After going 8-1-1 down the stretch, the Carolina Hurricanes held their playoff destiny in their own hands. All that stood between them and a playoff berth were the Tampa Bay Lightning going into their season finale; the Lightning were already locked into their playoff spot and the Hurricanes were fighting for the playoff lives. So when the Lightning dropped the hammer on the Canes (6-2), it made for a long summer for the players in Raleigh. As the players start filtering back to Carolina, it’s apparent that the way last season ended left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.
Chad LaRose spoke with Chip Alexander from the News Observer about the way the season ended and the painful offseason:
“Let’s say I’ve got some unfinished business. It’s like it’s been forever. It’s been way too long.
“What you shoot for is short summers. When it gets long like this you’re itching and chomping at the bit to get back and get going.”
All-star netminder Cam Ward echoed his teammates’ sentiments to Carolina beat-writer:
“We’ve got high expectations here. By no means do we want to be seated at home watching the playoffs again.”
Chad LaRose is leading the informal offseason workouts for the Hurricanes this season—a role that is new for him and the organization. For years, these workouts were led by veteran (and renowned fitness freak) Rod Brind’Amour. But with Brind’Amour retiring, LaRose has stepped up and taken an offseason leadership role with the team. Other Hurricanes players in town for training include promising youngsters Justin Faulk, Zac Dalpe, and Jamie McBain. Faulk and Dalpe are looking to make the team out of training camp while the promising McBain is looking to solidify his spot as a major producer from the blueline.
For a team that was only 60 minutes away from a playoff berth, it should be fascinating to see how much motivation to start the season. Coming so close, then failing, then having the entire offseason to reflect is like the antithesis to the Stanley Cup hangover. Last season, they were unable to dig themselves out of their deep hole in the standings even though they were one of the hottest teams throughout the end of March and into April. But if they can get off to a hot start next season, they won’t have to worry about a late season run to squeeze into the playoffs.
The Hurricanes will have a few newcomers to successfully mix into the fold if they want to flourish next season. Tomas Kaberle arrives from Boston to fill the spot on the blueline that was formerly held by Joe Corvo. Alexei Ponikarovsky will look to regain the scoring touch that’s made him a four-time 20 goal scorer and Anthony Stewart will try to prove that last season was only the beginning of him realizing his vast potential.
If the newcomers can produce like GM Jim Rutherford hopes and the returning players play with a chip on their shoulder, they will be back to the promised land of the playoffs faster than you can say “Skinner for Prom King.”
Recently, the Washington Capitals went five whole games without scoring a power-play goal.
It was a real nightmare for those guys.
Despite the fact Washington went 3-1-1 over those five games, one headline called it a “troubling power-play drought” — which tells you how few “troubling” things the Caps have had to deal with this season.
Overall, special teams have been a boon for Washington, which ranks first on the power play and fifth on the penalty kill.
Compare that to, say, Calgary, which ranks 29th and 29th, respectively. Now that’s troubling.
Anyway, here’s how all 30 teams rank when their special teams are combined:
Not surprisingly, there’s a strong correlation between good special teams and winning hockey games.
In the left column, 12 of the 15 teams are currently in a playoff spot. New Jersey, Buffalo, and Montreal are the exceptions.
On the right, only four teams — Colorado, Detroit, Nashville and the Rangers — are in a playoff spot.
John Scott’s had enough time off following his All-Star Game MVP award.
Now, he wants to get back to work.
Scott, who made major headlines at the end of January thanks to his unforgettable All-Star performance in Nashville, will return to Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s this weekend, as the IceCaps play a pair of games against the Toronto Marlies.
“It’ll be nice to [be] back playing hockey and doing my thing. I’m actually really excited for it,” Scott said, per ESPN. “This has been the longest break I’ve had, ever. But I play like 7-8 minutes, I won’t be too out of shape, I’ll be able to keep up.”
Scott, 33, hasn’t played since his Pacific Division team won the annual ASG 3-on-3 tournament on Jan. 31. Following that whirlwind weekend, the Montreal organization allowed him to take a leave to be with his wife, Danielle, who gave birth to twin girls on Feb. 5.
Scott only appeared in four games for St. John’s prior to the All-Star Game, going pointless with six penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating.
The John Scott story, coming to a theater near you?
Therrien on Habs recalling Scott: ‘You never know’
Journeyman Peter Budaj looks as though he’ll make his first regular-season NHL appearance since April of 2014, when the Kings take on the Rangers at MSG.
Recalled from AHL Ontario due to an injury to Jonathan Quick, Budaj gets the nod tonight after Quick’s backup, Jhonas Enroth, was beat for four goals on 29 shots in last night’s loss to the Islanders.
Budaj, 33, has certainly earned another crack at the big leagues. After catching on with the Kings through a PTO in training camp, he’s been terrific in Ontario, going 26-9-3 with a 1.58 GAA and .935 save percentage. The Slovakian netminder also has eight shutouts this year.
For the Rangers, Antti Raanta gets the start in goal, giving Henrik Lundqvist a night off.
— Ben Scrivens, who appears to be the new No. 1 in Montreal, will go for his fourth straight win when the Habs visit Buffalo. Chad Johnson is in goal for the Sabres, who’ve really struggled of late.
— Marc-Andre Fleury goes for the Penguins, while it looks like Cam Ward is in for Carolina.
— Really good matchup in Detroit as Semyon Varlamov goes up against Petr Mrazek who, according to Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, has “crashed Braden Holtby’s Vezina party.”
— Battle of All-Star netminders in Tampa Bay, as Ben Bishop goes for the Bolts while Pekka Rinne starts for Nashville.
— The red-hot Brian Elliott will continue to roll as St. Louis’ No. 1 in Florida. The Panthers will go with their old reliable, Roberto Luongo.
— Now that Karri Ramo’s on IR, it’s Jonas Hiller time for the Flames. He’ll start tonight in Arizona, against Louis Domingue.
Contrary to a report by La Presse newspaper, Montreal head coach Michel Therrien says that Canadiens goalie Carey Price could still play again this season.
“We know what’s going on with Carey,” Therrien told reporters today. “It takes more time, obviously, than we were expecting. Like I said, he’s working extremely hard and he’s put in a lot of hours to make sure that he’s going to make that comeback. The fact that he’s working extremely hard is not to make sure that he’s going to look good this summer on the beach; he wants to come back and play for the Montreal Canadiens.”
That being said, Price does not appear close to a return. He’s yet to practice with teammates. He’s yet to even skate in goalie gear.
The Habs have 27 games left to get back into a playoff spot. They close out the regular season on April 9, less than two months from today.
Related: With Price possibly done for the season, Scrivens has Dubnyk-like opportunity