puck head thoughts

Random thoughts regarding ice hockey from the Carolina Hurricanes through the minors with a little hockey news and notes on the side.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Saturday stinker - thoughts on Canes

What’s that smell? For fans of the Carolina Hurricanes, it was a smell that they hope not to smell the rest of the season. The Canes played probably the worst game they have in the past few years – then again I think there were some of the games like this past Saturday played last season. I don’t understand (as there are probably a lot of fans that don’t) how a team can be dominate one night and then lack luster the next.
I can already here some homers stating that Corey Stillman, Bret Hedican and Mike Commodore were all out of the lineup and that David Tanabe hadn’t skated in more than a week nor been in a game since a couple of preseason tilts when in St. Louis. Face it, this is not a time for excuses – it is a time for execution! It doesn’t matter who is in the line up and who isn’t. I mean these guys get paid to play! If the Canes fans want to fall back on the same excuses for this past Saturday’s thrashin’ like most did last season, then why even bother playing the season? Just put the Canes a few games out of the playoffs and let the better teams go after the cup.
Face it! The Canes did little in the offseason. Is this something that is going to catch up with Carolina? Only time will tell. The thing that at the moment gets me is that Rutherford signed David Tanabe to a two year contract and now the N&O is reporting that he is battling Dennis Seidenberg for the seventh defenseman spot. Why should this be? I mean why not carry 8 defensemen? And to sign David Tanabe? No offense, but couldn’t Carolina used there money more wisely?
Now off my soap box and onto tonight’s game:
Both teams currently have a mirror image of each others record standing at 1-1-1. Toronto finally hit the win column with a Saturday overtime victory against the Montreal club that beat Carolina in overtime beginning the season. Both teams come into the game with question marks at some positions. For the Maple Leafs, it is in net. Vesa Toskala – who Toronto picked up in the offseason – so far has taken the reigns of being the number 1 netminder but for how long? As for the Canes, well their questions are going to be who is available. It appears that Mike Commodore might be out for the contest as well as Andrew Ladd. Corey Stillman might be able to finally suit up for a game this season. All in all, Carolina has to simply play like they did against Pittsburgh. If Carolina comes out flat, it will be a long game to watch for Hurricane fans.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Deja vu? Please dear God no!

First and foremost – please no deja vu as in last season with the first two openers at home and raising/unveiling a banner twice. The result of Fright Night 1 and 2 from last season was a shootout lose and a taken out behind the woodshed but whippin’! For the love of God, please Carolina do not attempt to make the fans that come out to tonight’s game feel like it is the home opener because this might be news to you –IT ISN’T!

Now, before we can look ahead to tonight’s game, lets take a look back at Wednesday’s overtime lose to Montreal. All in all the issue with the home opener was that Carolina could not hit the broad side of a barn! If memory serves me right – and I have had a few adult beverages since then so it might not – the Hurricanes missed something like four open nets. That in my mind is what turned the tide. Well that and zebra nation. And can anyone tell me what in the world the Hurricanes did to offend zebra nation? I mean Justin Williams aka Willy was crushed to the ice by a cross check after the whistle had blown and nothing was called. Fast forward to overtime where Nic “the secret weapon” Wallin gets called for a cross check in front of the net. I admit it might have been a cross check and a penalty but if you didn’t call it in the 3rd period, how for the love that is holy, can you call it in overtime? Would that have been called if this were a playoff game and in overtime? I ask the zebra nation to focus and call the game and not the players!

Now, on to tonight! I am stoked and ready to go. The cooler is in the truck, the flags flying when I drive, the jersey (number 11 Williams is you must know) is hung and ready to we worn! The power play from Wednesday night might have been a concern for most persons watching the game. Carolina went something like 1-7, but out of those seven chances with the man advantage, Montreal was called for “delay of game” three or four times. Delay of game – player in own defensive zone firing puck over glass without it being deflected by another player or glass itself!

The thing that concerns me is the defense or lack there of for some of the game as well as the way that Montreal took the play to Carolina in the second and third periods of Wednesday night’s game. If – and I know that if a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his arse when he hopped – Carolina can tighten that defense up and take the play to the Pens for a full 60, I don’t see how Pittsburgh can get a win. The only other concern – and this is because I am no fan of the guy – Johnny Grahame “Cracker” in net. I presume that he plays tonight and Ward goes tomorrow when the Canes play the Caps in DC.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

No hangover! No excuses!

For the Carolina Hurricanes, there can’t be any time sitting in ‘idle’. This season, the Canes need to get off to a fast start. There can’t be any excuses. Last season was lost before it ever started. Carolina was not mentally nor physically ready for the start of the 06-07 season. This season must be different.
With the pickup of Matt Cullen and Jeff Hamilton, many are stating that the Canes power play should be better than last season. Also, many are believing that since Cullen is back in the fold, Carolina should win more shootouts if the games come down to that. I personally hope that Carolina has limited overtime games and that the Canes can get the check in the left column before it ever goes to a shootout.
The defense to me is still a big question mark. Carolina did not make any moves on the defensive side other than letting Anton Babchuk head back across the Atlantic and back to his home country of Russia. Dennis Seidenberg should get some more playing time on the 3rd line and I believe that if he can improve from a season ago, he can be the defensive stop that the Carolina Hurricanes are looking for and the reasoning they traded away Kevyn Adams .
Enough about my opinion of what the Canes need to do, lets just drop the puck on this 2007-2008 season. Something that Carolina does tomorrow night as they host the Montreal Canadians for the first of two home games before hitting the road for a six game road trip while the state fair is in town. After the Pens visit, Carolina’s next home game is October 22 against the Canucks of Vancouver.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Preseason Wrap Up

For the Carolina Hurricanes, the last preseason game seemed more like a minor league contest instead of a NHL game. A half dozen fights, more then 40 penalties and a shoot out that went nine rounds. The best thing out of the contest might have been the performance of goalie Cam Ward who stopped 38 of 39 shots in regulation and another four in overtime. He then stepped it up even more with stoning all nine of the Blue Jackets shooters in the shootout. Or the best thing could have been how the Canes stood up for each other from Ryan Bayda who is all of 5’10” standing up to Columbus enforcer Tommy Sestito who stands a mere 6’4” to Ray Whitney who took exception on a hit suffered by team captain Rod Brind'Amour.
For this preseason, the Canes went 4-1-1. The bright spots for Carolina in the preseason in my opinion:
Two of the four wins were in either overtime or a shootout
Two of the Canes wins were shutouts
Cam Ward against Nashville Predators
John Grahame against Columbus Blue Jackets

Canes go 4-1-1 in six games
Defensive prospects – Carolina’s defense should be a lot better with the prospects that are now working out in Albany of the AHL
Carolina went roughly 98% on the Penalty Kill during the preseason

With all the positives, there are still a few concerns for me with this 2007-08 Hurricane team:
Carolina out shooting opponents and coming up on the wrong side of the win column
Hurricanes out shoot Nashville 40-30, only get one goal and lose 4-1
Carolina out shoots Washington and loses in overtime to divisional foes from up North

Power play is still a major concern for me. In the Nashville game from point 1, the only Carolina was with the man advantage, but they also gave up a shorty as well. Carolina went 0-3 in the first period of their final preseason game and something like 6 for 35.

Other than those two concerns, I cannot see how the “hockey experts” and “hockey bloggers” are picking Carolina to miss the playoffs for the second straight year. I can see that Carolina might not win the Southeast divisional title, but I do see this squad making the playoffs and going deep this season. Here is my prediction for the Southeast:
Florida Panthers – goaltending should be greatly improved
Carolina Hurricanes – shoot performance will be better; Cam Ward will be better between the pipes
Tampa Bay – with Richards, St. Louis and Lecavalier this team is always in the hunt
Washington Capitals – time for Ovechkin and Semin to step up
Atlanta Thrashers – the whoring out of GM Don Waddell for Keith Tkachuk for a playoff run then not resigning him I see the team really lacking the umph. I would not be surprised if Waddell does not make it through the 07-08 season as Atlanta GM

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Canes out shoot - can't out score

For the second straight preseason game, Carolina out shot their opponent but could not outscore them. This time it was divisional foe Washington. Carolina put the puck on net 31 time but was able to get it past Capitals starting goaltender Olaf Kolzig two times in the second period. Meanwhile, the Canes crease was split between number one goaltender Cam Ward and Michael Leighton who is attempting to push John Grahame out of the number two position.
Scoring for the Canes was again number 11 Justin Williams 36 seconds into the third period to prevent Carolina from being shutout (something that hasn’t happened this preseason). Erik Cole tipped in a shot from team captain Rod Brind'Amour to even the score. The Caps put the game away on the only power play goal scored in the game.
Speaking of the power play, the Canes were zero for six in the fourth preseason game. This is a trend that seems to stem from a squad that was horrible with the man advantage last season.
Next up for Carolina is a road game against Columbus and then Carolina hosts the Blue Jackets to finish up the Canes preseason schedule.
One thing that Carolina is having an issue with when attempting to trim their roster to the final 22 players, is placing goaltender Michael Leighton and forward Ryan Bayda on waivers to be sent down to AHL Albany. With the way these two players have played, I would not be surprised if a team picked up Leighton since it seems that goaltending could be an issue this season. Bayda not clearing waivers either is not something that is far fetched. Last season, he spent time with the big club and if sent to Albany, he probably (again in my opinion) won’t clear waivers.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Canes Weekend Wrap-up

For the Carolina Hurricanes, the weekend started off stellar with an 18 save shutout performance from goaltender Cam Ward against the visiting Nashville Predators. 2004 draftee Casey Borer had a goal and an assist as well as former Predator and current Cane Scott “bulldog” Walker. After the game, Carolina assigned Jakub Petruzalek to Albany of the AHL.
The second part of the home and home with Nashville did not go well. Nashville jumped on top one to nothing. Hurricane Justin Williams scored the loan goal for the Canes. On a good note, it was a powerplay goal; however, the Canes went downhill from there giving up a short handed goal and falling to Nashville 4-1. Johnny Grahame “cracker” stopped 26 of 30 shots while Chris Mason stoned the Canes on 39 of 40 shots.
Carolina has sent four more players from their training camp roster to Albany:

Keith Aucoin
Patrick Dwyer

J.D. Forrest
Noah Babin

With the newly trimmed roster (down to 28 players), Carolina travels to take on the Washington Capitals tomorrow night at the Verizon Center and then it is off the Ohio and a preseason match-up against the Bluejackets of Columbus on Thursday. Columbus and Carolina wrap up the Hurricanes preseason schedule on Friday 9/28 at the RBC Center.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Canes Cut 15 - ready for second preseason game

After two days of cuts, the Carolina Hurricanes have trimmed their roster to 33 players before heading into their second preseason game tonight. Yesterday, the Canes sent 15 players to Albany of the AHL. The players are listed below:

Kevin Nastiuk
Justin Peters
Daniel Manzato

Wade Brookbank
Tim Conboy
Mark Flood
Joey Mormina
Steve Ward

Mike Angelidis
Nicolas Blanchard
David Gove
Bobby Hughes
Kirk MacDonald
Brandon Nolan
Jerome Samson

The players will report to River Rats training camp on September 26.

On Wednesday, the Hurricanes sent four players back to their respective junior hockey teams. The players and weblink to their respective junior teams are below:

Drayson Bowman – http://www.spokanechiefs.com/
Justin McCrae – http://www.saskatoonblades.com/
Harrison Reed – http://www.sarniasting.com/
Chris Terry - http://www.plymouthwhalers.com/

The Hurricanes play host to Nashville tonight then travel to Tennessee to take on the Preds to complete a home and home series.

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