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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Canes fall to Sens in first half of home-and-home

On Tuesday night, the Canes again hurt their playoff chances by losing a home game to the Ottawa Senators 4-2. They led the game 2-1 after 40 minutes, but blew the lead and lost the game. This is the second time in the last three home games that Carolina has done this and the third home game in a row that they lost a third period lead. Considering that they didn't blow any third period leads last season, nor in the mediocre 03-04 season, this speaks volumes about this team.

The game wasn't on Canes TV, and I was "sort of" listening to the web radio while I tidied up my pig sty of an apartment. I don't have much to say about the game that can't be found here.

I will say that Josef Vasicek got his first goal since re-joining the Hurricanes. It was the classic Jo-Va type of goal -- a backhand stuff in of a rebound from the top of the goal crease.

The game was part of a back-to-back home-and-home series with the Senators. The Sens are playing in their second consecutive home-and-home. Fortunately this one doesn't have the fireworks that the one with Buffalo did. I might look, though, for someone to "say hello" to Jason Spezza. He put quite a bit of mustard on his empty net goal from 9 feet out last night. It looked like he was in the "hardest shot" competition. It seemed a touch showboat-like. If there's any opportunity to "give him the business" tonight, I think that opportunity will be taken.

Tonight, the teams will reset and run it back in the Scotiabanc Palace. Puck drop is 7:30. I expect Cam Ward, who has sat the last three consecutive games, to get the nod between the pipes.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

no last minute deals for Hurricanes

The trade deadline came and went with no transactions by the Hurricanes. I'm a little bit surprised by that. I wasn't at all expecting any player aquisitions, but I was half-way expecting to see the Canes give up one of their expendable (read: Andrew Hutchinson) defensemen for draft picks. There were no rumors of any significance other than an ancient one involving sending Hutch to the Oilers.

The Canes are in a strange situation where they have too many defensemen and nothing that they can do about it. With Anton Babchuk down on the farm, the Canes still have no fewer than nine healthy defensemen. While it's not a bad thing to have a few on reserve, the Canes are in a tough spot because the only thing they can do about it is to make some of them healthy scratches. None have two-way contracts, which means that they can't be sent to the minors without clearing waivers. If they don't clear waivers on the way back up, the original team loses the player (and half his salary) and gets nothing in return. Not a risk worth taking.

In the extreme short term, this might be a problem. Assuming that Mike Commodore, Frantisek Kaberle, Bret Hedican, Nic Wallin and Glen Wesley are every day players, there are four guys battling for the sixth (and sometimes seventh) spot in the lineup. Hutch has been the odd man out all season, and will continue to be. David Tanabe has been playing well and deserves the ice time. Tim Gleason has been inconsistent, but has shown signs of brilliance. Dennis Seidenberg hasn't been terrible, but looks to be another obvious odd man out. Seidenberg and/or Hurchinson could have found ice time elsewhere, and the Canes could have gotten something in return.

Ask the Buffalo Sabres if there's ever such a thing as "too many defensemen on the roster" and they'll remind you of what happened in the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs. Some will point to Darcy Regier and blame him for not shoring up the team's blueline needs at last year's trade deadline, but just about anyone will say "you can never have too many defensemen". As I said, though, the problem is that we can't store any of them in Albany.

The bright side of this blight is the "big picture". Looking to the future, it's almost impossible to imagine the 83-year-old Glen Wesley returning in 07-08. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the team bought out the remaining season on Bret Hedican's contract. Mike Commodore has one season left, and will most likely be renewed after the 07=08 season. Kaberle and Wallin are both signed through the 09-10 season. David Tanabe is playing the best hockey of his career, is cheap and WANTS to stay in Carolina. He'll be re-signed. Gleason and Seidenberg, both of whom are still very young, will be RFA after the 07-08 season. Gleason should be a top four blueliner by then. Anyway, the point is, Carolina will be set for the next couple of years defensively. With a lack of NHL-ready defensemen in Albany, Carolina will need to let their prospects grow, and should be glad to have a handful of young NHL-calibre blueliners entering the prime of their careers.

Most importantly, it'll be nice to have all these eager guys available when one of our defensemen suffers an injury heading into or during the playoffs.

In short: Carolina has a glut of defenseman. Lots of folks wanted one of them moved for a draft pick or two. It's not the end of the world that nothing happened.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Thrashers make big moves, give up a lot

On Saturday night, the Thrashers issued a press release during the second period of the game with the Canes that they would make a major announcement after the game. I speculated here that it might be Keith Tkatchuk. About an hour after that, it turned out to be much less dramatic than that, but this morning, it indeed turned out to be Tkatchuk.

I'm still going to do a proper game recap on the Canes 4-1 victory over the Thrashers, but for now, I'll get on their transactions.

The first transaction made me scratch my head. They issued a press release during the game to give us a heads-up about this???

Whoop-de-do. An old guy with declining skill for a young guy who hasn't blossomed yet. So what? I figured, though, that they weren't done since they went to the trouble of warning everyone that something was coming.

This morning, the hammer dropped.

This, friends, is what everyone was talking about when they said that "the prices are too high". There is no doubt that Tkatchuk will be an excellent addition to the Thrashers lineup. He's practically old enough to be Jordan Staal's grandpa, but he's steadily produced at nearly a point a night throughout his 73 year career. He's also got a bunch of playoff experience and is one of those guys that you like to have in the room. There are so many upsides to this. But they had to give a lot to get Tkatchuk.

I don't need to be reminded that the Canes gave up a lot to get Doug Weight last January...

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

...but we all know how that turned out.

There is a bit of a difference, though. Boulerice had become useless. Zigomanis was looking like a career AHLer. Kahnburg showed no signs of ever leaving Sweden. That fourth round pick from Toronto was leftover from the "please take Jeff O'Neill off our hands" deal. So Carolina gave up a bunch of things, but nothing that they really wanted. Atlanta is giving up high draft picks in consecutive drafts AND a useful player. Metropolit was scratched last night, but has played well this season after being away from the NHL for three years.

I think in a little picture kind of way, Atlanta has done well with this. Tkachunky is definitely an upgrade over Metropolit. In a big picture, they've given perhaps too much. Of course, if they become the third consecutive SE team to win the Cup, none of this matters and it will have been well worth any price paid.

Now that Tkatchuk has been dealt, there will be no more speculation about Guerin and Tkatchuk going to Anaheim together. It also means that whoever gets Guerin will have to give a ton. It also means that St. Louis will be in a position to rack up big time at this summer's draft.

Buckle up.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Canes beat Thrash 4-1

On Saturday night, the Hurricanes defeated the Thrashers 4-1. Viva had two goals and Johnny Crackers was in the nets again.

Word is, the Thrashers will be making a "major" announcement as soon as the pressers are done. Presumably a huge trade. Guerin? Tkatchuk? Both are rumored to be headed to Anaheim. We'll have to wait a few minutes. A more detailed game recap and talk of the Birds trade to come.

Friday, February 23, 2007

"Ole Tarantula Head" a Cane

The other day, and the other month, and the other year, I wrote about how I wouldn't mind seeing Anson Carter in a Canes uniform. Of course there were other times (read: during the lockout) when I said that I didn't like him. Then, of course there was that time that he showed up in my weird dream.
Today, I got my wish. Anson Carter is a Hurricane.

During the summer when I was talking hockey with a friend at work (who hails from "The Cape" and is a lifelong Bruins fan) and I mentioned that Anson Carter was still available and might be a nice fit. He had to bring up some old shit. As soon as I mentioned Carter, he said, "Yeah, but don't you guys hate him?" After I gave a puzzled look, all he had to say was "1999". I remembered "that goal" he scored against us in game 5 of the first round of the playoffs in 1999. Double overtime, a heartbreaking loss. It killed any chance the Canes had of advancing in the playoffs. That, by the way, was the first NHL playoff game I ever attended. It was the last time any of us saw Steve Chiasson in person. Those were some hard times for the Hurricanes franchise.

I assumed we'd have to give away a defenseman and a pick to get the veteran winger, but as it turns out, it wasn't that difficult. The Canes only give up a fifth round pick in 2008. With plenty of cap room, the Canes can afford to do this.

The Hurricanes website already has Carter listed on the roster, and apparently he'll wear 77. He'll be available tomorrow when the Canes travel to Philips Arena to take on second place Atlanta.

More later.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Canes lose game, Cole, points

Tuesday was not a good day for team RBH. Almost everything that could go wrong about the game with the Thrashers did. Some non-hockey stuff went slightly wrong too, but that's not what this is about.

Going into Tuesday's game, the Canes were just two points out of first place in the Southeast. They knew that there were basically four points on the line; they would either end up "tied" with Atlanta for second place or four points back, in third. Tampa was sitting atop the division with 69 points and a game in hand on both Atlanta and Carolina.

Carolina scored first and took a 1-0 lead into the room after two periods. Money in the bank, right? This season, they were 21-0 when leading after two. Last season, the Canes were 31-0 when leading after two. In the 03-04 season, Carolina was 23-0-4 when leading after two. The last time Carolina blew a second intermission lead and lost the game was in the 02-03 season.

Until now.

Five minutes into the third frame, the Thrashers scored their first of three unanswered goals on a very freaky play. The Canes were wasting a power play opportunity, Atlanta cleared the puck deep into the Carolina zone, and Eric Staal very nonchalantly went back for it. Just a Sunday skate-around. Maid Marian Hossa had other plans. He skated hard to the northwest corner, beat Staal to the puck and fired a shot towards the goal from literally behind the goal line. Cam Ward didn't give his best effort either, and the puck glanced off his right skate into the net. Marian Hossa might have been more surprised than anyone in the arena. His celebration was delayed, almost as if he had to ask someone if that really just happened.

The freakish goal should be two lessons rolled into one. First: If you're an attacking player, even in a shorthanded situation, good things can happen when you throw the puck in the direction of the net. That was an impossible angle, but he got the crazy bounce. Second: If you're a goaltender in a situation like that, you have to pay better attention, and you have to get your skate flush against the post to prevent just such a carom. Bad, bad, bad.

The Canes went on to blow a five-on-three power play, then gave up two more goals in the final three minutes to turn the night from "promising" to "dismal". A turnover deep in the Carolina zone led to a breakaway for Ilya Kovalchuk, and he didn't miss.

Later, Eric Boulton added an insurance marker and the Canes were done.

Meanwhile, Tampa won their game. Now the Bolts are alone in first with 71 points and a game in hand. Atlanta is second with 71 points, and Carolina is third with 67.

Carolina is barely "in" a playoff spot with one point more than "ninth place" Toronto. However, the Leafs have two games in hand.

To make matters worse, Carolina lost Erik Cole during the pre-game skate. Apparently, he pulled a muscle in the same general area as the hip pointer that caused him to just miss three games. He's out for at least two weeks, maybe four. Ryan Bayda had just been sent down to Albany that day, so they couldn't recall him. Carolina had no choice but to dress 8 defensemen. Peter Laviolette likes to play with seven sometimes, but eight is just too many. Even the defensemen with offensive upside are still wired to play like defensemen.

I'm guessing Bayda will be back up, and we might see a push to get Andrew Hutchinson traded for a forward. I know this might not be a popular stance, but I'd like to see Anson Carter. I've vacillated on this issue a bit, I admit, but I'm mostly in favor of that idea. Perhaps a different post on a different day, I'll get into depth about it, but for now, let's say I'm for it.

All I'll say right now is that Carter likes to wear a sweater with a repeating number and that the numbers 33, 44, 55, 66, 77 and 88 are all available.

The one good thing that happened on Tuesday is that Rod Brind'Amour's goal in the second period helped him pass Henri "Pocket Rocket" Richard on the all-time points list with 1047 (401/646) points in 1245 career games. Richard retired with 11 Stanley Cups and notched 1046 (358/688) points in 1259 games. The more famous Maurice "Rocket" Richard, who was 15 years older than his brother, retired with 965 (544/421) points in 978 career games, and won the Cup eight times. Brindy won't win the Cup nearly as many times as the Richard boys, but he's in some very elite company now.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The trouble with Buffalo

During the summer, I often made reference to the fact that the Sabres had 11 players filing for arbitration, and how I thought that spelled trouble. I was called a naysayer (among other things), and Buffalo managed to sign most of the players without going to arbitration. When they accepted the huge $5M award given to Daniel Briere and DID NOT deal Martin Biron, I thought there was still going to be trouble. They ended up getting a full roster signed for just under the cap, and although I was accused of being misguided, I thought this too might be trouble.

Earlier this week, I alluded to the fact that the Sabres are all banged up like they were last May. Since my post the other day, they've also lost Ales Kotalik for approximately 6 weeks with a knee injury.

The list of injuries is as follows:
  • Tim Connolly... Concussion, knee -- indefinite
  • Maxim Afinogenov... Wrist -- 6 weeks +
  • Paul Gaustad... Ankle -- remainder of season
  • Ales Kotalik... Knee -- 6 weeks
  • Jiri Nivotny... Ankle -- indefinite
  • Jaro Spacek... Hand -- 2 weeks +

The fact that Buffalo is severely banged up is of enough concern. Unfortunately, they don't have any cap room to go rent players. With the exception of Paul Gaustad, all players are scheduled to make a return before the end of the regular season. This means that they won't be able to get any salary exemption on those injuries. They started the season flush against the cap, and they're still there. The only thing they can do trade-wise is to make dollar-for-dollar trades. They won't be able to go the traditional "rent a player" mode. Instead, they'll have to trade quality for quantity.

Don't take my word for it. Kevin BFLOBLOG has much more insight on the Sabres situation, and writes about it here.

That's just the beginning of their concerns. According to Matt over at Sabre Rattling, the Sabres will have to do something immediately. As part of their agreement with the Rochester Americans, the Sabres have to provide 10 players to the AHL squad. If the number of Amerks with Sabres contracts falls below 10 for two games or more, the Sabres must fix it. This means the Sabres will have to send some guys back down. This also means that they will have to make some dollar-for-dollar trades. Conditional picks can't figure in because they have no money to spend. One popular rumor is Marty Biron to the Coyotes for Kevyn Adams plus spare parts. Not a bad deal, but they will have to do it instantly. The Amerks have had only 9 "Sabres" players for two consecutive games. Now that Mike Ryan has been called up, that number is eight. Buffalo must get that number to 10 before Wednesday.

Now... The Sabres are a first place team, and they've distanced themselves enough from the Northeast Division that they're almost guaranteed a first place finish and a top three seed in the playoffs. If they can limp through the remainder of the regular season on a makeshift roster and if everyone can return from injury without setbacks, they should be fine. They'll be more than fine. If, however, things don't go that smoothly, then their struggles with the salary cap over the summer will be the main culprit.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Canes right ship, defeat Habs

On Saturday night, the Canes went to the Bell Centre, and for the seventh time in a row, they emerged victorious. This time it was 5-3.

What a difference 48 hours makes! After Thursday's game, I lamented among other things, a terrible performance by special teams. Tonight, they were golden. The Canes had only two power play opportunities and converted them both. They were shorthanded three times, and killed all of them off. Not only that, but they scored a shorthanded goal. Whereas the special teams got an F- the other night, they got an A+ tonight.

All of the Carolina goals were kind of oddball. The third more so than the rest, but I'll get to that in a second.

During a four-on-four sequence following a fight the Habs got the first goal of the game from Sheldon Souray at 17:36. Tomas Plekanec and Mark Streit got the helpers.

During the first intermission, the team had a closed-door meeting and no interviews were given on tv. I'm not sure what was said, but whatever it was worked.

Off the opening second period faceoff, Michael Ryder was given the gate for hooking, and they were made to pay for it. Rod Brind'Amour found the puck on his stick as he camped out on the left post. He neatly pulled it to his backhand and lifted it high to Aebischer's stick side. Erik Cole and Eric Staal got the assists at 1:18 on the power play goal.

Ten minutes later, the tone changing goal. The Czech Condor was in the box for holding, but the Habs ended up hurting themselves. Mike Commodore made a fine defensive play in the Carolina zone causing a turnover and a two-on-one for Craig Adams and Chad LaRose. Craigasaurus Rex took the puck to the outside and fired a shot from the right circle. Aebischer got a pad on it, but Sharpie was there to knock it in out of mid-air. Officially, LaRose from Adams shorthanded at 11:30 of the second. It was just the third goal of the season for the hard working LaRose and just the fifth helper for Adams. It wasn't the game winner. It was, though --at least in my mind, the play of the game.

Barely a minute later, the Habs tied it up. Radik Bonk was on the doorstep to tip in a shot from Steve Begin. Mike Johnson got the secondary assist.

At 19:26 of the second came another crucial moment in the game. Mike Johnson ran Cam Ward and there was a delayed penalty. For a second, Tim Gleason considered giving Johnson the business, but thought better of it and wisely let the play run its course. As soon as the penalty began, the Canes got fruit from it. And it was the aforementioned extreme oddball goal. Try to follow me here.

Eric Staal fired a shot from above the left circle that went wide of Aebischer. Or perhaps it was tipped wide. At any rate, David Aebischer lost his stick after Micheal Komaserik swatted at the puck and ended up hitting Abby's stick. Off the end wall, Ray Whitney found the puck behind the cage. Again, Rod Brind'Amour was parked on the left post. Whitney made an amazing pass that went between Komaserik's legs right to Brind'Amour. From there, it was kind of like his first goal. He pulled it to his backhand, then lifted it over Aebischer. The stickless Abby sprawled out at the last second and the puck actually glanced off the top of his helmet and eventually went top shelf. He moaned a little to the refs about being interfered with, but it was his own teammate who knocked his stick out of his hand. Officially, it was a power play goal by Brind'Amour from Whitney and Staal at 19:50 of the second. Heading into the room, the Canes were up 3-2.

When leading after 40 minutes, the Canes were 20-0. Make it 21-0.

At 12:42 of the third, Erik "Hab Killa" Cole got what would turn out to be the game winner on a tremendous individual effort. After the Habs had partially cleared the puck following some prolonged pressure by the Canes, Cole burned them badly. The Canes brought it back in, and Cole used Mathieu Dandenault as a screen for his shot. He fired it between Dandenault's wickets from above the right circle, and Aebischer never had a chance. Mike Commodore and Glen Wesley got the assists.

Guy Carbonneau waited too long, in my opinion, to pull his goaltender. Then he did it wrong. He didn't insert the extra attacker until about 1:15 remained, and he immediately had to pay for it. Instead of waiting for his team to get the puck deep, he pulled the keeper after they had cleared their own zone. Eric Staal made a fine play at center ice to steal the puck and fire into the empty net for the security at 18:47. Aebischer wasn't even off the ice yet, but way too far out of net to turn back. A poor coaching choice and poor execution on the pulling of the keeper. That made the score 5-2, but it actually made a difference.

Tomas Plekanec was awarded a penalty shot at 19:07, and he made a nifty move to convert it and make the game a little closer.

5-3 was the final.

Everyone played really well, and I was pleasantly surprised that Justin Willams AND Bret Hedican played. It's hard to pick stars of the game when everyone played so well.

The "official" three stars went to Cam Ward (third), Bret Hedican (second) and Rod Brind'Amour (first). The FSN South stars went to Ward, Cole and Brind'Amour. I can't say those guys don't deserve it, but I feel the need to give a shout to CrAdams, who had the shorthanded assist and made some really fine defensive plays on the penalty kill.
The RBH three stars are a little different:
THIRD STAR Craig Adams, CAR -- 1 assist
SECOND STAR Cam Ward, CAR -- 42 saves
FIRST STAR Eric Staal, CAR -- 1 goal, 2 assists

The Thrashers lost in regulation, and Bolts lost in overtime. These are both good for the Canes. Now Tampa and Atlanta are tied with 69 points. Tampa is in first by virtue of having a game in hand. Carolina is in third place, just two points back with 67. Tuesday's home game against the Dirty Birds will be HUGE.

Canes-Habs tonight.

Les Hurricanes du Caroline retourneront dans La Belle Province ce soir. Ils jouerant á Les Habitants dans le Bell Centre, où Les Hurricanes ont gagné six jeux consécutif....
Ah. Screw it. My french is terrible

Tonight, the Canes will be back in La Belle Province for the second time in less than two weeks. They'll be looking for their seventh consecutive win at the Bell Centre. Dating back to last season, including the playoffs, the Canes have defeated the Canadiens in their own building six times in a row by a combined score of 22-8.

Erik "Hab Killa" Cole, who has been out with a hip pointer, is listed as "possible" for tonight's game. Cory Stillman, Justin Williams, Bret Hedican are all out.

The Habs are now having more than their fair share of injuries. Cristobal Huet was injured on Wednesday night. It turned out to be a hamstring pull, and he's been placed on the IR indefinitely. Defenseman Craig Rivet is out with pneumonia. Alex Kovalev injured his elbow, and will be out for three weeks.

David Aebischer will start for the Habs in net. To fill the roster, they called up netminder Jaroslav Halak and right wing Duncan Milroy from Hamilton of the AHL. Neither has ever played in the NHL.

Carolina hasn't made any call-ups to replace Williams or Hedican. The good news on the Hedican front is that his injury was not a concussion. He's day-to-day and will probably be back Tuesday for the home game against Atlanta.

If Cole skates tonight, look for him to have a huge night.

The Canes will need to win this game to stay inside the playoff bubble. In fact, Montréal could leapfrog them with a win. Only one standings point separates Carolina (seventh) from Montréal (tenth). In reality, though, everyone has games in hand on Carolina, so they're already on the outside looking in.

Puck drop will be at 7:00 and it will be on Canes TV

Friday, February 16, 2007

Canes get crushed, injured

On Thursday night, the Hurricanes lost a game they needed to win. They lost it badly. The score was 4-1, but it wasn't even that close. To make matters worse, they lost two key players along the way, and neither is expected to make an immediate return.

I won't rehash the entire game, but Carolina's play was characterized by bad passing, miscommunication, failure to stay on side, and a terrible effort by the special teams. Going into the game, they had a loose grip on the #7 playoff seed in the East, and they needed to win this one to strengthen their hold. Meanwhile, the Rangers were on the outside looking in; desperate for standings points.

The near-capacity crowd was late arriving. For about the first 10 minutes, the seating bowl looked the way it used to look in 2003. By the end of the first, it filled in. Unfortunately, the guys on the ice never did show up. Cam Ward was the only one present. Even Frantisek Kaberle, who is usually solid as a rock, had a bad night.

To make the outcome of the game worse, two key players are out with injuries. Defenseman Bret Hedican suffered a concussion in the second period. The fact that he didn't return is bad news. This means he'll have to take one of those baseline tests. The players hate these and they usually result in being put on the PUP list. Hedican apparently had a concussion earlier this season, but it was hidden. If that's true, it looks even worse. At his advanced age, two concussions in a short timeframe is very bad news. Suddenly, the overabundance of blueliners isn't an issue anymore. Maybe Anton Babchuk will get called back up. Just a few days ago, he decided to quit being a baby and report to Albany. Then again, maybe JR will send him a message by keeping him down there.

Justin Williams also left the game in the second period with what they're only calling "upper body". According to the N&O, it isn't insignificant. Coach Laviolette would only say that he's "banged up". I don't remember seeing the play on which he got hurt. I just remember not seeing him at all in the third.

Erik Cole and Cory Stillman are already hurt. Now Viva. Three of the Canes top six forwards are out for an unknown amount of time. I don't think that calling up the likes of Dave Gove and Keith Aucoin is the answer. The Canes will have to make a trade. They'll have to do it now. Either that, or they'll have to abandon ship. This is the time to make a decision. There's plenty of cap room and plenty of big name forwards out on the market.

The clock is ticking. February 27 3:00 pm is the cutoff.

Buffalo suffered a huge blow last night, too. They lost Maxim Afinogenov for the remainder of the regular season with a scaphoid fracture and Jiri Novotny for an indefinite period with a tweaked left ankle. Meanwhile, Tim Connolly has suffered a setback and might not play at all this season. Defenseman Jaro Spacek has a broken hand and will be out for at least a few more weeks. Paul Gaustad is out for the rest of the year with an ankle injury. Afinogenov and Spacek are huge cogs in the wheel and the others are more than just "minor players". The problem in Buffalo is that they don't have cap space to play with. Even with a potential salary exemption for Tim Connolly, they won't have any room. I'll defer to a post over at Sabre Rattling on this issue, as they know more than I do.

So the bad news for them is that they've lost all these guys and they don't have any cap room to rent a player. They'll have to rely on Rochester. The good news is that most of them should be back, even Connolly, for the playoffs. It's possible that Afinogenov could have a complicated recovery, but even still, he should return at some point during the playoffs.

How interesting would it be if the Sabres hold onto their 1 seed with a M*A*S*H unit on the ice, the Canes limp into an 8th spot. The injury riddled Sabres would again be up against the Canes in the playoffs.

Carolina has had a "fully healthy" roster for approximately 38 minutes this season. Because of Connolly, Buffalo has had a fully healthy roster for exactly zero minutes.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Canes edge Kings

On a cold wet Tuesday night, the Hurricanes emerged from their barn with a 2-1 victory over the visiting last place Kings. This gives the Canes an opportunity to gain ground on Atlanta, who is playing a late game in Calgary, getting crushed early. Carolina will also be keeping a close eye on Toronto, who is also battling for the eighth spot in the East. The Leafs are, as I write, tied with the Islanders midway through the third lost to the Islanders in the shootout.

One important thing happened, and I can almost guarantee that nobody else will mention this. It'll take me a little ways to get there, so bear with me. According to the Mirtle Model, 95 points will be needed for a team to qualify for the playoffs. Los Angeles is now in a position where the most they can accrue is 93 points. They're out. James Mirtle isn't god, I know, but his model seemed to work last season. He predicted 95 would get you in, and that's exactly what Edmonton had with the eighth seed in the West.

Bear with me. I'm getting to the point.

The Kings are out. They won't be winning the Stanley Cup. Center Patrick O'Sullivan won't be getting his name etched on the Stanley Cup come September. Who? Patrick O'Sullivan. He's the only native North Carolinian playing in the NHL right now. Or ever, for that matter. He was born in Winston-Salem while his dad was playing for the Winston-Salem Thunderbirds of the defunct Atlantic Coast Hockey League.

Why is this important?

Chris Huffine, video coach for the Hurricanes, became the first native North Carolinian to have his name etched on the Cup last year. The fact that the Kings are realistically eliminated and O'Sullivan isn't high on anyone's trade priority means that Huffine won't have to share that distinction with anyone. At least for one more year.

Okay... the game. I didn't go, it wasn't on Canes TV, I don't have Center Ice, and I had no desire to be in a bat. I had to listen on the webradio.

Ray Whitney got the Canes off and running late in the first to continue his sizzling pace. His power play goal was assisted by Rod Brind'Amour and David Tanabe.

Alex Frolov tied it for the Kings midway through the second with a power play goal.

Scott Walker got the game winner midway through the third, assisted by Josef Vasicek and David Tanabe.

Tanabe didn't earn an "official" star, but the RBH stars go to:

THIRD STAR David Tanabe, CAR -- 2 assists
SECOND STAR Ray Whitney, CAR -- goal
FIRST STAR Scott Walker, CAR -- GWG

Ray Whitney continues to be absolutely incendiary. He's got a three game goal streak and a five game point streak during which he has totaled 10 (5/5) points. He's got 68 points, and with 23 games remaining, he's just 8 shy of his career best. Somehow, a guy who's in the top 10 in the League, and is on pace for 94 points is completely under the radar. Go figure.

The Canes will stay at home and will face the Rangers and their legion of ex-Canes on Thursday. I'll be donning 63 for the first time since game 7.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Canes to host Kings

On Tuesday night, the Hurricanes will play host to the cellar-dwelling Kings in their fourth of five games against Pacific Division teams. Carolina will complete the cycle on March 24 against the Sharks.

Please note that it is a matter of pure objective fact that Los Angeles is a last-place team. It is by no means a personal value judgement. To hear some folks tell it, we Canes fans wouldn't know how to formulate a subjective opinion anyway.

Speaking of last-place teams, the abysmal Flyers put a hurtin' on the Red Wings tonight, blasting them 6-1. Despite the fact that Philadelphia is a really horrible team this season, the Red Wings failed to end their decade-long losing streak. It has now been more than 10 years since the Red Wings have won a game in the City of Brotherly Love. Their last triumph there was January 25, 1997 when the Wings won 4-1. For the record, two of the goal scorers that night (Tomas Holmstrom and Kris Draper) are still with the wings. Rod Brind'Amour scored the lone Flyers goal that night.

Because of the new "unbalanced" NHL schedule, the last time the Kings were in the
RBC Center was November 8, 2003, and the next time will be 2008-09 at the very earliest. For the record, Carolina won that game in overtime on Eric Staal's third career goal. I was there and got a few decent pictures, including this one, showing a motley crew of former Canes. In addition to the four pictured, there were others like Jeff O'Neill, Bob Boughner, Daniil Markov. There for the Kings that night were Tim Gleason and Eric Belanger.

In a year that not much went right for me personally and very little went right for the Canes, that night was one of the good ones.

According to the Mirtle Model, which suggests that you need 95 standings points to qualify for the playoffs, the Kings aren't out. Yet. They'll need to win every single one of their remaining 24 games. That, and get a lot of help.

Carolina can't take this too lightly, though. They are barely grasping onto the eighth spot (from a points standpoint). After adjusting for teams that have games in hand, the Canes are actually on the outside looking in. They need to start winning with regularity. They need to win games like this, plus a few that they shouldn't. They'll also need to throttle up when they head down the division game-laden homestretch in late March/April.

Sadly, I won't be in attendance Tuesday night. My 63 sweater will make it's first reappearance on Thursday.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Preds perform dirty trick, Ray Whitney on fire.

On Friday, the Hurricanes exchanged third line centers with the Predators. Both teams had the chance to get rid of a player that just wasn't "fitting in". Nashville coach Barry Trotz explained it just like that, saying that it was a "lateral" change for both players and teams.

Obviously, Carolina knows JoVa very well, and he won't need any adjustment at all in the locker room. There's maybe two guys in the room who he doesn't know.

"The Condor" played with the Canes on Saturday, giving the Hurricanes a Czech connection that has been missing for some time.

Belanger didn't play with the Preds on Saturday. Before he even set foot in the Preds locker room, he was traded to the Thrashers for defenseman Vitaly Vishnevsky. A very dirty trick by Nashville GM David Poile. No team likes to make intra-division trades, especially with the unbalanced schedule. Jim Rutherford doesn't even like trading within the Eastern Conference. This manoeuvre, though, puts Belanger back in the Southeast division. Had this been on the table as a three-way trade, Rutherford would have had no part of it. Poile insists that is wasn't his intention for this to happen, but I just don't buy that. In the long run, it's not likely that Belanger will be able to give away any secrets, but it's still dirty pool. I hope the hockey gods take note of this underhanded tactic and smite the Preds and Thrash appropriately.

Due to excessive drunkenness last night, I didn't see any of the Canes v Wild game. The Canes rallied from a three goal deficit to make a good game out of it, but lost 5-4. Eric Staal had a 3 (1/2) point night and Ray Whitney added a goal and an assist. "The Wizard" is completely en fuego. He's scored seven (4/3) points in the last two games and has 23 (9/14) points in the last 15. After getting a natural hat trick in a stunning 100 second span Thursday night, he told reporters that he was just lucky, but Eric Staal thought otherwise:
"It was one of those nights," Whitney said. "I was the beneficiary of some hard work by the other guys."

"You were on fire," Staal interjected as he walked past Whitney's locker.

"I was on fire," Whitney said. "Let's be honest."

He'll take a four game points streak into Tuesday's home game against the Kings. More on that later.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Time to unretire the Vasicek sweater

On Friday afternoon, the Hurricanes dealt third line center Eric Belanger to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Josef Vasisek. "The Czech Condor" played five seasons in Raleigh before being traded to Nashville straight up for Scott Walker over the summer. In 2003-04, JoVa led a very bad Canes team with 19 goals. He became my favorite player, and his was the first player sweater I ever bought.

I wore the 63 VASICEK sweater to 26 regular season games and 14 playoff games last season, and although he was injured or scratched for most of it, it served me very well. I also pointed out that the number of days between the Hurricanes final regular season game and Game 7 of the SCF was 63. I had a beard growth of 63 days and the sweater number to match. I claimed then that fate was working on my behalf.

Over the summer, as I had time to reflect, I was glad to see JoVa go and excited that the Canes got Scott Walker out of the deal. I'm not so sure that I'm excited about the Condor's return, but I'll definitely be "unretiring" the 63 VASICEK sweater on February 15 when the Rangers come to town. I've worn the 11 WILLIAMS sweater to all my games this year, with mixed results.

As far as the actual trade is concerned, I'm not sure that either team benefits more than the other. It's just a change. Eric Belanger has really one quality that I love. He's a very good faceoff guy. Aside from that, he has tons of breakaway chances and has other fantastic scoring chances, but he has a real problem finishing. That whole Maxim Afinogenov thing. Vasicek had lost his scoring touch here, but I always applauded his size and strength. Maybe things will be different this go-round. Maybe we'll see the old Joe. I certainly hope so.

Vasicek has played in just 38 games with the Preds this season, amassing 13 (4/9) points. Belanger, who has been ice cold of late, has played in 56 games for the Canes, netting 20 (8/12) points. In terms of PPG, this is a miniscule drop-off for the Canes, but they'll be getting a guy who is already familiar with "the system" here, and a guy that the fans like. "Frenchy" never caught on with the fans, and I get the impression that he never caught on in the room, either. Maybe I'm way off mark there, but that's my impression.

JoVa will presumably join the team in Minnesota Saturday night. Due to the injuries to Erik Cole and Scott Walker, the Canes have also recalled Ryan Bayda from Albany of the AHL.

I can't wait to see how this pans out.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Canes rip Bruins 5-2, but get hurt

On Thursday night, the Hurricanes did what they should have done last Saturday: they crushed an inferior team. Carolina took some lumps along the way, but they defeated the Bruins by a nifty 5-2 tune. Just five days prior, they suffered a brutal home loss to the same Bruins squad in Raleigh.

Because it was Thursday night, my routine would be to watch the first period, DVR the rest, then head to Scrabble night. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, someone forgot to tell me that I'm an idiot. I didn't have any free space on my DVR, thanks to about a million episodes of Seinfeld. Therefore, I can't give colorful details about periods two and three. The tragedy there is that all the excitement took place in the second.

First to the "lumps". On Tuesday night, Carolina enjoyed their first fully healthy lineup all season. 55 games with at least one player, and in many cases, up to five on the injured reserve. Frantisek Kaberle returned in style, but Cory Stillman was lost again. That "fully healthy" stuff lasted less than two periods. Stillman left with a knee issue and is expected to be out about a week. Heading into Boston, the Canes didn't have an extra forward to replace Stillman. Instead, they dressed seven defensemen. By the end of the game, they had lost two more forwards. Erik Cole had to leave the game after suffering a "lower body" injury finishing a check midway through the second. A couple of minutes after that, Scott Walker was taken out by a knee from Andrew Alberts. A fight ensued, and no kneeing call was made, but the Canes will be expected to send the video to Clownshoes Campbell for review. I didn't see it live, but the slo-mo replay I saw suggests that Alberts deliberately led with the knee.

As the Canes roadtrip continues, they will be without at least Stillman, probably Cole, and perhaps Walker. Even if they dress extra defensemen, they still don't have enough bodies. Someone (read: Keith Aucoin) will have to come up from Albany. On Saturday, the Canes will be in St. Paul taking on Pavol Demitra and the rest of the Wild.

Brandon Bochenski, who was recalled from Norfolk just this week, lit the lamp twice for the Bruins, providing their only offense. His first came at 15:32 of the first. Paul Mara threw the puck at the net from an impossible angle, and Bocheski was there to knock it in from the doorstep. Patrice Bergeron got the secondary helper.

I didn't see anything else, so I'm just relying on the scoresheet and the highlights.

After the Cole injury, the Walker injury (and the ensuing fight) Ray Whitney exploded for the Canes. In a span of 100 seconds, he scored three goals. This is what's called a "natural" hat trick. Three goals by the same player with no other scoring plays in between. This is the fastest "natural" in the NHL this season, and is the only for the Canes.

At 15:36 Whitney was out front all alone in the low slot to pick up some loose change and beat Andrew Raycroft top shelf. Trevor "the Dude" Letowski and Rod Brind'Amour got the assists.

The second goal came at 16:45 when Whitney accepted a nifty behind-the-goal pass from Eric Staal near the left post. Somehow, he beat Raycroft on the far (glove) side. Staal and Viva assisted.

Before the PA announcement was made, Whitney completed the hattie b wrapping around the right post and finding Raycroft's five hole at 17:16. Brindy and "the Dude" assisted.

In the closing seconds of the second, Ray Whitney nearly got his fourth goal of the night. He uncorked a howitzer from the left point that was subtly redirected by Viva in the slot. It was Williams' 28th goal of the season, assisted by Whitney and Staal.

Bochenski made it 4-2 at 12:36 of the third, but he couldn't complete a hat trick, and the Bruins didn't score any more after that.

Brind'Amour got an empty net goal at 19:32 assisted by Viva and Kaberle.

The RBH three stars are the same as the "official" ones.
THIRD STAR Justin Williams, CAR -- 1 goal, 2 assists
SECOND STAR Brendon Bochenski, BOS -- 2 goals.
FIRST STAR Ray Whitney, CAR -- 3 goals, assist. Natural hat trick in 1:40.

The Canes will be on the road to face the Wild on Saturday night.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Babchuk pitches fit; Samsonov clears waivers

Two pieces of follow-up news today. Both concerning soon-to-be unemployed NHL players.

On Wednesday, after the Canes assigned Anton Babchuk to Albany, he refused to go. As I pointed out, he's the only defenseman with a two-way contract, making him the only blueliner who can be moved. The Canes playoff position is still too unclear to make any trades of large proportion, and Jim Rutherford is unwilling to make any shotgun trades. The ONLY other option was to demote winger Andrew Ladd. That isn't going to happen, so the Canes did the only thing they could.

According to an article in the N&O, Babchuk refused to go, saying he needed to "think about it". This didn't sit well with Rutherford, who quipped:
"In his words, he wants to think about it. In our words, Albany has a game in Norfolk tonight and he should be there playing. ... We want him playing, not sitting at home thinking."

Ouch. This is diplomatic speak for "Who the eff does he think he is?!?!"

As their riposte, the Canes have suspended Babchuk indefinitely. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him on the waiver wire before the week is out. Rutherford doesn't like whiny bitches. The rest of the league will probably take note of his petulance and allow him to clear waivers. Third pairing defensemen are roughly a dime a dozen, and in fairness, he's only a third pairing guy on a good day. I have a feeling this is Do svidaniya, Anton!

In other news, Sergei Samsanov, who has been a huge bust this season (and last, for that matter) was placed on, and cleared, waivers yesterday. No team in their right mind would pick up the tab on his $3.525M salary for next season and the remainder of the same salary this season. The tiny winger has attended the Alexei Yashin School of inefficient salary/goal ratio and won't be touched with a 47 1/2 foot pole at that price. Since his trade demand was made public yesterday, he's lightened his stance a little. Now he says he wants to remain a part of the Habs big picture. Guy Carbonneau's vague show of support isn't very promising. From a TSN article:
"I never had problems with Sergei Samsonov as a man," Carbonneau added. "He's been professional. He always works hard. He never moans or comes to my office asking for ice time. His play wasn't up to par and that's why he missed some games, but he's a good person."(emphasis mine)

Something about that screams "This dude is so out of here, it isn't even funny". When a guy is being commended on his qualities as a person, it doesn't look good. It's like "No hard feelings, but this is a business, after all." Remember Kevyn Adams? Top notch guy. When he was traded, JR said:
"Kevyn has been a real role model for our franchise and somebody we all really like," Rutherford said. "That was the most difficult part of this decision. But we almost got pushed into making a decision instead of making it under normal circumstances. His role had changed a little bit."

It's almost a mirror image quote.

Babchuk will probably be back in the Ukraine by this time next week, and Samsonov might be back to Russia.

I'm just sayin'

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Holy Kaberle, Batman!

Frantisek Kaberle returned to action for the Canes Tuesday night against the Habs after missing the first 55 games recovering from shoulder surgery. All along, when people have asked me "What's wrong with the Canes?", I've been answering with any number of excuses, but mostly I say that the injuries have killed the Canes. More specifically, the injuries to the blueline and most specifically to Frantisek Kaberle have been the biggest problem.

On Tuesday, Kaberle returned and helped the Canes snap a four game losing streak. Hopefully, this will be the impetus for the team to get back on track and return to something resembling "form".

A lot of good things happened in that game. Most importantly was that the Canes won 2-1 in regulation. Atlanta lost in overtime to the Sabres, so the Canes gained one point on the division leader.

A very close second in the "good things" race was that Carolina was two for three on the power play. THAT IS NOT A MISPRINT! I don't want to jump to conclusions, but Frantisek Kaberle was a very important power play quarterback last season. Between his injury and Aaron Ward's departure, the Canes were missing more than just reliable defensemen. They were missing defensemen who actually know how to run a power play. This season, the power play has been mediocre on a good day and horrible most of the time. The "jumping to conclusion" part is that tonight, Kaberle was on the ice for both power play goals and he in fact scored the game winner. I tend to think that this is not coincidence. He was also on the ice for the Montréal goal. Since power play goals for don't affect one's +/-, this means that his rating for the night (read: season) is a very misleading -1.

Since I don't have Center Ice, and I didn't feel like going to a bar, I listened to ChuckandtheletterK via web radio. I love to hear him pronounce CAB-er-luh and co-VOLL-yev. Good times. Point is, I don't have any visual reference. I just know what ChuckandtheletterK said and what the scoresheet says. I can't give much of a thorough recap, but I think the awarding of the "official" three stars was a sham. They went to Christopher Higgins (third), Cam Ward (second) and Justin Williams (first).

I'm glad that Viva scored, and Chuck K made it sound like a beaut, but I can't see how he's the first star. For that matter, from what I heard, I can't agree with any of those.

Eric Staal made a nice play to create the first goal, and he could be given a star. Rod Brind'Amour helped on both Carolina goals, so he should get one no doubt. Cam Ward made some nice stops, but none that sounded spectacular. At the end of the day, he only faced 26 shots. Unless you pitch a shutout, stopping 25 shots isn't the stuff of "stars of the game" material. Higgins? Please. He didn't do anything. The way Chuck K told it, David Aebischer was very good, but with the goal, it's hard not to award Kovalev, who was all over the place. Since Frankie got the game winner, it's impossible to give the first star to anyone else.

Anyway, the RBH three stars (based on the radio call and the scoresheet)
THIRD STAR Rod Brind'Amour, CAR -- 2 assists
SECOND STAR Alex Kovalev, MON -- goal
FIRST STAR Frantisek Kaberle, CAR -- GWG

The Canes are now on a one game tear and Frantisek Kaberle has a two game goal streak going, dating back to game 7 of the SCF last June. They will be in Boston on Thursday night with a chance to avenge their ugly loss last Saturday.

Maybe Avi Tanabe can just stay in the Fleet Center BankNorth Gardens when the game's over and Brad Boyes can take his chair on the team plane back to Raleigh. Wishful thinking, I know.

Puck drop will be 7:00 on Thursday.

Kaberle in lineup, Cole at home away from home

Tonight, the Hurricanes will have two things working for them as they try to end a dismal four game losing streak. The Canes will be in La Belle Provence to visit les Habitants, who are themselves on a bit of a losing skid. Five standings points and four playoff seeds separate the two teams.

(1)Frantisek Kaberle, who has missed every game this season recovering from shoulder surgery, will be in the lineup. To make room for him, Anton Babchuk was sent down to Albany of the AHL. No trade has been orchestrated at this point, but according to sources, Jim Rutherford turned down two offers yesterday. Apparently, one of them was indeed for Foppa. Carolina will wait a little while to plan their course of action. Unless they can right the ship in the next couple of games, they will become a "seller", which will enable them to get some good young prospects and/or picks for an explosive forward like Ray Whitney, who is scheduled to be an UFA this summer.

If the Canes can straighten up and put themselves back on a post-season bound path, they would still be in a position to buy.

Remember that with each day that passes, the cap hit to a "buying" team is decreased dramatically on high-dollar contracts. Waiting till the deadline is the most cost-effective method for a bubble team.

(2) Erik Cole will be playing in the Molson Bell Centre. Cole loves to play in that building. The last time he played there, he recorded four points (3/1) in an 8-2 romp over the Habs on January 31, 2006. He also had a hat trick there on November 23, 2003 in a 7-3 blasting of the Habs. He scored the game-tying goal in the Miracle at Molson (2002 playoffs), and later in that series scored 2 goals and an assist in game 6 at the Molson Centre. In fact, Cole just loves to play the Habs. Last season, in three total games against the Habs, Colesy had eight points (5/3). This season, in two games, he has two goals (both at home).
This is Cole's first visit to the Bell Centre this season, and in fact the first since "the injury".

Montréal will be without Sergei Samsonov, who has demanded a trade, and is (from what I understand) on waivers. Samsonov is grossly overpaid, has been a massive disappointment both this season and last, and has been a healthy scratch more often than not lately. The diminutive left winger, who is roughly 1/3 the size of Zdeno Chara, once had a 75-point season with the Bruins (2000-01), scored 53 (23/30) points last season combined with Boston and Edmonton. This season, he's on pace for a season barely in the mid-30's. His $3.525M salary is in no way commensurate with his performance, so I wouldn't expect anyone to pick him up, even at the pro rata price. He still has one year remaining on his contract, which would make it even less likely for someone to pick him up. Expect him to clear waivers, then be cut. Then you might see some action.

Puck drop will be at 7:30 eastern, and it isn't on Canes TV. I'll have to listen, or go somewhere where I can watch the French feed on Center Ice.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Kaberle set to return, trade imminent

The latest news is that Frantisek Kaberle is set to return to action after missing the first 55 games of the season after shoulder surgery this summer. His eagerly anticipated return means that the Canes will have no less than 10 healthy defensemen.

Coach Peter Laviolette likes to dress seven defensemen on occasion, and they could carry up to nine if they had to, but they will have to make some roster room somehow.

Obviously, sending a player to Albany would clear some roster space. Carolina might do this with Anton Babchuk. If I remember correctly, he's the only defenseman with a two-way contract. Even if he is sent down, Carolina is likely to turn a trade sometime this afternoon or Tuesday morning.

Carolina, who is clinging to the eighth playoff spot in the East is still considered to be a "buyer" in the trade market, but is in such a position of defensive surplus that they could do a bit of selling as well.

The names that have come up most frequently as "trade bait" are David Tanabe and Andrew Hutchinson. The Boston game notwithstanding, Tanabe has played well of late and might be more marketable than Hutch. He signed a one-year, $900k contract this summer, and would be an excellent stop-gap addition to any team's blueline with very little price tag.

Andrew Hutchinson is in the first year of a two-year deal which will pay him just $500k next season. That wouldn't be much of an albatross on any buyer's neck, but his defensive acumen isn't as strong as Tanabe's. There's been a lot of talk out of Edmonton about a trade involving Hutch, but I don't know what would be involved on the other side.

What Carolina needs is a third line center or winger. There are a lot of Eric Belanger detractors here in Carolina, but I don't have a problem with him. I do, however, have a problem with Trevor Letowski. He hasn't panned out here, and I think the Canes would be well served to package Letowski with Tanabe (or Hutchinson) and possibly a pick for a quality winger/center.

Edmonton is interested. Of their lot, Shawn Horcoff fits the bill quite nicely here. However, his price tag is $3.6M, and still has two years left on his contract. Don't see that happening. Marty Reasoner wouldn't be an upgrade at all. Nor would Petr Nedved. I don't see the Oil willing to part with one of their top forwards, so I just don't see a Canes/Oil deal happening.

Boston needs defensive help, and with their season pretty much done, they're definitely a "seller". Brad Boyes seems like a fair trade. He's got one year left on his contract, which will pay him $1.6M next season. I like that idea a lot, but I'm not sure that the B's would want to part with one of their top young players. One "insider" thinks that Marco Sturm is headed this way. He might fit in, but I would think that the Canes front office would rather give up youth for youth, so Sturm might not be the one.

Chicago is in in the same boat Boston is. Season lost, needs defense. They're rumored to have Radim Vrbata on the chopping block. He's had his time here, and it just didn't work out. But thanks for Anton Babchuk. Martin LaPointe is also rumored to be trade bait. Again, this wouldn't be an upgrade for the Canes unless there's a high pick involved. At $2.4M, too expensive anyway. We'll take a pass on that.

Of course Philly comes up. They're a team Jim Rutherford likes to trade with, they're hopelessly out of playoff contention, they need defense. I refuse to entertain the Foppa rumors. He's WAY too expensive, his skill set is rapidly diminishing, and he's too much of an ass clown.
Mike Knuble? A little old, but he's still plenty talented, comes cheap, and coach Laviolette likes him. It might not pack the same kind of bang that a big name trade would, but it would be nice.

Anson Carter is a name that's out there as trade fodder for the Blue Jackets. This summer, I loudly said that I would have liked to see him in a Canes sweater, but now I'm not so sure. I think his excellent season last year had everything to do with the Sedinbots and little to do with a newfound skill set. He signed a one-year deal over the summer, and was overpaid at $2.5M.

Florida is said to be in the market for a defenseman, but I hate the idea of an intra-division trade.

I don't have any idea, basically. Just expect Hutch and Letowski or Tanabe and Letowski to be packaged for a forward. I won't expect anything of blockbuster proportions, but you never know. A big name might be the only thing that could rescue Carolina from the doldrums.

Kaberle is scheduled to join the team in Montréal Tuesday, so we'll know in the next 24 hours. I just hope it's something good.

My money is on either Boyes or Knuble.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Carolina falls again

Boston Bruins -- 4
Carolina Hapless Sons of Bitches -- 3

On Saturday, the Hurricanes had a chance to snap out of a three game losing streak when the Bruins came to town. The B's were themselves in a five game skid, and are hopelessly out of contention in the Northeast Division. Instead of righting the ship against the seemingly inferior team, the Hurricanes crashed their own ship into the damn rocks, spilling all their gear into the water, where it all sunk.

Before I get into the game recap proper, I want to make one thing abundantly clear. There will be bloggers and maybe some professional writers who will say otherwise, but the game WAS NOT handed to the Bruins by the officials. Indeed there was a very questionable call made against Carolina in the overtime period, setting up the Bruins for the game-winning goal in a four-on-three situation. However, this isn't the reason the Canes lost.

The ice was in really poor shape. This is not the reason the Canes lost. Both teams had to play on that same sheet of ice.

Carolina lost the game because they were terrible on the power play. They converted only one out of 10 power play chances. Included in that, there were two lengthy back-to-back five-on-three situations. In an ideal world, you get four goals out of that, but Carolina could muster just one there. They had several other power play opportunities, and looked awful every time. The passing was bad, the shot selection was bad, the utilization of open space was bad, the line changes were bad, the "quarterbacking" was bad. It was just flat out bad. If you fail to cash in on five-on-three situations, and if you only convert 10% of power plays on home ice, you deserve to lose.

I don't wish to get into any discussions about the validity of any penalties called against the Canes. That stuff is immaterial. If they had taken care of their own opportunities, overtime wouldn't have ever existed.

In the first period, it looked like Carolina was going to take control Erik Cole looked extremely sharp in getting the home team out to a 2-0 lead. The first was a breakaway situation where he came in alone on Tim Thomas, pulled the puck to his backhand at the last second, and beat Thomas to the far side. It was Cole's 23rd and it was unassisted at 3:36 of the first..

The second Cole goal came at 18:26. Carolina had a good scoring chance from Dennis Seidenberg followed by a few rebound attempts. Finally, after a few whacks, Cole was able to go top shelf from just below the right circle. Seidenberg and Eric Staal had the assists, and it was officially a four-on-four goal.

Just a few seconds into the second stanza, Glen Murray scored for the Bruins. Like the second Cole goal, there were a ton of bodies out front, and there was a big scrum leading to the goal. PJ Axelsson and Zdeno Chara had the assists on the power play goal.

Brad Boyes knotted it up a the 19:08 mark on a beautiful and frustrating play. Boyes had served two minutes in the box, he was set free and took a long pass for a breakaway just after leaving the box. Marc Savard had the only assist.

Murray got a second goal at the 6:38 mark of the third. From the right circle, he beat Ward to give the visitors the lead. Chara and Paul Mara assisted.

With time about to run out, Rod Brind'Amour gave the Hurricanes some false hope when he scored with just 3:12 to play in regulation. This was a five-on-three. Brindy got his stick on a rebound chance from below the right circle. He fired it into a basically unguarded cage. For formality's sake, it was a five-on-three goal scored at 16:48 and assisted by Ray Whitney and Cory Stillman.

Early in the overtime period, Eric Staal was called for holding, which wasn't a popular call. It's generally understood that overtime isn't the time or place for ticky-tacky calls. With the four-on-three advantage, Chara banged one in from the right circle to give the B's the win at 1:49 of the "fourth" period. The shot clanged off the crossbar (which is at the same approximate height as Chara's shoelaces) and over Ward's left shoulder. Savard had the only helper.

The only bright side is that with the overtime loss, Carolina still gained one point. Atlanta lost in regulation.

I can't help but agree with the "official" three stars.

The RBH three stars go to:
THIRD STAR Glen Murray, BOS -- 2 goals
SECOND STAR Erik Cole, CAR -- 2 goals
FIRST STAR Zdeno Chara, BOS -- 2 assists, GWG

Carolina will travel to Montéal Monday night and will attempt to end this horrible losing skid.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

I've been tagged

The boys at CinO have tagged me in the latest game of blogger tag, so here goes my ideal situation:

Team: Carolina Hurricanes, but I would demand a trade to the Vancouver Canucks
Uniform number: 50
Position: Left Defense
Nickname: D-Lee, Dragon, Platypus, Trunks, Bingo
Dream linemates: Tomas Kaberle
Rounding out the PP: Paul Kariya, Daniel Briere, Justin Williams (gotta have one 'Cane in there)
Job: Seventh defenseman some nights, "healthy scratch" most nights. Penalty killer and garbage time specialist.
Signature move: homerun pass to player coming out of penalty box for breakaway chance. Sadly, I would also specialize in the own-goal.
Strengths: stretch passes, shot blocking
Weaknesses: skating, hitting, staying in shape, "the sauce"
Injury problems: splinters in my ass from riding the bench, right ankle, "lower body"
Equipment: wooden stick, motorcycle helmet
Nemesis: Bates Battaglia
Scandal Involvement:I'd show up piss babbling drunk at a charity fund raiser hosted by Bates Battaglia, sabotage the catered dinner, and sexually harass all of his female guests
Who I’d face in the Stanley Cup Finals:the 1989 Calgary Flames
What I’d do with the Stanley Cup after our victory: Challenge Bates Battaglia to a best of five Scrabble series interspersed with five two-minute rounds of boxing. They have Chess Boxing, so why not Scrabble Boxing? Winner gets the Cup. Really, I get the Cup, but I'd want to destroy Battaglia first.
Would the media love me or hate me? For the most part, they'd hate me. I'd always be kind and gracious in interviews, but I wouldn't give them much that's printable, and I'd always throw in something completely non-sesnsical and perplexing like "Well, sometimes you have to lay down with bears if you want to have a four course meal, and tonight there just wasn't enough bubble gum to go around."
Whenever a reporter would challenge me or criticize my play, I'd get fussy and say something like "Yeah, I turned the puck over deep in our own zone, then fell down, allowing the game winner, but I can whip your ass in Scrabble right now! I've got all my equipment right here! Let's go!"

I don't know if they've already been tagged, but I'll "tag' Kevin BFLOBLOG, Dave Sidearm Delivery and JJ Guerrero

Friday, February 02, 2007

Canes struck by Bolts

On Thursday night, the Hurricanes lost to the visiting Lightning 4-0. The game wasn't televised on Canes TV and I don't have Center Ice, so I listened to the first period on the radio before heading out for Scrabble night. I'm glad I didn't have to see that garbage.

Carolina has now lost three games in a row and has been outscored something like 873 to 3 in their last three games. Sure, Carolina's blueline is still a bit banged up, but Eric Staal, Justin Williams, Ray Whitney, Rod Brind'Amour are all healthy and are not doing anything to give this team any offensive punch. They just look like those losers we know and love from the 2002-03 season. And when I say "they", I don't mean to single out Brindy, Viva, Whitters and Staalsy. I mean their whole lot. The whole 24 of them.

The team went ahead and sent out the invoices for the playoffs complete with pricing plans for the entirety of the playoffs. Last season, they made waves by announcing very low prices for rounds one and two, then blindsiding everyone with unannounced huge increases for rounds three and four. This time, we'll know about it well in advance. However, this team has absolutely no chance of making it past the first round, and the way they look right now, they'll be lucky to make the playoffs at all. I'm most likely going to exercise my right of refusal on that seat for the playoffs.

To borrow from the late Herb Brooks, this team gets worse and worse every day, and right now they look like it's the middle of next week.

There was some marginally good news, though. Atlanta also lost their game, which means Carolina didn't lose any ground in the standings.

Saturday, the Canes will wrap up the homestand with a late game against the Bruins. Due to an afternoon basketball game in the RBC Center, the puck will be dropped at the unusual time of 8:30 pm eastern. Remember, the "Buy me a beer" challenge is still going.


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