Matt Reitz

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Canes lose another, but this time it’s different

The Carolina Hurricanes showed a different level of effort tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. Yet still, in a results oriented world, Carolina lost again (this time 1-0) and continued their freefall towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference. For those counting, that would be their seventh loss in eight games.

It’ll put the GM Jim Rutherford and the Canes in an interesting predicament. There was some chatter that coach Paul Maurice could receive his walking papers in the wake of Wednesday’s disaster in Montreal. Tonight’s Carolina team looked nothing like the team that was sleepwalking through their game against the Canadiens though. But again, there was the scoreboard problem.

The Hurricanes looked better in just about all facets of the game. The defense looked nothing like the team that has been giving up goals like a lacrosse goaltender. The Canes controlled the game for about 59 minutes—but a single defensive lapse in front of the net and a Jason Pominville rebound goal was all the Sabres would need to escape with a win. The Hurricanes were the better team and deserved a better fate.

This time, the problem was isolated the offensive side of the game. Unfortunately for the Canes, their fans, and their coach, the offensive players on the team can’t find the back of the net. The second consecutive shutout means they haven’t scored a goal since early in the 3rd period against the Flyers—on Monday. They’re scoreless drought is now at 135 minutes, 24 seconds.

It doesn’t matter if the defense is playing well or not; if the team doesn’t score, they’re not going to win.

We’ll see if the organization gives Maurice a stay of execution after the tough luck loss. The team brought the energy you’d hope they would when playing for a coach’s job—the only negative was the result. We’ll see if that’s going to be enough?

Knuble on Caps: We played like a “bunch of clowns”

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The most anticipated game of the night was the Western Conference leading Dallas Stars traveling to DC to take on the Southeast Division leading Washington Capitals. The Stars were riding a modest three game winning streak, while the Caps were a perfect 6-0 at the Verizon Center this season. Sixty minutes and an unbelievably lopsided 5-2 game later and the Stars winning streak is sitting and four games and the Caps are left wondering what happened to their perfect record at home.

Needless to say, the Dallas Stars can win anytime and anywhere.

There’s no shame in losing to the Stars this season. They’re sitting at 11-3-0 and own the best record in the league. Jamie Benn is scoring on everyone, Sheldon Souray has turned back the clock about five years, and Kari Lehtonen is playing like a former #2 overall pick.

That’s not how some guys were looking at it from the Washington Capitals’ locker room after the game though. Spirited leader Mike Knuble had some rather harsh criticism for his teammates in the wake of the 5-2 defeat.

He told a group of reporters exactly what he thought after the game:

“Maybe through the first five games I felt top to bottom it was a better commitment. Of late, I don’t know if we’re all committed. It’s sad to say and we all look bad because of the result – because we don’t all commit. We look great when we’re all committing; we look all like a bunch of clowns when we don’t. A very average team when we’re not all committed.”

Sounds like something the captain of a team would say, doesn’t it? Knuble went on to explain that the defensive breakdowns that were occurring had nothing to do with being prepared and more to do with execution and effort. Must be nice to have someone willing to step up and call out his teammates when the team is still 9-4 on the season.

Knuble understands that the Capitals have different expectations this season—they’re expected to take the next step. Comments like these in November are exactly the types of things we expect from leaders when their teammates slip in the effort department.

We have about 70 more games to see if the rest of the Caps take his words to heart.

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What’s wrong with the Islanders?

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The Islanders hoped they’d be able to right the ship tonight when the struggling Winnipeg Jets visited Long Island on Thursday night. For the sixth game in a row, they’re still looking for answers.

The season started off so much optimism. After dropping a tough game on opening night, the Isles followed it up with a three-game winning streak to improve their record to 3-1. John Tavares was coming off back-to-back four point games and it was starting to look like the Islanders rebuilding project was starting to bear fruit.

How things can change.

The optimism that filled Nassau Coliseum at the beginning of the season has been replaced with the skepticism that has filled the rink for the last few seasons. The team has already been shutout three times in only ten games. Throughout the six-game losing streak, each of their three netminders have failed to get the train back on the track.  This is the same team that had a 14-game losing streak at the beginning of <i>last</i> season.

The tough part for Isles fans to swallow tonight is that the team had shown signs of improvement lately. They lost in shootout in Pittsburgh last week and pushed the San Jose Sharks to OT over the weekend. But even though the Isles had a good effort tonight, the 3-0 loss at home against the Winnipeg Jets can only be classified as a huge step backwards.

Here are the highlights—or lowlights from tonight’s game against the Winnipeg Jets:

Fight night: Arron Asham drops Jay Beagle, taunts afterwards

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Fighting is a tough way to make a living in the NHL. As if there were ever any doubt that hockey players willing to stick up for their teammates are manly men, Arron Asham gave us a clear reminder. Actually, its Washington’s Jay Beagle that reminded us that sticking up for teammates is a commendable way to make a living. Asham was the reminder why it’s such a tough way to collect a paycheck in the 3rd period of the Capitals’ OT victory over the Penguins.

Here’s the scene: Caps forward Jay Beagle hits Kris Letang and knocks off his lid. Penguins’ tough guy Arron Asham confronts Beagle for laying a big hit on one of his skilled teammates, and Beagle unfortunately obliges the request to drop the gloves. As most people will tell you—this is part of hockey. Asham confronted Beagle because that’s his job in the NHL. Beagle accepted the Asham’s request because, well, that’s what hockey players do. He’s a veteran of only 42 career games and he’s desperately trying to make solidify his spot on the Capitals roster.

Two punches to the face, a lost tooth, and a bloody face later and Beagle may have wanted to rethink his decision. Here’s the video, but beware: there’s about a quart of Beagle’s blood on the ice after the fight.

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Aside from the clear knockout, the fight made waves around the internet because of Asham’s perceived actions after the fight.  As if the Pens/Caps rivalry needed any more fuel.

“Asham appeared to taunt Beagle on the way to the penalty box, gesturing that he was ‘asleep,’ but tapped his stick in the penalty box when Beagle, a significantly less experienced fighter, left the ice.”

There was some argument whether Asham had done anything wrong—but afterwards the Pens’ forward confirmed that he did, in fact, taunt after the fight. He took the post-game questions and explained that his own actions after the fight were “classless,” “uncalled for,” and that he was “caught up in the moment.” The actions were classless and uncalled for, but owning the mistake after the game was a stand-up move.

What do you think? Do you think Arron Asham’s post-fight gesture was uncalled for or do you give him the benefit of the doubt because he was caught up in the moment? Do his postgame comments influence your thoughts at all? Let us know what you have in the comments.

Update (1:05am EST): Alexander Ovechkin offered his thoughts after the game: “It’s a hockey game, but that was pretty tough. Beagle … he’s not a fighter, he’s just, it’s not his job to fight. I don’t know, it’s kind of unrespectful for players on a different team.” (Video link)

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Lokomotiv will not play in KHL this season

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As the city of Yaroslavl honors those lost in Wednesday’s plane crash, word out of Russia is that Lokomotiv’s season will be placed on hold. Pavel Lysenkov from Sovietsky Sport is reporting that Lokomotiv club president Yuri Yakovlev has said the team will not play in the KHL this season. The announcement comes while 7,500 friends and fans gather outside of Arena 2000 to pay their last respects to the players and staff members who lost their lives on their way to Minsk, Belarus.

Obviously, any decision after the crash regarding the immediate future of the team had to be handled with care. With all of the logistical problems in building a team from scratch at the beginning of the season, Yakovlev decided it would be best if the team’s return wasn’t rushed. There is no blueprint for a catastrophe of this nature. There is no acceptable norm. In a time with bleeding hearts and gut-wrenching grief, it’s easy to understand that the city and the organization would take their time as they contemplate their future.

It had been reported that KHL President Alexander Medvedev supported the idea of existing KHL teams aiding Yaroslavl to restock their team this season. League vice-president Ilya Kochervrin explained that hockey had the potential to help the city and fans recover from the devastating pain associated with the crash.

Still, with the support of the league and opposing teams, it was too daunting to put together in such a quick fashion. Kochevrin explained that it would be Lokomotiv’s management that had the final say regarding this season.

“”The final decision is going to be (from) the team management. It’s not going to be the league or administration or anybody else. It has to be team management because they’re the ones who will be responsible for building up the team.”

Even though Lokomotiv will not participate this season on the ice, they will still be remembered around the league. Representatives from each and every KHL were in attendance during Saturday’s memorial at Arena 2000. In addition to the representatives, Atlant, AK Bars, Moscow Dynamo, CSKA, Spartak, Severstal, and Torpedo all sent their entire teams to pay their respects. KHL club AK Bars has already pledged to donate all of the proceeds from ticket sales of their first game against Dinamo Riga on Tuesday, September 13. Aeroflot has even offered better planes for KHL teams to use throughout the season.

They will be remembered.

All we can hope is that time helps heal the emotional scars left after this catastrophe. People will never forget – nor should they – but the decision to cancel the season is understandable as the fans and organization try to pick up the pieces. When they finally do come back next season, something tells me they’ll have a few more fans pulling for the team (and city) to succeed.