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

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rats Eliminated

On Tuesday night, the River Rats were defeated by the Phantoms 2-0. Philly has won the series four games to three and the season is over for the Rats.

This was a phenomenal series for both goaltenders. Scott Munroe got the job done when everything was on the line, but losing goaltender Michael Leighton was probably the best "losing" goaltender any playoff series has ever seen.

Now that the Rats have been, um, exterminated, the Hurricanes organ-eye-zation can make signing Leighton the #1 priority. Johnny Crackers is already gone. There's no way in the world he sniffs an offer sheet from the Hurricanes.

Busy hockey day

Tonight there are three NHL playoff games. That's an unusual number for the second round, but we should be glad to have it. The Detroit-Colorado series took an extra day off, which left yesterday with just the one game.

John Forslund, who has been with the Whaler/Canes organ-eye-zation since the early nineties, and who has been the teevee play-by-play guy since 1995, will be making the call for Versus for games three and four of that Detroit-Colorado series. He's been logging a lot of miles for Versus, and he's been doing a great job. It's weird, I must say, to hear him say "And Colorado is off and running!" or "Budaj says no!" rather than to have "Carolina" and "Cam Ward" plugged into those formulae.

Earlier in the night, of course, the Penguins and Rangers head into MSG for game three of their series. I don't expect the Penguins to sweep the series, but I don't expect the Rangers to win both home games either.

The biggest thing for me, though, will be game seven between the River Rats and the Phantoms in the Wachovia Center tonight.

In other AHL news, former Hurricane and female fan favorite Bates Battaglia scored a dramatic goal with less than a minute to play to give the Toronto Marlies (Maple Leafs) a series victory over the San Antonio Rampage (Coyotes). I'm not a fan of Battaglia on a personal level, but it's good to see him doing well.

Go Pens!
Go Rats!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rats force game seven, Leighton continues to smolder.

On Saturday afternoon, the River Rats and Phantoms again needed overtime to settle their playoff game. On Thursday, they set a new AHL record for longest game at 142:58. Today, they needed "just" 70:38. Fortunately, the Rats were on the right end of this one, forcing a game seven on Monday night.

Kirk MacDonald's game winning goal at 10:38 of the overtime period ended a ridiculously long shutout streak by Phantoms netminder Scott Munroe. Kiel McLeod gave the Rats a 2-1 lead way way back at 17:14 of the second period of game five. Counting the rest of that game (105:46) and this game (70:38), Munroe went 176:24 without allowing a goal. That's almost three games.

Michael Leighton, who stopped 98 of 101 shots on Thursday, stopped all 40 shots he faced on Saturday. He's faced a total of 284 shots during this playoff series. He has given up just eight goals and has two shutout wins. His GAA is 1.06 and his save percentage is an unbelievable .972.

It really is a shame that these games aren't televised and that nobody gives a crap about them. There's been some sensational goaltending on both sides.

After the winning goal was scored, Phantoms captain Boyd Kane was given a major penalty for cross-checking and a mandatory game misconduct penalty in accordance with rule 59.5. I assume that he will be unavailable for Monday's game seven.

Go Rats!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Leighton makes 98 saves; River Rats lose epic game five

On Thursday night, the River Rats fell 3-2 in a marathon 5-overtime game to the Phantoms. The Phantoms now have a 3-2 series lead with two chances to wrap up the series on their home ice.

Rats goaltender Michael Leighton made 98 saves. This is not a misprint. I don't know how in the world a guy makes 98 saves and loses the game.

I'm not sure what the record books have for the AHL, but the winning goal came 2:58 into the fifth overtime period. This game lasted an eye-popping 142:58. The Phantoms had a total of 101 shots, while the Rats "only" had 67.

Check the scorecard here.

Sadly, this may be lights out for the Rats. No matter what, though, Michael Leighton has had a hell of a series. He deserves every bit of credit. He deserves any and all accolades he gets. He deserves a contract in Raleigh next season.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Support for Penguins

At RBH, we are making no secret of our support for the Penguins. We supported them last season, only to watch them bow out. We're supporting them again this season.

There are some obvious and easy reasons to root for the Penguins. They have a Staal, Carolina has a Staal. They have a Ruutu, Carolina has a Ruutu. The connections from the past. Ron Francis. Tommy B.

I also have some friends who are lifelong Penguins fans, and I won't hesitate to support their club to live vicariously through them.

One such friend is a great comic book artist Rob Ullman. I recommend his blog any day of the week. Mostly, his blog is about the drawings that he does of scantily clad young busty women. Sometimes, these busty women are wearing hockey sweaters.
Here, for example, are his first round picks in the form of "girl in hockey sweater" drawings. Last season, the drawings weren't quite so polished.

If you're into hockey or comics, or more importantly -- scantily clad girls, check out Rob's blog. He's good peeps.

Semifinal matchups and predictions

On Tuesday, the conference quarterfinals were concluded, setting the stage for the semifinals to begin on Thursday.

In the eastern conference, I correctly picked three series winners, including picking the seven games needed for Philly to dispose of Washington.

Out west, I was not so good. I only got one series winner correct. Overall, I was four up and four down on the predictions. For comparison's sake, Maggie the Monkey was five up and three down.

Without any bells or whistles, here are my picks for the second round:

Maggie has picked the Habs, the Rags, the Wings and the Sharks. At best, I can move into a tie with her.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Flyers end Caps' dreams

On Tuesday night, the Flyers defeated the Capitals 3-2 in overtime of game seven of their playoff series. The Caps had staved off elimination twice, but weren't able to win on home ice.

As a die-hard fan of the Hurricanes, it may be unfashionable to root against a fellow SE team, but I loathe the Capitals. It brought me great joy to see Joffrey Lupul pot the game winner 6:06 into the bonus frame. Actually, I was literally jumping for joy. Earlier in the night, I had been doing the same when former Hurricane Sami Kapanen gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead, but Alexander Ovechkin came through with a clutch goal. Naturally, he followed that goal with a ridiculously exaggerated celebration. Thankfully, I won't have to see that again until October.

So the eastern conference semi-finals are set. Montréal(1) will host Philadelphia (6) while Pittsburgh (2) will host Rangers (5).

Meanwhile, the rout is on in San Jose. They're in the midst of destroying Calgary.

Interestingly, the matchups in the West will be the same as in the East. Detroit (1) will be hosting Colorado (6), while San Jose (2) will host Dallas (5).

Rats fall in game 4

On Tuesday night, the River Rats fell 2-1 to the visiting Phantoms in game two of their first round Calder Cup playoff series. The series is now knotted at two. The pivotal game five will be Thursday in Albany followed by two games in Philly.

Just two minutes into the game, right wing Jakub Petruzalek scored his second goal of the series. Brandon Sutter picked up his first playoffs assist. 20 seconds later, the Phantoms tied it. 5:20 into the second, Phantoms left wing Kyle Greentree scored the game winner. He also assisted the first goal, and was named the game's first star.

Rats netminder Michael Leighton made 24 saves, but Phantoms goalie Scott Munroe stopped 30 of the 31 shots he saw.

Montréal fans gone wild

On Monday night, the Montréal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins 5-0 to win the eastern conference quarterfinal series four games to three.

Boston put up way more of a fight than anyone expected, but they just didn't have enough in the tank. In most NHL cities, the fans are slightly jubilant when their heavily favored team wins a first round series against a big underdog.

In some cities, the fans spill out into the streets till the wee hours of the morning. Most of those celebrations are reserved for conference championships and of course the Stanley Cup championship.

In Montréal last night, there was utter chaos. And not in a good way:

This is absolutely disgusting. People setting cop cars on fire and smashing things is never acceptable, and winning the eastern conference quarterfinals is no excuse for the way those "fans" behaved. Les Habitants have won 23 Stanley Cups, and you would think that in 99 years they would have learned to take a first round series victory in stride. Apparently, you would think wrong.

Obviously, the hundreds of people responsible for the ugly scene last night are not representative of the Hab nation as a whole, but it's pretty ugly. If I were a citizen of Montreéal, I would be a little embarrassed and a little frightened right now.

If this is how people behaved after a win, I wonder how they would have behaved if Boston had won game seven.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rats take game 3

On Sunday afternoon, the River Rats defeated the Phantoms 4-1 to take a 2-1 lead in the first round of Calder Cup playoffs. The series will continue with games four and five in Albany on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.

Rookie defenseman Bryan Rodney (who is not property of the Hurricanes) potted two goals. He now has five (3/2) points in three games, and is third in the league in playoff scoring. Brett Carson and Joe Jensen also scored for the Rats.

Michael Leighton made 38 saves and was the game's first star. He has faced 117 shots in these playoffs and has allowed just three goals. His save percentage is a sparkling .974. If UFA-to-be Johnny Crackers hasn't already packed his bags, he should probably start doing so. Rats season ticket holders should enjoy watching Leighton while they can. He won't be there this fall.

Meanwhile, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton "Baby" Penguins (Penguins) are all over the Hershey Bears (Capitals) 3-0 in that series. They will be the next opponent for whoever wins the Rats-Phantoms series.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Phantoms knot series at one

After being shut out on Wednesday night, the Phantoms returned the favor against Albany on Friday, shutting out the River Rats 3-0. The series is tied 1-1, and game three will be Sunday afternoon in Philly.

Surprisingly, the bad blood from Wednesday didn't spill over to Friday. I still think there'll be more rough stuff before the series is over.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Conboy suspended eight games

As a result of his actions in a line brawl between the River Rats and Phantoms on Wednesday night, Rats defenseman Tim Conboy has been suspended by the AHL for eight games, starting with Friday's game in Philly. If his suspension is not served in full during this playoff season, the balance will carry over to next regular season.

Here's the graphic video of Conboy destroying some poor kid. Sure it was dirty for the Rats to have two guys pounding on one guy, but I think someone wiser than I once said "All's fair in love and line brawls"

The suspension is ostensibly in accordance with rule 70.6, concerning leaving the bench to participate in an altercation. However, it looks to me like Conboy was on the ice when the whole thing got started. He wasn't the sixth guy. It looks like they were in the midst of a line change, and it's just unfortunate. What he did was wrong, and he deserves to be suspended, but I don't like that they're citing that rule as the reason.

There has been bad blood between these two teams all season long, including another line brawl back in October.

You can bet your bottom dollar that the bad blood will spill over to Friday night. From the AHL's website, you can pay $6 to stream live video of a game. This one might be worth it.

Pens sweep Sens

Rats take game one

On Wednesday in Albany, the River Rats destroyed the Phantoms 4-0 in the first game of their best-of-seven playoff series.

Jakub Petruzalek, Jerome Samson, Bryan Rodney and Marc Cavosie all scored for the Rats. Rodney added two assists. Mike Angelidis also had two assists. The full scoresheet is here.

At 19:31 of the third, a huge fight erupted which resulted in 52 minutes of penaties being doled out. Trevor Gillies and Tim Conboy were both given game misconduct penalties. Gillies for being the third man in and Conboy for leaving the bench to partake in the fracas. I'm not sure how this will affect their status for Friday night's game two in Philadelphia.

Michael Leighton stopped 39 shots to earn the shutout and the game's first star. In 80 regular season games, the Phantoms were never shut out.

Go Rats!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Samsonov signs three year deal

On Wednesday, the Hurricanes announced that they have re-signed winger Sergei Samsonov to a three year deal valued at $7.6M. Next season, he will make $2.3, followed by $2.5M in 2009-10 and $2.8M in 2010-11. Last year, he made $3.525 between the Blackhawks and the Canes.

I'm pretty excited. He was an excellent waiver wire acquisition who snapped into place immediately. In 38 games with the Canes, he registered 32 (14/18) points. Only Eric Staal was more productive in that stretch.

The chemistry will be decidedly different in the fall. Rod Brind'Amour will presumably be recovered from knee surgery. Justin Viva Williams will be recovered from his knee surgery. Matt Cullen and Ray Whitney will be recovered from their ailments.

There is some apprehension about this deal from some of my peers, but I'll say that I like it. And I don't feel the need to qualify that with any conditions or caveats.

The cap hit of $2.53 is a damn good price to pay for a guy who won the Calder Award and who has shown the ability to perform at nearly a point a night. He has scored 70 or more points twice in his career, and even when you count the lean years, he still comes in at an average of .69 points a night for his career. His 32 points in 38 games translates to 69 points in a full season.

A lot of Caniacs think that it's urgent that the Hurricanes re-sign Tuomo Ruutu. I'm not one of those. If it doesn't happen, I won't be heartbroken. If it does, I won't be relieved or excited. Jeff "Alexander" Hamilton looks like the early favorite to be the odd man out come spring. With Brandon Sutter a likely candidate to join the big team, there just won't be enough room for everybody.

Chad LaRose will be re-signed, and I would bet that Patrick Eaves will.

If Hamilton, who is still under contract for one year, survives the summer without being traded, he will most likely find himself in Albany.

Carolina's next most important order of business will be to acquire some NHL-caliber defensemen. Bret Hedican will retire. Glen Wesley might also. No matter what, they're in desperate need of some help on the blue line.

Anyway, we're very glad to have Sergei on board as a full-time member of the Hurricanes family.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Rats season finale -- playoff preview

The Albany River Rats concluded their regular season today with a 3-2 loss at Philadelphia. This is also going to be their opponent in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs. The AHL uses an oddball 1-2-2-2 format as opposed to the 2-2-1-1-1 format used in the NHL. As the #3 seed in the East Division, Albany will be the "road" team, and will host games 1,4 and 5.

Game one will be Wednesday night in Albany. For the full schedule of Calder Cup playoffs, click here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

River Rats season winds down

The Albany River Rats will conclude their regular season tomorrow with a game at the Philadelphia Phantoms. Both teams have qualified for the playoffs. The Rats can neither gain nor lose ground in the Eastern Conference standings, but the Phantoms have a lot on the line. They are three points back of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins with two games to play. They have a chance to take the East Division crown.

In the final week of the season, the playoff seeds are nowhere close to being set, but Albany knows that they will have the #6 seed.

Last night in Albany, the Rats lost to the Baby Penguins 4-3. Dave Gove potted two goals to beat his former team.

In other Rats news, Mike Leighton was recently awarded the Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award, given annually to the best goaltender in the AHL. I don't think there's any doubt that he will be the #2 goaltender in Raleigh next season. Crackers never really got the job done. To his credit, he didn't pout and stomp around when it became clear that his role was never to leave the bench, but he just isn't a serviceable NHL goaltender anymore. Maybe John Tortarella isn't so much of an asshole after all. Nah. He's still an asshole, even if he was right about Grahame.

Anyway, look for the re-signing of Leighton to be a high priority for the Canes this summer. Samsonov is first. Acquiring defense is second. Getting Leighton signed should be right up there.

When the standings/ Calder Cup seedings are settled, I'll get more into that.

Go Rats!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Playoffs set

Once again, my team has failed to qualify for the post-season. That won't stop me, though, from following the playoffs and from making predictions.

Here are my picks:

Maggie the Monkey picked the Sharks over the Flames. Other than that, our picks are the same.

I've only been doing this for two years. In 2006, I was 3-5 in the first round en route to a 9-6 overall performance. Maggie also ended up with a 9-6 record.

In 2007, I was 6-2 in the first round en route to another 9-6 overall record. Maggie had an overall record of 8-7.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Rats secure spot

With three games still to play, the River Rats have secured a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs of the AHL. They lost to the Admirals on Saturday, but the Sound Tigers also lost. That means Bridgeport was eliminated and Albany's spot is safe.

Ryan Bayda, Keith Aucoin and Tim Conboy are on two-way contracts, but I believe the AHL has a cutoff point for reassigning players, and that time has passed.

At any rate, we're all wishing the best for the Rats.

The standings are pretty tight, and everybody has at least three games to play, but if the playoffs started today, the Rats would be playing the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton "Baby" Penguins.

Oh, and by the way, the AHL has already started doing something that we all hope the NHL never does. They have corporate sponsor logos on the sweaters now. For the time being, it's subtle logos on the right breast. It's barely noticeable. I just hope that it never becomes the mess that European hockey sweaters are. For the record, Albany's sponsor is the agricultural giant Cargill.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Who's laughing now?

Most Carolina fans agree that Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves worked out better for Carolina than did Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman for Ottawa.
The Senators, though, may have gotten the last laugh on that. When the Canes lost last night, it assured the Sens of a playoff berth. That's how the back door works. Even though the Sens lost their game, they locked up a playoff berth.

They'd probably much rather be in the post-season than to have "won" the trade.

Carolina still has a chance, but it's out of their hands. The weary Panthers will have to play spoiler in DC tonight. No acceptable outcome other than a regulation win by the Kitties.

I've already resigned hoping for that outcome, but anything could happen. I'm already prepared for a long offseason. I'll concede the floor to Kevin from BFLOBLOG:
Welcome to the new and miserable world of watching some team you despise advance towards the Cup while you sit at home swearing, knowing we don’t even have a chance this year.

Sutter scores game winner

On Friday, while the big team crapped the bed, the Albany River Rats continued to play good hockey. They beat the Norfolk Admirals 5-2, and Brandon Sutter notched the game winner in just his third AHL game. In three games, the 2007 Hurricanes top pick has one goal and one assist.

With four games remaining on the schedule, the Rats have all but locked up a Calder Cup playoff spot. They need just one standings point, or for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to lose just one of their remaining six games.

Rookie sensation Jerome Samson, who may vie for a spot on the Hurricanes, scored his 21st of the season.

Michael Leighton, who leads the AHL in all goaltending categories, picked up his 28th win of the season. Look for him to join the big team next season.

The same two teams will square off tonight, and again on Wednesday.

looking to the offseason

Carolina technically is still in the running for a playoff position. I'm pretty confident, however, that Washington will get at the very least one standings point tonight. That will end the Canes season and begin the re-signing season.

We're all hoping that at some point, preferably tomorrow morning, Bret Hedican announces his retirement. I'm sure he's a nice fella. He's a terrific skater and a consummate teammate, but he just isn't any good as a defenseman anymore. Sure, he's tops on the team in +/- rating, and he's way up there in blocked shots. Sure, he's up there in takeaways. Sure, he makes a dazzling play once in a while. However, he blows coverage a lot, lags behind plays, refuses to hit, and is a source of constant frustration. I've been ready for him to retire for a long time.

When he retires, the Canes will have just three defensemen under contract. Later on, I'll evaluate the forwards, but for now, I'll look at the defense.

Frantisek Kaberle is signed through 2010 and his cap hit will be $2.2M next season.
Nic Wallin is signed through 2010 and his cap hit will be $1.725 next season.
Joe Corvo is signed through 2010 and his cap hit will be $2.75 next season.

Hedican will retire.
Glen Wesley may retire, but it wouldn't hurt my feelings one bit if he signed on for another year at $1.4M

  • Tim Gleason made $1.175 this season and is scheduled to be a RFA. I think he needs to be re-signed. Maybe with a slight raise. Let's say $1.3M.
  • Dennis Seidenberg played well this season for $850k and will be a RFA. I'd like to see him back, but I wouldn't be surprised if he signed elsewhere.
  • Tim Conboy made $550 on a two-way contract this season and will be a RFA. I'd really like to see him back with a two-year extension.
  • Casey Borer is under a two-way contract through next season. He won't be a full-time NHLer, but he'll see time.

    For sure, I think we'll see Conboy and Gleason signed to extensions.
    Although I like Seidenberg, I think he'll end up somewhere else.

    The Canes will have to make at least one move for a defenseman in free agency. Even if Glen Wesley decides to stick around. I can't possibly speculate at this point, but I think the thing to do will be to get a defensive defenseman.

    That's it for now. Later on, the forwards.
  • Carolina blows it

    On Friday night, Carolina had the opportunity to secure the #3 playoff in the East. All they had to do was win a home game against the Panthers. This is something the Hurricanes had done umpteen times in a row, dating back to 2002.

    Despite all the gifts that Florida gave Carolina, the Hurricanes couldn't pull out the win. For now, Carolina is technically in second place in the Southeast and on the outside looking in at the playoffs. The Canes have gone from having control of their own destiny to praying for an upset on Saturday when the Kitties take on the red-hot Capitals.

    I'm too angry/frustrated/heartbroken to look up the stats, but Carolina had what seemed like an hour of power play. They had a very significant amount of two-man advantage power play. That went so poorly that Carolina allowed a shorthanded goal en route to a 4-3 loss that all but killed their playoff hopes.

    Carolina tried being good. That didn't work. Now they will have to get lucky.

    The Flyers didn't do any favors for the Canes, as they won their game over the Devils. All of those back doors involving the Flyers are slammed shut.

    The last hope is that Florida beats Washington on Saturday at the Verizon Center.

    I don't have the eloquence or even the right words to make a proper post. They crapped the bed, and don't deserve to get any help from the Panthers.

    I refuse to put a whole lot of hope in that key game. I doubt I'll even watch.

    I think I'll be rooting for the Penguins in the playoffs. If anyone can give me a compelling argument explaining why I should root for some other team, I'm all ears.

    Friday, April 04, 2008

    The Finale

    Carolina plays their final home game of the regular season tonight. I wasn't scheduled to go to the game, but a friend is out of town and offered me his tickets. This means that for the sixth season in a row, I'll be there on the final game.

    Most seasons, the finale has been bittersweet. In '02 and '06, they had the SE crown wrapped up. Every other season, they weren't even in the playoffs. The point is that the final game has not had any "real" meaning in the time that I've been going to them. In '06, they could have secured the #1 seed in the East if they had won the final game. They lost, ended up with the #2 seed, and maybe it gave the Canes the path they needed.

    Tonight, they need a win to secure the division. They can still win the division if they lose and get some help, but that's not what they want.

    Yesterday, I wrote that there were two backup plans in case the Canes can't get a win tonight. There's actually a third plan, but it didn't occur to me until this morning.

    If the Canes stumble, but end up with an overtime/shootout loss, they will be two points ahead of ninth place Philly. If the hypothetical overtime loss is coupled with a regulation loss by Philly, Carolina will secure the eighth spot. As long as Philly loses at least one of their remaining games, Carolina secures with an overtime loss tonight.

    Justin Williams will not be returning to the lineup despite reports that he's feeling much better.

    The Canes will be rolling with seven defensemen.

    The Hurricanes are 5-2-0 against the Kitties this season.

    In my preparation for the game, I'm going to give myself a nice clean shave. I've been wearing a little bit of scruff for about a year solid, but it's time to clean the slate in preparation for the playoff beard.

    If any of the four scenarios unfolds to put the Hurricanes in the playoffs, I'll regularly update the status of the beard.

    I didn't sleep last night.

    Go. Canes.

    Thursday, April 03, 2008

    Caps hold serve; down to one

    On Thursday, the Capitals refused to die. They won their sixth straight game and forced the Southeast title to swing on the last games of the season for Carolina and for Washington.

    Carolina will have a chance to end it on their own terms with a regulation or overtime win against Florida at the RBC Center on Friday. Failing that, Carolina will hope that one of two things happens.

    Plan B will be for the Capitals to lose in regulation to the Kitties on Saturday. That way, Carolina will still win the Southeast and will have the #3 seed.

    Plan C will be for the Flyers to lose both of their remaining games (New Jersey on Friday and Pittsburgh on Sunday), with at least one of those losses in regulation. That way, Carolina will have the #8 seed in the East.

    Obviously, they'd prefer to do it by themselves.

    Go Canes!

    LaRose nets hatty, Canes inch closer

    On Wednesday night, the Hurricanes were in a "must win" situation against the lowly Lightning. They met the task at hand and have put the ball deep in the Capitals court. There is still a way for both Carolina and Washington to make the dance, but both teams would much rather have the automatic bid. Carolina has done their part for now. They'll worry about Friday when Friday gets here.

    The game wasn't part of my season ticket package, but I had an unused ticket which I traded in for a ticket to this. Unfortunately, there were no tickets available in the lower bowl, for for the first time since 2002, my spoiled ass had to "slum it" in the upper deck. I was happy to see, though that my seat was in the fabled section 328, in the front row of that corner section. I might not like it so much if I had been higher up, but that front row seat was pretty cool. 328, as you will know if you ever read AQas , is the section which lustily taunts the visiting goalie every game. They also have lots of other colorful chants and rituals that I just don't see in other parts of the arena. Good stuff.

    Eric Staal scored the game's first goal on the first shot just 32 seconds in. The game was already over at that point.

    Because I'm pressed for time, I won't give the fully detailed recap.

    Chad "Sharpie" LaRose had a goal in each period, and was far and away the game's and the NHL's first star. The first two were typical LaRose goals. Hard working, scrappy, dirty hands type of goals. Loose change, rebounds. The third was a beautiful goal scorer's goal. He came in alone down the left wing and was fed by a nifty pass off the wall from Erik Cole. He deked a few times and thoroughly beat the goalie, then did a Statue of Liberty celebration. What a goofball.

    Eric Staal had a goal and an assist and was the third star. Ruuty had a goal and an assist and was the second star. Erik Cole had two assists. Dennis Seidenberg had two assists. Everybody played well, including a surprise return by Matt "concussion" Cullen.

    The players all said that they won't be watching the Caps-Lightning game tonight. I think they're liars.

    RBH three stars

    THIRD STAR Eric Staal, CAR -- goal, assist.
    SECOND STAR Tuomo Ruutu, CAR -- goal, assist, 7 hits.
    FIRST STAR Chad LaRose, CAR -- three goals.

    With one game to play, Carolina has a two point lead. Washington has a game in hand, which will be played tonight. If Washington loses either of their remaining games in regulation OR if Carolina wins their game on Friday, the division is Carolina's.

    Tuesday, April 01, 2008

    Hurricanes squander division lead, playoffs in doubt

    On Tuesday night, the Hurricanes lost the most important game of the season. They didn't just lose. They lost in glorious fashion, going down 4-1 to the Capitals. They have lost two games in a row and blown two chances to clinch the division. Now, they sit in first place over Washington not on points, but on tiebreaker scenarios. They have unfortunately reached a point where the next two games are unqualified "must win" situations.

    I wasn't really watching the game. The most important game of the season, and I chose to give partial attention to it and most of my attention to some girl who roots for some unmentionable team. Don't ask.

    I can't offer a game recap, but I'm sure Japers' Rink has a very nice one.

    On Wednesday, Carolina will get what should be an easy win against Tampa. The Bolts are the worst team in the NHL, but they rained on Carolina's parade on Saturday. Then they'll have the Panthers in Raleigh for the season-ender on Friday.

    Coincidentally, the Caps have the same two remaining home games, and they will get both on the back end of back-to-backs. The Bolts will be in Raleigh on Wednesday and Washington on Thursday. The Kitties will be in Raleigh on Friday and Washington on Saturday.

    While Washington is certainly under pressure to win and also get help, Carolina is under even more. For them, what's at stake is the division. If they fail to win these two games, they will have squandered a lead that most people thought was as safe as could be. I think it's probably harder when you've got something to lose.

    I woke up a nervous wreck. Now I'm angry. I hope I'm better by this time tomorrow night.


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