Adam Harris

Devils "Rock" Canes in Game One

Posted April 16, 2009

Ouch.  That was brutal. 

The build-up, the anticipation, the excitement, the hype...  All followed by the massive let-down.

The Carolina Hurricanes were chewed up and spit out on Wednesday night.  Dominated, owned, man-handled.  Call it what you will, the New Jersey Devils were a far superior team to the Canes in Game One.  We'll borrow the nickname of the Devils' home arena and say the Canes got "rocked" at The Rock.  Wednesday night at the Prudential Center was an embarrassing loss for a proud Hurricanes team.  I think - no, I know - the Canes are better than what we just witnessed in a 4-1 loss to the Devils.

Perhaps the Hurricanes are just "happy to be there."  Maybe the raised level of play that Caniacs enjoyed in the surge to reach the playoffs was the extent of the gusto this team possesses.  Is it possible that the Canes' ultimate goal for the 2008-09 season has already been achieved?  When you miss out on the post-season for two years (in particularly heart breaking fashion last year), maybe focusing on the big prize is shoved aside in favor of concentrating on the door prize.

It certainly didn't seem as if the Carolina Hurricanes came to Newark to contend for the Stanley Cup.  The Canes didn't appear to be a team full of heart, courage, fervor or determination.  Instead, the Hurricanes looked like a team that didn't belong in the playoffs at all.  They were outpaced in nearly every facet of the game. 

The Devils are clearly a more physical team than the Hurricanes.  Hard to find someone to argue that.  But, on Wednesday they were also the faster team, the smarter team, the grittier team, and the more disciplined team.  Each of those surprised me.  I wish that time of possession was still a statistic tracked by the NHL.  I bet the Devils would have had a 2:1 advantage in that category over the Canes in Game One. 

If you're looking for positives you can point to Cam Ward and Matt Cullen.  Ward made a handful of incredible saves while facing 39 shots; 30 shots in the first two periods.  Carolina could have lost this game 8-1, or worse.  There were plenty of good scoring chances for the Devils as the Hurricanes defense was soft and lethargic, while the back-check from the forwards left a lot to be desired. 

Meanwhile, Cullen finally got into a game after missing the last eight contests of the regular season with an injured foot.  He looked very much like the play-maker that centered the Canes' super-productive second line for much of the season.  After just two shifts in the first period, Cullen got on the ice six times in the second period, then had eight shifts in the third.  He told me after the game that Paul Maurice was easing him back into the line-up, but I tend to think Maurice was looking for that old Cullen/Whitney/LaRose magic as the game progressed and the deficit on the scoreboard increased.  After the familiar Canes' second line was back together from the second period on tonight, I suspect the 13/8/59 line is here to stay.

So, what now?  Cullen, Ray Whitney and Tim Gleason all told me after the game that this loss will be easy to put behind them.  I'm not so convinced.  The Devils made a pretty bold statement on Wednesday, "We're the better team."  New Jersey hopes that proclamation is ringing loudly in the Canes' ears. 

This series isn't over, far from it.  But the Canes better snap out of whatever haze they were in on Wednesday by 7:30 on Friday night.  Another performance like Game One, and 2009 is in the books.  Here's hoping Game One was the exception, and not the rule.

 

Adam Harris covers the Carolina Hurricanes for 99.9 FM The Fan & wralsportsfan.com.  He is in New Jersey for the Canes' opening round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs vs. the Devils

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