The much maligned Flyers rolled into town with three players under NHL suspension and all eyes on them. Many have called them "dirty". Many have called them the "Broad Street Bullies Redux", alluding to their rough and tumble play in the 1970's when they first got the moniker. On Tuesday night on national (cable) tv, Brian Engblom stopped short of calling them "dirty", but called them "the stupidest team in the NHL".
Tonight, there was no rough business, but the visitors asserted themselves on the scoreboard. Last Wednesday, they came in and just embarrassed the Canes 6-3 thanks to a hat trick by Daniel Briere. It wasn't quite as brutal this time, but it wasn't pretty. The final tally Wednesday night was 3-1, but it wasn't really even that close.
Carolina has now lost five of their last seven games, and they have gone ice cold in the goal scoring department. As the injured players are working their way back into the lineup, the lines are being juggled and there might be some chemistry issues. Either way, the Canes have been outscored 27-13 in those seven games.
The same thing happened tonight that has happened in most of the games this entire month. First period even, second period awful, third period good.
The first period tonight was really evenly played. No score, shots were about even. No penalties in tonight's first frame. In the second period, they didn't show up. This has been a recurring theme. During this seven game span, the Canes have been outscored 5-3 in first periods, 12-1 in second periods and 10-9 in third periods. In the final frame, Carolina showed a little bit of life, and the guys desperately tried to get the team back in it.
Another recurring theme is that the power play has been awful. Heading into this seven game doldrum, Carolina was the top scoring team in the league and had the #2 power play in the league. These days, the power play looks more like a penalty kill. They can't pass, they can't shoot, they can't create havoc in front of the net. They can't even keep the puck in the zone. It's just been ugly.
Philly is a very good team, and I don't feel bad about losing to them. I do feel bad, though, that the Hurricanes looked awful for about 35 minutes, and never looked "good".
Canadian-turned-American Mike Knuble was the man tonight. He had a hand in all three goals. One goal and two assists to give him 16 (8/8) points on the season. He walked away with the game's first star.
Mike Richards had a two point night and walked away with the third star. Marty Biron made 40 saves and was the second star.
I don't know how to "fix" the Canes. Don't be mislead by the 41 shots the Canes put on net. Very few of them were quality. Definitely, the special teams units need some extra work. The other night against Washington the Canes surrendered three power play goals. The first two were really quick. The PK has been struggling, and as I mentioned, the PP has suddenly become stone cold.
One thing that would help this team is if they moved one of their slumping defensemen (read: Frantisek Kaberle) and one of their marketable, but often lost in a numbers game forwards (read: Andrew Ladd) for one of those fancy puck-moving defensemen. Dion Phaneuf is one of these guys who fall into that "puck moving" category, and would add youth to an aging blue line in Carolina. He's in the last year of his rookie contract and will be a RFA at the end of this season. He could easily demand a $4M payday and nobody in the NHL would bat an eye. Although is sure would be a crowd pleaser, there's no way this is going to happen in Carolina. Especially with the Flames having some injury issues to their own defense. This is another post for another day: Ladd and Kaberle for Phaneuf and change.
Carolina will be glad to see the Flyers leave town. They have been a rude guest, beating us twice in our own barn. The home stand (and the horrid month) end this Friday when the Capitals come to town.
Washington is a team that Carolina should beat every time out. They have had trouble with the Caps this season. They just can't beat them and their pompous Russian phenom. They've given the Canes fits this season. Fits, I tell you! Oh sure, there was that 5-0 shutout we handed them, but aside from that, they've been a tough customer. And they will continue to be.
Tonights "official" three stars and the RBH three stars are identical:
THIRD STAR Mike Richards, PHI -- 2 assists
SECOND STAR Martin Biron, PHI -- 40 saves, win
FIRST STAR Mike Knuble, PHI -- 1 goal, 2 assists
Cam Ward was decent for the Canes, making a few highlight reel saves, but he looked a bit shaky. He had trouble handling his rebounds, he had trouble handling the puck, and he looked out of position way too frequently. It isn't like him to come way out to challenge someone, but he was doing it a lot, and doing it at inappropriate times. I wonder if he's got the flu or something. He just didn't look himself tonight.
I'd like to say that the Canes will have a hard practice on Thursday and will right the ship and come out with a fire under their asses on Friday, but I know I'll be wrong.
4 years ago