Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 01/28/10 at 01:33 AM ET
For the second straight game on Wednesday, the Hurricanes faced a team on the Eastern Conference playoff bubble. For the second game in a row, that bubble team took the Canes too lightly. And for the second straight game, the Hurricanes emerged with a 5-1 win.
On Sunday, it was the Bruins who came to the RBC Center but were not ready to play. Like the Canes, they are a team with four regulars out of the lineup, but their effort was horrible. Carolina played well, but it should also be noted that Boston stank. They skated for about five minutes of the first period, then fell completely apart.
On Wednesday, the Rangers stunk up their own barn with a sad performance which will temporarily knock them out of the top eight.
Eric Staal netted another two goals tonight, bringing him to 17 on the season and seven in four games since being anointed captain. Despite his detractors in Caniac Nation, he’s on fire and looking more like the Staal of 2005/06.
After giving up two quick goals in the first period, the Rangers looked like they lost interest in playing. They bounced back with a good effort in the second frame only to come back off their game in the third. Like the Bruins, they looked like a team that doesn’t even want to make the playoffs. Maybe both teams figured that they could win against the lowly Canes just by dressing 19 players. Maybe it was something else, but Carolina got easy wins over two playoff bubble teams in the last four days.
Although hopelessly out of the playoff hunt, Carolina is playing their best hockey of the season. As the regular players come back from the injured list and others get back to 100%, they’re finally starting to look like an NHL team. They may play themselves out of the top lottery standing, but they’re doing something very good. They’re reminding Raleigh and the rest of Caniac Nation that they can win, that they can be exciting, that it’s fun to go to games. If they can end the season on a positive note, it’ll do wonders for season ticket renewals and new ticket buyers.
Something else that might help that effort is the possibility of landing the 2011 NHL All-Star game. It was to be held in Phoenix, but the uncertainty surrounding the Coyotes has forced the league to allow other cities to put in bids. GM Jim Rutherford and Assistant GM Jason Karmanos hand-delivered Raleigh’s bid to Gary Bettman. In the pre-lockout days, Bettman promised Raleigh an All-Star game, and he said something akin to “sooner than later”. Back then, Raleigh wasn’t equipped for that kind of event. The hotel accommodations, the restaurants and the airport weren’t quite up to snuff. He told Raleigh to improve those things, and gave us the 2004 Entry Draft as a consolation. That event was a huge success, drawing what were then record crowds to the draft. In the intervening five and a half years, Raleigh has made great leaps and bounds in the hospitality industry and we feel like Raleigh is equipped. Will the NHL agree? Time will tell.
Anyway, Carolina is playing well, Eric Staal is en fuego and Canes fans have something to smile about.
On Thursday night, they’ll play another bubble team when the Islanders come to town.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.