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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Flyers down Canes (again)

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.

Leafs front office, bench in turmoil; Rutherford, Francis not going anywhere

There certainly has been a lot of talk about the Maple Leafs. The team is struggling, and everyone is talking about replacing players, coach Paul Maurice and even general manager John Ferguson Jr. Although the writing is on the wall, MLSE President Richard Peddie denies reports that he is looking to replace Mo and JFJ.

Peddie admitted, with the benefit of hindsight, that it was a mistake to hire Ferguson in 2003. Neil Smith and Steve Tambellini were both leading candidates for the position, but MLSE went with the inexperienced Ferguson.
"To be honest, it was a mistake on my part for not fully understanding at the time what the job of being (the Leafs GM) in this market fully entailed. Let's face it. It probably was the wrong place for a rookie general manager to start. I mean, all GMs make mistakes, but they are not under the constant microscope and scrutiny that you have in Toronto, which is, in our opinion, the top hockey market there is.

"That is all hindsight now. John has had time to learn a lot since then."

Certain bloggers and even some journalists are suggesting that Ron Francis is being considered for the job. There is also some speculation -again, by bloggers- that Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford is in consideration.

Neither is going anywhere.

There's an awful lot of talk about a few other guys, who would all be "rookie GMs". Steve Yzerman and Mark Messier are a few names, but that just reeks of Garth Snow. Sure, these guys were much much better players than Garth Snow, but they were just players. I think those names are being thrown out just for fun.
Another name is John Muckler. Most recently, Muckler was the General Manager of the Senators between 2001 and 2007. Previous to that, he had twelve years of head coaching experience with the Rangers, the Sabres and the Oilers.

The other, more likely candidates, according to the article in the Toronto Star are:
  • legendary NHL coach Scotty Bowman, who has already said no.
  • hockey analyst and former NHL goalie Glenn Healy. Healy had a 15 year career in the NHL with the Kings, Islanders, Rangers and Leafs. Since retiring in 2001, he's worked for CSC and TSN doing color commentary and analysis. Credentials as GM = none.
  • NHL Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin "Clownshoes" Campbell. Campbell has reportedly been approached about the position, and he has a way to get out of his NHL obligations to take a GM position. He was head coach of the Rangers for four seasons between 1994 and 1998. He was offered the GM position in Philadelphia in 2006, but he rejected it with hopes that the Toroto position would become available.

As the losses pile up, I really wouldn't be surprised to see both Chairman Mo and JFJ lose their jobs.

My bet would be that Campbell takes the GM position and that former Thrashers bench boss Bob Hartley takes the head coach position.

If that comes to pass, we would all find new ways to hate "Clownshoes Campbell" and Hartley. It'll be fun.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Flyers at it again

On Monday night, while the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins were playing the worst NFL game ever, the Flyers were involved in yet another filthy play that ended with yet another player face down and motionless on the ice. For the second time, it was a Bruins player who bore the brunt.

Andrew Alberts, on his knees a few feet from the boards and completely defenseless was drilled and driven into the boards by Scott Hartnell. Hartnell defended the hit saying "I'm a guy who always finishes his checks", but this is a case where he clearly could have and should have left the vulnerable player alone.

Hartnell was given a major penalty and a game misconduct.

The Bruins didn't retaliate. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara:
"We probably ended up with some bruises, but we have two points and that's the most important thing right now. It's up to the league to address things like that."

Personally, I don't see a huge suspension coming for Hartnell. Maybe four games. I said before and I'll say again, though, that the League has to take into consideration that this is a team with multiple offenses.

These goons will be in Raleigh on Wednesday. I'm a little worried.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Canes defeat Bolts 4-3

On Friday, the Hurricanes bested the visiting Lightning4-3 after a dominant third period. The win over their division foe, coupled with the loss by Atlanta (who was tied for second in the division) allows Carolina to expand its slim lead in the division.

The Florida Panthers won their non-divisional game and leapfrogged the Bolts and Thrash into second place. Carolina's lead over them is six points, but Carolina has a game in hand on the Kitties. Atlanta and Tampa are both seven points back, and both have one game in hand on the Canes.

The first thing to note about tonight's game is that Erik Cole did indeed return to the lineup. Last week in Florida, Cole re-injured his neck in a very scary collision with Tomas Vokoun. He missed four games. Carolina lost three of those, and looked really bad along the way. When Cole went over the boards for his first shift, about a minute into the game, the crowd went nuts. He immediately started throwing himself around, hitting guys and flying all over the ice. You forget how skilled he is in so many different areas when he's been out of the lineup.

Just 4:53 into the game, Cole assisted Erik Staal on the game's first goal. Cory Stillman took Cole's pass and fired on Holmqvist. From the right post, Staal hacked away at the rebound until he finally got it to go over the line. After a very long review, the on-ice call was allowed to stand and the Canes had a 1-0 lead. Stillman had the first assist, and Cole actually had the secondary assist.

The goal was the 100th of Staal's career, his 14th this season.

At 14:03, Paul Ranger tied it up for the visitors. He fired one in from above the left circle high on Cam's glove side. Michel Ouellet and Brad Richards assisted.

The first period was a stalemate on the scoreboard, and although Tampa had a SOG advantage, it seemed really evenly played.

The second period was all Bolts. At 12:08 of the second, that first line put on a clinic. They just passed and skated their way around the Carolina reargaurds as if they weren't even there. At the end of a particularly impressive passing sequence, Vaclav Prospal (who I refuse to call "Vinny" beat Ward to take the lead. Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lacavalier had the helpers.

Bret Hediguchi made an awful play, getting completely pantsed by Lacavalier trying to clear the zone. Lacavalier took Hedican off the puck, sauntered in all alone, and buried it on Ward. St. Louis and Filip Kuba had the assists.

Carolina had a couple of power play opportunities in that second frame, but they were having a difficult time keeping it in the offensive zone. Forget about "applying pressure". That just wasn't happening.

Something happened in the room between the second and the third. I wish I knew what it was, but they came out completely different. For example, the Hurricanes could only muster three shots in the second, and they got off 12 SOG in the third period. Three of those found the back of the net.

Ray Whitney fired a wrister from the top of the left circle to put the Canes back in it at 1:56 of the second. Matt Cullen had the only assist.

Justin Viva Williams tied the score with a really amazing shot from the high slot that beat the "evil" Swede high. Rod Brind'Amour and Tim Gleason got the assists.

Old man Glenn Wesley broke the tie with his first goal of the season at 8:43. He fired one from the top of the left circle. I could swear that it had been tipped by Staal in the low slot, but apparently it went straight in. Erik Cole and Cory Stillman got the assists.

Carolina will travel to Washington DC tonight and will take on the Capitals on Saturday night. The Caps beat Philly in overtime, so both teams will travel a tiny bit, sleep a little while, and have an optional morning skate.

The "official" three stars were Eric Staal (third star), Cory Stillman(second star) and Erik Cole (first). I just can't ignore the effort by the visiting team, so the RBH three stars go:
THIRD STAR Martin St. Louis, TBL --- 2 assists
SECOND STAR Cory Stillman, CAR --- 2 assists
FIRST STAR Erik Cole, CAR --- 2 assists, 5 hits, 3 takeaways

Bolts come to town

Tonight, the Hurricanes will host the Bolts in a key Southeast Division matchup. In two previous meetings this season, Tampa has owned the Canes, winning 6-1 and 5-1.

Last time, Peter Laviolette started former Bolt Johnny Crackers, and it didn't pay off. They beat him badly. Meanwhile, the Canes were having a whale of a time solving Johan Holmqvist.

As difficult as it was to solve the Swede, the Canes had even more trouble shutting down the high-octane first line of the Bolts. Vincent Lacavalier and Marty St. Louis have been on fire. Vaclav Prospal (who I refuse to call "Vinny") has been pretty productive too. And of all people, defenseman Shane O'Brien - formerly of the Ducks- potted two goals in the first meeting.

The good news is that Erik Cole has been activated from the IR. No word yet on whether he'll play. I suppose it's one of those game-time decisions. The Canes have been, in a word, flat since his injury last week.

I suppose Cam Ward will be in the nets for the home team.

According to the N&O, they'll be wearing a redesigned sweater that will eliminate some of the problems players have been reporting. They'll be a bit roomier and will have less of that stuff that makes the moisture wick away.

I'm hoping Dennis Seidenberg will return to the ice and "Avi" Tanabe will return to the pressbox. Like the first part of last season, he's been bad most of the time this season.

Scott Walker has been practicing, but without contact. No timetable on a return at this point.

Good news! Former full-time anthem singer Karen Tulloss (now Pahl) will be singing the anthem tonight. She was always a fan favorite, and there were many upset people when she was replaced with Holly Wilver after the lockout, and the little eight year old girl this year. Apparently, she's on permanent stand-by as the "#2 singer". I don't want to wish illness on anyone, but it wouldn't hurt my feelings if the little girl is unable to sing for a while.

Details and stuff when I get back tonight.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cast your all-star ballots. Cast them often

It's that time of year again. Time for people to write programming code that will have their home computer cast all-star ballots all day long while they are at work. Time for fans in some NHL city to go hog-wild, voting for some obscure player as a write-in. Time for the ludicrousness that is the NHL All-Star balloting.

At the top of the sidebar of this page, you will see a button displaying the All-Star '08 logo. Click it to get to the on-line ballot. Once again, the League is going away from the scan-tron cards and using the all electronic method of letting its fans vote for their favorite players.

The Carolina Hurricanes have three players on the ballot. Justin Williams and Eric Staal, who were both All-Stars last season, and Cam Ward. According to the N&O, they're not faring well in the polling. Carolina Hurricanes fans are being lazy. As of Tuesday morning, Eric Staal was in 20th place in the Eastern Conference forwards voting with 8746 votes. Compare that to Sidney Crosby with 94118. That's a huge gap. Justin Williams is in 27th place with 4611 votes. Get out there and vote! Vote often! There is no limit to the number of ballots you can cast.

Write-in candidate Mike Richards from the Flyers has 10315 votes, putting him in 17th place.

Neither Rod Brind'Amour (26 points in 21 games) nor Cory Stillman (25 points in 18 games) are on the ballot. They are both off to spectacular starts, but stand no chance of becoming All-Stars. Meahwhile, Maxim Afinogenov from the Sabres is off to a terrible start (6 points in 18 games), and he's on the ballot and getting lots of votes. He's in 10th place with 17782 votes. Nice job by the die-hard Sabre fans.

It's still very early in the balloting process, so a lot could change, but I don't like the fact that Dan Boyle is on the ballot. Dan Boyle, who has played in only 3 games this season, and who is sidelined indefinitely with a second wrist surgery.

It's pretty clear that the names on the ballots are decided before the season even starts. This isn't a very good system. They should either drop the silliness of making the vote 100% from the fans and 100% electronic, or they should make it so there are no names at all. Make it write-ins only.


Anyway. Vote. Vote often. Write in Chad LaRose. Write in Rod Brind'Amour. Write in Cory Stillman. Write in Ray Whitney.

Fans who have Verizon Wireless cellphone service can also cast their ballots through their phone. I don't recommend doing that. It takes entirely too long.

Click on my button, or go to NHL.com.

Monday, November 19, 2007

NHL players by nationality since 2002

On Saturday night, I watched the game between the Flames and Oilers. I also watched the post game "After Hours" on Hockey Night In Canada. Ron Maclean made reference to a post written by Greg over at The Puck Stops Here about the dwindling Russian presence in the NHL. Before the lockout, there were 58 Russians in '01-02, 57 in '02-03, and 57 again in '03-04. Since the lockout, there were 40 in '06, 35 last season, and just 27 so far this season.

The TPSH post, and the panel on HNIC cited the lack of transfer agreement with Russia as a main reason. I'm not by any means an expert on the incatracies of the politics and economics of the transfer agreement, but Russia is the only European country who has refused to sign. The biggest benefit to Russia is that an NHL player who is unhappy with his small role as a fourth line winger or a seventh defenseman, can flee to Russia. His NHL contract wouldn't be binding, and he would be free to play for whichever Elite League team pays him the most. And there is big money. Unless he is an elite player, a young guy might decide to stay in Russia rather than enter the draft. An NHL veteran might decide to go back home for better money and a better chance at stardom.

Greg things that those roster spots that would have been filled by Russians are now being filled by "North Americans", and that it might compromise quality. I'm not sure that I agree with that. It would have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis, which is impossible.

I remember hearing at some point last season that the overall number of players in the NHLPA isn't what it was before the lockout. I can't recall, but it seems like I heard or read that there was a decrease of something like 5%. I might have made that up.

At any rate, that post, and the HNIC discussion about it got me thinking about a few things. First, I wondered if there was a sharp decline in the number of Russian defensemen. I don't know why, but that was one of my first thoughts. Then I wondered how much of an increase there was in US-born players in the NHL. So I did some research.

In terms of Russian players, the only thing that has been consistent is the number of goalies. Two. There were 38 forwards in the 2001-02 season, and just 15 have played so far this season. That's a pretty sharp drop. The ten defensemen today compared to the 18 in '02 is also a pretty significant decline. Are these positions really being taken by "North Americans"?

I also took a look at the other five major nationalities in the NHL. The majority of players come from (in this order) Canada, the United States, Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. We've already looked at the Russians, and we'll save the big dogs for later.

I guessed that there would have been more Czechs in the NHL today than there were six years ago. Not quite. The tiny dip in the number of forwards isn't worth talking about, but there were 31 Czech defensemen in 2002 and just 18 today. Another notable shift. Not as big, though, as the extremely sharp drop in Czech netminders. There were seven in 2002 and just three today. More on that in a bit.
As Greg mentioned, the Russian Elite leagues aren't completely populated with Russian-born players. There are a number of Ukranian, Czech, Slovakian, even Finnish players. Again, this is a guess, but it might be the case that some Czech players who might make a marginal impact in the NHL are opting for more money in the Russian Elite league.
Next up are the Swedes. You buy a Volvo, you know what you're getting. Nothing too flashy. Consistent, reliable, in it for the long haul. There's no way to tie that in, and I'm not a Volvo driver, but I just wanted to make the a car reference. Like the Volvo, the Swedish hockey players aren't making any ripples one way or the other in terms of growth or decline. In 2002, there were a total of 53 Swedish players in the NHL. There were 49 last year and 46 so far this season. A tiny, insignificant dip. Note that there were, and still are, exactly four Swedish goaltenders. And they're not the same four. Unlike the Czechs and their Skoda, the Swedes and their Volvo are keeping on at basically the same rate.

No more car jokes. To be honest, I don't know anything about Skoda aside from the fact that they're made in Czech Republic. Added to that, I don't know if there are any cars manufactured in Finland.
There hasn't been any fluctuation to speak of with the Finns. There were 42 in 2002, and there were 42 last season. So far this year, just 31, but it's still a young season. If there's anything worth noting, it's that there used to be 15 Finnish defensemen and there are just 8 today. Small sample size, I know, but it stands out.

There has been a good deal of change in the numbers of US-born NHLers.The number of American forwards has risen and fallen. While there is a general uptrend, there are two fewer today than there were who played in the 2002 season. Last season, there was an all-time high of 104 US-born forwards. The numbers of defensemen have been steadily growing. 42 in 2002, and 60 to this point in the 2008 season. For three years running, there were exactly 13 American goaltenders. After the lockout, there were 20. 14 last year, and just a sad six today. There were four straight years of slight growth in terms of total American NHLers. By the time this season is over, we'll probably see another small increase. Maybe by 2010, there'll be 200 US-born players in the NHL.

Last but obviously not least is the Canadians. They are by far and away the most represented in the NHL. However, it's a little surprising. The Canadian contingency enjoyed rapid growth in the first three years of this study. Then the lockout happened. After that, there has been a drop in the number of Canadians in the NHL. There were 339 Canadian forwards in 2004, and to this point, just 239 this year. Almost an identical percentage decline in defensemen. There were 155 in 2004, and 109 this season. Not much change in goaltenders. There were 51 Canadian netminders in 2002, 54 in 2004 and 43 last season. There have been 37 this season.
It's the overall numbers, though. The high mark was 548 Canadians in 2004. 517 in 2006. 495 in 2007. So far this season, only 385 have played. A downtrend not as dramatic as that of the Russians, but way bigger in numbers.

This season is still in its infancy and all of these figures will adjust. However, I don't think they'll adjust enough to back up the claims that Russian roster spots are being given to North Americans. Certainly not to Canadians. They themselves have to wonder where their roster spots have gone.

And the Americans have to wonder where their goalie spots have gone. In that case, it's easy to blame the helpless Swiss and their four goaltenders or the French, but even those five don't account for a drop from 20 all the way to six.

The answer is that these jobs haven't been taken away and given to other nationalities. There are just simply fewer total players. With the exception of the United States, which has had a marginal amount of growth, every other major hockey nationality has been stagnant or experienced a decline.

If we were to do a different study where all we counted was players on the normal every-day roster, we might have different findings. If we're going to count every player that plays at least one game, we have to accept the fact that it isn't an anti-communist conspiracy.

Overall, there were 68 fewer players in the NHL last year than there were the year before the lockout. In that time, Canada had a net loss of 53. Russia had a net loss of 22. Sweden had a net loss of four. Czech had a net loss of nine. Finland had a net gain of three. USA had a net gain of 22.

Nobody wants to talk about Canada's loss or America's gain because neither is as statistically significant as Russia's loss.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Canes eke out 2-1 win; Wesley joins elite group.

On Saturday, the Hurricanes defeated the visiting Kitties 2-1 on two goals by Rod Brind'Amour. Glen Wesley became just the 10th defenseman to play in 1,400 games. Most importantly was that Carolina snapped a two game losing streak, and earned a regulation win against a division opponent.

The game wasn't televised by Carolina or Florida. Even with Center Ice, I couldn't watch this game. So it was Chuckandtheletterk for me.

Surprisingly, it was Cam Ward rather than Johnny Crackers who started in nets. I figured since Cam worked last night and Grahame has played well against the Kitties, it would be #47. Maybe coach Laviolette lost faith in him after the 6-1 shelling in The City of Tampa the other night. After the embarrassing 6-1 and 2-0 losses to Tampa and Atlanta respectively, there were obviously no points streaks for any Hurricanes players.

There was, however, a streak of home games without a loss against the Kitties on the line. The last time Florida won in Raleigh was December 6, 2002. Chairman Mo was still here. Kevin Weekes was still here. Jeff O'Neill was still here. Even Arturs Irbe was still here. Sandis Ozolinsh had the game winning goal and Roberto Luongo was the winning goaltender in a 2-0 shutout. I was at that game, and it was miserable. It was just after a horrendous ice storm had paralyzed the state. I had no power or heat for nine days during the coldest winter we've had in some time. I had an out-of-town visitor staying with my in my frigid, powerless apartment. Her whole reason for visiting -- an Aimee Mann concert -- fell through because the interstate highways were shut down and we couldn't go. Nothing went right. That whole visit was a fiasco that's another story for another day.

Anyway, it had been a looooooong time since the Kitties has won a game in the RBC Center, and the home team intended to keep it that way.

Rod Brind'Amour made sure it stayed that way. He scored a power play goal at 9:52 of the first period and an even strength goal at 2:44 of the third. The second goal was waived off on the ice, and the indication was that it had been kicked in. Brindy demanded a video review, and the on-ice ruling was overturned.

Nathan Horton foiled Cam Ward's shutout bid at 13:59 of the third with a power play. Again, I had no visual, but Chuckandtheletterk described it as fluky. Apparently, he was below the goal line, threw one at the net and it went in off Glen "Mr. 1400" Wesley.

Late in the third, Carolina had to kill off a long 5-on-3 power play.

For some reason, Florida elected not to pull Vokoun until there were about 30 seconds left, and Carolina was unable to get an empty net goal for their Captain. As a matter of fact, Vokoun was only out of net for about 10 seconds before going back in.

Nic Wallin returned to the lineup, but for some reason, "Avi" Tanabe stayed in as a seventh defenseman. Also, for some strange reason, Jeff Hamilton had very limited ice time. Despite being a consistently good player, and the only one who showed up against Tampa, Hambone was limited to five shifts tonight for a grand total of 5:45 TOI. I'd much rather see Hambone double shifted than have Avi Tanabe as a seventh defenseman/forward.

I'll defer to the "official" three stars:

THIRD STAR Tim Gleason, CAR --- 5 hits, 3 blocked shots, 2 takeaways, 5 PIM
SECOND STAR Cam Ward, CAR --- 27 saves, win
FIRST STAR Rod Brind'Amour, CAR --- 2 goals, GWG

Carolina will have a few days off before hosting the Flyers on Wednesday.

Another retirement

The Onion scores another goal with its parody story about Eric Lindros retiring from a "78 year career" with Citibank.
This is right up there with some of their best hockey comedy.

My all-time favorite is If Al-Qaeda Had a Hockey Team, We'd Kick Its Ass!. I swear I burst into hysterical, cant-breathe, tears-streaming-down-my-face laughter every time I read that one. Unless you hate comedy, I strongly urge you to click and read. Here's a snippet:
President Bush'd be there to fire up our skaters by looking right at the al-Qaeda bench and repeating his warning to all terrorists: "Bring it on!" The crowd would go nuts! Everyone would be going so crazy, they'd hardly hear Ted Nugent sing the national anthem! The camera would cut to the al-Qaeda bench, and they'd all be sitting in their towel helmets thinking, "Oh, shit, what the fuck did we get ourselves into?"

Here are links to some of my other favorite hockey parody stories with little previews:

Good stuff. Good stuff.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thrashers 3- Canes 0. There's something about Johan.

The highest-scoring team in the NHL has just gone two games with a grand total of ONE goal scored. On Friday night, the visiting Thrashers blanked the home team, and the Hurricanes are on their first losing streak of the season.

After Wednesday night's clunker, I didn't think it could get worse. I thought they'd come out with all cylinders firing. I though wrong.

It wasn't so much that Carolina stunk. They certainly did, but Atlanta showed up and played 60:00 of hockey. They played better offensively, defensively, in transition, and in every way imaginable. Although they are the league's worst team in terms of penalty killing, they killed all four Carolina power plays. At times, they shut down the power play so effectively that it looked like Carolina was the shorthanded team.

In fact, that's how the whole game can be summarized. Carolina looked like they were shorthanded all night.

Maid Marian Hossa got the game winning goal at 5:41 of the first on a mini-breakaway. From the left side half-wall, Todd White hit Hossa with a pass in the slot. Hossa took the pass on his backhand side, and slowly dragged it to his forehand and easily beat Cam Ward. Ilya Kovalchuk got the secondary assist.

At 14:59 of the first, Maid Marian struck again on a pretty give-and-go with Todd White. The whole thing was started with a bad turnover by Bret Hediguchi just inside the Atlanta zone. Hedican's turnover was far and away the worst play of the game, and he earned the "Tevvy" for it.

John CusackIlya Kovalchuk potted an insignificant empty net goal at 19:01 of the third, assisted by Maid Marian. I think Hossa could have gone for the hat-trick, but unselfishly gave it up to the NHL's leading goal scorer.

The stat sheet says that Carolina outshot Atlanta 31-24, but Carolina's chances weren't very good, and they seldomly challenged the 34-year old Johan Hedberg. Hedberg became not only the second consecutive Swede, but the second consecutive Johan to beat the Canes. The winner at Tampa on Wednesday was Johan Holmqvist.

There was one good thing about Carolina's play. Chad LaRose was the hardest working player in red, and he drew all four of Atlanta's penalties. Unfortunately, the Canes couldn't capitalize on any of them, but he worked hard to put his team in a good position.

Carolina won't have much time to reflect on their loss, or mope about it. They'll stay home tomorrow for another SE division matchup. It'll be the Panthers for already the fourth time this season. After losing 4-2 in Sunrise on Halloween night, the Hurricanes have won the last two against the Panthers. Most recently on Monday night, when they won 4-3 but lost Erik Cole to a neck injury.

Fortunately for the Canes, neither Tomas Vokoun nor Craig Anderson is named "Johan" and neither is from Sweden. This will give the Hurricanes the decided edge. I've already looked into it, and Florida doesn't have any Swedish goaltenders in their system.

Speaking of Swedes, defenseman Nic Wallin is expected to return to the lineup tomorrow night against the Kitties. He's missed nine of the last ten games including the last seven in a row with a groin issue. This should help matters a lot, as it will get "Avi" Tanabe back in the press box.

The Kitties will almost certainly be facing Johnny Crackers between the pipes. The last time they saw Grahame was on November 3 in Raleigh when the Canes won 4-2. Last season, the Kitties were 1-2-3 in games versus Grahame.

Tomas Vokoun is the clearcut starter in Florida, and the Canes are 2-1-0 against him this season. Prior to this season, the last time the Canes saw Vokoun was in The Year of the Cup. After Frantisek Kaberle scored on a penalty shot in overtime against the Preds, Vokoun launched his goalie stick into the protective netting above the endboards, earning him an insignificant game misconduct penalty.

Carolina's goaltending, then, earns them an edge. Florida's forwards are looking better than Carolina's right now. The return of Nic Wallin would give Carolina an edge in the "defense" department.

Carolina should win the game on better goaltending. We'll see.

Neither Carolina nor Florida will be televising the game, so it'll be Chuckandtheletterk for me.

Oh yeah. Three stars. The three stars for Friday's game are:
THIRD STAR Ilya Kovalchuk, ATL --- 1 goal, 2 assists
SECOND STAR Todd White, ATL --- 2 assists
FIRST STAR Marian Hossa, ATL --- 2 goals, 1 assist

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hurricanes beat up, but still know comedy

After sustaining a slew of injuries on a three game road trip, the Canes flew home for a four game homestand starting with a back-to-back this weekend. On Friday they'll host the Thrashers, and on Saturday the Panthers will be in town.

On Monday, Erik Cole suffered a neck injury after colliding with Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun. He left the game with 7:32 remaining in the third and was at the Cleveland Clinic when Cory Stillman scored the game-winner with a little more than a minute remaining. Initial CT scans were negative, Cole was cleared to fly, and all reports were that he was "okay". Upon returning home, team doctors took a look at him, and have ruled him out for 7-10 days. They want to make sure that he has a full range of motion and that the stiffness and swelling in his neck go away. Given that he is only about 20 months removed from his C-5 compression fracture, this is to be expected. Frankly, I'm surprised that he got off that easily. The collision with Vokoun looked pretty bad, and we're all breathing a sigh of relief that he didn't sustain a serious injury.

On Wednesday night, Bret Hedican took a puck to the jaw, which left him woozy and with a puffy face. Later, Craig Adams got pummeled in a fight with Doug Janik and he probably had to get stitched up. Hedi and Adams both practiced on Thursday and are said to be no worse for the wear.

Good news is that Andrew Ladd has been participating in full practice, and is likely a "go" for Friday. Nic Wallin is getting close, but will be out for a little while longer. Scott Walker has been skating, but is not cleared for contact. Although not immediate, this signals an eventual return. All good news.

Now for the comedy.

In my in-box today was "a special message from Chad LaRose". A video promoting the "player figurine" giveaway that will be done on November 28 against the Flyers. The first in a series of four, the Rod Brind'Amour figurine looks nothing like the actual Rod, and the way "mini-Rod" is hoisting the Cup is nothing like what the real Rod did when he hoisted it. Us Canes bloggers are in agreement that these figurines look like crap.

The Sliding Pokecheck has posted the video message, which has made me laugh about a million times. You should definitely check it out. It looks like this video was dreamed up, scripted and filmed in a span of about nine minutes. Chad clearly has the script in his hand, and did nothing to prepare other than throw a ballcap on. He's doing all he can to not burst into laughter as he mockingly holds the figure and says "I picked mine up the other day, I put it on the shelf in my bedroom, and I look at it every single day".
I laughed. I cried. It's just a wee bit cooler by the inclusion of "Praise You" by Fatboy Slim as the background music.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bolts destroy Canes 6-1

On Wednesday, The City of Tampa Lightning thoroughly destroyed the Hurricanes. The final tally was 6-1, but it may well have been 4000-0. Carolina was awful, and Tampa didn't go easy on them.

After controlling the first period but failing to score a goal, Carolina didn't even show up for the second period. The Lightning scored five goals in the second frame, putting the game well out of reach after the third one. It was clear that nobody showed up except Justin Williams and Jeff Hamilton.

In 1980, the fictional band Spinal Tap released an album entitled "Shark Sandwich". It was famously given a two word review:
Shit Sandwich
Whenever the Hurricanes play a game like tonight's, in which they get utterly and thoroughly destroyed in every way, I'm tempted to give the game that same two word review.

Adding to the debacle that was the scoreboard, Craig Adams got beaten into a bloody pulp in a fight with Doug Janik (who played with Buffalo in The Year of The Cup). With just a few minutes to play, the two squared off, and when it was all done, CrAdams was bleeding profusely from his head.

Added to that, Bret Hediguchi was struck in the jaw by a puck late in the first period. He played a little bit in the second period, but he and his swollen face sat out the whole third period.

Johnny Crackers was awful. This was his first start in Tampa since leaving the team after the '06 season. He had a well-publicized row with coach Torts, and this was his opportunity to get back at him. Instead, he and his team laid a big fat stinking turd. Peter Laviolette didn't pull him, deciding to leave him out there, "dancing with the one who brung him". One goal was soft, he was way out of position on another, and he just looked bad. In all, he gave up six goals on 28 shots. That's an abysmal save % of .786.

Of course his teammates played like crap in front of him, so he doesn't deserve all of the blame. However, Johan Holmqvist looked like the old Martin Brodeur while Johnny Crackers looked like the new M-A Fleury.

From a Hurricanes perspective, there is nothing positive that can be said about this game. Except that it's over.

I imagine the boys will have a long, silent flight home. I imagine that they'll have a bag skate tomorrow. I imagine they'll play angrily on Friday against the Thrashers.

Vinny "The Horseman" Lacavalier recorded a hat trick and had the game-winning goal. Paul Ranger, Marty St. Louis and Vaclav Prospal (who I refuse to call "Vinny") also tallied goals for the home team.

Jeff "Alexander" Hamilton scored Carolina's only goal on a play where Chad "Sharpie" LaRose deserves all the credit.

This as in-depth as I will get about this stinker of a game.

The RBH three stars are as follows:
THIRD STAR Martin St. Louis, TBL --- 1 goal, 2 assists
SECOND STAR Johan Holmqvist, TBL --- 27 saves, win
FIRST STAR Vincent Lacavalier, TBL --- 3 goals (including GWG), 2 assists

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Blackhawks lose K-Ads for season, K-Ads loses "cool points"

Former Hurricanes alternate captain Kevyn Adams was injured last Wednesday in a game between his Blackhawks and the Blue Jackets. He tore both the ACL and the MCL in his left knee, and he'll miss the remainder of the season. According to reports, he'll hope to make it back during the playoffs. Adams is scheduled to have surgery on Thursday of this week if the swelling subsides.

I've always been a big fan of K-Ads. During his tenure here, he was one of my favorite players, and one of the most well-liked guys in the community. His little brawl with Bret Hedican notwithstanding, I get the impression that he was also well liked in the room.

There are a few things Adams says in this article, though, that rub me the wrong way. Please take the time to click through and read the short article.

The first thing is this little gem of a quote:
"It's really disappointing," said Adams, who tore both the ACL and MCL in his left knee in a victory over Columbus. "I've been having [more] fun with this team and this year than I've ever had in my career."

Winning the Cup wasn't enough "fun" for you, Kevyn? Jerk.

The second thing is this:
"The standard treatment for this is six months, but I've always been a quick healer, so I'm going to try and push the envelope a little and hopefully get back before then," said Adams, 33. "If you have a positive attitude and you realize that it's just a bump in the road, then you get back and you get through it quicker."

Jeez. We're not talking about a broken heart. We're talking about a significant knee injury. All the "positive attitude" in the world won't help the ligaments heal any quicker. If he tries to "push the envelope", he's risking putting not only his career, but his ability to walk in jeopardy. There's no sense in trying to be a hero. Remember, I also said this when Erik Cole returned for games 6 and 7 of the 2006 SCF.

Seriously, I wish the best for Kevyn, but he's kinda ruffled my feathers with this stuff.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Canes down Panthers, Cole hurt

On Monday, the Hurricanes defeated Florida by the score of 4-3. They won the game, but they appear to have lost Erik Cole.

Cory Stillman scored two freakish goals including one from beyond center ice and one from below the goal line. Viva scored the other two goals. Stumpel, Weiss and Booth all scored for the Kitties.

Although the end result was good, The Sliding Pokecheck and I agreed via IM that the outcome of the game wasn't important after seeing Erik Cole lie motionless on the ice for several minutes.

With 7:26 remaining in the third, and the score tied 3-3, Cole was driving to the net, and was knocked down by Jassen Cullimore. Cole went down, and slid head-first into Vokoun. There will be some who will say that Cullimore held Cole, or "dragged him down". He did use his free hand a tiny bit, but I don't think there was anything wrong with what he did. The contact, and the resulting collision with the goaltender were just unfortunate.

Cole lay motionless for several minutes while members of both teams' training staffs tended to him. Right away, he was wiggling his fingers on both hands, moving his feet, but he wasn't really moving. Given his injury history, it was encouraging that he had movement in his extremities, but very frightening nonetheless.

After what must have been seven minutes, Cole was removed from the ice on a stretcher. Kudos to the Florida Panthers training staff, to their players and fans for expressing concern. Kudos to the organ player in the arena for having the courtesy to keep quiet. I've commented about this kind of thing before, and I'll say every time that a time like that is one where everyone needs to forget about which team they root for, and just worry about the health and well-being of the player. Kudos also to referee Mick McGeough for assisting the EMT crews.

According to preliminary reports, he was taken to a nearby hospital, but not immediately. That is another bit of encouraging news.

We won't know anything for at least 12 hours, and I won't know anything for at least 20, but we're obviously wishing the best for Erik Cole. Now is not the time to moan about how unjust the injury gods are.

If there is a bright side, it is that Andrew Ladd has been penciled in for a return to the lineup on Wednesday. Still, I'm sure that the team will recall Keith Aucoin from Albany for the game against the Bolts.

With two assists, Ray Whitney extended his scoring streak to 10 games.

This was Peter Laviolette's 200th win as a head coach. That's a nice accomplishment, but honestly, he couldn't possibly care less right now.

I will make every effort to update the known status of Cole. At this point, just as was the case on March 5 2006, we're just hoping that Erik (the man) is okay. Erik (the hockey player) is second.

UPDATE : 12:46 pm Very good early news. Cole has been released from the Cleveland Clinic and cleared to fly with the team to Tampa. CT Scans were negative. I guess he'll be held out of the lineup even if he is cleared to play. The important thing is that he's okay.

Canes - Kitties, Ronnie to enter hall

Tonight will be a bigger night for the Hurricanes off the ice than it will on it. Simultaneously, Ron Francis will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Hurricanes will be in Sunrise taking on the Panthers.

There is nothing I can say about Ronnie Franchise that hasn't been said before and more eloquently than I ever could. He is a paragon of class, a model of leadership and a perfect example of what a teammate, brother and father should be. While he won two Cups with the Penguins, he spent the majority of his career with the Whaler/Canes and holds the franchise record in all offensive categories. He will, without ever having received fanfare, enter the Hall of Fame with the second most assists (1249) in NHL history, the 21st most goals (549) and the fourth most points (1798).

TSN, NHL.com, The Raleigh News & Observer all chime in about Francis. As always, Luke Decock's piece in the N&O is well worth the price of admission. Also check out the list of 151 different players Ronnie gave goal assists to. Jaro Jagr tops that list with 110 assists received. Then there's the list of 157 different goalies he scored against. St. Patrick Roy tops that list with 16 goals against.

The induction ceremony starts at 7:30. So does the game. The game will be nationally televised on Versus, while the induction ceremony will be on the NHL Network. While NHLN has made it into the Raleigh market, it has unfortunately not made it into my market. I won't be able to watch. I guess I'll catch the tape of it later.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes will be in South Florida for the first time since Halloween night, when the South Florida reporters complained about diving, and referee Brad Watson responded by whistling the Canes for two diving penalties. Carolina lost that game 4-2, but returned home to beat the Panthers by the same score in Raleigh three days later.

This time, the Panthers writers are mum. They're too busy moaning about the Panthers recent losses to the Thrashers (4-1) and the Lightning (3-1).

No word on who the officials will be tonight Mick "Helmet" McGeough will be the lead official tonight.

Ray Whitney enters the game with a nine game points streak.

Brett McLean and Richard Zednick are out for the Panthers. In their stead, they have called up Stefan Meyer and Tanner Glass from Rochester. Carolina only wishes that Olli Jokinen were out. He's been lethal against Carolina, and will be their #1 concern.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lest we forget

Today is Remebrance Day in Canada (and Australia and the United Kingdom) and Veterans Day in the United States. Please take a moment to remember those who have served our countries. More precisely, take a moment at 11:00 am.

Generally speaking, Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, Veterans Day are supposed to be marked at "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month", which commemorates the end of World War I. Although troops continued to fight until the great treaty at Versailles was signed on June 28 1919, most historians mark the treaty at Compiegne, which was signed at that precise moment(eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month) in 1918.

Coincidentally, this date also marks the 90th anniversary of the cessation of the Battle of Passchendaele, during which 448,000 allied troops were lost -- 16,000 of whom were Canadian.

The poppy that you see being worn on the lapels of coaches and announcers is an emblem of Remembrance Day. It represents poppies that grew in the Belgian battlefields, and the "Flanders Fields" were Allied troops were buried. There is a famous poem written by a Canadian soldier in WWI , entitled In Flanders Fields, which is commonly recited on Remembrance Day:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— John McCrae

The Montréal Canadiens have adopted the line "To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high" as sort of a team motto.

Please take a moment to remember the thousands of men who gave their lives fighting for our countries.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Canes defeat Thrash 5-3

On Saturday night, the Hurricanes atoned for their bad game on Thursday by beating their host Atlanta Thrashers 5-3. Carolina earned their 23rd standings point of the season, but were unable to widen their divisional lead over Tampa, who beat Washington 5-2.

Eric Perrin got the Birds on the board with an early goal at 2:33, assisted by Slava Kozlov.

In the waning seconds of the first, Carolina's captain notched one of those "momentum changing" goals. It's often said that a goal in the first minute of the game can set the tone, and a goal in the last minute can set (or change) the tone. The Thrashers' Alex Zhitnik was in the box feeling shame when Brind'Amour tapped one in with just one second remaining in the power play and seven seconds remaining in the period. Officially, it was a power play goal at 19:53, assisted by Ray Whitney and Cory Stillman. The assist extended The Wizard's points streak to nine games.

Todd White of the Thrashers went to the box early in the second. Both teams potted a goal during the ensuing power play.

First it was Maid Marian Hossa with the shorthanded goal at 4:47, assisted by Perrin and Ken Klee. It was the second shorty surrendered by the Hurricanes this season.

Just 31 seconds later, Viva knotted it up with a power play goal. It was the Hurricanes' 24th power play goal of the season, which leads the League. The goal was assisted by Eric Staal and Dennis Seidenberg at 5:18.

At 7:44, Brindy notched his second goal of the contest, which ended a four-game goal drought. Whitney and Viva assisted.

Cory Stillman banged in an insurance marker at 2:58 of the third. His ninth of the season ended up being the game-winner. This is his third game-winner of the season. Erik Cole and Bret Hedican got the assists.

Maid Marian made things interesting with his second goal of the night and his sixth of the season at 5:58. Todd White got the lone assist.

Down the stretch, Cam Ward made some dazzling saves to preserve the win, including no fewer than three breakaway chances. Maid Marian had a dandy breakaway chance to pick up the hat trick, but Ward was a stone wall, turning aside the shot and the rebound.

Eric Staal scored a garbage goal at 18:24, before Ondrej Pavelec had a chance to vacate the net. The young Czech netminder was handcuffed by Mike Commodore's shot from the right point, and he had difficulty controlling the rebound. He had this problem all night, and the Hurricanes took advantage. It was Staal's team-leading 12th goal of the season, assisted by Commodore and Stillman.

Staal's two points on the night make 21 (12/9) for the season, which put him on pace for 101 points on the season. That would be a career high.

Brind'Amour's two points on the night make 23 (8/15) for the season, putting him on pace for 111 on the season. That would be a career high.

Whitney's two points on the night make 19 (9/10) for the season, putting him on pace for 92 on the season. That would be a new career high.

Viva's two points on the night make 20 (6/14) for the season, putting him on pace for 96 on the season. That would be a new career high.

Stillman's three points on the night make 22 (9/13) on the season. Since he missed a few games, his PPG is higher, and he's on pace for 129 points on the season. That would be a new career high by quite a bit. His previous best was 80 (25/55) the year that Tampa won the Cup.

This was one of those games where there were a lot of different guys contributing. Nine different players registered at least one point, and the above mentioned five guys had two or more points. This is exactly what a team needs to do well in this league: synergy.

When Andrew Ladd returns, and if Scott Walker returns.... watch out.

With so many guys playing well tonight and contributing in key ways, it was hard to assign the stars.

FSN South gave the stars to Maid Marian (third), Rod Brind'Amour (second) and Cam Ward (first). The "official" three stars went to Ward (third), Maid Marian (second) and Brind'Amour (first). I see it a little differently. The RBH three stars:

THIRD STAR Rod Brind'Amour, CAR --- 2 goals
SECOND STAR Marian Hossa. ATL --- 2 goals, 23:47 TOI
FIRST STAR Cory Stillman, CAR --- GWG, 2 assists, 23:12 TOI

Carolina will continue their road trip with a game in Sunrise on Monday night. Expect the writers in South Florida to continue with their criticism of Carolina's skaters. Their press seems to have influenced the officiating in their favor last time down there, so they will probably try it again. If nothing else, their writers will be bored after having Saturday and Sunday off.

The interview with Rod Brind'Amour came after the game. It was nice, but it was obviously truncated, and there were quite a few breaks in the 30 minute segment entitled "In My Own Words". I learned one thing: after being drafted by the Blues, Brindy actually signed a contract, but immediately had second thoughts, and he got them to void it just seconds before it was to be transmitted to the NHL offices. Instead, he spent one season playing college hockey at Michigan State. After the Spartans were eliminated from the Frozen Four, Brindy signed the Blues' contract, joined them for the playoffs, and he scored a goal in his first game -- on his first shot.

Monday's contest against the Panthers will be nationally televised on Versus.


Tonight, the Hurricanes will take on the Thrashers in Atlanta. It's the first of three SE division road games in a row, and the fifth in a series of nine straight SE division games. It will be the first meeting between the teams this season.

Carolina has recalled Ryan Bayda and reassigned Keith Aucoin for the game. This will already be Bayda's third call-up this season.

After a poor performance on Thursday, especially from the defense, Carolina will hope to rebound with a win tonight. The good news on the defensive front is that Dennis Seidenberg got his immigration issues worked out. He had to miss Thursday's game because his visa was expired. I don't think he was deported, but he was definitely not allowed to play. Since that's taken care of, Snuggles Tanabe can return to the pressbox.

This season, Carolina has had two "bad" losses. Maybe three. Each time, they have responded with a convincing win the next time out. On October 6, they were shut out 2-0 by Washington. They responded three days later with a convincing 7-1 win at Toronto. On October 26, they lost bady at home 7-4 to the Canadiens. They bounced right back with a 8-3 pounding of the Islanders. The 4-2 loss to the Panthers on Haloween night wasn't what I considered to be "bad", but they answered it the next night with a 4-2 win.

The point of all this is that Carolina hasn't had two consecutive regulation losses at any time this season. They'll hope to make that remain true.

No word on who the starter will be in nets, but my guess is that Crackers gets a shot.

If you're in the Carolina viewing area, be sure to tune in a half hour early for the interview with Rod Brind'Amour. According to LSB, it should be a good one.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Stars Ducks and Matt Cullen.

I watched most of the Stars and Ducks tonight after posting my game recap.

I noted that in the early games, there were four shutouts, including two 5-0 scores and two 2-0 scores. The Stars and Marty Turco made it a fifth shutout, and a third by the score of 5-0.

I would guess that this one of a few, or maybe the first time in history that there have been so many shutouts on the same night.

Unfortunately, Mike Modano was unable to get that elusive 1232nd point. Wednesday, the Stars will be in San Jose, and Modo will have another chance to become the most prolific American born player.

While the Ducks broadcasters were discussing the Modano milestone watch, they got to talking about American born players for the Ducks, which led them to a three minute discussion about Matt Cullen. He totaled 200 (65/135) points spread out over five and a half seasons for the Ducks, and is still very well liked on Orange County.
They gave high marks to Jim Rutherford for bringing Cullen back to Carolina, they commented on his very nice start to this season, and they said he was the best player on the ice in game 7 of the 2006 SCF.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Canes destroy Caps

On Monday night, the Capitals came into town hoping to beat Carolina for the second time this season. Instead, the home team avenged their 2-0 loss on October 6. And then some. The game was over just nine minutes in, but when it was officially over, Carolina had the 5-0 decision.

On Sunday, Ken from Japers' Rink asked me to give a snippet about why the Hurricanes would win this game. My terse (and cheesy) response was "Carolina has been putting the POW! in "Power play". I had no idea how foretelling that would be.

At 4:23 of the first, on the Hurricanes first shot of the game, Cory Stillman pounded in a power play goal from the bottom of the right circle. Milan Jurcina had been called for holding. Rod Brind'Amour won the ensuing offensive zone faceoff to Ray Whitney, who passed it back to Brindy in the left circle. The Captain centered it to Stillman, who slammed it in. The Canes needed just four seconds of the man-advantage to get the only goal they would need on the night. This was the fourth time in the last six games that the Caps have allowed a goal on the opponent's first shot.

Alex Ovechkin was penalized for boarding at 6:56, and again the Hurricanes would need very little time to score. Cory Stillman scored his second goal of the night at 7:14 on an odd-man rush. There was a series of nice passes, but this one was all Stillman. He sliced and diced his way through the white-sweatered Caps the way Barry Sanders used to run through an entire defense. He ended up one-on-one with Kolzig, and he waited till the last second to pull it from the backhand to the forehand. This move ruined the German netminder, and Stillman tucked it into the cage. Officially, it was Stillman on the power play from Whitney and Matt Cullen at 7:14. This time, they needed 18 seconds of the power play.

A few minutes later, Stillman finished off the natural hat trick, and some lucky fan won a lawn tractor. Erik Cole and Stillman came in the Washington zone with just one defender back. Some perfect passing, and Stillman easily scored from the bottom of the right circle. Erik Cole and Eric Staal had the even strength helpers. According to the Caps announcers, this was Stillman's first hat trick since January 5, 2002. Back then he was playing for the Blues, and they beat the Stars 5-2 that night. Stillman had three goals and an assist. Our pal Doug Weight had four assists.

The pace slowed down considerably after this, but the Canes got the ball rolling again late in the second during a long power play. Donald Brashear was sent off for boarding Dennis Seidenberg. Initially, it was a two minute minor, but when it was discovered that Seids was cut, it became a major plus a game misconduct. Frankly, I didn't think it was that bad, and I don't like the rule that the offending player is ejected simply because blood was drawn. It was definitely boarding, but I don't think there was intent to injure. We'll never be able to get inside the players heads, but I just don't think that the existence (or lack thereof) of blood should be a determining factor in the issuance of major penalties. For the record, I feel the same way about the double-minor high sticking rule. I think they should be called if it appears to be deliberate.


Eric Staal tipped in Matt Cullen shot from the top of the crease. Officially, Eric Staal from Matt Cullen and Viva, on the power play at 16:07. It was Staal's 10th goal and the 13th assist for each guy. Since it was a major penalty power play, the Canes stayed put on the power play. In fact, they drew another penalty when Kolzig tackled Viva, awarding the Canes a brief five-on-three. Nothing came of that.

At 2:01 of the third, Eric Staal scored his second of the night on a crazy bounce. A heavy shot came from the left circle, and Staal was there for the rebound out front. His initial effort was knocked aside by Kolzig, but Staal batted the loose puck out of midair into the net. That would end Kolzig's night. Officially, it was Staal from Stillman and Timmmmmmaayyyy Gleason. After a quick review to make sure Staal's stick wasn't high, the goal was allowed to stand.

For the entire game, the Caps announcers had been fellating their prom date Cam Ward so shamelessly that I wondered if I was actually watching the Canes broadcasters. They kept calling him "The Warden". (make no mistake: this is NOT his nickname). It got so ugly at one point, they went out of their way to avoid jinxing Ward's shutout. It's widely known that you don't say the word "shutout" when a goalie (or pitcher) has one going. It'll jinx it. At some point, around the 4:00 mark of the third, the Caps announcer said:
"The only issue in doubt concerns Mr. Ward. There is, however, a lot of regulation time left."

The game ended like that. 5-0. Cam Ward was challenged several times in the first 90 seconds, but not much after that. He faced 35 shots, and earned his third career regular season shutout. All three have been against Washington.

The "official" three stars and the RBH three stars are identical. That's not much of a surprise. It's a no-brainer.

THIRD STAR Eric Staal, CAR --- 2 goals, 1 assist
SECOND STAR Cam Ward, CAR --- 35 saves, shutout win
FIRST STAR Cory Stillman, CAR --- 3 goals (natural hat trick), 1 assist.

The Hurricanes converted three of seven power play chances, including brutal efficiency on the first two.

Carolina will stay at home and take on the Bolts on Thursday.

Bizarre stat of the night: of the five "early" games, four were shutouts. The other shutout victors: Dany Sabourin and the Penguins (5-0 over the Devils); Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers (2-0 over the Flyers); Cristobal Huet and the Habs (2-0 over the Sabres).

Florida also won in regulation, meaning that Carolina's lead in the SE Division remains seven points.


Carolina will play host to the Capitals on Monday night. On October 6, Washington handed Carolina its only shutout loss, one of only three regulation losses so far. The Hurricanes will be looking to avenge that loss and widen their SE Division lead with a win.

After having played six games in a nine day span from October 19 to October 27, Carolina has been given a bit of a breather. This is just the third game in the nine day period following that flurry.

Of 13 games in November, 11 are against SE Division opponents, including three against these Washington Capitals.

The key to tonight's game will be penalties. Carolina's power play is ranked second in the league, while their penalty kill is a dreadful 28th. Washington's power play and penalty kill are both a mediocre 19th in the league.

As always, Carolina will have to look out for Alexander Ovechkin.

As far as the power play goes, Washington will have to look out for an "under the radar" player. Jeff Hamilton, who was Carolina's only free agency catch, has quarterbacked the power play expertly. He's piled up 8 (3/5) power play points playing the opposite point from Matt Cullen, who has accrued 9 (3/6) power play points. Additionally, Hamilton has four (1/3) even strength points for a total of 12 (4/8) while Cullen has six (1/5) even strength points for a total of 15 (4/11).

Ovechkin is the only Caps player with any substantial power play production. He's got six (5/1) power play points. Micheal Nylander also has six power play points (2/4).

Carolina is one of only five teams who have yet to score a shorthanded goal.

Expect Ward and Kolzig to start between the pipes.

Puck drop is at 7:00. No Carolina TV, but it should be on Center Ice, even in the Carolina viewing area.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

don't forget to set your clocks, dvrs

Today marks the end of Daylight Savings Time in the United States and Canada. Set your clocks back one hour when you go to bed tonight. Officially, the change takes place at 2:00 am Sunday. Don't forget. If you forget, you'll be an hour early for whatever you do on Sundays.

Also, remember to set your DVRs. Tonight's game between the Kitties and Hurricanes isn't carried by Carolina's TV network, so you'll have to find Florida's feed as "game 5" in your Center Ice package.

Who am I kidding? Everyone will be watching Leafs against Habs on HNIC.

Anyway, Carolina will be looking to exact revenge agains the Kitties for what happened Wednesday. I say they'll get it.

Crucial to this game is shutting down Olli "Cane Killa" Jokinen. He has tallied 19 points (8/11) against Carolina in the last 9 meetings. His domination of the Canes is way more pronounced than Erik Cole's domination of the Habs. Except that of those nine games, Carolina won seven.

Eric Staal has a four game point streak. Ray Whitney and Matt Cullen each have a five game streak going, and Cory Stillman has a six game streak.

Johnny Crackers will be starting in nets for the Hurricanes while Craig Anderson will get the nod for the Kitties.

Florida beat Buffalo last night, and did not practice today. Carolina will hope to come roaring out of the gates to take advantage of the weary visitors. They will hope to keep their foot on the throttle for the entire game.

Tim Peel and Bill McCreary will be the referee tandem.

One third thing to make sure you do. Watch or record Saturday Night Live. Feist will be playing. If her appearances on other shows are a barometer, she'll play "1234", and will have a chorus of people on stage with her from Broken Social Scene and Grizzly Bear and some other cool folks too. I imagine she'll also play "My Moon My Man". If you get the chance to see her live, do it. It's also fun to watch her on TV.

Canes-Cats run it back

On Saturday night, the Kitties will visit the RBC for the first time since the final day of the 06-07 season. Carolina will be looking to avenge their loss on Halloween night. Aside from the officiating issues, Carolina was not happy with the way they played. They'll look to right that. They have some added incentive, as GM Jim Rutherford has pretty much circled and highlighted this one on the calendar.

Carolina has now entered the "division matchup" portion of their schedule. There are 13 games in November, and 11 are against SE division rivals. Oddly, the other two are against Philly.

Carolina played poorly and deserved to lose on Wednesday. There's not much debate over that issue. When they were victimized by a couple of very shady tripping calls, everyone from the players to the coaches to the TV guys to the GM accused referee Brad Watson of being influenced by things written in the South Florida newspapers. It seems awfully coincidental that the very day that numerous articles are written about Carolina being divers, they get two diving penalties in one period. Chad LaRose got blindsided off the puck by Olli Jokinen and Justin Williams gets flat out tackled by Nathan Horton. Each time, the Carolina player was called for diving, which negated what would have been a power play.

That said, Carolina had three other power play chances, and none of them looked good. Meanwhile, their power play stank.

Jim Rutherford asked the League to review the diving calls made against Carolina, and probably attached newspaper clippings and a post-it note saying "Was Watson influenced by these?" Colin Campbell, whose job also entails the levying of player suspensions, reviews the performance of on-ice officials. His son, for what it's worth, plays for the Panthers.

According to Lord Stanley's Blog this morning, Jim Rutherford is more charged up about this than any other game, any other rivalry. And he's got "nothing to say" to Panthers head coach and GM Jacques Martin
"This is the strongest I've felt about an issue," Rutherford said. "We can sit there game after game and disagree with the other team or the officiating. This is as strong as I've ever felt about an issue."

Rutherford is aware, though, that these battles need to be fought on the ice. This is between the Hurricanes and the Panthers. This isn't between the News & Observer and the Sun-Times Sentinel, or whatever other paper covers the Kitties. He did, though, leave one little nugget:
"I'm afraid to say anything because I don't know who's going to read what I might say," Rutherford said, continuing to imply that Martin's comments influenced referee Brad Watson.

"I don't have anything to say to him. He uses different ways to motivate his team. I take it this is a way he's decided to motivate his team to play us. In the past we've been able to play in spurts or play one period in a game and beat Florida. In this particular game, it wasn't just the team we had to beat, so we fell short."

Whoever happens to be officiating tonight's game won't see that. It isn't in the print edition of the N&O.

The lineup cards haven't been sent yet, so I don't know who will be officiating. Brad Watson didn't work an NHL game last night.

I think Rutherford might have had a little meeting with coach Laviolette to let Lavi know how he feels about this game.

There may be some chippiness in this game. To be honest, I wouldn't mind. Everybody's eager to get right back on the ice and make amends for what was a pretty bad game. As for the stuff in the newspapers, Tim Gleason had the best "no comment" line on the Hurricanes website:

“With all the stuff they’ve been saying in the newspapers, it’s a bunch of garbage,” said Tim Gleason. “If they want to do some talking, let’s do it on the ice and not in the paper."

Couple that sentiment with Rutherford's, and I sort of expect to see this team go all Tom Osborne, Bill Belichick on the Kitties. I'm not in favor of a team -- even at the professional level -- "running up the score", but if the opportunity presents itself tonight I'd love to see it.

A little bird just told me that Tim Peel will be one of the officials tonight. I'll fill in the rest later.


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