There’s something to be said about how things went down in Raleigh for the All-Star Game. So often we’ve read snarky quips from writers both Canadian and American alike about how having hockey in the south is a joke and that it just doesn’t work out the same way it does everywhere else. I’m as guilty of it as anyone else having yelled in the past about how Gary Bettman’s expansion into the south and into non-traditional markets was about the worst thing that could’ve happened to the NHL and that it failing to catch on there is a mark against the league.
Carolina proves that it works and it works just fine where they’re at.
Many have written about their thoughts on the city’s ability to show off not just the Hurricanes as a tremendous success story but also the burgeoning fan base in Raleigh and elsewhere in North Carolina for the team. Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated and Travis Hughes of SB Nation each had great takes on their experiences there. The amount of love and appreciation for the NHL across the city and the whole area was outstanding.
Every radio station couldn’t help but talk about the events and the fans everywhere were decked out in some brand of NHL gear. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Jeff Skinner was the mayor of Raleigh with the number of Skinner All-Star and Hurricanes jerseys and t-shirts there were. The fans are wild about the team and wild about the league.
After all, find me another fan base in the NHL that embraces the team so much they’re camped out in the parking lots of the arena for hours ahead of time to gather with everyone and tailgate like they’re going to watch the Super Bowl. And they do this for every home game, not just for a special one-off big-time event. This makes me envious for having missed out on the 2006 Stanley Cup finals.
It wasn’t just a win for the team though, the city comes out a huge winner as well. With a downtown that wasn’t overwhelming and very negotiable to get around either on foot or by a short drive in a cab or car, Raleigh proved to provide a solid atmosphere once all the events were through. With restaurants, pubs, and watering holes abounding throughout the downtown area if you weren’t able to find something to do or to eat it was your own fault.
Providing this kind of atmosphere for those of us that rarely get to see it up close and person does wonders for the perception of how hockey is handled in places that haven’t had a team for more than 30 years. Seeing the tailgating, seeing the crazed fans, and seeing the amount of love they’ve got for the team not just at RBC Center but everywhere around the city can make even the most hardened opponents of hockey in the south think twice before opening their mouth or lashing out from behind their keyboard.
Hockey may have issues elsewhere in the south (and in some places north of the Mason-Dixon line too) but in North Carolina, the game is just fine and it’s thriving under the leadership of Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos. We know Carolina is basketball and football country generally, but hockey has caught on and it’s going to catch up fast.
Blue Jackets defeat Coyotes in shootout, but only after Mike Smith made franchise-record 58 saves
PHOENIX (AP) Columbus pummeled Mike Smith with a franchise-record 60 shots, Alexander Wennberg scored with 2:16 left in the third period and the Blue Jackets beat the Arizona Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout Saturday night.
Smith set a franchise record with 58 saves, but the Coyotes still lost their third straight.
Shane Doan got his 399th career goal and Radim Vrbata also scored for Arizona, which was playing its eighth overtime game in 23 contests.
Doan put Arizona ahead 2-1 at 11:04 of the second when he redirected Michael Stone‘s lobbed shot from just inside the blue line along the right boards.
Wennberg tied it at 2 by backhanding the puck between Smith’s pads off a pass from Brandon Saad.
The Blue Jackets needed only 13 seconds to take the lead in the first period. Jenner took a pass from Jack Johnson between the hashes and fired over Smith’s glove.
Smith made 47 saves between the two Columbus goals and 21 in the third period alone.
After failing to take advantage of a two-man advantage late in the first, the Coyotes evened the score on Vrbata’s rising shot off McElhinney’s blocker from the left faceoff circle for a power-play goal 63 seconds into the second period.
Smith helped preserve the lead with 5:30 left in the second, stopping Saad’s breakaway attempt with a sprawling pad save.
Don Cherry weighed in on it Saturday. As you might expect, he wasn’t in favor of the decision. Meanwhile, the Panthers lost 2-0 to the Ottawa Senators in a game that completely swung in favor of the hosts in the span of just 19 seconds.
Erik Karlsson and Derick Brassard scored early in the first period, giving Ottawa a two-goal lead and that was the only scoring of the evening.
On taking over from Gallant, interim coach Tom Rowe said, per the Sun Sentinel: “This isn’t a knock on Gerard, because he did a great job.
“I just thought some guys weren’t bringing it the way they’re capable of bringing it every single night. A little too much inconsistency. They’d come out one period and play great. Another period they just sit back a little bit too tentative.”
That second paragraph is interesting.
Against the Senators, the Panthers had a slow start, illustrated by their 19-second lapse leading to the Ottawa goals. The Panthers found their game in the second period but tested Mike Condon with only 24 shots on goal by the end of the night.
They also couldn’t capitalize on a five-on-three power play in the second period.
“It’s a tough one to swallow,” said Keith Yandle, per the Miami Herald. “They had a good start, and sometimes you have to weather the storm throughout courses of games, and they did a good job in the first 10 or 12 minutes. If you look at the second period we were better.”
There were anxious moments for the Panthers, as defenseman Aaron Ekblad took a puck to the face in the second period. He missed about two minutes of game time, but did require stitches, according to Rowe.
Avs’ D-man Johnson suffers broken fibula, out six to eight weeks
It’s obviously devastating news for Colorado, which recently had its effort ripped by coach Jared Bednar. Issues with consistency and work ethic have been around since Patrick Roy was in charge.
The Avalanche have struggled since the beginning of the season after a late-summer coaching change, but they now occupy last place in the Western Conference with five straight losses.
Johnson has 11 points, which ties him with Tyson Barrie for the team lead among defenseman in that category.
In addition to playing 22 minutes a night, which is a substantial loss because he plays on both the penalty kill and power play, he’s also one of only two blue liners with the Avalanche to have even-strength puck possession numbers greater than 50 per cent.
The difficult times for the Avalanche continue.
Video: Caggiula (finally) scores his first NHL goal
Drake Caggiula had to wait to make his NHL debut because of a hip injury suffered in pre-season. He had to wait even longer for his first NHL goal.
On Saturday, the wait for the latter ended.
Playing in just his eighth career NHL game, the North Dakota product and NCAA Frozen Four MOP — pursued by at least half a dozen teams as a college free agent — ripped home a wrist shot from the slot on the power play for career goal No. 1 in the big league.
That goal gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead over the visiting Anaheim Ducks.