Jim Rutherford

‘Canes GM Rutherford: We need to improve our defense


On Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes will wrap a frustrating 2013 campaign.

On Friday, Jim Rutherford was already looking to the future.

In speaking with Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News and Observer, the Carolina GM acknowledged improving his defense was a major priority heading into the offseason.

“We need to be a lot harder to play against,” Rutherford said. “We made it too easy for opponents.”

The numbers confirm Rutherford’s assessment.

On Mar. 12, the ‘Canes beat the Caps to move to 15-9-1 on the year and first place in the Southeast Division.

From there, the team went 4-15-3 and, depending how the final games go, could finish in the bottom five of the league.

Injuries played a major role in that slide, most notably to starting netminder Cam Ward (lost for the year in early March) and defenseman Joni Pitkanen (lost for the year in early April).

But the fact remains Carolina had major defensive issues before those injuries hit, and were simply magnified afterward.

Rutherford suggested as much in speaking with the News and Observer last week.

Rather than fall back on the goaltending excuse — he said Dan Ellis and Justin Peters performed as expected — he made it clear the blueline didn’t take the body enough, and needs to improve outlet/breakout passing.

“Whether it be a physical defenseman, a puck-moving defenseman, two puck-moving defensemen, whatever it is, those are things the management team and the coaching staff will discuss at the end of the year,” he said. “That’s an area it’s clear we need to make stronger.”

The ‘Canes are locked into five defensemen next year — Pitkanen, Tim Gleason, Jamie McBain, Justin Faulk, Jay Harrison — and it’s expected Ryan Murphy, the 12th overall pick at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft — will have a legit shot of making the roster.

As for who might be available?

Sergei Gonchar and Mark Streit are probably the best puck-movers available, but they’re 39 and 35 respectively and might not even make it to market, assuming Ottawa and the Islanders try to re-sign them.

Pittsburgh’s Douglas Murray, LA’s Robyn Regehr and Toronto’s Ryan O’Byrne are all in the NHL’s top-30 for hits among defensemen, and could be viable candidates to fill the physical role.

Or, Rutherford could try and complete his collection of Staals by trying to get Marc out of New York.

Kane scores OT-winner, caps Islanders’ bumpy start in Brooklyn

Patrick Kane

On paper, it’s the perfect way to kick off meaningful hockey in Brooklyn, as the New York Islanders faced the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.

In reality, there were some highs and lows, culminating with Patrick Kane scoring a power-play overtime-winner to give Chicago a 3-2 (OT) win.

The Barclays Center crowd was going to be a big part of the story one way or another, but even by building-opening standards, the audience made some waves.

Indeed, Kane was greeted with some jeers during his first road appearance of the 2015-16 season, though he didn’t sound surprised.

(There were other controversial chants, apparently.)

Speaking of the crowd, it may not have been the greatest turnout:

ESPN goes way, way in depth on how the change of locale was received, by the way.

It wasn’t a perfect night inside the rink, either, as there weren’t exactly rave reviews about ice quality. New York Newsday’s Arthur Staple compared the ice to a “slushy” and “soup,” with an anonymous Islander (or Islanders) describing the conditions as “awful.”

Kane was pretty diplomatic about it, for what it’s worth.


So, no, it was not a perfect night for the Islanders.

They probably envisioned a teeming, perfectly mannered crowd. Management likely expected Jaroslav Halak to be in net, too.

Sometimes breaking ground is often about overcoming those early stumbles, though, and maybe the best review is to parallel the on-ice results: the Isles at least got a point out of it.

Let’s not forget that there are some cool perks that come with this situation, even if the specifics may vary.

If you want even more information/photos/etc., you’d probably do well to check out #IslesOpeningNight.

Columbus collapse: Rangers spoil Blue Jackets’ opener

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For a little more than a minute, Brandon Saad was going to be the story of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ opener. Instead, his power-play goal merely got the ball rolling on a flabbergasting finish.

The New York Rangers scored three goals in 1:17 of game time to manage a 4-2 win.

They’ve now spoiled home openers for the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets to begin their 2015-16 season.

It might be easiest just to show you when the goals were scored, noting that the third period began with a 1-1 tie.

Brandon Saad power-play goal: 16:10 into third period (2-1 Columbus)
Oscar Lindberg: 17:24 (2-2 tie)
Kevin Hayes: 17:41 (3-2 Rangers)
Mats Zuccarello: 18:41 (4-2 Rangers)

Yikes. Zuccarello scored two of the Rangers’ goals, while a beauty by Cam Atkinson is likely long forgotten.