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

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Canes lose third straight

Carolina chose not to accept their mission. Instead, they shit the bed, then wallowed around in it.

Carolina was getting the help that they needed. Buffalo beat the Islanders and Ottawa beat Montréal. However, when it came time for Carolina to take care of their own business, they failed.

Carolina lost 4-2 to the visiting Bolts and since they have lost three games in a row, they now find themselves in a very unsavory position. Barring an astronomically improbable turn of events over the last four games, Carolina will be watching the playoffs on TV. They'll be trading their skates for cleats and their sticks for clubs. They'll be laying around eating Cheetos and Captain Crunch, drinking grape soda and going to the swimming pool.

Erik Cole and Tim Gleason were the only players to show up for the Canes tonight. Gleason's name won't show up on the scorecard, but he played really well. Cole had one of the goals and was all over the ice all game long. Good on these guys for giving their all. Clearly, not many wearing red were giving anything close to "their all".

I will still care whether Carolina wins their remaining games, and I will still go to my last game (next Saturday), and I will still cheer them on, but, it's over.


Friday, March 30, 2007

Mission: impossible

The Carolina Hurricanes have their back against the wall. They are three points out of a playoff spot with five games to play. It's not officially over, but a loss against Tampa tonight would be their death knell. A regulation win tonight would put both the Bolts and the Hurricanes at 86 points. Since the Bolts would own the tiebreaker, Carolina will need to pass them in the standings to get to the second season.

The thing that could help Carolina a lot is that they've got two of their next three games against the Bolts. Carolina has gone 3-2-1 against the Bolts thus far. Win both remaining matchups, and they'll likely pass Tampa in the standings. Lose either of them in regulation, and it's over.

Carolina also has two games against Florida. The good news there is that Carolina has owned the Panthers, going 5-1 against them this season.

Carolina has one game against Atlanta, against whom they've gone 4-2-1 this season.

Puck drop tonight will be at 7:30. By 10:00, I will either be holding onto some remaining hope, or I will be fully on the Canucks bandwagon.

Speaking of Canucks, Jack "JFJ" Johnson made his NHL debut last night for the Kings in a 4-2 loss to the Canucks in Staples Center. He had 23 shifts for 18:45 of ice time, took one shot, dished out two hits. He did not commit any penalties, nor did he figure into either of the Kings' goals. I think he missed an American History quiz.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Carolina waxed by Philly, season likely done

On Wednesday night, the Hurricanes had a golden opportunity to rebound from Tuesday's poor performance because they were playing the League's worst team. They were playing a team that gives up nearly four goals per game and had only won EIGHT home games all season long. The perfect chance to get back on track and assert themselves in the hunt for the eighth and final playoff spot. However, they failed to show up for the second straight night and they were decimated by a really bad team. The final tally was 5-1, but like the game on Tuesday, it wasn't even that close.

With five games to play, and Carolina three points out of eighth place, this pretty much seals the deal. I would say that unless Carolina runs the table AND gets some help from the likes of Toronto, Montréal and Tampa, they will be defending the Stanley Cup from Pinehurst #2.

I was supposed to work tonight, but I got off really early and found myself in a bar that I almost never enter. I'm friends with the managers, and it was on the way from work to the parking lot, so I poked my head in. The general manager bought me one beer, the kitchen manager bought me another. I then felt compelled to go home, clean up and make my way back there for dinner. I ended up, actually, watching the Sabres-Devils game with a native Buffalonian whom I had never met before. It all started when the dude said "Hey, I know you're a 'Nucks fan, but do you mind if they put on the Sabres game?" At which point I had to explain my brand new Canucks hat.

That game was way more exciting than the garbage that Carolina put out on the ice in Philly. One goddamn goal?!?

There's still a slim chance that Carolina could qualify for the playoffs, but I just don't see it happening. They've been outscored 11-2 in the last two games, and they've looked really bad. I wish like hell that I could root for the Sabres, but I just can't bring myself to do it.

The hat. Recently, I decided that I really really needed to buy a new Canes hat. The ones they have in the team gift shop don't really work out for me. I have to order on-line to get what I really want. Lids.com was running a BOGOHO special (so was NHL.com for that matter), so I went ahead and decided to get a 'Nucks hat while I was at it. Those dreams had led me to the conclusion that I'm a closet Canucks fan, and I already said a couple of weeks ago that I would endorse the Nucks, so I figured I needed a ballcap.

I am still, and always will be, a Canes fan first and foremost. But for now....

... Go Nucks!

Canes lose, fall out of playoff picture

On Tuesday night, the Hurricanes failed to show up for their game against the Maple Leafs. They lost their game 6-1 (and it wasn't even that close). Both teams pretty much needed the win, but Toronto -- who was in 11th place -- needed it a little more. They also wanted it a little more.
Tampa did the Canes a favor by losing their game. Carolina is still just four points out of the SE division lead, and could theoretically overtake the Thrashers and Bolts. First things first, though. Carolina will have to win probably four of their last six games to earn the last wildcard spot. Tonight they'll have a chance to start their run when they visit the lowly Flyers.

While Carolina was stinking up the Air Canada Centre, the Habs took care of their own business by thumping the Rangers 6-4. With 86 points and five games to play, Montréal is in sole posession of the eighth seed. If Carolina wins tonight at Philly, nothing in the standings will change. They will match Montréal's 86 points, but the Habs have 40 wins, and the Canes would only have 39.

After tonight, Carolina will have five games and they will all be against Southeast Division opponents. One will be against first place Atlanta, two against second place Tampa and two against fourth place Florida. These "four point games" will provide the Canes with an excellent chance to control their own destiny.

Tonight's opponent, the Flyers, have already secured last place, and will have the most ping pong balls in the draft lottery. They don't have anything to lose, nor really anthing to gain. There's no telling what kind of intensity they'll have. If Carolina plays the way they did Tuesday night, all they'll need to win is five guys with a pulse.

On the bright side, Philly is a horrible team. They've given up an astounding 280 goals this year, which is an average of 3.73 per game. They've only won 8 home games all season. As mouth-watering as that seems, the Canes sometimes struggle with these types of games. This season against the Flyers, the Canes are 1-1-1, and they've been outscored 9-6 cumulatively.

Puck drop is at 7:30. I'll be working and DVRing.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Michigan loses, Johnson bails

On Saturday, the Michigan Wolverines fell 8-5 to the UND Fighting Sioux, ending the Wolverines quest for a national title.

After the game, the team flew back to Ann Arbor, but Jack Johnson stayed in Denver. According to the Michigan Daily, Johnson signed a deal with the Kings.

Last spring, when the Wolverines lost, and the Canes were wrapping up a fantastic regular season en route to winning the Stanley Cup, they offered Johnson several contract deals. All were turned down, Johnson said, because he wanted to win an NCAA championship and to graduate from Michigan. After winning the Cup, Carolina continued to offer contract deal after contract deal. All were rebuffed.

After a freakishly awkward dinner meeting and another rejected deal, Jim Rutherford pulled the trigger on a trade just before the start of regular season.

Johnson will join the Kings and will be in the lineup on Tuesday night. After the season is over, Johnson will return to Ann Arbor to finish out the spring semester. He says he still plans to stay in school, but that's kinda hard to do when you're playing in the NHL.

Credit goes to James Mirtle for drawing my attention to the story.

Andrew Ladd

In my game recap of the 6-4 win over the Sharks, I noted that Andrew Ladd has really caught fire of late. Specifically, in the month of March, he's got four goals and five assists over nine games. It didn't occur to me at the time, but Ladd is even more en fuego than I knew.

Here's the boxscore from Thursday's 4-3 win over the Caps. In that game, Ladd had 11:35 of ice time. He scored the game winning goal on his only shot.

Here's the boxscore from Saturday's 6-4 win over the Sharks. In that game, Ladd had 12:54 of ice time. He scored two goals, including the game winner on his only two shots.

See that? His last three shots have found the back of the net, and two of them have been game winners. If that's not glowing hot, I don't know what is.

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.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Canes take a few days off after beating Brodeur

On Saturday, the Canes did what few teams have been able to do this season. They solved Marty Brodeur. In fact, they chased him from the game, scoring four goals on their first 12 shots. With the score 4-0 midway through the second, Brodeur left. The Canes went on to rout the Devils 7-2 to split the home-and-home.

Just two days prior, the same two teams met in the RBC Center with the Devils emerging with a 3-2 victory. I didn't have time to write about it, or the back end of that home-and-home due to a very hectic work schedule.

During the first second intermission of the home game, my friend Bill and I argued the usefulness of Chad LaRose. I said that I like him, that I've always liked him, and he should be given the ice time that he gets. Bill doesn't think he deserves to play while a more skilled Anson Carter rides the pine. I agree that Carter is more talented, but I don't think the fourth line is the right place for Carter. On Saturday, that problem was solved when Trevor Letowski was scratched, Carter played on the third line and LaRose played center on the fourth line. After the shift from wing to center, LaRose had the best game of his NHL career, notching two goals. The first was an absolutely gorgeous pump fake followed by the slapper from the left dot that beat Brodeur on the short side. The pump fake was so good that I actually thought it was a long rebound.

His second goal was almost the same, but on the right dot and to Clemmensen's short side.

He earned first star props for his two-goal effort.

In that game, Carolina shut down the Devils' power play, and now they've allowed just one pp goal over the last nine games. On their own end, they managed to score two power play goals. Hopefully, this will kickstart that special teams unit while the PK keeps on keepin' on.

Carolina will have its second four-day vacation this week. They won't play again until Thursday night at home against the lowly Capitals. In the meantime, some of the teams with games in hand will be playing those out.

After the Caps, the Canes will be entertaining the Sharks, who haven't been to Raleigh since the 2003-04 season. That will be the culmination of a very long superfunday. My second in as many weeks. More on that later.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

This has got to stop

On Saturday, hockey took another black eye. In Nashville, another senseless turn of violent events culminated in a player being wheeled off the ice on a stretcher. The rest of the world looks on this and says "See, that's why I don't like hockey". We hockey fans can only say things like "This is what happens when we have the instigator rule in action and a clownshoe for a league disciplinarian."

I had a very long day at work, so I didn't see any hockey highlights, but the Acid Queen im'd me about this:

This is completely inexcusable.

Nashville's Jordin Tootoo, the latest in the "talentless goon" series decided to test the disciplinary waters when he laid out Dallas' Stephane Robidas with what can only be construed as a sucker punch.

Tootoo's hit on Mike Modano, which precipitated the incident, was a little high, but legal. Robidas was skating towards Tootoo, and before he could engage Tootoo, he was met with a huge haymaker. The announcer in this clip says "I don't wanna say what this reminds me of". Others will speculate that he means some other hockey incident, but the first thing I thought of was Kermit Washington laying out Rudy Tomjonavich in an NBA game 30 years ago. It's almost exactly the same.

There are those who will say that Robidas was intending to fight, so he should have expected the punch. Not like that, though. The key thing is that just as Kermit Washington and Rudy T weren't engaged, Tootoo and Robidas were not.

As repulsive as the punch was, there's also no excuse for what Mike Modano did next. The slash to Tootoo's back was quite ugly, and should warrant a multi-game suspension.

In this very ugly turn of events, the referees dropped the ball when they sorted everything out.
  1. Instead of being issued a gross misconduct penalty and an instigator, and an ejection, Tootoo was given a double minor for roughing. At the end of the day, it doesn't make much of a difference because the double minor lasted for the remainder of the game, but they still need to make the right call.
  2. Stephane Robidas was given a two minute charging penalty on the play. Huh? He never even made contact with Tootoo. His feet never left the ice, except after he was knocked out. Where's the charging?
  3. Mike Modano was not penalized for slashing the bejeezus out of Tootoo's back. It wasn't a whole lot different than the Chris Simon thing. That's completely disgusting.

Like with the Cam Janssen/Tomas Kaberle incident (more on Janssen later), there are a few kudos to be handed out.
  • Preds players JP Dumont, Paul Kariya and Kimmo Timonen were class acts. They immediately realized the seriousness of the situation, helped the Stars' medical staff get situated on the ice, and showed concern for the injured player.
  • the organist kept quiet during the delay. It was really tacky when the Devils organist kept going while Tomas Kaberle was being tended to.

I expect the League to look at the tape and hand out some suspensions. Modano should get at least two games for his stickwork. Tootoo should get at least five for his punch.

I will say again. The League is going to have to get serious about penalizing players for doing stupid shit. This is the latest in what is becoming a long list of "stupid shit".

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Carolina's playoff hopes buoyed

On Tuesday night, Carolina got a boost when they defeated the visiting Panthers 3-1. The special teams were great, they actually converted a power play chance, and they got terrific goaltending from Johnny Crackers.
Coupled with the loss by the Rangers, the win put Carolina back in the eighth playoff spot. At least temporarily. Starting Thursday at the RBC Center, they have a home-and-home with the formidable Devils.

Cory Stillman scored an even strength goal at 15:24 of the first. Eric Staal made a really nice effort, bringing the puck deep in the zone and drawing the attention of the Florida defense. He dished to Erik Cole, who fired a wrist shot from the top of the right circle, which Eddie Belfour stopped with a sprawling save. The rebound was a short one, but Stillman was there to pounce on it and tuck it from the left side of the goal. Officially at 15:24 with assists from Cole and Staal.

Josef Stumpel tied the game at 11:21 of the second on a bizarro goal. Josef Vasicek was trying to clear the zone by backhanding one against the wall along the blue line. Unfortunately, it hit the lineseman and stayed in the zone. Stumpel made some fancy moves to work through traffic, then backhanded one in off the left post. Unassisted at 11:21.

At 19:44 of the second, the Canes actually converted a power play! Frantisek Kaberle took a shot from the left circle that found its way through traffic. Belfour made a stop and Andrew Ladd took a couple of whacks at it. Belfour stopped those too, but the puck somehow trickled under him and was loose in the crease. Scott Walker found it first and shoved it across the line. Ladd and Kaberle got the assists.

14:42 was the time when Rod Brind'Amour got a shorthanded goal to seal the deal. The hard-working Chad "Sharpie" LaRose was there, as he always seems to be on the shorties. Glenn Wesley made a steal deep in the Carolina zone and dished to Sharpie, who found Brind'Amour streaking down the center and into the slot area. The pass wasn't quite tape-to-tape, but it was good enough. Brindy just tipped it in. Brind'Amour from LaRose and Wesley shorthandedly at 14:42.

Just seconds later, Chad LaRose had a brilliant scoring chance on the same shorthanded sequence, but Belfour answered.

Due to time restraints, I can't give stars right now, but Sharpie, Grahame and Walker were great.

Next up -- Thursday night date with the Devils

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Canes-Cats tonight

Tonight, two of the East's bubble teams will duke it out in the RBC Center for the privilege of keeping their playoff hopes alive. Florida's on Fire*, having earned 15 points in their last 10 games. They remain five points out of eighth place, and in order to determine their own fate, they pretty much need to run the table.
If you've got the shells, build a statue to yourself down here

Carolina, who is in ninth by virtue of tiebreaker, won't have to be quite that strong. However, they'll need to win every one of these games against teams below them in the standings.

After the injury to Cam Ward, I expected Jason Peters to be called up from Albany. Either we're not confident enough in him, or Albany isn't confident enough in their other goaltender (who is property of the Avalanche), because he wasn't called up. Instead, Carolina made the call down to the Florida Everblades of the ECHL. Craig Kowalski, who surely is called "Killer" by his teammates will have his cup of coffee. Incidentally, the injury to Ward isn't as bad as originally thought. Now they say that he might return after missing just one week.
Sleeping amid smoke coz the dirt's on fire down here

John Grahame will be handed the reins and asked to be the #1, and I shoud guess ONLY goaltender for the next seven or eight games. If something happens to him, we'll have an ECHL goaltender in the pipes.

Now is the time for the Carolina goal scorers to do what they do. Eric/k, Viva and Ray-Ray will have to step up. Carolina will need to win games, and they will probably have to score four or more goals to do so.

Now is also the time for Carolina's stagnant power play to wake up. They've converted one out of their last 37,432,551 chances. I exaggerate a little, but suffice to say it's been bad. Conversely, their penalty kill has been amazing. They've only allowed one PP goal in the last nine games, if I remember that stat correctly.
Florida, Florida, Florida's on fire

Puck drop will be at 7:00. I'll be working and DVRing the game.

*Florida's on Fire is a song by Chapel Hill based indie-rock band Superchunk. The italicized quotes are lines from that song, which has nothing to do with hockey. However, their frontman Mac McCaughan is an avid hockey fan and a Hurricanes season ticket holder.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Cam Ward maybe lost for the season

During Sunday's loss to the Rangers, Conn Smythe winning goalie Cam Ward was inadvertantly cut by a skate blade just above his left knee. He left the game, going to the Rangers dressing room instead of the Canes room, where there are more facilities. The muscle just above the kneecap needed eight stitches, then three more to close the cut.

According to Luke Decock of the News & Observer, Ward will be out for the remainder of the season. Because of where the cut is, and stress to it, including any bending of the knee would impede the healing process.

With a cut of any kind, especially a deep one like this, there's always the chance that a staph infection could develop, which would make matters even worse. At this point, all we know is that Ward is sidelined indefinitely, and the language around the campfire suggests that a return is very doubtful.

Johnny Crackers came on in relief, and did a very nice job. It will be his job for the duration of the season.

Justin Peters, who has been less than stellar in Albany this season, will be called up.

This does not help Carolina's playoff hopes.

If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you probably know that I'm a closet Canucks fan. They will be my team when the "second season" starts. There. I said it.

Canes lose key game

On Sunday afternoon, while the UNC Tarheels were winning the ACC Men's Basketball tournament, the Hurricanes lost to the Rangers in shootout. This will hurt, but not kill Carolina's playoff hopes.

The two teams both have 76 points in the standings, but the Rangers have a game in hand, so they get the tiebreaker there. They are also poised to be in the driver's seat with respect to all tiebreakers with Carolina. The Rangers won the season series 3-1. New York has leapt from 10th place to eighth, and Carolina has dropped to ninth.

The game was very exciting with a few twists and turns. The game's first goal was scored by the most unlikely of candidates. Marek Malik. At 9:13 of the first, he stormed down the right side and fired a shot high on net. Cam Ward made a stop, but gave up a big rebound, allowing Malik a second (better) shot. It was the first goal of the season for the former Cane. Jaro Jagr and Mike Roszival assisted.

At 10:04 of the second, Viva notched his 33rd goal of the season with helpers from Brind'Amour and Ray Whitney. The play was set up by some really nifty and patient passing. Whitney drew all the attention, then dropped a pass to Brindy in the low slot. Instead of shooting, he further confused the Rangers defense by sending it over to Viva in the right circle. Henrik Lundqvist didn't have a chance to make the stop. Whitney now has 74 (27/47) points, and needs just three more to set a career best.

Somewhere around this time, Cam Ward was injured and had to be replaced by John Grahame. It looks like Ward was cut by a skate blade during a goal-mouth scrum. He left, and required 11 stitches. Crackers came in ice cold and did an amazing job.

The Canes had a full two minutes of power play in the overtime period, but couldn't get anything going. The game headed to shootout, and that pretty much spells disaster for Carolina. The Hurricanes are the only team to have zero shootout wins this season. They were very successful last season, and they were reminded why when Matt Cullen scored the "game-deciding" goal for the Rangers in the shootout.

The "official" three stars went to Malik (third), Lundqvist (second) and Cullen (first). I don't really have a problem with that.

The Canes will be in action on Tuesday at home against the surging Panthers, who are making a run at the final playoff spot, but find themselves a few points out of serious contention.

Simon suspended minimum 25 games, featured in "feel good" story on HBO

Earlier today, Colin Campbell meted out his punishment on Chris Simon. A minimum of 25 games. Simon will miss the remainder of this season and the playoffs. He will not be reinstated at any point if the Islanders make a deep playoff run. If the Islanders fail to qualify or get eliminated early from the playoffs, the balance of the 25 games will be served in the 2007-08 season.

In an ironic twist, Chris Simon was part of a "feel good" story on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. The segment was about Islanders coach Ted Nolan, and his relationship with Simon was part of that story. Nolan is full-blood First Nation Ojibwa and first met Chris Simon, who is half-Ojibwa while coaching the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 1991. Simon was a rambunctious kid who had problems with discipline and with alcohol. Nolan himself had had alcohol problems as a kid, and took Simon under his wing. He got Simon to settle down, and that was a defining moment in Simon's career, but soon Nolan and Simon would part ways.

Nolan became an assistant coach with the Whalers, then a head coaching job with the Sabres. He walked away from his job with the Sabres when he was insulted by a one-year contract extension after winning the division title in 1997. He was out of hockey entirely for ten years, turning down occasional offers, most notably with the Lightning.

Somehow, Nolan found his way back into a head coaching job with the Islanders this season, and one of the first things he wanted to do was to get Chris Simon. The two were reunited. This is the spin that the HBO story took. The touchy-feely element.

This story was obviously filmed, and first aired before the "Simon incident", because it mentioned nothing of it. In fact, the story said that Simon was repaying Nolan for his faith in him by playing well and playing in every game this season.


After the decision was handed down, obviously people began to debate. Some say it's way too harsh, some say it's way too soft. He got exactly what I expected him to get, but I actually think it might be a bit too soft. Given his track record, which includes a history of suspensions stemming from stick fouls, the book had to be thrown at him. The fact that it wasn't premeditated and the fact that Hollweg wasn't seriously injured should not be considered as mitigating factors. I've said that before, and I'll stand by it.

One thing that puzzles me is what Simon had to say yesterday. Brett Hull already chimed in on this, and I'm with him. Simon said, in part of a prepared statement:
I want to apologize to Ryan Hollweg. I was grateful to learn that Ryan is okay and that he returned to the game. My hope is to reach out to him in the near future.

Geez, Chris. How hard is it to pick up the phone? I know the Islanders doctors have invented those "concussion symptoms" to try to soften this whole thing, but even if your head's a little cloudy, you could at least make a few phone calls. Don't be Brooks Orpik and make the call three months down the road. Do it now. Ted Nolan will tell you that a written statement on the Islanders website isn't good enough. Go talk to him about this. Then go talk to Ryan Hollweg.

Huge matchup today

On Friday night, the Hurricanes won a convincing game over the Capitals. That's what they should do. Now, they must win a very important game against a more formidable opponent. Today, they're in Madison Square Garden to take on the Rangers, who are in that huge dogfight for the eighth and final spot in the East. Points-wise, the Rangers are in tenth place, but they are just one point behind Carolina with a game in hand.

Puck drop is just moments away.

With Cory Stillman and Erik Cole back in the lineup, look for Anson Carter to again be a healthy scratch. Just remember -- all the Canes gave up was a fifth round pick in 2008.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Canes, Cole, Whitney back in action

I'll take a brief pause from my musings on the Chris Simon incident to touch on something closer to home.

After a four day break in the schedule, the Hurricanes are back in action tonight at the Cap MCI Verizon Center to take on the lowly Capitals. Simply put, the Canes are going to have to win this game. This is a game the Canes should win, and they know that they will have to win every one of these "should win" games plus steal a few of the "should lose" games if they want to make the second season.

Encouraging news for the Canes. Erik Cole and Ray Whitney, who have both missed a few games recently, are "probable" for the game. However, defenseman Bret Hedican is out. Anton Babchuk has been recalled from Albany to replace him. Supposedly, his suspension and assignment has a much better attitude.

Carolina is not, as some have been saying, in a "three-way tie for eighth place" in the east. They and the Leafs both have 73 points with 14 games left. Rangers also have 73 points, but they've got a game in hand and hold other tie-breakers over the Canes.

The Canes will have to win, and they will have to start winning big time. It could conceivably come down to a tiebreaker involving the goals for/goals against spread.

Puck drop will be at 7:30, and will be on Canes TV. I'll be working, but I have the DVR all fired up.

Simon suspended indefinitely, pending hearing.

Chris Simon has been suspended "indefinitely", without pay, pending a hearing. According to preliminary reports in the New York Times, this hearing was scheduled for next week. Some of this post was written with that mindset. Since then, it looks like they've bumped that meeting to Saturday afternoon.

On one hand, I like that the incident was partially addressed immediately, but on the other, I don't like that it was done half-assedly. Whatever Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell have planned for this weekend should be shelved and this should be addressed immediately.

I have faith that they will ultimately do the right thing, which is to suspend Simon for the remainder of this regular season and playoffs. I just wish they'd have their hearings over the weekend and hand down a swift and stern punishment. Remember the NBA's ugly brawl at Auburn Hills(Detroit) back in 2005? That Pistons-Pacers game was on a Friday night. By Sunday afternoon, NBA commissioner David Stern handed down his very swift, very stern, and very fair judgement. He didn't pussyfoot about the bush or postpone his judgement. In being swift and stern, he managed to save some of the NBA's face.

I'm not suggesting that the Simon incident is at all like the Pacers-Pistons brawl. Thank goodness for that.

The point is, I don't like that the NHL has decided to "sleep on it" over the weekend. While nobody wants a rush to judgement to occur in the real world, Bettman and Campbell have to realize that they're making the League look foolish when they don't come down quickly and forcefully on this matter. The sooner they get this resolved, the sooner we can move on and try to focus on the good things about hockey. The longer they let it drag on, the more people on the outside of our circle will pile more hate on our sport.

The fact that Ryan Hollweg is going to be fine should not be, as some suggest, a mitigating factor. Seriousness of injury has never been used as an exacerbating factor in determining the length of a suspension, so it shouldn't be used as a mitigator either. The only issue at hand is that Simon grossly violated the rules of the game and committed an act that can only be construed as a deliberate attempt to injure. Checking someone hard, checking someone illegally is one thing. Brandishing a weapon is quite another. Chris Simon made a really poor choice to do that, and he should suffer the consequences. He felt he had been "boarded" and was looking for recompense. Instead of hitting Hollweg with his fists or making a "run at him", he attacked Hollweg in a fashion that is so far beyond the limits of acceptability that no lenience should be granted whatsoever.

As many people have already pointed out, if Simon's stick had struck Hollweg's throat instead of his chin, we'd most likely be dealing with something much more serious.

It's impossible to get in the player's head and figure out exactly what he was trying to do with that baseball swing, but we can all agree that whatever his intent was, it wasn't good. We're probably all in agreement also that Simon completely snapped and made a horrible spur of the moment decision rather than a premeditated attack. That's what separates this from the Bertuzzi incident.

As I've said, though, I don't think there should be any mitigating factors here.

Time for Clownshoes Campbell to "man up"

This is completely disgusting.

As bothered as I was by "the Chris Neil incident" last month and the "Cam Janssen incident" last week, there are no words to describe the way I feel about the completely heinous attack carried out by the Islanders' Chris Simon against the Rangers' Ryan Hollweg on Thursday night.

After the lame suspensions that have been doled out this season and last, Colin "Clownshoes" Campbell will have to go a little further with this one. He will have to send a message.

This looks stunningly similar to the "Marty McSorley incident". After violently whacking Donald Brashear over the head with his stick, McSorley was suspended for the remainder of the 1999-2000 season (23 games) and never played in the NHL again. He was also found guilty of criminal assault charges.

The guy who handed down that suspension? Colin Campbell.

There is no way in hell he hands down another one of his trademark three game suspension™ rulings. If he does, the NHL will have a very dark mark on its face.

Hollweg will be fine, but that isn't the point. Simon wielded a weapon with deliberate intent to injure, and should be dealt with severely. I don't think it would be out of line to toss him for the remainder of this year including the playoffs. Due to his age, declining ability, and expiring contract, this is tantamount to kicking him out of the League. I also don't think it would be out of line for him to be facing a bevy of criminal and civil charges.

The most important thing is for Campbell to get control of the task at hand. Anything other than swift and harsh punishment will be bad for the League's already shaky image.

Fans of other sports leagues will be watching this closely to see how ole Clownshoes handles this. Now is the time to do the right thing.

I don't know what else to say about this right now

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Carolina takes a few days off

After losing in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon, the Canes went home to take a few days off. They had the first of two four day breaks in their schedule, and the team decided to give the players a couple of days with no practice and no meetings. The players used this time to do things that husbands and fathers do -- they took their kids to school, took the family to dinner, things like that.

Carolina finds itself in the ninth spot in the East with 14 games left to play. They know that they will have to fight hard to earn a playoff spot. It's becoming increasingly unlikely that they find a way to win the division, so they'll have to fight for what will be the eighth seed. I've looked at the schedules of all the teams competing for the last few playoff spots, and Carolina actually looks pretty good in that respect. Their remaining games are "soft" by comparison. Although they will have to play Atlantic Division leading New Jersey in a home-and-home, they will have three games against the Panthers and two against the Capitols, both of whom are below the Canes in the SE Division, plus a game against the dreadful Flyers. According to today's standings, the average seed of Carolina's remaining opponents is 8.9, and half of their games will be against teams below them in the standings.

On the other hand, there's the Leafs. Toronto is presently in the eighth spot with the same number of points as the Canes, but a game in hand. Seven of their remaining 15 games are against teams in the "top 5" in the East, including a home-and-home with the Senators and a home-and-home with the Sabres. Only six of their remaining 15 games are against teams below them in the standings.

I'm guessing that Toronto will win seven of their games to finish the season with 87 points. I'm also guessing that the Canes will win eight of their games to finish the season with 89 points. It should be a dogfight between Carolina, Toronto, Montréal and the Rangers for the eighth spot. Whoever gets it (and I'm guessing it will be Carolina) will have the unenviable task of facing the powerful Sabres in the first round.

Hey, nobody thought Edmonton would go anywhere last playoffs. All they did was catch fire, beat the regular season's best team, and remain on fire until game 7 of the SCF.

Here's the first half of the team-by-team comparison of games remaining:

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Janssen suspended three games

New Jersey's Cam Janssen has been suspended three games for his late hit on Tomas Kaberle.

This is the same punishment that Brooks Orpik was given last March when he broke Erik Cole's neck. Chris Neil wasn's given anything last week. Ah, the Clownshoes Campbell wheel of discipline.

The Kaberle incident

I am completely disgusted by what occurred in New Jersey last night. Just barely a week after the "incident" in Buffalo, we see another example of what unfortunately happens when the instigator rule is in place. A useless goon of a player takes out a star player with a late and dirty hit. The on-ice officials miss the call, the players can't take the law into their own hands, and the offending player gets off scot free.

Last week, Buffalo's Chris Drury was taken out by a hit from Ottawa's Chris Neil that was high, late, unnecessary and dirty. That escalated into a full scale brawl. The brawling didn't occur in New Jersey, but we saw a carbon copy of the incident that precipitated it. The talentless goon, played by New Jersey's Cam Janssen made a late, high, unnecessary and dirty hit on a star player, played by Toronto's Tomas Kaberle. Janssen is nothing more than an agitator and Kaberle is one of the best defensemen in the League and arguably Toronto's best player.

I won't detail the hit. Damien Cox of the Toronto Star has a ... um... strongly worded piece about the hit. I recommend reading that. Here's the footage:

No penalty was called on the play. I don't get that. It looks like Janssen left his feet. That could be charging. Because of the way Kaberle was spun around and slammed face first into the boards, this could be boarding. This could be elbowing. This could be roughing. Because Kaberle was clearly not in possession of the puck, this could be interference. No call was made.

When Kaberle went down, play was immediately stopped and Janssen stood there anticipating a confrontation. The Leafs players never stood up. Perhaps they were afraid of the instigator rule. Perhaps they didn't want another Wrestlemania '07. Perhaps they were more concerned about Tomas' health than in kicking Janssen's ass. Neither Darcy Tucker nor Wade Belak were in the lineup, and maybe that also had something to do with it.

By the time it was all said and done, Toronto won the game in a shootout. Kaberle was held overnight in a hospital and is being examined. Clownshoes Campbell will investigate the tape today to determine Janssen's fate.

I've written about this before, and I'll say it again. I think the NHL needs to take a stance against blows to the head. Any blow to the head should be penalized, followed by a fine and/or suspension. This makes at least a half dozen times this season where a player has been knocked out by a blow to the head and carried off on a stretcher. In each case, the hit was late and of very very questionable legality. I would argue that this one had questionable intent. Pittsburgh's Colby Armstrong wasn't trying to hurt Carolina's Trevor Letowski back in October. Edmonton's Raffi Torres wasn't trying to kill Detroit's Jason Williams back in November. Calgary's Robyn Regehr didn't attempt to knock Montréal's Aaron Downey out (although he probably enjoyed it). There have been a few others, and then the incident in Buffalo last week.
Chris Neil probably was trying to hurt Chris Drury with his late and high hit. Cam Janssen had no business being that aggressive in that situation, so I have to think that he may have been head hunting.

Cam Janssen didn't play at all after that incident, which occurred late in the second. Was he being punished, or is Claude Julien too chickenshit to send his player out there to face the music? Methinks the latter.

On the incident, I have a few cheers and jeers to hand out:

  • Colin White, NJD. Throughout the entire thing, he was hovering around, showing concern. He also gave a hand to the steet-shoed folks coming on the ice to tend to the injured player.
  • Darcy Tucker, TOR. Jeez, this pains me to compliment Tucker. Dressed in his civvies, he approached the Devils bench from the tunnel to "have a word" with Janssen. Nobody would do it on the ice, so he figured he may as well.

  • Referees Kelly Sutherland and Brad Watson. No penalty was called when at least three different penalties could have been.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs. Nobody "cleaned up" the situation.
  • New Jersey coach Claude Julien. Janssen didn't play a single shift after the incident, giving him a free pass. This is in violation of the unwritten code pertaining to facing the music.
  • New Jersey Devils organist. While a player was knocked out and could have had a very serious injury, the organist played on. Give the rah-rah stuff a rest in situations like this.

    Yes, I know that players are taught at a young age to "finish your check" and to "play through the whistle" and I know that hitting is part of the game. Obviously. However, hitting high and late is not "part of the game". Lining up a star player like that is not "part of the game". Refusing to face the music is not "part of the game".

    Again, I'll recommend that you read Damien Cox's scathing take on the incident. Just remember that he's a Leafs journalist.

    The two teams will meet again in Toronto on March 20.
  • Friday, March 02, 2007

    Canes down Pens, stay in playoff hunt.

    On Friday night, the Hurricanes defeated the visiting Penguins 3-2 behind a two-goal effort by Scott Walker. Meanwhile, the Canadiens were busy losing to the Sabres. This enabled Carolina to leapfrog Montréal into the eighth playoff spot in the East.

    The good news came early. Eight-year old Katherine Fritsch was the anthem singer. She's sung the anthem about 10 times this season, and the Canes have won every single time. To see an archived video of Katherine singing the anthem, click here and click the play button. If you watch that video, you can clearly see me in the stands. After she starts singing, the camera pans back to a long four-shot of Erik Cole, Cam Ward, Nic Wallin and Rod Brind'Amour. It tightens to a two of Wallin and Brindy, and I'm just above Wallin's head in my red WILLIAMS sweater. Anyway....

    The first period was a mess. There were a total of nine penalties called, and neither team was able to capitalize on its power play opportunities. Pittsburgh did, however, strike first.
    At 14:23 of the first, Sid the Kid banged one in from the low slot just to Cam Ward's left. Jordan Staal and Rob Scuderi got the helpers. It was Crosby's 200th career point and he is the youngest player ever to reach that plateau.

    With one minute to play in the first, Tim Gleason took exception to being high-sticked by Gary Roberts behind the Pittsburgh goal, and a fight erupted. Not many punches landed, but a ton were thrown and it provided the spark that was needed. The excitement from that extended through the intermission and into the second period.

    At 7:28 of the second, Scott Walker ripped one to the short side from the right circle to make it 1-1. Nic Wallin and Josef Vasicek assisted on the four-on-four goal. Vasicek should be given full credit for a job very well done. He went down in the corner to battle for a puck, won the battle and made a nice pass to get the scoring play started.

    At 8:35, the Canes took the lead on a goal that is being credited to Frantisek Kaberle. He fired a shot from above the left circle that found its way through Jocelyn Thibault and to the back of the net. The shot was definitely re-directed on the way in, and I guess the scorekeeper is saying it was off a defenseman's stick. From where I saw it, it sure looked like it was Andrew Ladd's stick in the low slot. They're calling it Kaberle from Viva and Ladd. I'm calling it Ladd from Kaberle and Viva.

    Ryan Malone scored for the Pens at 10:24 to make it 2-2. His shot from the left circle was assisted by Colby Armstrong and Maxime Talbot.

    The only scoring in the third was Scott Walker with the game-winner at 11:33. His second goal of the night was a quick shot from below the left circle, beating Thibault on the stick side. Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore assisted.

    It's worth noting that Chad LaRose had a great game. His name won't show up in the score card, but he did some really nice work on the penalty kill, creating some shorthanded scoring opportunities. He also won his battles, outhustled his oppponents and just looked very good in general.

    David Tanabe played well, too. In particular was a sequence in the first period when the Penguins were rotating the puck nicely in the Carolina end. Les GG was attempting to create havoc in front of Cam's crease, but Tanabe wouldn't have it. Snuggles gives up two inches and 30 pounds to the beastly Laraque, but Tanabe had no trouble removing Laraque from the area with good clean aggressive defense. In the third, a similar sequence with the same thing as the end result.

    I think Anson Carter still isn't comfortable. He didn't have a whole lot of ice time, and what he did have wasn't all that pretty.

    Cam was great. He made some dazzling stops in the first period, and although he wasn't forced to be good in the third, he hung in there for the win.

    There's a ton of players who deserve to be among the three stars of the game. The "official" three stars went to Mike Commodore (third), Frantisek Kaberle (second) and Scott Walker (first).

    The RBH three stars go to:
    THIRD STAR Sidney Crosby, PIT -- 1 goal, 200th career point
    SECOND STAR Mike Commodore, CAR -- 1 assist, 7 hits, 1 blocked shot
    FIRST STAR Scott Walker, CAR -- 2 goals

    Up next, a Sunday afternoon must-win situation in Atlanta. More later.

    Thursday, March 01, 2007

    Emery shuts out Canes; hope fading

    On Wednesday night, the Senators defeated the Canes 2-0, completing the home-and-home sweep after beating the Hurricanes 4-2 in Raleigh on Tuesday. Ray Emery was sensational in the nets, shutting out the Canes thanks to a slew of highlight reel-type saves.

    At this point in the season, the only way to look at that is four potential points gone. Carolina is now one point out of the playoff picture and five points back of SE division leader Tampa. With just 16 games left to play, Carolina will most likely have to win 12 AND have some help from the other teams if they want to play hockey in the "second season".

    If there is any good news, it is that of their 16 remaining games, the Canes have three (including two in the RBC Center) against the Florida Panthers, who have pretty much decided to mail it in from here on out. They also play the lowly Capitals twice and will have two opportunities each against the Bolts and Thrashers, who stand ahead of them in the SE.

    Unfortunately, they also have a home-and-home with the Devils, who are atop the Atlantic Division.

    First up is a must-win game at home against the playoff-hungry and red hot Penguins at the RBC Center on Friday night.

    The game will not be televised by Canes TV, but if you get a chance to see it, you should. Brooks Orpik will be booed thunderously every time he touches the puck. Mark Recchi will be cheered enthusiastically if he does anything good. Then there's the family feud.

    Eric Staal and Jordan Staal will continue their good natured brotherly battle. Eric has 26 goals and 34 assists, while his younger brother has a surprising 25 goals and 7 assists. The two have a running wager when they face each other in the faceoff circle. A Gatorade to the winner of the draw. As I recall, Eric has won two and Jordan has won one.


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