Old time hockey paid a visit to the RBC last night, and here is one fan who isn't complaining! Granted, it was a sloppy game with poor passing and horrible offensive execution by the Canes, but quite frankly, I don't think that they were concentrating much on improving their offensive execution. The Blue Jackets brought in a bunch of young guys trying to impress coach Ken Hitchcock and I guess the only way that they thought they could impress him was to try to get physical and chippy with a veteran Carolina team which was on the ice. Well, the Hurricanes answered the chippiness, and then some. Not only did they answer the chippy play, they eventually initiated a lot of it on their own. I think that last night was as angry and borderline out of control as I have ever seen a Hurricanes team play. Did Ken Hitchcock tinkle in someone's Corn Flakes while the team was in Columbus, or what? The team had three, yes three 10 minute majors. When is the last time that you saw Cory Stillman get a major? Dennis Seidenberg and Scott Walker received the others. Walker certainly earned his as he continually pummeled Ron "Hollywood" Hainsey after he had already knocked his foe down on the ice. Walker, Ladd, Bayda, and Seidenberg each earned fighting penalties, but a few of the roughing penalties handed out could have easily been considered fighting as well. At one time the Canes had 4 players in the penalty box, which is SRO, standing room only for those of you who have yet to witness that.
You might be asking yourself, "Bubba, how can you say that was a good game when the team could only muster 4 shots on goal in the 3rd period, and 21 for the entire game?" Well, if you wanted to be entertained, you couldn't ask for much more than that game last night. The game had drama, excitement, and intensity. While the Canes were inept on offense, they generally worked hard for the entire game, and I usually don't ask for much more than that. It was by far the best exhibition game I have ever watched and was better than several regular season games as well. Most importantly, you could see the team start to mold together as a unit out there. Everyone stood up for their team-mates, there was not a single guy out there who didn't jump into some type of fray, at some point. For instance when Staal was getting roughed up, Cole and Ladd both jumped in. Ray Whitney even jumped on a Blue Jacket after his captain was the recipient of a high, hard hit. It was the first time I ever saw Ray look like he lost it out there! Coach Laviolette has a "team building" function planned for Sunday, but he might want to cancel it. I think the unscheduled "team building" exercise worked just fine last night!
There were a couple of other positive signs that can give Caniacs some reason for hope this season. First and foremost, Cam Ward was spectacular. He was making every save imaginable, and his glove hand looks as quick as lightning. Needless to say with all the penalties, the team had to kill several power plays. They even killed a full two minute 5 on 3 and another extended 5 on 3! I'll state the obvious, the penalty killers look pretty good. Ward has had an exceptional pre-season overall, stopping 66 of 68 total shots. There's no reason he shouldn't be able to continue this into the regular season. Another positive sign? The Canes seem to have their confident "swagger" back. Even while losing during most of the 3rd period, it seemed like they knew that they could turn on the jets and win the game whenever they wanted to. That's exactly what happened. Although it was certainly tighter than they wanted to make it, not winning until the 9th shooter in the shoot out! Kudos goes to Andrew Ladd for making that game winner! Jacket goalie Pascal LeClaire played a heck of a game himself and made several good saves which earned him 2nd star of the game. Erik Cole was the third star, (he redirected a puck for the 1st Canes goal) and of course Cam "Wardo" Ward was 1st star of the game. By the way, the scoreboard is trying to get a "Ward---O" chant going. Come on Caniacs, let Cam hear it next time he makes a sterling save!