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Red and Black Hockey

Early season woes

It’s been a few days of inactivity over here at RBH.  Since we last checked in, the Hurricanes were throttled by the Canucks to the tune of 5-1.  Down on the farm, the Checkers lost another to the Baby Penguins, bringing their record to a conference-worst 1-4-0.

The Hurricanes gave the Senators their only win of the season, but looked good doing it.  I would hesitate to say that they looked bad in Vancouver, but the Nucks were by far the better team that night.  It’s way too early to start making statements about the direction of the team, but the good vibe from the Helsinki games has worn off.  Starting with tonight’s sit, there are three games remaining on the über-road trip, and they will have to get no less then four points out of the Pacific division trio of San Jose, Los Angeles (Wednesday night) and Phoenix (Saturday night).

Last season, Carolina won two of its first four games, then went 14 straight games without winning another.  In that span, they earned only four standings points, and the season was already over before the United States had celebrated Thanksgiving.  As mediocre as the team was, they fed off of the negativity that surrounded them.  Negativity in the dressing room.  Negativity in the stands.  Negativity in the press.  Negativity all around.  They had opportunities to win some of those games during that terrible spell, but they started to believe that they sucked.  And they did.  My grandfather used to say “you might not be as awesome as you think you are, but you are indeed as sucky as you think you are.  You can’t let thoughts of suckiness rule the roost.”

My grandfather never said that, but it’s fun to say “my grand(parent) used to say _____ “

In order not to set sail on the sea of malaise, the Canes are going to have to get some wins.  And they’re going to have to get them on the road.  Ugly wins are still wins, so they don’t have to be 8-0 shutouts.  The point is that it’s imperative to stop the slide before it starts. 

The coaches have been experimenting with shuffling the line combinations, but so far not much is clicking into place. Rookie Jeff Skinner has as many points (two) as Eric Staal.  Only eight players have more than one point, and only Jussi Jokinen (three) has more than two.  With the youth movement, we fans knew that scoring wasn’t going to be top of the charts, but we sort of imagined that it would be more than it is.  Cam Ward has been playing great, but he’s not getting any run support.

Again, it’s only been four games and it’s too early to start making assessments, but the lack of offense is pretty glaring.  And if they don’t start scoring—and winning—on this road trip, it could start to get really ugly really quickly. 

These are all things that the Canes know.  They know that the 14-game skid in October/November is what left them out of the playoffs.  They were a very good team after New Year’s, and would have been a formidable opponent in the post-season, but the hole that they dug for themselves early in the season was too deep.  They know what it’s like to be in a self-dug grave. 

I don’t want to make too much of a two game losing streak.  I don’t want to make too much of a slow start offensively.  I don’t want to make too much of one game tonight in San Jose.  However, this will be an opportunity for Eric Staal to take the team on his back.  It’ll be an opportunity for young Brandon Sutter to exhibit some leadership.  It’ll be a chance for the team to show some bonding.  It’ll be a chance to quiet the folks who are already getting restless back in Raleigh. 

The Sharks started their season in Stockholm, where they split two games with Columbus.  Since then, they took a week off before losing a home game against Atlanta on Saturday.  That has been their only action on the young season. 

I’m not sure who will start in nets for Carolina tonight, but it’s been hinted that Justin Peters will start at some point on this trip.  Tonight seems like the ideal time for that.  Antti Niemi is expected to be in nets for the Sharks.

Tune in to From the Rink, where our friend Mike Chen will have excellent coverage of the game from a Sharks fan standpoint.  He’ll title his post-game writeup using a lyric from an indie-rock song that I like. 

Filed in: | Red and Black Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: carolina+hurricanes, san+jose+sharks

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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. 

David has contributed to CBC.ca for their Stanley Cup playoff coverage in 2006 and to the New York Times Slapshot blog for theirs in 2008. Red and Black Hockey was founded in July of 2005.