It was a freaky game again Saturday night at the RBC. The team came out with a lot of jump. They came out with intensity. They took the lead at every point during the game putting the pressure on Tampa Bay. In my opinion they deserved to win, but that didn't happen. Cam Ward wasn't at his best, the defense had a lot of miscues, and the Canes continued their winless shoot out woes. The jumbotron people even goofed up and cost everyone their hats while probably giving the poor John Deere tractor contestant a heart attack! Was there a full moon or new moon? You tell me!
Andrew Ladd made a screaming statement to his coach for more playing time as he earned 1st star for the night. Poor Andrew has run the gambit so far this year by fighting an injury as well as suffering through an appendectomy. But even when he was healthy, he didn't get to play much. He suited up one game and didn't even touch the ice at all. He played in another game for as little as one shift for 30 seconds. According to NHL.com though, Ladd has averaged playing about 8 minutes a game. That sure is hard to believe because it doesn't seem like that much. Yours truly, as well as many other Caniacs have been concerned about Andrew's lack of playing time. Even Jim Rutherford admitted that appropriate playing time was crucial to Andrew's development at this stage in his career and that maybe sending him to Albany was an option. It's been a mystery to me how the former number 4 overall drafted player in 2004 and the top rated skater in North America at the time, had been relegated to status behind a journeyman like Trevor Letowski. Nothing personal against Trevor, but he has a total of 5 points for the whole year. Andrew has the capability to do that in one game if given the chance, as he showed Saturday night. He spent most of the game in front of the Tampa Bay goal creating havoc. Even when he didn't get credit on the scoresheet, he was contributing to the goals. For some reason he didn't get any playing time in the OT, but the newly created line of Ladd, Staal, and Walker dominated play while they were on the ice. Hopefully we will see a lot more of them together in the future!
Laviolette has been quick to call out his team when they haven't been at their best. Last night I would say that he wasn't at his. One could ask why he didn't replace Ward midway through the 2nd period when he had allowed 4 goals on just 12 shots? Even if you hold Ward blameless, sometimes it pays to make a change. One could ask him how Torts was able to match his number one line against our fourth on more than one occasion when we have the last change? One would ask him why he chose to have Whitney shoot first, when we have done so poorly in previous shoot outs? Why not put the pressure on the Bolts and make them go first? I didn't see any post-game interview, but maybe he should take some responsibility for this loss.
The Canes finally opened a game by scoring first on a rare powerplay opportunity. I say rare because only 4 penalties were called the entire game! Were the whistles broken? I think because of the late game, the refs just wanted to get home. Regardless, Eric Staal was able to tip in a rebound while Andrew Ladd was planted on the other side of the net. But a short time later, Prospal was able to tie it up as Eric Belanger was slow getting back on defense, skating in too late and a step behind. Before the end of the 1st period though, Staal beat Denis again on a nice feed from Walker. Yep, "you know who" was in front of the net once again. It was 2-1 Canes at intermission. Half a minute into the 2nd period, Ray Whitney was able to take a bing bing play initiated by Seidenberg, and make it 3-1 good guys. Three minutes later though, Lecavalier beat Ward on a nice shot to keep the Bolts close and notched his 30th. Andrew Ladd put in the next goal from a beautiful feed from Anton Babchuk. The Canes seemed to have control of the game for the moment, but before the announcer could stammer out the pronunciation, Bab-chuk, Paul Ranger somehow squeezed his 2nd goal of the season by Ward. Then not to be outdone by his team-mate, Martin St Louis also scored his 30th to tie things up before the end of the 2nd.
The 3rd period seemed to be going the Canes way as the Staal, Walker, and Ladd line continued to dominate play in the Bolts end. At the 9 minute mark, Scottie Walker took a shot that confused everyone but found it's way to the back of the net. Andrew Ladd was planted right in front of Denis again and it appeared to go off of him. But for some reason the Jumbotron flashed "It's Staaal Good" on the board, many people thought Staal had scored a hat-trick, and people threw their hats on the ice in celebration. Not so though. Ladd was credited for the goal but after the game the play was reviewed and the mystery goal given to Walker. So, it went from Staal, Ladd, then to Walker. In any event, people lost their hats for nothing and angered the hockeygods in the process. With 3 minutes left in the game, Kuba got a nice pass from Prospal and rifled another one past Ward. That tied the game up 5-5 and even though the Canes controlled play in OT, they couldn't score. Next was the dreaded shoot out. I don't have to say anymore as we all know that the Bolts won the extra point and the Canes are now clinging to 2nd place in the division by a fragile 2 points.
Hopefully Gleason will be healthy after the break and Hedican and Kaberle won't be far behind. One thing to keep in mind though is that these players have not been in a game for some time, especially Kaberle, and I'm not sure how realistic it is to count on them for immediate contributions. They may have to play their way back to game shape. I hope it doesn't cost the team more points in the process.
During the break this week, I'll be looking at possible trade scenarios. Who will I think could go from the Canes and who could be coming here? We'll also be talking about the All Star game on Wednesday night of course and tracking the performance of our two all stars, Eric Staal and Justin Williams. Go Canes!