Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 05/27/09 at 12:52 AM ET
On Tuesday night, the Penguins defeated the Hurricanes 4-1 to complete the series sweep. The Penguins will advance to the Stanley Cup finals for the second year in a row where they will most likely play the Red Wings. The rematch of last year’s final will probably pan out the same way, thanks to Sidney Crosby’s taunting of the hockey gods.
After the presentation of the Prince of Wales trophy, the Penguins captain lifted the prize and skated around with it a little. This is, of course, very bad in the eyes of the hockey gods. The Tampa Bay Lightning got away with that gaffe in 2004 and the New Jersey Devils just a few years before that, but it’s generally considered a Plexico Burris to lift the POW.
Hats off to the Pens, who were far and away the better team throughout the series. Even when Carolina was able to play their own game, and even when they were able to contain Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins were way too good. Especially M-A Fleury, who was absolutely remarkable tonight.
For the second game in a row, Carolina scored first and did so early. It was very good news for the Canes, as it was Eric Staal who lit the lamp. He had gone six games without a goal, and the Hurricanes fate had been predecated upon his own success. Going into this game, the Hurricanes were 7-0 in the postseason when Staal scored and 1-9 when he did not. When Staal scored barely 90 seconds into the game, it looked like they were off and running. Unfortunately, it was their only goal of the night.
I can’t say enough about Fleury, who needed to be extremely good at the end of the second and of course in the dying seconds of the game. He was, in my opinion, the best player on the ice, even if he was named the game’s second star.
Cam Ward was, again, better than the stats would indicate. Two of the goals were the result of offensive zone turnovers and a failure to recover by the defensemen. The game-winning goal was one that Ward would stop 99 times out of 100. An easy shot that might have actually sailed over the crossbar, but Ward made a fielding error attempting to catch it. It hit his glove, caromed over his shoulder and into the net. The fourth and final goal was into an empty net.
Congrats to the Penguins, who will have my full support in the Cup final.
Now Carolina’s focus will be on signing the free agents and letting some of them walk. Chad LaRose, Erik Cole, Ryan Bayda, Michael Ryan and Dwight Helminen are the UFAs among the forwards. I’ll cover this in detail this summer, but I think LaRose is the only one who we need to have back in Raleigh.
Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen are both RFAs, so there’s less pressure to get them resigned, but I think both of the Wonder Finns need to be renewed.
On the blue line, Anton Babchuk is a RFA-to-be and has, in my opinion, earned a job. Dennis Seidenberg is a UFA-to-be, and I’m still not sold on him.
Frantisek Kaberle has one year remaining on his contract, and he needs to be bought out or traded. Maybe the Lightning will
take him off the Hurricanes payroll, and send something awesome in return.
Rod Brind’Amour needs to retire, and the Hurricanes can use his salary commitment (two more years at $3M/per) to pursue a blue chip FA forward.
I’m a dunce when it comes to the CBA, but my understanding is that if a player retires while still under contract and that contract was signed before the player turned 35, there is no cap hit. Unless I’m mistaken, Brindy was 34 when he signed his most recent contract. Even if he doesn’t retire, they can buy him out, and only be responsible for a portion of his salary with respect to the cap. Or is there something weird about buying out players over the age of 35?
Anyway, the beard is gone, and I look slightly less creepy. I’ll have until July to talk about who should and shouldn’t be re-signed.
Once again, hats off to the Pens on a job well done.
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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.