Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 09/25/08 at 01:17 AM ET
On Wednesday night, the (preseason) puck dropped in Raleigh. Unfortunately for the 2/3 full house, it wasn’t a happy return as the visiting Capitals won the first game of the home-and-home 4-1. Neither team sent its “A” team on the ice, but Washington’s “B” team was a lot better than Carolina’s. LW Tomas Fleischmann led the way for the visitors with two power play markers.
Carolina started Cam Ward in nets for the first thirty minutes of game time, and he was victimized on two of the first three shots he faced. At 6:21, Fleischmann banged in a rebound on the front porch during the Caps’ first power play sequence of the game.
Matt Bradley made the tally 2-0 at 7:25, thanks to a turnover and a big miss on a big check by Joe Corvo. After the Corvo disaster, he was in alone and beat Ward.
There wasn’t a lot to be happy about in the first. The Canes managed to squeeze off 18 shots, but most of them were of the low percentage variety. Simeon Varlamov, the young Russian netminder for the Caps looked sharp as he faced a barrage of shots in the final seconds. On the post-game radio show, John Forslund unfairly compared Varlamov to the great Vladislav Tretiak. Awfully, awfully big stretch.
Before the game, I had the privilege of hanging out with WufPirate from Carolina on Ice and Pokecheck from The Sliding Pokecheck, and I commented to Wuf during the first intermission that “At least Pitkänen looks good”. We agreed that not much else looked good. The boys were sloppy and slow. Guys were falling down a lot. Guys were making bad passes into dangerous parts of the ice. Guys weren’t finishing checks.
I thought that Pitkänen looked pretty good out there. He started off with Tim Gleason, but ended up spending a lot of time on ice with Joe Corvo. He was moving the puck really well in the offensive zone and playing responsibly in his own end. I thought to myself that I was pretty pleased with his play after one period of exhibition play. Brandon Sutter was unimpressive, and nobody else was even visible one way or the other.
Varlamov’s night was over, and Daren Machesney spent the rest of the night in goal. He had one bone-headed moment where he skated almost out to center ice, misplayed a puck, picked the puck up and sprinted from above the left circle to his goal crease to ward off what would have been Jakub Petruzalek against an empty net. Aside from that, he was fine.
Early in the second, the Canes were afforded a five-on-three power play, during which Joni Pitkänen buried a shot from the left circle at 7:58. Carolina was unable to convert the back end of the power play, and sadly that would be the only offense of the game for the home team.
At 10:00 of the second, the Canes swapped Cam Ward for Justin Peters. Peters was Carolina’s second round draft pick in 2004, and he’s spent the last two seasons bouncing back and forth between the Florida Everblades of the ECHL and the Albany River Rats of the AHL. He knows that he has no chance of making the Hurricanes roster, and he’s really auditioning for the #1 job in Albany.
Almost immediately, Peters surrendered a goal. On a pretty weird play that I never saw a replay of, the puck appeared to go off the left post, off Peters and into the net. Then at 17:06, he gave up a power play goal to Fleischmann. His second of the night.
There was no more scoring for either team
Overall, my impression was that Pitkänen looked good. None of the forwards looked good, but they didn’t look bad either. Defenseman Casey Borer had a rough night, as did the veteran Nic “Secret Weapon” Wallin. I think Wallin looked absolutely awful. His passes were bad, his defense was bad, his checking was bad, his awareness was bad. He wasn’t alone, though. All night long, in all three zones, it looked like everyone was confused as to what they were supposed to do. It looked almost like they weren’t expecting things to be happening at game speed. This is only one game, and it’s only an exhibition game at that, but they just didn’t look good. Stanley Cups aren’t won in September, though.
As I was leaving the arena, I almost literally bumped into Frantisek Kaberle. I didn’t say anything, but that’s probably a good thing, because the only thing I could think of was “I hope you get traded to Los Angeles for draft picks”
Washington and Carolina will square off again on Thursday night. This time it’ll be in DC, and both teams will send a different 20-man roster. Hopefully, things will better for the Canes.
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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.