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

Friday, March 31, 2006

Canes v Cats tonight

Since the "fair" and "just" hockey gods have decided not to do the Canes any favors, they will have to abandon the back door approach. At least for tonight, they will attempt to enter the front door to the conference title. They can do just that if they are able to defeat the visiting Panthers tonight.

Carolina has been dealing with serious injury problems, and has recently had great difficulty finding the back of the net.

Florida is a team just on the outside of the playoff bubble and has a lot to play for. They are also winners of 9 of their last 10 games. It will take a tremendous effort for the slumping Canes to get past the surging Cats.

Next week, the Canes will play the Caps three times. They are sure to lose them by 1-4, 0-6, and 2-5 margins. By then, they will again be asking for help from the "fair" and "just" hockey gods. The same hockey gods who have been exceedingly kind to the Canucks of late.

Is it too much to ask for the Canes to break out of their slump tonight? It is too much to ask for five goals? Yeah.... You're probably right.

Puck drop at 7:00.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Canes still can't beat Caps

On Wednesday night, the Caps again embarrassed the Canes. They walked away with a 5-1 victory. On Saturday, Carolina didn't put forth any effort, but on Wednesday the story was a little different.

Carolina put 50 shots on net against the second best goaltender on the second worst team in the East. FIFTY! Not 1-5. 5-0. Still, they couldn't score more than one goal.

The game wasn't televised, so I didn't see any of it, but all accounts are that the boys worked hard, but have absolutely nothing to show for it. For like the zillionth game in a row, they were skating shorthanded. Ray Whitney returned to action, but Andrew Ladd went down with his own "upper body injury". That meant that the Canes were still skating with only 17 healthy guys. Doug Weight and Nic Wallin and Bret Hedican should be back any day now. Josef Vacisek will be back on Monday.

I guess the bright side of this injury bug is that we're getting it out of the way now rather than in the first round of the playoffs. At least this current bout. All told, I think the total of man-games lost by the Canes this season is 233. Compare that to Tampa, who has lost something like 42 man-games.

Speaking of Tampa, I will be rooting for Atlanta tonight. We will need them to do the dirty work of defeating Tampa in regulation tonight. That will clinch the division for the Canes.


The thing about this Caps fiasco is that we still have to play them three more times. Thankfully, our post-season reservations are already set, or they might play the role of spoiler. Actually, I have a really easy solution to our Caps woes. I'll wager against the Canes next time they play. No, I'm not a betting man, but since you mention it, today is the first day of the North Carolina lottery. At least the scratch-off tickets. The real lotto (and the powerball) will start in a couple of months.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Canes get rematch with Caps

image --hurricanes.com
Tonight, the Canes will get another crack at the Capitals, who have been idle since they ruined our fun on Saturday night.

Carolina helped itself into a guaranteed playoff spot when they beat Tampa on Monday night, and they will get a chance to help themselves into a division title tonight. If they can win this (or any one game for the remainder of the season), they will clinch the division. Tampa can help Carolina by losing, but they are idle tonight. Anyway, Carolina would prefer to control its own destiny.

As I've said probably 20 times by now, Carolina will be facing Washington a lot down the stretch. This will be the second meeting in five days. Next week, the teams will meet three more times in a span of five days including two in a row at MCI Center.

A small avian creature has told me that Josef Vasicek will be in the lineup for tonight's NON-TELEVISED game. However, the newspaper article I read in the News and Disturber states that he'll be slotted in for Monday's game against the Caps. Not tonight.

We'll be looking for Eric Staal to break out of his "slump". He and Viva both had nice scoring streaks snapped recently.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Canes get 100th point, secure playoff spot

With a very solid 60 minute performance, the Canes were able to defeat the visiting Bolts 2-1. In the process, they earned their 100th standings point, secured a playoff spot, and more importantly, reduced their "magic number" by four points. Carolina now needs only to win one game OR watch Tampa lose one game in regulation for the Southeast title to be theirs.

Unlike the games they've played of late, the Canes were hitting on all cylinders for the entire game. As I wrote earlier today, they had to rise to this occasion, and they surely did.

Eric Staal was held pointless again. In order to reach 100 points, he will need nine points over the remaining 11 games. Four of those games are against Washington.

Former Bolt Cory Stillman started the scoring with a bit of a good break at 4:52 of the first. He was in the right place at the right time to redirect a Matt Cullen attempt after the Bolts turned the puck over deep in their own zone. Stillman found himself on the back door and the puck on his stick. He backhanded it against his former teammate to get the Canes off and running.

While the Bolts were enjoying a questionable five-on-three, Martin St. Louis chipped one in from down close at 0:26 of the second. Cory Sarich and Brad Richards picked up assists. It was actually Sarich who was the reason that the Lightning were enjoying the two man advantage. With the Bolts already on a power play late in the first, well after an offside whistle, Sarich ripped a shot on net. Rod Brind'Amour immediately took offense to this got tangled with Sarich, giving him a face-wash and picking up a roughing call in the process. Of course he did commit the penalty, but in the context of what happened, it should have maybe been let go.

While Carolina was on a five-on-three of their own, the Recchin' Ball scored his first goal as a Hurricane at 8:50 of the second. Chad "Sharpie" LaRose, who turned 24 today (and who worked very hard on the play) got one assist and Tevvy got the other. This goal would hold up as the game winner.

The rest of the game was very tight, with neither team getting very many quality chances.

Until the end. In what has to be the play of the game, Martin Gerber made a point-blank save on Ruslan Fedotenko with less than five seconds to play and the Bolts on a six-on-four (empty net) power play. Fedotenko had a clear shot from a good angle, but Gerber exploded to the right post, making the glove save. It was kind of reminiscent of what Canes fans call "THE save", when Kevin Weekes made an eye-popping save on John Madden in game 5 of the first round playoffs in 2002.

Carolina will stay put at home for another visit from the Capitals. If the Canes come out ready to play on Wednesday night, they could be the first team to clinch their division.

No word on the returns of Ray Whitney, Bret Hedican or Doug Weight. Preliminary word is that Jo-Va will be ready to go on Friday. The Canes are still only dressing 17 skaters, so they sure do need the help.

Why this is a "must-win" game.

Tonight, the Canes will take on divisional foe Tampa in the second of a four game home stand for the Canes. Other people might not agree, but I'm calling this a "must-win" game.

By the strict definition, of course it isn't a "must-win". Carolina has already earned enough standings points to assure themselves a playoff berth. Their lead in the Southeast division is wide enough that it would take a spectacular run of the table by Tampa and a collapse of Gonzagian proportions by Carolina for the Canes to finish other than first in the division. They will make the playoffs without doubt, and they will most likely have the second seed in the east. This is nothing to sneeze at. However, in other contexts, it is absolutely imperative that the boys win tonight.

This game, like the game against the struggling Sabres last week, is a pretty good approximation of what the playoffs will be like. We're going up against a good team who has as much to lose as they do to gain. They'll be playing hard, and not just for pride. We've recently been slumping, and rebounding against a quality opponent will be a good sign of our character. Doing it tonight, while we're still a little short staffed, will be an even more telling sign. Losing won't be the end of the world, but if they have another lackluster performance like the one against Washington, I'll be concerned about how much "heart" they have.

The Canes must not only exert themselves as the more dominant team, but they must do it with authority on their home ice. They must say, "This is our house. Nobody shits the bed in our house". They must say "Well, yeah, we collectively shat the bed¹ the other night, but we were piss babbling drunk, and we won't let it happen again. Plus, someone slipped us a roofie, and we have no clue what happened."

Seriously, though. The boys have to find a way to make it happen tonight. For the next couple of weeks, we're allowed to make excuses, but once "the real season" starts, there is no room for excuses. This game tonight will be good practice for the playoffs. There are already lots of excuses at our disposal (injuries, injuries, injuries, more lax officiating, etc). It's better not to be in a position to need them. It's better just to win the game.

A regulation win would all *but* mathematically secure the division championship. One standings point will secure the playoff berth.

Puck drop is at 7:00

¹ "Collectively shat the bed". Primary assist goes to Chris McMurtry of Hockey Country. Second assist to Tom Luongo of Sabre Rattling.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Caps 3 - Canes 1

On Saturday night, the Canes fell to the visiting Capitals 3-1. In the process, they let slip away a golden opportunity to gain ground on the Senators in the race for the Eastern Conference top spot.

I thought seriously about providing a Shark Sandwich-esque review of the game here. I thought about describing the game with the same the same words used to describe Mr. Grinch. While it would have been funny, the two, or three-word review wouldn't do justice to the game and how bad the boys were.

It was a horrible game. When Alex Ovechkin scored at 1:50 of the first period on the Caps first shot of the game, that would be a harbinger of things to come. When Mike Pettinger scored shorthandedly at 0:47 of the second period on the Caps first shot of that period, we may has well have packed it up.

There were some officiating issues early on, but I'm not here to bitch about the reffing. Late in the game, the Canes were given power play after power play, two man advantage after two man advantage. Only one of the power plays bore fruit.

On the power plays, the Canes seemed content to spread the puck around and not take any shots. They didn't even attempt to create any traffic out front.

On even-strength sequences, the Canes were absolutely terrible with their forechecking, or lack of same. They never got in a position to apply any pressure offensively. It's frustrating and painful to watch that happen any time. Against a team that is (at least on paper) grossly inferior, it's infuriating.

Eric Staal had his seven game point streak brought to a screeching halt. He looked horrible out there. Early in the game, he was getting beat up a bit, and he never looked comfortable out there at all.

Aside from Kevyn Adams, none of the forwards looked sharp at all. We definitely did not look like a team that had just enjoyed two days off. We didn't look like team that was excited to be back in its own barn after nine of ten on the road. We sure as shit didn't look like a top team in the conference.

They haven't played a full 60 minutes in quite some time now. However, we've been getting 40 in most games lately. Last night, I think the boys played for about four minutes. It was completely awful.

The boys were still without the services of Doug Weight and Bret Hedican. Both are key pieces to the team, but their absences don't excuse the lackluster play the Canes exhibited.

The power play continues to struggle. Last night, Carolina converted one of nine chances, and they've only scored six power play goals on 64 chances since the Erik Cole injury. This is going to have to change. If we hope to advance at all in the playoffs, we're going to have to start scoring on the man advantage. 10% doesn't cut the mustard.

If there's anything at all that's even remotely positive to say about the game, it is that the defense was "okay". Washington had several breakaway chances that were foiled by good defensive hustle. Most notably, Aaron Ward. He skated hard and hit hard for most of the night.

Speaking of hard-hitting defensemen, the University of Michigan lost 5-1 to North Dakota in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This means that Jack Johnson's freshman season is officially over. The Canes will be pushing hard to get him signed. Preliminary indications are that Johnson will return to Ann Arbor for at least one more season.

Josef Vasicek, who has been practicing with the team for a while, was in uniform for the pre-game skate. He was not, though, in the lineup. I would be surprised if he's held out much longer. We've been skating with only 17 healthy skaters, and we really need him back on the ice. For last night's game, Keith Aucoin was called up from Lowell, but only skated one shift. Even with him, there were still only 17 healthy skaters.

The disappointing loss to the Caps had better be a wakeup call. We will face them four more times in the next two weeks. We will be facing divisional opponents almost exclusively for the rest of the season, which will give us a chance to straighten up, fly right, and sew up our division title.

Up next: a key matchup against second place Tampa on Monday. We need a regulation win.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Lockmonsters sold!

According to a blurb in the News & Disturber, and a more detailed story at the AHL's official site, the New Jersey Devils have agreed to purchase a controlling interest in the Lowell Lock Monsters of the AHL. Lowell has been affiliated with Carolina since 2001, and with Colorado for this season.

The sale, which requires approval from the board of governors, is expected to be finalized in April. It will, of course, necessitate a slew of changes. First, the Devils will be dumping the Albany River Rats, who has been their top affiliate (but not their property) since 1993.

While the River Rats will be looking for a new parent, The Hurricanes and Avalanche will each be looking for a new affiliate. Rumor has it, the Hurricanes will be looking to hook up with the Norfolk Admirals, who are not to be confused with the Milwaukee Admirals.

As an aside, you should go to the Milwaukee Admirals site and watch the little promo spots they have on the main page. They're hilarious.

The Norfolk Admirals are presently affiliated with the Blackhawks. It would make sense, geographically, for the Canes to be affiliated with Norfolk. During the lockout, I was bemoaning the fact that the Lockmonsters are just too far away for most Canes fans to go see.

I don't know whether we would share the Admirals with Chicago the way we shared Lowell with Colorado (and Calgary before that).

I also don't know if Colorado wants to have anything to do with the soon-to-be unaffiliated Albany.

Anyway, it looks like there should be more than a few changes in minor league affiliates for the 2006-07 season.

Canes outlast Sabres, earn 98th point.

I'm not allowed to say "The Canes (insert word here that rhymes with 'meat' and is antonymous with 'lost to') the Sabres". So I'll start by saying:

The Canes ♭e@♰ the Sabres 4-3 on Wednesday night.

It was a strange game that featured no scoring in the first period, and single period outbursts by each team.

In the second period, the visiting Canes exploded for four goals, two of which came on four-on-four sequences. It all started at 6:43 of the second when K-Ads ripped a one-timer past Ryan Miller from below the left circle. They were coming in on a three-on-one break which was perfectly executed by Brindy(32nd assist), Viva (40th assist), and Adams (14th goal).

At 8:46, Cory Stillman helped the Canes stretch the lead to 2-0 when he poked one in from the low slot, catching Miller off guard. It was the 18th goal of the season for Stillman, the 49th assist for Eric Staal, and the 19th assist for Tevvy.

At the start of a very productive four-on-four sequence, Anton "Yentl" Babchuk finished a really pretty play by wristing one home from high in the slot at the 17:03 mark. It was started by a long two-line pass from Frantisek Kaberle (34th assist) to Matt Cullen. Cully (20th assist) dumped it for Babs, who notched his fifth goal of the season.

At the end of that same four-on-four, Viva finished a completely eye-popping play to make it four-nil at the 18:15 mark. This one was started down in the Carolina end when Henrik Tallinder broke his stick on a shot attempt, which resulted in a turnover. Carolina entered the Sabre zone with somewhat of an advantage, and Williams patiently worked his way down near the goal. Tallinder, who was without a stick and was beaten, resorted to holding Williams. Williams managed to get a shot off, which was stopped by Miller. However, Miller didn't control the puck and Williams was able to bat it out of mid-air as he was being dragged down by the stickless Tallinder. Officially, it was a wrist shot from 19 feet, which sounds about right for the initial shot, but really it was more like a tip-in from 2 feet. I'm not doing a good job of describing the beauty of it, but it was really pretty. It wasn't quite on the same par as Ovechkin's nasty rolling on his back goal, but it was pretty acrobatic nonetheless.

We thought the flood gates had opened. Little did we know, there was a little boy with his thumb in the dike. The Sabres not only stopped the bleeding, but they mounted a furious rally of their own to make it too close for comfort at the end.

Jason Pominville scored for the Sabres at 2:50 of the third. He redirected a slow-moving, broken-stick shot from Toni Lydman.

At 10:56, Thomas Vanek (who I named as my Calder winner in my pre-season picks) scored a beautiful goal. Although Derek Roy and Maxim Afenogenov got assists on the play, it was the outstanding individual effort of Vanek that earned him the goal. He started off at the wall, down near the goal line. He weaved his way through traffic, parallel to the goal line, faking Eric Staal and Glen Wesley along the way. He did some nifty puck handling, moving it from his forehand to backhand, and back to forehand before beating Gerber badly on the shot.

Jiri Novotny finished a two-on-one shorthanded breakaway at 12:54 to make it 4-3. Daniel Briere and Tallinder got assists on the play. In my estimation, Eric Staal was too unselfish on the powerplay. He had a good chance for a wrap-around, but opted to center a pass instead. Which lead to another pass and a turnover.

This would be the final goal of the game, meaning that Justin "Viva" Williams' acrobatic goal was the game winner. For that, and his one assist, he was named the game's first star.

Eric Staal's assist extended his points streak to seven games. Keep your eye on the Staal point monitor to the right. He's up to 91 now.

Finally, the brutal road trip is over. The Canes will return home for four straight games, starting with a Saturday matchup against the Capitals.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Canes v Sabres

After a heartbreaking loss to the Leafs last night, the Canes will make the short trip down the QEW to Buffalo for a match against the Sabres.

The Canes are in a bit of a funk, having lost four of their last six games. They will need to cut that out if they expect to do well in the playoffs. Tonight will be the perfect time to step up and perform against one of the top teams in the East. A win tonight would also keep Ottawa on their toes. They have leapfrogged Carolina to claim the number one spot in the East. They enjoy a four point cushion with fourteen games to play.

In the two meetings so far this season, the Canes won both in dramatic fashion. On November 9, in Buffalo, Erik Cole became the first NHLer to be awarded two penalty shots in the same game. He converted the first, and missed the second, as the Canes emerged with a 5-3 win. On February 12, the Sabres came to Raleigh and played a beautiful game that took six rounds of shootout to finally determine Carolina as the winner.

Today, the Canes are a bit banged up. Obviously, we're without Erik Cole. Also still out is Andrew Hutchinson. Josef Vasicek, who has been out since mid-November, won't play tonight but could be back as early as Saturday. Add to that, Aaron Ward is questionable for tonight.

We will probably see Cam Ward in goal for the Canes and Ryan Miller for the Sabres. I'll be DVRing the game, so please don't text me with score updates.

According to the article in yesterday's News and Disturber, Josef Vasicek has been
"tearing up practices, throwing his body around in full-contact drills and raising hopes the Carolina Hurricanes forward will be back soon."
At the end of the article, he says that Jo-Va could be back for all 13 games after tonight's. That would certainly make the season ticket holders from Section 112, rows G and J very happy. It would make the whole Caniac Nation happy, but some of us more than others.

Thrash on the rise

Don't look now, but the Atlanta Thrashers look to be blazing a path to their first ever playoff spot. Since the Olympic break, the birds have won eight of eleven games, including two impressive wins over Buffalo, who currently holds the fourth seed in the East.

The city of Atlanta is not unaccustomed to NHL playoffs. While the Flames were playing there between 1972 and 1980, they qualified for the playoffs six times. However, they were eliminated in the first round each time, winning a grand total of two playoff games. The first year in Calgary, incidentally, the Flames easily advanced all the way to the semifinals of the Stanley Cup playoffs before falling to the Minnesota North Stars.

Right now, the Thrashers hold a wafer thin lead over Les Habitants for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Habs have a game in hand, but they haven't been playing well, while Atlanta is flying high.

This is a team that should scare people. They're coming in way under the radar, and they've really looked good lately. Carolina has gone 4-2 against them this season, and the two Atlanta wins have been very lopsided. We know what they're capable of "on any given night". Now, however, it looks like "any given night" is turning into every night.

Don't be surprised if the Thrashers knock off a top seed in the first round.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Canes lose on Saturday, take a break

Because of a very hectic schedule at work, I haven't had time to update.

The Canes lost to the Bruins in their Saturday lunch date. I didn't see the game, and I messed up the recording of it, so all I have to go by is the highlights and the game summaries.

The story of the game was B's rookie center Brad Boyes, who netted his first career hat trick. He has completely feasted on the Hurricanes this season, scoring a total of five goals and three assists in four matchups. All of this is, of course, much to the delight of Heather over at [so.very.obsessed].

Actually, if not for a guy named Sid and a guy named "8 Train" (or "Alexander the Eight" or whatever you want to call him), Boyes might be getting a lot more attention. His 54 points (21/33) are well ahead of the 43 points (23/20) by the Sabres' Thomas Vanek. Before the season started, I predicted that Vanek would have a Calder-type season while Crosby and Ovechkin were good for only a half season each. I guess I was a little off the mark there.

There was at least one bright spot for the Canes. Eric Staal scored a really pretty goal on a breakaway. Before sliding the puck into a mostly empty net, he made several juke moves, ultimately making Tim Taylor fall down. The goal was Staal's 41st of the season, and his 89th point. Refer to the monitor on your right to track Staalsy's progress as he inches towards 100 points.

The Canes were off Sunday and will be off again Monday night. They'll play again on Tuesday night in Toronto and then Wednesday at Buffalo.

Presently, the Canes trail Ottawa by two in the East, but have a game in hand. If my math is correct, the Sens could be the first team to clinch a playoff berth if Atlanta loses to Buffalo tonight. Obviously, they're assured of a spot, but they can be the first team to make it mathematically guaranteed.

If Buffalo wins tonight, Carolina could also mathematically clench their spot with a win at Toronto. It would also inch them that much closer to clenching the Southeast Division title. Tampa is 20 points back with 14 games to play.

After the two games on Lake Ontario, the Canes return home for four divisional games. Saturday against the Caps, next Monday against the Lightning, Wednesday against the Caps (again) and next Friday against the Panthers. By then, the playoff picture should be a bit more clear.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Canes crush Habs for season sweep, Viva shines

On Thursday night, the Canes defeated les Habitants 5-1. Carolina easily won all four matchups between the teams, outscoring Montréal 25-9 in those games.

Although the Canes didn't have Captain Propecia to kick around anymore, they didn't really have much difficulty with the newly acquired David Aebischer. Actually, it made for a really interesting matchup. The two Swiss goaltenders. Gerber versus Aebischer.

Actually, the truth of it is that it was a good matchup until the wheels fell off for the Canadiens mid-way through the third. After that, it was almost like a shooting gallery for the Canes.

The game was full of karmic twists for Justin Williams. Two games in a row, Viva had goals nullified due to goaltender interference. Those calls were marginal calls, and they may have cost the Canes chances to win those games, but they were the calls that stood. Viva got his first of two assists at 5:24 of the second when he and Ray Whitney¹ came in on a breakaway. Williams was checked from behind and into Aebischer. Williams, for the most part, avoided the collision with the goaltender, but Francis Bouillon crashed into Aebi with enough force to take the two of them into the net, and knock the net off the moorings. Before the net came off, though, Whitney tapped the puck across the line. The non-reviewable call on the ice was that there was no interference (for once!). However, they reviewed to make sure the puck crossed before the net came off the pegs. It did.

At 16:02 of the second, Viva got his first of two goals just nanoseconds after a holding penalty to Glenn Murray had expired. He was all alone in the left faceoff circle, and Matt Cullen found him there for the easy goal high on the stick side of Aebi.

With Carolina clinging to a 2-1 lead at 9:47 of the third, Viva struck again with another good karmic play. Just seconds prior, Williams came in all alone on Aebischer, but was stopped cold. Carolina was able to maintain puck possession, though. Brindy and Viva came in with a two on one, and Williams roofed it glove side from just inside the right circle. Literally in eight seconds, the Habs crowd went from feverishly cheering Aebischer's stoning of Williams to loudly booing his inability to stop a two-on-one. How mercilessly fickle!

For the rest of the third, Carolina dominated. At 15:28, Ray Whitney got his second goal of the night when he shoved home the lose change from an Eric Staal wrister that went off the right post and bounced out to Whitters, stationed on the left post. Aebischer looked like he thought the Staal shot went in, because he gave up on it. Either way, it was a power play goal for the Canes.

At 16:31, Eric Staal got a very easy goal to make it 5-1 and finish the scoring. The Canes were on a two-man advantage, and the Habs were really showing signs of fatigue. It was another loose change type of play, as Justin Williams tipped a Ray Whitney shot. Staalsy found the short rebound just on the right side of the goal and easily slid it in for his 40th goal of the season.

For some unknown reason, David Aebischer was named the game's third star despite surrendering five goals. Eric Staal, with a goal and an assist was named the second star. Justin Williams, with two goals and two assists was the first star. He also won the daily Art Ross trophy over at Japers' Rink.

With 88 points (40/48), and 16 games to play, Staal is hoping he can hit the 50-goal mark. Indeed that would be pretty cool, as would the 100 point mark. However, Staal and the Canes are more interested in the team hitting a stride going into the playoffs.

Justin Williams, has very stealthily put together an impressive season, with 62 points (24/38), which is already well ahead of his previous NHL career high of 44 points in 2003-04. What's great is that across the board, just about every Cane can say the same thing of their season. Just about all or them are putting up career high numbers. Or in the case of Rod Brind'Amour, numbers that haven't been hit in ten years.

Up next for the Canes -- a Saturday lunch date with the Bruins at noon.

¹ Canes TV announcer John Forslund has recently taken to shouting out "EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND" whenever Ray Whitney does something good. I'm not a fan of it, and I will never follow suit. I wish he would just stick with calling him "the Wizard". "Wizard" makes less sense, but I just like it better.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

the Nucks

It's pretty evident that the Canucks faithful are getting a little restless about their team's performance as they head down the home stretch.

Admittedly, I don't examine the Western Conference goings-on as much as I do the Eastern, but I just didn't understand what all the fretting was about.

I just checked their schedule, so I've seen what's transpired since the Olympic break, and I see the schedule ahead of them. Indeed those factors make it seem like the road ahead is filled with obstacles. I would surely be alarmed if I was a Canucks fan. Of their 15 remaining games, nine are against playoff-bound teams, and two are against Anaheim, who is presently in the ninth spot.

However, it might not be all that bad for them. Ten of their remaining 15 games are at home. Included is a five game home stand which starts with two consecutive home games next week against seventh place Edmonton and ends with two consecutive home games against 11th place Minnesota. Actually, because of an anomaly in their schedule that resembles one in the Canes schedule, they'll be playing the Oilers three consecutive games -- once in Edmonton and twice in Vancouver. Those three games should be mammoth for both squads as they try to secure the seventh and eighth playoff spots while warding off the ninth place Ducks.

The Nucks have suffered some scoring woes lately, and have really started to irk some folks. Jeff & Alanah of Vancouver Canucks Op-Ed:
"Watching the Canucks - the last few games in particular - we're having a hard time remembering how exciting they are were to watch. They look so boring. No creativity, no transition game in sight, no cockiness whatsoever."

And Jes Gölbez:
"*SIGH*, I can't find one thing redeeming about the play of this team lately. The Canucks aren't just losing, but they are losing badly. The team seems to lack any confidence and can't get an offensive foray going to save their own lives."

Those are sort of grim outlooks, but I really don't think it's all that bad.

I don't get to see the Nucks that much. Okay... Almost never. But I did catch that game the other night against the Stars, and at the very least, the Sedin/Sedin/Carter line (you don't really call it the brothers line, do you?) looked good. I would encourage the Nuck Nation to look at that as a plus. Also, the Nucks have been much more offensively potent at home(3.645 goals for/game) than on the road (2.667 goals for/game). Defensively, it's the same story. They surrender 2.806 goals per home contest and 3.222 per road contest.

My highly uninformed opinion is that they can pull it together and qualify for the playoffs, thanks in part to a slew of home games down the stretch. The key will be those three straight games against Edmonton.

Good luck, Nucks.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Last call for NCAA tournament bracket entries

Just a friendly reminder. I set up a private group for NCAA basketball pool. To fill out your bracket and compete against other hockey bloggers and fans, simply click here. If you haven't already registered with ESPN.com, it's free and will only take a moment of your time.

All groups get locked on Thursday at 11:00 am eastern. I think it's 11. Maybe 12. Just to be safe, assume 11.

We're looking for a few more entrants, so come on over.

Canes win, "magic number" shrinks; Dougie catches fire

On Tuesday night, they canes had a one night stand at the RBC Center sandwiched between a five game road swing and a forthcoming four game swing. They snapped their three game losing skid by defeating the visiting Rangers 5-3.

There was all kinds of good news in that game. Most importantly, they won the game against another one of the East's top teams. Also, the power play was able to click, converting one of their three chances. While this game was going on, another battle of the East's best was also taking place ---Ottawa was hosting Tampa. Any outcome would favor the Canes in some way. If Ottawa had lost, the Canes would widen that lead in the President's Trophy race. If Tampa lost, the Canes would widen their lead in the Southeast Division as they head down the stretch. Ottawa won that game, which means that the Canes lead in the Southeast is 22 points. The Canes win coupled with the Bolts loss means that Carolina's "magic number" with respect to Tampa is now 11. With respect to Atlanta (who, for the moment, is on the outside looking in), it is eight.

Another very exciting plus about that game is that Doug Weight is completely en fuego. He had two goals and an assist on Tuesday, and now has a three game points streak. During that streak, he has six points (3/3). Of course we shan't expect him to maintain a two-points-a-night clip for the rest of the season, but at any rate, this should silence the throng of naysayers. The same folks who were throwing in the towel after we lost the first game of the season were moaning about Weight's "lack of production" after just two games. They got louder when his "lack of production" reached eight games. They didn't want to hear "Be patient" or "but look at the great passes he makes, look at all the intangibles he brings".

The first of those two goals was a long bomb from about 55 feet out that everyone assumed had been redirected in front. However, it was clean. Kevin Weekes didn't have much of a chance on it because of all the traffic. The second was a thing of absolute beauty. Ray Whitney and Weight came in on a break. Three Rangers converged on Whitney out on the left wing, leaving Weight all by himself on the right. Whitney made a perfect pass, and Dougie easily slammed it past Weekes. At that point, it was 3-1 at the midway point of the second. After the Rangers missed a penalty shot, the teams each scored a goal. Carolina, however, knew that they couldn't rest easily with a two goal lead.

Late in the third, Petr Sykora took care of some loose change out front to make it a one goal game, and the Rangers pulled Weekes. Not long after that, Cory Stillman easily scored into the open net to effectively end the game.

During the first intermission, the tv guys interviewed Erik Cole. He looked good, and he was in really good spirits. They say they'll evaluate him in two weeks and we'll have a better idea of whether he'll be available for the playoffs. Also, Josef Vasicek is inching towards being ready to play. They say two more weeks.

The Canes go back on the road for four games, starting Thursday at Montréal. Then Saturday at Boston, Tuesday at Toronto, then the other side of Lake Ontario for a Wednesday game at Buffalo.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

fists fly in san jose

By now, we all know about the insanity that took place at the Shark Tank on Saturday. Just in case you didn't, PJ Swenson at Sharkspage has a really good account of the game that could only make the Hanson brothers happy.

The game featured two simultaneous fights at 16:31 of the first period, players trying to climb the glass to fight each other, four ejections, 116 penalty minutes (Preds 54 -- Sharks 62), and some hockey.

Obviously it's strange that two players would attempt to climb the glass to have a go at one another. Even stranger that Scott Parker, of the Sharks (who was being ejected from the game) attempted to climb into the Preds bench, where he would have met a horrible fate.

Who knows what kind of suspensions we'll see for Parker and Witt. I would guess they'll be long, but I'm usually wrong when it comes to guessing about suspensions.

Here's an odd quote from Nashville coach Barry Trotz:
"Parker came over the glass, and your first reaction is one of disbelief. Witt turns around, and his first reaction is to swing back. I don't like that trade-off. ... Parker is a marginal player for San Jose, and Witt is really starting to do some good things for us."

I know he's excited about having Brendan Witt on the team and all that, but what the hell is he even talking about? This game was Witt's debut. He had 6:36 of ice time, with no stats at all. No goals, no assists, no shots taken, no takeaways, giveaways, hits, blocked shots. Nothing. In the first period, he picked up seven minutes in penalties. Two for tripping and five for the aforementioned fight. All this long before the ejection.

So my question is... What exactly are the "good things" that Witt is "starting to do"? Get ejected for being a dumbass? Spend more time in the box than on the ice?

That's the kind of thing you say about a young player who's been recalled and reassigned a half dozen times. The guy who's been a healthy scratch, but found a way to get in the every-night line up after working his ass off in practice. Not the guy who was a malcontent with his previous team and gets kicked out of his first game with his new team.

Seriously. Why not ignore the guy. Let him climb as far up the glass as he can get and swing his arms like a monkey. Unless he climbs over the glass, there's really no sense in engaging him. He's already kicked out of the game. Witt lost his cool. I'm not sure how the coach can count this as a "good thing".

NCAA tournament bracket time

If anyone is interested in doing an NCAA tournament bracket, I've started a private group for hockey bloggers over at ESPN.

go here and enter the password -- pucks. It's case sensitive, lower case.

No money. This is just for bragging rights.

Five game road swing ends

Carolina finished a five game road swing with a 4-3 overtime loss to Florida on Saturday night. They will come home for a single game against the Rangers before going back on the road for four straight. They lost three of the five games, and they lost Erik Cole for the remainder of the season. However, it wasn't all bad.

During the five game road trip, 10 points were available, and Carolina took six of them. Two wins, one overtime loss, one shootout loss, and a regulation loss. All in all, not bad. Although we lost Erik Cole, we picked up Mark Recchi. He's a great player, and he's gonna be a nice addition, especially heading into the playoffs, but Cole is a key piece of the puzzle in the room, and there's no way to replace that.

One area of concern, though, is that two of the games were lost in the third period. In the shootout loss to Philly and in last night's overtime loss to Florida, Carolina had the lead coming into the third. Prior to the Philly game, Carolina had managed to protect EVERY third period lead they'd had. Now they've blown two of them in a span of three games.

Another area of concern is the power play. Since the Pittsburgh game, Carolina has gone 1-28 on the power play (four games). This, simply, cannot continue. We went through a spell like this in December only to see the PP catch fire after that. I'm hoping the same thing happens here.

During that same span, though, the Canes PK has been great. They've killed 17 of 18 penalties since Pittsburgh. Our whole defensive unit, and especially Aaron Ward, has been great.

Another positive is that Dougie Weight has started to put up numbers. Maybe now the doubting Thomases can shut their pie holes. On Friday night, he had two helpers, and on Saturday night, he scored his first goal in a Canes sweater. I predict that we'll see this kind of production for the balance of the season.

So, with 18 games to play, the Canes have a 22 point lead over Tampa in the Southeast. The two teams have gone head-to-head five times so far, and Tampa has won four of them. With head-to-head games remaining, the best Carolina can hope for in the series is a 4-4 split. So Carolina is looking at 15 points to clinch the division. Any combination of points gained by Carolina and potential points not gained by Tampa totalling fifteen, and we've got it.

In the President's Trophy race, it's not that easy. It's anybody's to take at this point. I will say, though, that Carolina holds a tie-breaker over Detroit by virtue of the head-to-head win. They give up a potential tie-breaker to Ottawa because the two teams split, but Ottawa had more goals for. With respect to Buffalo, there are still two head-to-head matchups remaining, but Carolina has won the previous two. Rounding out the current top five is Dallas, who would have the tie breaker over Carolina because of the head-to-head win. I don't expect the race for the President's cup to be over until the final day of the season.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Canes drop second game in a row.

The Canes lost to host Florida 5-3 on Friday night, but Dougie Weight might have gotten his motor started.

The Canes struck first with a very early goal from Nic "Secret Weapon" Wallin at the 00:59 mark of the first. He slapped it in off the right post with assists from Doug Weight and Eric Staal. This would be one of only five shots attempted by the Canes in the first period. By contrast, the Panthers ripped off 21 shots, scoring twice in the first frame. Martin Gelinas scored at 11:07 when he picked up some loose change, and Chris Gratton scored at the 16:15 mark to give the Panthers a lead they would never surrender.

At 1:31 of the second period, Andrew Ladd had a goal disallowed because there was a goaltender interference penalty on Williams. It looked like he may have been pushed into the keeper, and actually it's up to the discretion of the referee to rule one of three things: (1) incidental contact -- goal counts (2) no goal, but no penalty; or (3) no goal -- goaltender interference penalty. He went with option three.

At 9:11 of the second, Olli Jokinen got his 30th goal of the season to widen the Cats lead to 3-1.

One minute later, at the 10:16 mark, Justin Williams got an unassisted goal, his 22nd of the season, to make it 3-2.

In the second period, the Canes turned it around, getting 16 shots to the Panthers' 5, and they looked a little better, but where it counted, they were still down.

A really peculiar thing took place in a fight between CrAdams and Nathan Horton, but I'll get to that later. For now, the fight was a wash, but Horton got thrown out of the game. He won't be playing tomorrow night either.

In the third period, the Canes looked kind of bad. Lots of sloppy passes, WAY too many off side calls, no quality chances to speak of. They just looked bad.

The third frame looked like it was going to be a stalemate, but then there was a scoring bonanza in the final 90 seconds. Olli Jokinen scored an impossible goal from behind the goal line. Literally behind the goal line. He banked it in off Gerber's left arm, giving the Panthers a 4-2 lead.

However, the Canes weren't really ready to roll over and die. With Gerber pulled for a sixth attacker, they started applying crazy pressure. There were lots of good chances, and finally, Brindy was able to cash in at 19:19. Weight got his second assist, (his third as a Cane) and Staal got his second assist of the night and his 45th of the season.

Josef Stumpel added an empty netter at 19:48 to account for the final goal, making it 5-3. It didn't have a chance, but hit something, causing it to bounce, and go on end. It rolled on edge into the empty net, effectively ending the game.

The same two teams will meet tomorrow night in the same building. Except the Panthers will not have the services of Nathan Horton, who is a complete idiot did a completely idiotic thing. At 12:23 of the second, Horton (who is the Panthers second leading goal scorer) instigated a fight with Carolina's Craig Adams. The fight was kind of non-descript, until it was almost over. Horton, who apparently doesn't keep up current hockey events, knocked the helmet off Adams' head, and proceeded to bash Adams over the head with his own helmet. He was given two for instigating, five for fighting, ten for misconduct, and the gate. Sometime tomorrow morning, he will learn that he'll also be suspended for two games. This just happened on Sunday when Tampa's Evgeny Artyukhin did the same thing to Ottawa's Antoinne Vermette. I've never heard of this before this season, and now it's happened twice in one week and once earlier this season. In December, Toronto's Darcy Tucker did this to New Jersey's Cam Janssen, but was for some unknown reason, not suspended. In CrAdams' case, there was no cut, but there should still be a suspension for wielding the helmet as a weapon.

Anyway, same two teams Saturday night 7:30 puck drop.

the recchin' ball

Mark Recchi will be joining the Hurricanes as they take on the Panthers tonight in the first of two consecutive games at Florida.

Although he has worn the number 8 throughout his career, Cullenator X already wears that number for the Canes. Recchi will wear the 18 sweater instead.

I'm not sure, but I'm guessing that he'll be on a line with Brindy and Viva.

Puck drop is 7:30. Same two teams go at it again on Saturday night.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Mark Recchi!

I don't know any of the details yet, but the TSN trade blog is stating that the Canes have picked up Mark Recchi, who has waived his no-trade clause. Details later.
EDIT -- 2:06pm It still isn't official yet, but early indicators are that the Canes will send Nik Nordgren, Krystofer Kolanos and a second round pick in 2007.

This might not be a "rental" situation. Recchi doesn't want to transplant his family, but his contract for 2006-07 is structured such that the team holding his rights can retain him for $2.228M. I think he will be a "rental", but time will tell.

Recchi hasn't yet "officially" waived his no-trade, but it's expected to go through without a hitch.

Kolanos came over in the Krispy trade, and was intended for Lowell-filler. I don't think we'll miss him. I haven't been a big Nordgren fan, so I'm not missing anything there, either. I think this is a great move. Recchi is red-hot right now, and has mad playoff numbers in his career. This'll be fun.

We last saw Recchi, ironically, in the game that made this trade necessary. He scored three goals in the same game that Cole got hurt. It was Recchi's sixth career hat trick, and the first hat trick by any Penguin in over three years.

A show of support

Evidently, some folks, who have chosen to call me "Canidiot" are having a hard time comprehending the "26" in my banner. I thought I was pretty clear about this, but in case there are others who are confused, I'll be more clear. For those of you already on the same page, please bear with me for a moment.

It is pretty common for sports teams to display the number or the jersey of a teammate who has suffered a very serious injury. To wit:
  • In 2004-05, the Carolina Panthers of the NFL had all their players wear t-shirts displaying the numbers 51 and 58 under their jerseys. This was a show of support for players Sam Mills (51) and Mark Fields (58), both of whom were diagnosed with cancer and forced to step away from the game. Mark Fields came back, but Sam Mills lost his life to Hodgkins' disease.

  • In 1999, the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball hung the 49 jersey in their dugout for several weeks. This was a show of support for manager Larry Dierker, who suffered a seizure which forced him to temporarily step away, and ultimately required brain surgery.

  • These are just two examples of a team showing support for a player (or coach) who is recovering from a serious injury or illness. It happens all the time.

    I don't play for the Hurricanes, so I don't get to go in the locker room. What I can do, though, is display his sweater number on my blog. It's my way of saying "Erik Cole is one of my favorite players on my favorite team. He has recently suffered a very serious injury that could have been a lot worse. He's lucky that he'll have a chance at a full recovery and a return to the game. My thoughts are with him as he endures the very difficult recovery, and I wish to send him my best wishes and support him through that process." That's a little much to put in the banner, and I wrongfully assumed that most people would understand the simple "26".

    The previous banner was a little more subtle, but it was the same sort of thing. Josef Vasicek had an MCL tear in his knee, which obviously isn't a life threatening thing, but put him on the IR for a VERY long time. He was featured in the photograph, and it was my way of saying "Hey buddy, we miss you and can't wait for you to get back on the ice".

    So there you have it.

    Got it?

    Theodore for Aebischer, and other trade stuff.

    As the trade deadline of 3:00 eastern looms, there haven't really been that many big trades. I'm sure there will be quite a few at the 11th hour, but for now....

    Edmonton shored up their goaltending situation, but not in a way that I expected. I sort of thought that Buffalo would ship Marty Biron out there. Anyway, a good pickup in Dwayne Roloson from the Wild. Roloson is a much better keeper than his numbers would indicate. The Oilers didn't really give up very much in that exchange. A first round pick and a conditional pick. However, that leaves Minnesota with only Manny Fernandez. They certainly don't have a stockpile of goalies at their AHL affiliate Houston Aeros. So Minnesota needs to do something.

    The trade that about made my eyes pop out, though, was Jose Theodore for David Aebischer. In this straight-up trade, I have no idea what Colorado is thinking. They get a guy who is not only having a terrible season, but is INJURED, and who brings a huge contract with him. They give up a very good (and uninjured) Aebischer. I guess they're banking on a revitalization in '07. In the meantime, Peter Budaj will have to carry the load for the Avs. Is the contract burden worth it, though? I for one, think not. Theodore has two years remaining on his three-year, $16M contract.

    Brendan Witt of the Caps has demanded a trade, and Ted Leonsis is working on it, but so far, no action.

    I expect the Sabres to deal one of their goalies for some D. Ryan Miller will stay for sure, but I don't know whether they'll deal Biron or Mika Noronen. They might not get any takers on Noronen, but Biron would be a great asset to a team like the Wild, who now have only one keeper. EDIT -- 1:02 PM <<< as I was writing this, Noronen was dealt to Vancouver for a second round pick <<<<

    Of course there's lots of talk about the Canes shopping for a winger in the wake of Cole's injury. I'm not so sure we need to do that. Andrew Ladd is playing well and Josef Vasicek is maybe two weeks away from returning to the team. Obviously it's now or never, and we'll have lots of second guessing either way, but I think they should just leave well enough alone. HOWEVER, this isn't a typical year. The boys are poised to make a deep run in the playoffs, and it might be a decent idea to get another big-name rental player for the balance of the season. We'll know in two hours.

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    still more on cole

    I really wish I could quit harping on this, but it really is a big story.

    It turns out that the specific vertibra that was fractured in Cole's injury was the c-5. This is a very serious injury. Of course we already knew that, but it is this very same vertebral fracture that forced the Islanders' Kevin Colley to retire earlier this season.

    On the other hand, Patrick Eaves, of the Senators suffered the same injury in his freshman season at Boston College. He made a full recovery after exactly three months, and has blossomed into a decent NHLer.

    What we now know explains why certain preliminary reports indicated an arm injury. The C5 vertebra has nerves which go to the arm -- at and above the elbow. This article, and others like it, can be more detailed about that.

    And here's some shocking news, from an article in today's News and Observer:
    One more foot-pound of pressure, doctors told Erik Cole, and the fractured vertebra he suffered could have had far more disastrous consequences.

    One foot-pound isn't very much force. That's pretty scary.

    Meanwhile, Brooks Orpik has been groaning about the length of his suspension. Said Orpik, in an interview:
    "I don't agree with it, but I understand where they're coming from.... Anytime there's a serious injury, they have to act on it, but the three games -- I was surprised about that."

    In the article from the N&O, Cole says that he doesn't think Orpik intended to injure him, but he's with the rest of us in being perplexed be the brevity of the Orpik suspension.

    Especially when juxtaposed against the Artyukhin two-game suspension. I'm just not sure how running a player from behind causing a very serious injury is only 50% more reprehensible than bashing a guy over the head with a helmet, causing a minor cut.

    Added to the actual injury, and the insult of a very light suspension to Orpik, Cole is disappointed that he hasn't heard a single word from Orpik. Cole isn't looking for an apology or anything like that. What he's looking for is for Orpik to show some class by calling just to see how he's doing.

    Tonight, the Canes will be in Philly for another Eastern Conference showdown of playoff-bound teams.

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    Canes win a defensive struggle, earn 90th point.

    On Monday night, the Canes defeated the host Rangers 2-1 thanks to some outstanding goaltending from Marin Gerber. Gerber stopped 38 of the 39 shots he faced, including 17 shots in the third period alone. His 30th victory is tied for second in the league. Only Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff and Dallas'Marty Turco, (each with 31) have more wins. Marty Brodeur of the Devils also has 30.

    On the other side of the ice, Henrik Lundqvist, who won gold for Sweden, only faced 19 shots. In the third period, Carolina didn't register a single shot. In fact, the last Carolina shot I can see was taken at the 10:59 mark of the second.

    K-Ad and Viva scored for Carolina. It was Adams' 12th and Williams' 20th. Steve Rucchin got the lone Blueshirts goal, his 12th.

    Both teams played really well defensively, as the low score suggests.

    It was, I must admit, mildly disappointing that neither Eric Staal nor Jaro Jagr had a point tonight.

    Apparently, Colesy is in good spirits and was watching the game from home. In typical Erik Cole fashion, he even called the TV booth to give them a little insight on a call they missed.

    The win was Carolina's 43rd of the season, tying a franchise record.

    Tampa was busy losing to Ottawa which means that the Canes widened their Southeast Division lead to 22 points, but were unable to expand their Eastern Conference three point lead over Ottawa.

    Don't tell anyone, but the Canes are on a five game winning streak.

    Up next: a Wednesday night bash with the Broadstreet Bullies. This will be the last meeting of the regular season for the two teams. Carolina is 2-1 against Philly in this season's series.

    Monday, March 06, 2006

    Brooks Orpik gets three

    The NHL's disciplinarian, Colin Campbell announced the terms of the Brooks Orpik suspension late Monday afternoon. Three games.

    In a brief statement, he said
    "While it is apparent that there was no deliberate intent to injure on this play, Mr. Orpik's careless hit on his opponent resulted in a serious injury. Even if a player leaves himself vulnerable, the checking player does bear some responsibility in avoiding a hit on a defenseless opponent."

    The suspension will cost him just under $10,000.

    I figured this is how it would pan out, but I'm still disappointed. Just as I was disappointed with the relative brevity of the Bertuzzi suspension. Of course Bertuzzi's meditated attack on Moore was quite a different animal than Orpik's reckless disregard of both respect and rules. However, both plays resulted in a player having his neck broken. I am still of the opinion that Bertuzzi shouldn't be in the NHL. I've gone on record as saying I do not think Orpik should be banned, but three games is a little light, given circumstances.

    First and foremost is that his disregard of a rule that exists in the interest of safety resulted in a player with a very serious injury that might still threaten his career.

    Second, he has a history of violence against Erik Cole. I haven't heard anyone talk about this, but Brooks Orpik was penalized TWICE in the previous meeting of these two teams (February 10) for plays against Erik Cole. Once was for roughing, in which Cole received a matching penalty. The other, with just five seconds remaining in the game was for cross-checking Cole. I don't know, but it sure seems like he was targeting Cole. I don't know why this wasn't taken into consideration.

    I know I might be reacting so strongly because it's a player on my team who got hurt, but this really is an issue that needs to be handled better, lest we see someone suffer a worse fate than Cole or Moore.

    What's worse is that Orpik has shown little compassion or remorse for his negligence. He has repeatedly defended the hit, and has said that he didn't follow through or use his hands, even though replays prove otherwise. Then, he even uses twisted, conflicting logic about "hurting" people.

    First he says
    I've watched the video a bunch of times and it's clear from my point of view there's no intent there to hurt him. I actually put my hands down and didn't follow through with the hit. It's just unfortunate. You don't ever want to see someone get hurt. I was surprised. He saw me coming and at the last second he kind of turned away. He's such a big, strong guy he does that a lot and you usually bounce off him and he can get a step on you. But he fell awkwardly. Obviously you don't want to see him get hurt but sometimes that's the nature of the game.

    Then, in the very same interview, he says:
    "You hit guys to hurt guys. You don't hit guys to injure guys. It sounds kind of funny but it's a lot different."

    Ummm. Didn't you just say "you don't ever want to see someone get hurt"?

    I'm not even going to launch into the thing about his "other" major boarding penalty. The one in an AHL game two years ago. The one that is stunningly similar to this one. The one he conveniently forgot about when he said "It's the first boarding major I've ever had"

    Anyway, I think he got off easy, and I think he's not quite as "undirty" as some people think.

    Canes take the ice tonight v Blueshirts

    Tonight, the Canes will take on the Rangers in Madison Square Garden. Andrew Ladd has been called up to fill the roster void left by Erik Cole. He can't possibly replace Cole, but he's a great player anyway.

    As this is the first game since Cole got injured, I'm sure the boys will be playing with a lot more determination. As if the Rangers didn't already have their work cut out for them, the Canes have a newfound purpose.

    Just for good measure, I went in search of the Pittsburgh radio feed from the game. I found it here<edit-- this link is no longer connected to the game in question). I just wanted to see what their guys had to say as they had the live look and also had the Penguins bias. Click on the link, and fast forward to around 1:52:00 for the play where Cole got injured. You can hear the color commentator saying "Oh no! No, no, no, no. You can't do that" as the play-by-play guy was describing what had just happened. They both instantly had the same take, that Orpik should have let up. As the color guy described it "He came from downtown Pittsburgh, and just leveled Cole into the boards. Oh no! That's just bad". They both went on to repeatedly criticize Orpik for not letting up. Contrary to what Orpik himself says, the Penguins radio guy says : "Orpik put his hands up to deliver a blow at the end of that sequence. He definitely did that." That's certainly what I've seen from the hundred or so times I've watched the DVR of that sequence. I just think it's interesting to hear the guys with the Pens bias take off the black and gold lenses. It's a little refreshing, actually. Of course Orpik will try to plead his case, but he will absolutely be hit with a multi-game suspension tomorrow afternoon.

    I did this same thing after the Bertuzzi/Moore thing just to see how the 'Nucks broadcasters called it. They also took off their Nucks-colored lenses.

    Anyway, I look forward to watching the game tonight and to seeing the boys play the rest of this season with a little more intensity. Doing it "for Erik".

    Puck drop in about 15 minutes.

    Sunday, March 05, 2006

    more details on Cole

    There are more details on Erik Cole's status, and they're not good.

    The team announced that Erik has suffered a compression fracture in a vertebra in his neck. He is expected to miss AT LEAST the remainder of the regular season. It should take 8-12 weeks to heal, meaning that he is likely lost for the better part of the playoffs as well.

    There is no word, as of yet, on the fate of Brooks Orpik. All of the objective news sources are pointing towards multiple game suspension. Many Canes fans are screaming for a one year ban. I wouldn't go that far, but as I stated before, I do favor a suspension in the double digits. I'm sure we'll know by tomorrow morning.Edit: The News and Observer reported earlier today that the League isn't likely to hand down its decision until the Penguins next game, Tuesday night.

    Until further notice, the banner in the masthead of this page has been replaced with one prominently featuring Cole's number 26. Our thoughts and best wishes will remain with Erik, his wife Emily, and their daughter Bella.

    bad news

    Although the details are hazy at best, preliminary indicators point towards a "severe neck injury" for Erik Cole.

    We knew nothing at all until about a half hour ago, when we heard that he had flown back to Raleigh. Then this report from TSN suggests that Cole will be out for upwards of two months.

    I've been lurking on the Pens message boards this morning and afternoon. The overwhelming majority of those people are saying things like "Cole set himself up to get crushed", "Cole drove himself into the boards", and this complete asshole who says:
    QUOTE(stanleyC @ Mar 5 2006, 12:44 AM)
    Cole deserves what he got....he makes Floppa Forsberg look like an angel....can't understand though how 3 guys go after Brooks & only 1 draws a roughing minor?....

    Since some of the details have developed, some of the Orpik defenders have changed their tune slightly, but there's still a prevailing "our player did nothing wrong" attitude.

    I know that message boards are not the best place to find intellectual discourse, or the presentation of logical, sane ideas, but it really irks me that people are actually trying to blame Cole for that.

    What I'm thinking is that the league will slap Orpik with a two game suspension. What I'm hoping is that they decide to send a message that careless, stupid playing like that will not be tolerated. I'm hoping for a double digit games suspension. It's not going to make Cole come back any quicker, but it'll hurt Orpik in the pocketbook and send a message.

    More news as it comes.

    Canes win again, but get a big scare

    The Hurricanes beat Pittsburgh 7-5 on Saturday night, thanks in part to some outstanding special teams play, and two goals from Erik Cole for the second straight night. However, Cole would be knocked out of the game, and into the hospital by an illegal hit in the third.

    The win means Carolina has picked up their 88th point. Tampa lost, which means that the Canes now have a 20 point lead in the Southeast. Ottawa won their game, preventing the Canes from widening their Eastern Conference lead. Detroit won their game, preventing Carolina from widening their lead on the whole of the League.

    The game started off like it would be a runaway. Five goals in the second half of the first period. The first three were on special teams. Eric Staal scored his 39th at 9:51 on a power play. Ray Whitney scored his 11th at 11:32, also on a power play. Cole scored his 29th of the season, a shortie, at 13:22. Kevyn Adams was in the box for that goal, and he literally broke out of the box for a breakaway goal, his eleventh goal of the season, at 14:19. That one doesn't count as a special teams goal, but it should. At 18:20, Rod Brind'Amour closed out the first period scoring with a really soft goal for his 24th tally of the year.

    In the second, the Canes were outscored 3-1, but Colesy picked up another goal, his 30th.

    In the third, the Canes were outscored 2-1, but Cory Stillman cashed in on a power play goal. It was his 16th goal of the season and the 200th of his career.

    Erik Cole's two goals were good enough to earn him third star status. Mark Recchi scored a hat trick for the Pens, earning him second star status. Eric Staal, though would get the first star for his four point (1/3) performance. On the season, Staal now has 82 points (39/43).

    A very scary thing occurred at 5:18 of the third. Brooks Orpik ran Cole from behind, slamming his body and head into the boards. The live look was obvious enough, but replays clearly indicate that Cole was completely defenseless, and had his back square to Orpik. It's also clear that Orpik had plenty of time to let up, but chose to run Cole into the boards. The officials got the call right, issuing a five minute major and a game misconduct to Orpik. I would think that he'll also get a two game suspension. Cole was able to leave the ice under his own power after laying face down on the ice for several moments. However, he was moving VERY slowly and was visibly in a great deal of pain. He was rushed to a Pittsburgh hospital for evaluation, and at this point, all they're saying is "upper body injury". Initially they were calling it a "neck" injury, but the information is still very limited. Hopefully we won't miss him for too long. I'm sure that it was not Orpik's intent to seriously injure Cole, but he still needs to be held accountable for his actions.

    I'm assuming that Andrew Ladd will be recalled from Lowell, and I'm sure he'll do a fine job, but he just isn't Erik Cole.

    We REALLY can't afford to lose Cole.

    On the bright side, Jo-Va is traveling with the team, and continues to practice with them.

    I'll update the Cole situation as the news comes in. For now, my fingers are crossed.

    Up next, the Canes continue their long string of road games with a Monday night game at MSG against the Atlantic Division leading Rangers. Jagr v Staal. That should be a great game.

    Saturday, March 04, 2006

    Heels - Blue Devils v2.0

    Yes. It's that time again. I'll be momentarily shifting my focus to college basketball. It's the back end of the yearly home-and-home UNC-Duke series. Tonight, they'll be in Durham. Duke is ranked #1 in the nation, and UNC #13. Like I said before, though, all rankings, injuries, hot and cold streaks go in the garbage can for this one game. This is THE game. Yes, it happens twice a season, but nothing else matters.

    The game will be aired on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU live at 9:00 eastern. That's right. Three channels in the same network providing simultaneous coverage of the same event.

    Once again, the folks who make cartoons at the Raleigh News and Observer have made a dandy about Duke's head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Click here to watch, and be patient. Watch the whole thing.

    Oh, the Canes will be in action earlier tonight against the Pens, and I'm DVRing that. And I'll be at work, but it won't stop me from watching most of the basketball game. And of course, I'll have the radio on. What's a Duke-Carolina game without Woody Durham? He's been the radioman for UNC football and basketball since 1971, which was incidentally, the year I was born.

    Friday, March 03, 2006

    Canes 86 Panthers

    On Friday night, the Hurricanes won another home game, beating the Panthers 5-2. The win gave Carolina its 86th point, and the Canes now enjoy an 18 point lead over Tampa in the Southeast Division. Ottawa (who has a game in hand on Carolina) was idle, so Carolina was able to open a three point lead on them in the Eastern Conference. Detroit, who is tops in the Western Conference was also idle, and Carolina sits one point ahead of Detroit for top spot in the entire League. All of those teams, including Carolina will play Saturday night.

    Eric Staal was first to light the lamp, giving the Canes the lead at 7:27 of the first. It was a pretty neat play that started when Bret Hedican corralled an errant pass, kept it in the Panthers' zone, and uncorked a wrister from the blue line. Erik Cole redirected it from the high slot, and Eric Staal redirected it again from the front of the goal mouth. The goal was his 37th. Cole's assist was his 30th. Hedican's assist was his 16th.

    Erik Cole added to the lead when he potted his 27th goal of the season at 3:46 of the second. The Canes came in on a three-on-two after a turnover at dead center ice. The puck was perfectly cycled from Cole to Hedican to Cory Stillman, then back to Cole, who tucked it into an empty cage. Stillman's assist was his 41st, and Hedican's was number 17.

    While the Cats were on a power play, Chris Gratton picked up the change for his 14th goal of the season at 4:51 of the second. Josef Stumpel's shot from the left face off dot was stopped, but Gerber gave a big rebound and was way out of position. Stumpel got the primary assist, his 27th. Mike Van Ryn got the secondary, his 21st.

    At 3:25 of the third, CrAdams scored his eighth goal of the season,and it would prove to be the game winner. Kevyn Adams, with his sixth, and Stillman with his 42nd, got the helpers. K-Ad picked up a loose puck behind the net and found Craiggers out front. He had two dudes draped all over him, and I have no idea how he even got the shot off, but it was pretty. It was really strange, and I don't know if it was intentional, but Craig's celebration looked a whole lot like K-Ad's trademarked left leg cocked, right arm starting the lawn mower move.

    At 9:52, Serge Payer scored his second goal of the season to narrow the Canes lead to 3-2. It was a harmless enough looking play, as the Panthers brought the puck in with two men against Carolina's three. However, Payer made a nifty little wrap-around move and tucked it just inside the right post. Juraj Kolnik picked up his 13th assist while Van Ryn picked up his 22nd.

    With a Canes power play about to elapse, Erik Cole got his second goal of the game and his 28th of the season at 15:15 with a one-timer from the point. Ray Whitney got his 31st helper and Frantisek Kaberle got his 29th.

    With an empty net in the final minute, Kaberle launched one of those three-dimentional clearing passes out of the Canes zone, and there weren't enough Panthers to stop Staal from picking it up at the blue line and easily burying it in the empty net. Aaron Ward got the secondary assist, his 13th of the year. Kaberle hit the 30 mark with that assist, and it was Staal's 38th goal.

    Eric Staal's point total is now 78. Erik Cole's is 58. Cory Stillman's is 57.

    Both teams were 1-7 on the power play. Carolina committed six penalties in the second period, but played the entire third period without feeling shame. Two of the six in the second were for a high stick by Justin Williams. It was closely preceded by one penalty, and followed by another one half-way through the double minor. This created two consecutive five-on-three advantages which were beautifully killed by the Canes. The first was about one minute in length, and the second was for a full two minutes. They made it look easy.

    On the post-game radio show, they had a guy in the room talking to Martin Gerber. He asked specifically about the penalty killing, and Gerbs gave an answer that speaks volumes about how well this team plays. The exchange went like this:
    Radio guy: Talk a little bit about the penalty killing units, and how they were able to kill those two consecutive five-on-threes.

    Gerber : Were there TWO of them? (pause) Oh, yeah. The short one.

    See, the thing is, the guys played well enough to where they didn't make Gerber play his ass off. He didn't feel the pressure of the two back-to-back five on three situations. He didn't even notice.

    I'm still not the least bit concerned about Doug Weight's lack of production so far. I know that before all the dust settles, he's going to pay huge dividends. Maybe we won't know until May or June, but I'm pretty confident that he'll silence the naysayers.

    Up next, a Saturday night matchup with the last place Penguins. I'll be at work, AND the Duke-Carolina game will be on, so I won't get to see it, but I'll be DVRing the hell out of it. Maybe that'll be the game for Dougie to break out.

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    Canes beat Bs, President's Cup field narrowed to 29.

    It took some third frame heroics, but the Canes were able to turn aside the visiting Bruins to earn their 84th point. The win was the 25th home triumph and the 40th overall this season. It wasn't typical fare for the Canes, though. It wasn't, but it kinda was. The boys rallied from down a goal at the second intermission, giving them their seventh win when trailing after two. That figure is second only to Dallas' eight.

    Oleg Tverdovsky scored the Canes first goal after the Bruins had taken an early first period lead. Tevvy picked up the loose change after Staal and Colesy had their own whacks at it. Staal got his 40th helper and Cole got his 29th.

    At 5:09 of the second, my boy AWard notched his fifth goal of the season, giving the Canes a short-lived lead. AWard and Brindy came in with numbers and AWard uncorked a slap shot from well above the right circle. I don't think Tim Thomas ever saw it. Brind'Amour had the only assist, his 27th.

    Just past the mid-way point of the second, David Tanabe and Sergei Samsonov put on their best imitation of Markus Naslund and Anson Carter, scoring goals 23 seconds apart. Both goals were even-strength, and both were the result of Carolina turnover. Tanabe at 11:30 and Samsonov at 11:53. There was no more scoring in the period, and for the 18th time this season, Carolina went to the second intermission trailing their opponent.

    Ray "The Wizard" Whitney (upon whom Canes TV guy John Forsland has a huge man-crush) tied the game at the 3:32 mark. Cory Stillman went coast-to-coast and dropped a nifty pass for Whitters, who got a couple of whacks at it before it got past Thomas. It was Whitney's tenth goal of the season. As Forsland would be eager to tell you, the Canes have won every time Whitney scores a goal, so it looked good at that point. Cam Ward actually got the secondary assist, his second of the season.

    Twelve minutes would pass before AWard finally put the Canes ahead at the 15:36 mark. Nik "Evil Swede" Nordgren and Dougie Weight got helpers on the goal. It was Weight's first point in a Canes sweater, and I expect there to be many more now that the monkey has been evicted from his back.

    AWard was rightfully awarded the first star, and Tevvy was given the third. What doesn't make any sense is that Wardo got the second star. I just don't get it. He only faced four shots in the third, and a grand total of 28 shots on the game. He gave up three goals, which means his save % for the game was a sorry .893. I don't get it.

    Stillman couldn't pot a goal, so he'll have to wait until Friday to get his career 200th versus Florida.

    While all of that was going on, Ottawa held off a furious third frame comeback attempt from Pittsburgh to emerge victorious. At the end of two, the Sens were up 4-0, but Ray Emery gave up three third period goals to make the Sens faithful sweat. Included in those three goals was the first of the season for Pens tough guy Andre Roy. Only 49 more until he proves his pre-season prediction. It's just not going to happen.

    Because of the Canes win AND the Pens loss, Pittsburgh is mathematically eliminated from the race for President's Cup. They have 39 points and have 22 games remaining. If they were to win every game, they would have 83 points. Carolina already has 84 points (oh, and Detroit has 85), which means the Pens can be crossed off the list of candidates for this beautiful trophy. The 29th name on the list is that of St. Louis, who also won on Wednesday, earning their 43rd point. With 25 games left for them, their best possible finish would be 93 points. Detroit has 85, and Carolina 84, so it may be two weeks before the Blues join Pittsburgh in mathematical elimination.
    Carolina has 24 games remaining, and their best possible finish would be 132 points. Detroit has 23 games remaining, and their best possible finish would be 131 points.

    Up next for the Canes(and for me): a Friday night home game against the Panthers.

    Milestone watch

    For the first time in two and a half weeks, the Hurricanes will be in action, as they play host to the Bruins.

    Since the Bolts lost last night, the Canes will have a chance to widen their divisional lead with a win tonight. Also, if there is a Canes win, coupled with a Penguins loss, Pittsburgh will be the first team mathematically eliminated from Presidents Cup contention. Of course nobody in their right mind would consider them to be a "contender", but they could be officially taken off the radar with 24 games to play.

    When Cory Stillman scores his next goal (which I predict will come during the second period tonight), he will have 200 for his career. Not a staggering accomplishment, but a really cool milestone to reach anyway. Congrats in advance on that.

    Speaking of staggering accomplishments, today is the 43rd birthday of Ron Francis. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CAP!!!! Of course reaching the age of 43 isn't the staggering accomplishment. I'm talking about 549/1249/1798.


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