Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 11/28/09 at 01:28 AM ET
Carolina held a 4-1 lead entering the third period against the Thrashers on Friday night. I thought to myself, “even these Canes can’t screw this up”. I thought wrong. Two goals in 49 seconds (for the 12th time this season) made it uncomfortably close. At that point, the whole thing blew up. Carolina lost the confidence they had, the defensemen went AWOL and the whole thing went from sweet to bitter almost instantly. In the end, it was Atlanta who iced it with an empty net goal to end an extraordinarily improbable comeback and a 6-4 win for the Thrash. What seemed like two sure points became nothing.
By now, I’ve been to a couple hundred Hurricanes games, and I’ve been a season ticket holder in some capacity for seven seasons now. I’ve supported them through the leanest of the lean seasons and obviously the best season in 2005-06. I have never seen anything like the total collapse that I witnessed tonight. I don’t even know what to say.
In the third period, Carolina had lost the service of Joni Pitkänen, so the defensive assignments had to change. Nic Wallin had been doing an excellent job of keeping Ilya Kovalchuk quiet, but one of those two quick succession goals came when Joe Corvo was assigned to Kovi, and he blew it completely. I thought Tim Gleason was pretty horrible in the third, but now that I’ve reviewed the official scoresheet, I see that he wasn’t on the ice for that really wretched three minute span in which the Thrashers climbed all the way back to equalize it. He was, though, on the ice for what turned out to be the game winner.
We’ve seen it happen so many times this season already. This team hits a rough patch in a game, and they just abandon ship after that. There’s no bounceback, there’s no fight. There’s no sisu. What’s really frustrating is that they’ve shown it this season by climbing out of two and three goal holes themselves. But they’re having a hard time playing with a lead. They’re also having a hard time handling adversity. The ability to cope with and overcome adversity is what sisu is all about, and they’re just not showing any.
There were some positives in this game. A lot of them, in fact. Everyone played well for 46 minutes. Unfortunately, the last 14 minutes of the game were so disastrous that they negated any of the good stuff.
Not to take anything away from the Thrash; they worked hard to earn the win. But the bleeding could have been controlled much better and it didn’t have to end like this.
A big change may be coming soon for this team. Some big name may be put on the trading block. Some big name player may be placed on waivers. Since the Canes are still paying both Peter Laviolette and Paul Maurice, firing Maurice and bringing in another head coaching salary isn’t really an option. They’re stuck with Chairman Mo. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, to see Matt Cullen or Erik Cole or Aaron Ward put up as trade bait. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rod Brind’Amour stripped of his captaincy. This team needs a kick in the pants, and it’s going to take some major change. Maybe, though, the embarrassment of pissing this game away will motivate them to right the ship.
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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.