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

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Canes defeat Blueshirts, take 6 of 8 points on homestand.

On Wednesday night, the Hurricanes closed out their four game home stand with a 2-1 win over the Rangers. The boys took six of a possible eight standings points during the home stand and have closed Atlanta's lead in the Southeast to four points. After getting off to a very rocky start, and taking some time to find itself, the team was told by coach Laviolette that they needed to win all four games. Unfortunately, the Sabres had other plans on Monday night. "Three out of four," said Laviolette, is "okay".

There was a lot of talk about how the Canes needed to come out with at least six points, and that certain players were already on the proverbial trading block, and that certain players who wear an "A" on their chest would have a chance to keep their job. All of this talk, of course, was coming from message boards, bloggers, and Bucky Gleason, who is the Buffalo News' answer to Ned the Head.

In an article in the News on Tuesday, Gleason pointed to one game of insignificant ice time for Kevyn Adams and suggested that it was a trend spelling the end for him. I could go into detail about how Gleason is missing the boat on this, but I doubt that Gleason actually watched the game in question, or even referred to the shift chart, or is even aware of the fact that K-Ads is a fourth line center.

There's all sorts of crazy rumors flying around, though. I've heard so many different trade scenarios. Every one of them involves David Tanabe and either John Grahame, Kevyn Adams, or a pick. One completely insane nonsensical rumor I heard was David Tanabe and Kevyn Adams for Daniel Alfredsson. You see how crazy that is?

One really interesting rumor (really just an idea, I suppose) was David Tanabe and parts to the Flyers for Freddy Meyer. I like that idea.

All the trade talk aside, the Canes knew that they had to win on Wednesday. Although it wasn't pretty, they did it.

We thought we were being given a break from Holly Wilver when they announced that Miss North Carolina was singing the National Anthem. I actually thought that Miss NC did a pretty lousy job. She tried too hard to opera it up. I don't know what ever happened to just singing the damn song straight up without being all showy.
The guys from 850:The Blog were there, and in their liveblog of the game, they pretty much hit it on the head:
she ain’t winning the big crown unless the plans on singing while twirling flaming batons and riding a unicycle.

Due to the fact that the Rangers had played the night previous, Henny Lundqvist got the night off and we got to see our old pal "Shady 80" in the pipes. It became a sort of homecoming party, as there were five former Canes and two more former Whalers on the Rangers squad. Matt Cullen and Aaron Ward both played last season in Carolina. Kevin Weekes played between 2002 and 2004. Defenseman Marek Malik played here for almost five seasons, and defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh played a season and a half.

Craig Adams got the Canes on the board early, and it looked like we would be off to the races. He picked up a short rebound of an Anton Babchuk shot and sent it past Kevin Weekes at the 2:51 mark. Babs with the first assist and Chad "Sharpie" LaRose with the secondary.

I think this officiating crew was in a hurry to get back to the hotel to watch a Seinfeld rerun or something. They missed a bunch of calls on both sides in the first period, and they only called a total of seven penalties. Only three against the Canes. Carolina has been terribly undisciplined lately, and although I believe they were cleaner and more focused, they weren't that clean. There was a lot of clutching, grabbing, punching and tackling by BOTH teams that went unpenalized. Whereas last season the officials did a great job with being consistant, they're not so much this season. One night, they call ticky tacky stuff, and the next night, there's more clutching and grabbing than a high school prom.

Midway through the first, Cam Ward showed why he won the Conn Smythe and why he's the clear #1 goalie in Carolina. He was staring at one of the most feared things in all of hockey: Jaromir Jagr was barreling down the center of the ice on a breakaway, no Canes in sight. Cam was patient and calm, forcing Jagr to make his move first. Jagr waited too long and ended up putting it right in Wards pads. Cam was as steady as could be, where a lot of other goalies would've panicked and overcommitted.

Late in the first, a tiny little skirmish developed in the southeast corner. It wasn't that big of a deal. No punches, no penalties. The only reason I bring it up is that nine players jumped in. The one player who didn't jump in to defend his teammates: David Tanabe. It's little stuff like that, and getting in Brindy's way the other night. Then there's the big stuff. The lazy penalties, the missed assignments, the times that he screens Ward out causing goals against. I'll get to that later.

Nothing at all happened in the rest of the first. The first penalty of the game wasn't called until the 20th minute, and it was when Malik flat-out tackled Erik Cole in neutral ice.

At 3:40 of the second, the refs had no choice but to blow their whistles when Anton Babchuk shot the puck over the glass for delay of game. The next 10 minutes, nothing happened. The teams each took one obvious hooking penalty. One more blatant hook by the Canes, and we finally got some action.

At 16:02 of the second, Jaromir Jagr scored his 599th career goal on a pretty one-timer from the left face off dot. Brendan Shanahan and Martin Straka got the assists on the power play goal. On the play, David Tanabe was terrible. Jagr was all by himself at the top of the left face off circle, and Avi positioned himself at just the right spot to make it impossible for Cam Ward to see the shot.

Right on the third period face off, we saw the game's sixth penalty. It was a double-minor to Eric Staal for high sticking Matt Cullen. Inadvertent, but still careless, and a no-brainer of a call. There was only one more penalty in the game, and it was a marginal trip called on Jagr.

At 13:55 of the third, after the Canes had hit four posts earlier in the game, Rod Brind'Amour hit another post, but the puck bounced in that time. Off a draw that Brind'Amour lost down in the Rags end, Viva got control of the puck behind Weekes. Instead of attempting a wrap-around, Williams spotted Brindy alone in the high slot, and Brindy beat Weekes high on the stick side from there. That was the only assist, and the goal turned out to be the game winner.

Once again, Erik Cole was hitting everything in sight. This time, however, he did it all within the rules of the game. Sometimes it actually scares me, but there was nothing dangerous in this game.

With our continuing injuries to the blue line, and the shaky play of David Tanabe, Anton Babchuk has seen a huge jump in ice time. He's been really good, too. Much more than just a "fill-in", he's seen increased responsibilities and is doing just fine as a #3 or #4 defenseman. He's very seldomly in the wrong place, is very positionally sound, and is showing to have a ton of offensive upside. On the CrAdams goal, he made it happen by joining the rush and getting the initial shot on Weekes.

The "official" three stars went to Cam Ward (third), Chad LaRose (second) and Rod Brind'Amour (first). I didn't quite see it that way, and it was really hard to pick, but mine are more like:

Third Star Anton Babchuk, CAR. 20:10 TOI, +2, 3 blocked shots, 1 assist.
Second Star Jaromir Jagr, NYR. 24:49 TOI, 5 SOG, 1 goal, 599 career goals.
First Star Cam Ward, CAR. 23 saves, Win.

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