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

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cats 4 - Canes 2

I didn't get to watch the game the way I would have liked, but I saw most of the game tonight. Carolina certainly had their chances, but in the end, they lost 4-2. Florida spent the last five minutes of the game with at least a one-man-advantage, and that was when they seized the game.

Florida got what they wanted. After being "wronged" last April 1, the Panthers were vindicated tonight when Carolina was called twice for diving. I haven't gone over the tape with a fine-toothed comb, but I remember the one where LaRose was called for diving, and it's bullshit. There should have been no call there at all. On either side.

Eric Staal definitely committed a penalty at 15:47 of the third, but I think "holding" was the wrong call. Roughing, or cross-checking maybe. Holding? No. That's beside the point. The key point of the game was when Justin Williams was correctly called for delay of game at 17:17 of the third, giving the Panthers a five-on-three. They wasted little time in converting that, then scoring another power play goal in the closing moments to put Carolina out.

I predicted a 4-1 victory by the Canes, and I was quite a bit off on that.

Later on, I'll check the DVR of the game. Like I say, I remember the LaRose "diving" penalty, and it was bush league. I didn't see the one against Williams when it happened live.

All that aside, Olli Jokinen was up to his usual "Cane Killa" stuff. He had a goal and two assists, earning first star of the game.

The two teams will meet again in Raleigh on Saturday night. Expect to see more gift "diving" penalties against the Canes.

Chairman Mo puts Leafs through bag skate

Paul Maurice has been upset with the inconsistent play of his Maple Leafs, and he forced them to pay a heavy price.

After getting bitch-slapped by the Capitals 7-1 on Monday, the Leafs coach put his team through one of his legendary "bag skate" practices on Wednesday. No drills. No passing, no shooting. Just skating. And skating. And skating. And more skating. You know the scene in "Miracle" when Herb Brooks forces team USA to repeatedly do "herbies"? It's like that.

Bates Battaglia, who was in Carolina for a few years, suffered a couple "bag skates" under Maurice's watch.
"I've done that many times," said Bates Battaglia, who spent six years in Carolina playing for Maurice. "I've seen a few of those drills before."
I wrote about this a few months ago, but here's the recap:

In December 2001, the Hurricanes were struggling and were on the outside of the potential playoff bubble. After a few consecutive sloppy losses, a furious Maurice put his team through the rigorous "bag skate". After the session, the team snapped into place, went on a winning streak, won their division, and ultimately made a Cinderalla run all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

At the tail end of the 2002-03 season, with the Canes out of the playoffs, Maruice again put the boys through a "skating only" practice. Instead of being a wake-up call, it created more problems than there already were. After the bag skate, Carolina won just six of their last 26 games. Jeff O'Neill had a highly publicized shouting match with Chariman Mo that day, and he (O'Neill) was never the same after that. He went from being a hero, a fan favorite to being a chump on and off the ice and a pariah. Maurice never regained control of the team, and he lost his job here early in the 2003-04 season. O'Neill never regained his form, and was traded to the Leafs. Apparently, the two buried the hatchet last season, but O'Neill is nowhere to be found this year.

How will the Leafs respond?

Canes-Cats preview

Carolina will be in Sunrise tonight, playing the Panthers for the first time since the last game of the 06-07 season.

Brian Biggane of the Palm Beach Post calls the Canes "divers", pointing to the 70 penalties Carolina has drawn so far this season, and moer specifically to the April 1 game last season, in which Ed Belfour handed the Canes the game on a silver platter.

Biggane is upset that his favorite team was undisciplined against the Hurricanes in four overtime games last season. He doesn't mention this, but I did in a post dated April 8, 2007.
* On December 23 in Florida, Jay Bouwmeester was guilty of tripping at 0:30 of OT, and Erik Cole won it at 1:59.
* On January 16 in Florida, Mike Van Ryn was guilty of holding at 1:30 of the OT , and Viva won it at 1:47.
* On April 1 in Florida, Bryan Allen was called for hooking and Ed Belfour for unsportsmanlike conduct giving the Canes a five-on-three at 1:06 of OT. Ray Whitney won it at 1:30.
* On April 7 in Raleigh, Bryan Allen was called for kneeing at 0:27 of OT. The Canes didn't win on the power play. Allen had a chance to redeem himself with a penalty shot, but failed.

Instead of pointing to Carolina's skilled skaters and saying that you have no choice but to haul them down, he calls Carolina a bunch of divers. In reference to the April 1 game, he even references a YouTube clip that yours truly posted.

I can understand how frustrating it must be to watch games go down like that, and I will admit that the "trip" call against Bryan Allen on April 1 was a bit questionable, but instead of saying something like "Carolina's speedy skaters forced the Panthers to take penalties", he says something like "Carolina dives every chance they get."


Going into this game, Rod Brind'Amour has a nine game scoring streak.

Carolina won the series last year 7-1, including the last seven in a row. As listed above, four of them were in overtime, with the Panthers committing penalties in each extra frame.

Unfortunately, Carolina doesn't have Eddie "the Billion Dollar Eagle" Belfour to kick around anymore.

Carolina should win this game. They will do it using their skill and speed. They will force the Cats to take penalties, and they will force Biggane to write bad copy about how the Hurricanes cheat.

I predict that there might be some raw nerves on the part of the home team, but I don't really anticipate much chippiness.

I call it 4-1 Canes. Obviously without any overtime drama.

Monday, October 29, 2007

More GM insanity

How do you reward a good goaltender for getting off to a horrendous start?

If you're Darryl Sutter, you sign him to a huge contract extension. You make him the highest-paid goaltender in the league.

That's exactly what happened today. The Calgary Flames announced that they signed Miikka Kiprusoff to a six year deal valued at $35M. From a salary cap standpoint, that's $5.83 per season. In real dollars, he'll make $6.7M if you're scoring along at home. That's only a few dollars less than what Jarome Iginla will be making.

"Kipper" was dominant for the last two seasons, but has gotten off to a very slow start this season. The 31-year old Finn has started 11 games, and has gone 5-3-3. His GAA is a ridiculously high 3.15, while his uncharacteristically low save percentage is .879. Matt at BofA was convinced that this wasn't in the cards. He threw together a great post outlining the reasons Kiprusoff would or wouldn't be traded this season. He was pretty much decided that Kipper would be traded to the Dinner Jackets at or near the trade deadline. This must have come as a huge surprise.

Next season, the Flames will have $14M invested in two players. They will have seven unrestricted free agents, so they'll have to resign or go shopping. They'll also have to re-sign Dion Phaneuf, whose rookie contract expires this season. He won't be cheap. They may have to buy out some of their highly paid defensemen to make it all happen.

People seem to be saying that this is a good thing, but it seems like insanity to me. It's just too much money for a goaltender who isn't named Martin Brodeur or Roberto Luongo.

Ladd's return delayed, JR asks about Neil

Although Erik Cole returned to the Hurricanes lineup on Saturday, the team is still far from "healthy". Ryan Bayda was sent back to Alabany, but Keith Aucoin remains with the big club. Apparently, Carolina is looking for some ways to ease the pain.

Trevor Letowski is getting more ice time than most fans would like. Chad LaRose is doing an excellent job of stepping up into the voids left by the injuries of Andrew Ladd and Scott Walker.

According to Lorenzo Perez from the Raleigh News and Observer, Ladd has suffered a setback in his recovery. His ankle just isn't getting any better, and the decision has been made to take him off the ice for another week or so. At that point, he'll start skating again, and then it could still be another week or more before he returns to game action. Apparently, the Walker injury is so far off the charts that they're not even talking about it. The last think I read was that he was still in "excruciating" pain, dealing with torn cartilage in his ribs. There is absolutely no timeline on his return. Not even a vague, foggy one.

With the loss of Scott Walker, you don't just miss a guy who's going to give you 50 some odd points. You don't just miss a second line right wing. You don't just miss a good locker room-type guy. You miss a guy who is going to do those things AND drop the mitts when necessary. Or at least come to the defense of his teammates.

We're not just talking about pugilism for the sake of pugilism. We're not talking about some hack whose only purpose is to fight or to serve as body guard (read: Georges Laraque). There aren't very many skaters who come to mind when you think about a mixture of skill and tough guy-ness. It's like that sponge that's all abrasive on one side and soft on the other. It's like the McDLT. It's like sour patch kids. It's like that split 7" record you used to have with Minor Threat on one side and Beat Happening on the other. It's like... okay. You get the point.

I've thought about this at great length. After game nights, I drive 1.5 hours to get home. I always listen (and sometimes call in) to the post game show. Once I get out of that station's range, I still think about hockey. Okay. I think about girls, too. But mostly, I think about hockey stuff.

One player that obviously comes to mind who possesses both brawn and talent is Sean Avery. Another is Chris Neil. Neil doesn't exactly fall into the "skill player" category, but he's more than "just a pugilist".

According to Spector's Hockey Rumors (via Bubba from Canes Country), at least two teams (Carolina and Edmonton) have contacted the Senators to inquire about Neil's availability. It doesn't seem like Neil and his $1.1M contract are going anywhere, but it doesn't surprise me that Rutherford is going fishing.

It certainly wouldn't hurt to have a solid NHL caliber third line right wing who can contribute to the scoring categories AND who will drop the mitts when called upon. With Scott Walker's return looking distant and the setback to Ladd, Trevor Letowski, and no healthy extras, Carolina may need to do something. Soon. They're playing extremely well despite the injuries, but some reinforcement sure would be nice.

The only setback to having a guy like Avery or Neil is the reputation that they each have. Avery is a reputed loudmouth, jerkwad, boor, etc. Chris Neil has somewhat of a "dirty player" reputation. Remember the Chris Drury incident? Remember the Andy McDonald incident?

I don't think I like the idea of having either of those guys. I just don't think they would fit into the system here.

That said, it was just a "rumor" anyway.

The Canes will be back in action on Halloween night at Florida.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Carolina down one night, up the next, plus my Scrabble tournament.

I was away all weekend playing in a Scrabble tournament, so I didn't get to watch either of the back-to-back games. I'm glad I missed Friday's embarrassing 7-4 home loss to the Canadiens, and I'm sad that I missed Saturday's 8-3 romp over the Islanders. I can never remember. Is Dr. Jekyll the evil one? No. It's Hyde, isn't it. At any rate, they were Hyde one night, and Jekyll the other.

All I've seen were the highlights. I didn't take time to set the DVR before I left. My mind was elsewhere.

Rod Brind'Amour had a hat trick on Saturday (plus an assist) and a goal on Friday. After the five point-in-two-games explosion, Brind'Amour has 18 (6/12) through 12 games, and has a nine game point streak and a three game goal streak. He's on pace for 123 points this season. He won't reach that mark, but it's great to see him playing so well.

Eric Staal is also on fire. He has a three game goal streak, which included a successful penalty shot on Friday. At 15 (9/6) points, he's on pace to reach 102 points. He's way more likely to maintain that pace than Brind'Amour.

Justin Williams is also on fire. He netted two goals on Saturday, and has a three game point streak. He's sitting on 16 (5/11) points, and is on pace for 109.

Matt Cullen, Ray Whitney and Cory Stillman each have 12 points Jeff Hamilton has 11 (4/7). Erik Cole, who missed five games with a hurt foot, is also playing at a point per game pace.

Cole returned from injury on Saturday, and all he did was pick up three assists and finish with a +4 rating.

Since I can't rehash the hockey games, I'll give a brief rehash of the Scrabble tournament.

At this tournament, there were three skill divisions based on your rating with the National Scrabble Association. I was slated to be the #1 seed in the low division, but they had some cancellations and needed me to move up to even that division out. At first, I was upset. I wanted to stay in the low division for a guarantee that I would win money. Staying low, though, wouldn't help my rating at all.

So I played up, with the idea that I play slightly better than projected, and I wouldn't win money but my rating would improve.

The format was pretty standard. Three games Friday night, then eight on Saturday, then four on Sunday. Tournament Scrabble is played using timers like chess players use. 25 minutes total per player. And it's always one-on-one. Tournaments are not elimination-style. Everyone plays every game.

Friday's games are round-robin style. By the midway point of Saturday, they use a variation of swiss pairings, which means that players are reseeded after each game, and you only play other players who are doing as well or as poorly as you. It's a power-power thing. Nobody gets a cupcake schedule, and nobody will have to play way over their head. By Sunday, they switch over to a king-of-the-hill, which is slightly different from swiss-style in that you play against folks who are directly above or below you in the standings. 1 against 2, 3 against 4, and so on. The final round can sometimes be tricky because of Gibsonization, but that's not anything that anyone here wants to hear about.

I started slow Friday, winning my first game, but losing the last two. I thought I might be in trouble, but most of the players in that division were players I've played (and beaten) before, so I wasn't that concerned.
On Saturday, I lost the first game, then won two in a row, then lost two in a row, then won two in a row, then lost a squeaker in my last game.

I was 5-6, in sixth place. The first place player had only lost two games (one to me), and she had pretty much run away with it already. The next closest had four losses, then a couple of fives, and a couple of sixes. This meant that I had a chance. A slim chance, but a chance. I needed to win out, and hope for some help.

I did what I needed to do. I steamrolled through my first three games this morning, climbing my way up to third place. In the final game, the first place player was Gibsonized. Nobody could catch her, no matter what. I knew that if I beat my opponent by more than 151 points, I would take over second. Any win would guarantee third place. Elsewise, I would need some outside help.

I won my last game by 90 points, so I walked out with third prize.

Two things that were good. Okay, three.
One was that my rating will go up by a significant amount. They use a complicated matrix to project how many games you should win, then your rating adjustment is done based on how well you do against that model. I was projected to win 5.6 games. I did much better than that.

Two was that I went in thinking that I wasn't going to win any money, but I did anyway. It was just $75, but it's nice. My career earnings are now at a whopping $165. I can't quit my day job yet.

Third was that I did well in the side tournaments. Friday night, there was a trivia contest, which I took second place out of about 30 players. Saturday, there was a Texas Hold'em tournament, in which I finished second out of ten. No money there. Just funsies. Had I won first prize in all three tournaments, my hotel room would have been paid for. Close, but no cigar.

Oh. The fourth good thing. This is the first time that I've ended a tournament on a roll. I have always lost the final game, usually the final two. In one tournament, I lost three of four on the final day, dropping all the way from first place to third. Although I won money, I was disappointed to have played my way out of first place. Like the Mets. This time, I played my way into the money.

Oh. The fifth thing. One of my arch-rivals was in my division. As is often the case in a tournament of this size, you often meet the same opponent two or more times over the course of the tournament. I faced this formidable opponent three times this weekend, and defeated her twice. In my career, I've now faced her six times, and I've gone 4-2 against her. With the exception of one game today when I beat her by 76, and one game in the past when she beat me by about 125, they're usually very hard fought games.

This blog will resume its normal hockey focus tomorrow.

I'm sure I'll write a full-on dorky review of the Scrabble tournament at my other blog, but I doubt if anyone cares.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Canes host Habs

On Friday, Les Habitants will visit the RBC Center for the second time this season. Carolina hopes that it can avoid a repeat performance of opening night, when the Canadiens won 3-2 in overtime.

Unfortunately, Erik "Hab Killa" Cole won't be dressed tonight. After suffering a soccer injury, his return is tentatively scheduled for Saturday night against the Islanders.

Cole and Andrew Ladd (ankle) are both in the "returning soon" department. Scott Walker (torso) remains out indefinitely. Dennis Seidenberg (knee) should return to the lineup tonight. However, we can add Nic Wallin (groin) to the walking wounded. Including tonight's injury scratches, Carolina will have lost 31 man-games to injury through 11 games.

Including tonight, the list (with currently injured players in bold) looks like this:
ERIK COLE 4 games -- foot
ANDREW LADD 8 games -- ankle
SCOTT WALKER 4 games -- torso
CORY STILLMAN 3 games -- torso
DENNIS SEIDENBERG 5 games -- knee
MIKE COMMODORE 4 games -- leg
BRET HEDICAN 2 games -- flu
NIC WALLIN 1 game -- groin

The other day, in reference to the injury plight, Peter Laviolette said "Good teams will ignore it".

One thing that cannot be ignored is the play of Cam Ward. After losing 20 pounds in the off-season, Ward came back a much different player. He's more explosive, he's more durable, he's "more" and "better at" everything than he was last season.

Also, Chad "Sharpie" LaRose has been given an increased role with the team. For two seasons, he was strictly a fourth line player, and he saw limited ice time. With the injuries to key forwards, LaRose has got to spend some time on the Brind'Amour/Williams line, and he's looked good. He's also killing penalties and seeing a tiny bit of poweer play time. He's averiging 15:00 TOI per game, and relishing every second of it. Lorenzo Perez from the N&O wrote
"Every day I wake up, I'm so excited," said LaRose, who scored the winning goal in Carolina's 3-1 victory over Vancouver on Monday. "I'm having trouble sleeping at night because I'm so excited for every day, whether it's practice or not, to come to the rink and be in the room with these guys and this team."

Also, Jeff Hamilton is having a great season. So far, he's proving to be the ultimate steal of free agency. With 8 points (3/5) through the first ten games, "Green Eggs and Hamilton" is on pace for a career best 66 points. He'll do this at the low low price of $800k.

Over in Buffalo, Thomas Vanek has scored 5(2/3) points through eight games. He's also on pace for a career best of 51 points. The problem is that Buffalo is paying Vanek $10M this season, for what will be worth much much less than that. The Rangers are paying Chris Drury the same money for what is on pace to be a 55 point season. This is General Managers Gone Wild. I know Darcy Regier had his hand pressed on the Vanek issue, but it's still insanity.

Puck drop is 7:00 tonight. I'm playing in a Scrabble tournament all weekend, so I won't be able to watch tonight. I won't be able to recap, and I won't be able to write anything about Saturday's game with the Islanders.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Canes 6, Sabres 2

Buffalo came into town tonight seeking their first road win. Carolina is looking to continue their hot play throughout October. After a tense first two stanzas, the home team got what they wanted. What follows is a period-by-period intermission update. Not liveblogging, but a distant relative.

First Period

Rod Brind'Amour scored just 38 seconds into the game with an easy goal from the left side of the net. Justin "Viva" Williams made a centering pass from the right wing through the slot. Ryan Miller looked confused, or asleep at the wheel, because when Brindy received the puck, Miller was way over on the right post with his back to Brind'Amour. He had to settle the puck a bit, but still had plenty of time to tuck it in. The early goal extends Brind'Amour's points streak to seven games. Officially, it was Brind'Amour with an even strength goal from Viva and Chad "Sharpie" LaRose at 0:38.

That woke Ryan Miller up, because he had to make a couple of dandy stops on Cory Stillman and Jeff Hamilton later in the period.

At 2:52, Jason Pominville netted a good-looking goal to even the score. Tim Connolly made a nice play down in the corner to fend of Tim Gleason, then hit Pominville with a pass near the right circle. J-Pom made a few fancy moves, then buried it from close range. Jochen Hecht picked up the secondary assist on the even strength goal.

Carolina was awarded three consecutive power plays, but they couldn't create much pressure, nor could they even keep the puck in Buffalo's zone. This is in stark contrast to Monday night, when Carolina spent the entire first period in the Canucks zone. Credit Buffalo for shutting it down.

The first period ended with Buffalo enjoying their first man-advantage, which will spill over to the second period.

No liveblogging here, but I'll update again at the second intermission.

Damn blogger. I had written a second period summary, but it got wiped away somehow.

Second Period
Ray Whitney scored a dandy goal at 3:15 on a quick shot after Viva and Brind'Amour worked the puck behind the Sabres' net. The shot was so quick that I didn't see it live, but it was sweet. Officially, "The Wizard" from Brind'Amour and Viva at 3:15.

Carolina committed two penalties on the same play to give the Sabres two minutes of five on three, and they wasted no time. Derek Roy slid a pass from the right wing across the crease to Jason Pominville, who easily beat Ward for his second goal of the night. Ward committed too much to his own left side, and couldn't slide over in time to challenge J-Pom. Pominville from Derek Roy and Tim Connolly on the power play at 15:32 of the second.

The second period ended with Carolina on the power play, which will carry over for the first 1:31 of the third.

So far, Brind'Amour (1/1), Williams(0/2), Connolly (0/2) and Pominville (2/0) all have two points. Who will emerge as the game's first star? Find out in 35 minutes.
Third Period


Carolina simply dominated the final frame, and ran away with a 6-2 win.

Eric Staal opened the third frame scoring on a very odd play. Bret Hedican launched a shot from the right point that went off Miller, off a defenseman, trickled to the left post, and Staal tucked it in. There was some contact with Miller, but it was allowed to go. Officially, Staal from Hedican and Keith Aucoin even strength at 5:48. That was Aucoin's first point this season since being called up to replace Erik Cole on Monday.

Carolina was given its sixth power play opportunity by virtue of a delay of game call, and they finally got past the Sabres' penalty killers. Jeff Hamilton launched a howitzer from the top of the right circle. Officially, Hamilton from Staal and Matt Cullen on the power play at 7:40.

At 10:44, there was another strange goal. Carolina was moving the puck around on the power play, spreading the ice. From a sharp angle at the bottom of the left circle, Mike Commodore fired a shot that found its way into the net. First it was credited to Cory Stillman, who was on top of the goal crease. Later, it was determined that the puck last touched Toni Lydman's stick. Still later, it was given back to Commodore. At this point, it stands as a Stillman goal assisted by Commodore and Hedican. The goal occurred exactly as a penalty to Tomas Vanek expired, so it is officially an even strength goal. At some point, the scoring should go to Commodore from Hedican and Ray Whitney. Quote me on that.

Bret Hedican continued his torrid third period by angling one in off the body of Andrej Sekera. Cory Stillman and Eric Staal got the helpers on the even strength goal.

There was, as expected, a little chippiness. However, it wasn't in the form of fights. There were none of those. As the Hurricanes scored goal after goal in the third, the Sabres got frustrated and committed some uncharacteristic penalties.

After having a breakaway chance denied by Frantisek Kaberle and Bret Hedican, Tomas Vanek went a little hard at Keith Aucoin along the boards, drawing a boarding penalty. This led to the "Stillman" goal.

Later, as time was winding down, Henrik Tallinder was called for roughing Ryan Bayda, bringing his hands and stick to Bayda's face. It wasn't cross-checking (which would probably draw a multi-game suspension), but it was awfully close. Not typical of his play, and there was no injury, so there won't be any argument over here. I'm sure it was just frustration getting the better of him.

Carolina definitely got some bounces in the third and decisive period, but they brought their A game to the final frame, putting 16 shots on goal for a game total of 42. Buffalo was called for four consecutive penalties (five, if you count the double minor high stick), but none of them were questionable. Carolina just won the period, and the game.

I didn't see how the FSS crew doled out the stars, but the "official" stars went to Eric Staal (third), Jeff Hamilton (second) and Bret Hedican (first). I have it a little different. The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Jason Pominville, BUF --- 2 goals
SECOND STAR Bret Hedican, CAR --- 1 goal, 2 assists
FIRST STAR Eric Staal, CAR --- GWG, 2 assists

Credit should be given to the Sabres PK units. They killed eight of nine Carolina power plays. Of course, they committed too many penalties, which put them in the spot of having to kill more than 16 minutes of power play, but they were pretty darn good.

Ryan Miller faced 42 shots. Twice as many as Cam Ward faced. The Sabres can't be happy about that, but he did a good job to keep it as close as it was.

Carolina's three game home stand closes on Friday with the Canadiens making a return visit. The dads are already in town, and they'll be joining the team as they go on the road over the weekend. For the first time, the moms are also taking part in the annual father/son weekend. According to everything in the N&O and everything that John and Tripp say, Bob Brind'Amour is a hoot. They all have a great time on the weekend, and I hope this is a tradition that becomes permanent.

Look for a write-up about Jeff Hamilton later. Maybe early next week, but hopefully tomorrow.


Tonight is a big game for the Carolina Hurricanes. They'll be taking on Buffalo for the first time this season. In regular season play, Buffalo has beaten Carolina five times in a row, and they will be bringing their best to Carolina.

Rod Brind'Amour will be riding a six game point streak. No Sabres players have any streak going.

Cam Ward is 5-0-2 this season, and has looked sensational. His GAA is 1.87 and his save percentage is .937. Ryan Miller is not looking himself this season with a record of 2-4-0, a GAA of 2.86 and a save percentage of .892.

For the Canes, Erik Cole, Scott Walker and Andrew Ladd will be missing from the forward lines while Dennis Seidenberg will miss another game for the defense. This makes 27 man-games lost to injury in the first 10 games.

Please check out BFLOblog for a Buffalo perspective (and probably some liveblogging during the game). Kevin might root for the wrong team, but he's one of the best hockey bloggers out there if you ask me. Last season, I lost a "bet" to Kevin, and was forced to write a glowing article about Daniel Briere. There is no wager this time

Sadly, I won't be in attendance, but I'll be glued to my TV.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Man, do I love Center Ice!

I just caught the end of the Leafs and Thrashers. I picked it up with about 8 minutes remaining in the third, and that was pretty much all I needed.

There was an interesting thing that happened, though. I wonder if anyone else noticed this. After Todd White finished a two-on-one break to give the Thrashers a 4-3 lead with about 7:00 left, there was a shot of Leafs coach Paul Maurice, who looked a tiny bit upset. Chairman Mo was never one to express emotions one way or the other. That's not the point, though.

The next camera shot was of the Thrashers bench. There was a close shot of Brian Little, whose team had just taken the lead in a tight game. He looked less excited than even Paul Maurice. I thought I had imagined it, but I rewound it a few times, and saw the same thing each time. No emotion. Strange.

I actually felt myself tensing up watching the final minute as the Leafs put crazy pressure on the Thrashers, then I leapt up off the couch when Ponikarovsky tied it with 10 seconds left.

The overtime wasn't much, but I really enjoyed the shootout. It was sort of like a few weeks ago when the Dallas Cowboys won in dramatic fashion against the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football. Two teams that I really dislike, but I was getting worked up about the endgame.

Now, if only I had a high definition TV, I'd be even more geeked up about Center Ice.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Canes beat weary Canucks 3-1

On Monday night, the Vancouver Canuncks came to town for the first time in almost four years. Carolina had to (literally) fight harder than they would have liked, but the end result was a 3-1 win for the guys in red.

The first period was dominated by the Hurricanes. It was clear that the visitors had tired legs as the Canes kept the puck in the Vancouver zone for most of the period and dominated the SOG category 16-6. There was no scoring, but Carolina was by far and away the better team in the first frame.

Cory Stillman got the Canes on the board at 5:07 of the second with a one-timer from the top of the right circle. Ray Whitney and Matt Cullen assisted on the power play goal. Of course, Carolina was employing the five forward PP unit. This came just moments after an apparent goal had been nullified at 2:16 of the second. I suppose the ruling was the variety of "goaltender interference" where the goal is disallowed, but no penalty is called.

The power play was the result of an extra roughing penalty assessed to the Canucks after Craig Adams and Kevin Bieksa went toe-to-toe. For the record, Craig got clobbered in the fight. It only took 28 seconds of the man advantage to get the lamp lit.

At 17:44, Rick Rypien (cousin of former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien) took offence to Mike Commodore's rough treatment of Byron Ritchie. Those two gentlemen had a long fight right beside the penalty benches, with neither combatant getting the upper hand.

Five minutes into the third frame, there was a third fight. Brad Isbister had run Cam Ward and got away with it, but Tim Gleason forced him to pay the consequences by abusing Isbister in a heavyweight bout at center ice.

Chad "Sharpie" LaRose was rewarded for his extraordinary work ethic with a breakaway goal at 7:01. Like Tom Brady-to-Randy Moss against the Dolphins on Sunday afternoon, Rod Brind'Amour saw Chad LaRose at center ice, just behind four white shirts. Brindy threaded the needle and hit LaRose with a perfect pass from deep in the Carolina zone to center ice. LaRose streaked into the Vancouver zone all alone and buried it top shelf against Roberto Luongo.

Vancouver finally started to get their game together about midway through the final stanza. They kept Carolina out of Luongo's house, played very aggressively, and eventually got one past Cam Ward. Brad Isbister had a very nice wrap-around chance, which was denied by Ward. However, at 13:19, Brendan Morrison tucked in the rebound to make it interesting.

In the final minute, after the Canucks had pulled Luongo for an extra attacker, they were caught for having too many men. Loungo had come back on the ice, but nobody came off. Seconds later, Luongo was pulled again, and Ray Whitney put one into the empty cage to make it 3-1.

Chad LaRose had the game-winning goal and was named the game's first star because of it. I'm glad for the guy, but I just didn't see him as the best player on the ice. The "official" three stars were Mike Commodore(third), Ray Whitney (second) and Chad LaRose (first). I saw it completely differently. Really, any number of players could have been any of the three stars, but I finally settled on a completely different set. The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Tim Gleason, CAR --- 5 hits, 7 PIM
SECOND STAR Cam Ward, CAR --- 19 saves, win
FIRST STAR Rod Brind'Amour, CAR --- 2 assists

It should be pointed out that five of Gleason's seven PIM are the "good" variety. He stuck up for his teammates, took down his opponent. We'll gladly take the five for fighting in the name of "team toughness". It wasn't fighting for the sake of fighting or common goonery. It was purposeful. He has been a very dependable defenseman lately, taking away passing lanes, laying down to block shots, and doing all sorts of other inglorious things that good defensemen do.

It should also be pointed out that Cam Ward never had to stand on his head, and he only faced 20 shots. Still, he made it look easy,

Brindy's pass that sprung LaRose was a thing of absolute beauty. How in the world he found LaRose among those four Canucks is beyond me. At the end of the game, he forced a turnover deep in the Vancouver end, and instead of firing it at the empty net from a tough angle, he unselfishly dished it to Whitney for the easy goal.

I was impressed by Craig Adams, who played very good two-way hockey tonight.

Chad LaRose also played very good two-way hockey. He racked up 18 minutes of ice time tonight, and looked very comfortable with his increased role. He got the game-winner on a very pretty goal, and I really wish I could name him one of the RBH stars, but there were too many others.

Buffalo comes to town on Wednesday, and it's probably safe to assume that it'll be another fight-filled game. These two teams do not like each other, and the tempers usually flare.

The three game home stand will conclude Friday against Les Habitants. I'll be in Raleigh that night (and all weekend long), but not at the game.

Canes host Nucks, call up AHL help

Tonight when the Carolina Hurricanes play host to the Vancouver Canucks, expect to see some new but familiar faces donning the red and black. On Sunday, Carolina called up Ryan Bayda and Keith Aucoin from Albany to ease the pain of missing forwards Andrew Ladd, Erik Cole and Scott Walker. All are expected to miss at least one more week.
As of this morning, Carolina had lost 19 man-games to injury. Ladd, Walker, Cole and defenseman Dennis Seidenberg are all expected to sit out again, which will bring the total to 23 man-games lost through the first nine games.

The only relief that Carolina will have is that they will be rested while the Canucks will not. Vancouver played in Columbus Sunday night, and won 4-1. They will arrive sometime early Monday, will probably have a light practice and an optional soccer kick-around.

Through seven games, Vancouver is 3-4-0. They've scored 20 goals and have surrendered 25. They are 2-0-0 on the road so far, and are 0-1-0 against the East. This will be their first of five road games against Southeast Division teams this season.

This will be Carolina's first Western foe of the season, and only their third home game.

Ryan Kesler is riding a three game point streak for the Canucks, while Viva and Rod Brind'Amour are both riding five game point streaks for the Hurricanes.

This will be the first time Canes fans have seen the Sedinbots and Markus Naslund in the RBC Center since before the lockout.

For a Canucks perspective of the game, including some good liveblogging, please visit Canucks and Beyond and Canucks Hockey Blog. Alanah and JJ are good folks. And don't forget Jes Golbez. He's good people too.

Expect to see Cam Ward back between the pipes.

Don't forget that the Hurricanes will be donating a portion of all walk-up ticket sales to local cancer research agencies as part of the ongoing Hockey Fights Cancer program.

The game will not be televised by FSS, so you'll have to catch it on Center Ice or, better yet, at the RBC Center.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Adding injury to insult to injury.....

Things have gone from bad to worse in the Carolina Hurricanes injury department.

On Friday, the Canes lost Scott Walker to a mysterious injury, and on Saturday, they lost Erik Cole to a soccer injury.

A soccer injury?

Yeah. Details are starting to emerge, and they're not good. The Hurricanes were playing soccer near a loading dock at the Wachovia Center. Close by, the Flyers were doing the same thing. This isn't unusual at all. However, today, Erik Cole hurt his foot. According to Luke Decock's blog, there are differing reports about the severity. Some claim that he twisted an ankle, while others are saying that he broke a bone. Either way, according to Luke, coach Peter Laviolette called the injury "not insignificant", and said "he's likely to miss at least a week."

This is just one more thing to heap on the Hurricanes. The season is only eight games old, but the Hurricanes have yet to have a completely healthy roster. Remember last season? The Hurricanes had a "fully healthy" roster for about 17 minutes. Seriously. It was less than one game. Less than a full period.

So far, in this very young season, Carolina has lost 19 man-games to injury through the first 8 games. Here's the list, with currently injured players in bold face:
  • ERIK COLE -- 1 game, foot.
  • ANDREW LADD -- 5 games, ankle.
  • SCOTT WALKER -- 1 game, torso.
  • CORY STILLMAN -- 3 games, torso
  • MIKE COMMODORE -- 4 games, leg
  • BRET HEDICAN -- 2 games, flu
  • DENNIS SEIDENBERG -- 3 games, knee.

Walker is expected to miss a couple more games. Ladd and Seidenberg could be back any day now. From the sounds of it, Cole will miss at least four more games.

This sounds like a lot of man-games lost, and it is. However, at this rate, the team will lose 174 man-games to injury over the full season. Compare that to 250 man-games lost last season, and 267 games in 2005-06. Last season, just before the All-Star break, I did a rundown of all the Hurricanes injuries (to that point). Take a stroll down memory lane, and enjoy the graphics!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Carolina loses game, Cole.

Two games in a row, Carolina has had a chance to salt away a road win. Two games in a row they settle for one point. Two games in a row, they're happy to take it under the circumstances. Two games in a row, they lose a key player.

Scott Walker was lost to a mysterious injury which has only been called a "torso injury". He's in a great deal of pain and could be out for an extended period of time. Tonight, the Canes lost Erik Cole to a pre-game off-the-ice foot injury. Luke Decock thinks the injury happened during a "soccer kick-around". No details are available about the severity of the injury or how much longer he'll be out.

Presumably, Ryan Bayda will be called up from Lowell. And perhaps also Keith Aucoin. The Canes are hurting badly. Later, I'll write something about how hard the injury bug has bitten so early in the season.

Simon Gagne got the Flyers off and running just 5:12 into the game. Danny Briere and Braydon Coburn assisted on the goal.
Just 46 seconds later, Eric Staal tied it up on a power play goal assisted nicely by Jeff Hamilton and Cory Stillman. Again, the Canes employed the five forward system on the first power play unit.

Viva gave the Canes the lead on a nice tip-in at 17:32 of the second. Stillman and Brind'Amour assisted.

Mike Richards scored his fifth goal of the young season to tie the game just 1:32 into the third frame. Kimmo Timonen and RJ Umberger got the assists.

For the next couple of minutes, Philly dominated the pace, getting tons of shots and heavy pressure deep in the Carolina end. Johnny Crackers made a sensational stop on Mike Knuble at 2:41 of the third that would have blown the game open for the Flyers. Later in the third, Tim Gleason made a phenomenal sliding pokecheck to thwart what looked like a sure breakaway by Sami Kapanen.

The Canes had a good chance to win the game with a power play at the end of regulation, but they couldn't make it happen.

The Flyers only needed 48 seconds of overtime to get the winner. Simon Gagne from in close, tipping one past Grahame off the right post and in. I have often criticized Grahame's inability to cover the posts. On a play like this, where a centering pass went across the crease to a player down low on the right side, he needs to get his left skate flush against the right post, but he never does. Nor does he come out to challenge the shooter and take away the angle. He stays deep in the crease, but not tight to the short side post. Too often, this results in shots being banked off his appurtenances and into the goal. In this case, the shot trickled through, hit the post(on the ice), and in. Grahame played well, but this is one of his flaws, and he didn't do anything to improve in the summer. On the flip side, Cam Ward came into camp in much better shape. As opposed to last season, he's exploding from post-to-post, doing a much better job of cutting off angles, and doing a much better job of controlling and directing rebounds.

Beh. Enough of the Crackers bashing.

The "official" three stars went to Eric Staal (third), Scott Hartnell (second) and Marty Biron (first). If I remember correctly, the FSN South three stars went to Simon Gagne (third), Justin Williams (second) and Marty Biron (first). I can't see it that way on either count. The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Daniel Briere, PHI --- 2 assists, 2 takeaways, 61% faceoff wins
SECOND STAR Martin Biron, PHI --- 42 saves (18 in the second period alone!)
FIRST STAR Simon Gagne, PHI --- 2 goals, including the GWG.

Carolina will come home on Monday to face the Canucks. It will be the first of three straight home games next week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) followed immediately by a Saturday road game at Islanders.

During the six game road trip, Carolina had to play some very hot teams, and they ran into some very hot goaltending. At the end of it all, they earned eight of a possible 12 points, finishing 3-1-2. That's not bad at all.

Injuries continue to pile up for Canes

Last night, Carolina lost Scott Walker for at least a few games to a "torso injury".

The plan was to dress seven defensemen, then call a forward up from Albany for the three game homestand starting Monday against Vancouver.

Unfortunately, Carolina suffered another injury today, and it was to a very key player. Erik Cole has suffered some sort of "foot injury" and didn't dress tonight. According to the FSN South crew, the injury didn't occur during the pre-game skate, but occurred "off the ice". Luke Decock is speculating that the injury occurred in the customary soccer-style game during warm-ups. Didn't some other NHLer get injured like this earlier this season?

Oh boy.

No further details are available. Due to the short notice of the situation, and the fact that Andrew Ladd is already out injured, Carolina had no choice but to dress a team that is a man short. Tonight they have just 10 forwards and seven defensemen.

At the first break, the score is 1-1, after goals by Simone Gagne and Eric Staal (power play).

More on the game and the injuries later.

Justin "Viva" Williams has added one, giving the Canes a 2-1 lead at the second intermission. This is Williams' second goal in as many nights, and just his third of the season. Except for the 2-0 shutout loss at Washington on October 6, Williams has at least one point in every game this season.

Simon Gagne has won the game for the Flyers with a quick goal early in the overtime period.

The road trip is over, and Carolina has taken eight of a possible 12 points on the trip. Not too shabby.

Canes lose shootout, Walker

On Friday night, the Hurricanes traveled to Pittsburgh for the fifth of six straight road games. They should have won in regulation, but by the end of the night, they were just happy to get out of there alive. The one standings point earned by losing in the shootout was just a bonus.

Carolina got on the board very early. There was an early penalty, and Carolina was employing the five forward PP unit (Cullen, Whitney, Brind'Amour, Hamilton, Stillman). Ray Whitney slapped one in from above the left circle, beating Dany Sabourin high on the glove side, just under the crossbar. Matt Cullen and Rod Brind'Amour assisted on the power play goal.

Petr Sykora knotted it up at 18:58 on a really nifty move right in front of Cam Ward's cage. Sidney Crosby's wraparound attempt was foiled, but Sykora jumped on the rebound and backhanded it in. It was a very nifty play that beat Ward cleanly high on the glove side. Crosby and The Recchin' Ball got the helpers.

At 3:57 of the second, Trevor Letowski potted his first goal of the young season. Sabourin had just made a dandy of a save on a Brind'Amour/Williams breakaway, but he allowed the rebound to go into the low slot area. First, The Dude attempted a wrister from the forehand that was again blocked, but he recovered the rebound and backhanded it in. On that play, Sabourin had been knocked down and there could well have been a Goaltender Interference call, but I guess the contact wasn't deemed to be significant enough, or the referees thought that Rod Brind'Amour had been shoved into the crease area.

At 15:20, Viva gave the Canes a 3-1 lead, and it looked like the visitors were on their way to a nice win. Williams corralled a loose puck in neutral ice, then entered the Penguins zone with two Pens in front of him, three right behind him and no Hurricanes players anywhere near. From the high slot, he just put one on net, and it must have surprised the goaltender, because he was beaten badly by it. Again, high on the glove side. It looked like he never saw it. It was an unassisted goal for Williams.

The rest of the game did not go so well.

Soon after the Williams goal, Scott Walker dropped to his knees in front of the Carolina bench area and appeared to be woozy. There was no contact by any player directly preceding his collapse, but there was speculation that it was a delayed reaction to a collision with Jarkko Ruutu earlier in the game. At first it was confusing, then worrisome, then scary. He stayed there on his knees for several moments, obviously having difficulty moving and breathing. In addition to the entire Hurricanes medical staff, members of the Penguins staff were tending to him. It got even scarier when a stretcher was brought out. Ultimately, he left the ice the same way Erik Cole left that very same ice back in March of 2006. One arm dangling, bent over, gliding (not striding). Not exactly "under his own power".

Walker was held in a Pittsburgh hospital, and according to a team spokesman, x-rays and CT scans were "clear". We still don't know much about it, but the team is referring to Walker's injury as a "torso injury". Some speculation is that it might have something to do with some cartilage. Although Walker traveled with the team to Philadelphia, he is in "a great deal of pain", and will not play.

As if that wasn't enough of a bad break, Carolina got another at 17:54 of the second. The Pens were going hard to the net, and Adam Hall's backhand wrister from close range was kicked aside by Ward. Justin Williams was there to gather the puck, but unfortunately, he did his impersonation of Bryan McCabe, and he put it in his own net instead of directing it to the corner. Officially, it was Hall, with assists from Ruutu and Maxime Talbot. Unofficially, it was Williams committing the Tevvy.

Before Carolina could regroup, or even limp into the locker room with a one goal lead, Sykora made it all even. During a five-on-three power play, Sergei Gonchar unleashed a bomb from the high slot. Sykora was there to tuck in the rebound from just off the right post. Game tied. Gonchar and Sidney Crosby with the helpers.

Nothing in the third.

Pittsburgh elected to go first in the shootout.
Eric Christensen scored.
Matt Cullen scored.
Petr Sykora scored.
Jeff Hamilton scored a really nasty one.
Sidney Crosby scored.
Ray Whitney put the puck right in Sabourin's glove.

The "official" three stars went to Justin Williams (third), Sidney Crosby (second) and Petr Sykora (first). I don't see it that way. Both goaltenders played very well, and both had to make some circus-style saves. Especially Sabourin. That shouldn't go unnoticed.
The RBH three stars:
THIRD STAR Justin Williams, CAR --- 1 goal, 1 assist (plus a Tevvy)
SECOND STAR Dany Sabourin, PIT --- 32 saves, win.
FIRST STAR Petr Sykora, PIT --- 2 goals (plus a successful shootout attempt).

Although Carolina lost a key player for an indeterminant amount of time, and they didn't win the game, they still emerged with a point. Also, a positive thing that can be taken away from this game is that the Canes have already had twice as many successful shootout attempts (2) as they did all of last season (1). Jeff Hamilton proved to us why the Canes brought him here. His shootout goal was a thing of beauty.

Pittsburgh travels to Washington tonight. Carolina travels to Philly. 7:30. No TV.

More details about tonight's matchup later. Plus, more about the "house of horrors" that Mellon Arena has become.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hockey Fights Cancer night in Raleigh

October is Breast Cancer awareness month, and you've probably seen some of your favorite restaurants, bars and coffee shops donating a percentage of their October earnings to cancer research. The NHL is no different. You've probably seen the players wearing pink ribbon stickers on their helmets this season, and in the past you've seen players using pink sticks during October.
As part of the ongoing HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER program, the Hurricanes will be offering discounted tickets to the October 22 home game against the Vancouver Canucks. Fans can receive up to $10 off the gate price of tickets, and up to $5 of every ticket sale will be used to fund cancer research agencies.
Click here for some details about how and where to purchase discounted tickets. By using a special "group ticket" request, fans can designate which of five local organizations. My personal preference is the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Even if you don't purchase a special ticket, and even if you don't do it right now, I suggest donating money to that cause.

See the Sedins! See Naslund! See Luongo! Support an excellent cause! Watch hockey!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Florida steals one, Atlanta can't shoot.

I just got done watching the game between Montréal and Florida.

Florida played pretty poorly for 58 minutes, but somehow emerged from the Bell Centre with two points. With seven minutes to go, the Panthers had only registered 15 shots on goal, and it looked like Cristobal Huet was on his way to a shutout.
Mike Komaserik was called for slashing with about two and a half to play, and the Panthers suddenly snapped to attention. They were able to mount some serious pressure on Huet, especially after Vokoun was pulled for the extra attacker. During the furious six-on-four sequence, Huet was forced to make a couple of great stops. The Habs killed the penalty, but just two seconds after the expiration, Nathan Horton got one past Huet to tie the game with 10.2 seconds remaining in the third.

Florida had been outplayed for the entire game, and really only played well for the last 90 seconds, but somehow that was good enough to get them one.

Nothing happened in the overtime, and the frustrated home crowd watched as it went to shootout. Montréal opted to shoot first. All three of their skaters went low on Vokoun, and he easily made all three stops. Florida's first two skaters were stopped, but Jozef Stumpel scored, and the game was over.

This was a great example of why you shouldn't give up on a game. The Cats stank all game, and they seemed down for the count, but they fought their way into the extra frame and ended up "stealing" two points away from les Habs. Although the Canadiens didn't leave the rink empty handed, they can't be happy about pissing away one point.

One standings point may seem petty at this point in the season, but the Maple Leafs missed the playoffs by one point last year. The Avalanche suffered the same fate. I don't mean to be overdramatic, but if the Canadiens just barely miss the playoffs, they can look at this game. They can look at 10.2 seconds.

In other news, the Thrashers got smoked by Philly, and they remain the only winless team. It's a sad commentary when the pathetic NFL Atlanta Falcons aren't the worst team in town. Sure, they've run up against some good teams, but they've only scored nine goals through their first six games. Five of those goals came in one game. Including last season's playoffs and excluding this year's exhibition games the Thrash have lost 10 games in a row. They've scored a total of 15 goals in those 10 games and have surrendered 44. Ouch. They'll get on track eventually, perhaps.

Jennifer over at SESO has been lamenting the fact that the Thrash just aren't shooting the puck. Tonight, they were outshot 33-31, which brings their cumulative total to 206 shots for the opponents to 141 for the Thrash. Their average is 23.5 SOG per game whilst facing 34.3 from their opponents.

The Canes are in the middle of five days in a row off. What else is there for me to do?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Boulerice calls Kesler, gets cut

On Monday, the Flyers placed former Hurricanes tough guy Jesse Boulerice on waivers. This comes just days after Boulerice was handed a record-tying 25 game suspension for his vicious crosscheck to the face of Canucks skater Ryan Kesler. No team will be expected to touch the waste of space with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.

In his short and fruitless career, Boulerice, who once cited The Garfield Christmas Movie as his favorite, (see this video as proof) has caused trouble everywhere he has gone.

In April of 1998, while playing with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, Boulerice swung his stick a la Chris Simon at the head of Andrew Long, who played for Guelph Storm. After reviewing the video, OHL officials determined that Boulerice would be suspended for the entire 1998-99 season including the preseason and playoffs.

Boulerice was sent up to the AHL the next season, and the suspension didn't come with him.

He spent the next couple of years bouncing between the AHL and ECHL, putting up astonishing PIM numbers but not doing much of anything else. In 2000-01 with the Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL, he put up 256 PIM in 60 games played. If you're scoring along at home, that's more than four and a quarter minutes per game played. That number is roughly equivalent to his average TOI in the NHL.

Unfortunately, Boulerice was dealt to the Hurricanes in February of 2002. He completed that season in Lowell, piling up 80 PIM in just 15 games. 5.33 PIM per game.

Boulerice was called up to the big team for the 2002-03 season, where he made a lasting impression on February 11, 2003 as "the guy who got knocked the eff out by Aaron Downey" in a one-punch fight.

He continued to serve the role of agitator/pugilist for the 03-04 season, but when we came back from the lockout, there was little room for him in the "new NHL". He started on the big club, but about a month into the season, the Canes opted to keep the skilled players on the ice and eliminated his roster spot. He was sent down to Lowell, and ultimately was used as part of a multi-player deal to get Doug Weight from the Blues.

Boulerice didn't make any fans in St. Louis. During one of his first practice sessions, he allegedly checked teammate Ryan Johnson WAY too hard, and the result was a broken foot for Johnson. There was also some talk of a locker room fight involving Jesse and, at some point, a chair. The Blues knew they had a cancer on their hands, and despite an injury-depleted roster, they released him after just a few days.

Somehow, Jesse ended up back in the Carolina organization during the 2006-07 campaign, but only played a handful of games with Lowell before being cut.

This season, despite having colossally deficient in any skill category, he managed to make the Flyers roster. On the big club. Presumably to protect their $10M investment Daniel Briere.

We all know what happened next.

Also on Monday, it was reported that Boulerice made a little bit of good by calling Ryan Kesler to offer his apology. Kesler was "taken aback", and appreciated the effort by Boulerice. At least there's that.

I think we can safely assume that "the Bull" won't be playing in the NHL any more.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Canes outlast Habs 3-1.

Last Wednesday, the Canadiens spoiled Carolina's home opener. On Saturday night, Carolina returned the favor with a 3-1 win. Carolina is now 3-1-0 on the six game road trip. They will have the next five days off before playing Friday in Pittsburgh and Saturday in Philly.

Christopher Higgins got the Habs off and running just 1:12 into the game. After a failed attempt by Carolina to clear the defensive zone, Montréal had a great chance and they cashed in on it. Saku Koivu had the lone assist.

At 15:52, Demolition Derby Stillman tied the score at the tail end of a five-on-three power play. He was on the doorstep and easily tucked in a rebound of a Rod Brind'Amour shot. Eric Staal got the secondary assist.

During the period, Carolina's penalty kill looked really good, and they even had a few quality shorthanded chances. Better, though, was Cristobal Huet. He very calmly and adeptly handled all but one of the shots fired his way.

The second period was more of the same. Carolina had the majority of the scoring chances, and Huet was incredible. At roughly 13:00 of the second, he made a remarkable save on Eric Staal, who had a beautiful give-and-go scoring chance on the front porch.

Carolina chinked Huet's armor at 19:26 at the end of a power play. While utilizing the five-forward system, Erik Cole found Matt Cullen all alone in the slot for a quick shot that made it to the back of the net. It was Carolina's second power play goal of the night, and their seventh in the last three games.

In the third period, the home team came to life and they had the majority of the scoring chances. After mustering just four shots in each of the first two periods, the Canadiens fired 16 shots on Cam Ward in the third stanza. Meanwhile, they cracked down defensively, and only allowed the Canes 8 SOG in the third after allowing 13 in the first and 17 in the second.

At around 15:00 of the third, Huet took a sure goal away from Scott Walker, keeping the Habs in the game.

On the other end, Ward made dazzling save after dazzling save while Frantisek Kaberle, Bret Hedican and Nic Wallin "manned up" in front of him. Hedican was especially good, blocking a ton of shots. There is a marked difference in Ward's mobility this season, and one has to assume that it comes from his 20-pound weight loss and his attention to diet and training over the summer.

At 19:44, Chad "Sharpie" LaRose finally got a goal. Sure, it was an empty net goal, but they all look like highlight reel goals in the boxscore. He has worked exceptionally hard this season, and has been denied by posts and crossbars, and impossible saves. It's about time he got rewarded for his effort with an easy goal.

FSN South gave the three stars to Matt Cullen (third), Cristobal Huet (second) and Cam Ward (first). The "official" three stars went to Bret Hedican (third), Matt Cullen (second) and Cristobal Huet (first). I see it a little differently. The RBH three stars:

THIRD STAR Bret Hedican, CAR --- 6 blocked shots
SECOND STAR Cristobal Huet, MTL --- 35 saves
FIRST STAR Cam Ward, CAR --- 23 saves (16 in the 3rd), win

Without the Frenchman, this game would have been a runaway for Carolina. Huet deserves high marks for his heroic effort.

With help from his friends, Ward was able to win his fourth straight game, and now has a GAA of 1.80 and a save percentage of .943. With four wins, he stands behind only Martin Gerber in that category. And oh yeah, he beat Gerber on Thursday night.

Carolina has now won eight straight games in the Molson Bell Centre, dating back to the 03-04 season.

Tampa and Washington both lost tonight, which means that Carolina has increased their Southeast Division lead to three points. Obviously, it's WAY too early to think about playoff pictures, but the boys are off to a very good start.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Canes deal Sens first loss

On Thursday night, the Hurricanes visited Ottawa and became the first team to defeat the Senators this year. The scoreboard said 5-3, but it really wasn't that close at all. Carolina has got to be thrilled with how things went.

After a bunch of nothing early in the first, Erik Cole scored his first goal of the season at 17:23 to give the Canes a 1-0 lead. The Canes were on a power play and were crashing the net hard. Gerber made a great save on Eric Staal, but he completely lost sight of the rebound. After making the save on Staal, Gerber drifted off to his right, following Staal and Justin Williams. The puck, however, was way off to his left. Cole jumped on the rebound and fired it into a completely empty net. Staal and Hamilton had the helpers. Again, Carolina came through on the power play while using the aggressive five-forward system.

1:10 into the second, Matt Cullen gave the Canes an two goal cushion. Chad "Sharpie" LaRose led a charge from the left wing and made a run at the goal. Gerber stopped his shot, but the rebound went in the air and right out front. Matt Cullen was Johnny on the spot, batting it out of the air for the goal. After a brief review to look for a high stick, the goal was allowed to stand.

Dany Heatley got the home team on the board at 4:15 with a nice goal after a beautiful assist by Jason Spezza. Spez now has assists in every game. Wade Redden got the secondary assist on the even strength goal.

At 6:24, Sharpie's hard work led to another Carolina goal. He charged in from the right wing, went hard to the net, and fired a shot. Gerber easily made the save, but his rebound went right out front to the low slot. From there, Rod Brind'Amour shoved it in. Viva got the secondary assist.

The second period was truncated slightly due to a broken glass panel with less than a minute remaining. After the intermission, the period was finished, then they switched sides and started the third.

Erik Cole scored his second goal of the game at 6:42 of the third. Once again, it was Sharpie leading the way. He came down the right side and dropped a pass to the trailing Cole at the right faceoff dot. From there, Cole wristed it in to make it 4-1. Eric Staal had the secondary assist on the even strength goal.

The Sens were not ready to roll over and die, though. At 16:16, Mike Fisher scored, assisted by Antoine Vernette and Patrick Eaves.

Less than two minutes later, the home team made things really interesting. Joe Corvo fired a shot from the high slot through heavy traffic. It found its way in the net, and it was suddenly a one goal game. Spezza, who now has 10 assists on the year, and Heatley assisted.

With "Baby Food" Gerber pulled for an extra attacker, the Canes sealed the deal at 19:02. Eric Staal tucked the puck into the empty net, assisted by Cory Stillman.

After Tuesdays shellacking of the Leafs, it was good to see that the offensive outburst wasn't an anomaly. Seven goals on Tuesday and five on Thursday. That's good stuff. Like Tuesday, the wealth was really spread. Nine different players registered at least one point.

They continued with the aggressive style of crashing the net. Sure, it's a tired cliche, but good things happen when you crash the net. They also continued with the occasional employ of a five-forward power play. On the lone power play goal, the skaters were Cullen, Viva, Staal, Cole, and Hamilton. It's a risky maneuver, but the reward outweighs the risk.

The FSN South three stars were Staal (third), Cole (second) and LaRose (first). The "official" three stars were Mike Fisher (third), Cole (second) and LaRose (first). Mine were exactly like FSN. The RBH three stars:

THIRD STAR: Eric Staal, CAR --- 1 goal, 2 assists
SECOND STAR: Erik Cole, CAR --- 2 goals, including GWG
FIRST STAR: Chad LaRose, CAR --- 3 assists

Carolina will play in Montréal on Saturday. Then they'll return home for a five day break, and the roadtrip continues in Pittsburgh next Friday and Philly on Saturday.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Jesse, why are you such a jackass?

By now, we've all heard about and seen the vicious hit delivered by former Hurricane Jesse Boulerice of the Flyers to the head of the Canucks' Ryan Kesler.

Just in case, here it is:

Absolutely disgusting.

The game was well in hand. Flyers up 7-2, eight minutes left in the game. There is no need for that kind of aggression ever, and in this case you can't blame "heat of the competition".
Sure, the two players had been going at each other all night, but this kind of thing is completely outrageous.
The most disgusting thing about it is that Boulerice, who is completely useless outside of his "agitator" role, stood over Kesler and shook the gloves loose as if to suggest that he was going to give Kesler some more.

Steve Downie, who wouldn't have made the Flyers squad anyway, was suspended for 20 games for his violent head-high checking during the preseason. This was meant to send a message to the players that hits to the head will not be tolerated.
Apparently it didn't work.

I would expect a double digit games suspension. I seriously hope that "The Bull" gets tossed for the remainder of the year.

Was this as violent as McSorley/Brashear? No. As gruesome as Bertuzzi/Moore? No. Simon/Hollweg? No. But it deserves a suspension as long or longer than any of those.

Boulerice was once banned for an entire season from the OHL for a stick-swinging incident. He also faced assault charges in civil court for that incident. I think Colin "Clownshoes" Campbell would be remiss if he failed to take Jesse's history into account.

Unfortunately, the disciplinary office has been terribly fickle. They might decide that since Kesler was able to skate off on his own power, Boulerice should only get three games.

My hope is that he gets in excess of 25 games. I also hope that the league sends the Flyers a message. Surely at some point the coaches and front office have to have some accountability. A Flyer just pulled some jackass stunt two weeks ago, and now another Flyer with another jackass stunt. The league has got to send a message of some kind before things get even more out of control. I'm sure John Stevens didn't tell Boulerice to go out there and decapitate Kesler, but I don't know how else to send a message to both the players and the coaches.

What do you think? How many games does the Bull deserve?

Canes-Sens tonight

Carolina and Ottawa square off tonight at 7:30 at Scotiabanc Place. Carolina had the place to themselves yesterday, as the Sens were in Atlanta .

Ottawa is one of four remaining teams who have yet to lose. Hopefully, Carolina will do as they did in October of 2005, and put an end to the Sens perfection. Without a doubt, that 3-2 win was one of the most exciting games of that season. I remember it well, even without re-reading my post. It was the first game back after their annual two week October road trip. It was unseasonably cold that night and very windy.

This is game three of the six game swing. So far, the Canes have played their worst game of the season (Washington) and their best (Toronto). They will have to be something more like the latter because the Sens are no joke.

Since the Canes were shut out two games back, there are no point streaks entering the game, but ten Canes had at least one point on Tuesday and will be looking to do the same tonight.

Jason Spezza has yet to score a goal, but has eight assists so far this season, and has at least one point in every game. Of course my pointing out that he hasn't registered a goal means that he'll get three tonight, but it is what it is.

Eric Staal (4/1) and Viva (1/4) each have five points for the Canes to lead them into tonight.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Habs - Pens

Jeez, do I love Center Ice. This is my first year being a subscriber, and I'll definitely get my money's worth.

Tonight (so far), I watched the Pens-Habs. That was good stuff.

Carey Price raised some eyebrows across the league when he made the Canadiens final roster, but after tonight, I don't think he'll have any doubters. He won his NHL debut 3-2, and played very well.

The first goal he gave up, there was nothing he could do. Golden Boy Sidney Crosby had been given a slight nudge just outside the crease area, and he bowled Price over, then stood over the fallen goaltender as Ryan Whitney tucked the puck into an empty net. The referees decided that the contact was incidental, and no goaltender interference call was made. There was karmic payback, however, late in the game. With the Pens trailing 3-2, Evgeni Malkin stode into the Habs zone on a breakaway, but he was thwarted by a desperate pokecheck by a Montréal rearguard. Although it was marginal, the referees "decided" that contact was made with the puck before Malkin was knocked down. Thus no penalty shot. No interference penalty. Nothing.

The second goal that Price gave up, there was nothing that any goaltender in the NHL could have done. Malkin made a jaw-droppingly beautiful no-look backhanded pass from behind the cage to Maxim Talbot for a really nifty goal on the doorstep.

Price was "officially" the second star, but if RBH was handing them out, he would have been the first.

In other news, I took a quick glance at the Stars and Kings. I must admit that upon seeing the sweaters in action, I don't think the Stars home sweaters are bad at all.

I'm about to watch the 'Nucks and Flyers. I don't think I'll reverse my decision on the 'Nucks home sweaters.

Carolina Panthers sign Vinny Testaverde

Off topic -- NFL football.

On Wednesday, the NFL Carolina Panthers continued a long and frustrating tradition of signing 40-year old quarterbacks.

With Jake Delhomme out for the season with a bum elbow and David "Mickey Mouse" Carr nursing a sore back, that left Matt Moore as the only healthy quarterback heading into week six. As a security measure, the Panthers went out and found 44-year old Vinny Testaverde. I guess Bart Starr was unavailable.
Carr thinks he can start on Sunday, but even if he does, you still need some contingency plan.

First it was old man Frank Reich, who was 34 years old when he took the starting quarterback job. Then there's that Kerry Collins fiasco. Then there was old man Steve Beuerlein, who was 32, then there was the 29-year old "rookie" Chris Weinke. Then the 35-year old Rodney Peete. Then Delhomme, then Carr. What do all of these have in common? Except for Weinke, they're all "old", and they're all journeymen. Castoffs.

In keeping with tradition, the Panthers have a 44-year old castoff journeyman who just might become the starting quarterback.

According to the linked article in the Observer, Testaverde is two years younger than David Carr's father.
I guess "Mickey Mouse" is off the hook now. He'll no longer be the butt of all the locker room jokes.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Canes destroy Toronto

On Tuesday night, the visiting Hurricanes soundly defeated Toronto 7-1.

I'll take the over on bad puns appearing in newspaper headlines tomorrow. The most common will be:
Hurricanes blow Leafs away

Everything went right for the Hurricanes. Almost everything. Aside from Erik Cole missing an empty net.

12 Ten different gentlemen graced the scoresheet for the Hurricanes.

Cory Stillman, who played his first game of the season, and Justin Viva Williams led the way with a goal and two assists each.

Eric Staal had a goal and an assist.
Scott Walker had a goal and an assist.
Erik Cole had an assist.
Rod Brind'Amour had two assists.
Bret Hedican had an assist.
Glen Wesley had an assist.
Matt Cullen had a goal and an two assists.
Ray Whitney had a goal and an assist.
Jeff Hamilton had a goal.
Dennis Seidenberg had an assist.

Four goals came on the powerplay, and the only goal against was during a shorthanded sequence.

The "official" three stars went to Ray Whitney (third), Justin Williams (second) and Matt Cullen (first), but I'll give mine this way:

THIRD STARJustin "Viva" Williams, CAR --- 1 goal, 2 assists
SECOND STARCam Ward, CAR --- 27 saves
FIRST STAR Cory Stillman, CAR --- GWG, 2 assists

I won't bore all two of my readers with a rundown of the scoring. For that, refer to the official scoresheet.

This was Cory Stillman's first game this season after playing one-man demolition derby in the RBC parking lot on October 2. He played an amazing game. Maybe he should wreck his car more often.
I kid because I care. And because nobody got seriously hurt.

This game was characterized by the Canes playing aggressively. Going all the way back to the "Chairman Mo" years, the Hurricanes have been too passive on the power play. Tonight, they were very aggressive, using five forwards during some of the sequences. This is, allegedly, an innovation suggested by Ron Francis.

The game was also characterized by a lazy and listless Maple Leafs team. They were forced to take a lot of penalties because they were unable to keep up with the speedy Canes forwards. Erik Cole created a few power plays by drawing penalties to the Leafs defense.

Ray Whitney's goal, which made it 4-1, epitomized the Leafs play. They had turned aside a Canes scoring chance, and the puck was going the other way. A neutral zone turnover later, the Leafs players were all still going the other way and Whitney was allowed to waltz in unmolested. As the crappy Versus commentators said, it looked like they were out for a Sunday skate. Meanwhile, Whitney didn't miss his mark. That was 17:23 of the second. After that, the Leafs were done. They simply folded. Aside from a pathetic attempt by Darcy Tucker to start a fight at the expiration of the second, the Leafs showed no energy at all after that.

Curiously, Chariman Mo decided to "dance with the one who brung him", leaving Vessa Toskala between the pipes the entire game.

Speaking of Mo, let's not forget that he promised the Leafs would make the playoffs, and slighted the Hurricanes of yore by saying "This will be the most talented hockey team I've ever coached".

The Hurricanes six game road trip continues through Canada. They'll be in Ottawa on Thursday and Montréal on Saturday.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Cory Stillman incident

We've all heard about Cory Stillman's "car crash" that has kept him out of the lineup thus far. The only details we've been given have been that it was a "fender bender". Others wondered if "the other driver" was at fault, and most opined that it must have been. Our boy Cory couldn't have done anything wrong.

It occurred to me, though, that accident reports are publicly available, and I did a little research.

You can get to the accident report by clicking here. Then enter C Stillman in the "Driver" field, click on the link, and you got it.

The meat and potatoes of it is that it was a single car accident in the parking lot of the RBC Center at 2:16 pm on Tuesday October 2. He had his son in the car, and he veered off the service road and into a light pole. His Lexus had approximately $8000 of damage and was not drivable. The accident report doesn't indicate any injuries or the presence of any EMS technicians.

No alcohol or other "influence" was suspected, and there is no indication in the accident report as to what happened to cause the vehicle to go off the road.

So the chest injury is pretty much what it is. The airbag deployed and popped him pretty good. I've been in an accident where the airbag deployed, and I can assure you, it's no walk in the park.

According to Luke's blog, Stillman practiced today and should be ready to play tomorrow in Toronto. Also, Luke suggests that Bret Hediguchi Hedican has recovered from the "flu" and will be available. Sadly, defenseman Mike Commodore and winger Andrew Ladd are both nursing new injuries, and are doubtful.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Caps 2 - Canes 0

On Saturday night, the Hurricanes failed to show even 1/5 the intensity they had on Friday night. Coupled with some solid play by the home team Capitals, it resulted in a 2-0 loss.
This is just "one of those games". Crackers did everything he could, but the fellas in front of him weren't helping out. In fact, in the first period, the Hurricanes only managed to register two shots on goal.
Alexander Ovechkin got the Caps on the board at 14:24 of the first with a wrister from the slot. Viktor Kozlov and John Erskine assisted. As Kozlov came in on the right wing, it was pretty clear what was going to happen next, and AO made no mistake beating Grahame high on the blocker side. Sadly, it would turn out to be the game winner.

At 5:00 of the second, Milan Jurcina scored a power play goal which was assisted by Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom.

The Hurricanes got nine shots in the second, but few of them were worth noting. Actually, only one. Trevor Letowski had a fantastic shorthanded breakaway chance, but he softly shot a wrist shot into Kolzig's chest. It doesn't count as a shot on goal, but Chad LaRose had a shot bang off the right post.

In the third, there was no scoring. Carolina got 12 shots to finish with an unimpressive 23. Meanwhile, Washington was limited to 4 shots in the final frame, totaling 33 for the game.

Crackers made some very nice saves, especially a couple of robberies against Ovechkin. Without his good play, the Caps might have won 12-0. Unfortunately, he was left to dry. As a goaltender, you can't win any games when your team doesn't give you any run support. As a team you can't win games if you don't take any shots on goal.

This is one of those games that you hope they just put behind them immediately. Forget about it and move on to the next game Tuesday in Toronto.

The Canes just started their annual two-and-a-half week road swing while the North Carolina State Fair is in town. The fairgrounds are adjacent to the RBC Center, and they learned the hard way not to schedule home games during the fair.

Next home game is Monday October 22, when Roberto Luongo, Markus Naslund, the Sedinbots and the rest of the Canucks come to town for the first time since 2003-04.

Tonight's "official" three stars went to Viktor Kozlov (third), Alexander Ovechkin (second) and Olaf Kolzig (first). I don't really agree with this. I don't think Grahame's hard work should go unnoticed, I don't think Kolzig had to work that hard to earn the shutout, and I don't think Ovechkin's overall effort was given enough credit. I see it a little differently. The RBH three stars:

THIRD STAR: John Grahame, CAR --- 31 saves
SECOND STAR: Olaf Kolzig, WAS --- 23 saves, win, shutout
FIRST STAR: Alexander Ovechkin, WAS --- GWG, 6 SOG, 4 hits, 3 takeaways, 3 blocked shots

Tanabe back in the fold

On Saturday morning, the Hurricanes came to terms with defenseman David "Snuggles" Tanabe on a two-year two-way contract. Tanabe will be joining the team for the third time in his career and should be available for tonight's conference tilt with the Washington Capitals.

Tanabe will earn $600K this year at the NHL level and $900K next year. At the AHL level, he would earn $100k each year.

Tanabe was maligned early last season for being "soft" and "lazy". He was often referred to on this page as "Avi" (David minus the D) and was the target of much criticism from fans. In the second half of the season, he really turned it on, though, and became one of the most dependable blueliners on the team. There was speculation that he had been playing hurt early on and was a bit timid with respect to physical play.

I was surprised that the free agency period came and went and Tanabe didn't get picked up by anybody. He was rumored to be in the Canes training camp, but never was. He showed up at the Blues camp, but was released in the final cuts.

"Snuggles" registered 17 (5/12) points last season, the bulk of them coming in the second half. He had two power play goals and finished the season with a +5 rating.

Bret Hedican is out with an "illness". Although he looked good on Wednesday, I still think he should retire. Mike Commodore played with a deep contusion on his leg Friday night. Props to him for that. There was some talk of calling up one of the boys from Albany. This move sure sounds like it's more than a stopgap thing.

My guess is that we'll hear something about Hedican within a couple of days.

This isn't a blockbuster move, but this is a hell of a good deal on a veteran defenseman who is still young. Pending his physical and approval by the NHL, Tanabe will be availabe tonight in our nation's capital.

He will wear his old familiar #45.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Canes smash Pens, E Staal shines

I watched tonight's game from the confines of the bar where I work. I went with a friend of mine who is a HUGE Penguins fan, and we raised the ire of a lot of people who wanted to watch the conclusion of the Yankees-Indians game. We only have two teevees, but I saw no reason for both of them to show the baseball game, and I get to do what I want, so that's the way it was. Go to the other end of the bar to watch baseball.

Honestly, I don't like writing about a game that I watched in a bar. There's too many distractions and usually the sound isn't on, so I don't watch the game as closely as I would like. By the end of the second period, I wasn't really giving it as much attention as I wanted to, so I'll have to watch the DVR to get everything right.

The crux of it is that Eric Staal scored the first two goals of the game to give him three for the season. The goal on Wednesday that was given to Staal, then changed to Cole was eventually changed back to Staal. He's now on pace for 123 goals this season. Obviously he won't hit that mark, but he's off to a fantastic start.
At 7:08, he knocked one in from the low slot assisted by Tim Gleason and Jeff Hamilton.

At 13:21, Staal made a very nifty move culminating in a backhand shot from the right circle. The shot fluttered through Fleurry, giving the Canes a 2-0 lead. At first I thought it had ricocheted off Fleurry's right skate, but replays showed that it actually caromed off Brooks (aka "Public Enemy #1) Orpik's skate. Cole and Hamilton assisted.

Andrew Ladd looked really good in getting to a loose puck and beating Fleurry with it. Sloppy notes on this one, but Justin Williams and Dennis Seidenberg assisted.

At 17:35, Jeff Hamilton did exactly what we brought him in to do. He quarterbacked the power play and scored a goal from the point. Rod Brind'Amour and Ray Whitney assisted. On a side note, Ray Whitney was up to his old antics, hamming it up during the pre-game interview with Rod Brind'Amour. Hijacking the spotlight by skating by and mugging for the camera. We didn't see a lot of that last season.

Cam Ward lost his shutout bid at 16:37 of the third when our old friend Mark Recchi notched a power play goal (assisted by Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar. Although we'd have preferred the shutout, we still got a convincing win, and you can never complain when the Recchin' Ball does something good.

I'll have to watch the DVR of the game to catch some of the stuff I missed.

The "official" three stars went to Andrew Ladd (third), Eric Staal (second) and Cam Ward (first).
Those are fine, but I don't think there's any way you can discount Jeff Hamilton's great night. I had an easy time selecting my three stars, but a difficult time enumerating them. The RBH three stars go to:
Third Star: Eric Staal, CAR --- 2 goals, GWG
Second Star: Jeff Hamilton, CAR --- 1 goal, 2 assists
First Star: Cam Ward, CAR --- 33 saves, win

In the course of the game, Jordan Staal squared up against Eric in the face-off circle two times. Eric won both faceoffs, and has earned two gatorades.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Francis named Assistant GM

On Thursday, the Hurricanes filled the vacated Assistant GM position with a name everyone in the hockey world knows: Ron Francis.
Francis will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this November 12, and is the only Hurricanes player to have his number officially retired.

Francis' numbers within the organization will likely never be surpassed. In 14 seasons (plus two partial seasons), Francis amassed 1175 points (382/793) in 1186 regular season games. He had 22 consecutive seasons with 50 or more points, including the strike-shortened 1994-95 season. Not even Wayne Gretzky can say that.

Francis also added 14 goals and 25 assists for 39 points in 62 playoff games with this franchise. Those numbers will be passed by Rod Brind'Amour. The playoff goals already have.

Francis also spent several years with the Penguins, tallying 607 (164/443) points in 533 regular season games and 100 (32/68) points in 97 playoff games. He won two Stanley Cups (1991, 1992) in the Steel City and scored the Cup-winning goal in 1992.

After his retirement as a player, Francis returned to the Raleigh area, and was eventually brought into the Hurricanes front office. That was a move that surprised nobody. Initially, he refused offers, but in 2006, he became the Director of Player Development. In that role, he oversees the development of players "in the system" as well as monitoring players in junior hockey for future draft consideration.

Francis will continue with his Player Development duties and will ease into the position of being Jim Rutherford's right hand man.

I am very lucky to have had Francis on my favorite team and very lucky indeed to have been able to watch him in person dozens of times.

Good move for Ron. Good move for the organization.

Canes lose season opener

There was much fanfare surrounding the season opener last night, but in the end, the fans left the building thinking that they had just seen the Hurricanes of 2006-07. The Hurricanes forced overtime and emerged with one standings point, but like last season, they left with a loss on their hands.
This post will be bare-bones. A more detailed one will come later.

Early on, the Canes looked pretty good. There were some good hits, some good aggressive play, some good pressure, and even a first strike goal.

At 3:37, Erik "Hab Killa" Cole re-directed a one-time blast from Eric Staal near the top of the right circle. It was a power play goal (!). Officially, Cole from Staal and Walker at 3:37.

The Habs knotted it up at 13:01. Mark Streit from Alexei Kovalev and Andrei Markov on the power play.

In the first, the Canes had several good chances go by the wayside. Ray Whitney missed a yawning net, they hit a few posts, and on a few occasios, Cristobal Huet made spectacular saves.

No scoring in the second, but the Canes blew a golden opportunity at about 17:00 when the Habs made a sloppy change. The Canes ended up with a three-on-one break and couldn't convert the opportunity. This is what I would later refer to as the "Chad LaRose syndrome". Failure to finish.

9:31 of the third, Saku Koivu put the visitors ahead after Nic Wallin had been sent of for tripping. He went hard to the net and tapped one in from the low slot. Officially Koivu from Markov on the power play.

Bret Hedican rifled one in from the blue line at 12:48 to buoy the Canes hopes. Justin "Viva" Williams and Rod Brind'Amour with the assists. It was the only even strength goal of the game for either team.

Early in the overtime frame, Nic Wallin was again sent away on a cross-checking call. The Habs got what they needed out of their captain when Koivu scored the game-winner at 1:05 of the extra frame. Chris Higgins and Michael Ryder got the assists.

The "official" three stars went to Hedican (3), Cam Ward (2) and Koivu (1). I don't think this does justice to the way Huet played. The RBH three stars went:

THIRD STAR: Erik Cole, CAR. --- 1 goal
SECOND STAR: Cristobal Huet, MTL
FIRST STAR: Saku Koivu, MTL --- 2 goals, GWG

I'll have to go back and check the history, but it seems like Koivu has been what Cole is to the Habs: kryptonite. He certainly was on Wednesday.

During the first intermission, I had the opportunity to finally meet some of my fellow bloggers. It was a short meeting, but it was great to finally meet these good folks.

More on everything later. For now, work.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Opening night is finally here!
After a summer of relative silence, there are no less than TWENTY-THREE!!!!! hockey articles in today's News and Observer. Good job, boys. I haven't had time to read them all, but there's some doozies in there.

After some craziness, some back-and-forth, it looks like fans in North Carolina will be able to catch this game on Teevee. The Canes network wasn't covering it, and Center Ice usually blacks out the local feed for home games, but fans will be able to get the froggy RDS feed. Most people down here don't speak French fluently, so they'll be doing the old college basketball trick of watching the television while listening to the local radio feed. Only problem is, in these modern times, the radio feed runs on a delay of about one second while the teevee feed typically runs on a seven second delay. It's a bit dizzying to hear it before you see it.


Puck drop at 7:00. See you there.


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