A Carolina Hurricanes blog with occasional news about the rest of the NHL.
Showing posts with label Hurricanes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hurricanes. Show all posts

Monday, August 25, 2008

RBH predicts player performance

Yesterday, I picked up The Hockey News special fantasy hockey/pool edition. It breaks down the top 100 players and also predicts the point production of most players. Just for fun, I'll compare what they predict for Hurricanes players to what I predict.

This is simply meat and potatoes. No analysis for right now. The players are arranged by where I think they'll fit on the depth chart:

  • Ray Whitney. THN sees a 68 (27/41) point campaign. I've got him at 61 (25/36)
  • Eric Staal. THN has 79 (35/44) points for him, while I have 93 (42/51)
  • Justin Williams. THN predicted 63 (30/33), and I went for 73 (36/37)
  • Sergei Samsonov. THN said 51 (22/29), and I think it'll be 55 (25/30)
  • Rod Brind'Amour. THN predicted 74 (24/50) for the Cap, but I predict 68 (27/41)
  • Patrick Eaves. THN picked 30 (15/15), and I said 34 (16/18)
  • Tuomo Ruutu. THN went with 43 (15/28), but I went with 33 (11/22)
  • Matt Cullen. THN forsees 49 (15/34), and I'm going with 46 (21/25)
  • Scott Walker. THN said 45 (20/25), and I say 44 (17/27)
  • Chad LaRose. THN predicts 25 (10/15), and I'm going with 30 (15/15)
  • Brandon Sutter. THN predicts 20 (9/11) for the rookie, and I'll say 29 (12/17)
  • Ryan Bayda. THN doesn't have Bayda on the chart, and I'm predicting 13 (4/9) for him

  • Joe Corvo. THN sees 54 (14/40) in his future, and I see 65 (15/50)
  • Tim Gleason. THN predicts 21 (4/17), and I think he'll have 19 (6/13)
  • Joni Pitkanen. THN has him for 34 (9/25), and I've got him for 35 (8/27)
  • Nic Wallin isn't on THN's radar, but I'm predicting 13 (4/9) for him.
  • Frantisek Kaberle. THN thinks he'll put up 25 (3/22) points. I'm not sure he'll be on Carolina's roster, but I'll pick 12 (1/11) for him.
  • Anton Babchuk. THN picks him for 16 (3/13), and I pick him for just 9 (2/7)
  • Tim Conboy isn't on THN's radar either. I think he'll have 8 (3/5) points.
  • Dennis Seidenberg. THN predicts 20 (3/17) for the German, while I see only 11 (2/9) points for him.

    There will be other players who come up from Albany, but these will be the mainstays.

    Also, the goalies:
  • Cam Ward THN sees a 37-win campaign, while I've got him down for 38.
  • Michael Leighton THN thinks he'll win 10 games, but I think he'll win 7.

    I'm predicting Carolina to have a 45-28-9 season. Sadly, 99 points won't win the division, but it'll be good enough for a #5 spot in the playoffs.

    Any thoughts?
  • Wednesday, July 09, 2008

    Sharpie signs the dotted line

    On Wednesday, the Hurricanes announced that they have finally come to terms on a one-year deal with winger Chad LaRose. The 26-year old Michigander will make $875k in 2008-09.

    LaRose, who had NHL-career highs in goals (11), assists (12) and points (23) last season, earned $500k while playing out his first one-way contract. Previously, the undrafted player had been signed to two-way deals.

    The signing means that the Hurricanes have avoided arbitration with LaRose. The Canes haven't had an arbitration hearing since Jeff O'Neill was awarded $1.5M in 2000.

    This is good news, but it puts the Canes about 4M over their budget. After Kaberle and his $2.2M get moved out, they'll be close enough.

    Sunday, July 06, 2008

    Sharpie files for arbitration

    On Saturday, Carolina forward Chad "Sharpie" LaRose notified the Hurricanes and the NHLPA that he has elected to take the team to an arbitration hearing. He is one of 15 NHL players to do so, and the only Hurricane.

    LaRose, who was undrafted, but played junior hockey in the Compuware system, earned $500k last season. He was given loads of ice time due to a plethora of injuries and was slotted as high as second line. He posted a career high 23 (11/12) points in 58 games played. In a crucial late season game, he posted his first career hat trick in a 6-2 win over the Lightning.

    Sharpie was given a standard qualifying sheet, but the RFA has yet to accept it. Jim Rutherford has indicated that negotiations with him are "going nowhere".

    In his three years with the Hurricanes, LaRose has built somewhat of a cult following due to his hard work on and off the ice. He has given this team everything that he has. When he wasn't getting any, he never once complained about ice time. Instead, he worked harder than almost anybody in practice. He was an excellent fourth liner, and when things got difficult due to injuries and illness, the hard-working midget was rewarded with an increased role.

    Carolina is nowhere near the salary cap, but they are already a smidgen above their own budget. That said, even if LaRose "wins" his arbitration hearing, it should be for less than a million dollars, and the Canes should definitely accept the ruling.

    I've am the proud owner of Chad LaRose's page at hockey-reference.com, so it goes without saying that I would be upset if things don't get worked out.

    Wednesday, July 02, 2008

    Canes sign Pitkänen, Melichar

    On Wednesday, the Hurricanes made two signings. One fully expected, and the other a bit of a surprise.

    The first of the signings was the surprise. Jim Rutherford went way off the rumor charts by signing former Penguin Josef Melichar. The rumors about him were that he was going to return to the Pens after spending last season in Czech and Swedish leagues. He spent his entire six-year NHL career in Pittsburgh, where he tallied 40 (7/33) points in 310 games. The 29-year old Czech was signed to a one-year deal at $1M. When Rutherford flat out said that he was gonna get another defenseman to get bigger and younger, then get rid of one of the existing ones, everyone pretty much assumed he was really saying "Frantisek Kaberle, pack your bags". I'm not sure what the Canes would be able to get for the guy who scored the Cup-winning goal in 2006, but I'm guessing they'll get a prospect and a second round pick.

    Frankie has been so frustrating to watch. He can't seem to put two good games back to back. Most nights, he can't even put two good shifts back to back. He's been having lingering problems from the multitude of surgeries he's had, and at 34, he's just not getting any younger. I'd say his days are over in Carolina.

    The second was the big one. Joni Pitkänen was signed to a three-year $12M deal. The money is a bit more than I was hoping, but the length is more than I was expecting. For the most part, I've been hearing good things about him and his skill set. The question marks are on his health. From a Carolina standpoint, his health can't possibly be dodgier than that of Bret Hedican or Frantisek Kaberle. And he can't possibly be worse defensively than those two. And he definitely will provide more back-end offensive production than those two combined.

    Frankie and his $2.2M have got to go. If the Canes can get a depth forward out of it, hooray! Otherwise, shed the salary and stock up on draft picks. I'll always have the fond memory of Frankie scoring the Cup-winner on June 19, 2006 -- just a few feet in front of my face, but this team desperately needed a massive overhaul of the defense. It started with the brilliant Commy/Stillman for Corvo/Eaves trade last winter. These two signings pretty much finish that off. I still think Kaberle is a swell guy, but I also think that both the team and Kaberle would be better served if he was traded.

    The few of us who stand behind the team on this Cole/Pitkänen deal have been getting railed by the many who hate it. Make no mistake, I will miss Cole. He will continue to be one of my favorite players; he'll just be wearing a different sweater. I understand and appreciate what he did for this team. I understand it as much or more than the next guy. I'm not saying "Good riddance, jerk!" None of us is saying that. It's business. The Sliding Pokecheck put it quite nicely in her post:
    "The Hurricanes had a lot of good forwards and desperately needed to trade for a defenseman. Cole was the only one the team could afford to lose WHO WOULD ALSO get the team something of value in return. Someone had to go and Cole was a valuable trade option. There you go. It's business, folks. Much as you might get attached to certain players and want to keep them around for their entire career, it's not about you - it's about trying to put together a winning team."

    Carolina didn't miss the playoffs last season because they weren't scoring enough goals. They had plenty of offense. They narrowly missed the playoffs chiefly because their defense sucked. This will probably be a blog post of its own sometime in the near future. The chief goal this summer was to rehaul the defense even if it meant losing a star player. Feelings have been hurt, but that mission has been accomplished. The defense has been rehauled. Will it pay dividends? I think so, but we'll have to wait and see.

    If Pitkänen stinks up the joint, I'll gladly eat crow. For now, I'm totally behind this.

    As an aside, the Hurricanes website lists Melichar with the sweater #2. Obviously, that won't be his number. Since the Hurricanes are retiring that number for Glen Wesley, Melichar will be asked to pick something else. Pitkänen is shown with the #25, which will be just fine. I just hope he can be better in that sweater than Bruno St. Jacques and Eric Belanger were.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008

    Ruutu signs; Tanabe and Hamilton clear

    On Tuesday, David Tanabe and Jeff Hamilton both cleared waivers. The Hurricanes will set the buy-out ball in motion. Tanabe will have to be examined and deemed healthy before this can take place, but the Hurricanes are taking the position that he is in fact healthy.
    Jeff Hamilton seemed like a nice guy, and he got off to a roaring start here. However, after he settled down, things just weren't working. After notching 12 (4/8) points in the first 15 games of the season, he only mustered 12 (5/7) in the next 44 games. He also spent some time in the press box and some time soldiering away up in Albany. He had nine (3/6) points in nine games with the River Rats. Sadly, he and his smoky visor won't be back in Raleigh.

    Tanabe's health continues to be a mystery. While I have certainly suggested that he's milking the injury for all (or more than) it's worth this move has nothing to do with Tanabe's injury. The CBA is quite clear about buying out injured players. Even when healthy, Tanabe would be scratched while guys like Tim Conboy were recalled from Albany.

    Fortunately, fans of Tuomo Ruutu were able to finally stop holding their breath. Sort of. Today, he was signed to one of those dreaded one-year contracts. He'll get $2.25M. Ostensibly, this was done because it was, as Luke put it "the path of least resistance". The two sides have been unable to find a common ground on salary and duration of contract, so they just did this to get something done. Next July 1, he will be eligible to become a RFA. That aspect of the deal works out better for Carolina, but they had to pay a little more up front than they really wanted to.

    After being acquired via trade with the Blackhawks, Ruutu quickly became a crowd favorite and he put up 11 (4/7) points in 17 games.

    Coincidentally, Andrew Ladd (whom Ruutu was traded for) re-signed with the 'Hawks yesterday. In 20 games with Chicago, Ladd notched 12 (5/7) points. He was signed to a two-year deal, which will pay him $1.45M in 08-09 and $1.65M in 09-10.

    With Ruutu signed and Hambone gone, Carolina still has 10 forwards and four defensemen signed. I suppose Chad LaRose will be the next to re-sign. Then defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. There are several free agents-to-be who need to be signed for Albany's sake, but they are all RFAs, so there's really no rush.

    After LaRose and Seidenberg, the next order of business will be to wait till July 1, then go after a name-brand blueliner in the FA market. It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that Brandon Sutter will be the last piece of the puzzle, and he'll be snapped (forced) into place after the pre-season exhibition games.

    Saturday, June 21, 2008

    Canes draft defenseman with famous name

    In the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the Hurricanes went with a defenseman, Michal Jordan. Because he's a Plymouth Whaler, he's a guy they already know. Because of his name, he's already famous. Even if he doesn't spell it the same.

    This season, the 6'2" 185lb blueliner from the Czech Republic played in 39 games for the Peter Karmanos-owned Plymouth Whalers of the OHL. He registered 22 (5/17) points and 32 PIM.

    Carolina gets another Zac

    In the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, with the 45th overall pick, the Hurricanes selected center/wing Zac Dalpe. He will join first round draftee Zach Boychuk and the two of them together will be called "Zax".

    Dalpe was projected by many to be a first rounder, so this is a nice pick. He was just 5'6" earlier this year, but has had a growth explosion to 6'1". He weighs just 175, so he obviously needs to put on a few, but a year or three at Ohio State should help him in that regard.

    This ends any speculation that Carolina would add Jered Staal. They actually wanted to go with the youngest Staal brother, but that plan didn't involve Dalpe still being available. I'm sure the message board types are already crying in their Froot Loops over this. UPDATE Jared Staal was taken with the 49th overall pick by the Coyotes.

    Carolina's director of amateur scouting Tony MacDonald joked "We're all out of Zachs. No Zachs left". Carolina's next pick will be in the fourth round, number 105 overall. At that point, Zach or no Zach, the player is likely to be almost completely irrelevant.

    Canucks rumors

    During the first round of the draft on Friday, some rumors began to circulate that Jim Rutherford and Vancouver GM Mike Gillis were discussing the possibility of a straight-up trade which would send winger Erik Cole to the Nucks and defenseman Kevin Bieksa to the Canes.

    The Canucks would love to have a guy like Cole, who is a perennial 30/30 scorer. He's listed as a left wing, but he can play either wing, and is actually better on the right side. Especially with the retirement of long-time Nuck Trevor Linden, the Canucks will be a little thin on the right side. Presumably, the interest in Cole is to plug him into the Sedinbot line, which is a role that they have had difficulty filling.

    While the Nucks aren't exactly overrun with defensemen, their need to get a quality right wing is pretty glaring. While the Canes aren't exactly overrun with consistent 60-point performers, their glaring need is on the blue line.

    It makes sense, then, that this rumor would fly around. Every year, there are rumors about Erik Cole. Most of the time, I have shrugged them off as ridiculous. This time, I think there might be something to it.

    However, Alanah at Canucks and Beyond is suggesting that there are rumors that one or both of the Sedinbots are on the market.

    She writes off the "rumors" much the same way I have written off Cole rumors in past years:
    I’m curious about the source of this “speculation.” Something credible or just message board talk?

    Personally, I’m betting on the message boards—or maybe just the typical Vancouver sports radio call-in-show blather that I tend to tune out. If it’s coming from someone with actual sources, I certainly haven’t stumbled across it.

    It seems impossible to believe if you ask me. The Nucks went to an awful lot of trouble to make sure they could get both of the Sedins. Given the twins' insistence upon playing together, there's no way that one will be traded without the other. Who in the world would come up with an aggressive enough plan to get them both?

    Maybe the Red Wings have a plan to send every one of their non-Swedes to Vancouver for the twins, but I'm only making a joke about that.

    From a Vancouver perspective, that makes no sense. The Sedinbots have been the only consistently good things about the Vancouver offense for the last several years. Markus Naslund isn't getting any younger, and his production is tapering off. They need the Sedins. And the Sedins need someone to play with. I'm not sure that Cole is the best fit in the world on that right wing, but I doubt that he would be a terrible misfit.

    I would be sad to see Cole go, but he's got loads of trade value. He's been a huge part of the Hurricanes team and one of the poster boys. And of course, he's been Carolina's ace in the hole whenever they play Montréal He's scheduled to be a UFA next July, and negotiations with him have always been difficult. It might be time for the Canes to pull the trigger. Cole-Bieksa would instantly fix a gaping hole in Carolina's armor. While it would certainly create a different hole, that one would be smaller.

    Now, IF (and this is a big IF) Cole is shipped, that puts lots of pressure on the Canes front office to get Tuomo Ruutu and Chad "Sharpie" LaRose re-signed. It also pre-supposes that our 2007 top pick Brandon Sutter will be able to make the jump to the big team and make an impact.

    More news from the draft as it develops.

    Friday, June 20, 2008

    Canes select Boychuk

    With the 14th overall pick, the Hurricanes selected centerman Zach Boychuk. The first preference was defenseman Colton Teubert, but he had just been selected with the 13th pick by the Kings.

    Boychuk brings a ton of explosive speed and a moderate amount of offensive output. With his diminutive 5'9" frame and those traits, that sounds a lot like Ray Whitney. We should be so lucky. The TSN scouts have compared him to Jason Blake.

    There has been some speculation, and it was perpetuated by the Versus draft coverage, that Carolina and Vancouver are talking about the possibility of swapping a forward (read: Erik Cole) for defenseman Kevin Bieksa. As far as salary is concerned, those two players would be a wash. With the likely addition of last year's first round pick Brandon Sutter and the probable re-signings of Chad LaRose and Tuomo Ruutu, Carolina will have a glut of forwards. I would be sad to see Cole go, but it's no secret that Carolina is in desperate need of some help on the back end.

    There have already been a large number of transactions on draft day, and there should be some more on Saturday.

    More on Boychuk and the possible trades later

    Thursday, June 19, 2008

    Good day for Gleason, Canes

    On Thursday afternoon, the Hurricanes announced that they have finally come to terms with defenseman Tim Gleason. The 25-year old, who was arguably Carolina's best blueliner last season was scheduled to become a RFA on July 1, but after months of difficult negotiations, the two sides have agreed to a four year $11M deal. Last year, Gleason made $1.175M.

    Timmmmmaaay will make $2M in 2008-09, and his salary will increase by $500k every year, culminating in a $3.5M payday in 2011-12. His raise is well-deserved and his long term contract will be much appreciated by the Caniacs. Carolina's defense was, at times, dreadful last season. Gleason was the only player who was consistently good.

    Gleason will join Joe Corvo, Frantisek Kaberle and Nic Wallin as the top four defensemen. Carolina still has to get RFA-to-be Dennis Seidenberg re-signed and acquire one other defenseman via trade or free agency. There isn't a Hurricanes fan anywhere who would object to going after John-Michael Liles in free agency.

    It's still very early, but I will continue to say, as I have said all along that Carolina is much happier with Tim Gleason than they could have possibly been with an arrogant, petulant player in Jack Johnson. Gleason hasn't fully ripened yet, and Jack Johnson probably hasn't even started, but I'll take Gleason any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

    Monday, June 09, 2008

    Canes have their own little coaching carousel

    On Monday, the Hurricanes announced that they will be making some coaching changes within the organ-eye-zation. Peter Laviolette isn't going anywhere, but there were two significant changes that look to be beneficial for everyone. Long time Hurricanes AHL affiliate head coach Tom Rowe has been called up to be Peter Laviolette's assistant. He will both replace and be replaced by Hurricanes assistant coach Jeff Daniels. That's right. Daniels and Rowe have swapped jobs.

    Daniels, who very inconspicuously played parts of six seasons with the Whaler/Canes between 96-97 and 02-03, went immediately from the ice to the bench upon his retirement. The anonymous left winger played 272 games with the Whaler/Canes, which was the bulk of his NHL career. He notched just 20 (8/12) points with the organ-eye-zation, but was always well respected for his ice smarts and his work ethic. For what it's worth, he was always my ex-girlfriend Eleanor's favorite player. She hated Justin Williams from the word go just because he wore Daniels' number 11 sweater.

    Tom Rowe also spent part of his playing career with the Whale. Between 79-80 and 81-82, he played 115 games for the blue and green, notching 55 (23/32) points. He spent the majority of his playing career (off and on) with the Capitals. In 1979, he became the only American-born player to register 30 goals in a season when he had 31 in 69 games for the Caps.
    Rowe joined the AHL Lowell Lock Monsters as an assistant coach for the 2001-02 season and became head coach in 2004-05. When the Hurricanes switched their AHL affiliate to the Albany River Rats, Rowe went with. In four full seasons as head coach, he's had a 156-130-5-29 record.

    Rowe, who has done a good job in Lowell/Albany, knows and has coached many of the players on the Canes roster. He'll be getting an excellent chance to work in the NHL and position himself for a head coaching job somewhere.

    In addition to becoming the new head coach of the River Rats, Daniels will also be the GM. Both will be new and exciting experiences for him and an excellent move for him career-wise.

    A while back, I heard some speculation that former captain and all-around classy guy Kevin Dineen was being earmarked for a coaching position within the club, but it appears that he's staying put as the skipper of the AHL Portland Pirates. The Pirates, who had been affiliated with the Ducks are scheduled to announce a new NHL affiliation on Tuesday. It will either be a one-year deal with the Stars, or some longer-term thing with Florida.

    Thursday, April 03, 2008

    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.

    Saturday, March 29, 2008

    Canes smash Thrash, inch closer to division title

    On Friday night, the Hurricanes destroyed the Thrashers 7-1 and restored their division lead to a more comfortable four points. If the stars align correctly, the Hurricanes can clinch the division tonight. If the Canes can win at Tampa and the Capitals lose in regulation at Florida, Carolina will secure the division.

    A fully detailed recap will come later, but it was the unusual suspects who did the heavy lifting in this game. Eric Staal got the game's first goal less than a minute in. After that, it was the less glamorous players. Joe Corvo had one goal, Tuomo Ruutu had two, Jeff Hamilton had two, and Trevor Letowski had a shorthanded goal. In addition to the shorty, Carolina notched five power play goals. It was the best power play performance since the 6-4 win against Detroit on the day after Thanksgiving in 2002.

    Tonight's puck drop will be at 7:30. Although they swear that they don't do things like this, the Hurricanes will be scoreboard watching, as the Caps and Kitties have a 7:00 start.

    The Bolts, like the Thrashers, have nothing to play for at this point. It showed last night, as the Thrashers were undisciplined and got dirty late in the game. I hope it doesn't happen again tonight.

    Friday, March 21, 2008

    Carolina wins again, widens lead

    On Thursday, Carolina continued their fiery month of March with a shootout win over the Panthers. Although they allowed the Panthers to get one point, the important thing is that they got two of their own, padding their division lead.

    Carolina's lead is now seven points over Washington and eight over Florida. Both teams have a game in hand. Even if one of those teams runs the table, Carolina can secure the division championship with a run of 3-2-1 down the stretch.

    In typical fashion, Florida coach Jacques Martin was whining to the press before the game about how Carolina is a bunch of divers and how the officiating favors Carolina. In this game, though, Carolina had just two power plays. Florida had five. When they had their chances -- and they did -- they couldn't do anything about it.

    Trevor Letowski got on the board early with a surprise shot from just inside the Florida blue line. Tomas Vokoun was surprised by it, or didn't see it. Whatever the case, it was a shot that he should have stopped, but it ended up beating him cleanly high on the blocker side. 3:22 was the time of the goal, and it was assisted by Glen Wesley and Nick Wallin.

    The second period was filled with penalties against the Canes, but the penalty killers were amazing. Cam Ward was the best penalty killer, and he was sensational in the second frame. He had one save in particular against Olie Jokinen late in the period that was a highlight reel keeper. Ward had to explode from his right to left, stack the pads and made a sensational glove save from point blank range as Jokinen had made the "perfect" shot, getting it over the pads.

    Steven Weiss broke up the shutout 22 seconds into the third, assisted by David Booth and Jay Bouwmeester. It was one of the few times all game where Cam Ward's rebound control wasn't great. Booth took a shot from the left circle that Ward knocked down into the slot. Weiss gathered it and deposited it into the far side of the net.

    Florida had lots of late chances, including some power play time, but they couldn't take the lead, and on it went to overtime. Nothing notable happened in the overtime, and it went to shootout.

    Carolina went first, and Jeff Hamilton was stopped. After the first Florida shooter went wide of the net, Sergei Samsonov scored. The second Florida shooter was stopped by Ward. Eric Staal got a cheap one to trickle through the pads of Vokoun, and the bottom of the third was unnecessary.

    The RBH three stars were exactly like the "official" stars.

    THIRD STAR Steven Weiss, FLA --- goal
    SECOND STAR Cam Ward, CAR --- 36 saves, shootout win
    FIRST STAR Sergei Samsonov --- shootout winner

    Carolina will be idle for the next four days, and the word on the street is that Peter Laviolette has told the boys to take some time for themselves. Washington will use their game in hand tonight against the lowly Thrashers. Then, a gigantic matchup in Raleigh on Tuesday.

    Wednesday, March 19, 2008

    Canes beat Thrash, widen lead

    On Wednesday night, the Hurricanes defeated the Thrashers 5-3 and have gained their 85th standings point. As I am typing, Washington trails Chicago 5-0 midway through the second period. This is also good news.

    If the game in Chicago holds up, Carolina will end the night with a five point lead over Washington with seven games (all within the division) to play. The road has just gotten a little easier to hoe.

    Carolina's next two games could either put it out of reach, or make it really interesting. They will be in Florida on Thursday and at home against the Caps on next Tuesday. The Cats are smoldering hot and will be rested for Thursday's game. They will have the chance to move into second place in the division.

    Although the score of Wednesday's game was 5-3, it wasn't that close. This game was all Canes.

    Trevor "The Dude" Letowski started it all off at 4:04 of the first with a shot from the right circle. Patty Eaves made a really pretty cross-slot pass. Ruuty got the secondary helper.

    Sergei Samsonov got an unassisted goal at 6:58 after putting on a stick-handling show. His shot came from above the right circle, and the rout was on.

    At 13:35, the future captain Eric Staal potted his 35th goal of the season. He came fresh off the bench, created a neutral zone turnover, then took a pass from Jeff Hamilton in the high slot to make it 3-0.

    Cam Ward's shutout bid didn't last long, as Bryan Little broke it up just 1:56 into the middle frame. Slava Kozlov and Mark Recchi got the helpers.

    Joe Jensen, whose claim to fame heretofore was puking on the bench in his NHL debut, potted the game winner at 3:35 of the second. He was low in the right circle, and received a nice pass from Hamilton from below the goal line. He snapped it in on the far side for his first NHL goal. Tim ("don't call me Tom") Conboy got the second assist.

    Steve McCarthy made it 4-2 at 4:56, and it was starting to get a little interesting. He scooped up some loose change out front and deposited it into Ward's net for his first goal. Chris Thorburn and the 1989 Hartford Whalers first round draft pick Bobby Holik got the helpers.

    Erik Cole scored his 21st goal of the season at 14:51 of the third. From below the goal line, Sergei Samsonov made a phenomenal no-look, behind the back pass to Cole, who was hanging out in the left circle. He got a couple of whacks at it, and finally beat The Moose, making it 5-2. Bret Hedican, whose wife was apparently very good on "Dancing With the Stars" the other night, got the secondary assist.

    Kozlov got a late garbage goal at 19:21, assisted by Little and Recchi.

    This game had only four penalties. I guess the referees had tickets to Hanna Montana or something like that. They were in a real hurry to get out of there.

    Carolina completely dominated the first, then slacked off in the second, then played well in the third. Good enough to beat the Thrashers, but they'll have to have 60 minute efforts against the likes of Washington and Florida, whom they play twice each in the remaining seven games.

    The "official" three stars are a bit loopy. Okay. They're a LOT loopy. Word on the street is that these things aren't really selected by the "local media". Sometimes, it's some intern who randomly chooses names. This seems like one of those. The official stars were Steve McCarthy (third), Eric Staal (second) and Cam Ward (first). None of these were even in my top five stars. I don't get that.
    The RBH three stars:
    THIRD STAR Vyacheslav Kozlov, ATL -- 1 goal, 1 assist.
    SECOND STAR Jeffrey Hamilton, CAR -- 2 assists.
    FIRST STAR Sergei Samsonov, CAR -- 1 goal, 1 assist, 3 blocked shots.

    Carolina will have no time to rest. They're headed to Sunrise for a 7:30 game on Thursday.

    A little birdy has told me that Justin Viva Williams is very close to being ready to rejoin the team after missing the last 39 games with MCL/ACL issues. This makes me very happy.

    Sunday, March 16, 2008

    Canes rebound, crush Sens

    On Sunday afternoon, the Hurricanes put the bad loss in Buffalo behind them by pasting the visiting Senators 5-1. To make things extra sweet, it became even more clear that Carolina got the better end of the February 11 trade.

    Joe Corvo, who hated the Canadian press, and who was constantly maligned by the Sens faithful, had a spectacular night. He recorded his first career hat trick, notching goals 10,11 and 12 of the season. He now has 42 (12/30) points on the season. 15 (6/9) have come in 15 games since joining the Hurricanes.

    Dany Heatley got the scoring off to an early start when the Sens cashed in on a five-on-three power play situation. Jason Spezza made a very nice cross-ice pass to Heatley, who was parked by the right post. He tucked it in for the early lead, but it would be the Sens only bright spot. Cory Stillman got the secondary assist.

    Patrick Eaves, the other part of that Feb 11 trade, got his first goal in a Hurricanes uniform during the Canes first power play of the afternoon. Frantisek Kaberle's hard shot from the blue line was tipped by Eaves at the top of the goal crease. The penalty, by the way, was Mike Commodore's. Officially, the power play goal was at 7:00 of the first, and it was assisted by Kaberle and Scott Walker.

    Mike Commodore's night got worse when his second penalty of the game led to Carolina's second goal of the game at 10:24. Joe Corvo fired a cannon from the high slot that the Gerber Baby had no chance on. The game-winning goal was during a four-on-three power play. Sergei Samsonov and Eric Staal got the assists.

    Scott Walker scored his second goal in as many games, beating Gerber with a nasty wrist shot at 5:56 of the second. After a Sens turnover, Eric Staal fed Tim Gleason, who joined the 3-on-2 rush. Gleason, streaking down the right wing made a beautiful pass to Walker, who wristed it in from the inside hash marks of the left circle.

    There was no more scoring in the second, but it was emblematic of the Sens play for the whole game. They only mustered three shots in the second frame, and they committed five penalties. The puck was in the Ottawa end for probably 70% of the period.

    At 2:09 of the final stanza, Joe Corvo got his second goal of the night with a laser beam from the top of the right circle. Again on the power play, and again it was assisted by Samsonov and Staal.

    To cap a magnificent afternoon, Corvo scored on a nifty backhand goal at 17:50 of the third to finish a breakaway . Tuomo Ruutu got the only assist. It was Corvo's first career hat trick, and perhaps the first one ever by a Hurricanes defenseman.

    It's hard to argue with the "official" three stars of Patrick Eaves (third), Eric Staal (second) and Joe Corvo (first). While that's cute to give both former Sens a star, I think I've gotta give SerSam some love on this one. The RBH three stars:

    THIRD STAR Sergei Samsonov, CAR --- 2 assists, 2 takeaways
    SECOND STAR Eric Staal, CAR --- 3 assists
    FIRST STAR Joe Corvo, 3 goals, 3 blocked shots

    Mike Commodore had a dismal day, and has been nothing but trouble for the Sens. His two penalties today both resulted in Canes goals. He doled out five hits, but has been for Ottawa thus far exactly what he had grown to be in Carolina: a liability. In 17 games with the Sens, he has no points and is a -8.

    Cory Stillman had an assist on Ottawa's only goal. In 17 games for them, he has 14 (2/12) points and is a -5.

    On the other hand...

    Joe Corvo has 15 points (6/9) in 15 games with Carolina and is a +6.

    Patrick Eaves has 4 points (1/3) in 9 games with Carolina and is a -1.

    Although Carolina took care of their end, they didn't get help from their SE enemies. Both Washington and Florida won their games. Carolina's lead in the SE remains at five points.

    Carolina will be off until Wednesday, when they travel to Atlanta.

    After this game, what will the Canadian press say about Corvo?

    Friday, March 14, 2008

    Sabres rout Hurricanes (again)

    On Friday, the Sabres demolished the Canes 7-1. They got goals from six different players, and they played a sound game all the way around.

    Like the last visit to HSBC, the Sabres got off to a roaring start and had the game well in hand by the second intermission. Like the last one, Miller gave up a meaningless goal late to spoil the shutout bid.

    The Sabres got goals from Daniel Paille, Adam Mair, Derek Roy (shorthanded), Paul Gustad, Patrick Kaleta, Roy again and Ales Kotalik (power play).

    The Hurricanes could only muster one goal, a shorthanded marker by Scott Walker.

    The FSN South crew kept talking about how Lindy Ruff held his team on the ice after practice yesterday and "held court" with them for some period of time between 13 minutes and 17 minutes. Whatever he said to them worked.

    The Sabres came to play, and they came out of the gates hard and fast. The first goal came at 4:44 of the first, and the second at 5:06. The game was already over.

    In addition to the embarrassing loss, both the Capitals and the Panthers won their games, trimming Carolina's SE lead to five points.

    There were a ton of bad things about tonight, but there were actually a few good things. Carolina took about a million penalties, but the PK units did a spectacular job of killing all but one of the power plays that Buffalo enjoyed.

    As the game neared the end, Carolina lost its composure and took a bunch of undisciplined penalties. By the end of it all, Carolina had 20 penalties to Buffalo's 13. Where it really mattered was that the Hurricanes were shorthanded for 18:44. Buffalo, on the other hand, was shorthanded for 6:33. In the first two periods, the penalties were even, but Carolina let frustration get the better of them and there was a constant parade to the box.

    Carolina ruined the shutout, which is (sort of) a bright side.
    They scored a shorthanded goal, which is (sort of) a bright side.

    Most importantly, Carolina won't be going back to Buffalo until next season. In two games there this year, Carolina has played very poorly and have been outscored 15-2.

    Carolina will now lick their wounds and return to Raleigh, where they will meet the Senators on Sunday.

    The RBH three stars:
    THIRD STAR Ryan Miller, BUF --- 27 saves
    SECOND STAR Adam Mair, BUF --- GWG, 2 assists
    FIRST STAR Derek Roy, BUF --- 2 goals, 1 assist

    Special mention to Scott Walker, who scored Carolina's only goal on a shortie. He also amassed 23 penalty minutes.

    Somehow, Glen Wesley of the Canes ended up with a +1 rating.

    Somehow, Ales Kotalik, Max Afinogenov and Jochen Hecht of the Sabres all ended up with a -1 rating.

    Eric Staal, Sergei Samsonov, Matt Cullen and Joe Corvo all had their five game points streak stopped. The Hurricanes had their five game win streak snapped.

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    Canes roll over Chicago

    On Wednesday, the Hurricanes continued their torrid streak by shutting out the Blackhawks 3-0 in the United Center. Carolina got all the scoring they needed in the first period, then clamped down on defense to win a very convincing game over a desperate but tired team. While the Hurricanes had been off since Saturday, the 'Hawks were in Detroit on Tuesday.

    Washington and Florida both won earlier in the evening, but Carolina's victory keeps their cushion at a comfortable seven points in the SE division. Washington has a game in hand, plus two of those "four point" games against the Canes. They are all "must win" games for the Caps. Florida also has two of the "four point" games.

    Erik Cole got the scoring started at 8:57 of the first with a power play marker. All alone in the slot, his shot easily beat Corey Crawford for the game winner. Sergei Samsonov set it up nicely down below the goal line. Eric Staal got the secondary assist.

    At 10:39 of the first, Matt Cullen cashed in on the second power play of the game. He pounded away at the rebound of a Staal shot until it found its way through Crawford.

    Eric Staal capped a magnificent period with a breakaway goal from his backhand. Joe Corvo and Tuomo Ruutu assisted. It was Staal's 70th (34/36) point of the season and the third (1/2) point of the game.

    Later in the first, Matt Cullen made a goal-saving play. While Cam Ward was down and out after making a save, a stuffback attempt fluttered through the crease. Cullen pounced on the loose puck and sent it out.

    Ward had some help from the heavy metal on a few occasions, but the Hurricanes also hit a couple of posts. Although there were long periods of inactivity, Ward was sharp and made some very nice saves down the stretch on the way to his sixth career shutout.

    The "official" three stars went to Patrick Kane (third), Cam Ward (second) and Eric Staal (first). Kane was obviously just a gratuitous pick. The RBH stars:

    THIRD STAR Matt Cullen, CAR --- goal
    SECOND STAR Cam Ward, CAR --- 25 saves, shutout
    FIRST STAR Eric Staal, CAR --- goal, 2 assists

    Carolina has now won five games in a row and is in a situation where they can control their own playoff destiny. On Friday, they will visit Buffalo, who will be ready to avenge their loss here last Saturday.

    Sunday, March 09, 2008

    Canes down Sabres, widen lead

    On Saturday night, the Hurricanes beat Buffalo 4-3 in overtime. It was the second of three things to make this a perfect day for RBH.

    Earlier in the day, the Capitals self-destructed in the third period of their game against Boston, handing the Bruins the game. Thing one.

    Thing two was this game. Just as I suspected, it wasn't at all like either of the two previous games between the teams this season.

    It's beginning to sound like a broken record, but the new guys and the "Rat Pack" were major players in the game. There is no way Carolina would be where they are today without the major contributions from new guys (Sergei Samsonov, Joe Corvo, Patrick Eaves, Tuomo Ruutu) or the "Rat Pack" (Keith Aucoin, Ryan Bayda, Tim Conboy, Wade Brookbank).

    Aucoin got the Hurricanes on the board first with a really nice finish of a well played shift. Ryan Bayda was relentless with his shot and rebound attempts. Finally, a rebound went out to Aucoin at the inside hashmarks of the right circle. He snapped it in at 16:35. Bayda and Corvo had the assists.

    As the goal was being announced over the PA, Tim Gleason made it 2-0. Matt Cullen won the draw back to Gleason, who tried a shot from the right point. It was turned aside by Ryan Miller, but Eaves fed it back to Gleason for a second shot. This time it found the net. Officially, the goal was Gleason from Eaves and Cullen at 17:01.

    Derek Roy pulled the Sabres to within one goal at 7:46 of the second. Cam Ward made a sloppy play behind his own net and Roy capitalized on it by pouncing on a loose puck in front and sliding it past Ward. The unassisted goal was Roy's 27th marker of the season. He is now tied with Thomas Vanek for the team lead.

    Sergei Samsonov continued his skyrocket-like success by notching his 12th goal since joining the Hurricanes 27 games ago. Eric Staal fired a shot from the high slot that was answered by Miller, but Samsonov swatted the rebound out of mid-air and into the net. Dennis Seidenberg got the secondary assist, and the official time was 8:52 of the second.

    Drew Stafford again cut the lead to one when he got a tip-in at 18:07 of the second. The Sabres worked hard and created a ton of traffic on the play. There were two unattended Sabres right on the front doorstep, and Stafford just happened to be the one who got his stick on it. Dmitri Kalinin and Derek Roy got the assists.

    Both teams really battened down the hatches and everyone knew that the third period would be a good one. The only scoring came at the midway point of the period. Bret Hedican took one of his trademark bad penalties, tripping Maxim Afinogenov. On the ensuing power play, the Sabres created havoc in front of Cam Ward, and in the havoc, Ward lost his stick. Toni Lydman willed the puck in, and there was a brand new game. Officially, the power play goal came at 10:00 of the third. Lydman from Jochen Hecht and Afinogenov.

    Late in the third, Ryan Miller was outstanding. He made a dazzling stop on Eric Staal, exploding from his right to left to rob Staal at the right post. Staal had already raised his arms to celebrate, but Miller was better. A few minutes later, he made a fantastic save on Sergei Samsonov, taking away another sure goal.

    The game went to overtime, and Miller again robbed Samsonov early in the extra frame. I was thinking that Samsonov was going to have nightmares about Ryan Miller. However, Jaro Spacek was called for hooking, and the Canes were given a 4-on-3 overtime power play.

    Near the end of the power play, Eric Staal wristed a shot from the high slot. Scott Walker was parked in front of the crease and tipped it off the right post and in. After a series of remarkable saves, Miller got beaten by a shot that he had no chance of seeing. Staal and Corvo assisted Walker for the game winner.

    The "official" three stars went to Eric Staal(third), Sergei Samsonov (second) and Scott Walker (first). That's just not fair. Ryan Miller played a hell of a game. He was on his head for most of the third period and the overtime. I don't feel right not giving him credit for a heroic effort.

    Trevor Letowski was an unsung hero of this game. He did some very nice work on the penalty kill, and he had a good night in the faceoff circle. He finished with a -1 rating and had no points, but I need to mention his hard work tonight and throughout the Hurricanes hot streak.

    With special mention to Letowski, Matt Cullen and Ryan Bayda, the RBH three stars:
    THIRD STAR Ryan Miller, BUF --- 31 saves
    SECOND STAR Joe Corvo, CAR --- 2 assists
    FIRST STAR Eric Staal, CAR --- 2 assists

    Carolina now has a seven point lead in the division. They have eleven games to play while Washington has 13. The Caps have two games in hand. One will be expended Sunday against the Penguins. The Hurricanes will be off until Wednesday when they will visit Kevyn Adams, Craig Adams, Andrew Ladd and the Blackhawks.

    This game made my night good enough, but to cap it off, UNC held off a furious second half rally by Duke to win the big game 76-68. All the detractors have been saying that UNC doesn't deserve its #1 ranking because they "haven't played anybody". Duke is the #5 team in the nation, and UNC beat them in Durham. That should be good enough. It was an emotional day for both teams. Duke had "senior day", and Carolina was playing the first game since the shocking murder of the UNC student body president earlier this week. Duke was classy enough to observe a moment of silence before the game and hand out Carolina blue ribbons in her honor.

    Overall, a very good day for RBH.

    Friday, March 07, 2008

    Carolina wins again, widens lead

    On Thursday, Carolina defeated the visiting Wild 3-2 and expanded their SE division lead to five points over idle Washington. The Caps still have two games in hand, but Carolina's win really puts pressure on the Caps to win. The Caps play at the slumping Bruins for lunch on Saturday.

    Boston. Holy cow! They've been outscored 19-4 in their last three games. And one of those was a 1-0 game! Canes fans will hope that they can right the ship and do the Hurricanes a favor.

    Thursday was a really long and bad day for me. I had tickets to the game, but one thing after another after another after another kept piling on, and I couldn't go. Among the things I had to deal with at work: a being shortstaffed, a bad leak in the ceiling of the dining room, and worst of all: some jackass poured gasoline down the drain in our women's restroom. Aside from the noxious fumes and the potential for an explosion, the gasoline ate through the drain pipes, and we had to spend hundreds of dollars on emergency plumbing. We don't know who did it, and we don't know whether it was a deliberate act of vandalism or some idiot carelessly disposing of unwanted petrol. Suffice to say, things were kinda scary for a while.

    I didn't even get to watch the game on TV. Luckily, I had already set the DVR, so I eventually got to watch it.

    Here's how things went down:

    At 12:30 of the first, Matt Cullen very subtly re-directed a Joe Corvo shot from the right circle. Cullen was in the low slot, and I really don't see how he touched it, but that's what they're calling. The 4-on-4 goal was also assisted by Sergei Samsonov.

    Scott Walker made it 2-0 at 14:09 of the first. After Eric Staal attempted a wrap-around to the right post, Walker jumped on the rebound at the bottom of the left circle and snapped it past the Wild goaltender. Keith Aucoin got the secondary assist.

    Pavol Demitra put the visitors on the board at 18:02 of the first. From the bottom of the right circle, he beat Cam Ward with a snap shot. Pierre-Marc Bouchard set him up very nicely with a perfect pass from the left dot. Brian Rolston got the second assist.

    Mikko Koivu got the equalizer just 19 seconds into the second frame on a gorgeous goal. Aaron Voros made a pass to him from behind the net. At the top of the goal crease, Koivu dragged the puck from his forehand to the backhand and easily finished the play. Marian Gaborik got the secondary assist.

    Erik Cole got the game winner at 9:41 during a power play sequence. Like the first goal, it was credited to someone else first, then it was changed. Matt Cullen fired a heavy shot from the high slot which just barely ticked Cole's shin pad on the way through the slot. It's rather silly, but Cole gets credit for the goal and Cullen for the primary assist. Joe Corvo got the secondary assist, and Sergei Samsonov was robbed of an assist.

    There was no more scoring in the game, but it got kinda chippy in the third.

    Aaron Voros ran Eric Staal into the boards right along the bench area with about 14 minutes to play. Staal lay on the ice for a few seconds while a mini-melee broke out. Erik Cole immediately went after Voros, and all hell broke loose. Scott Walker for the Canes and Keith Carney for the Wild were ejected. Cole was penalized two for instigating, two for unsportsmanlike (instigating whilst wearing a visor), five for fighting and a ten minute misconduct. It was NOT a game misconduct. Voros was given a boarding major and a fighing major. When the dust settled, Carolina had one minute of power play thanks to a silly rule which doesn't give Cole the right to stand up for his teammates. It's absurd that in a situation like that, Cole is expected to go through the normal fighting protocol.

    "Um. Excuse me. Mr. Voros. You have violently checked my teammate into the boards. He is our star player, our acting captain, and he is possibly injured badly. You must pay a price for your indiscretion. Would you like to engage in fisticuffs? Oh. Wait, please. I have to discard my helmet first. Okay. Let us commence fighting!"


    Anyway, the game ended with that 3-2 score, but there was a little bit more tension in the dying seconds. Sergei Samsonov, of all people, threw a punch after he grew tired of being slashed by Nick Schultz down in the corners. Nothing came of that, and with just four seconds remaining, both players were sent to their locker rooms rather than the penalty box.

    The "official" three stars and the RBH three stars are the same:
    THIRD STAR Joe Corvo, CAR --- 2 assists
    SECOND STAR Matt Cullen, CAR --- 1 goal, 1 assist, 75% (12/16) faceoffs
    FIRST STAR Erik Cole, CAR --- GWG

    It should not be ignored that Tuomo Ruutu dished out five hits. At least one of them was of the "big" variety.

    Also, it should be noted that Patrick Eaves looked good again. He's playing well and clicking with his linemates.

    On Saturday, Carolina will face the hungry Sabres. After a loss against Washington on Wednesday, the Sabres are on the outside of the playoff bubble looking in. They have suffered a bunch of injuries lately, plus the subtraction of Brian Campbell from the blue line. This is crunch time, and they need the win. It's always a big game when the Sabres come to town. These two teams just don't get along very well, so both will be "bringing it".


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