The Hurricanes are barely clinging to 8th place, the final playoff spot in the East. They need another win tonight to "hold the line" and make sure the teams currently below them, stay below them. It won't be easy because the team visiting the RBC tonight is one of the hottest and most powerful in the league, the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are 7-0-2 in their past 9 games including a 5-1 dismantling of the top team in the Southeast two nights ago, the Atlanta Thrashers. San Jose was one of the teams who helped their cause before the trade deadline and they did it by acquiring the most highly sought after commodity in the league at the time, Bill Guerin. He joins a core of superstars which includes Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo, and Patrick Marleau. Young stars Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier are worth keeping an eye on as well.
The good news is that the Canes aren't playing that badly themselves. They have totally dominated their opponents the last 2 games, and have outplayed teams for the most part the past several games. The top line of Staal, Stillman, and Cole finally looks like it's coming together and that's bad news for the rest of the NHL because when all three can bring their "A" games, that line is among the best in the league. Brind'Amour, Whitney, and Williams could play better than what they have lately, but they haven't played poorly. When all the top players on this team get on the same page, watch out! That's something Caniacs haven't seen much of this year. Don't even ask me what the other lines are right now, they seemed mixed up quite often on Thursday night against Washington. Sometimes LaRose was playing with Ladd and Walker and sometimes Vasicek was. Scottie and Andrew both played well, I don't think they care who plays with them!
Thursday night's game was kind of a freakish, surreal game to me. The Canes pretty much dominated it, but were losing for most of the game. For instance they outshot the Caps in the 1st period 10-1, but were losing the game 1-0. Yep, the Caps scored on their only official shot on goal! Early in the 2nd period, I no sooner got the words out of my mouth, "what the heck is Vasicek doing on the penalty kill?", when Joe stole the puck, skated quickly down to the Caps end, and made a beautiful pass to a streaking Mike Commodore who buried the short handed attempt. Washington was able to re-acquire the lead 2 more times, but the Canes poured it on in the 3rd period and won the game 4-3. They allowed only 5 shots in the 2nd period and 4 more in the 3rd for a total of 10 shots on goal for the Capitals. That tied a franchise record for Carolina! Cam Ward played in relief of Johnny Grahame and played well enough to pick up the win. That means Cam's leg wound has healed and that he will most assuredly be in net again tonight. Â
It should be a real barn-burner and a whale of a game! Both teams are playing well and both want the win badly. The Canes need it more though, will it make a difference? The parking lots are opening early for tailgating and the weather will be perfect. You can almost smell the playoffs in the air! Let's Go Canes!