Thursday, April 30, 2009

Canes unveil new "Score(s)" line

The Carolina Hurricanes have heard enough. Ever since it was determined that they would face off against the Boston Bruins, they've heard the talk. They're a one line team, no depth. Staal can't do it all. Well, they've finally responded to their critics and unveiled their new line which they hope will take the pressure off the Stall/Whitney/Larose line. And while they may bear a passing resemblance to the Kostitsyn sisters from Montreal, rest assured, these players are all Carolina. No word yet if the NHL will allow the giant slingshot instead of sticks, but given Colin Campbell's confusion on what sticks are for, I wouldn't bet against it. This line could provide the Bruins first real test of physical play, as they're obviously tougher than anyone the Canadiens rolled over the boards in round one.

As for the rest of the Carolina roster, meh. Not overly impressed to be honest. When you look at their roster, there are VERY few names that jump off the page at you. Yes, Eric Staal is a "star" player (at least one of those second-tier types). Cam Ward is on a roll, not unlike the one he went on on his way to winning the Conn Smythe trophy in their Cup year. After that? Mixed bag. Rod Brind'amour is a savvy veteran with loads of experience. But I don't think he's nearly the player he was just a couple seasons ago (as his 0-0-0, minus 1 for the first round will attest). Beyond that, you have a shopping list of guys who may as well be in the witness protection program. Nobody would recognize them walking down any street in the hockey world. But, is that a bad thing? The Canes won their Cup with a similar crew of "no-names" in 2006. Yes, the sum of the parts can be greater than the individuals.

BUT, when one of these "sum of the parts" teams meets up with a team with loads of depth, and much better talent up and down the roster.....things get a little dicey. And that is just the situation the Whalers/Canes find themselves in. Yes, the Whale plays well as a team. But they don't play "great" as a team. The offense is all on the Staal line, and the defense is pretty much left to Cam Ward. That my friends, is not a recipe for success. One line (really, one player) doing all the scoring doesn't work for long in the playoffs. And while goaltending is obviously a huge part of playoff success, you simply can't expect your goalie to win you every game. The Bruins have such a clear advantage in the depth department that I can't see how, barring a major meltdown by Boston or a goaltending display for the ages by Ward, that Carolina last more than five or six games.

On the subject of depth, Carolina had 6 players with 4 points or more in their seven game series. Boston had 5 in their sweep of the Hapless Habs. And that perfectly mirrors the regular season, in which they led the league in 20 goal scorers. Oh, and one of those 20 goal guys was shuttled to the fourth line and shut-out in limited time(Wheeler) and one was held goal-less (Recchi). Raise your hand if you expect Mark Recchi to go 0-fer in the second round. Exactly. And remember, Recchi knows this team very well, having played on that Cup winning team in '06....think he may know a thing or two about Ward that he can use to his advantage? I fully expect a big series from the Recching ball.

And that's just it....we can rightfully EXPECT big performances from many different players. While the Whale can basically only HOPE for big series from most of their guys. I'm sure they'll all publicly say all the right things and display confidence etc. But honestly, do you think anyone in tobacco country EXPECTS Staal or Cole or Whitney...or anyone, to have a great series? The top line will see loads of Zdeno Chara. That in itself pretty much eliminates the "big series" from them. Now, they may score a couple goals here and there. I would never predict a shut out of high end talent, especially high end talent that has won a Cup. But they just don't go deep enough to make themselves a serious threat. Eric Cole, who was widely credited with being a big part of the Canes late season surge, has fallen off the planet. 0-0-0 for him too, with a -2 rating. If I'm a Canes fan, I'm thinking Cole could be the key to the series. He HAS to provide secondary scoring, or they have no chance.

Now, as much as Boston has a clear edge on talent, I don't expect this to be an "easy" series by any stretch. They have a lot of character. They play hard. They get rock solid goal-tending. But while the B's will have to earn it, I see this game going six at most. So that's my call- Bruins in 6.....which sucks, because dammit, I want to be there when they clinch a berth in round 3.

With the long layoff the Bruins have had, I expect to see some rust early in game one. Hopefully, after a period or so, the boys find their legs again. Thomas may have to hold the fort for awhile, which I expect he will. After that, talent will take over.
And of course, you have to wonder about the fatigue factor for the Canes. While Boston was sitting at home resting and healing all their bumps and bruises, they were playing for their lives. The NJ series wasn't overly physical, so I'm not sure how big a factor that will be. But it will have some effect, no doubt. After a few games of Chara, Ward, Stuart, Lucic, Thornton and many others leaning on them, the Whale will start to feel it.

I'll be back on game day to provide my predictions etc. Finally, a GAME DAY post is just hours away. It's been WAY to long.

Go B's-Kynch

1 comment:

  1. Amen to that! At the risk of being overconfident, I think Carolina is getting an awful lot of praise for a team that basically fluked its way into the second round. Two of their regulation wins were pure last minute choke-jobs by the Devils.

    The Canes are really good and will give the Bruins a scare, but bottom line is this is still a #6 seed vs a #1 seed.