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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Canes destroy Habs, finish near perfect January.

On Tuesday, the Hurricanes blistered the Canadiens 8-2, bringing a beautiful January to an end. Erik Cole had a hat trick, Eric Staal had two goals. Kevyn, CrAdams and Nic Nordgren had one goal apiece.

All of that before Doug Weight joins the team.

In January, the Canes were 13-1 and absolutely crushed their opponents, outscoring them 61-33.

This was the second time in nine days that the Canes have embarrassed the Habs. In each game, Jose Theodore couldn't even get through the second period.

Eric Staal was awarded the second star of the game after racking up three points (2/1), bringing his season total to 69 (33/36). Colsey was the first star with his four points (3/1), bringing his season total to 50 (23/27).

Carolina had five different goal scorers and ten different players gained assists. After trailing 2-1, they got the final 7 goals.

Carolina was 3-6 on the power play, while Montréal was 0-5

Doug Weight will be joining the team on the road and will make his debut Friday as the Canes visit New Jersey on Scott Stevens Night. You will forgive us if we don't help them celebrate the career of a dirty player. And don't think we've forgotten about that hit on our boy Ron Francis.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Canes acquire Weight

The Hurricanes have made a multi-player trade with the hapless St. Louis Blues, the primary piece of the puzzle being Doug Weight. The 35-year old two-time Olympian will hopefully add some more offensive punch.

In addition to Weight, the Hurricanes got 27-year old Finnish prospect Erkki Rajamaki. Rajamaki, a left wing, has never played at the NHL level, and has five goals and four assists in 60 games this season at Worcester of the AHL.

In exchange, the Hurricanes gave up what looks (on paper) to be a lot:

  • Jesse Boulerice
  • Mike Zigomanis
  • the rights to mystery man Magnus Kahnburg.
  • Carolina's first round pick in 2006
  • Toronto's fourth round pick in 2006
  • Chicago's fourth round pick in 2007

Starting from back to front:
The fourth round draft picks amount to nothing. They're almost always used as trade fodder anyway.
The first round pick kind of concerns me. Not that much, though. Assuming Carolina will make a run deep into the playoffs, their draft pick will be somewhere around 26. It seems like this draft isn't very deep, so the players available at that point aren't so great. For Doug Weight, it might be worth it.

Magnus Kahnburg was drafted by the Canes in 2000, and was never signed. For some reason, even though five drafts have passed since then, the Canes still have the rights to him. He's never shown up to camp, and unless I'm terribly mistaken, I read somewhere that he's recently married and has no intention of moving away from Sweden. Either way, he'll probably never be signed, so he doesn't amount to anything.

Mike Zigomanis is a fun guy to have around, and he puts up mad numbers on NHL 2005, but in real life, he's a career AHLer. He's a good fill-in in emergency situations, but I don't see him ever being an every day player.

Jesse Boulerice is nothing more than (pardon the pun) dead weight. In the old NHL, he had tremendous value because his strongest point is his fighting prowess. However, there isn't a place for that in the new NHL, and the Hurricanes have a couple of otherwise useful players who will drop the gloves when needed. I've written about this a hundred times before, and I'm actually glad to see Boulerice go.

Who knows if Rajamaki will ever make it to the NHL. It would certainly be fun trying to come up with a nickname for him.

Doug Weight, as I've written before, is a guy who brings a lot to the table. He's getting old and his numbers are dropping off, but he's still almost a point-a-night kind of guy. More importantly, though, he's been around the block many times and his veteran leadership is of tremendous value. He's got oodles of playoff experience as well.
I'm not real sure where he's gonna fit in on the depth chart, but I would assume that for now, we plug him into the third line that Matt Cullen would normally center.
At $5.7M, he'll be far and away the highest payed player on the team. Next is Rod Brind'Amour, who is also 35 years old, and who makes $3.8M.

According to the TSN story, both Weight and the Canes view this as a "rental" to get them some serious playoff strength.

In my opinion, this is a strong, aggressive move that will probably make a lot of people shake their heads, but I like it. You wanna talk about a guy who puts up insane video game numbers? Doug Weight.

In other fire sale news, the Blues traded journeyman Mike Sillinger to the Preds for unproven prospect Timofei Shishkanov.

The Blues have now given up their leading goal scorer (Sillinger) and their assists and points leader (Weight). All in the midst of a change of ownership.

Maybe more on the Weight deal later.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Ronnie's number goes up, Canes win again.

Saturday night was an amazing night. Ron Francis' sweater went to the rafters, there was a nice tribute, and the Canes won the game. Even with the way the Canes have been playing this season, there hasn't been that kind of excitement and electricity in the RBC Center since the 2002 Stanley Cup run.

During the pregame skate, all the players wore the #10 FRANCIS sweater. They had their real name and number on a small patch on the right breast. These sweaters will later be auctioned for charity. During the game, the players wore special sweaters featuring a patch commemorating the night. These will also be auctioned.

It didn't take long for Carolina to get off and running. Viva finished a wrap around chance at 3:58 with a helper from Nic "Secret Weapon" Wallin. Wallin's shot had been blocked, and Williams just stuffed it in for his 18th goal of the season.

At 9:21 of the first, Erik Cole tipped a rocket of a Frantisek Kaberle shot from the left faceoff dot. Colesy was right out front with good traffic, and barely got a piece of it before it clanged off the right post and in. Just seconds before the goal, Kevyn Adams had been denied after doing some really nice work to create a point blank scoring chance.

At 7:49 of the second, Anton "Yentl" Babchuk scored his first goal in a Canes sweater. Brindy was trying to make something happen on the power play from the front porch, but he kicked it back out to Babs at the top of the left circle. From there, he wristed it past Lehtonen. Ray Whitney got the secondary assist.

Marc Savard erased all hopes of a shutout when he got a power play goal of his own at 00:19 of the third. Gerber gave up a fat rebound of a Marian Hossa shot, and Savard was there at the bottom of the right circle to put it in. Jaro Modry got the other assist.

Late in the game, when it felt like things were about to get chippy, Hartley pulled Lehtonen for the extra skater. At 19:09, Kevyn Adams scored into an empty net with assists from Brind'Amour and Viva

It was a nice end to a wonderful night. The ceremony was very nice, and at the same time, low key. Throughout the game, all the typical jumbotron entertainment was replaced with video messages to Ron from many current and former players.

During the second intermission, I ran in to Aaron Ward. According to his account, he'll be back on the ice in "seven to ten days". It'll be awesome to have him back, but once he comes back, it means that we won't have room for Babchuk. It'll be a little sad because I've really liked what I've seen from that guy.

While the Canes were winning their game, so were the Lightning. We were unable, then, to stretch our lead to 20 points. However, the Canes were able to stretch their Eastern Conference lead over Ottawa to four points. However, it must be taken into consideration that Ottawa has three games in hand on Carolina.

Up next: Tuesday night at Montréal.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

"the" day is upon us

Today is Ron Francis Day!

If you've got the Center Ice package, you'll want to tune in to this one. They'll have a ceremony around 6:45 to officially retire the number, and however long it takes, the whole thing will be televised by FSN South. So tune in and fire up your DVRs. This should be quite an emotional event.

Oh yeah, and there will be a game following.

Friday, January 27, 2006

behind the blog

I've been a little slow with this, but I'd like to publicly thank Christy Hammond at Behind the Jersey for highlighting this blog in her popular "Behind the Blog" feature.

You can read the feature here.

If you don't already, you should make her blog a daily read. She's quite talented, and just 19. While you're there, wish her a happy birthday.

Canes beat divisional opponents, fortify lead.

The Hurricanes finished a perfect mini-roadtrip by beating divisional opponents on consecutive nights. Wednesday, they beat Florida 4-3 in a shootout. Thursday they defeated Atlanta 5-1.

Since Wednesday was Scrabble night, I didn't get to watch the game live. Since I chose to stay out wicked late just to be with a girl who is, frankly, bad news, I didn't get to post about it at all.

Because last night was bowling night, I didn't get to watch or post about that game. So here comes a double.

On Wednesday at Florida, the boys chose to take the "We'll spot you two goals" approach to winning. Jozef Stumpel scored at the 00:47 mark with a shot from the top of the circle that surprised Gerber.

At 12:34, Mike Van Ryn picked up a garbage goal right in front when there should have been a whistle.

Matt Cullen made it 2-1 when he and Ray Whitney came in on a mini-break slapping the drop pass past Luongo.

At 18:03, just five seconds after Marty Gelinas went off for holding, Rod Brind'Amour got a power play tally to knot it at two. This one will go back to that argument about the importance of winning faceoffs. Brindy won the draw cleanly, Cullen got it to Tverdovsky, who took a heavy shot from the right circle, and Brindy was there to put home the rebound.

Nathan Horton made it 3-2 at the 10:11 mark of the second.

At 18:56 of the third, the Canes tied it at 3 when Brind'Amour got his second power play goal of the game. Jay Bouwmeester had gone off for slashing at 17:57. Laviolette decided to pull Gerber early, and the Canes were enjoying a six-on-four. Brind'Amour took advantage of some sloppy killing by camping out on the right post, where he easily scored the goal, even after mishandling the rebound of Staal's shot.

Overtime decided nothing, and it went on to shootout, where Erik Cole scored the deciding "goal". He used the same move he's been using all season on penalty shots and shootouts. He makes a very wide move to his forehand side, then swoops in, getting the goalie to commit to the middle of the net. At the last second, he pulls it back to the forehand and the goalie is out of position.

Thursday's game featured some drama, but not on the scoreboard.

After a scoreless first period in which Carolina had lots of scoring chances, they finally got the payoff in the second. Just 50 seconds into the second, Bret Hedican scored his fifth goal of the season in the waning seconds of a Nic Havelid penalty. Heddy put it in from the bottom of the left circle with lots of traffic in front. Initially, the scorers thought that Viva had redirected it, but they later corrected the score.

Matt Cullen made it 2-0 at 13:28, while the Thrash were being penalized for too many men on the ice. It was a funny shot that hit the juncture of the left post and the crossbar, then caromed in. The play was also odd in that Cullen came in without help, and was facing three Atlanta skaters. Andy Sutton, however, made a terrible mistake by turning his back to the attacking skater. Essentially, then, Sutton wasn't even on the ice. Tevvy got the only assist.

Patrik Stefan pulled Atlanta to within one at 19:01 of the second by persistently whacking away at a rebound from in close.

With the teams skating four-on-four, "The Secret Weapon" made it 3-1 at the 00:16 mark of the third. It was only his second goal of the year, and the tenth of his career. Bret Hedican unleashed a nasty slapshot from above the left circle that Wallin redirected in front.

At 11:14 Craig Adams made it 4-1 on a play where Erik Cole made everyone else look silly. He made Greg DeVries look especially bad, simply abusing him in a skating clinic. I think Kari Lehtonen was mesmerized by Colesy's nifty maneuvering, because once CrAdams had the puck, he easily stuffed it in from about 6 feet out, right in front.

Ray Whitney closed out the scoring with a power play goal at 19:41 with assists from Brindy and Viva. Lehtonen never even saw the shot, and he may have been dazed by the Viva slapshot that he had just turned away.

On Thursday, the Canes were 3-8 on power play chances. Wednesday, they were 2-8, and on Monday they were 2-6. In total, they've converted seven of their last 22 chances. That's 31.8% if you're scoring along at home, and a very nice improvement over the horrible 0-9 outing at Washington last Saturday.

Bad news. Matt Cullen broke his jaw and will be out indefinitely. Maybe Keith Aucoin will get called back up after being reassigned to Lowell yesterday.

Up next: Ron Francis Night. Standing room only tickets are available for $85.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Canes bounce back, crush Habs 7-3

After a disappointing road loss to the Washington Capitals, the Canes were able to get back on track with a 7-3 dismantling of the Canadiens on Monday night.

Since I didn't already write about it... The game on Saturday truly was a disappointment. We drove up there in hopes of watching our boys make it ten in a row, but they just couldn't get it done. Even while doing a fairly decent job of keeping Alex Ovechkin in check, they couldn't do anything to help their own cause. The Canes were given nine power play chances, including two lengthy five-on-three segments, but they couldn't solve Kolzig until it was too late. The word on the street is that Kolzig wasn't feeling well, and was vomiting between periods, but still felt good enough to shut the Canes down. I won't give a full recap, but the Canes highlight was that Erik Cole converted a penalty shot. It was his fourth penalty shot on the season, and his second success. Also, we had a new guy who did a pretty good job. We traded Danny "Harry Potter" Richmond plus a pick to Chicago for Anton Babchuk and a pick. In his limited ice time, he did well. Also, my posse made it on TV. There were actually a lot of other Canes fans there as well.

Monday night's game was much better. A very solid all-around effort by the entire team. One indicator of that is that seven different players had one goal, and nine different players had at least one assist.

Getting in the mix was Keith Aucoin, who was called up from Lowell and tallied an assist in his first NHL game. He had an excellent scoring chance denied when he was flat-out tackled as he attempted a point-blank shot on Cristobal Huet. With the delayed penalty in hand, Erik Cole scored from an impossible angle to give the Canes a 7-2 lead at 17:35 of the third.

Here's a quick rundown on the Canes scoring:

Bret Hedican surprised Theodore at 7:26 of the first with a shot from the top of the left circle that beat him glove side. Theodore never saw it, and it would be the beginning of a very long night for him. Chad "Sharpie" LaRose and Matt Cullen got the assists.

At 17:15, CrAdams made it 2-0 with a gorgeous feed from Kevyn Adams. Kevyn went behind the net and dished it to Craig at the bottom of the right circle. The shot went five-hole, and Theodore thought he had it squeezed between the pads, However, the puck rattled around in there, and found its way through. Frantisek Kaberle got the second assist.

Habs made it 2-1 at 2:23 of the second on a breakaway on which two Canes had collided, giving Montreal a de facto five-on-three.

Matt Cullen got an easy one at 6:08 of the second to make it 3-1. The Canes were on a five-on-three, and a Canadien defenseman had broken his stick, so it was kinda like a five-on-two. Ray Whitney noticed the five-on-two and set Eric Staal up for a one-timer from the high slot. Cullen tipped it out front to get credit for the goal. Staal and Whitney got the helpers.

While the Canes were still enjoying a power play, Staal got his own goal at 6:56. It was an incredible display of strength. He was coming through the slot and had to fight off a poke-check that would have taken him off the puck last season. Instead he kept the puck, kept his footing and wristed one past Theodore. Cole and Viva got the assists.

Less than two minutes later, at 8:45, Andrew Ladd chased Jose Theodore with his sixth goal of the season, tipping one in through heavy traffic on the doorstep. 5-1 Canes. Ladd wobbled but didn't fall down as the Habs were beating him up in there. It showed excellent composure and skill to finish the play under such duress. I've been quite impressed with him. Six goals in only 11 NHL games. Kaberle and Viva got the helpers. Jose Theodore was then pulled in favor of Cristobal Huet. It was the second game in a row for that scenario.

Viva got a goal of his own at 3:40 of the third to make it 6-1. Andrew Ladd left a drop pass for him at the bottom of the left circle, and he whistled it past Huet's head, top shelf. Another one where he never even saw it.

The Habs got a power play goal at 16:19 to make it 6-2.

Erik Cole wrapped up the Canes scoring at 17:28 on a play where Keith Aucoin really should have scored. He was all alone out front with what would have been an excellent scoring chance until he was spun around and literally tackled by Mathieu Dandenault. I'm sure a penalty shot would have been awarded, and the arm was up, but it didn't matter when Erik Cole picked up the loose change at the top of Huet's trapezoid and put it into what was essentially an empty net. Keith Aucoin got his first NHL assist on the play and Eric Staal got the secondary assist.

A meaningless goal was scored by Montreal at 19:21 to make the final 7-3 count.

Some notes:

Keith Aucoin is good. I made the mistake of referring to him as "schmuck" once. I thought of him as nothing more than Lowell filler, which is why the "schmuck" comment, but he showed a lot of promise Monday night. He's got good hands, decent wheels, and tried some pretty creative stuff.

Anton Babchuk is quite good. Heather Creegan might think that Danny Richmond for Anton Babchuk is a bad trade, but I'm liking what I've seen in two games. Danny was offering the Canes a little bit of ill-advised toughness and some suspect defense. I've only seen Babchuk twice, but his defense is much better than that of Richmond, and he's got one of those "heavy shots" that the kids are going apey over these days. And as a point of reference, according to information obtained by the Canes TV guy, Babchuk prefers the "anglo" Baab-CHOOK pronunciation rather than the actual Russian pronunciation. Gðlbez hates it, but some players are like that. Anyway, we of section 112, row J of the RBC Center, will be calling him "Babs" or "Yentl". If you need help figuring that one out, use imdb.com.

Up next: Wednesday at Florida

Friday, January 20, 2006

I want my two dollars!

The jerks at the Carolina Hurricanes official site have been reading this blog and have stolen one of my ideas.

Not that it was an original idea on my part in the first place, but they just installed a "countdown to Ron Francis night" timer, much like the one that I've had running for over a month now. If you don't have java enabled, then you can't see it, but there's a days, hours, minutes, seconds counter to Ron Francis night at the top of this page. Now the Hurricanes have stolen my thunder. Do they pay me? No. Do they thank me? No.

Okay, so maybe they didn't steal the idea from me, but I had mine WAY before they had theirs. Frankly, mine looks better anyway.

Canes play like ass, but win ninth in a row

On Thursday night, the Hurricanes won their ninth straight game for the second time this season. Although they beat the Islanders 4-3, they looked terrible in doing it. They had way too many turnovers, too many penalties, and the defense looked horrible. However, I need to cut them some slack in that department. With AWard and Wesley still out, Mikey C skating through injury and Hedican sitting this one out, that left the blue line kind of thin.

Good news (other than the win). Rod Brind'Amour won 75% (!!!) of his faceoffs (21/28). The boys kept it going, improving their already league best home record to 21-4-1. Another remarkable stat that was improved is that the boys are now 18-0 when leading after two periods. Yet another is that the Canes are now 22-1-0 when scoring first. The Canes converted one of their two power plays, and killed all seven of their penalties, including a huge five-on-three in the first.

We sort of expected some fireworks in this game, as it was the Islanders first visit since Eric Godard suckerpunched Viva on January 6. Although Godard wasn't penalized on the play, he was suspended for two games by the league, and he earned "public enemy #1" status around here. We had Boulerice out on the ice, and the two shared the ice a few times, but Jesse never went after him.

The scoring got started in a strange fashion. Viva put on a skating clinic, and he fed Brindy in the slot, who wristed one on goal. It clanged off the crossbar, and straight down. Everyone was just standing there, so Andrew Ladd shoved it into the open net from the side of the crease at 5:43 of the first. I suppose everyone assumed that Brindy's shot was in because they were literally motionless, but Ladd did the right thing to shove it in anyway. It was the rookie's fifth goal of the season in only nine appearances.

Less than a minute later, before the PA announcement was made, Aaron Asham scored at 6:25, with assists from Jason Blake and Bruno Gervais. After Blake did a little skating drill, he backhanded a pass to Asham in the slot, who made it look easy from there.

At 16:00, Brind'Amour patiently found Matt Cullen standing alone at the inside edge of the left faceoff circle, who wristed it in from there. Viva got the secondary assist.

Islanders defenseman Radek Martinek, who was being given a really hard time by Jesse Boulerice, scored his first goal of the season at 9:27 with assists from Jeff Hamilton and Godard. On the play, he simply made Craig Adams and Kevyn Adams look silly. He also did a really good job of being extremely patient with his shot.

Ray Whitney apparently gave the Canes a 3-2 lead on a power play goal at 19:34, but the referee ruled that Kevyn Adams interfered with Rick DiPietro. However, Kevyn would get redemption just a few seconds later, as he was credited with a redirection of a Mikey Commodore wrist shot from the point. The goal came even strength at 19:54, and the secondary assist was Craig Adams. Actually, I looked at the replay several times, and I just don't see Adams tipping it, but a goal is a goal.

At 12:20 of the third came an absolutely beautiful goal from the Eric/k connection. Erik Cole had the puck just inside the Carolina zone, and saw Staal one-on-one at center ice. From the point, he sent an absolutely perfect pass to the streaking Staal, who was just barely on-side. Staal came in all alone and easily beat DiPietro on the blocker side to make it 4-2. That's Staal's 30th goal, and his 61st point of the season. It pains me to mention these two players in the same breath, but the last time Carolina had a 30-goal scorer was 2002-03, and it was Jeff O'Neill. O'Neill finished the season with the exact same stats that Staal has through 46 games. Oh. Except that Jeff was a -21 that year, and Eric is a +2 so far this year.

Mark Parrish finished a really pretty play at 16:59, to make the score 4-3. He was the toe to Shawn Bates' tac and Oleg Kvasha's tic as they came in on an odd-man rush.

The Canes were outshot 39-25, and were by far the less disciplined team, but they still managed to skate away with the win, their ninth in a row, tying the franchise record set earlier this season.

Up next, a Saturday night matchup with the Caps. I'll be there at the MCI Center to watch us make it 10 in a row!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Canes win 4-3 in shootout, extend streak to 8 games

By defeating the host Flyers in shootout fashion, the Hurricanes extended their winning streak to eight games and their lead in the Southeast division to an astounding 16 points. Without some of our best defensemen.

Mikey Commodore is being called "day-to-day" with the upper thigh contusion. Glen Wesley is on the road to recovery, and is doing some light skating with the team. AWard is gonna be a while. The rag-tag bunch did a really good job. Nic Wallin has been good, Frantisek Kaberle has been outstanding, and Bret Hedican is playing with the Brind'Amour-esque youthful vigor of a man ten years his younger.

Not much went on in the first frame. The Flyers recorded eight shots on goal while the Canes only could put forth two despite a pair of power play chances in the first. Rookie Jeff Carter got things going for the Flyers when he potted his eleventh goal at 12:37 of the second. He broke in with a long pass from Chris Therien, and easily beat Gerbs blocker side on the shot. Kaberle fell down on the play, but Carter had him beat anyway. Secondary assist from Freddy Meyer IV. That would be the only scoring of the period.

In the third, though, things got hectic.

Kim Johnsson gave the Bullies a two goal cushion at 3:19 of the third after a Bret Hedican turnover in the Carolina zone. Michal Handzus corralled the puck and centered it to Johnsson in the slot.

That two goal lead, however, was short-lived. Matt Cullen got his 16th goal of the season at 3:40, after skating end-to-end with the puck. The Johnsson goal was still being announced by the PA guy, and it looked kind of like he caught Nittymaki by surprise with the shot from the slot. Danny "Harry Potter" Richmond got his first NHL point with an assist on the play.

AT 6:15, it was Freddy Meyer giving the Flyers their second two-goal cushion of the game with a wrister from the point. Brian Savage and Sami Kapinen assisted. By the way, Freddy Meyer IV has scored three goals this season. Two of them have been against Carolina.

Oleg Tverdovsky scored only his second goal of the season at 8:01 to narrow the gap. Eric Staal had just forced a turnover deep in the Flyers zone and Tevvy put it in from the slot, thanks to a screen set up by Erik Cole. Staal's assist on the play was his 31st, giving him 60 points.

Erik Cole tied the game at 16:02 when he broke in all alone and beat Nittymaki high glove side. Cole has proven to be quite effective on the breakaway this season.

No scoring for the rest of the third. Very few chances in the OT period. Philly got two shots, and Carolina just one.

For the shootout, Carolina selected Ray Whitney, Matt Cullen and Eric Staal.
Philly selected Mike Richards, Michal Handzus and Simon Gagne.

Whitney scored, five hole.
Richards went top shelf.
Cullen scored blocker side.
Handzus scored top shelf.
Staal was stopped.
Gagne missed the net.

On to the fourth round:
Brind'Amour went off the post and in glove side.
Jeff Carter's five-hole attempt was easily stopped.

I don't hate the shootout, but I do hate that Rod Brind'Amour doesn't get credit for the game-winning goal. You know, for fantasy purposes.

Up next, a home date with the Islanders on Thursday.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Canes make clean sweep of Central division. Staal nets three in 4-2 win over St. Louis.

The Hurricanes, who are hurtin' torn and tattered by a recent plague of injuries, came out flat-footed on Sunday afternoon. However, they still managed to skate away with a 4-2 win over the hapless St. Louis Blues, and extend their winning streak to seven games. Prior to the game, the folks from John Deere handed out free hats to the sellout crowd. Roughly 18,000 hats were handed out, but not nearly that many went home.

Before the game, I missed my chance to "hang out" with AWard and Mikey C, both of whom are injured. They were hanging out at the private concession area at the top of my section. Actually, nobody was bothering them at all, so I could've had them to myself. However, my priority was to get beer first. When I turned around, they were gone. Oh well. Honestly, all I would have said would have been "Hey guys, we're really gonna miss you out there. Hurry back!" Anyway....

In the first ten minutes of the game, the Canes allowed two power play goals, digging a relatively deep hole for themselves. Petr Cajanek scored the first just two minutes into the game while CrAdams was in the box for boarding. If not for an exceptionally slow rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, many fans would not have been in their seats to see those early fireworks.

At 10:31, Mike Sillinger scored the second power play goal while Viva was being penalized for roughing. Kevin Dallman had secondary assists on both goals. Dean McAmmond assisted the first and Dallas Drake assisted the second. Fortunately, the Blues were shut down for the remaining two and a half periods.

In the second, the Blues were really undisciplined, and they were made to pay for it. At 5:25, Ray Whitney worked one past Curtis "Don't call me Fred" Sanford on a one-timer, with the only assist coming from Eric Staal. Dallman had taken an interference penalty and Scott Young had taken a simultaneous hooking penalty at 4:41, giving the Canes an instant five-on-three.

Later in the period, the Canes again found themselves with a five-on-three. Dennis Wideman took a hooking penalty at 15:07 and Eric Weinrich, who was on the 1936 US Olympic team, took a tripping penalty at 16:07, giving the Canes exactly one minute of five-on-three. Eric Staal snapped his eight game goal drought by tipping in a Viva shot at 16:33. Cory Stillman got the other assist.

The third period was a little slow-paced, but at 10:34, the Canes took the lead on Staal's second goal. Erik Cole make a completely ridiculous behind-the-back pass to Staal, who took a couple of whacks at it from the goal mouth before finally getting it in. Viva picked up the secondary assist. This goal came just a couple of seconds after a power play had elapsed.

In the final minutes, there was a lot of action, which lead to the Canes being on the long end of a four-on-three for the final 52 seconds. The boys used the open ice to their advantage, and made a concerted effort to get a third goal for Staalsy and a lawn tractor for the lucky fan. It paid off at 19:51 when Staal tipped in his own rebound from the right side of the goal mouth. Cole and Frantisek Kaberle got the helpers. Of course the rain of green hats came down at that point, marking the second time in the last three seasons that a Canes player has recorded a hat trick on hat giveaway night. Jan Hlavac had one against Detroit during the 2002-03 season. My friends swear up and down that Josef Vasicek's hat trick came on hat night in 2003-04, but I don't remember it that way.

If you're paying attention and scoring along at home, Staalsy's hat trick was of the "natural" variety. If I remember correctly, both of Kevyn Adams' hat tricks this season were also of the "natural" variety. I can't be sure about this, but since the natural hat trick is much less commonplace than the garden variety, this might be some sort of record.

With the win, the Canes made a clean sweep of the Central Division, and have closed out their Western Conference play with a 7-2-1 record. The Canes also swept the three game homestand, and have now won seven games in a row. They have not lost a home game in regulation since November 27. They have the best home record by far at 20-4-1. In fact, the Canes have the best record in the league. Period. 30-10-4. However, the idle Senators (30-10-3) have one game in hand on the Canes. At any rate, the Canes have already surpassed their win total from 2003-04 with 38 games remaining.

Up next, a Tuesday night visit to the City of Brotherly Love.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Luongo says no

Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers turned away a huge contract extension offer like so many shots on goal.

After turning down a five-year, $30M contract, Luongo said:
I just want to make sure we're a playoff team for many years to come. I don't want to spend another five years here just watching the playoffs on television.
It is a great contract for me, but No. 1 is winning a Stanley Cup and having success in the playoffs. After that, money comes second.

The folks at TSN seem to think this is a selfless, magnanimous gesture on his part. I've got a different theory.

Translation: "I will be a free agent in the summer, and I want to move to a bona fide Cup contender. I'd rather not be locked into a five year deal here."

Canes win overtime thriller, sit atop NHL standings

On Friday night, in front of a nearly packed RBC Center, the Hurricanes topped the Predators 5-4 in overtime.

I didn't have a pen with me for some reason, so I wasn't able to take notes, but here's how it went down:

Rod Brind'Amour started the scoring at 3:33 on a shorthanded goal. Assists went to Viva and Mikey C. The Canes came in on an odd man rush, and Brindy actually had plenty of time, and ended up making Vokoun look foolish by getting him to overcommit. With a wide open net, Brindy simply flipped it in. Vokoun looking foolish would be a theme on the night.

At 7:26 of the first, with the Preds on the power play, Steve Sullivan knotted it at one with a shot from the left circle that was perfectly screened by a Preds skater. There was absolutely nothing Gerber could do about it.

At 13:03, Andrew Hutchinson was able to score against his old team and give the Canes a 2-1 lead on a three on-one break. Cory Stillman found Hutch in the slot and Hutch wasted no time going glove side on Vokoun. Eric Staal, who hasn't scored a goal in seven games, got the secondary assist. At the time, I swore that the shot was tipped by Cole on the way in, but replays show that it wasn't.

At 15:13, Erik Cole made it 3-1 on another play where Vokoun looked foolish. He had collided with one of his skaters in front of the heavily congested crease area. Both fell, and Stillman fed Cole, who put it into an empty net. Tverdovsky got the second assist.

So for the second consecutive game, Carolina had a 3-1 lead at first intermission over on of the West's best.

No scoring in the second, but a trend started. The officials weren't calling a tight game at all. There were a lot of missed hooks, slashes and trips on both sides. At least it was consistent.

At 3:06 of the third, Martin Erat made it 3-2 on a bizarro goal. Paul Kariya made a really nifty move through the slot, spun around, and passed to Martin Erat, who rifled one just past Gerber. For some reason, the on-ice call was "no goal", but everyone in the arena could tell it would be counted.

Then at 11:04, Kimmo Timonen tied it up on an even more bizarre play. The preds were coming in on a power play, and Timonen was meaning to dump the puck in the zone. It took a crazy carom, and went in. Gerber had gone behind the net, anticipating the puck to go there. This time, it was he who looked foolish. And the Canes had let a two goal lead evaporate.

Later on, Brindy would score a power play goal at 15:56 of the third with assists from Ray Whitney and Cory Stillman. Stillman had three assists on the night, and was awarded the game's third star by the media. On that goal, Brindy had to keep digging at a rebound, and finally got it past Vokoun to give the Canes a temporary cushion.

With just over a minute to play, and Vokoun off for an extra skater, Kariya again fed Erat for a game-tying goal. It was very disappointing that it got to that point, but the best was yet to come.

With about 2:40 to play in the extra session, the Canes stormed in with numbers, and one of the Preds inexplicably launched his stick in the general direction of Frantisek Kaberle, who was on a mini-break. This is a rule with no grey area: a penalty shot has to be awarded.

Kaberle came through big time, luring Vokoun pretty far out, and going five hole on him.

For that play, Kaberle was awarded the first star. Good call.

There were two scary moments involving the already shorthanded defense. Mike Commodore had to leave the game in the second period with a "lower body injury" and did not return. That left us with five defensemen. Then midway through the third, Martin Erat got Bret Hedican really solidly with a high stick. Hedican went down, blood pouring on the ice. He lay there for a short while, then had to be helped off. It was über scary because he was listing off to one side really badly, and there was a lot of concern that he had taken it in the eye. He hobbled off to the room, but would return to the ice for the overtime period.

Who knows if or for how long Commy will be out. We cannot roll with five defensemen, though. Danny Richmond will have to come up and perhaps forgo his appearance in the AHL all-star game.

There was some talk on the post-game radio show about trying to obtain a veteran blueliner via trade. I don't know who we'd give up in a trade, but one name they threw out there was Paul Mara. I would like that quite a bit. We'll see.

The win put Carolina at 62 points, and into a "tie" with Philly for tops in the league. However, Carolina has a game in hand on Philly, and therefore owns the tie-breaker.

Carolina has now defeated four Central division opponents, and will attempt to make it a perfect sweep when the hapless Blues come to town on Sunday.

On other note. After Kaberle scored the penalty shot to win the game, Vokoun spazzed out, threw his stick, and was given a 10 minute misconduct penalty. I'm not sure how this will be assessed. Help?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Moose sweater retirement done; Ronnie's on deck.

The New York Rangers retired Mark Messier's #11 sweater in a very emotional ceremony last night in Madison Square Garden.

Two weeks from tomorrow, the Hurricanes will be retiring the #10 sweater of Ron Francis. Today, the team announced the specifics of the ceremonies.

I'm shocked that tickets are still available to this game.

Anyway, I've already promised Jenn and Andy that I will be crying like a little girl as the sweater goes to the rafters. I've been guessing that its spot will be directly above our heads, behind the north goal, right beside the 2002
Eastern Conference Champions banner. That's just a guess, though. If so, I'll be able to get good pictures of it.

Tonight, the sizzling Preds come to town for the penultimate Western Conference showdown. On Sunday, the Blues will be here for a matinee, putting an end to our interconference play.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Carolina blue line takes lumps

The already beleaguered defensive corps from the Carolina Hurricanes got some more bad news on Tuesday night, following their 3-2 victory over the Winged Wheel.

The team's alternate captain, and most veteran defenseman Glen Wesley was already out with an injury. On New Year's Eve, he suffered a sprain to the MCL in his right knee. He'll be out until mid-February at the earliest. The boys have been doing okay in his absence, thanks to the return of Nik "Secret Weapon" Wallin, but they suffered another setback on Tuesday.

Aaron Ward, who is the RBH pick for midseason Canes Norris, had to leave Tuesday's game with a hernia. He underwent surgery on Wednesday and will be out for three to six weeks. This is a HUGE loss for the Canes. AWard has been the most consistent dman and has been logging an average of 18:30 ice time per game. That's third on the team among defensemen and seventh on the team overall. He is first on the team among defenseman in shorthanded time on ice per game with just over four minutes per game.

As it looks now, the defensive pairings should be:
  • Hedican -- Kaberle
  • Tverdovsky -- Wallin
  • Commodore -- Hutchinson

  • Not too bad, but after Tevvy, those guys aren't used to logging lots of ice time. It'll be time for Commy to show what he's made of. He's played well in his time this season, but now EVERYone is going to have to step up a little.

    It's likely that Danny "Harry Potter" Richmond will be called up just to have a seventh warm body on the blue line.

    The first test will be a difficult one. Friday night at home against the Preds.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    Carnival of the NHL #17

    As Our NHL season hits the midway mark, I'm proud to be hosting the 17th Carnival of the NHL. The Rod Brind'Amour edition.

    No carnival would be complete without midway games and prizes. Lots of prizes are to be had as Martin Thornell at HockeyDirt hands out the mid-season awards, which he calls the "Neelies", in honor of Cam Neely's incredible first half in 1993-94. The Neelies were awarded based on the results of a poll in which 31 esteemed hockey bloggers participated. Reggie Jackson was not one of them (mp3 file -- Assist to Off Wing Opinion).

    Alex Ovechkin easily walked away with the Calder Neely. In the "real" world, he earned the NHL rookie of the month in December, and NHL offensive player of the week for the last week in December. JP over at Japers' Rink demands a recount in the awarding of the NHL offensive player of the month for December, which was given to Jaro Jagr. Be sure to check out Japers' Rink, as he hands out awards on a daily basis.

    Yes, Step right this way and see the Russian Phenom for yourself. Don't speak Russian? Don't read Cyrillic? No problem. Dave Zukauskas over at Sidearm Delivery does. As he's been doing all season, he provides us with the English translation of an interview with Ovechkin in which he says of that other rookie and his sudden rise to alternate captain:
    "I consider, at that age, to give someone that position -- it's ridiculous. Honestly, when Crosby was named alternate, I laughed."

    Ovechkin wasn't the only Russian to pick on El Sid this month. While Crosby was having an especially bad game on Friday night, Ilya Kovalchuk had his way with the youngster. Kovalchuk scored twice, then pointed his finger at Crosby, who was in the penalty box by himself, feeling shame. Later, Kovalchuk threatened to taunt Crosby a second time. Jes Gõlbez thinks that Crosby has finally snapped from all the pressure of being the top rookie. He and Michael Fedor of Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic are both pleasantly surprised that Don Cherry has spoken in defense of Crosby. For the record, Cherry is also in favor of breaking Kovalchuk's arm, and against the wearing of visors.

    From the land of ABBA and IKEA, "Ingmar Bergman" of Ingmar Bergman Shoots and Scores distributes "Swedes only" mid-season hardware. This is sure to infuriate Gölbez. Bergman also has a superior quality video clip of Rob Hisey scoring a lacrosse-style goal in a Finnish Elite League game. You've seen the one he scored in a skills competition, but this one was for real. Check out the cool zebra shirts the refs wear in that league. Also check out the "exclusive interview" with Jaromir Jagr.

    Christy Hammond, who skillfully blogs the Red Wings at Behind the Jersey has her own awards of sorts. She's got a 2005 year-end retrospective on the Wings, complete with Top 3" lists in 13 different categories. Not surprisingly, the Jiri Fischer collapse was the #1 scary moment.

    Iwocpo over at Abel to Yzerman, who has an astonishing amount of free time, also posts his Wing-specific mid season awards. Although new to the hockey blogging fray, he's extremely prolific without being a gluttonous nuisance.

    Speaking of gluttony, my boys Eric Staal and Mike Commodore of the Carolina Hurricanes had a good time(WMV file) at the North Carolina State Fair back in October, winning some prizes and stuffing their faces with cotton candy, candy apples, corn on the cob, and who knows what else.

    As long as we're eating, CasonBlog takes a shot at Tim Horton's for their lunch combo of Southwest Chicken Sandwich, coffee and a donut. You say donut, I say doughnut.

    Down the midway a bit, Jes Gölbez' Hockey Rants has set up a hot dog with cheese stand. Andrew Hutchinson of the Carolina Hurricanes is expected to be there signing autographs. Reservations required.

    Over at Sabre Rattling Tom Luongo was baffled by Jochen Hecht's slow start for the Sabres, but pleasantly surprised by the outstanding play of Tim Connolly and Brian Campbell thus far. Tom took himself to task for rattling his sabres at Hecht, and would later change his stance by picking Hecht as his midterm Sabre Selke. The Luongo Sabre Hart goes to the Rochester Americans of the AHL. Makes sense for a young team. Click on the link to see the other Luongo Sabre midseason awards. And who other than Michigan State alumni would have expected Ryan Miller to steal Martin Biron's job?

    With Biron basically out on the street, J.J. Guerrero of Canucks Hockey Blog speculates that the Canucks will be making a major move to replace injured netminder Dan Cloutier, who is out for the season. He hints at getting Biron, but strongly suggests trading someone for Jose Theodore. That would suit his fiancé just fine. I wonder if fans in Vancouver would crash a 'Nucks practice....
    J.J. offers some mind rattling math on how Theodore's contract would fit under the cap. He also plays school marm, handing out midterm report cards. The second line of the Sedins and Anson Carter move to the front of the class, getting an A. Yes, Anson Carter. He's found "it" in Vancouver, and has had a terrific comeback season thus far. The 'Nucks defence brings up the rear, and J.J. begs for some added depth to the blue line.

    James Mirtle, who's like that dude in "Summer School" who had the hall pass for like five weeks, showed up way late for the carnival, but was granted a late pass. He's handed the NHL a midterm report card that the parents might not be so happy about. It's good enough to pass, good enough to graduate, even. However, if the NHL expects to get into graduate school, it had better do better than a 2.5. Although the NHL didn't fail any class, they did not excel in any class either. Mr. Mirtle thinks that the League needs improvement in Social Studies and Art. Honestly, it needs improvement across the board, but especially in these classes.
    Mirtle also plays barker in the "guess your height, weight or age" game.. Step up and see if you can fool the great Mirtle.

    Daniel Clark of A Foote in Sydor also goes about the awards ceremony in his own way, by giving one in each conference. He goes way out on a limb to give his midseason Eastern Conference Vezina to ..... Henrik Lundqvist. His three candidates for Free Agent Bust in the Eastern conference are Sergei Gonchar, Sergei Gonchar and Sergei Gonchar. You'll have to stick your foot in the door to find out who took the prize.

    Over in the desert, CasonBlog has a most unusual award ceremony, which he calls The Mid-Year Bizarro World NHL Awards. These awards, named in honor of "the anti-Superman creation of Lex Luthor", are given to the worst player in each category. Sean Avery takes home the MYBW Lady Byng, and CasonBlog quips:
    "Nobody likes him. His mother screens his calls and Elisha Cuthbert is probably only dating him to piss off her parents."

    From over the treetops, the squeals of delight can be heard from many carnival attendees, but under the big tent, thunderous boos can be heard. Let's step inside and find out what's going on....

    Iwocpo chimes in again with his analysis on the booing of Dany Heatley upon his return to Atlanta. He and many others are baffled by the treatment of a player who desperately had to get out of Atlanta because of the personal demons stemming from his accident. The fans supported him with open arms until he needed to get away from the constant reminders. Now he gets booed like the contestant on The Price is Right who fails to make the big wheel do a full rotation.

    The Acid Queen, of Sweet Tea, Barbecue and Body Checks penned an open letter to fans in Vancouver who attended the IIHF World Junior Championships. At every moment of the tournament, the fans relentlessly booed the Americans any chance they got. They say it was because of the softwood lumber dispute, or George Bush, or perhaps some lingering hostilities from the war of 1812. Maybe Phil Kessel said that he hates the Barenaked Ladies. None of this has anything to do with hockey. AQ, James Mirtle and Tom Benjamin are all in accord that it was a bit much. There's some great dialog going on in the comments section of Acid Queen's and Tom Benjamin's places.

    Meanwhile, in the IIHF Under 20 (Division III) tournament, Japers' Rink told the tale of Armenian netminder Harutyun Baluyan, who made an astonishing 83 saves versus Iceland in round-robin play. Only problem is, he allowed 50 goals in a 50-0 loss. The rest of the tournament was only marginally better, as they went 0-4, getting outscored 146-6. Read Japers' gruesome account of the Armenians' woes.

    All this booing and crying is making me tired, but we have to stay up because there's midnight hockey! And a KISS cover band! That's right. Some carnivals have pig racing or school bus demolition derby. We've got Midget Peter Criss and a midnight puck drop. The Carnival (but not the NHL) heads back up to Hartford, where Dave Zukauskas tells us a bizarre tale of midnight hockey and Midget KISS in Vegas. He points us to a newspaper article giving a minute by minute account of the evening. Only in Vegas!

    Meanwhile, down in the basement, there's a dueling piano bar. Okay, so they're not really pianos. It's just the boys from Battle of Alberta. On one side is Matt Fenwick, who covers the Flames and says in his mid-season state of the team address:
    "Times are good in the C of Red, and there's no good reason to believe that they won't keep rolling."
    Opposite him is Sacamano, who roots for the Oilers. He doesn't give out grades or use fancy stats, but he does a very thorough player-by-player analysis of the Oilers.

    And that will just about do it for the 17th Carnival. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you had fun. Thanks again to Eric McErlain for organizing the Carnival.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    Canes top Wings 3-2, gain 60th point.

    In a very exciting game Tuesday night, the Hurricanes took two points from the Detroit Red Wings by beating them 3-2.

    The Canes jumped out to a 3-0 lead with goals from Matt Cullen at 5:45, Ray Whitney at 9:21 (power play) and Erik Cole at 14:08 (four-on-four).

    The slumping Eric Staal assisted on the last two goals. Cory Stillman failed to register a point, and thusly could not extend his scoring streak to thirteen.

    Late in the first, Stevie Y got an unassisted goal at 16:07, on which the defense completely fell asleep.

    Henrik Zetterberg got a power play goal at 3:26 of the second, but that would be the end of the scoring.

    During an absolutely frenetic third period, the Wings put 19 shots on net, and Martin Gerber was fantastic in turning them all away.

    The final 90 seconds of the game were a six-on-four for the Red Wings, and there was a lot of action, but they couldn't get the equalizer.

    For a moment, Carolina was atop the entire league with 60 points (and a tie-breaker over Philly). However, Ottawa won their game with ease, putting them at 61 points.

    This was Carolina's 28th win on the season, only one game into the second half. That total matches their season total in 2003-04. What a difference!

    Sorry for the abbreviated post, but I have to watch the DVR of OLN's coverage,and I still have to put the finishing touches on the Carnival.

    last call for carnival entries

    I have forced the Carnival staff to work overtime (at slave wages), and we're well ahead of schedule for opening. The entire staff will have this evening off to attend the Hurricanes v Red Wings game, but they still have a few good hours of work left in them.

    If you've got any last second entries for the Carnival, get them in now, and we'll try to squeeze them in.

    Sunday, January 08, 2006

    The Cane-centric midseason awards.

    Carolina played their 41st game on Saturday night, which means I can officially give the midseason, Cane-specific awards. Without too much fanfare, they are as such:

  • Canes Rocket Richard: Eric Staal. 26 goals.
  • Canes Art Ross: Eric Staal. 52 points.
  • Canes Vezina: Martin Gerber. 20-7-2 2.70 GAA, .911 SV%, 3 shutouts, 2 assists.

  • Obviously, those are the easiest to give since they're purely based on stats.
    Here's the rest:

  • Canes Selke: Rod Brind'Amour. This a no-brainer. He should win this award when the NHL hands out honors. He's second in the league among forwards in blocked shots. Way in front in the league in faceoff wins. Way in front in the league in ice time/game at 24:18. He's also been a monster on special teams.
  • Canes Norris: This is a tough one. My gut instinct is to say AWard. He's been a solid, solid guy night in and night out. I gave consideration to Frank Kaberle for his offensive upside and his make-no-mistakes brand of play. While Kaberle has much more of an offensive side, AWard has much better defensive stats (hits, takeaways, blocked shots). I've gotta give it to AWard.
  • Canes Lady Byng: Kevyn Adams. He doesn't take a lot of penalties, and you won't find him in fisticuffs.
  • Canes Calder: It's hard not to say Cam Ward, but I have to go with Andrew Ladd. He's on the IR now, but in seven games played, he totalled four goals, including two on the power play and has logged just over 13 minutes per game played. Ward has been great, but his playing time has been limited, and has shown signs of streakiness.

  • Canes Hart: Rod Brind'Amour. It's hard not to give it to Staal on this, as he has shown the ability to take a game into his own hands and carry the team. However, Roddy's been a beast in his ice time, faceoffs, power play goals, game winners, and his defensive prowess. Added to that, he's the floor general, and he's done a damn fine job.
  • Good news comes in bunches for Canes on Saturday

    On Saturday, things went well for the Hurricanes, as they got a bunch of good news. Most importantly, they shut out the Islanders on the Island to finish off the first half of the season. Martin Gerber now has three shutouts this season, matching his career total in that category. Curiously, one of those shutouts was on New Year's Eve 2003-04 against Carolina when he was a Duck.

    To make things even sweeter, Tampa was defeated by the hapless Bruins 6-3. Carolina's lead, which was already the biggest of any division leader, is now 13 points. We still have two games in hand on the Bolts. For the moment, Atlanta has leapfrogged Tampa into second place in the Southeast. Carolina's lead over Atlanta is just 12 points, but we have three games in hand on them.

    Of the four divisional leaders who played Saturday night, Carolina was the only team that won. In the Northeast, Ottawa lost, but Buffalo couldn't capitalize, as they also lost The margin there is three points. Over in the Northwest, Calgary lost to second-place Vancouver, but still has a four point lead. In the Pacific, the Kings lost while second-place Dallas was idle. That lead is just two points.

    There was still more good news. Justice was served when the League decided to suspend Islanders goon Eric Godard for two games for his attack on Justin Williams Friday night.

    I had to work late last night, and I still haven't watched the DVR of the game, but it goes pretty much like this:

    No scoring in the first period. In the second frame, Carolina scored three goals in a six-and-a-half minute span. At 2:58, Brindy got his 18th goal of the season on a power play goal assisted by Viva. At 7:18, the "short guy" line got an even strength goal with some nifty passing. The Wizard one-timed one past Dubielewicz with assists from Matt Cullen and Chad "Sharpie" LaRose. Then at 9:12, with the Canes on the power play, Cory Stillman netted his 14th of the season on a redirect of an A-Hutch blue line bomb. Second assist to Viva on that one.

    Almost the exact same story as Friday night. The Canes were the much better disciplined team, only taking three penalties. They converted two of their seven power play chances while shutting down all three of the Isles chances.

    Cory Stillman is absolutely en fuego. He's scored a goal in five straight games, and has points in eleven straight. He and the slumping Eric Staal are both producing more than a point a night. Ray Whitney, Justin Williams and Rod Brind'Amour are all right on the cusp of a point a night.

    Next week, the Central division comes calling. We've already handled Chicago and Columbus. The boys will get some serious tests from Detroit on Tuesday (OLN has that one) and from Nashville on Friday. Rounding out the Central division, St. Louis will be in town on Sunday.

    Saturday, January 07, 2006

    Carnival Reminder -- deadline extended

    Just another reminder about the 17th Carnival of the NHL, which will be hosted here.

    Please submit your entries by midnight Sunday Monday so I can get the rides operational by Wednesday morning.

    I'm looking for stuff like midterm report cards, but I'll take your best no matter what it is.

    Speaking of which, Martin over at HockeyDirt has done a great job with the Neelies, and I encourage you all to stop by if you haven't already.

    Friday, January 06, 2006

    Canes thump Isles 4-1, widen SE lead to 11 points.

    On Friday night, the Hurricanes may have let Eric Godard get the best of them, but where it counted, the Canes prevailed 4-1.

    The Hurricanes struck first at 13:58 of the first when Kevyn Adams redirected a blue line bomb by Oleg Tverdovsky one second after a hooking penalty to Alex Zhitnik expired. Frank Kaberle got the secondary assist. It was Adams' seventh goal of the season, and the only time he has scored more than zero but fewer than three goals. To set the table, we need to back up a bit first.

    At 11:14, Justin Williams checked Godard hard into the boards, and was called for interference. With play stopped and lines changing, Godard suckerpunched Williams. In the opinion of about 14,000 in the building, there should have been a game misconduct and a match penalty for the attack, but there was only a double minor (charging and roughing). I'm guessing that Godard will be fined and possibly suspended by the league, but they haven't been exactly heavy handed with fines this season (for example, Darcy Tucker).

    For the rest of the game, Godard was a marked man, and the Canes took no less than two penalties trying to retaliate against him. They also spent too much energy. Probably the right thing to do would have been to have someone take one for the team by instigating a fight with him immediately after the incident. It would have cleared the air and let us move on. Instead, this will carry over to Saturday night on the back end of the home and home. It might get ugly.

    Godard thought he was getting the last laugh when he equalized the score at one at 5:37 of the second. The rebound chance helped him notch only his second goal of the season. Helpers were from Aaron Asham and Janne Ninimaa Shawn Bates.

    However, it was Carolina who was the better disciplined team, and managed to put themselves in a two man advantage situation late in the second. At the 19:36 mark, Cory Stillman stuffed one in from close range with assists from Viva and Ray "The Wizard" Whitney. Stillman now has 13 goals, and has extended his points streak to ten games.

    Early in the third, with Carolina still on a power play, Rod Brind'Amour scored his 17th goal of the season at 1:08, which was nicely set up by the Wizard and Kaberle.

    With a little less than a minute to play, the Isles pulled their keeper, and Viva got his just desserts by potting an empty net goal at 19:27. It was his 16th goal of the season. Kevyn Adams got an assist.

    Overall, it wasn't the prettiest game in the world, and there may be some lingering hostilities from "the incident" in Saturday's game. Nonetheless, Carolina will gladly take the two points.

    From a statistical standpoint, not bad. Carolina went 2-7 on the power play and killed off all four of the Islanders' power plays. The Canes are now 17-4-1 on home ice, which is tops in the league. Also tops in the league is their winning per centage when scoring first. Including tonight's game, the Canes are 18-1 when scoring first. That's a 94.7% success rate for the non-mathematically inclined. Thanks to my friend Amanda for pointing out that gem of a stat. Next best is Ottawa, who is 21-2 when striking first (84%).

    I think there's some crazy stat about how the Canes have won every game in which Ray Whitney has tallied an assist. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but I seem to recall hearing that.

    Eric Staal wasn't much of a factor (missed a breakaway chance), and Erik Cole was damn near invisible, but the other leg of the tripod kept it going and some of the other guys stepped it up. Word on the street is that there's a little of the flu bug going around the room. Hopefully the rumor is unfounded, or they get over it really quick.

    The Canes are now leading the Southeast Division by 11 points with two games in hand on the Bolts. Up next, the tail end of the Islanders home-and-home takes us to the Nassau Coliseum. Then rest, then the dreaded Red Wings come to town for a possible Stanley Cup Finals preview.

    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    Canes top Thrash, lead is now nine. LaRose impresses me. (photos from hurricanes.com)

    On Wednesday night, Carolina defeated Atlanta 4-3 behind a stellar game by Cory Stillman. They picked up two points in the divisional matchup, once again widening their lead over second place Tampa to nine points, with two games still in hand.

    Of note is that Andrew Hutchinson notched his second goal. Added to his six assists, he's now got the requisite eight points in 19 games played, and the Canes haven't even hit the halfway mark yet. With Glen Wesley on the shelf for 4 weeks, A-Hutch should get plenty of ice time, and might even get a chance to earn an "every day" spot on the roster. By the way, I like mustard and hot sauce on that hot dog with cheese.

    We'll get to Cory Stillman's great night later. I want to talk about Chad LaRose (aka "Chadwyck Von Rosenburg VII", aka "Cheddar", aka "Speedy", aka "Sharpie"). If anyone doubts whether he belongs on an NHL team, all you have to do is go to a practice or a game. Even if you watch on TV, you'll see how creative and skilled and speedy he is. He's really giving it all. Off the puck and on the bench, too. He's always trying to learn, and it looks like Ray Whitney is taking him under his wing. I love to see that from veterans.

    Okay... enough of the sappy sentimental stuff. LaRose is speedy and creative and all that stuff, and as we learned last night, he's tough as shit. Early in the second, LaRose took exception to a brutal (but possibly legal) hit that Karl Stewart laid on the Canes' Matt Cullen at center ice. LaRose immediately stuck up for his teammate, and attacked Stewart. There was a very brief skirmish that left Stewart's face bloodied and LaRose in the box for 17 minutes. Two for instigating, five for fighting and ten for misconduct. Team toughness. Team togetherness. Good stuff.

    Okay. So. About Cory Stillman.
    Now, he has a nine game point streak going. He had two goals, including the game winner, and assisted each of the other two Canes goals last night. That brings his season totals to 42 points (12/30), and he is now on pace to have his best season ever. I challenge anyone to name a free agent acquisition who has been a better bargain than the $1.75M we're paying Stillman.
    Both of his goals were kinda crazy. The first was an absolute fluke, as a centering pass intended for Eric Staal glanced off an Atlanta defenseman, then off Lehtonen's back and in. The game winner was a blast by Matt Cullen from the blue line. Stillman was parked out front on the power play, and he barely got a piece of it on the way in.

    Kovalchuk had two nice goals for the Thrashers in the second period, during which the visitors scored three unanswered goals. The Canes, however, were able to respond with three of their own unanswered goals, started off by A-Hutch's power play blast.
    The lone first period goal was really pretty. Stillman fed Erik Cole on cross-ice, two-line pass. Cole came in on a breakaway, and put it top shelf to finish the play.

    Up next -- a home-and-home with the Islanders, starting at the RBC Center on Friday.

    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    Mogilny on waivers

    The hockey gods answered my question pretty quickly when the Devils placed veteran Alex Mogilny on waivers. Mogilny is presently third on the Devils in scoring with 25 points (12/13) in 35 games, but is on a six game drought.

    My calculations were a bit off, as I was probably including some players who are down in the minors, but they were still perilously close to the cap limit. I'm not at all surprised that they put someone on waivers, but I am surprised that they chose Mogilny. He may not be the player that he used to be on a consistent basis, but I don't think there's any way he clears waivers. Not twice anyway. Someone like Chicago might yank him off waivers, but he's wicked overpaid, and may clear the first waivers for that reason. I'm not crystal clear on the waivers process, but my understanding is that on the first go-round, a team would have to pick up his salary, and on the second go-round, they can negotiate new terms. Is that right?

    Tuesday, January 03, 2006

    They'll be making EGG salad in Jersey tonight. I hope they wash their hands.

    TSN is reporting that Patrik "Hepatitis Boy" Elias will make his return to the lineup tonight when the Devils play host to the Florida Panthers.

    He will be slotted in with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta to put the EGG together again.

    Aside from all the jokes I could make about eggs (food) and Hepatitis A (foodborne illness), I have a serious concern. One that I brought up in August, but which has been on the "we'll burn that bridge when we come to it" back burner since. How can they do this? Now, his salary starts counting towards the cap. By my count, their total payroll is $40,123,929, according to the salaries and the roster posted on TSN. Remember, the cap is $39M. I know it's sort of complicated how those salaries work, and that the cap is calculated on a daily basis, but I still don't see how they come in under cap. I didn't see any transactions made by them to free up cap space.

    Any help here?

    on being day-to-day, and being shorthanded

    Here's a little gem of a conversation I overheard at the RBC Center during Saturday night's game with the Canadiens

    • Person 1 : "Hey, it looks like Koivu isn't gonna play tonight."
    • Person 2 : "No, He's playing. He's on the ice right now."
    • Person 1 : "The injury report says he's day-to-day. Look!"
    • Person 2 : "He's ON THE ICE
    • Person 1 : "But it says he's day to day."
    • Person 2 : "I know, but he's on the ice."
    • Andy : "I guess today is his day."

    Then later in the game, the very same "Person 1" was at it again ...

    • Person 1 (yelling): "C'Mon! This is a power play! This looks terrible!"
    • Person 1 (still yelling) : "C'Mon! Power play! You're not even trying!"
    • me : "Except that we're actually on the penalty kill"

    I could be wrong here, and I never turned around to look at them, but I'm pretty confident that "Person 2" is the same guy who always yells at Oleg Tverdovsky:

    I might fight that dude before the season is over.

    If you ask me, Tverdovsky has been a minor disappointment thus far, as fans were expecting a much more dominant defensive player with a bit of an offensive upside. Lately, though, he's come on really strong, playing very soundly. We're starting to get our money's worth out of him.

    As an aside, we're still working on a nickname for Chad Larose, but for now, a leading contender is "Speed Racer" or, alternately, "Speedy".

    Don't forget to email me with your posts for the carnival. Click the red box at the right to do so. Submissions are due by the 9th.

    Sunday, January 01, 2006

    Carnival of NHL #17, the Rod Brind'Amour edition. Submit by January 9.

    Happy New Year to everyone, and a big thanks to Eric McErlain at Off Wing Opinion for allowing me to host Carnival #17.

    2005 is over, the season is (nearly) half over, and I'm sure you all have some wonderful insight about what's happened so far. Whether you have mid-term report cards for every team, or you want to hand out mid-season awards, or you want to send cheers and jeers to certain teams or players or officials. How about the rule changes? If you want to address any of these, this is what I'm envisioning for the 17th Carnival.

    Get your thoughts together and submit your best stuff to me (redblackhockey@earthlink.net) by Sunday January 8 at midnight. By then, almost everyone will have hit the halfway point of the season. Even if you don't want to do that "midseason review" stuff, I'd still like to see what you've got.

    I'll try to have the Carnival up and running by Wednesday the 11th.

    For your pleasure, a look back on the other Carnivals. Thanks again to Eric for organizing, to all these fine bloggers for hosting, and to everyone who blogs hockey.

    Gerber gets second consecutive New Year's Eve win at RBC; Canes close 2005 with a win, 11 point lead.

    On New Year's Eve, the Hurricanes defeated the visiting Canadiens 5-3 in front of a nearly packed house. Although this is Martin Gerber's first season with the Canes, he is not unaccustomed to winning games here on New Year's Eve. His Ducks won here on December 31, 2003.
    This was the fourth season of the last five with a New Year's Eve game at the RBC center, including the last three seasons in a row. This win puts Carolina at 2-2 on such games. The last time Carolina won on New Year's Eve was a 5-4 victory at Buffalo in 2001-02. The last time they won such a game at home was a 2-1 victory over Chicago in 2000-01. In 20002-03, the Canes were shut out 2-0 by the Rangers, and last season, the Ducks beat Carolina 3-1 with Martin Gerber between the pipes.

    For the third straight game, Eric Staal was kept off the scoresheet. I'm beginning to worry about him a little, but I know he'll get back on track soon. In last night's game, he was in a situation that looked like there should have been a penalty shot awarded, but replays showed that the defending player, who took him down on a breakaway, actually played the puck first. Seconds later, the Canes gave up a game-tying goal.

    Early in the third, Carolina had a Matt Cullen goal disallowed, much to the bewilderment of the crowd. There was heavy traffic out front, and a Ray Whitney shot pinballed around a little, and deflected off Cullen's skate into the goal. Toronto ruled it a kick -- no goal. The rest of the period was a little chaotic. Carolina forged ahead with a Cory Stillman redirect of an Oleg Tverdovsky blast from the right point. Minutes later, Michael Ryder was awarded a penalty shot which completely infuriated the crowd. I'm honestly surprised that no objects were thrown onto the ice. Gerber calmly turned away the PS, but only five seconds later, Montreal got a goal to tie it up.
    At 18:08, though, Erik Cole broke down the left side, centered one to Brind'Amour, who was able to put it past Theodore for his second goal of the night. With the extra attacker on for the Canadiens, we had one shot sail wide, one off the right post, and then AWard bombed one in from the center red line with two tenths of a second remaining.

    The win means that Carolina has earned their 52nd point after 38 games. For comparison's sake, Carolina didn't earn their 52nd point until February 23 (game #61) in 2003-04. It is also their 24th win, which the Canes couldn't do until March 16 (game #71) that season.

    Cory Stillman has points in eight straight games, and is creeping his way into the league leaders in assists and points.

    Up next: a Wednesday night home game against the Thrashers.


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