Flyers on Tuesday night.

    Sunday, October 15, 2006

    the Letowski injury

    During the first period of play on Saturday night, Trevor Letowski was knocked out of the game by a blind-side hit from Colby Armstrong. After making a cross ice pass to a teammate just inside the Penguins' zone, Letowski was looking in the direction of his pass. Although the puck had been gone for two beats or more, Colby Armstrong delivered a big hit on the unsuspecting Letowski, making shoulder-to-chin contact from the blind side, knocking him face-first onto the ice. He lay motionless and limp in a pool of blood for several minutes before being removed from the ice on a stretcher and rushed to a Pittsburgh hospital.

    For just about everyone on the Canes bench, this immediately brought to mind the horror that took place there on March 4. Although this was the second time in as many visits to the Mellon Arena that a Canes player has had to be rushed to the hospital, this one was quite a bit different. In this case, it really does look like the hit was just one of those unfortunate things. I haven't examined the tape with a microscope, but it looked like Armstrong made an attempt to ease up on the hit, and I have no doubt in my mind that there was absolutely no intent to injure. The League may, however, investigate the hit. They have been making a concerted effort to crack down on hits delivered above the shoulder. This definitely was above the shoulder. I won't be calling for any disciplinary action, but I wouldn't be surprised if the League hands down a light suspension/fine.

    In stark contrast to the still controversial Brooks Orpik hit on Erik Cole, Armstrong immediately showed an interest in the well-being of the injured player. The look on his face, his eyes, showed that. Instead of vehemently defending his actions or blaming the injured player, Armstrong told reporters that he felt "awful" and "sick to (his) stomach" and that he had a hard time focusing on the game. In post game interviews, he apparently made serious efforts to get an update on Letowski's status.

    The "good" news is that after undergoing a battery of tests, Letowski was diagnosed with a concussion and was released. He'll probably have to miss some games, but for now, that sounds like good news. With the way he went down, and the blood and the motionlessness, and all that, things looked very bad.

    At the end of it all, I think this will simply have to be categorized as "an unfortunate thing that happened". I don't want to make a villain out of Colby Armstrong.

    Hopefully, "the Dude" will be able to recover fully. Sometimes, as in the case of Tim Connolly, a concussion can cause a player to miss an entire season. Time will tell, and we're all hoping for the best.

    In the meantime, Carolina will have to recall at least one, and most likely two players from Albany. My guess is that Keith Aucoin gets the call, and that we may even see defenseman Derrick Walser, who played alongside Erik Cole with the Berlin Polar Bears of the German Elite League during the lockout.

    Details on Letowski as they develop.

    Canes win again, but get bitten HARD by injury bug

    On Saturday, the Canes defeated the Penguins by a nifty 5-1 score. It was already the second time this season that the Canes have played games on consecutive nights. By contrast, the Pens have played just four games total.

    Because of injuries on Friday to Andrew Ladd (shoulder -- two weeks) and Glen Wesley ("upper body" -- day to day) and a late scratch of Bret Hedican (hip -- day to day), the Canes were already playing shorthanded versus the Pens. They had to skate with 11 healthy forwards and six defensemen. Before the first period was over, they also lost Trevor Letowski, who was a healthy scratch on Friday. Rod Brind'Amour and Viva pulled a bunch of double shifts, both logging well over 20 minutes of ice time. Mike Commodore and Nic Wallin also skated more than usual. Times like these, skating two men shy of the roster minimum, and everybody double shifting, that "bag skate" pays dividends.

    The Letowski injury was very scary, and I'll elaborate in a separate post. This was the second time in as many visits to the Mellon Arena that we've had a player rushed to the hospital with a very scary injury, but this one is a bit different.

    This game was a highly publicized (in my best "Time-Life Books Civil War Chess Set" voice) "brother against brother" battle. It was the first time Eric Staal and Jordan Staal played against one another. The two had been text messaging each other all day long, playfully jabbing at one another. Apparently, they wagered "one Gatorade" on their head-to-head matchup.

    Eric Staal scored the game's first goal at 2:24 of the first. Chad LaRose and "Avi" Tanabe got the assists. It was a play where the Pittsburgh defenders went to sleep. The Canes were applying pressure, and the Pens had possession of the puck, but failed to clear the zone. While some Pens skaters were crashing into each other, Staal was left unchecked in the slot. His backhand shot found Emma Fleury's five hole.

    I made a note at 8:15 of the first that Trevor Letowski had an excellent point blank scoring opportunity, (actually two) but that Fleury stood tall, denying the goal. Just 20 seconds later, Letowski would be knocked out of the game.

    At 9:34, Scott Walker got what would prove to be the game winning goal. A Nic Wallin point shot missed the net horribly, but bounced off the end wall to Walker, on the right faceoff dot. Somehow, he beat Emma on the short side, just between his pads and the right post. Wallin and Commodore got the assists.

    Later in the first, Cam Ward made a great play to foil a breakaway attempt from John LeClair. At roughly 16:30, LeClair and Jordan Staal came in, and they each had a chance to finish the rush, but Ward said no.

    Carolina was having some discipline issues in the first and early in the second, but their PK unit was doing a great job. Somehow, they found themselves on the good side of a 5-on-3 that lasted almost a full two minutes. They squandered the 5-on-3, and had an additional four seconds of 5-on-4. Technically, they also failed to score then, but they got a goal at 7:01 of the second, literally one second after Ryan Whitney's penalty expired. He was on the ice, but not in the play. Technically it goes as an even strength goal. The Canes were cycling the puck nicely on their two man advantage. Ray Whitney held the puck on the goal line at the left side wall. He spotted Scott Walker and Eric Belanger parked out front, centered the pass, and Walker shoved it in. Kevyn Adams got the secondary assist.

    At 10:20, the Penguins got a scare of their own. As the Canes were in the Pens zone, a Penguins player shoved a Canes skater, who collided with Emma Fleury. Fleury lost his helmet, and suffered a cut on his forehead from somebody's skate. He left the ice, got some stitches, and later returned to the bench. Jocelyn Thibault stayed in goal for the duration.

    At 12:43 the Penguins got on the board. Kristopher Letang attempted a shot from the left circle that looked like a knuckle ball. It was going to be well off net, but it deflected off Anton Babchuk's skate in the slot and got past Ward. Sergei Gonchar and Nils Ekman got assists.

    Early in the third, the Canes opened it up a bit. With a power play sequence that had only just begun, Andrew Hutchinson blasted a one-timer from the center point that found its way past Thibault at the 1:11 mark. Viva and Eric Belanger got the assists.

    At 12:47, the Canes struck again from long distance. Mike Commodore fired an innocent shot from the right point that somehow floated in on Thibault. It looked like it had been redirected, but it was just a change-up that handcuffed the netminder. Rod Brind'Amour and Ray Whitney got the assists.

    Carolina, who had been well disciplined a night prior, wasn't on Saturday. They committed 11 penalties, giving the Pens nine power play chances. Fortunately, the PK units limited the Penguins success to just one conversion. Some of the penalties, especially the holding penalty to Mike Commodore in the second period, were lazy. I know they were tired. Tired from playing back to back games. Tired from having to double shift to make up for injuries. But lazy penalties can't happen. By their own admission, the Penguins were listless on Saturday. Nine times out of ten, if you commit that many penalties, and they're the result of lazy play, the other team will make you pay. Carolina got lucky that Pittsburgh didn't.

    Carolina has the day off, and will travel to the City of Tampa for a Monday night game. Then they will have a few days off before they have yet another set of back-to-back road games on Friday and Saturday against the undefeated Sabres and the Islanders, respectavely.

    Momentarily, I'll be posting something about the injury to Letowski.

    Saturday, October 14, 2006

    Canes get off the schneide!

    On Friday night, the Canes finally won a game, and people will finally stop asking me "Dude, what the eff is wrong with your Canes?" It took a little more of that dramatic fashion stuff than I would have liked, but a win is a win. More importantly, a regulation win is very important in divisional play.

    Coach Laviolette decided to shake the lines up a bit, so some guys were playing with guys they've never lined with before. Also, Lavi dressed seven defensemen and gave Trevor "The Dude" Letowski the night off. The lines looked like this:

    Scott Walker, who had been playing well on the third line, the "new guy" line with Eric Belanger and Trevor Letowski, got a chance to move up to the first line. Erik Cole moved down to the second line and over to the right wing. CrAdams moved off the "Adams Family" line up to the second line with Brindy and Cole. Canes TV color commentator Tripp Tracy refered to this line as "The ABC Line", then added "... for those who enjoy the alphabet". Okay...

    The third line, formerly composed of all new guys, was shaken up quite a bit. Andrew Ladd and Ray Whitney bookended Eric Belanger. With CrAdams up on the second line and Trevor Letowski scratched, Andrew Hutchinson was dressed as a seventh defenseman and played left wing on the fourth line.

    This move payed huge dividends for Craiggers, who scored the game's first two goals. At 9:33 of the first, CrAdams scored by getting behind Kari Lehtonen on the rebound from an Erik Cole shot from the slot. Lehtonen made the first stop, but Adams was there to grab the rebound on the left side of the goal mouth. Lehtonen was already too far out to get back for Adams' shot. Erik Cole and Rod Brind'Amour with the assists. It was Brindy's first point of the season

    At 15:27 of the first, Adams got his second goal. Nic Wallin fired a shot from the blue line that was handled by Lehtonen, but the rebound popped out to Adams in the low slot. He patiently slid over to the right side of the net and eased the puck in. Wallin and Brindy each got a helper.

    At 19:59, the Canes got their first of two dramatic goals. Down in the Carolina end, Mike Commodore made a nice defensive play, after Cam Ward had made a great stop on Ilya Kovalchuk. Commy flicked the puck off the glass, and down ice to Eric Staal, who was streaking down the right side. Staal broke into the Atlanta zone ahead of two Thrashers and beat Lehtonen off the right post. Commodore had the only assist. The play was reviewed to make sure that the red light beat the green light. It did. Initially, they showed 00:00.1 on the clock, but they reset it to 1.6 seconds. Neither is time enough to do anything from a center ice faceoff.

    In the first period, the Canes looked really sharp. They played extremely well in their own end, and had good puck movement in the Atlanta end. The latter is something that we just haven't seen much of this young season. It will mostly go unnoticed, but Eric Belanger had a good first period, and a good game. He didn't crack the scoresheet, but he played very well on both ends.

    The second period was owned by the Thrashers. They were pretty much having their way and controlling the flow, getting better chances. All that. At 14:18 of the second, Jon Sim put the birds on the board on a crazy play. A Thrashers shot sailed wide of the net, hit the endboards, and bounced back over the goal, where two Thrashers skaters were hanging out in the crease. The were feverishly whacking at the air and the puck, and Cam Ward was lucky just to have even had a chance on the play. He made one stop, and the puck just barely snuck in under him and to his right. This goal was also reviewed. I'm not sure why. Glen Metropolit and Vitaly Vishnevski got assists.

    Only 22 seconds later, Jon Sim made the game interesting. Whereas the first goal was somewhat of a fluke, this second one was a case of making something our of absolutely nothing. Vyacheslav Kozlov slid a pass into the goal mouth area from behind the goal line on the right side. Sim took the pass on the right side of the net, and with Tim Gleason pressuring him, he made a perfect shot. He didn't have any time or space to maneuver, but somehow he found the back of the net. Kozlov's assist was the only one on the play.

    Nothing happened for the next 20 minutes. The Canes looked really flat, and the Thrashers had several good chances to knot it up. Atlanta committed two penalties, but their kill looked great, and the Canes never mounted any serious threat. Then, at 14:39 of the third, almost exactly 20 minutes after Sim's second goal, Bobby Holik tied it up. He made a tremendous move to skate through a bevy of Canes defenders. He attempted to make a pass to a teammate through the slot, but it caromed off a defensman's skate and right back to Holik. He made no mistake putting it in. Scott Mellanby and Andy Sutton got assists.

    As the period wound down, it looked like the game was destined for overtime. Nobody likes to go to overtime against a divisional opponent, but one standings point is better than none, and at that point, the Canes would have been content to take the one point. Fortunately, it didn't come to that. Atlanta committed an icing infraction with just 00:08 on the clock, bringing the face off down to the Thrashers end, at the left dot. Brind'Amour won the draw, and somehow Eric Staal ended up with the puck behind the goal line on the right side of the net. He made a blind centering pass to Ray Whitney, who didn't quite get all of it, but got enough of it to send the puck past Lehtonen with less than a second remaining. Staal and Brindy got the helpers. Whitney, who I had just called out a day ago, got his first goal of the season. More importantly, the Canes got their first win of the season. To reiterate a point, the buzzer beater was enormous in another way: it denied Atlanta a standings point that they would have gotten for going to overtime.

    All goals were scored at even strength.

    Counting the two buzzer beaters scored by the Canes on friday night, I can now think of three times that the Canes have scored a goal with less than a second remaining in a period in the Philips Arena. On March 5 2004, Kevyn Adams scored a shorthanded breakaway goal with four tenths of a second remaining in overtime at Philips Arena.

    Tonight, the Canes will take their traveling road show to Pittsburgh. The Canes will see their friend Mark Recchi, and Eric Staal will see his brother Jordan. Erik Cole will not be seeing Brooks Orpik, who is out after having hand surgery.

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    Carolina's road trip continues

    On Friday and Saturday, the Canes will play the Thrashers and Penguins respectively as their two week road trip continues. It will be the second time in this young season that the Canes have had games on back-to-back nights with travel involved.

    Both teams are playing very well and will likely give Carolina fits. While the Canes are still trying to find themselves, especially on special teams, those two teams are high-flying. If Carolina fails to win one of those games, they will earn the undubious distinction of matching the worst start by a reigning champ in the history of the NHL. This article explains how bad Carolina's start has been when stacked up against other reigning champs throughout history. Carolina is now 0-3-1. The 1946 Maple Leafs got off to a 0-5-1 start after winning the Cup in 1945. Those 1946 Leafs failed to qualify for the playoffs, but would go on to win the Cup four of the next five years.

    I'm sure that the Canes will snap out of this funk at some point. Will it be tonight? Probably not. Tomorrow? Maybe. They will definitely need some scoring from outside the "new guy" line, though. Brind'Amour, Whitney and Viva are all goal-less, and Staal and Cole only have one each. Viva has three assists, but we'll need him to start lighting the lamp.

    At this point, who's in net is immaterial. The Canes aren't scoring goals and they're not taking advantage of power play situations.

    If anyone is wondering, there will be no (repeat -- NO) fireworks when the Canes visit Mellon Arena on Saturday night. Although Erik Cole has been pretty vocal about being eager to play the Pens and to lay hits on Brooks Orpik, that opportunity won't present itself. Orpik underwent hand surgery last week and is expected to be out of the lineup until at least late October.

    I'm working tonight and DVRing the game. Hopefully, I'll have something good to write about by Saturday morning.

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    Reigning champs still winless

    Wednesday night, the Canes dropped a 6-3 decision to the Panthers, and remain winless on the season. I only watched the closing minutes of the game and didn't get to watch the DVR, so I can't give glorious details.

    While a couple of disappointing trends continued, two were ended. In the loss, the Canes were actually well disciplined for the first time all season. They only committed four penalties. The also got their power play rolling. In eight chances, the Canes scored once on the man advantage. Previously, the Canes had netted two power play goals, but they both came on 5-on-3 segments. One for eights is still not as efficient as we would like, but we've gotta take baby steps.

    On the other side, the Canes surrendered one power play goal, late in the game when it didn't matter. They also gave up a short handed goal. I haven't seen the tape yet, but these are usually the result of sloppy neutral ice play. This has been something the Canes have been bad about so far this season.

    The goal scorers for the Canes were Eric Belanger, Scott Walker and Andrew Hutchinson. Belanger and Walker also each had an assist. The "new guy" line of Trevor Letowski, Belanger and Walker has been the most productive so far. Walker and Belanger are tied for tops on the team with an embarrassing THREE points.

    John Grahame and his terrible helmet were in net for the first time.

    Next up for the Canes on their two week road trip will be the Thrashers on Friday night.

    Monday, October 09, 2006

    As frustrations mount, so does tension.

    On Sunday, the Hurricanes were supposed to have the day off from practice. Instead, an angry coach Peter Laviolette put the boys through a "bag skate". Frustrated with the lazy penalties, the lack of discipline, the listless power play, and the overall lack of zeal displayed by the team so far, coach decided it was time for a punishment.

    Luke Decock of the Raleigh News & Observer wrote about how tempers flared during the grueling skating drill, leading to a fight between Bret Hedican and Kevyn Adams (story). Adams required stitches, and neither player was available for comment. Rod Brind'Amour will now have his biggest challenge since being awarded the C last summer: he has to restore order to the room and get the team turned around. This is where he has to be "the Captain". It is absolutely imperative that he nips this in the bud instantly. I would imagine that there's been at least one "players only" meeting, and I would hope that Brindy really let them have it. Obviously, it's really early, but they simply do not look good thus far.

    There have been two famous "bag skates" in Hurricanes history. Both occurred on Paul Maurice's watch. They had extremely different results. The first came in December of 2001 after a string of losses marked by lackadaisical play. After the session, the Canes went on a tear, winning their division and ultimately making a Cinderella run all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. The second had decidedly different results. It was late in the 2002-03 season, and the Canes had just lost a bunch of consecutive games. It was a common theme that season, and Maurice knew that his job was in grave danger. He rolled the dice, hoping his team would find itself and squeak into the playoffs. It turned out to be a disaster. It marked the beginning of the downward spiral of Jeff O'Neill and brought dissension to the troops. They only won 6 of the remaining 26 games. O'Neill, who had been a big producer, left the ice that day furiously cussing at Chairman Mo. From that point on, his desire to play hard wasn't there. His desire to practice hard, his desire to stay in shape. All gone. He had become a malcontent, which would ultimately result in the "trade" at the 2005 draft, sending O to the Leafs for a late round draft pick.

    The bag skate brawl might spell disaster for this team. Or it might be just the wake-up call the team needed. The onus will be on Rod Brind'Amour to make sure it's the latter.

    Sunday, October 08, 2006

    Canes lose again, coach angry

    On Saturday, the Hurricanes played their first of seven consecutive road games, and ended up on the short end of a 5-2 game with the Capitals.

    While the North Carolina State Fair is taking place on the grounds adjacent to the RBC Center, the Canes must hit the road for two weeks. The team thought that they would be able to "find themselves" on the road, but it hasn't happened yet. This time, there would be no opening night jitters as an excuse. There would be no reference to family members being dangerously close to an enormous toxic chemical fire. There would be no handy excuse. Not that they've offered any so far.

    I couldn't watch the live broadcast of the game, and I haven't had a chance to view the DVR yet, but I've seen the highlights and the scoresheet.

    At 12:38 of the first, "the other Alex" Semin started the scoring on a big shot from the high slot. A Canes turnover in neutral ice led to a Caps rush. Anton Babchuk was the only Canes defenseman anywhere near the play, and Semin wasted no time ripping his slap shot past him and Cam Ward. Chris Clark had the only assist.

    Andrew Ladd scored his first goal of the season at 1:40 of the second. The Canes were on a power play, and were moving the puck around nicely. Tim Gleason unleashed a big time shot from the left point which was slightly redirected by Andrew Ladd on the way in. The assist was Gleason's first point as a Cane. Viva got the other assist, his second of the young but disappointing season.

    At 5:21, Nic "The Secret Weapon" Wallin, who lives in Apex and whose home was in the evacuation area after Thursday's chemical fire ( story), scored a nice goal to give the Canes a brief 2-1 lead. There was some nice puck movement down in the Washington end on the right side. Wallin knocked in a wrist shot from just above the right circle. The assists went to Scott Walker and Eric Belanger, both of whom earned their first point as a Cane on the play.

    With a delayed penalty in hand, the Caps set up a nice scoring play for Alexander Semin at 9:11. He took a pass at the top of the right circle, faked a shot, hesitated, then he beautifully placed his wrister in the top right corner of Ward's goal. He had all the time in the world to do whatever he wanted to do, and he put his shot in a very precise spot. Brian Pothier and Rico Fata got the assists.

    The second period ended 2-2, but the third frame would not be kind to the Canes.

    Alex Ovechkin scored at 8:03 of the third, for what would prove to be the game winner. Some sloppy passing in the Caps end led to a turnover. Chris Clark and AO rushed into the Carolina zone, with three Canes back. It wouldn't be enough,though. AO took a wrist shot from the right side of the right circle that found its way through Eric Belanger and Nic Wallin, then beat Cam Ward badly. Clark got the only helper on the play, his second of the game.

    AO struck again at 13:03. While the Caps were enjoying a power play, Brian Pothier unleashed a blue line slap shot that was deflected in by #8. Pothier got his second assist of the game, and Chris Clark his third.

    It wasn't over, though. Semin struck again, getting his hat trick goal at 17:13. The Caps were on a 5-on-3, applying lots of pressure. Semin got a rebound out by the left post and slammed it in for the 5-2 score. Kris Beech got one assist, and Brian Pothier got the other, his third of the game.

    One of many things that the Canes will have to work on is their discipline. The Canes took 10 penalties on Saturday, marking the second time in three games they have had double digit penalties. This has to stop. Last season, they were one of the four or five least penalized teams in the NHL, and many people attributed their success in large part to their disciplined play. Two of Washington's goals came on the power play, and another came with a delayed penalty in hand. If Carolina is going to continue to commit 10 penalties per game, they're not going to win any games.

    Coach Laviolette:
    "We're kidding ourselves. We're taking bad penalties instead of doing the work. We're mouthing off instead of doing the work. Selfish acts are costing us games. It needs to be fixed. It needs to be corrected. It will be."

    The "mouthing off" refers to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that Eric Staal took in the third period that created the 5-on-3 chance. He was complaining to the refs about Alexander Ovechkin, and the ref heard too much. It's clear that the referees aren't going to put up with any belly aching this season. On Wednesday, Adam Mair of the Sabres took an unsportsmanlike penalty for the exact same thing. Unless you have a C or an A on your chest, you're not supposed to gripe to the refs. They've always let it go in the past, but it looks like they're not going to tolerate any chirping this season.

    Today, the Canes were supposed to have an off day. They won't. They'll have practice, and I'm sure it'll be one of the more grueling practices they've ever had.

    Next, the road trip goes to Florida on Wednesday.

    Friday, October 06, 2006

    Devils come to town, Canes lose again.

    On Friday night, in what the club ridiculously called "Opening Night II", the Canes were shut out by the visiting Devils. Just as the Sabres had done two nights prior, the Devils were able to have their way with the team that ousted them from the 2006 playoffs.

    I don't think "have their way" is precise enough for what happened on Friday, though. If you looked at the shot count and the penalty log, you might think that it was an evenly played game. It wasn't. New Jersey was much better right from the puck drop than Carolina. Except for a span of perhaps five minutes during the second period, Carolina looked flat and unfocused. New Jersey looked like they were scrimmaging against a B team.

    I wish I could find something positive to say other than "at least we gave up fewer than 5 goals".

    I forgot to DVR the game, so I'll have to rely on my notes and my memory. I'll update/correct when I get a look at some footage.

    Zach Parise, who is one of USA Hockey's best prospects, got things started very early. The red light came on at 0:26, after Parise tipped in a Colin White point blast. On the live look, I thought it was White's goal, but instead he got the first assist and Brian Gionta got the second.

    At 11:30, Jamie Langenbrunner tipped one in from in close to make it 2-0. Rifalski and Brad Lukowich got the assists. Again, my live-look first impression was wrong. I thought it was Travis Zajac who tipped it in. These two goals were basically the same thing. Lots of traffic out front, a long point shot, and a deflection from in close.

    Late in the first period, the Canes were having an awful lot of trouble staying out of the box, and the Devils took their Texas time doing it, but they made Carolina pay. During the back end of two consecutive short 5-on-3 sequences, Hepatitis Boy was left all alone on the front porch, and scored a goal on which Carolina seemed to put forth no effort. Gomez and Gionta got the helpers.

    At the end of the first stanza, the Canes had only mustered six shots on goal, but none of them were quality scoring chances. The Devils, on the other hand, made the most of their 14 shots, scoring on three of them.

    At 6:01 of the second, Parise scored again, making it 4-0. Gomez and Gionta each picked up another assist. Immediately following the goal, as the ensuing face-off was taking place, Kevyn Adams did something very out of character: He dropped the gloves. He and Dan Lacouture squared off in what was really nothing more than a glorified grappling match. I have no idea what sparked it, but it was definitely pre-arranged.

    Unfortunately, the fight didn't motivate the team at all. They remained flat and listless until the final horn finally went off. Thankfully, the Devils didn't score any more after that, and the final was 4-0. Already, the Canes have lost two home games. By comparison, they didn't lose their second home game until November 20 last season.

    I'm not sure why, but the Canes dressed seven defensemen and sat Chad LaRose. Anton Babchuk was the "extra" defenseman. My guess is that eventually, even before Frantisek Kaberle's return, David Tanabe will be out of the lineup and Anton Babchuk will be in.

    Seriously, I have nothing positive to add about the game. It was an utter disaster. In earning the shutout, Marty Brodeur was only seriously challenged twice. Zach Parise deservedly got the first star of the game, Brodeur the second and Elias the third.

    On Saturday, the Canes will travel to DC to take on the Capitals. Being the back end of two consecutive games, I'm sure we'll get our first look at John Grahame. Hopefully, the end result will be more savory than Wednesday or Friday.

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    More notes on opening night

    Since I didn't have the time earlier. Okay... To be honest, it takes a TON of battery power to upload images from my camera to my computer, so I had to recharge the batteries.

    I wanted to get some more stuff up from opening night. A few still pictures and a video of the banner raising. For some reason, I ended up with about a million pictures of the Sabres' Jiri Novotny. I have no idea what that means. One, which is posted here, is of a faceoff he took against Kevyn Adams in third period action. I got several pictures of a skirmish Novotny was involved in right in front of me, but none of them are worth sharing. The other picture I'm posting here is of the action immediately following the opening faceoff.

    Also, I wanted to clear the air about a few things.

    There was some talk on some of the Sabres blogs, and also on Buffalo sports radio about how the Canes hadn't sold out the game. This simply isn't true. As I reported here a few weeks ago, there were no tickets made available to the public. The Canes allowed their season ticket holders the opportunity to purchase extra opening night tickets for friends. Before they were even able to honor every request, every seat was spoken for. The sales office held a few dozen back, hoping to sell more full season ticket packages. When those packages didn't sell, the few dozen tickets were released to the public. All of them were lower level or club level seats, but they disappeared VERY quickly. They also made about 100 standing room only tickets available. At some point, one of the Buffalo radio stations managed to get their hands on a few of these, and started to exaggerate the availability of tickets. By the time it was all said and done, the official attendance was 18,840. Hockey capacity for the RBC Center is 18,730. Do the math.

    On the other side, there was some rumbling about the Sabres players showing disrespect for the Canes celebration by refusing to be there. This simply isn't true either. According to an article in the News and Observer, Lindy Ruff offered to have his team on their bench during the ceremony. There was some communication between the PR departments from both clubs, and the Canes decided it would be best if the Sabres weren't there. No offense was taken, and the Sabres used the extra time to get pumped up for what ended up being rain on our parade.

    You can view the low-quality video of the banner being raised here, or by clicking the embedded player below:

    Canes raise banner, lose opener

    On Wednesday night, the Canes got to raise the Sanley Cup Champions banner in a pre-game ceremony that lasted about 12 minutes or so. Some visiting Sabres fans who were understandably miffed by our display complained that it went on too long. For what it's worth to them, it could have gone on much longer than that, but the club decided to have a private party for the presentation of the rings. Ryan Miller wasn't annoyed, though.
    "When you win the Cup, you can take as much time as you want," Miller said. "We were fine with it. ... We just sat around in the locker room, stretching and trying to get ready. We tried to stay focused. We could tell it was loud."

    The game that followed was a good game with ebbs and flows, each team dominating the game at one time or another. Carolina came out strong, and kept all of the action in the Buffalo end for the first 10 minutes of the first period. After eight minutes, the shot count was 11-1 in favor of the Canes.

    At the 9:09 mark , the Sabres got on the board with just their second shot of the game. It was sort of a pinball shot, that took a crazy bounce or two on the way in. Jason Pominville was credited with the goal, tipping it in from the left circle. Dmitri Kalinin and Teppo Numminen got the helpers. Kalinin with a wrist shot from the point set the goal in motion. I couldn't tell live, but TV replays showed that the last deflection was off Canes defenseman Glen Wesley's skate. Cam Ward didn't have a chance on it as it beat him glove side high.

    At 14:42, Eric Staal knotted the game at one. He came in on a two-on-two rush and fired a shot through the Sabres defenseman and just under the crossbar. Miller didn't even see it. Ray Whitney and Cam Ward got the assists.

    During a three minute Sabres penalty parade in the second period, the Canes took a 2-1 lead. Carolina was enjoying the back end of two 5-on-3 segments when Erik Cole tipped one in on the doorstep. Ray Whitney and Justin Williams got the helpers. Whitney faked a shot from the high slot and made a gorgeous diagonal pass to Colsey, who was camped out on the right side of Miller's net. Cole didn't have to do a thing, as Miller couldn't slide over in time.

    The lead didn't stand very long, though. Chris Drury made it 2-2 at the 15:32 mark. Tallinder fired a long bomb from the right point, which Drury tapped in from the right side of the net. Cam Ward was moving towards the right post, and Drury snuck it in the long side, beating Ward badly. Evidently, Tallinder's shot was first deflected off Derek Roy, then Drury's pants. At any rate, it beat Ward. Roy with the first assist, Tallinder with the second.

    No goals in the third period, nor in the overtime.

    Just as Carolina had controlled play in the first eight minutes of the game, Buffalo controlled the flow in the closing minutes of regulation and the entire overtime. Carolina did well to make it to the shootout.

    Carolina opted to shoot first, and named Ray Whitney, Eric Staal and Erik Cole as their shooters. Whitney's attempt was stopped by Miller. Danny Briere was the first Sabres shooter, and he made a really nifty hesitation move, faking right, then going left, keeping on the forehand and putting it past Ward. Staal went in with a no-frills type of shot that was easily handled by Miller. Tomas Vanek was next for the Sabres, and his unsuccessful attempt was overly fancy. Erik Cole was Carolina's last chance, but he couldn't make it happen.

    Here's what a scoresheet can't tell you:

    On the first Sabres goal, Canes defenseman David Tanabe made a terrible mistake in neutral ice, causing a lazy turnover, leading to the goal. He committed a really lazy holding penalty, and made a few other plays that were defensively unsound or just plain irresponsible. I'm not sure that it's a good idea to have him dressed. I'd rather see Anton Babchuk out there.

    Most importantly, though, is that I was extremely impressed with the play of the Canes new defenseman Tim Gleason. He was part of that Jack Johnson deal with the Kings. Because he was a left coast player, and a defenseman, and a young one at that, I had never heard of him. He was pretty much the talk of section 112 last night, though. He made some very sound plays, made a ton of hits, and played a really smart game overall. I know it's just one game, but I'm thrilled with our end of that deal. His play was good enough to earn him third star status. I predict that I'll reprise these sentiments many times throughout the season, and I can't stress it enough, but we really like the kid.

    Another thing I make note of every time we play the Sabres is that Maxim Afinogenov is an incredible skater. My Sabres fan friend and I agree that if he would quit trying to be such a fancy skater and focus more on finishing plays, he'd put up a ton of points.

    Unfortunately, I'm a little pressed for time, and the only picture I've had time to work with is this one I took of Gleason. Later today, I'll work with some others and upload my banner raising photos/movies.

    Tuesday, October 03, 2006

    Two new ways to win big with the Canes

    On Tuesday, the North Carolina Education Lottery introduced a new scratch-off instant lottery game. It features the Hurricanes and their Stanley Cup championship. The maximum prize is $100,000. Also, there's a Hurricanes prize pack that includes a polo shirt, a windbreaker, a sweatshirt, a plaque, and a backpack. You can click here to see all the details about the game. Today, I bought two of the $5 tickets, and got $8 back.

    In North Carolina, all of the profit from the sale of lottery tickets goes to education. Primarily, the money goes towards programs geared at reducing classroom overcrowding. Also, some of the dough goes to college scholarship programs.

    Also, the Carolina Hurricanes are offering its fans an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup Champions ring exactly like the ones the players received on Monday night. The team will sell raffle tickets inside the arena all season long, and the winner will be announced at the last home game of the season. All money raised from raffle ticket sales will go to the Kids 'N Community Foundation. The foundation, which gave over $1M in cash and services last fiscal year, is focused on improving the lives of children. They work in conjunction with the Hockey Fights Cancer program as well as other children's health programs. In addition, they run a literacy program and promote after-school learning activities. As a secondary initiative, the foundation helps promote hockey camps and other youth hockey programs.

    I don't know how much the raffle tickets are, but I would imagine they call it a minimum $2 donation.

    Sheesh. Opening night less than 24 hours away. I'll come home with lots of photos/video of the banner raising. And photos of the Slugalo sweaters in action. And something about the actual game.

    Have I written the word "program" too many times?


    Red And Black Hockey is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Carolina Hurricanes Hockey Club, the National Hockey League or any of its other member clubs. The opinions expressed herein are entirely those of RBH. Any comments made are the opinion of the commenter, and not necessarily that of RBH.
    Whenever possible, RBH uses its own photography. Any incidental use of copyrighted material including photography, logos or other brand markings will not interfere with the owner's profits.