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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

KFC's dog's breakfast

I've been thinking about writing something about this anyway, but then last night, I got this text message while I was working during the game:
That KFC 'meal' looks like a poultry abortion

Actually, what I was going to write was just about the ludicrousness of the commercial itself. You all know exactly which commercial we're talking about. However, now I feel obliged to write about the product advertised as well. Here's a cruddy copy of that commercial, which I snagged from youtube for your viewing pleasure. Below the clip will be my thoughts.

Right from the beginning, this commercial is a mess. Nobody walks into a KFC and says "What's good here?". Unless you've been living in a cave for the last 70 years, you pretty much know what you're getting yourself into when you walk through those doors. To borrow and modify a line from the fantastic film Glengarry Glen Ross, "A man don't walk in the store lest he wants to buy chicken." That's point number one.

Point B is the cashier. If someone asks a dipshit question like that, chances are they wouldn't get the answer he got. They'd get a very terse, sharply worded response like "Chicken". Her answer started off innocently enough, but by the time she got to "should I top it off with gravy and a three cheese blend?", she had skipped right past the mildly flirtatious stage straight to the point where she's practically taking her shirt off. And that dude's a married man, for cryin' out loud!

Then there's the meal itself. It might be tasty. Certainly I'm a fan of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, gravy and cheese, but I'm not sure that I want them all mixed together like that. However, it is our uniquely American mentality to take any two or five items that are good, and put them together as one item. Or put them in a drinkable format. In this case, they made no effort to make the thing look appealing. I guess they're relying on our fascination with the combination of things, or the comfort of eating out of a bowl. Or our misguided hope that we, too, will be greeted by an attractive and flirtatious cashier.

This whole campaign, from the meal itself to the commercial, is a complete mess. As annoyed as I am by this commercial, I'd still rather watch it ten times than watch that horrifyingly annoying "BEEP BEEP" commercial once. I don't even want to talk about that one.

Sabres win in overtime, force game 7

On Tuesday night in Buffalo, the Sabres did exactly what they needed to do. Perhaps it wasn't exactly the way they drew it up, but they got the result they needed. They won game six 2-1 on a power play goal just 4:22 into the overtime period. Home ice still belongs to the Canes, though. The two teams will duke it out on Thursday night for the right to play Edmonton in the Stanley Cup Finals.

I was working, and even though we were slow, I didn't get to see much of the game. Very little of the first, almost none of the second. I did get to see most of the third, and almost all of the overtime. My point is that I didn't see the "whole" game, so I don't think I can represent it fairly. My impression from what I saw was that Buffalo controlled the game. Carolina was having a hard time getting anything going, and their power play didn't look good at all.

As I wrote before the game, Buffalo needed to be disciplined to win this game. They were. They were penalized three times in the first period, and none after that. I also said that they would have to capitalize on their power play chances if they wanted to win. They did. They cashed in on one of their five power play chances, and it was the only one that mattered. Doug Weight went to the box for boarding at 2:28 of the fourth frame. At that point (I was watching), I had a very bad feeling that the Crossed Swords would do something about it.

Because I haven't seen the entire game, I can't really give thoughtful analysis other than that.

Eric Staal had his 15-game scoring streak snapped. Cory Stillman was able to extend his to seven games with an assist on Carolina's lone goal.

Carolina will enjoy home ice on Thursday in the deciding game. Aside from having the crowd on their side, the Canes will always be awarded the last line change during a stoppage of play. This, if exploited properly, can be of immeasurable worth.

Carolina is going to have to come out early and play aggressively. They will have to avoid the penalty box. They will have to take an early lead to get the crowd into it.

Puck drop will be 7:30 on Thursday. I wish it was already over.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Game six tonight

Tonight, it's win or stay home for the Buffalo Sabres. They played much better on Sunday than they did on Friday, and in order to win tonight, they'll have to dig even deeper. Carolina was a bit off on Sunday, and will be expected to be ready for the Sabres' best effort.

Cam Ward will be in net.

Early word on the street is that Teppo Numminen will still sit out with the injured groin.

The biggest key to the game for both teams will be discipline. The team that is in the box feeling shame the least will most likely emerge victorious. Carolina has been outstanding on the power play, and will need to keep that up. Buffalo has been a little soft, and will need to pick it up. Seriously, though, Buffalo will have to stay out of the box if it is to have any chance.

I'll be working tonight, but I'll have chances to sneak peeks at the game.

Puck drop will be at 7:30. GO CANES!!!!!!

response to "this is the worst cup playoff EVAH"

The Edmonton Oilers have advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals and are eagerly awaiting the conclusion of the Buffalo-Carolina series. Many people including crotchety old Tom Benjamin and what's-his-name over at The Puck Stops Here have been screaming about how unfair it is that the league didn't automatically hand the Stanley Cup to the Detroit Red Wings. True, neither one of them ever actually suggested that, but they're both loudly complaining about the "quality" of the remaining teams in the race for Lord Stanley's mug.
Take, for example, the opening argument over at TPSH:
The Stanley Cup playoffs (especially the later rounds) are supposed to be epic battles between great teams. This year, this doesn't seem to be the case. None of the four truly remaining playoff teams look to me as great teams that win Stanley Cups.

A truly great team can be measured by a few metrics. I will choose two are examples (which I think demonstrate the problem). A truly great team has an elite goalie who is one of the best in the NHL. A truly great team (one that wins the Stanley Cup any year in recent memory) has at least four or five (and in many cases even more) players who are clearly on Hall of Fame tracks in their career.

In other words, don't even bother playing a regular season. Or have a playoff season. Piece together some sabermetrics, throw some 12-sided dice, and hand the Cup to the best team on paper. The sad news for TPSH is that this isn't a game of Strat-o-Matic baseball. This isn't Dungeons & Dragons. Games are played on the ice. By real players. The better player is only the better player if he is the better player. Likewise for the better team. And to suggest that a team isn't Cup-worthy unless they have five or more "players who are clearly on Hall of Fame tracks in their career"? That's complete garbage. There's another problem with that line of thinking, and it's that people seem to think that the Hall can induct an infinite number of players. That's another post for another day. During the off-season, maybe.

There's a reason that the NHL, and NBA and MLB use a playoff series format. They want to eliminate fluky upsets by inferior teams. They want to take "bad nights", or "playing above one's head" or "lucky bounce" out of the equation. To advance in the playoffs, you have to prove that you deserve to. Detroit finished the season with the best record in the league. With their future HOF roster, certain folks would award them the Cup right then. But when it counted, they couldn't win. You want a marquee matchup with marquee players? Don't blame the league. Don't blame Carolina and Buffalo and Edmonton. Blame Detroit. Blame Montréal. Blame New Jersey. Those are the teams that couldn't, despite their clout, get it done.

As for Tom Benjamin,(who is probably still mad because the Baltimore Stallions won the 1995 Grey Cup during the CFL's failed attempt at expansion into the USA) with his "we want the same four teams to win the Cup over and over" drone, I suggest that he watch the NBA instead. I don't buy into the "it's bad for ratings" or "it's bad for the overall health of the league" garbage. The sad reality is that our sport is a niche one anyway. True fans will watch the Cup final no matter who's in it. Casual fans don't know the difference anyway, and non-fans will continue to not care. While it's true that none of the remaining teams are dynastic, we may be witnessing the beginning of a dynasty. Or not.

In short, Edmonton is there because they deserve to be. They won three best-of-seven series to EARN the right to play for the Stanley Cup. Carolina and Buffalo deserve to be where they are, and by Friday morning, one of them will have earned the right to be playing for the Cup. Anyone who thinks that these teams are "mediocre" or thinks that they don't deserve to be where they are just hasn't been watching. Look, I'm sorry that the Canucks had an epic collapse at the end of the season, playing themselves out of the playoffs and allowing Edmonton to slip in the back. I really am. That doesn't mean that Edmonton didn't help themselves, nor does it mean that they're "lucky". Sure they had some luck to get the eighth seed, but there's a lot more than luck involved when you win three best-of-seven series.

Get over it. The league has more than six teams now, some of them are in non-traditional markets, and most of them are competitive.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Canes take game 5, lead series 3-2.

On Sunday night, the Hurricanes defeated the visiting Sabres 4-3 in overtime. The Canes now have a 3-2 series lead, and will have two chances to close out the Sabres. Game 6 will be at the HSBC Arena on Tuesday night. If Buffalo wins that game, there will be a game 7 back at the RBC Center on Thursday.

Although Carolina won the game, and looked dominant for stretches of the game, they were nowhere near where they were on Friday. Some will say that Carolina got lucky. Some will say that they "stole" the game. Some will say that the referees "handed them the game". Some will say that Buffalo had countless opportunities to put the game away, but couldn't. Some will say that Carolina took advantage of their breaks much better than Buffalo did theirs. Nobody will say that Carolina dominated the game. No matter what your take is, the Canes have put themselves in the driver's seat for this series. They are one win away from their second Prince of Wales trophy in four years. They are one win away from a date with the Edmonton Oilers. Five away from .... well...

It was hardly a surprise that Martin Gerber remained in net to start game five. However, he barely made it into the second period. Three goals on his first 11 shots. Two of the goals weren't his fault, but they still count. Chris Drury got the Swords off to an early lead at 7:08 of the first. Taylor Pyatt made a gorgeous pass from the Buffalo zone to all the way to the Carolina blue line, where Drury received the pass, beat the Canes defenseman one-on-one, and ripped one over Gerber's right shoulder. It was, for all intents and purposes, a breakaway. Aaron Ward was the only Cane anywhere near the play, and Drury blew right past him.

Fortunately, the Canes were able to level the score just 17 seconds later. After carrying the puck in the Sabres zone and dumping it down in the corner, Viva was left all alone in the right circle. Somehow, Nic Wallin had drawn all the Sabres' attention as he nudged the puck to Cory Stillman just behind the goal line. Stillman saw Viva all alone, who made no mistake firing one from the right dot through a triple screen of Sabres and past Miller.

Late in the first was the only goal that I would blame Gerber for. Derek Roy stole the puck from Cory Stillman at the half-wall, skated to the high slot and ripped one past a diving Mike Commodore and into Gerber's net. Even with Commy diving through the slot, Gerber had time to get a good read on it. It was a fantastic individual effort, and a great goal by the second-year player, who earned his 13th postseason point (5/8) on the unassisted goal. He would add an assist on the Sabres third and final goal. He should have been the game's third star, but it wasn't so.

At 1:55 of the second, the Canes defense again left Gerber out to dry. Commodore made a bad play at center ice that allowed Toni Lydman to spring free for a breakaway goal. Jay McKee and Derek Roy got the assists.

Mark Recchi got the Canes back in it at 5:21 of the second. Dougie Weight went behind and to Miller's left of the Buffalo goal, and made a sensational backhanded pass to the Recchin' ball, who was all alone right in front of the crease. Meanwhile, Jay McKee was standing around with his thumb in his ass. There was nothing Miller could have done about that. Every game, Doug Weight impresses me more and more. He and Recchi have been playing really well together, and they get better as a unit every time out.

The Captain knotted it up at three at the 10:04 mark with a power play goal. Frantisek Kaberle, running the point, flipped it to Eric Staal at the top of the left circle. He slid it across to the right circle, where the unmolested Rod Brind'Amour blistered the one-timer off the left post and in. There's no way in the world Miller was going to stop that one. In a rare goal-celebration, Brindy pumped both fists and thrust his arms upward. The momentum was now clearly on Carolina's side, and everyone in the building could feel it. With the assist, Staalsy extended his streak to 15 games. He now has 20 points (7/13) in 16 games played.

There was no scoring for the rest of the second. Or the third. At the end of the third, Bret Hedican took a hooking call, which made everybody nervous as all get-out. The penalty occurred at 19:19, and would obviously spill over into the overtime period. Of course, in the playoffs, we skate five-on-five, but nobody likes to begin a period on a penalty kill. The fresh sheet of ice is almost like having a sixth skater for the attacking team. However, the Canes were able to kill it off.

At 8:46 of the OT, Cory Stillman got the game-winner, setting off a huge celebration inside (and outside) the RBC Center. Admittedly, it was a lucky play, but the bottom line is the Canes finished a golden opportunity whereas the Sabres didn't finish their golden opportunities. Matt Cullen fired a shot from the left circle that was well wide of the net, but took a funny bounce to the front of the net. Ray Whitney couldn't get a stick cleanly on it, but it bounced out to Cory Stillman, who was hanging out in the low slot. He wasted neither time, nor opportunity in slamming it past Ryan Miller. It was his seventh goal and his league leading third game-winner of this playoff season. He is second on the team, and sixth in the league with 16 points (7/9).

Stilly earned the first star, while Cam Ward earned the second star, and the win in relief of Gerbs. Buffalo's Brian "Soupy" Campbell got the third star.

Game five in Buffalo on Tuesday night at 7:30. Game 7 of the ECF, or possibly game 1 of the SCF will be Thursday night back at the RBC Center.

Written while listening to To the Moon by Monster Movie.

Canes win in overtime, take series lead

On Sunday night, the Hurricanes defeated the Sabres 4-3 in overtime. They have taken a 3-2 lead in the best of seven series, which returns to Buffalo on Tuesday night.

I'm WAY too tired to make a serious post. I promise I'll get up in the morning and make a solid post before I go to work. For now:

Chris Drury gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 7:08 of the first. 17 seconds later, Viva tied it.

Ten minutes later, Derek Roy gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead.

1:55 into the second, Toni Lydman put the Sabres up 3-1 during a four-on-four sequence.

Mark Recchi scored for the Canes at 5:21 and Brind'Amour tied it up at 10:04.

The next 30 minutes were scoreless, taking us to overtime.

At 8:46 of the first overtime, Cory Stillman won the game for the Canes.

Eric Staal assisted on the Brindy goal, extending his scoring streak to 15 games.

Cam Ward replaced Gerber in net during the second period, and ended up getting the win.

Real post sometime tomorrow morning.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Numminen possible for game 5, Connolly doubtful, Briere on thin ice.

Word came from Buffalo this morning that Teppo Numminen participated in the Sabres morning practice and felt good afterward. There will be some game-time decision tomorrow on that front, and Teppo indicated that if the game were today, he would take the pre-game skate. This is something he has not done since getting injured in game one of this series. His is of the "lower body" variety. Actually, they're a little more specific, saying it's either a groin pull or a hip flexor injury. At any rate, he might be ready to go in game five, which would give the Sabres blue line a big boost.

Tim Connolly, on the other hand, has been all but ruled out for this series. There was some early hope that he would be able to return to the ice after having concussion-like symptoms resulting from a hit in game two of the series with Ottawa.

Fourth-line center Adam Mair, also out with a concussion, has been ruled "possible" for a return to the ice. There may just be a spot for him, too. In a "he said, she said" battle of newspaper quotes between captain Daniel Briere and Lindy Ruff, Ruff practically threatened to bench Briere. You can read the story about all this here , but here's the bare-bones:

Briere said he and the other forwards were having to work too hard because they were bailing out the rookie defensemen:
Maybe the coaches won't agree with me, or some of the other players, but the feeling I have is that early on we just sat back a little too much, we wanted to make sure our new defencemen would have a chance and we wanted to support them in our zone. ...

To which Lindy snapped a thinly veiled threat:
That's a bunch of crap. I'm sorry they feel that way... If in their minds they feel they overcompensated, then it's my job to get their minds set in the right place... If that's where they were at, they won't be there tomorrow.

I don't think he's bluffing, but I don't think it's going to be a problem, either.

Even before this came out, one of the writers for the Buffalo News, Bucky Gleason, had already decided to bail on the Crossed Swords. The impression I get is that this guy is Buffalo's answer to Ned Barrett. In his article, though, he brings up a point about the Sabres trade deadline inactivity that I brought up back in March. He thinks the Sabres should have traded goaltender Martin Biron for a quality defenseman instead of trading third-string goalie Mika Noronen to Vancouver for a case of stick tape and the third season of "Eight Is Enough" on beta video cassette. There has been a good deal of similar criticism hurled the Sabres way in light of their blueline plight. Sabres management, meanwhile, insists that it tried hard to get a good blueliner.

In case you're too lazy to click on the link to my post from March 9, here's the stuff you need to see that's pertinent to this post:
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.

And then this other snip:
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 <<<<

I encourage you to jump in the time machine, though. It's just two and a half months. I said some poignant stuff in that post. Of course that post was made an hour before the Mark Recchi trade, and I said I thought the Canes were done. So I was wrong on that.

Anyway, back to the point. The last thing in the world the Sabres need now is infighting and wavering support from the fans. I think they'll have a strong showing on Sunday unless Briere is in Ruff's doghouse. In no uncertain terms, that would spell disaster for Buffalo. With the series tied 2-2, this is a critical game. Puck drop at 7:30 Sunday.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Canes dominate Sabres in game 4, restore home ice.

On Friday night, the Hurricanes did exactly what they needed to do. They won the game, and more importantly, they did it in dominant fashion. The final score was 4-0, but it wasn't really even that close.

Right out of the gate, there was a little (very little) bit of controversy about the Canes choice of goaltender. Martin Gerber got the start, which I thought was the right thing even before the game started. Gerbs (or as JP of Japers' Rink likes to call him, "Baby Food") was great in relief on Wednesday, and deserved the start.

Carolina got the scoring started at 6:54 when Mark Recchi got a redirect of a Frank Kaberle point blast. It looked like it bounced off a defender (which would turn out to be a recurring theme), but it was clean. AWard got the second assist.

Just three minutes later, Carolina scored again on the power play. On their first shot of that power play. Eric Staal wristed one in from the right dot that squeezed through a postage stamp sized window over Miller's right shoulder and just inside the left post. He extended his playoff point streak to 14 games, which becomes a new franchise record with each game. Bret Hedican got the primary assist and Ray Whitney got the second. Staal continues to lead the playoffs with 19 points (7/12) through 15 games.

The next few minutes featured a lot of end-to-end play and several good chances for each team. Somewhere around the 12 minute mark, Chris Drury made an amazing move that created a very awkward but excellent scoring chance as he came in the Carolina zone 1-on-2. Gerber made a great save to thwart that. Two minutes later, Max Afenogenov had a pretty good opportunity on an essentially open net, but he couldn't pull the trigger.

What came next, though, may have been the defining moment of the game. Mike Grier drew two penalties against the Canes. The first was defenseman Glen Wesley for holding at 14:48. The second was Martin Gerber for interference at 17:46. During the four minutes of power play, the Sabres failed to get any shots off. And they lost every power play faceoff in which Rod Brind'Amour participated. I thought the Canes defense looked fantastic during those segments. In particular, Bret Hedican was a monster during the penalty to Gerber. He shut down everything. Everything. The Crossed Swords weren't able to even generate any chances.

Very early in the second, Rod Brind'Amour had a clean breakaway chance, but Miller made perhaps his best save of the game to keep it 2-0. However, that wouldn't last long. Andrew Ladd scored his first ever Stanley Cup playoff goal at 2:10. It was a garbage goal on a rebound, but he'll take it anyway. Dougie Weight fired a one-timer from the right circle that Miller kicked right out front to Ladd, who easily slid it inside the left post for the 3-0 lead. Glen Wesley got the secondary assist.

Not much happened in the third. The Canes just tightened the screws and went about their business.

At 16:03, Bret Hedican closed out the scoring with a really odd goal. He and Brindy were coming in on a 2-on-1, Heddy on the right and Brindy on the left. From the top of the right circle, Heddy attempted a pass to Brindy, but it got caught in Brian Campbell's skate, and slid through Miller's five hole. Viva and Stillman got the assists.

We saw a complete effort by the Canes, and at least in this game, the Sabres looked off. The mounting injuries surely had something to do with it, but credit should be given to the Canes.

There is no doubt in my mind, nor in the mind of The Acid Queen, that Tinu will be the starter in game 5. And game 6. And (if necessary) game 7. You usually don't change your horses mid-stream like we did, but when one of your horses looks like Man O' War, you've gotta ride him. And keep riding him.

The Buffalo media handed out the stars thusly: 1 -- Gerber; 2 -- Staal; 3 -- AWard. Obviously I have no beef with Gerbs getting the first star. I'm not sure, though, how Heddy gets left out. He played an amazing game defensively, had a goal, had an assist. I don't know what else one has to do to earn a star in a 4-0 game. AWard was good, but I thought Heddy was better. And making the scoresheet helps, too. If I were picking the stars, I would have gone 1 -- Gerbs; 2 -- Heddy; 3 -- Staal. Of course, this is another academic issue.

With the key win, the series is tied 2-2. Now it's a best of three series, and the Canes have home ice. I expect the Sabres to look sharper on Sunday, and they might have the services of Teppo Numminen, but that's 50-50. Or, as he said, "50-60". Whatever that means. The Canes will have to keep up the excellent play that they exhibited tonight, and they'll have to get help from the crowd. I'm hoping for a less prevalent Sabres turnout than we saw for game one.

Puck drop on Sunday will be 7:30. I'll be tailgating in the RBC parking lot starting around 4 if anyone wants to meet up.

Written while listening to Ancient Melodies Of the Future by Built to Spill.

Cole won't make return this year.

The results of Erik Cole's CT scan are in, and it's now official. As the News and Observer reported today, Colesy is done for this season. Although the C5 vertebrae fracture is healing nicely, it hasn't progressed far enough for doctors to clear him for contact. With a minimum of three days and a maximum of 20 days remaining in the season, there won't be enough time.

Lots of folks were hoping that Cole would make a triumphant return to the Canes lineup if they make it all the way to the Cup final. Many other folks have been insisting that he stay out, even if he gets cleared. The people in that camp claimed that it would only put his health at risk to rush back like that.

The "non-clearance" makes it all academic anyway.

Cole will remain a presence in the room and in the stands, providing the team and the fans with a spark. He will absolutely be ready for training camp in the fall. I've given this matter a great deal of thought, and I think he should wear an A on his sweater next season.

My thinking is that Glen Wesley, who will turn 64 38 years old next October, will retire. With his retirement, the Canes will look to replace Wesley's longtime A. The logical choice on the blueline would be Bret Hedican, who despite playing the best hockey of his 49 17-year career, is also rumored to be a retiree-to-be.

Erik Cole is the best logical choice on the forward lines. He had a tremendous season prior to the accident, scoring 60 points in 60 games. In addition, he's actually one of the most tenured Canes, and has always been a very positive influence in the room. He certainly deserves to wear the A, and some day, the C.

This really should be the talk of the off-season, but I couldn't help it.

While my feelings about whether he should or should not return were mixed, everyone is in the same boat in that we are more concerned for Erik's health than his return to the ice. Coach Peter Laviolette sums it up perfectly:
"Everybody was holding out hope he'd be able to come back and play, but in the big picture we were worried about his life and career and that's going to be OK," Laviolette said. "It's disappointing he won't be with us, but that was really third on my list."

Sabres-Canes puck drop in 30 minutes. GO CANES!!!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

More media love for red and black hockey.

Yesterday, I was contacted by a writer for the Christian Science Monitor, who was doing a piece about the rookie goaltenders in the NHL playoffs.

I know. I know. You're probably in the know about the fact that CSM isn't actually a religious publication. You probably know that it's a well-respected international daily newspaper with in-house writing rather than wire feeds. But you're probably thinking the same thing about them that most people think about the Wall Street Journal. They write about sports?!?!? Yes. They do. Once you know all that, you probably wonder why the CSM doesn't change their moniker since there are so many misconceptions about them. They've been in business for 98 years, and their founder insisted that the name stays.

Anyway, you can read the article here.

No hotlink, but at least I got a plug.

anthem singing

I strongly encourage everyone to watch this stunning "rendition" of O Canada by the Edmonton crowd before game three of the Oil/Ducks series.

As an American, I am both amazed and awestruck by this. It nearly brought me to tears. We Americans simply stand and mouth the words to the Star Spangled Banner. On a good day, we might mumble the words. I'm kind of embarrassed by that. We have a common misconception that singing the national anthem, or being patriotic in any way means that you support the current commander-in-chief. I refuse to go off on a political diatribe, but I'll just say that it's flat out embarrassing to see how loudly and proudly Canadians sing their national anthem, compared to how sheepishly we "sing" ours.

Assist to Eric McErlain of Off Wing Opinion.

Tallinder out with broken arm

I just read the news that Buffalo defenseman Henrik Tallinder is lost for the remainder of the playoffs. According to this story, he's out with a broken left arm.

I don't recall the hit at all, but apparently it was the result of an "innocent" hit in Buffalo's zone late in the third. I'll have to re-view the game to see if I can spot what happened.

Dmitri Kalinin is already out with a broken ankle, and Teppo Numminen is out with a bad groin strain. This made their blue line a bit vulnerable to begin with. This could be a crushing blow to the Sabres.

They had already brought up Doug Janik from Rochester, who served the function of "warm body". Now they will be forced to make another drastic roster change. One scenario, according to the same article, would be converting JPom into a defenseman. He's a good two-way player, but this would cause trouble with their forward chemistry. They are already having to deal with the uncertain health of Tim Connolly, who might be nicknamed "Captian Cuncussion". You recall that Connolly missed the entire 2003-04 season with a concussion. Late in the regular season this year, he missed a bunch of games with a knee injury (Darius Kaspairitus), and was dealt another "possible" concussion in game 2 of the Ottowa series. The prevailing thought on Connolly is to let him sit out. Nobody wants to see hockey's version of Kurt Warner out there.

Carolina will have to take advantage of the fact that Buffalo will be employing unseasoned blueliners or, in JPom's case, a guy who's having to make major adjustments.

Meanwhile, Carolina's Erik Cole continues to make progress towards a full recovery. While he most likely won't return to the ice until next season, he's out there practicing with the boys. That has to give them a little boost.

It will certainly be very interesting to see how Lindy Ruff fills his lines on Friday night. Puck drop will be at 7:30.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sabres control game three, take 2-1 series lead.

Buffalo played a solid game on Wednesday night, defeating the Canes 4-3. With a 2-1 series lead, the Sabres have tilted "home ice" in their favor. The Canes will need to win on Friday to slant it back to the Canes. A loss on Friday wouldn't be the end of the world, but it would sure make things tough.

I've been saying all along that this series would be organic, and would have lots of twists and turns, ebbs and flows. As you recall, I pointed out that the Sabres controlled the second period of game one, and for that matter the landscape of that game with their speed. Carolina was unable to match, but the Canes were able to reverse the momentum by controlling the second period of game two, which was the footprint of that whole game. The Canes did their domination with strength and size, simply out"man"-ing the Sabres.

Game three was again dictated by what happened in the second period. This time, it was discipline. I hinted at the fact that the Canes had to be better disciplined, and they, frankly put, were not. The Canes committed two penalties in the final minute of the first frame, and three in the first 16 minutes of the second. Five penalties in 17 minutes of game time. In the same time frame, the Sabres only committed one penalty. Buffalo converted two of those five chances, during that span. They mounted a 4-1 lead, which was just enough to hold off a late rally by the Canes.

While I was encouraged by their late-game tenacity, I was upset with their lack of discipline late in the first and during the second. I was also upset with their lack of focus. The Canes managed to draw the one penalty in the second, but they so poorly managed the puck in the ensuing power play that Buffalo had TWO excellent shorthanded scoring opportunities.

What follows is a bare bones post. After I re-view the game, I may or may not tidy/tighten it up.

Carolina scored first, which was only the third (thank you Evan) time the Sabres allowed their opponent to do so. However, it was the first of those three that Buffalo won the game.

At 14:07 of the first, Cory Stillman was credited with an unassisted goal. He took a shot on Miller from near the bottom of the left circle that hit Jay McKee's stick and slid in past Miller. On first glance, I thought Mike Commodore, who was parked on the doorstep, had a redirect, but it was McKee.

Late in the first with Rod Brind'Amour gone for tripping, Chris Drury picked up a power play goal. The goal, at 19:31, was a low slot re-direction of an Alex Kotalik shot. Derek Roy got the secondary assist.

Doug Weight was whistled for interference just as the first period expired, and the resultant power play bore fruit for the Crossed Swords. At 1:02, Daniel Briere tapped in a rebound of a Jochen Hecht point shot. JP Dumont got the other assist. Although there is no tertiary assist, I'm sure if there was such a thing, it would have gone to JPom, who really got the play started.

Danny boy got his second goal of the night at the 8:28 mark on a really pretty breakaway. Dumont and McKee with the helpers.

At 12:55, Ales Kotalik scored the final goal of the night for the Sabres, the game winner. The goal came on a long bomb shot through a pretty good screen. Max Afenogenov and Toni Lydman got the helpers. This play all got started down in the Buffalo end when a Sabres skater interfered with Mike Commodore, but was let go. Overall, I don't think it was a poorly officiated game, but I wrote that down in my notes and underlined it, so that particular call really stood out.

At this point, Peter Laviolette pulled Cam Ward to give some spark to the team. He might should have stopped the breakaway goal, but the others weren't entirely on him. The team was a little flat in the second, and they needed something to get them going.

Immediately, Gerber was tested as he was forced to make two brilliant stops on shorthanded breakaways. McKee was gone for roughing, and the Canes ran a horrible looking power play that was a perfect microcosm of the second period. The change in goal seemed to do some good, as the Canes started to re-form. However, on Wednesday night, it just wasn't meant to be the Canes' night.

Cory Stillman scored his second goal of the night and his sixth of the playoffs at 18:18. AWard and Viva got the helpers.

The third period was a really clean and relatively quiet period. Only one penalty was called : a high stick to Toni Lydman at 14:17. While he was gone, the Sabres lead was trimmed all the way down to 4-3. Eric Staal found the back of the net through heavy traffic out front. Dougie Weight and Frantisek Kaberle got assists. It was his sixth goal and his 18th point of the playoffs. It also marked the 13th game in a row in which he has earned at least one point.

This series will more than likely see another unique game on Friday. The Canes will snap back with another outstanding performance. I don't know what their tactic will be for that game four, but I'm sure there's a lot more of this series to come.

Friday's puck drop will again be at 7:30.

Game three tonight

The Canes will take on the Sabres at HSBC arena for game three of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Canes absolutely dominated game two on all fronts, and I expect the Sabres to bounce back. The Canes knew that they couldn't match speed for speed, so they leaned heavily on their size and strength to assert their authority in game two. The Sabres can't answer that call, but they'll find some other way to come at the Canes.

I will be heading to Raleigh tonight to take the game in at the CoolBars thing. It'll be my first time doing that, and I'll be with my friend Amanda (the Sabres fan). She already knows what she's getting into.

This should be a great game, and like I said, Buffalo will find a way to assert their own authority. I still think that despite what some "experts" are saying, we should look for a low scoring affair. My heart says 3-1 Canes. My head says depending on how the first period goes, it will either be 3-2 Canes or 4-2 Sabres. Don't ask me to explain the disparity.

Puck drop at 7:30

Cue the fat lady. Edmonton wins again.

Edmonton took a commanding 3-0 lead by defeating the visiting MightyDucks 5-4 on Tuesday night. I still think that it won't be a sweep, but this series is definitely over. Anaheim will find a way to win on Thursday night, but there is absolutely no way this series goes beyond game six on Monday. In fact, I doubt very much that it will make it past game five on Saturday.

I was working, and I didn't think I'd get a chance to see any of it, but we were extraordinarily slow, and I got to watch almost all of the first two periods, after which Edmonton was clinging to a 1-0 lead. I actually did some work during the second intermission, and when I came back out, the Oil had suddenly taken a 4-0 lead by virtue of three quick goals. At that point, I was honestly thinking that it would indeed be a sweep.

I went back to do some more work, and the next thing I knew, it was 4-3. At that point, I changed my mind, and I actually thought that the Ducks had a chance to take the game. Moments later, however, Fernando Pisani scored what the Oilers thought would be a cushion, but turned out to be the game winner. Teemu Selanne scored for the Ducks late in the third to make it 5-4, which would be the final.

The first 5 minutes of this game was fight-filled. The next 35 was very blase. The last 20 were very exciting. It was only the second time in Stanley Cup history that both teams have scored four or more goals in the third period.

The Oil now have a three games to none lead, and it doesn't look like the Ducks have a chance. Like I say, the Ducks may win game 4, but it isn't going any longer than 6.

This will be the Oil's first Cup final since 1990, when they won the Cup four games to one over the Bruins.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Canes win 4-3, even series at one.

The Canes beat Buffalo 4-3 on Monday night, evening the series at one game apiece. Before I get started, please note that I was correct in predicting a 4-3 victory by the Canes. I was, however, miserable at predicting the goal scorers. Not one of those guesses came true.

For the first time only the second time in this entire Stanley Cup playoffs, the Sabres were scored against first. Frantisek Kaberle scored a power play goal with a hard blast from just above the left circle at 10:05 of the first. Matt Cullen and Cory Stillman assisted. Rod Brind'Amour and Justin Williams provided excellent traffic in front of Miller.

The Sabres tied it up at 19:13. Alex Kotalik had a hard shot that just glanced off Tomas Vanek's skate and in the goal. Initially, the scorers ruled that Derek Roy had batted it in just as it was about to cross the line anyway. Review showed that Roy never touched it, and that Vanek's skate knocked it in. They never announced the score change, but according to the official scoresheet, that's how it went down. Rory Fitzpatrick got the other assist.

The second period was one of complete mastery by the Canes. Or complete disaster for the Sabres. Take your pick. While the Canes limited the Sabres to just four shots in the second frame, they scored two goals of their own to put the game just barely out of reach.

Ray Whitney, who I called out for being lackadaisical in game one, scored both second period markers. The first came at 6:15 on a power play goal with Jochen Hecht off for tripping. Eric Staal unleashed a wrist shot from the high slot that Whitney perfectly redirected past Miller for his fifth goal of the playoffs.

The second Whitters goal came at 12:58 during a four-on-four sequence resulting from a questionable coincidental roughing penalties to Marc Recchi and Paul Gaustad. Frankly, I didn't see why either player should have been gone, but it was a wash with both gone. The Canes were controlling puck posession, and during the four-on-four, Matt Cullen found Whitters all alone in the high slot. He one-timed it in for his sixth tally. Glen Wesley got the secondary assist.

At 6:58 of the third, Justin "Viva" Williams scored what turned out to be the game winner. It was on a breakaway chance following a neutral zone turnover. He came in down the left side and fired a straight shot from near the top of the left circle right at Miller. There wasn't any traffic to speak of, and Miller stops this puck cleanly 99,999 times out of 100,000. However, this one hit his glove and somehow squeaked through. The unassisted goal was Viva's third tally of the post-season.

Late in the third, Carolina started to have discipline issues, and it almost caught up with them.

Chris Drury scored during a 5-on-3 sequence at 11:32. Daniel Briere and JP Dumont had the helpers. Kaberle and Hedican took back-to-back hooking penalties near the 10:30 mark, leaving the Canes with little defensive help. Any time you've got two defensemen in the box, you're in trouble. Especially if the 5-on-3 is for 1:45.

With Miller pulled and Chad LaRose gone for holding, the Sabres had a 6-on-4 for the final 1:30 or so, and they managed to cash in with just under three seconds remaining in the game. Derek Roy got the goal, and the assists were from Chris Drury and Maxim Afenogenov. . Quite honestly, there was so much traffic out front, I didn't even see the goal, despite the fact that it was a mere 25 feet in front of my face.

I need to mention that Glen Wesley made a stunning defensive play early in the third that ended up being crucial to the outcome of the game. A Jay McKee left point shot glanced off Cam Ward and behind him. There was a mess of people out front, and Cam didn't know where the puck was, and wouldn't have been able to get to it anyway. It was slowly inching towards the goal line, and at the last nanosecond, Wesley swooped in, got the blade of his stick on the goal line, and kept the puck out. For this, and for some all-round great defensive play, Wesley was given the game's second star.

Despite the third period disipline issues, resulting in four minor penalties, the Canes played a very solid and well balanced game. Defensemen were joining the scoring chances. Forwards were blocking shots. Everyone was much more solid (read: aggressive) on the forecheck.

On both sides, there were some really hard hits. I didn't think it would, but this series certainly is developing the markings of a grudge match. There's still a long way to go in this series, and I doubt very much that game three will be a "tone setter". Instead, I expect this series to have a lot of character, and a number different and changing characteristics. It should be a complete blast. It already has been.

Games three and four will be at the HSBC Arena on Wednesday and Friday nights, respectively. Puck drop for both games will be 7:30 eastern.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Oilers take 2-0 lead, head home

On Sunday night, there will surely be lots of breasts bared on Whyte Avenue, because the Oilers defeated the Ducks 3-1, and have taken a 2-0 lead in the series.

Although the series is far from over, it will be a VERY steep uphill climb for the Ducks. I only had the chance to watch the final 10 minutes of game 2, but the visiting Oil seemed to be very much in control of the game. Especially on defense, where they seemed to have tightened the clamps on any opportunities the Ducks had. Like Friday night, the Oil even got some brilliant shorthanded chances against what appears to be a very tired Ducks team.

I won't predict a sweep, but I don't see this series going beyond five games. I just don't think the Ducks have enough in the tank to get to the finish line.

I think my jaw is still somewhere near the floor from the Michael Peca shorthanded goal on Friday night. As corny as this sounds, I think it may have had a big impact on this series. It immediately took the energy away from the home crowd, the buzz out of the building, and the Ducks were off on the wrong webbed foot.

I doubt very much that you're unaware of what I'm talking about, but just in case... Ducks were on the PP. Dwayne Roloson made a routine save, then flipped the puck airborne over everybody and to the far blue line. Mike Peca met the puck there and easily beat Bryzgalev one-on-one to the stick side. You can view the goal here, which I highly recommend. I spent all day Saturday morning talking about how it was one of the coolest goals I've seen in a while.

The two combined again tonight for an empty netter, in which Roloson had the secondary assist. With two assists, Dwayne Roloson has more points than Canes skaters Josef Vasicek, Kevyn Adams, Craig Adams, Chad LaRose, Aaron Ward and Glen Wesley COMBINED. I don't think those guys should put up with having that undubious distinction.

The Ducks are down, but not out. At least not yet. While I think they'll take one of two in Edmonton, I don't see it going beyond five. I never had any faith in the waterfowl, and it looks as though their clock is rapidly approaching midnight.

Back East, the Canes are going to have to do a better job on power play, and do a better job of neutralizing Buffalo's speedy forwards. If they are unable to win game two on Monday night, they'll be on the same slippery slope with the Ducks.

I actually have confidence that they'll do a better job on both of those things, and I've already predicted that the Canes will emerge 4-3 victors on Monday. I went a step further, predicting that the goal scorers for the Canes will be AWard, Dougie Weight, LaRose and Staal. I also predicted that the Buffalo scorers will be Grier, JPom and Afenogenov.

Puck drop at 7:30 on OLN.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sabres take first game 3-2

On Saturday morning afternoon, the Buffalo Sabres took a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Final with a 3-2 win. The game was, as I expected it to be, very good. The game was not, as many "experts" expected it to be, a high scoring shootout.

Henrik Tallinder struck first at the 2:56 mark with a rebound chance that beat Ward. The way BFLO blog tells it, it was a gorgeous tic-tac-toe play, but it wasn't quite like that. Jochen Hecht had a good chance on a semi-break, but his shot sailed wide. JPom had a nice wrap chance denied. Tallinder came in undetected and didn't miss. On the play, Aaron Ward had a perfect chance to take Tallinder out of the play, but peeled off, leaving left winger Ray Whitney as the only man between Tallinder and Cam Ward. Ward had just slid from right post to left in order to stop JPom's chance, and didn't really have much hope of stopping Tallinder. For the rest of the period, Carolina pretty much controlled the tempo and kept most of the action in Buffalo's zone. They also drew two penalties, but they weren't able to convert either one of them.

At 12:11 of the first, the Canes took advantage of a Buffalo neutral zone turnover and tied it at one. Cory Stillman picked off a Sabres pass and dished to a streaking Rod Brind'Amour on the left side. Brindy did a fantastic job of delaying his shot, which pulled Miller to the near post. Brindy snapped a well placed shot from a tight angle over Miller's left shoulder and into the top right corner of the net. Stillman got the lone assist, but he also got his clock cleaned as Rory Fitzpatrick met him with a thunderous hit at the blue line just as he made the pass. The teams went to their respective rooms all tied and 1:22 remaining in a Buffalo power play.

Daniel Briere put the Sabres up for good at 9:41 by scoring a beauty of a goal. After a series of breakaway and odd-man chances were denied at both ends, the Sabres finally had one that worked. It was the result of some really amazing passing by the Swords. It all started when Ryan Miller stopped a Canes chance and sent the puck off the glass near the penalty bench. Taylor Pyatt picked it up, sent a long diagonal pass to JPom on the right side. JPom made a mirror image long diagonal pass to Briere, who ended up using the backhand to score a goal that looked eerily like the Brindy goal. Like Miller had done, Ward overcommitted to the left side, and the puck was perfectly placed under the corner where the crossbar and right post meet. Initially, Derek Roy was given credit for the primary assist, but he wasn't even on the ice, and the correction was made.

Buffalo clearly made adjustments in the second period, and they kept most of the action in the south end of the arena, just like the Canes did in the first. They went to the second intermission up a goal, but down a defenseman. I don't know how or when, but Teppo Numminen apparently suffered a "lower body injury" and wasn't seen at all in the second or third.

With 13:40 gone in the third frame, Jay McKee gave the Sabres a two-goal cushion by scoring a dandy of a goal that proved to be the game-winner. He had been in the box feeling shame for a holding infraction at 11:32. He was released from the box just in time to take a pass from Hecht. He skated into the right circle, waited for the traffic situation to be just right, and rifled one past Ward. I don't think Wardo ever saw it.

At 15:50, AWard took a holding penalty, and the Sabres started to sniff a blowout. However, it didn't really work that way. Crowd favorite Mike Commodore netted a shorthanded goal at 17:07. During the same shorthanded sequence, Brindy had a quality chance, and this one, from the most unlikely of candidates was good. It started out with Commy down low instead of running point. He threw the puck at the net from below the right circle, and it caromed off the side wall, took a funny bounce to the stick of Bret Hedican, who fed Commy down in the low slot. Commy then fired a shot that glanced off Toni Lydman's stick and in. Originally, Heddy was given the only assist, but later on Eric Staal was given a secondary assist. I had to watch the replay six times to understand why, and I still think it's kind of questionable, but it helped him extend his scoring streak to 11 games. The playoff scoring streak matches that of Jaro Jagr 10 years ago. Carolina pulled Ward for an extra attacker and had several good chances to tie it in the final minute, but Ryan Miller answered the bell every time. He certainly deserved the first star.

Overall, this was a great game. Obviously, I don't like the outcome, but the game was great. It was fast-paced, had a few momentum shifts, featured good d, great goaltending, good crisp passes, and no garbage. I expect this to be a very fun series. If game one is an indicator, we're in for a thrill ride.

No garbage. I wish I could say the same for the RBC Center parking lot. I enjoyed the company of several Sabres fans who provided Bill, the other Dave, and myself with a slab of an absolutely enormous Dagwood sandwich. Turns out they are from Niagara Falls, NY, and I was able to relate to them because of a brilliant bakery I've been to up there. Once I brought that up, it's like we had been friends forever. Over at the other blog, which I've cast aside like a "Canadian Ballet" dancer, I wrote about that bakery almost a year ago to the date. You can read that post by clicking here.

Anyway, I liked those dudes, and I met some other folks that seemed like nice people. It's also a well known fact that my best friend is a Sabres fan. I'm not a Sabre-hater, but there was a cluster of about 10 or 15 Buffalo cars who crashed our massive tailgate party and left a ridiculous mess in their wake. Cans, bottles, miscellaneous garbage. Amateurs. Amateurs. A veteran tailgater knows that you haul your own trash away ESPECIALLY when you are a visitor. I wasn't happy about that.

B-LIST CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS: 1. Kid Rock was sitting in one of the club level boxes. Late in the game, Erik Cole was seen in the same box. Hmmmm.

are you ready to rumble?

I'm almost out the door, headed off to tailgate for a couple of hours before the game.

My quick thoughts about today. This game will go to overtime, as will at least two other games in this series. It will go to seven games. The Canes will take it, especially if Tim Connolly is unable to return to the Sabres lineup.

I think that at some point in this series, probably game 2, Carolinas "energy line" of Adams/Adams/LaRose will start to get some stats. Specifically, Chad "Sharpie" Larose will score a goal. He's been flying, and has had several grade A chances denied. He'll get his just deserts.

Oh, and if I haven't mentioned it, I'll be rooting for the Oil out west. Oil in 6.

Maggie picks Carolina

If you've been following this page, you know that I've been keeping a watchful eye on how my predictions have gone compared to the "preditions" made by Maggie the Monkey.

For the conference finals, all three "experts" from tsn.ca have picked Buffalo and Anaheim to advance. Maggie and I have both picked Carolina and Edmonton to advance. This means that after this round, I will still be one point behind her no matter what happens.

My friends, it looks like in a best case scenario, I will finish in a tie with Maggie. I will neither be dumber than, nor smarter than a monkey.

However, if Carolina advances, and she correctly picks the Canes to win the Cup, I'll be okay with being dumber than a monkey. Winning the Cup would make that ignominy worth it.

Sabres wear the mark of the beast

On Friday, Kevin over at BFLOBLOG was lamenting the fact that the blogosphere has been relatively quiet concerning the Buffalo/Carolina series. Here's his quote:

I think we have reached the point of pre-series saturation. Even the Canes bloggers are posting infrequently:

Red and Black Hockey hasn't posted much of anything on the series.

CasonBlog has been strangely silent on the matchup as well.

The only post from The Acid Queen on the series is not the most pleasant, since she called us asshats:

I don't know how to explain the silence, or lack of taunting.

Kevin had already done some good-natured ribbing of the Canes, the News and Observer's "hockey primer" stuff, and Mean Gene.

Kevin's blog features one of those nifty category sorters, and an index of those categories. While I was visiting a little while ago, I happened to notice that Mr BFLO has written 666 posts in the "Buffalo" category. It says right there on his very own blog. "Buffalo: (666)". The sign of the devil. I made a screen shot for your viewing pleasure. By the time you read this, he will have made it 667, which has no comedic value at all.

Kevin runs a good blog, even if his allegiance is misguided. Head on over there, and take a couple grains of salt with you. You'll need them.

Here's to a good series.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Colesy getting close... maybe.

According to this story at TSN, Erik Cole did some skating today. He said that he felt good, and will continue to do some solo skating for the next two days. At that point, he'll determine if he's ready to practice with the team. This is certainly good news.

If all goes well, and he is able to join the team for practices early next week, there might be a chance that he would return to the lineup in the SCF.

I don't think we should get too excited about this because there's a lot of ifs involved. If he feels good after the solo skates. If he feels ready to go to full practice. If practice goes well. If the Canes advance. Still, though, it's impossible not to be filled with enthusiasm about this.

As it has always been, our primary wishes are for Erik to be healthy. Hockey comes secondary. I've said before that I'd almost prefer to leave him out even if he is ready. In the interest of not risking re-injury. However, I think I've changed my stance on that. If he gets up to speed and is ready, we need to let him play. The physical wound has healed, and while the emotional wound has healed for most of us, getting back on the ice would go a long way to healing Erik's emotional wounds.

I know one thing for sure. If the Canes end up winning the Cup, Colesy will be the first dude to skate with it. Even if we have to pull him out of the stands, he'll be the first.

second round picks much better

After going an abysmal 3-5 with my first round predictions, I righted the ship in the second round. I correctly picked 3, while only missing the Ducks. My 3-1 record in round two was better than all three of the "experts" on the tsn.ca panel, and level with Maggie the Monkey. She only missed Buffalo.

My cumulative record is a "fair" 6-6. Maggie is 7-5, so I'm still dumber than a monkey.

I will have to modify my bracket, since I chose the Avs to go to the SCF. In their stead, I'll send Edmonton over Anaheim. Back East, I'm sticking with Carolina over Buffalo.

more about the music

Yeah.... I sort of gave up on the comparing Buffalo's music scene to that of Raleigh. At least in the depth that I was initially dreaming about.

I wouldn't have included any bands who were/are in the mainstream, but it would have been worth noting that 10,000 Maniacs were from close enough to Buffalo that it would be fair to include them in that scene. Really, all I would have done is spewed out the name of a few bands from the early nineties, and rapped about them a little.

For the Buffalo scene, I was going to say that I don't really care for Ani DiFranco, that I am indifferent to the Goo Goo Dolls, and that I think Mercury Rev is pretty freakin' amazing. Goo Goo Dolls gained a fair amount of mainstream success, but never got too big for their britches. I kind of admire the fact that they said "no thanks" to the Los Angeles lifestyle, opting to stay in Buffalo. Ani isn't at all my preference of music, but she enjoyed enormous popularity in the early/mid nineties among the lesbian/hippy community that ran rampant at my college. I honestly think, though, that her popularity had more to do with that "scene" than with people actually liking the music. Mercury Rev was right up my alley. When they released their debut record, Yerself is Steam, their psychedelic space age noise pop style immediately earned comparisons to the brilliant Flaming Lips. They were even were mentioned in the same breath as My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain. The Lips comparison is easy to see. The others, not so much. Like the Lips, Mercury Rev went through lineup changes and subtle stylistic reinventions over the years, but unlike the Lips, I think they hit their peak early. I've liked them less and less as time goes on.

There's not a lot to choose from in bands that are from Raleigh proper. Only The Connells. Chapel Hill, which is only 20 miles away, is full of great alternative bands that came out of there around the same time that those three were coming out of Buffalo. Chief among them is Superchunk. I never get tired of tha Chunk. Despite the fact that they never change stylistically, and every song sounds almost identical, I love them. Mac is a terrible singer, but the music is great and so energetic and sweaty (yes, sweaty) that it more than makes up for it. Oh, and it helps that Laura is a looker. I would have gone on to say that Archers of Loaf were another awesome early nineties Chapel Hill-style punk band worthy of mention. Their debut record Icky Mettle was really amazing, but each subsequent record had diminishing appeal to me. Since the band broke up and Eric Bachman started Crooked Fingers, I have a newfound respect for him. He's no longer a drunken buffoon who can't remember the words to his own songs. He's a good songwriter, a good guitar player, and a pretty decent singer now that he's not screaming. Then, out of desperation, I would have thrown Ben Folds Five into the fray, simply because they came out in the early nineties, just like the other bands mentioned. In the early days, they were a little more rambunctious and their punk and/or metal influences were pretty obvious. I liked them a lot back then. However, as the bands star began to rise in the mid-to-late nineties, and they became more polished, I liked them less and less. Nowadays, I can't even listen to the old stuff anymore.

At this point, I would have realized that I wasn't going anywhere with this. There's no direction to it at all.

I sincerely apologize for what has just been a colossal waste of your time.

having problems

I might not get around to making that post about the Raleigh (Chapel Hill) and Buffalo music scenes. I have experienced some serious technical difficulties. Although I think I have them under control, I might be a while in getting that post together. I'm still working on it, though.

Ducks blog found!

Thanks to the heads up from some readers, I've found an active Ducks blog!

I'm sure there are more out there, and I hope that more are pointed to my attention, but for the time being, we'd like to welcome Battle of California to the blogroll, and in fact to the blogosphere in general. They started only this month, but have already done a nice job of building a readership.

"Earl Sleek" writes for the Ducks over there, while PJ Swenson, who we already know well from the brilliant Sharkspage, writes for the Sharks.

Seriously, if there are more Ducks blogs out there, let me know.

Ducks, anyone?

I'm trying to organize some special "final four" section of the page here, with links to all the wonderful bloggers covering the remaining four teams.

Obviously, I'm keen to the Hurricanes bloggers. I know about a few quality blogs by Sabres fans, and I'm starting to acquaint myself with the pages written by Oilers fans. (By the way, I find their lot to be the funniest). I just did a tiny bit of research into the Ducks blogosphere, and I came up empty. Oh sure, I found a few blogs dedicated to the Ducks, but the five or so that I found were abandoned before the playoffs even began. Every one of them.

So... If you know of any Ducks blogs, please bring them to my attention.

Also, I'm working on a piece about the Raleigh vs Buffalo music scene. Check back later today for that. The original goal was to write something about the music scene in (or bands that came out of) each of the playoff team cities. While I found it easier in the East, I started running into trouble in the West. I did a LOT of on-line research and I couldn't really dig up any bands that I know anything about for cities like Calgary and Edmonton. I was also finding it too difficult to narrow the field for New York and Anaheim (LA).

Anyway, look for the Raleigh/Buffalo music breakdown in a few hours.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

non-hockey reason #1 the Canes will win -- DOUGHNUTS

In what may or may not be a continuing series, I'd like to offer up one non-hockey reason that the Canes will defeat the Sabres for the Prince of Wales trophy.

Doughnuts. Note that I did not say, as Buffaloans say, "donuts". That's a lazy and otherwise unacceptable bastardization of "doughnut".

Although I don't partake of the tasty goodness as much as I used to, I've eaten many of both, and my honest (maybe a little biased) opinion is that Krispy Kreme (North Carolina based) is a vasty superior product to Tim Horton's (Buffalo mainstay).

The coffee is evenly matched, and Tim Horton's has a lot more to offer than just doughnuts, so they would get a slight edge in the "other" category. However, in the "doughnut" category, it's no contest. Krispy Kreme in a landslide.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Barbecue, and "putting the chicken before the horse"

There were a lot of good things about the Canes round two win. I mean aside from the actual winning of the series. I'll offer up some of my favorite things that I heard/saw/did during the second round of play.

  1. TAILGATING. This is a longstanding tradition in college football and the NFL all over the nation. Folks show up several hours before the game starts, set up grills in the parking lot, cook food, drink beer, toss the football, and just hang out until just before game time. As far as I know, nobody else in the NHL has a tailgating tradition, but we've been doing it ever since the 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs, and we even have people doing it during the regular season here. During the first round, I never arrived more than 30 minutes before puck drop, and I had to park in an auxiliary lot where there isn't a lot of tailgating. Round two, I always got there early enough to drink beer in the parking lot and smell the wonderful smells of chargrilled meat.
    As a very important point of clarification, I said people set up GRILLs and COOK food. Not "barbecue". Around here you might get murdered for misusing the word "barbecue". Barbecue is a noun, not a verb. You never "barbecue" some chicken. You grill some chicken. As I said, it is a noun, but it doesn't refer to the grill, or to a party you have in your back yard. You don't haul out the "barbecue". You haul out the grill. You don't have folks over for a "barbecue". You invite them over for a cookout. I should emphasize that you never, EVER say (write) "barbeque", or worse, "bar-b-q". Those are unacceptable bastardizations .
    Barbecue, my puck-loving friends, is tender, juicy meat that has been slow-cooked in a pit over a wood fire, pulled or shredded, and seasoned with a vinegar-and-pepper based sauce. None of this sugary tomato (or ketchup) based garbage. And I mean slooooooow-cooked. 12 hours. Preferably using indirect heat. Although beef is marginally acceptable in places like Texas and Missouri, we're really talking about pork here. And although some folks are into getting "pork shoulder" from a butcher, the proper technique is to roast the entire pig. Given a couple days notice, any butcher or foodservice purveyor can supply a whole hog at the weight of your choosing. The event at which the pig is roasted is called a "pig pickin'". Not a "barbecue". You eat barbecue, not "barbecued pork".

    I digress. Back to the point.

    A lot of folks make banners and/or posters to bring to the game. In some places like New Jersey, you're not allowed to bring signs, banners, flags, anything like that. Luckily, we're not one of those places where the arena security stifles the fans. During the regular season, you don't see much signage unless it's somebody's birthday. During the playoffs, though, they come out like crazy. Here's one made by some people that I happened to meet in the parking lot just before game five. The craftsmanship on this sign is much less shoddy than many signs I've seen, but still leaves a little to be desired. Nonetheless, it was great for a giggle.

  3. MEN'S ROOM CONVERSATION. During the regular season, there usually isn't much of a line for the restrooms, and even when there is, there isn't much conversation. During the playoffs, nobody leaves their seat during play, so the intermissions are the only time the restrooms are being used. So there's always a big crowd, and lots of conversation. I overheard some great stuff including this exchange during the first intermission of game 5:
    Guy 1: So, how do you think we'll match up against Buffalo?
    Guy 2: Hey, hey, hey! We still have to win this series. Let's not get ahead of ourselves! No sense in putting the.... the... um....
    Guy 3: horses in one basket?
    Guy 4: Chicken before the horse?!

    A little kid, not getting the silly humor in the moment, proudly corrected the intentional misuse of the "chickens before they hatch" expression.

We've got a few days off before the start of round 3 on Saturday. I'll try to come up with better material than this in the meantime.

Hurricanes win game, series 4-1

On Sunday night, the Canes eliminated the Devils with a 4-1 win, following a disappointing 6-1 loss on Saturday.

I apologize for the lateness of this post, and for the absence of one on Saturday. However, outside factors like a wedding, really really crappy weather, and another game prevented me from staying on point.

On Saturday, the Canes got what I figured they would. Cam Ward got rocked, had his miraculous streak ended, and the Canes had an off day. However, they didn't (and more importantly, Cam Ward didn't) get distracted by the loss. They bounced back Sunday with a quality performance and a richly deserved win.

With the series win on Sunday, the Canes made some franchise history. This was the first time the team had ever won a series on home ice. Previous to this season, the Canes had only won three series. All of those came in their 2002 run to the Cup, and all three came on the road. Back in Hartford, the Whalers only won one series, and that came on the road as well.

Things were working against the Canes early in Sunday's game, but they didn't let it get the better of them. Brian Gionta scored a goal in the first minute of the game, and there were 5 penalties against the Canes in the first period. They calmly and effectively killed every one of those penalties while the crowd was busy screaming at referees Leggo and McGeough.

At 8:39 of the first, Frantisek Kaberle got a goal with a blue line blast through traffic. Initially, it looked like it was redirected by Matt Cullen, but the deflection was off a New Jersey stick. Recchi and Cullen got assists.

Carolina managed to draw their first penalty of the game in the 14th minute of the second period when David Hale cross-checked Cory Stillman at 13:30. Actually, there were only two penalties called against the Devils all night long. The boys capitalized on this chance just 50 seconds later when Stillman completed a pretty tic (Rod Brind'Amour)-tac (Viva)-toe (Stillman) play to take the lead for good. Stillman's goal would prove to be the game winner.

At the end of two, Carolina was up one, but clearly looked like the dominant team. They fought off that series of penalties in the first, they were controlling the possession/zone battles and they had started to dominate the shots on goal category. In the second period, the Canes shot 16 times while limiting the Devils to 3.

At 7:22 of the third, Ray "the Wizard" Whitney relieved some tension in the building by putting the Canes up 3-1. Doug Weight and the hard-working Andrew Ladd got assists.

With nothing to lose, the Devils yanked Brodeur for an extra attacker with about 2 minutes to play. Shortly thereafter, Eric Staal scored an empty netter at 18:32 to put the game out of reach. Even though the game was "out of reach", what happened next confused me. The Devils put Brodeur back in net. I really don't get that. They had nothing at all to lose, but they gave up. They wouldn't have scored three goals in the closing 90 seconds even with the extra attacker, but they didn't even try.

Since the Sabres closed out their series with the Sens, and all that craziness has taken place in the West, Carolina will have home ice for the rest of the playoffs. We'll have to wait for the Edmonton-San Jose series to be over before we can proceed, but the speculation is that we'll start the Buffalo series on Saturday night.

Cory Stillman went down awkwardly late in the third and didn't return. From the way he skated off the ice, and from the replays, it looked like something happened to his left ankle. They didn't have any details (and wouldn't give them if they had them), but Peter Laviolette was quoted as saying something like "we don't have any test results back, but it doesn't look serious". We've got a few days to figure it out.

Rod Brind'Amour is still one point shy of 100 career playoff points. Eric Staal extended his playoff point streak to 10 games.

Pictures and more details later. For now, work.

EDIT (8:01 PM) -- I was clearly drunk or still asleep when I composed this post this morning. I was shocked to find more than two major errors concerning the sequence of events in the game. I have corrected those errors, and I apologize profusely for any confusion I may have caused

Saturday, May 13, 2006

another addition to the roll

This one really should have been added a very long time ago, but I've been reading Covered in Oil so much lately. If you don't already read it daily, you should. These guys are good. And more often than not good for a laugh.

Over there, Chris has been chronicling his own playoff beard progress. Mike has been providing excellent photos of the mayhem on Whyte Avenue.

Also check out Sports Matters for another Oil-centric take on the playoffs. Over there, Andy Grabia recently shaved his beard off because it made him more presentable for his work from home job. Now he claims that his "anti-beard" is responsible for the Oilers two straight wins.

As a side note concerning Sports Matters, Grabia picked the (Whalers) Hurricanes to win the Cup. Nice job.

damn social niceties

I've got this problem....

A college buddy of mine is getting married today at 3:00. The Canes are playing the Devils in what could be the series clinching game today at .... 3:00.

I will bend a little in this instance, but I only go so far. I'll go to the wedding, and hope that there's a tv somewhere at the reception. I'll also be DVRing the game, but it just isn't the same.

What about the beard, though? At left, you can see how my playoff beard has progressed. After about 2.2 nanoseconds of deliberation, I opted not to shave for the occasion. I have to be true to the playoff beard. Usually when I go to weddings, I try to look my best. I shave at least once on the day of the wedding. I want to look nice out of respect for the occasion, but also for the ladies. The only reason single men go to weddings is so they can meet single women. Yeah, sure, there's also that thing about our friends having the most important day of their life, but really its about meeting women. I realize that while my whiskers might attract some women to me, it might be off-putting to others. I'm willing to take the chance so I can be true to the beard.

As you can see, I'm a little beyond the "oh, fun! a beard!" stage. I don't quite look like a derelict yet (ie Jake Plummer, pictured at right, during the Denver Broncos playoff run last NFL season), but it is looking a little rough. Luckily, it's well beyond the stage where it just looks like I'm lazy. Also, I'll have lots of opportunities to explain the beard. Spread the gospel. Although this could go on for another month, I doubt very much that I'll ever get to the Jake Plummer stage.

Anyway, Canes and Devils drop at 3:00.

Sabres and Sens drop at 7:00. I should be able to watch that one in its entirety.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Paul Maurice named leafs coach

Although many people saw this coming from 50 miles away, it still comes as a bit of a surprise to me. On Friday, Paul Maurice (aka "Ole One Eye", aka "Chairman Mo") was named head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Maurice, a 39-year old native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, has been coaching with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. He was also, of course, the longtime head coach of the Whaler/Canes and was at one point the longest tenured coach in the league.

Maurice compiled a very mediocre 268-307-99 record in nine seasons with Hartford/Carolina. He was set to be fired be the Canes in February of 2002, but the team made an amazing run just to get in the playoffs, then made a storybook run to the Stanley Cup Finals. The next season, the Canes finished dead last in the league, and in December of 2003, the Canes fired Mo, replacing him with former Islanders coach Peter Laviolette.

With Maurice coming in, Leafs fans should expect left wing Bates Battaglia to come with him. Maurice really likes Batesy from his days with the Canes. Battaglia was part of the BBC (Battaglia, Brind'Amour, Cole) line that caught fire late in that 2002 season. Battaglia has been a little bit of a journeyman since then. He spent time with the Avs, the Caps, then found himself all the way down in the ECHL at the start of the 2005 season. While coaching the Marlies, Paul Maurice made a big push to get Battaglia. The team offered him a try-out, and he ended up having a pretty great season. He scored 67 points (20/47) in 79 games, finishing second on the team. Anyway, Mo really likes the guy, so Leafs fans should expect to see him on the big club in October. He won't be able to wear his traditional #13 sweater because Mats Sundin already wears that. I'm guessing that Batesy will probably wear #73, since it's the next closest thing resembling a capital B.

If the Leafs are content with wallowing in mediocrity, this is a fantastic move. If they want to return to glory, this might not be such a good thing.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Holy Horcoff, Batman!

Wow. Just wow!

I'll admit that I've been sort of a bad hockey fan during these playoffs. I haven't watched much other than obviously watching the Canes. In this second round, for example, I haven't watched anything. I'm extremely interested in the Buffalo-Ottawa series, but those games have run opposite ours, so I haven't seen one minute of that series. I'm interested because barring a complete meltdown, the Canes will face the winner of that series. Also, I have some sort of faux-allegiance to the Sabres, so I'm rooting for them.

After the Canes game ended last night, I watched most of the Sharks-Oil game. Man, was that one for the ages! I was glad to see that they won that game. I just think that it's better if the series are close. Although I doubt that anyone will sweep, the other three series are now at 3-0, and interest is probably waning in folks who don't have close ties to either team. From the looks of the non-sold out Continental Arena last night, it looks like interest was already waning in the Swamp when they were down 2-0.

Anyway..... the game.

I stayed up to watch the end, despite efforts to get to bed a little earlier. Since it ended at about 2:45 local time, I was a little late getting to work today. Everyone assumed I had tied one on after the Canes took command of their series, but the fact is I was completely sober last night. I just stayed up wicked late watching a Western Conference game.

Dwayne Roloson was simply amazing. The Sharks could have ended the game many times, but Roli foiled their attempts.

Georges Laraque nearly cost the Oil the game with a really stupid penalty. He boarded Jonathan Cheechoo midway through the second, earning a major penalty and the gate. There was absolutely no question that it was the right call. Luckily, the Oil did an amazing job of killing the five minute penalty and it didn't hurt them. Remember, though.... you can score as many times as you want to on a power play resulting from a major penalty. The Sharks could have scored a couple and put it out of reach. Laraque isn't really a guy that they miss when he's in the box (or in the showers), but no team wants to take a major penalty at a key point of the game. It was incredibly stupid, and absolutely avoidable (hence the major penalty and ejection) but they got away with it.

How sweet it was that Ryan Smyth assisted on the game winner! In the second frame, he got nailed with a clearing attempt right in the ole noggin, causing profuse bleeding. After going off for repairs, he came back to finish the marathon game and got the assist on the game winner. He almost got the winner himself, with a dandy wrap chance.

I predict that the Oil will also take game 4, and will in fact take this series in seven games. I hope they're all as exciting as this one was.

"no one remembers who came in second"

The latest "My Stanley Cup" ad is available for viewing here.

This one, narrated by seven time Tour de France champion and former he who bangs Cheryl Crow Lance Armstrong, prominently features Eric Staal and Joe Thornton.

As extremely disappointing as the "My NHL" ads were, these have been really great.

The ad will make its broadcast debut on Saturday, but we get a sneak peak at it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Canes take 3-0 lead in Eastern Semis, Wallin makes a huge play.

On Wednesday night, the Hurricanes took the first of two games in the Continental Arena by the final score of 3-2. Game 4 will be Saturday afternoon at 3:00 in the swamp.

If a game 5 is necessary (and I'm guessing that it will), it will be Sunday night in Raleigh at 7:30.

Despite a big talk about intimidating the Hurricanes with beach balls, Devils fans didn't even fill the arena, and the ones who showed up left the arena with their team in a very deep 3-0 hole.

I'd like to point out a play that in my mind was HUGE, but went without comment by the OLN crew. With the Canes clinging to a 3-2 lead late in the third, the Devils had switched up to a four forward system. They were unable to mount any serious pressure, and because the Devils only had one defenseman, the Canes were able to clear the zone easily each time. However, with about 3:30 to play, it looked like the Devils were going to mount a serious threat. They had a 3-on-2 break coming hard into the Canes zone. Jamie Langenbrunner brought the puck down the left side with Scott Gomez and Patrick Elias streaking down the center of the ice. It was here that Nic Wallin, the hero from game 2, made a huge play. Wallin gave up his body, throwing himself to the ice. Three things happened. First, he denied Langenbrunner a shooting opportunity. Second, he denied the passing lanes, leaving Langenbrunner with no options. Third, and most importantly, he poked the puck off Langenbrunner's stick, and the Canes picked up the loose change.

Even though Brindy got the game winner and will be called "hero", I think that specific play by Wallin was of boundless import.

The Canes hit the left post of Brodeur's empty net with a 150-foot shot with about :30 to play, and that was the best scoring chance by either team in the closing seconds.

Justin Williams capitalized on a bad Devils turnover midway through the first, roofing one past the helpless Brodeur. Turnovers were the biggest weakness for the Devils early in game three, and it may have cost them the game. With the goal, Williams extended his playoff scoring streak to three games.

Rod Brind'Amour got the game winner by barely getting a stick on an Eric Staal blast from the blue line. Both guys extended their playoff scoring streaks to a remarkable eight games. Rod Brind'Amour now has 99 career playoff points in 125 games.

things to look for in tonight's game coverage

Yeah. That's right. I said game coverage.

I won't bore you with the "create traffic in front of the net" and "keep hepatitis boy off the scoresheet" and other crap like that. The Canes know what they have to do, and likewise for the Devils.

I wanted to write something about this the other day anyway, but I didn't get around to it until just now.

A lot of fans in Carolina have been bellyaching about the announcing crew on OLN and NBC, saying that they have been biased against the Canes. I've been to both playoff games, watched the DVR of those games afterwards. In the first round, we weren't getting any OLN/NBC coverage, so this pertains only to the second round. I don't think the announcers were biased at all. I thought they gave fair time to both teams, and their analysis has been pretty fair and level. They're used to (and I am also very used to) the insanely blind homer commentary of John Forslund and Tripp Tracy, who are paid by the Canes to announce for Fox Sports South. I can understand the uncomfortability of shifting from the known (Forslund and Tracy) to the unfamiliar (OLN and NBC). I can even understand preferring to mute the TV and tune into Canes radio feed. That's an old trick used around here by college basketball fans.

Anyway, I don't think they've treated us unfairly. I encourage the Canes fans who are reading this to actually pay attention to what's being said. They're not going to gush about the Canes, and they don't gush about the Devils either. But I actually think that Brian Engblom has been sort of gushy about the Canes. Anyway, I encourage everyone, especially my fellow Canes fans to actually pay attention and develop a rational opinion about the coverage of this series.

Okay. On a similar note, my fellow Canes fans are completely familiar with the antics of Ray Whitney. Red Wings fans must also know that he's a bit of a clown. In a good way. We've seen him hijack pregame on-ice interviews with other players. He always finds a way to pop his face into the picture. I noticed that he managed to do it the other night in game 2. For all the people outside the FSN South viewing area, pay special attention tonight to any on-ice interview done with a Canes player. I guarantee that at some point, Whitney will slowly skate by and deliberately get in the shot and act like a total ham. He does some really funny stuff. That alone is often worth the price of admission.

Thirdly, I noticed that on Saturday, NBC did something funny in their coverage of the Canes game. During the intermission reports, they would cut to the studio for analysis by the guys. Nothing unusual about that. Behind them was a large screen with a live shot of the arena. Nothing unusual about that. HOWEVER, (if you still have the DVR of this, check it out) they made it look like we have tiny blimps flying around the arena during intermission, presumably distributing prizes. We don't have those. There haven't been tiny blimps in the arena since the Greensboro days. I don't know why they did this, but it was a deliberate manipulation of the video to make it look that way. Did anyone else notice this? Anyone have any ideas about why they would do this? No, by the way, the "blimps" were not displaying the NBC logo, so it wasn't a branding thing.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

My Stanley Cup, move over

I got an e-mail today asking me to visit and promote Being Stanley. After visiting, I have no problem promoting it.

There are short animated films mimicing the "My Stanley Cup" ad series.

Good stuff, and from what I can tell, these people aren't violating any copyright laws. Or if they are, they're doing it with blatant disregard.

Stop by for a visit, and view the short films.

Also, check out this article in the New York Times about a 57 year-old steelworker whose name is actually Stanley Cup. He lives in Pennsylvania, and is a "diehard Penguins fan", but his father had no interest in hockey, and apparently had no idea what he was setting his son up for with that name.

Mr. Cup will be doing some correspondent work for OLN during this year's playoffs.

Wallin's winner

Here's a view of what things looked like from my seat as the officials reviewed Nic Wallin's game winner (and signalled that that the goal was good) on Monday night. This was shot by me using a digital still camera. Sorry for the shakiness, but you might imagine that I was a little excited.

Canes win thriller, take 2-0 lead

Carolina defeated New Jersey 3-2 in thrilling fashion on Monday night, taking a 2-0 lead in the best of seven series. Headed up to the Meadowlands, the Devils are in a "must win" situation when the series resumes on Wednesday night.

This was a very exciting game, and it had lots of high points, but I can't pretend that it was a spectacular all around effort by the Canes. They made lots of mistakes, particularly early. However, they made the proper adjustments and took control of the game in the second.

In the third, the game seemed destined for overtime until Scott Gomez got a pinball goal with 20 seconds to play in the third. At this point, I was very disappointed to see flocks of Canes fans head for the exits, trying to save themselves 21 seconds of commute time. I've always thought it to be incredibly asinine to leave a sporting event early, even if it's a complete blowout.¹

When some of these folks had already made their way outside the building, Eric Staal scored the biggest goal of his career, tying the game at 19:57 of the third, forcing overtime. According to a caller to the post-game call-in show, the arena staff had no choice but to let them back in, despite it being against arena policy.

It was a massive goal, and a tremendous momentum shift. You could almost feel the air releasing from the Devils, as if they were an inflatable toy.

Then, at 3:09 of the fourth frame, Carolina defenseman Nic Wallin slipped one past Brodeur to win the game. It was Wallin's first goal of this postseason, and the third postseason goal of his career. All three tallies have been overtime game winners. This is precisely why he has the nickname "secret weapon".

Once again, Cam Ward was great. Mike Commodore was nothing short of awesome on defense, and jeez. JEEZ!!! What can I say about Eric Staal? Big time. Big, big time.

I only returned home from the game minutes ago, and I haven't had time to watch the DVR of it. The Wallin goal was under review for about a minute and a half, but I don't know why. Nicky came into Brodeur's crease, and there may have been some contact, but the on-ice call was "goal". As you may or may not know, the center ice ref can (and has this postseason) come out of the clear blue sky, 100 feet away to overrule the call, indicating interference with the goaltender. This was not done, and I have no idea what was under review. Goaltender interference is a NON-REVIEWABLE thing. They certainly didn't explain it in the arena, and I have no idea what they were saying on tv.

I got some pretty good "video" footage of both the game-winning goal, the ensuing mayhem, the referee's review of the play, and the ensuing pandemonium. I've never posted my own video before, but I'm working on getting that up. Hopefully very soon. You'll like it.

EDIT The video of the crowd chanting "goal, goal, goal" and the ref signalling "goal" is up. Sorry that it's not film studio quality.

EDIT #2 According to 850 the Buzz (the blog), the play was under review because the puck went in off Wallin's skate. Replays determined that there was no kickig motion, and the the goal was legit. Good job to those guys on the liveblogging.

¹. Minor league baseball is exempt from this rule, as it is exempt from all rules of etiquitte for sporting events. The express purpose of attending a minor league baseball game is to drink beer. The baseball is somewhere around #5 in the list of things going on at the game that night. It's perfectly fine to depart from a minor league baseball as early as you wish. Second inning? Wanna go home? No problem.


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