The first two games in the Hurricanes’ schedule – both thrilling, come-from-behind wins – have been exhilarating, albeit stressful. It shows that this year’s squad has an incredible amount of character, in that they were able to erase a 2-0 lead against Florida and then a 3-0 lead in Tampa Bay on Saturday, but the one thing that the ‘Canes have yet to prove that they can do? Win the old-fashioned way. Those wins were unbelievable (for those that stuck around…those of you that clicked over to baseball after the second period probably feel pretty silly right about now!) and…dare we say it? Strongly reminiscent of 2005-2006, when come-from-behind victories were the ‘Canes’ bread and butter. However, that will not work often, and it certainly won’t work against the teams like the one they will face tonight, the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings.
Off topic, can anyone believe that Eric Staal’s beautiful overtime goal (shown here at 3:34)
…was only his second regular-season OT winner in his four NHL campaigns? It’s difficult to believe that this prolific scorer hasn’t come through in the extra period, but his only other OT goal came in his rookie season – Nov 8, 2003, at home in a 3-2 win versus Los Angeles.
Staal talks about that particular goal in this humorous video, filmed at his home in Thunder Bay, Ontario with his three famous, hockey-playing brothers.
It’s strange how the mind can play tricks like that, but Staal’s clutch goals have mostly been of the game-tying variety. There was, of course, the well-referenced OT power play tally that turned the Montreal series around two years ago, but in the regular series, Staal hasn’t lit the lamp in overtime often. Perhaps that is why he was so excited after scoring against TB that he lost his balance (refer to the first video.)
The game tonight against the 2008 cup-winning Red Wings, who haven’t missed the playoffs in 18 years – the longest current streak in professional sports – will provide a challenge that will be well above that of teams like Florida and Tampa Bay. Instead of tearing through the patchwork defense of the Lightning or stripping the puck away from Florida’s depleted offense, the ‘Canes will face defensive powerhouses like Nick Lidstrom and Andreas Lilja, all while trying to harness the raw offensive power of last year’s Conn Smyth winner, Henrik Zetterberg, and Johan “The Mule” Franzen. Oh, and they’ll have to try and get Tomas Holmstrom’s immovable butt out of the crease so that Cam Ward (or Leighton, if Laviolette feels like throwing a curve ball) can actually see the puck occasionally. This is going to be a while different ball game, and if the ‘Canes fall behind early again, don’t look for a miraculous comeback. The Red Wings know how to build a lead and keep it – that’s why they were collecting jewelry and checking out their reflections in the Stanley Cup this summer while the ‘Canes were couch surfing.
And of course, tonight Carolina will also premiere their new third jerseys, which are all the rage right now. The third jerseys were entirely needless – a league-wide marketing ploy, pure and simple, used to persuade fans to buy more merchandise – but the ‘Canes could have selected something with a little more flair. Theirs are by no means the worse (has anyone seen Atlanta's new threads?) …but in this blogger’s humble opinion, they used far too much black. The jerseys don’t stand out, and are quite boring unless you’re right up on them. The triangle behind the flag is supposed to commemorate the ‘Canes’ commitment to the area in which they play, but if anyone outside the area saw that, they would most likely think that it was the result of a graphic designer having fun with shapes. And, as anyone who attended Friday’s game knows, the Hurricanes are now putting that new logo on car flags. A flag…on a flag. Pretty trippy.
Regardless of what they’re wearing, Detroit will be a good test of Carolina’s skill tonight. Although they dropped their home opener against Toronto, they followed it up with a convincing win against Ottawa, and seem to have found some herbal remedy for Stanley Cup hangover (if only they could have bottled that and sold it to the ‘Canes!) in recent years. It should be a quick-paced, defensive game, so stay tuned. (Yes, even if the Red Sox/Rays game goes into extra innings again. That’s what commercial breaks are for!)