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

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Canes handle Habs, homestand continues

On Thursday night, the Canes asserted themselves against the Canadiens, sending 48 shots on net en route to a 4-2 victory. On Saturday, they will wrap up the three game home stint against the Bruins.

Michael Ryder got the scoring started at 10:42 of the first on a really nifty play ending with an easy tuck-in. Guillaume Latendresse was coming down the right side and sent a very nice centering pass to Ryder in the low slot. Cam Ward was expecting the shot from Latendresse and had overcommitted to the right post. The net was essentially wide open for Ryder to tuck it in. Saku Koivu got a secondary assist on the even strength goal.

At 16:24, Erik Cole knotted the score by working really hard to stuff his own rebound in. He took a Glen Wesley pass inside the left circle, settled the puck and fired a wrist shot on net. Huet answered the bell, but gave up a fat rebound in front of the net rather than to the corner. Cole found the rebound in the low slot and fired it through a forest of legs.

No other scoring in the first, nor any penalties of note. Actually, there were very few penalties in the entire game. A grand total of seven.

Cole put the Canes ahead at 8:23 of the second. Again it was a huge rebound given up by Huet. Scott Walker left a drop pass for Cole in the top of the right circle. He one-timed one from there that Huet stopped but sent the rebound out front. Cole picked up the loose change and fired it past Huet again. Walker got the first assist and Bret Hedican got the second.

Seven minutes later, Tomas Plekanec tied it at two. He sent a slap shot from the top of the right circle that beat Ward. Sergei Samsanov and Francis Bouillon Mark Streit got the helpers.

Erik Cole laid a crushing hit on Bouillon behind the Montréal net late in the second as he was trying to finish off a hat trick. The third goal never came, and the hit was just barely off camera in the FSN South feed, but I could see the lining up and hear the crowd's reaction.

12:27 into the third, Viva scored what would prove to be the game winner. After Carolina had squandered a short five-on-three and the normal power play that followed. Afraid that the big kill would give Montréal momentum, coach Laviolette called his time out to neutralize that. Moments later, the Canes were on a mini-break and Justin Williams found the back of the net with a really sweet backhand shot that stunned Huet. He never even saw it. Credit Ray "The Wizard" Whitney and Rod Brind'Amour with the assists.

Just 50 seconds later, Eric Belanger fired a howitzer of a snap-wrister from the left faceoff dot, beating Huet high on the stick side. Chad "Sharpie" LaRose got the only assist.

One thing worth noting is that Saku Koivu saved a sure goal late in the third. Huet was way out of position, and Whitney almost had a chance to stuff a strange end board bounce into the vacated net. Koivu, however, detected this, and got his stick down and against the left post to prevent it. A very nice play, and a good night for the Habs captain, even in loss. He almost made my stars of the game.

The FSN South crew gave the three stars to Bret Hedican (third), Viva (second) and Erik Cole (first).

The "official" three stars went to Viva (third), Ray Whitney (second) and Cole.

I have it a tiny bit differently. The RBH three stars of the game:

Third Star Christobal Huet, MON. 44 saves
Second Star Justin Williams, CAR. Game winning goal
First Star Erik Cole, CAR. 2 goals, 11 SOG.

Before embarking on their annual beginning of December Western Conference swing, the Canes have one last home game. Saturday against the Bs. No television, but I'll be there.

Canes hope to bounce back tonight

On Tuesday night, the Canes fell to the visiting Ottawa Senators 4-1. Andrew Ladd potted a goal for the Canes in the first few minutes of play, and the entire team fell asleep after that.
Carolina's former #1 goalie Martin Gerber played well in his return to the RBC Center, turning away 29 of 30 shots. On the other end, Johnny Crackers made his third consecutive start and took the loss.

The game was neither in my ticket package nor on teevee, so the best I could do was to listen to the radio feed.

Tonight, Les Habitants are in town. It's not in my ticket package, and tonight would normally be Scrabble night, but that's been cancelled. I'll be planted in front of the teevee and will possibly give intermission updates.

On Saturday, the Canes will wrap up the home stand against the Bs, and I'll be there. Then, it'll be another two weeks before I go back, followed by three in the last week of the year.

I'm guessing that Cam Ward will be back between the pipes tonight. I'm hoping that everyone (particularly Eric Staal) wakes up.

Monday, November 27, 2006

off topic -- general sports, championships, blunders.

This is about how some late night teevee got me thinking about sports teams that "almost" won championships, but didn't because of a huge blunder. In most cases, the blunder wasn't the only reason, but fans of those teams don't wanna hear it.

I was up late last night, and I somehow ended up on ESPN Classic, watching the 1984 Orange Bowl game between the 12-0 Nebraska Cornhuskers and the 10-1 Miami Hurricanes. Miami eventually won the game, stealing the championship away thanks to a coaching blunder.

I got to thinking about other sports teams that had championships in sight, but blundered them away. I'll numerate seven games that had championship implications, tell what went wrong, and why they would have (and in most cases might not have won anyway. I saw all but one of these games live on television. In chronological order:

  1. 1972 Summer Olympics -- Men's Basketball gold medal game USA v USSR. September 10, 1972 -- Basketball Arena, Munich, West Germany.

    The mighty United States, who had never lost a basketball game in its history, pitted up against their cold war foe. USA had been running and gunning its way through the tournament, but ran into a slow, methodical team. Rather than force the Soviets to try to catch them, the US decided to play along with the slow-tempo game. USSR led for the entire game, until Doug Collins hit two free throws with three seconds remaining to give the Americans a 50-49 lead. Due to some miscommunication, some language barriers, and at the very core, a timekeeping error, the Soviets were allowed THREE chances at a last-second desperation play. Third time was a charm, the Soviets won. The US requested an appeal, which was denied, and they ultimately refused to accept their silver medals.

    Error: officials.
    Would USA have won?: absolutely.

  2. 1982 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game. Georgetown v University of North Carolina March 29, 1982 -- New Orleans Superdome, New Orleans LA.

    In a very close game, UNC had taken a lead against the favored Hoyas on a 16-foot jump shot by Michael Jordan with 17 seconds left. With the score 63-62 in favor of the Tar Heels, Georgetown came down the court, holding for a last shot to win. Inexplicably, Georgetown's Fred Brown passed the ball directly to UNC's James Worthy with seven seconds remaining, giving him a chance to ice the game. Worthy was fouled with five seconds left, and missed his first free throw attempt. Knowing that Georgetown had no timeouts remaining and would be unable to stop the clock, he missed the second intentionally, forcing the clock to start and leaving G-town with no way to set a play. It was talked about for a long time, and still is talked about. There's no way of knowing what would have happened if Brown hadn't thrown the ball away. It was coming down to a last second shot.

    Error: player
    Would Georgetown have won?: Who knows?

  3. 1984 Orange Bowl. Nebraska v Miami (Florida) January 2, 1984 -- Orange Bowl, Miami FL.

    Nebraska was 12-0 and had been the #1 ranked team all season long. Miami was #5 at 10-1, and had the privilege of hosting the national championship game. The Hurricanes jumped out to a 17-0 lead, and the Cornhuskers rallied back, only to watch Miami stretch it out to a 31-17 fourth quarter lead. Behind the arm of Turner Gill (current head coach at the University of Buffalo), Nebraska stormed back and scored what seemed like the tying touchdown with something like 47 seconds left. In those days, there was no overtime in college football, so a tie would have been a tie. With the score 31-30, coach Tom Osborne elected to go for the two point conversion and the win rather than the tie. He knew that his team would probably be crowned the national champs even with a tie, but he didn't want to have it end like that. Gill's conversion pass attempt was broken up, and Miami recovered the ensuing on-side kick. They ran the clock out, won the game and the national championship. Perhaps this was karmic payback for the greediness displayed by Osborne's teams who often ran the score up when the game was well in hand. Perhaps it was an indicator that the man was more than greedy. He was an imbecile. Even with a tie his players would have won the national championship. Instead he had to be greedy, going for a coaching victory. Gill says he doesn't blame Osborne, but I'll bet that secretly, he does.

    Error: coach Tom Osborne
    Would Nebraska have won?: Yes. Not the game, but the championship.

  4. 1986 World Series game 6 Boston Red Sox v New York Mets. October 25, 1986 -- Shea Stadium, New York NY.

    The Red Sox had a 3-2 series lead and had taken a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the tenth inning in game 6. After the Sox' Calvin Schiraldi retired Wally Backman and Kieth Hernandez, the Mets were forced to the brink of elimination. Gary Carter and Kevin Mitchell hit back-to-back singles. Ray Knight, with two strikes against him, hit a single scoring Carter. Bob Stanley came in to pitch to Mookie Wilson. After Wilson fouled off a bunch of pitches, Stanley threw a 2-2 pitch in the dirt, and Mitchell scored on the wild pitch. At this point, Boston had already squandered several chances to put the Mets away. What happened next, though, is what everyone remembers. After Wilson fought off a few more pitches, he hit a soft grounder down the first base line that Bill Buckner misplayed. Knight scored, the Mets won, and the series was tied 3-3.
    Game 7 was to be played the next day, but was rained out. On Monday October 27, game 7, and a chance for the Sox to redeem themselves. They couldn't do it, as the Mets seized control and won the game 8-5.

    Nobody ever blames Calvin Schiraldi for failing to finish off Ray Knight. Why? Nobody ever blames Bob Stanley for the wild pitch. Why? By the time it got to Bill Buckner, enough damage had already been done, but he takes the fall. Never mind that that was GAME SIX and they still had another chance to win. Nobody ever blames Schiraldi for falling apart in the seventh inning of game 7. Why? Nobody ever blames the Sox coaching staff for pulling Roger Clemens from game 6 after he had pitched seven good innings. Why? This game, this series is defined by what Bill Buckner did.

    In what is perhaps the second greatest thing that ever happened to Youtube, some guy re-created the entire bottom of 10th of game 6 on Nintendo baseball. The best ever is that completely ridiculous Bo Jackson touchdown run on TecmoBowl.

    Here's the RBI Baseball (Nintendo) re-creation of the 10th inning of game 6, complete with Vin Scully's tv commentary.

    Error: Bill Buckner.
    Would the Sox have won?: No. By that point, it was too late. Too many other things had already gone wrong. They still had game 7 anyway.

  5. 1993 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game. Michigan v University of North Carolina April 5, 1993 -- New Orleans Superdome, New Orleans LA.

    Michigan had the "fab five" -- Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. The highly touted group of freshmen that were supposed to lead coach Steve Fisher to consecutive national titles. Carolina was having spectacular play from "The Donald" Williams, who ended up being the tournament MVP. Carolina led most of the game, and with under 20 seconds to play, Carolina had just taken a 73-71 lead. The Heels missed a free throw, which Webber rebounded, then got away with a traveling violation before heading downcourt. The Wolverines were without a timeout, and needed a three to win or a two to tie. Carolina wasn't giving anything, and forced webber into a corner and double teamed him there. Not wanting to take a five second violation, Webber panicked, and with 11 seconds left, he called for a time out that Michigan didn't have. That infracion meant that Carolina was awarded two free throws and posession of the ball. That was all she wrote. With the kind of pressure Carolina was applying, they weren't going to get off a good shot, and it would have taken a miracle.

    Error: Chris Webber
    Would Michigan have won: Probably not.

  6. 1999 Stanley Cup Finals game 6. Buffalo Sabres v Dallas Stars June 19, 1999 -- Marine Midland (HSBC) Arena, Buffalo NY.

    "No Goal." Dallas stormed into Buffalo up 3-2 and with a ton of momentum after shutting out the Sabres 2-0 in game 5. They had two chances to finish off the Sabres. If they couldn't do it on the road, they would go back home for game 7.

    The game went to triple overtime, and nobody needs to be told what happened. The head of officiating said that the goal was legit because Hull had already taken two shots, which Hasek denied in bang-band fashion, and that the saves didn't constitute a change of possession. Since, according to this, Hull already had possession, he was able to enter the crease.
    "A rebound off a goalie of any type, that doesn't cause a change of possession," Bryan Lewis, NHL director of officiating, told CBC TV. "That's still the puck of the attacking player to play.
    "That's his puck to shoot and score. That's a perfectly legal goal."

    At any rate, there's no way to know what would have happened if the goal had been wiped off. Maybe it goes to a fourth overtime. Maybe Dallas scores a clean goal Maybe Buffalo scores a goal and forces a game seven. Game seven would have been in Dallas. Dallas was 8-3 at home that post-season, and Buffalo was 6-5 on the road. Just as we have no way of knowing what would have happened in the rest of game 6 (if the goal had been waved off), we have no way of knowing what would have happened in a game 7. Statistically speaking, we have more reason to assume that Dallas would have won on their home ice. Only the 1945 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1971 Montréal Canadiens have won Stanley Cup Finals game 7 on the road. In fact, not including the Hurricanes, the home team is 11-2 in SCF game 7s.

    Error: officiating
    Would the Sabres have won?: Maybe, but not likely. They would have had to win game 6 AND game 7.

  7. 2003 National League Championship Series, game 6. Chicago Cubs v Florida Marlins. October 14, 2003 -- Wrigley Field, Chicago IL.
    "The Bartman Game"
    After the Cubs took a 3-1 series lead, they forgot to show up to game 5 in Miami, getting shut out 4-0. they still had two chances to wrap up the series at home and go to their first World Series in 58 years.
    With one out in the eighth, and the Cubs leading 3-0, a foul ball was hit to left field, heading towards the bleachers. Moises Alou might have had a play on the ball to record the second out. Cubs fan Steve Bartman, sitting in the first row of seats, reached to catch the foul ball, unintentionally preventing Alou from doing the same. Despite the protestations of the Cubs, no "fan interference" was called, and the Marlins batter, Louis Castilla was allowed to continue his at-bat. The Cubs completely unravelled after that. Following a walk to Castilla, there was a walk, RBI single, error (on which an inning-ending double play might have occurred), 2-RBI double, walk, RBI sac fly, 3-BRI double, RBI single. By then the score was 8-3 in favor of the Marlins. That was the final.

    Oh sure Bartman might have given Castillo new life, but the point is that Prior walked him and then went on to blow his three-run lead. Then Kyle Farnsworth came on and gave up three earned runs. And that was just game 6. The Cubs couldn't pull it together for a win at home in game 7.

    Error: Cubs fan Steve Bartman
    Would the Cubs have won?: no. Bartman was only a tiny minuscule part of the problem. The inability to get anybody out was the big problem.

So there you have it. A gigantic post that has very little to do with hockey, and even less to do with an actual point.

I guess the point I was trying to make is that way too often, when our team "almost" wins, we try to blame the refs or some unfortunate turn of events, or the other team, or some fluky circumstances. More often than not, what it boils down to is that one team didn't execute, and they put themselves to be in a position to be destroyed by mistakes and to be searching for scapegoats.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

off topic -- cinema ... but kind of about hockey

When the Canes have a few days off, that's when I try to get my Netflix queue moving along. In the past couple of days, I've done just that by watching A History of Violence, Gerry (at the recommendation of my friend Bill, who is a frequent commenter here) and Keane. All three fall into that "psychological drama" category where things aren't what they seem and the lead character doesn't even know who he is. The last two were über-independent and made on low budgets. I'm not here to talk about that, though.

After watching A History of Violence, I checked out all the dvd extras. There was a featurette called "The unmaking of scene 44" that was about a deleted scene. At the end of that featurette, there was the hockey stuff.

Apparently, Viggo Mortensen, who is the star of HOV is a Canadiens fan. They shot most of that film in Toronto, and during the filming, Mortensen wore a Montréal Canadiens sweater on the set. Of course this is something you just don't do. Given that some of the crew were Toronto natives, they weren't too happy. Towards the end, some of the crew pitched in and bought him a Maple Leafs sweater with the name "Violence" and the number 04 on the back. Here's the thing: He put it on.

Everyone knows that a real Canadiens fan would never don the blue and white of the hated Leafs. Nor would he have such an idea put in his head. It wasn't like he grudgingly slipped it on just so they could have their giggles, either. He was real quick to put it on.

I couldn't help but think of that children's story "The Hockey Sweater" and the animated short film adaptation of it by the National Film Board of Canada.

Click here to watch the NFB short film of "The Sweater". It's 10 minutes, and in English (mostly). If you've never seen this short film, you really have to do so. Immediately.

Maybe, with all his Lord of the Rings money, Viggo Mortensen bought "100 million moths to eat up (his) Toronto Maple Leafs sweater."

Aside from the last line -- a classic -- my favorite bit from "The Sweater":
Mother: It's not what you put on your back that matters. It's what you put inside your head.

Roch: Never make me put in my head to wear a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Canes bounce back, blast Bruins

On Friday morning, the Canes had a lunch date with the Bruins. Not only did Carolina eat well, but they made Boston pick up the tab. The end result was a 5-1 victory for Carolina. The two teams will meet again for a dinner date in Raleigh on December 2.

The Canes played a terrible game on Wednesday, but it could have been much worse if Johnny Crackers hadn't stepped up to the plate big time. He was rewarded with an opportunity to make his second consecutive start between the pipes. This time, he got some support in front of him and he picked up his second win of the season.

Eric Staal, who had been playing poorly and had been effectively benched in the Islanders game, got the scoring started at 18:36 of the first. The Canes were moving the puck well on a power play chance, and Staalsy had the puck down low beneath the left circle. From there, he fired a centering pass to Eric Belanger at the top of the crease. Initially, it looked like Belanger got his stick down to deflect the pass in the net. Replays showed, however, that it bounced in off a Bruins' skate. Credit Staal with the power play goal, Trevor Letowski with one assist and Scott Walker with the second.

At 10:35 of the second, Viva scored what would prove to be the game winner. The Canes were really having their way in the Bruins zone, controlling the puck posession for a very long time. After a few failed clearing attempts by the Bruins, the Canes were able to set up a play against some exhausted Bs players. While the Bruins players looked on, Scott Walker skated literal circles around the tired defenders and found Viva on the left side of the net. Williams took the pass, and easily tucked it in. The whole play, though, was started when David Tanabe made -- I'm not making this up -- a good defensive play in center ice, which allowed the continuation of "offensive" posession. He passed to Walker, who put on the aforementioned skating clinic, then the goal. Credit Viva with the goal, Scott Walker with the first helper and David Tanabe with the second assist.

Just nine seconds later, before the Caniacs could settle back into their seats, Erik Cole made it 3-0. Rod Brind'Amour won the faceoff to Mike Commodore, who fed Colesy on the right wing. He exploded to the net and somehow slipped one past Tim Thomas. Thomas never saw the puck until it was already in. The play was briefly reviewed, presumably to see if it had been kicked in. It was allowed to stand. It was just the 8th goal of the season for Cole. Credit Brind'Amour (23rd) and Commodore (10th) with the assists. Thomas was replaced by Phillipe Sauve, who had just been called up from AHL Providence Bruins.

After John Grahame was penalized for playing the puck outside the trapezoid, Patrice Bergeron scored on the power play with a slapper from the right circle. Marc Savard had he only assist.

Eric Belanger scored at 8:20 of the third on a nice wrap-around chance. He went behind the net, then reversed his direction to go around the left post and beat Sauve in the five hole. Mike Commodore and Chad LaRose got the assists.

The final goal was a really nice one. Craig Adams hit Andrew Ladd with a really nice long diagonal cross-ice pass from blue line to blue line. Ladd stayed on side, streaked in alone on the left side and ripped a snap shot off the far post and in. CrAdams got the only assist.

The "official" three stars went to Erik Cole (third), Scott Walker (second) and Eric Staal (first).

I saw it a little differently.

The RBH stars of the game:
Third Star Mike Commodore, CAR. 2 assists, 21:41 TOI, +3
Second Star Eric Belanger, CAR. 1 goal, 2 takeaways
First Star Scott Walker, CAR. 2 assists

Next up, the Canes will take on the Senators at home on Tuesday. It'll be the first game of a three game homestand.

Canes drop two. Roadtrip continues.

The Canes are back out on the road for the American holiday, and the three game swing has been a disaster so far. On Tuesday, Carolina was shut out by the Rangers 4-0, and on Wednesday, the Canes were upended by the Islanders 4-2.

On Tuesday, in Madison Square Garden, the Canes played a game where the words uninspired, lacklustre, listless, and (my favorite) -- bad -- come to mind. It got so bad that I actually stopped watching. I never do that. In fairness, though, Jaromir Jagr had a great game. We were fortunate to have held him at bay last week, but we couldn't do it again.

The next day, out on Long Island, the Canes were flat out terrible. In the first period of that game, the Canes could only muster one shot on goal. Sure, they hit a post (which doesn't count), but other than a dump-in from center ice, there was nothing even near the net. That was pretty much how it went for the rest of the game. John Grahame was very good in Carolina's net, turning away 42 shots. Many of those saves were "great".

Coach Peter Laviolette was so upset with his team's play that he basically took three of his best players -- Ray Whitney, Viva and Eric Staal -- out of the game in the third period. They were used very sparingly in the final period, as Chad LaRose and Trevor Letowski both saw a ton of ice time.

After the game, GM Jim Rutherford and Peter Laviolette had a thirty minute conference. There's no telling what went on in that room.

Today, the Canes will have a chance to get back on their feet as they continue their road trip with a lunch-time game in Boston. Puck drop will be at noon eastern time. Yes, that's right. Noon.

You can bet your bottom dollar that they'll have some game in their game.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Canes win thriller, move into first place.

On Saturday night, the Canes defeated the visiting Stars 5-4 behind an Eric Staal hat trick. Elsewhere in the Southeast division, Atlanta lost to the Caps. Carolina moves into first place in the Southeast. Technically, the two clubs have identical records at 12-7-3. However, in head-to-head games, Carolina has earned six points and Atlanta just one. Carolina has now won three in a row and gone 7-2-1 in their last 10. They're starting to look more like the defending Cup champs.

In other Eastern Conference play, the Sabres lost to the Sens again, for the second time in four days. Not sure what's going on there, but even after that, the Sabres are still comfortably atop the entire Eastern Conference with 33 points.

This Stars game was in my 24-game pack, but something came up at work, and I didn't go. I probably could have gotten out of the work thing, but I took into consideration that the last four times we've played Dallas, it's been a complete disaster. To wit:
  • December 22, 2002. Stars @ Canes.
    Carolina wins a very boring game 1-0. Even if I use the Wayback machine, I can't find any proof of what the standings were, but memory tells me that the Canes were tied for first with the Caps in the Southeast after that game. However, the Canes went into a horrible tailspin, losing 19 of their next 22 games. Obviously, when you lose like that, you have no chance.

    Included in that 22 game skid was the second in this list.

  • February 11, 2003. Canes @ Stars
    Dallas wins 2-1 in overtime. Sergei Zubov scores the game winner with one tenth of a second remaining in overtime. As a side note, it was in this game that one of the most ridiculous and famous fights in my memory took place. Click here (or on the embedded player below) to view Aaron Downey's one punch knockout of Jesse Boulerice.

  • December 22, 2003. Stars @ Canes
    Dallas wins 3-1. Two words to describe the horror of this game. Clay Aiken. He sang the Anthem and "performed" during the intermissions. As if that weren't enough, Kerry Fraser was one of the officials that night. That's always enough. And the Stars decimated us behind a great night from Jere Lehtinen, who scored two goals and assisted on the other. The game-winner was a shorthanded goal. Yuck.

  • December 2, 2005. Canes @ Stars
    Dallas wins 5-4 in a thrilling shootout game. During the overtime period, with just :46 seconds to play, Dallas committed a deliberate illegal substitution (too many men on the ice) penalty. According to some rule or other, since there wasn't enough time for the penalty to be served in its entirety, this should have resulted in a penalty shot. The refs weren't aware of that rule, and no such call was made. Mike Modano got the difference making goal in the shootout. There was also some matter of debate about the legality of his shootout goal. Read all about the game here.

    Earlier that very day, an inexperienced driver made an illegal left turn in front of me, and the end result was that my car (paid in full) was totaled. I had to buy a new (to me) car, and my descent into poverty began. Read about the accident here.

There was nothing disastrous about tonight's tilt with the Stars. There was a really loud car crash right outside my house, but I wasn't in it.

The Canes emerged victorious thanks to an Eric Staal hat trick, the return of defensemen Nic Wallin and Tim Gleason, and the resultant disappearance of Avi Tanabe.

Since the game wasn't televised, my man Bill Purdy was on the job, giving me text message updates from inside the arena. Unfortunately, my VZW service likes to jerk me around sometimes, and I got all of his updates at once, after the game. Oh well.

As expected, Andrew Hutchinson and Avi Tanabe became healthy scratches, and I strongly suspect that Tanabe will find himself in New York's capital city in a matter of days.

Since I didn't get to see the game at all, I can't give out stars. The official stars were Ray Whitney (third), Justin Williams (second), Eric Staal (first)

Canes beat Caps, narrow gap in SE

On Friday night, the Canes outplayed the Capitals and won the game 4-1. Meanwhile, the first place Thrashers lost to the Stars. After having won four of their last five games and getting some help from the Thrashers, the Canes have now moved to within two points of Atlanta.

Tonight, the Thrashers will be in Montréal and the Canes will be hosting the Stars. If things go right, the Canes could move into first place.

As expected, the Canes started John "Crackers" Grahame between the pipes, and this made a few people nervous. After all, he had been on the shelf for nearly a month and hasn't played that well in limited starts.

There was no scoring until late in the second frame. Just 43 seconds into the Canes fourth power play sequence, they finally lit the lamp. Andrew "Hot Dog with Cheese" Hutchinson fired a point shot through traffic that Kolzig blocked. Erik Cole was in close to get the rebound, and he had two cracks at it before slipping a backhander past Kolzig on the glove side. Hutchinson got the first assist and Brind'Amour got the second.

At 16:35, the Canes cashed in on another power play chance. This time it was 42 seconds into a Donald Brashear holding penalty. On a very tight tic-tac-toe play, Ray Whitney passed to Brindy behind the net. He and Erik Cole played give-and-go, and Brindy easily beat Kolzig from the right side of the net on the short side. Cole got the first assist and Whitney the other.

At 5:33 of the third, the Canes made it 3-0 with a combination of the same three players. Brind'Amour had drawn a double team near the top of the right circle. He made a beautiful tape-to-tape pass to Whitters, who was camped out on the left dot. The Wizard one-timed it in. I obviously have the Canes feed here, but the NHL.com highlights used the Caps feed, and even their announcers couldn't stop gushing about the quality of that Brind'Amour pass. Erik Cole got the second assist.

Richard Zednik ended Crackers' shutout bid at 9:28 of the third. For once this season, that goal had nothing to do with Avi Tanabe. Snuggles wasn't on the ice, nor in the penalty box. He can't be blamed for this one. Actually, nobody can be blamed. It was just a good goal. The Big Letowski was in the box for holding the stick, and the Caps were moving the puck well on their power play. Ben Clymer fired a blue line shot that was well off the mark, but re-directed by Zednik on the right side of the cage. There wasn't really anything Grahame could have done. Kris Beech got the secondary assist on the power play goal.

The Captain put the game out of reach at 18:13. Erik Cole centered a pass from the bottom of the left circle to Brindy, who was just hanging out in the goal mouth. Brindy simply tipped it in, and that was the cue for the fat lady. Cole got the first assist and Whitney got the second.

The "official" three stars were given to Ray Whitney (third), Erik Cole (second) and Brindy. Mine are not much different than that.

The RBH three stars:
Third Star John Grahame, CAR. 21 saves, first win of season.
Second Star Erik Cole, CAR. 1 goal, 3 assists.
First Star Rod Brind'Amour, CAR. 2 goals, 2 assists.

There is quite a lot of speculation that defenseman Tim Gleason will be back in the lineup tonight. There's also a chance that defeneseman Nic Wallin will be back. Either would be good. Both would be great. We'd just like to be taken out of the misery we've been experiencing thanks to the poor play of David (aka Avi) Tanabe. Frantisek Kaberle is still a long way off. The return of these two defensemen brings up a tough question. What to do with Anton Babchuk? Babs has been playing extremely well and has responded brilliantly to his sudden increase in icetime and responsibility. I hope he is rewarded with a continuing spot on the every night roster. Tanabe obviously goes to the press box or preferably to Albany.

We'll be hosting the Stars tonight. I won't be using my ticket, and it isn't on teevee, so I'll have to rely on NHL.com highlights. Some stuff came up at work that requires my attention. The Canes offer an "unused ticket trade-in" program which will allow me to simply swap tonight's ticket for a ticket to a game not in my 24-game package.

Friday, November 17, 2006

All-Star balloting in progress

All-Star balloting has begun! The voting, which is all electronic this year is being done by NHL.com.

Unfortunately, they're making it really hard. There's nothing on the main page advertising it. You have to sort through the "news" to get to a link to a page. From there, you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and click on the link for "US", or "Canada", accordingly.

Thankfully, some folks have made it a little easier. Thanks to Canes All Stars you can click here to go DIRECTLY to a ballot. Canes All Stars, by the way is trying to get the word out about the Canes on the ballot, and to encourage Canes fans to vote on a daily basis.

From there, you have a pull-down menu from each box, and you MUST vote the entire ballot. You can view highlights of each player right there on that page. That part of it is cool. The part where you have to work hard just to find the ballot sucks.

Rod Brind'Amour, Eric Staal, Erik Cole and Cam Ward are all on the ballot. At the end of the ballot, you can also write-in any player in the NHL.

There's also some contest where the winner gets tickets to the game, accomodations, airfare, car rental and a chance to meet the Moose.

Vote today, and once a day every day.

Tonight, the Canes travel to our nation's Capital. Word on the street is that Cam Ward will get his first night off in a month and "Crackers" will get the nod in the pipes.

I'll be working but DVRing it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sabres punish Canes, remain perfect on road

On Monday night, the Sabres came into town for what will thankfully be their last visit this regular season and they left with a 7-4 win. They remain perfect on the road, and have moved to 10-0-0 in that department.

In the first period, the Sabres dominated play en route to taking a 3-0 lead behind goals by Tomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Jochen Hecht. Vanek's goal was a power play, and the others were even strength. Even when the Sabres were shorthanded in the first period, they still looked much sharper than the Canes. All three goals were the result of very hard work by the forwards on the forecheck and some aggressive net-crashing.

The second period was a different story altogether. The Canes came out looking much sharper, and took a page out of the Sabres book by attacking the goal very aggressively. They got a power play goal from Viva and an even strength marker from Ray Whitney. Heading into the room down 3-2, the Canes looked better and felt better about their play.

6:23 into the third, Rod Brind'Amour tied it up on another one of those net-crashing plays, and the air was let back into the building. However, the momentum would swing back to the visitors after Adam Mair scored just 46 seconds later. The Sabres would go on to get power play goals from Derek Roy and Paul Gaustad to make it 6-3.

Scotty Walker got a late marker to make it 6-4, but Jochen Hecht finished it off with an empty netter to make it 7-4.

Danny Briere had two assists, and was thus not "shut down". Not entirely, anyway.

Scott Walker had just the one goal and no assists.

Both ballsy predictions came up empty.

On a night that not much went well for the Canes, Chad LaRose looked great in his PK time, and continues to be a very hard working player. Also, Erik Cole continued to be an absolute monster. He had 8 hits in the game. However, he took two bad penalties. The elbowing penalty was just a stupid play, and although I didn't see the interference that he committed, it reeks of silly, selfish play. Mike Commodore played very very well. Not just defensively, but he did a great job of joining the offensive rush and creating scoring chances like that.

Buffalo was superb. They outworked Carolina for most of the game, and forced the Canes to take quite a few penalties. On the power play, they took advantage of their advantage.

The Sabres' Teppo Numminen became the longest tenured European born player, with 1,252 games played. The Finnish-born player actually spent one year (1977) playing youth hockey here in Greensboro North Carolina (story), surpassed his countryman Jari Kurri.

On his historic night, Numminen played very well defensively and added three assists.

The "official" three stars went to Rod Brind'Amour (third), Daniel Briere (second) and Derek Roy (first). Mine are quite different.

The RBH three stars:
Third Star Mike Commodore, CAR. 2 assists, 7 hits, +1
Second Star Derek Roy, BUF. 1 goal, 2 assists, GWG
First Star Teppo Numminen, BUF. 3 assists, +3, 1,252 NHL games

Up next, the Canes will take on Matt Cullen, Aaron Ward, Marek Malik, and the rest of the New York Rangers at the RBC Center on Wednesday night. Rumor has it, once this "home stand" is over, certain players will be placed on the official trading block. The most talked about are Avi Tanabe and John "Crackers" Grahame.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Canes host Slugs

Tonight, the Hurricanes will host the Sabres for the second time this season. The opening night thriller resulted in a shootout loss for the Canes, and the Sabres have been on fire since then. They have lost just one regulation game and one shootout.

The Sabres are 9-0 on the road, but will be without the services of Maxim Afinogenov (upper body) and defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who re-broke his arm earlier this season. Of course Tim Connolly is still out, and has been placed on the long-term-injured list with concussion issues.

Carolina will still be without Cory Stillman and defenseman Frantisek Kaberle, who are both recovering from shoulder surgery. Defensemen Nic Wallin and Tim Gleason are also expected to sit this one out. With three top defensemen on the shelf, Carolina will be forced to start "Avi" Tanabe again. We don't expect any sympathy from the Sabres in that department, though.

The Canes, who have been drawing really well this season, averaging 95% capacity, face a challenge tonight. The game is not included in the wildly popular 24-game ticket package, so there will be significantly fewer season ticket holders there tonight. Add to that, the'll be competing with the Monday Night Football (Carolina Panthers hosting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) game in Charlotte. The stadiums (stadii?) are three hours apart, but both teams draw fans from all over the state.

Anyway, I'll make a ballsy prediction for tonight's game. Bear in mind, I'm 0-1 so far on those.

Ballsy prediction #2 of the season: Daniel Briere shut down.
Ballsy prediction #3 of the season: Scott Walker 2 goals, 1 assist

Oh. I'll be DVRing the hell out of this game, and will watch it in its entirety when I get home from work. So ix-nay on the exting-tay.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Make that two Gatorades, Jordan.

On Saturday night, the Penguins came to Raleigh for a game that had quite a lot of buzz. Before the game, there were quite a few little story lines developing. Staal v Staal. Cole v Orpik. Our first look at Malkin. What could have been quite explosive ended up having no drama at all. The Canes ran away with a 6-2 victory, and Jordan Staal now owes his older brother two Gatorades. The first time these two teams played, Eric and Jordan wagered a Gatorade on the outcome of the game. Eric won, and I think it's safe to assume that he offered a "double or nothing" bet.

Because the Pens had played on Friday night, Jocelyn Thibault got the start between the pipes. Carolina, who has already played five sets of back-to-back games, would not offer any sympathy in that department.

While there was never any rough stuff with Orpik, he got a not-so-warm welcome from the Raleigh faithful. The first time he stepped on the ice, and every single time he touched the puck, he was greeted with a thunderous chorus of boos.

At around the 7:00 mark of the first period, a fight erupted that had nothing to do with Orpik. Mike Commodore and Chris Thorburn. Call it a tone-setter, call it a tension breaker, call it "getting that out of the way". Call it whatever you want, but there was no more of that for the rest of the game.

Viva got the game's first goal at 12:51 while Carolina was enjoying a five-on-three sequence. Brind'Amour fired a backhand shot at Jocelyn Thibault that was blocked, but Williams was there to stuff in the rebound. Erik Cole got the secondary assist. That assist was the 100th of Cole's NHL career.

At 17:41, Ray "The Wizard" Whitney made it 2-0. Erik Cole set him up from behind the net for a wrister from the low slot. Cole got one assist ans Commy got the other.

Just 24 seconds into the second frame, the Pens' Sergei Gonchar, who is arguably their best defenseman, and a crucial penalty killer, took a penalty for roughing. This gave the Canes a power play and a fresh sheet of ice. They took advantage when Rod Brind'Amour finished a beautiful play by tipping one past Thibault at 1:29. Eric Staal and Scotty "Remo" Walker had the assists. On that particular play, Pittsburgh looked like a tired team. That play was way too easy. Staal made a nifty pass to Brind'Amour, who was all alone in the low slot for the easy tip-in. It looked like one of those plays you run in practice like a billion times. This is why you run it so much. We had no way of knowing it at the time, but this turned out to be the game winning goal.

Just when we thought it was looking like a romp, it started to get interesting. John Leclair scored one for the Pens at the 3:48 mark, ending Cam Ward's shutout streak at 84 minutes 48 seconds. "Avi" Tanabe was absolutely terrible on that play. It started when he couldn't handle a pass down in the Pens zone, then lost a footrace with LeClair, on whom he had a four stride head start. After the Pens had control of the puck in the Canes zone, Tanabe played some form of matador defence that you would expect to see in a 40 and over rec league. Surprisingly, it was Leclair's first goal of the season. Jarkko Ruutu (whose name I just love to say) got the only assist.

At 16:42, our old pal The Recchin' Ball scored another one for the Pens to make it really interesting. Avi Tanabe was in the box as the play was being set up, but the penalty expired before the goal. Technically, it's an even strength goal, but Tanabe wasn't back in the play yet, and his stupid lazy holding penalty gave the Pens the power play opportunity. Nils Ekman and Dominic Moore got the assists. Recchi got a really nice ovation, as everyone in the barn was glad to see him.

Early in the third, there was a lot of drama, but nothing to do with Cole/Orpik. The Penguins were applying a lot of pressure down in Carolina's end, and in a mad scramble, it looked like they had scored a goal. The red light never went on, and the referee was emphatically waving it off, but from my POV, directly behind the net, it looked like it might have been in. The game wasn't on teevee here, and I can't find a replay of it, but it looked to the naked eye like Ward made a stop from behind the line, then pulled it back over the line. I dunno. Anyway, play continued until a Penguins penalty was committed about a minute later. By NHL rule this is the way it has to be done. They can't review the goal situation until the next stoppage of play. We were all wondering what would have happened if they called it a goal. Would they re-set the clock and cancel the penalty? What if Carolina had scored before a play stoppage? After a looooooong review, during which Rod Brind'Amour didn't look happy, they let the on-ice call stand: no goal.

Eric Belanger, who has been a very hard working guy lately got a goal at 8:00 of the third to give us some breathing room. From a very sharp angle at the bottom of the left circle, he threw it at the net, and it kind of surprised Thibault. I thought at first that it must have glanced in off a defenseman's skate or something, but it was just that Thibault was looking for a pass and was horribly beaten. I think it actually went behind him on the short side, but he was looking at Anton Babchuk, who was streaking down the right side as part of a 3-on-2 break.

At 16:42, Eric Staal interfered with a Penguins player, and was sent to the box. In a strange way, this helped the Canes. Michel Therrien decided to go the unorthodox route and pull his goaltender for a six-on-four power play with 2:30 still to play. As soon as Thibault went to the bench, the Pens turned the puck over in neutral ice and Kevyn Adams hit the bulls eye from the top of the right circle for the shorthanded marker. Two seasons ago, K-Ads was third in the league with five shorties. This was his first so far this season.

As if this was a game I was playing on NHL '04, the Canes scored another shorty on the same penalty. Chad "Sharpie" LaRose, who is one of my favorite players because of his hard work, got one past Thibault at 18:28. Maybe the Pens had given up hope, but they turned it over in the Canes zone, and Carolina was off on a two-on-one shorthanded break. Trevor "The Dude" Letowski fed Sharpie for a one-timer from the top of the left circle. The only Penguins skater back on the play was Orpik, who had a really rough night. Anton Babchuk got the secondary assist

Mike Commodore, who doesn't get nearly enough love, did a sensational job neutralizing the big Malkin. Malkin was only able to get two shots off, and neither of them was of the "quality" variety. He spent most of his night fighting off Commodore. Mad props to Commy on that. Added to that, Commodore had two assists.

Sid the Kid had some great chances, but Ward rose to the occasion every time.

Despite having a piecemeal defensive corps in front of him, Ward really hasn't had to work that hard in the past few games. They're minimizing quality chances, which makes life easier. For the third straight game, Wardo has faced exactly 20 shots. That sounds like a pretty good day at the office if you ask me.

The "official" three stars went to Cole (3rd), Brindy (2nd) and Whitney (1st). I don't get that.

With six different goal scorers, and 13 different players with at least one point, it's a little more difficult than most nights. The RBH stars of the game:
Third Star Rod Brind'Amour, CAR. 1 goal, 1 assist, GWG
Second Star Mike Commodore, CAR. 2 assists, stellar defense, +3
First Star Erik Cole, CAR. 2 assists, 6 hits

The Tevvy, which hasn't really been given out at all this season, definitely goes to "Avi" Tanabe, who finished with a -2.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

cool new toy from McFarlane

I've been checking spawn.com (McFarlane Toys) for updates on the Eric Staal figurine in the works. The NHL 14 series won't be out until May of 2007, and they don't have any sneak peek production photos, but they've got a really cool new thing.

Now you can buy a rink display, which is a 1/22.66 scale replica of a goal zone. It's got the faceoff circles, hash marks, crease, trapezoid, sidewalls, glass, and everything else to make it look real. Buy the thing for about $60, take about 45 minutes to assemble it, and you've got a really cool way to display all your McFarlane figures.

Here's a picture of Todd McFarlane with the product. It doesn't come with the Red Wings/Leafs figures. You have to provide your own.

For a free hot dog with cheese, who can spot the really weird thing in the photo, and tell why it's weird?

You'll need to click on the image for an enlargement.

Friday, November 10, 2006

should the NHL take a stance against blows to the head?

A few days ago, after I read the bit about Detroit's Jason Williams being carried off the ice on a stretcher, I started to write a post about blows to the head, but I aborted it somewhere along the way. I thought I was perhaps over-reacting or getting too tied up emotionally.

Williams was laid out by Raffi Torres in Wednesday's game against the Oilers. Torres' shoulder caught Williams in the face, knocking him down hard as he attempted a wrap-around. He lay motionless but conscious for several minutes and was ultimately removed from the ice on a stretcher. He recieved a concussion and facial lacerations and will be on the Injured Reserve for an indefinite period.

On October 14, in Pittsburgh, Carolina's Trevor Letowski was knocked unconcious by an open ice shoulder-to-chin hit from the Pens' Colby Armstrong. He lay unconcious in a pool of blood for several minutes before being removed on a stretcher. He missed the next 9 games with facial lacerations and post-concussion symptoms.

On October 17, Calgary's Robyn Regehr blasted Montréal's Aaron Downey with an open ice shoulder-to-head hit that knocked Downey out, putting him on a stretcher and on the IR for five games.

In each case, there was clearly contact above the shoulder, and in each case, the hits went unpenalized. Many fans from the old school say things like they did when Erik Cole suffered a broken neck as a result of a questionable hit last winter. They say that you should always skate with your head up. That you should never watch the pass you just made. That you should never look anywhere other than right ahead of you. That you should never make any sudden moves or direction changes. That you should never do this, that or the other. They say that if you don't heed this kind of advice, you deserve what you get, even if you "get" a broken neck.

I haven't seen the Regehr hit, and it's clear that the other two hits were in no way shape or form malicious. They were just hard hits that ended up badly.

However, I think the NHL needs to do something about these kinds of hits. I don't think a two minute penalty would be asking too much. The officials aren't perfect. They're going to miss some calls, they're going to be out of position for some, but I'd like to see them looking for those kinds of things.

According to a story I read on TSN.ca today, they're already doing this in the Ontario Hockey League.
Checking a player and making contact with the head, incidental or otherwise with the shoulder or any other part of the body, is now a penalty. Two minutes for any contact with the head; five minutes if it's with intent to injure or results in injury.

Sounds a bit like the way high-sticking is called. Incidental? So what? I have no problem with that. Of course there would be times that a referee would miss a call, or be out of position and simply not see the infraction. In the case of high-sticking, an obvious and fitting example of a referee absolutely blowing the call was when Carolina's Justin "Viva" Williams injured Montréal's Saku Koivu with a high-stick during the first round of the playoffs last spring. Although Koivu was bleeding, and ended up having serious repercussions from the scary injury, there was no penalty. There was no post facto fine or suspension, either. I stand behind the players on my team, but the fact of the matter is Williams should have been penalized for four minutes.

Of course I know hockey is a contact sport. Of course I know that the players know what they're getting into. That isn't the point. The point is to take some precautionary measures. The point is also to hold players accountable for dangerous play. If measures can be taken to reduce the number of blows to the head, we'll see fewer of these types of injuries.

The NFL has had anti-head contact rules for years. Any hitting above the shoulder is strictly forbidden. Any contact, intentional or not, with a quarterback's head or helmet results in a penalty and fine. Since they got serious about policing that kind of helmet-to-helmet and hand-to-quarterback's helmet contact, the behavior of linebackers has changed dramatically. You now see guys making a deliberate effort to not contact the QB's head. While I think the NFL goes a bit too far to protect the quarterback (just as I think the NHL goes too far to protect the goalie), I like the strong stance they take on blows to the head.

Don't take my word for it, though. Bobby Orr had a lot to say about this.
I don't want to see hitting taken out of the game, I love hitting in hockey, but if someone puts his shoulder into a player's face, if he puts anything -- an arm, an elbow, a glove -- I think that player should get a penalty. Definitely, it should be a penalty. We are having players getting knocked unconscious before they even hit the ice and carried off on stretchers. How can that be legal? When did hitting someone in the head with your shoulder or any part of your body become part of the rules? Anything above the neck, it's wrong.

Hey, I got hit a lot when I played and I didn't get hit in the head with checks. Players didn't always hit like that. To me, that's not part of bodychecking. I mean, don't you have to be responsible for your actions? If you hit a guy in the face with your stick by accident, you're going to get a penalty. Two minutes, four minutes, five minutes, something. If you go to bodycheck a guy and you hit him in the face or head, and injure him, that's legal? That's fair? That's not a penalty? I'm sorry, I don't think that is right. It should be a penalty.

Anyway, what it boils down to for me is that I'd like to see blows to the head reduced. If it takes major penalties, fines, suspensions, then that's what it takes. Checking the body is one thing. The head is quite another.

Canes throttle Caps, Cole nets hatty

On Thursday night in the RBC Center, the Hurricanes shut out the visiting Caps 5-0. The two Alex were held at bay while the the two Eric/k were great.

Consider Alexander Ovechkin's line:
    17:47 TOI, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, 4 shots, EV
And especially Alexander Semin's line:
    16:39 TOI, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, 1 shot, -3

Compared to Eric Staal's line:
    19:39 TOI, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, 7 shots, +2
And especially Erik Cole's line:
    20:11 TOI, 3 goals, 0 assists, 3 points, 4 shots, +2

Erik Cole was absolutely en fuego. He was flying on the ice, and he obviously made the best of his scoring chances, hitting three of the four shots he took, getting him his fourth career hat trick.

Trevor Letowski, who missed 9 games with a concussion, played very well, and netted first goal as a Hurricane. He returned to action on Tuesday against the Devils, and looked good while being used sparingly.

As always, Scott Walker looked great, making key passes, manning up on defensive plays, and doing very well in his increased role on special teams.

At 5:47 of the first, Cole got his first goal of the game. He and Scotty Walker exploded up-ice on a 2-on-2 break. Cole's speed got him half a step on the closest Capitals player, and his tip-in goal was easy, but it couldn't have happened without the brilliance of Scott Walker. Coming down the right side, Walker was flanked by Colesy coming straight down the middle of the ice. The two Caps players were each half a stride behind, and Walker perfectly hit Cole in stride for the easy tip in from about 5 feet out. After the fact, Nic Wallin was given a secondary assist on the play.

During the second period, the Canes had some discipline issues. They took three consecutive penalties midway through the stanza, which gave the Caps a full two minutes of five-on-three, and about two combined minutes of power play on the bookends. Carolina stood tall, with excellent penalty killing, and Cam Ward looked very sharp.

At 18:03, Erik Cole got his second of the night on a pinball shot during a power play sequence. Eric Staal fired a slapshot from the blue line which deflected off Cole's stomach or stick shaft or glove or something on the way in. The subtle re-direction, which occurred from about 6 feet out, ruined Brent Johnson's chance of making the save. Staal with the first assist, and Hedican with the secondary helper on the power play goal.

In the third period, the Canes really took control of the game. Eric Staal scored an even strength marker at 8:46 to make it 3-0. From the right face off circle, he took the sharp angle, beating Johnson on the far side of the net, inside the left post. Scott Walker and Glen Wesley got assists.

At 11:46, Trevor "the Dude" Letowski netted his first goal in a Hurricanes sweater. He and Andrew Ladd had created a two-on-one break off a neutral zone takeaway. Letowski was going through the left circle, with Ladd streaking down the right side. The Dude faked the give-and-go, and got past Johnson on the far side. Johnson had come too far out, and was obviously anticipating the pass. I don't think he saw it until it was too late.

At 14:39, Cole finished off the hat trick with a phenomenal individual effort. The Canes were going on a mini-break, and Cole blew past THREE Caps skaters to take a long "on-side" pass from Ray Whitney. He came in on Johnson and lifted a backhander top shelf. In all honesty, I've watched the replay a bunch of times, and he looked off side, but the linesman on the spot was clearly indicating an on-side play. Rod Brind'Amour got the secondary assist.

It was the fourth hat trick of Cole's career, his first this season, and only the second by a Hurricane this season.

The Canes will stay home as they enjoy a four game homestand. Up next will be the Penguins on Saturday and the highly anticipated Staal v Staal II. The first time we get to see Malkin. Also, the first time Erik Cole and Brooks Orpik see each other.

There were so many stars on Thursday, but I will award the RBH stars of the game as such:

Third Star Cam Ward, CAR Shutout, 20 saves.
Second Star Scott Walker, CAR 2 assists
First Star Erik Cole, CAR 3 goals

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Canes fall in shootout, homestand begins

On Tuesday night in the Swamps, the Canes scratched and crawled their way to a shootout loss to the Devils. After playing 11 of their last 14 games on the road, the boys will return home for a four game home-stand, beginning with the Caps on Thursday night.

Tuesday night's game looked for all the world like a playoffs game. Both teams were really skating hard and giving it the kind of effort that you frankly don't expect to see in November. Blocked shots by forwards, guys really giving up the body to deny passing lanes, really intense battles in the corners. That kind of thing. In the first period, I took specific notice of Kevyn Adams blocking shots and laying down a bunch of times to seal off New Jersey's lanes. In the third, it was Scott Walker who played very defensively, forcing turnovers, blocking shots, taking slapshots to the gender-specific area of the body. That sort of thing.

There was no scoring in the first, but it looked like New Jersey dominated. On Carolina's power play, they couldn't get any good passes, let alone shots. On New Jersey's power plays, they were creating great chances and Cam Ward was stepping up.

The game's first goal came at 7:50 of the second. The Devils were really popping on the power play, peppering Ward with shot after shot. He turned aside two or three point-blank shots, but Travis Zajac finally got through. Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner (both Minnesota natives) helped.

Minutes later, the Devils committed two consecutive delay of game penalties for sending the puck over the glass from their own zone. Carolina finally got some good puck rotation, and with five forwards on the ice, they were really aggressive with the five-on-three. Eric Staal took a shot from high in the slot to beat Brodeur and knot the game. Ray "The Wizard" Whitney and Viva got the assists.

No more scoring in the second.

As the third period wore on, both teams started to show fatigue. There were lots of turnovers and lots of fanning on shots and passes. Carolina looked more tired, and I was thinking that they would give up a late goal to lose 2-1.

At 15:45 of the third, however, Rod Brind'Amour got a surprising goal. Justin Williams was out front, just outside the goal crease, drawing the attention of Brian Rifalski. Brindy was down at the right half-wall, and used Rifalski as a screen. His shot was mishandled by Brodeur, and probably made contact with Rifalski's leg on the way in anyway. Erik Cole and Mike Commodore got the assists. It won't show in the scoresheet, but it wouldn't have happened without the attention Viva was getting. Credit him for making Rifalski set that screen.

Then, I was feeling pretty good, but the Canes still looked tired. They just needed to hold out for another four minutes.

Little used Jim Dowd tied the game at two at the 19 minute mark of the third. They had pulled Brodeur for an extra attacker, and Dowd took a pass on the doorstep and shoved it through Ward's five-hole to stave off a loss. Paul Martin and John Madden got the assists.

The overtime period was really crazy. Carolina had a ton of great chances in the final two minutes. The Devils couldn't clear the zone, and the Canes kept pounding away. Marty Brodeur answered the bell every time, though, and sent the game to shootout. Anybody's game.

The Devils elected to go second. Brian Gionta scored in the bottom of the second, and Rod Brind'Amour in the top of the third. Ward stopped Parise to send it to extra "innings". No scoring in the fourth or fifth. In the sixth, Scott Walker came up empty for Carolina and John Madden went high glove side to win it for the Devils.

My three stars are VERY different from the "official three stars", and they go:

Third Star Justin "Viva" Williams CAR. 1 assist.
Second Star Martin Brodeur NJD. 26 saves.
First Star John Madden NJD. 1 assist. Won game in shootout.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ronnie Franchise back in the mix

March 9, 2004 is a day that lives in infamy to Canes fans. This was the day of Ron Francis Trade II. The first, and more infamous trade was March 4, 1991. On that day 15 years ago, the following took place:

This trade ended up being highway robbery, because Samuelsson and Francis ended up being studs. Zalapski was good, and Cullen wasn't bad, but the Penguins got the better end by far.

After seven full seasons (and two Cups) with the Penguins, he returned as a free agent to the franchise that drafted him. Although not right away, he would return to the role he played in Hartford: Captain. We assumed that "Ronnie Franchise" was locked in for the rest of his career.

Then March 9 happened. I remember exactly where I was: a barstool in a bar called Tap Room in Greensboro. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon when I saw the news come across ESPN's crawl.
NHL: CAR trades C Ron Francis to TOR for fourth round pick.


I watched the whole crawl go through its rotation again. And again. Each time it said the same thing. I hadn't imagined it. To be sure, though, I thought I'd go home and check it out for myself on the trusty internets.

I went to the Canes official site, to the NHL site, and they both confirmed. My e-mail box had already received three official e-mails from the Canes front office telling season ticket holders the bad news. I was crushed. I cried that day. It had been a rough three or four months for me, with a number of other things that I should have been crying about. This was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.

It took a few hours, or even days for me to comprehend what was going on. We did this for Ronnie. Still, though, it hurt. I was one of the many who felt betrayed and even hurt by the trade. It took a couple more days for me to come to grips with the idea that it was simply a rental from the Leafs standpoint, and a chance for the Cap to get his name on the Cup another time. He would be back next season, I told myself.

When it became more and more apparent that "next season" wasn't going to happen because of the lockout, it hurt even more. I knew that in all likelihood, I wouldn't ever get to see Ron Francis play again. I guessed correctly that the lockout would press his hand to hang up the skates, and we would have the ugly memory of OUR Captain playing his final games in a Leafs sweater. Like when Joe Montana finished his career not in San Francisco, but in Kansas City. When "Broadway Joe" Joe Namath finished his career not with the Jets, but with the LA Rams.

After Ronnie's official retirement, he was hounded by Canes management to take a front office job, but he politely declined, opting instead for a "normal" life of going to his kids' ballgames and being a dad and husband. We all knew that he would some day return to the game in some capacity. We didn't know when, or in what capacity, but we knew it would eventually happen, and we assumed that it would be with the Canes. He had, after all, decided to make Raleigh his permanent home.

The suspense was ended last weekend when Ronnie Franchise accepted a position with the Canes as the Director of Player Development. This means that he will have a very active role in bringing along the guys who are already at the AHL level, and also in scouting players elsewhere in the organization, or beyond the organization.

We're all proud to have him back in the fold, and very much looking forward to seeing his contributions.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Roddy gets 1000th point in 3-2 win

On Saturday while I was busy getting rip-roaring drunk at a wedding, the Canes defeated the Senators 3-2 in Scotiabank Place.

There were lots of rumors surrounding Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson. He had gone 10 games without scoring a goal and four games without registering an assist. There was talk about stripping him of his captaincy. There was talk about trading him. That talk was temporarily quelled when he lit the lamp at the 2:01 mark of the first period. He was set up by Antoine Vermette and Dean McAmmond. He broke away from a pack of folks on the sidewall near the left point, found himself all alone in the left circle, and beat Cam Ward with a wrister. I really don't think that anyone knew he had the puck.

There was no other scoring in the first period.

At 2:50 of the second, Chris Kelly played give-and-go with Denis Hamel, setting up Hamel for a shot from the low slot to the left of Ward. It was a really pretty play, and there's no way to blame anyone for that. Brian McGratton got the secondary assist.

Late in the second, with the Canes enjoying a power play sequence, Rod Brind'Amour got his 1000th career point. He had an excellent shot that clanged off the right post, but the rebound went to Erik Cole behind the net. He wasted no time in banking a shot off Baby Food's pads and in the goal. I don't think Gerber had any idea where the puck was until the red light went on. Brind'Amour with the first assist, and Ray Whitney with the second.

When the goal was announced seconds later, the PA announcer made note of the fact that it was Brindy's 1000th point. The crowd gave him a decent ovation, and he kept the puck.

58 seconds into the final stanza, Ray Whitney tied the game on a snap shot from the right faceoff dot. Eric Staal had drawn a double team down on the goal line, and a failed clearing attempt left Erik Cole all alone in the slot area and Whitney all alone in the right circle. Gerber was beaten on the short side, but there wasn't much traffic out front. He probably makes that stop 92 times out of 100. Cole got the only assist.

Near the midway point of the period, Chris Phillips may have cost his team the game. Joe Corvo was already in the box for a hi-stick. Phillips was called for interference at 9:54. It was a really marginal call, and Phillips made a mistake in being over-exhuberant in his disaproval of the call. He skated right in front of the referee, slammed his stick on the ice, and probably said something as well. The referees are taking a stance against this kind of thing this season, and have been issuing "unsportsmanlike conduct" penalties left and right. There would have already been 1:03 of 5-on-3, but the additional penalty meant even more.

While the 5-on-3 was still going, Ray Whitney got the game winner at 10:31. Corvo came out of the box, but there was still 3 1/2 minutes of powerplay because of Phillips' theatrics.

Whitney's goal was kind of a slow developing play. He took a pass in the left circle and wandered over to the high slot area, where he spotted a nice screen being set by Eric Staal. He rifled one through the screen and past Baby Food much to the dismay of the already irritated crowd. Cole and Staal got the assists.

There would be no more scoring, but Ottawa's chances were severely dampened because of the extended penalty to Phillips.

After a horrible performance on Thursday night, it was good to see the boys bounce back. The power play clicked, hittig on two of seven opportunities. Meanwhile, they killed all seven shorthanded sequences.

My three stars:
Third Star Rod Brind'Amour. 27:08 TOI, 1 assist, 1000 career points.
Second Star Erik Cole. 1 goal, 2 assists.
First Star Ray Whitney. 2 goals, GWG, 1 assist, +1.

Carolina won't play again until Tuesday night in the swamps, and took a rare day off on Sunday to relax in Ottawa.

The next home game will be Thursday against the Caps. Then the big game at home against the Pens. Staal v. Staal. Cole v. Orpik. Malkin. There should be a ton of excitement for that game.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Canes fall flat, shut out by Habs.

On Thursday night, the stage was set for Rod Brind'Amour to score his 1000th career point in front of the home crowd. The stage was set for Erik Cole to jumpstart his slow start against the team he loves to terrorize. The stage was set for the Canes to move two points closer to Atlanta in the Southeast Division.

None of that happened. The Canes came out and stank up the joint en route to getting shut out 4-0 by the visiting Habitants.

Although the outcomes of Wednesay's and Thursday's games are quite different, they can both be summed up the same way. Poor special teams performance and really really sloppy defense were defining charachteristics in both games. I can't say that Kari Lehtonen was to blame for Atlanta's loss on Wednesay. He had no help in front, and he was hung out to dry on at least two of Carolina's goals. On Thursday, Cam Ward was put in the automatic dryer, left out in the sun for a couple of days, then put in the oven just for good measure. That's how dry he was left. On two of Montréal's goals, there was nothing he could do. One other was caused by a lack of support in front. He takes the "L", but it wasn't really his fault.

There was no scoring in the first period, nor anything penalty-wise worth mentioning. Carolina got off 16 shots in that first frame, but no quality chances.

At 10:45 into the second, Michael Komisarek got the Habs on the board with a shorthanded goal. Just after a 5-on-3 expired, they were able to generate a cheap chance that actually bore fruit. Komisarek attempted a centering pass from down below the goal line to the right of the goal. Somehow, it found its way in the net. At first it looked like it was tipped in by Steve Begin on the doorstep, but it must have been a Canes defenseman who caused the redirection. Begin got the only assist.

Saku Koivu, who suffered a serious eye injury the last time he played in Raleigh, gave the Habs the only insurance they would need at the 12:29 mark. Carolina's defense broke down in the neutral zone, and Koivu was able to make a dipsy-doodle move and beat Ward badly. It looked like he was the only skater on the ice. Everyone else was playing "statues". Granted, the Habs were on the power play, but it really did look like there were zero Canes skaters out there. Later in the game, he would put on some other displays, but this would be his only point.

At about 17:00 of the second, it became pretty clear that this would be a shutout. Carolina looked awful.

In the third period, the Canes were even worse than they had already been.

Mike Johnson scored on a breakaway at 13:07 of the third. A turnover in the Montréal end led to the one on zero break. There wasn't much of anything Cam could do there. Radek Bonk and Michael Komisarek got the helpers. I haven't reviewed the game to nail down the guy who committed the turnover, and I probably won't.

Still holding on for a "Miracle at the ATM", people stuck around. I'm stubborn. I always stick around to the bitter end. As if it wasn't painful enough, though, the Habs scored ANOTHER shortie in this game to salt it away. It came at 14:56 of the third and final frame. Again it was started by a sloppy turnover in the neutral zone, or down in the Habs zone. It was Tomas Plekanec on a one-on-zero break from the center red line. He worked it in down low and used a nifty backhand to get past Ward. It was unassisted.

Two shorthanded goals, one power play goal and one even strength. This is not the kind of night the Canes wanted. Fatigue from the back-to-back games is probably a factor, but it's not a good excuse for totally getting destroyed like that.

Erik Cole was flying, but obviously wasn't able to register any points. Chad LaRose looked great, and Scotty Walker was playing defense better that some of the defenseman. Aside from those three, the team was awful. Superstars included.

The Habs made a clean sweep of the three stars. The Raleigh media and I aren't far off in our assignment of them. The "offical" three stars go to Komisarec (3rd), Koivu (2nd) and Christobal Huet (1st).

The Red and Black Hockey three stars are:
Third Star Saku Koivu, MON. 1 goal
Second Star Michael Komisarec, MON. 1 SH goal (game winner), 1 assist
First Star Christobal Huet, MON. 31 saves, SO.

Up next, the Canes will travel to Ottowa. I'll be in Washington DC at a wedding.

Cans v Habs tonight.

Tonight, the Canes will host the Montréal Canadiens at 7:00 in the RBC Center. It will be the first meeting of the teams since the 2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Although some of my assosiates might differ, I'm not even thinking about the Saku Koivu thing. Justin Williams nearly blinded him with an inadvertent but careless stick during that series. Koivu has never harbored any resentment, and the two have spoken a few times since then. I wouldn't expect any targeting of Viva or anything resembling retaliatory behavior from Koivu's teammates either. If they were going to do that, they would have done it back then.

Our much maligned anthem singer has been AWOL for the past few games, so we might get to see a good rendition of O Canada. Holly's leaves a lot to be desired. In the last two games I've gone to, we've seen two different singers. They both did a good enough job, but they both did the classic take waaaaaay too long with it thing. The seven-year old girl was good, though. Real good for being seven.

I still miss Karen Touloss. She did a great job. Anyone know for sure what happened with her?

Ballsy prediction #1 of the season: Rod Brind'Amour will get his 1000th career point tonight. Okay. It's not that ballsy of a prediction, but I'm going for it. How many times in your life do you get to see a guy score his 1000th career point? Hint: only 70 players in the history of the NHL have recorded 1000 points. I witnessed Ronnie Franchise notching his 1200th career assist. That was really cool. I witnessed him hit and pass some really remarkable milestones. I was lucky for that. While Roddy isn't quite as special as The eternal Captain, it's still awesome (in a quite literal sense) to be able to witness some of his major milestones. Later this season, with the right timing, I'll see Brindy score his 400th career goal.

I was also on hand when Joe Nieuwendyk scored his 500th career goal. I have to admit that was pretty cool. I was really confused at first when all the Devils players mobbed the ice as if they had just won the Cup. Once I realized what had happened, I really appreciated it. We stopped the game briefly while all the players from both teams congratulated him on that feat.

For the rest of this season, look here for "Ballsy predictions". Some will be more ballsy than others.

Puck drop is at approximately 7:00pm eastern.

Canes invade Atlanta, win 5-2.

This time there would be no theatrics. On Wednesday night, the Canes defeated Atlanta 5-2. In two previous meetings with the Birds, the Canes have needed some crazy theatrics. In Hotlanta a few weeks ago, it took a goal with less than a second remaining in regulation. In Raleighwood last week, it took overtime. Nothing like that on Wednesday.

Early in the first, the Canes got off on the wrong foot from a discipline standpoint, and it would be a theme for the rest of the night. Just two minutes in, Craig Adams took a minor penalty for holding and another for complaining about it. No beef here with the officiating. Every penalty was legitimate. My beef is with the Canes. The majority of the penalties were the lazy selfish kind. They have to do better with that. They committed 11 penalties, giving the Thrashers 10 bona fide power plays including a lengthy 5-on-3. Of those 11 penalties, 9 were silly. They got away with it.

At 10:14 of the first, Ray "The Wizard" Whitney scored the game's first goal from in close on Lehtonen. The official boxscore won't tell you this, and a newspaper article won't either. That goal was pure Erik Cole. Colesy used his speed, strength and skill to work the puck through the Atlanta zone, drawing all the Thrashers skaters to the right side. He left a nifty drop pass for the trailing Rod Brind'Amour, who then sent a cross-ice pass to Whitters on the doorstep. Cole got the secondary assist, Brind'Amour with the first.

Just 40 seconds later, Scott Walker surprised Lehtonen with a slap shot blast from the right faceoff dot, beating the Finn cleanly on the short side. Eric Staal got the first assist and Viva got the second.

3:58 into the second, Maid Marian Hossa got one past Cam Ward. Assists on the power play goal went to Slata Kozlov and Andy Sutton.

Rod Brind'Amour made the score 3-1 at 8:31. With a delayed penalty in hand and an extra attacker on the ice, the Canes were really moving the puck well. Down below the goal line, Ray Whitney found the Captain all alone in the high slot area. You can't leave that man all by himself. It was like shooting needles in a haystack. Err.... wait. That's not how that analogy works. Anyway, it was an easy goal. Ray Whitney and Erik Cole got the helpers. Oficially, it was an "even strength" goal, but unofficially, it was a six-on-four.

Ray Whitney used some fancy moves, and perhaps a lot of studying game tape on Lehtonen, to make it 4-1 at 15:09. He received a pass at the right point, and made a drastic swooping move to get into the high slot. From there, his shot through traffic found the back of the net. Chad "Sharpie" LaRose got the first assist and Brindy got the second. Lehtonen was yanked in favor of the Swede Johan Hedberg

There had been a ton of Thrashers power plays at the end of two. Through a combination of great killing by the Canes and poor execution by the Thrash, they weren't taking advantage of their many chances. They were getting a lot of shots on goal, but not many were "good" shots. They weren't moving the puck well, and they weren't even maintaining the zone that well. It must have been very frustrating.

At 7:30 of the third, Vitaly Vishnevski made it kind of interesting by pulling the Birds to within two. His backhander to the short side from in close gave the Thrashers new life. Scott Mellanby an Bobby Holik got the assists.

Brind'Amour got another goal at 18:34 of the third to seal the deal. The empty net goal from long distance was assisted by Ray Whitney and Viva. It was the 999th point of Brind'Amour's career.

The next 90 seconds took an eternity because there were several skirmishes, a multitude of penalties against the Thrashers, a misconduct ejection of Scott Mellanby, and a bunch of other garbage that we've sadly grown accustomed to seeing from Bob Hartley's squad.

The Atlanta media gave the first star to Cam Ward. Fair enough. He stopped 40 shots. Inexplicably, the second star went to Glen Wesley. Huh? He played a very average game. Equally inexplicably, the third star went to Maid Marian.

The Canes TV gave the first star to Brind'Amour, the second to Whitney and the third to Ward.

My stars are as such:
Third Star Cam Ward, CAR. 40 saves
Second Star Rod Brind'Amour, CAR. 2 goals, 2 assists. 999 career points.
First Star Ray Whitney, CAR. 2 goals, 2 assists.

On Thursday night, the Canes will be back home for the back end of a back-to-back set. Already, this is their fifth back-to-back.


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