Fast start could prevent difficult finish for Canes
Posted October 4, 2011
Updated October 5, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — On the final day of the regular season last year, the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes were tied with a game to play.
New York had lost two days before to Atlanta 3-0. Carolina drew even with the Rangers the next night after a 6-1 win at the same Thrashers team.
The door was open for the Hurricanes to get into the playoffs with an equal result or better than the Rangers on home ice in a night game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Earlier in the day, the Rangers defeated the New Jersey Devils, keeping the pressure on the Canes. They knew what was at stake for them - the No. 8 seed and a playoff appearance or a long summer.
Less than seven minutes into the game, the Lightning struck first on a Dominic Moore goal. No problem, still a lot of hockey to go and Tampa Bay had already secured the No. 5 spot so they needn’t gas it before the second season.
Two more first period goals later and the Canes were facing a 3-0 deficit. At the end of three periods, the Lightning skated away with a 6-2 win and the offseason began for Carolina.
After the game, captain Eric Staal told reporters, “We worked our butts off all year to have this opportunity at home and we didn’t get the job done tonight.”
Friday starts a new season. And wouldn’t fate have it that the Canes will again be at home playing Tampa Bay.
“We owe some payback, that’s for sure,” Staal said Tuesday morning while on set with WRAL's Bill Leslie.
The long offseason saw more changes than in recent years. A blend of youth and veterans were brought to Carolina and the inexperience and lack of time together was evident in the preseason. But that’s what the preseason is for, growing accustomed to one another and figuring out the lines that work and those that don’t.
Staal told Leslie that as he gets older in the league, he sees the real objective of camp more than the record of the exhibitions. The key for the team, he said, was a good first month.
“It’s going to take a good start,” Staal said. “We have a total transition to a younger team, we have a couple guys that are another year older now and have another year experience at the NHL level.
“I think the guys are excited to have training camp over and done with and have the real thing started.”
Staal also said that a coaching musical chairs of sorts that brought Rod Brind’Amour to the bench and moved Ron Francis back to the offices is having an impact on the younger guys.
“Rod’s been great,” Staal said of BrindAmour who has worked with the teams’ player development for the past few seasons. “(He has) a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience. I think he’s done a tremendous job with some of the younger guys and even with me, he’s been a tremendous sounding-board behind the bench.”
In case it comes down to it again, Game 82 this year is on the road at Florida. A good start will go a long way in preventing a one-game, all-or-nothing final day, especially considering 12 of the Canes’ final 16 games are away from the RBC Center.