Has everyone recovered from Tuesday? Good. Let’s roll. Sorry the series recap never happened, but let’s look ahead instead. Before the ‘Canes had time to unwind after a spectacularly memorable Game 7, they were back on a plane, preparing to face a team that beat them like a red-headed stepchild in the regular season. The Boston Bruins, the surprise No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, are up next.
In a lengthy interview the day after the ‘Canes returned home from New Jersey, Mo claimed that the only differences between New Jersey and Boston were the absence of a set checking line and a “little bit of size and speed.” He brought up the point that Claude Julien used to coach New Jersey, and that’s a good point. However, he seems to be forgetting those measly extra 30 goals in the regular season. Oh yeah, and the scoring from all sides. That young wunderkind and age-defying veteran pairing of Kessel and Savard? Might as well throw their names in there. That Michael Ryder guy, he’s been hot in the playoffs so far. And hockey’s Yao Ming, Boston’s 6’9 gut-checking Jolly Yellow Giant, Zdeno Chara…definitely worth a mention.
DBAP/DURHAM—First (and second) things first: The Bulls split a two-game miniseries with the Charlotte Knights, sumoing them last night, 14-7, and then rolling over to receive same on "Education Day" this morning [sic], 9-1. The Bulls' PR people beat me to the choicest pun the way the first waiters to spot staff-meal always scarf up the tuna tartare.
Neither game was much fun to watch. The Bulls struck for six runs in the bottom of the first yesterday on a grand slam by Justin Ruggiano and a two-run shot by John Jaso. The Knights halved the deficit in the fourth, but the Bulls tacked on seven more runs in the fifth and sixth and yawned their way to victory from there. The teams collaborated on a seven-error, 11-walk game that somehow managed to finish in less than three hours. Most of the press box denizens were probably glad not to have to pay much attention to the proceedings, because they were more interested in the TV showing the Carolina Hurricanes' series-winning thriller over the New Jersey Devils.
FSCR/ TV—Bring on the Bruins.
Behind with 1:20 left in the game, the ‘Canes potted an incredible two goals and downed the Devils, 4-3, in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinals. They will now move on to face the top-seeded Boston Bruins either Friday or Saturday evening.
The ‘Canes won this game as they won the series: after repeatedly falling behind and clawing their way back. Brian Rolston scored in the second period to put the Devils up again and the ‘Canes couldn’t respond for almost two periods. The team appeared to be down and out until Joni Pitkanen set up Mr. Clutch Goal himself, fellow Finn Jussi Jokinen, who fired one past Brodeur to tie it up and send it into overtime.
But before the Devils could escape regulation, Eric Staal streaked up the side and sent a puck soaring past Brodeur with 32 seconds left in the game. New Jersey looked dumbfounded. The team – and fans everywhere – collapsed into hysterics.
This was by no means a dominant effort by the ‘Canes. The Devils beat them in every statistic, in every possible way – except the one that mattered.
A couple of items from the RailHawks home office before we return to our regularly scheduled HURRICANES LIVE BLOG.
First, although the RailHawks scarcely seem to need any backfield help, having conceded only one goal in their first three games, the team couldn't pass up an impressive prospect out of UCLA by the name of Brad Rusin.
He hasn't seen any first-team action yet, but the RailHawks' press announcement indicates that he will travel with the team this weekend for two games against Portland—as good an indication as any of his value as a prospect.
To make room for Rusin, the team announced that Nate Norman, who has not seen action with the first team, has been released but will remain with the club in an "outreach capacity."
Rusin, by the way, is listed at 6-foot-4. We've seen him in person, so we can attest that his hair is not being included in the measurement. (Press release after the jump.)
Also, the USL-1 team of the week is out, and midfielder Brian Plotkin, who scored the game's only goal Sunday against Minnesota, and left back John Gilkerson, have been named.
In honor of tonight’s Game 7 cage match between the Carolina Hurricanes and the New Jersey Devils – which is, alas, an away game – Triangle Offense will be liveblogging tonight, starting at approximately 6:30. If you’re watching the game near a computer, please join us and share your thoughts.
The Durham Bulls return to the DBAP tonight for their second homestand of the year. They went 5-5 on their three-city road trip after posting a 6-1 opening mark at home. Over the course of a season, a .500 away record and an .857 home clip would almost surely qualify them for another postseason run at the Governor's Cup, the International League's championship trophy.
But it's early in the year, and making guesses about a 144-game season based on the first 17 outcomes is foolish, especially where roster-unstable minor-league teams are concerned.
RBC CENTER/ RALEIGH—The Carolina Hurricanes fought hard in Game 6 for the tie and managed to send it back to Newark. Once there, they’ll be able to visit an old friend: Game 7. New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner returned from injury to play in his first since Game 1, but his Devils looked slow and listless after Carolina seized momentum and the home team danced to a 4-0 victory.
Here’s a curious little twist: after going down 3-1 to the Rangers, the Washington Capitals pulled even this morning, so both Southeast division teams are headed to Game 7’s. Staal took over third place in all-time playoff scoring in just two postseason campaigns and Ward responded to his hero’s Thursday shutout with one of his own, making 28 saves in the win.
How do you ignite a stagnant top line? Easy. Add Chad LaRose, water, and stir. The ‘Canes put the team’s leading scorer at the time (I can’t believe I just typed that) on the top line and it paid dividends. Mo wasn’t pulling the press’ chain when he said he was going to tinker with his lines before the game. Anton Babchuk was back after serving as a healthy scratch and Samsonov returned from a short absence due to injury. Patrick Eaves was on the second line with Brind’Amour and Samsonov to start the game and LaRose deservedly jumped onto the top line with Staal and Whitney. Whitney factored in on every goal and he and his linemates combined for nine points.
WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—On a Sunday afternoon best made for poolside lounging, the Minnesota Thunder and Carolina RailHawks shuttled the ball back and forth for 90 minutes. The majority of the RailHawks faithful took their cues from the weather report and stayed away in droves. Had they been at the stadium, the 90-degree temperature combined with the somnambulant pace of the game could have produced the world’s largest collective nap.
For the 3,500 regular fans who missed the game, there were 22 players running about, clattering into each other, trying to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of scoring a goal. It finally happened in the 58th minute, following some haphazard, lackluster, heavy-legged, bamboozling, half-baked shenanigans from Minnesota.
This hasn't been a good week for Mudcats' pitcher Jordan Smith. He was ejected from Wednesday's game against the Huntsville Stars after arguing about a check swing call, and now he's been placed on the seven-day disabled list retroactive to April 24.
Meanwhile right-hander Justin Mallett has been assigned to the Mudcats from Triple-A Louisville. In the last 10 games for the Bats, Mallett has pitched two innings, striking out two and allowing two hits.