Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 10/03/09 at 02:07 AM ET
Frustration. That’s probably the best word for the feelings that Hurricanes fans have right now. Opening night is like a major holiday for a lot of people, and there were a lot of things to be excited about. However, when the game was over and the Hurricanes were on the wrong end of a 2-0 score, Canes fans weren’t smiling on their way out of the RBC Center.
Fans marveled at the new spiffy HD scoreboard. We marveled at the ridiculously self-indulgent stage setup for U2’s Saturday concert in Carter-Finley Stadium (adjacent to RBC). We liked what we saw from the new guys. The rest left some things to be desired.
While opening night is just one game, there’s an interesting stat which suggests that Carolina will not be making a deep playoff run in the spring.
Carolina lost on opening night. It’s not uncommon territory. Since the team moved to North Carolina, their opening night record is three wins, seven losses and two ties. Remember ties? The interesting stat comes from the home opener. The record (3-7-2) is the same, but there was on instance where Carolina lost the season opener on the road, then won their home opener. There was another where they won the season opener on the road, but lost the home opener. The point is, Carolina has only won their home opener three times, and those seasons have something big in common. 2001-02, 2005-06 and 2008-09. In each of those seasons, the Canes got off on the right foot (at home, anyway), and went on to reach the conference finals or better. It’s not in the cards this year.
Over the summer, there were some big improvements to the RBC Center. First, they got a very nice HD scoreboard to replace the standard definition Sony Jumbotron. High marks for the new board. It looks great. Second, they installed “seamless glass”, which has given Hurricanes radio man Chuck Kaiton a new favorite word: herculite. It’s supposed to enhance fan’s enjoyment of the game, but I honestly couldn’t tell the difference.
Eric Staal looked very good. He was flying. He had an early goal nullified because of a hand pass, but he was really buzzing in the first period, and looks to be in mid-season form.
The new guys, most notably Andrew Alberts, looked good. He had three hits and a blocked shot. Aaron Ward, who looked lost at times, had three blocked shots and two hits.
Erik Cole is still Erik Cole. He’s got that blinding speed, and that one move that everyone in the league knows by now.
Rod Brind’Amour looked bad. He had one golden opportunity with the puck on his stick on the front door with a wide open net in front of him. His shot went well wide of the net. He made some bad passes. He didn’t look comfortable. He won 14 out of 18 faceoffs, but he didn’t do anything else that was good.
Carolina didn’t lose the game because of Erik Cole’s one-dimentional game. They didn’t lose because Rod Brind’Amour has let the game pass him by. They didn’t lose the game because of questionable penalties. They lost the game because of special teams.
Carolina surrendered two very quick power play goals in the first minute of the second frame. First Jeff Carter at 0:25, then Mike Richards at 0:47. The second of these is one that Ward would like to have back, and the first was just a great job of running the power play by the Flyers. On the flip side, Carolina had EIGHT power play opportunities and couldn’t cash in on a single one of them. There was at least one power play sequence where the Canes failed to even register a shot on goal. Then, very late in the game, the PP unit made a collective mental error. Down 2-0 with about a minute to play in the third, the Canes pulled Cam Ward for an extra attacker. There was a delayed penalty against the Flyers which would have given the Canes a six-on-four advantage, but instead of letting the Flyers touch it, the Canes played on, wasting valuable seconds. It never amounted to anything anyway, but it was a mistake.
With all the frustration of an anemic power play, a home loss on opening night, the silly statistic about home openers, it should be pointed out that this was the Flyers, who many people have picked to win the Stanley Cup.
On Saturday, the Canes will be in Boston for the back end of their first back-to-back of the season. They’ll be in Boston
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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.