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

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Canes edge Sharks

On Saturday night, the Hurricanes used a three-goal first period to get by the visiting Sharks 6-4. The Canes have now won three in a row and have gotten points in six of their last seven games. Meanwhile, the Leafs beat the Sabres 4-1. Also, the Islanders beat the Flyers 4-3, and the Habs beat the Caps 4-1. Lastly, the Rangers beat the Bruins 2-1. While the Canes are indeed taking care of their own business, the other teams fighting for the eighth playoff position are also winning. Carolina still holds the eighth spot if the season ended right now, but if the Islanders win today, they leapfrog Carolina.

Due to a really hectic work schedule, I haven't any blogging time lately, but it's leveling off, so I'll get back in the swing.

Since I've been gone, the Canes took a few days off, then beat the Caps at home on Thursday night. It took a third period rally to win that one, but they dug deep. Just like last night, the Hurricanes didn't get any favors from the Rangers, Islanders or Canadiens.

The game itself on Saturday was kind of a wild one. Carolina only shot on goal 20 times in the entire game. This was, though, one of those games where the quality of shots was more important than the quantity of shots. Any team in the league would be happy with a shooting percentage of 30%. Any night of the week. Twice on Sunday.

In the first period, the Canes took ten shots and scored on three of them. Evgeni Nabokov, who started in nets for the Sharks, didn't come back after the first intermission and was replaced by Vesa Toskala. Since the game-winning goal took place on Toskala's watch, he takes the loss. In two periods of action, he only saw nine shots, but allowed two to cross the line.

Ray Whitney started it all off at 5:36 of the first with an unassisted goal from the left circle. Deep in the San Jose zone, Tim Gleason applied some nice pressure to force a turnover. Ray Whitney found the puck at the inside hash marks on the left circle and snap-wristed one over Nobokov's left shoulder. That's the Wizard's 29th goal, and his 78 points are a new career high mark.

Erik Cole notched his 27th just 57 seconds later. David Tanabe fired a shot/pass from the right point that sailed well wide right of the net, but the bounce off the end wall went right to Colesy on the left side of the net. Nabokov had overcommitted to the Tanabe shot, and there were no Sharks within 10 feet of Cole, so all he had to to was tap it into a pretty much vacant cage. Officially it's Cole from Tanabe and Frantisek Kaberle at 6:33.

At 18:03, Andrew Ladd continued his torrid March by potting his 10th goal of the season. Ladd has been hampered by injuries this season and last, and he is now showing why the Canes traded up to get him with the fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft. In nine games this month, Ladd has nine (4/5) points and has had two multi-point nights. Glen Wesley took a shot from near the top of the left circle. Ladd screened the shot a bit, and he was there to tuck it in from just off the left post. Scott Walker got the secondary assist.

Just a few seconds later, Eric Staal and Erik Cole found themselves on a two-on-zero break, but they ran a passing drill instead of taking a shot on the vulnerable goalie.

Billy Guerin got the Sharks on the board at 6:49 of the second with a power play marker. From the high slot, he fired a slapshot through Cam Ward. Patrick Marleau and Matt Carle assisted.

At 12:31, Eric Staal made a play that reminded us of "the old Eric Staal". Frankly, he's been a tad disappointing this season, choosing to be unselfish too often. The squandered opportunity at the end of the first was a good example of how he isn't the same as last season. Anyway, he worked hard and fought off two dudes to make the game 4-1. He abused Scott Hannan (who looks an awful lot like Mike Ricci), blowing right past him, then fought off the backchecking of Emmy Vlasic. As he came in hard on Toskala, he pulled the puck to his forehand at the last second to easily beat the Finn. Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman got the assists.

The Canes were up 4-1, but the game was far from over.

Jonathan Cheechoo potted his 31st goal of the season at 2:42 of the third. I spotted a play developing and screamed "hey, somebody put a body on Cheechoo", but it was to no avail. He was left all alone on the front porch and easily beat Ward with a rebound stuff-in. Craig Rivet took a shot from the left circle that Ward went way out to stop. The puck trickled through his gear and was approaching the goal line. Glen Wesley tried to get back, but the unattended Cheechoo got to it first. Rivet, the former Hab and Joe Thornton got the assists. That's big Joe's 83rd helper of the season.

Steve Bernier made things really interesting at 10:11 of the third. It was another one of those plays where the Canes were forcing the issue out along the wall, but giving an inch or two down the middle. Mike Grier forced a turnover deep in the zone near the bottom of the right circle, then made a beautiful centering pass to Bernier who was all alone for the tap-in.

The game winner came at 17:40 of the third off the stick of Andrew Ladd. During a power play sequence, Scott Walker feigned a shot from near the left post, then dropped a pass to Ladd in the slot. He made no mistake in putting it past Toskala. Josef Vasicek got the secondary assist.

Big Joe Thornton scored a power play goal for the visitors at 18:04, just to keep things interesting. Mike Commodore had committed a lazy holding penalty, and it only took six seconds for the Sharks to cash in. Marleau and Rivet got assists.

Cory Stillman potted an empty netter at 19:57 to close things out. Scott Walker got the only assist, his third of the night.

I cannot agree with the "official" three stars. They were given to Ray Whitney (third), Mike Commodore (second) and Andrew Ladd (first). I don't mean to discredit what Commodore did, but I just don't get that. Commy had an assist, dished out six hits, and did a decent job with Jonathan Cheechoo, but I just don't think he was one of the three best players out there.

The RBH three stars go to:
THIRD STAR: Joe Thornton, SJS -- 1 goal, 1 assist, 6 hits
SECOND STAR: Scott Walker, CAR -- 3 assists
FIRST STAR: Andrew Ladd, CAR -- 2 goals, GWG

Up next, a set of back-to-back road games. Tuesday night in Toronto and Wednesday in Philadelphia.


tj said...

I agree totally with your three star assessment. I hung around for the announcement of the three stars just so I could yell for Scott Walker. I was floored that he wasn't announced.

Bill Purdy said...

I would like to thank Representatives Fred Upton (R-MI) and Edward Markey (D-MA) for successfully introducing legislation moving Daylight-saving time ahead three weeks, thus allowing 'Canes fans to enjoy regular-season tailgating and contributing largely to the first playoff-like atmosphere of the season at the RBC. Thanks, Fred and Ed!


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