Walker makes a dumb move, 'Canes go down like a rock in Game 5 | Sports
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Monday, May 11, 2009

Walker makes a dumb move, 'Canes go down like a rock in Game 5

Posted by on Mon, May 11, 2009 at 12:12 AM

TV/FSN-CR—The Boston Bruins, as anticipated, did not roll over and allow Carolina to shake their hands on the way out the door. They’re going to make the ‘Canes work for this series win, and after a 4-0 demolition in Boston, the Hurricanes are on their way home to try for "Second Round Takedown: Take 2 (only this time, with feeling!)"

The ‘Canes looked tentative right off the bat, as though someone told them they did not deserve to win this game. The team was slow and allowed the Bruins to do whatever they wanted with the puck. Carolina was caught several times watching the play instead of being involved and 40 Boston shots later, the final score could have been much worse.

It almost looked as though the ‘Canes would escape the first period with the game tied at zero, but Mark Recchi tipped a Zdeno Chara slap shot past Ward five-hole on the power play to start the scoring onslaught. There was little anyone could have done to stop that one (scratch that…Dennis Seidenberg could have not taken the penalty to begin with. But oh well.)

There was, however, something definitive Seidenberg could have done on the second goal. Phil Kessel, Seidenberg’s charge, was left lurking around an empty net on a rush late in the first. The lucky pass somehow made its way around numerous skates and to Kessel, who was all alone with Ward over on the other side of the net. Seidenberg could have reached out to stop the pass, or at least attempted to block the shot, but he stood and watched.

Not to pick on Seidenberg—no one on the ‘Canes team played a good game. His effort just wasn’t, er, stellar. Eric Staal was a miserable minus-3 and on the ice for all four goals, for crying out loud. After banging out three consecutive wins against the Bruins and five of six overall, the ‘Canes were due for a meltdown.

After totaling two assists in the first four games, both of which were in Game 1, Kessel got his second of the night early in the second period. This one was the only soft-ish goal Ward gave up. Kessel blasted a shot through traffic that Ward missed by a mile.

The game could have been close without a stellar save by Tim Thomas. The goalie soared through the air to snag a Joni Pitkanen second attempt in a sort of flying hug save. A bit higher and the puck would have been in for sure, but there's no faulting Pitkanen for that one. Thomas came up with a spectacular save and ultimately notched his first postseason shutout.

A weird series of plays transpired that sent two mainstays of their respective teams to the dressing room early for the second intermission. Erik Cole had what appeared to be a knee-on-knee collision with Chara and went back early. Then, after what looked like a barely detectable slash from Jussi Jokinen (seriously, the broadcasters had to go back and look closely to see what, if anything, happened) Chara went down like a log and grabbed his ankle as though it was about to fall off. It looked like something a soccer player would do (no offense!). Both players were back for the third, no harm done.

In the third, the ‘Canes gave up the ghost and played one of their most undisciplined hockey of the season, totaling 38 penalty minutes. Milan Lucic scored his second of the series, beating Ward from a wide angle, but the game was already over and the Hurricanes were just looking to get out alive and go home.

However, Scott Walker made a boneheaded move that really put the cherry on top of a forgettable game. Instead of biding his time, making plays that don’t matter preparing to put the game aside like his teammates undoubtedly will, Walker suckerpunched Aaron Ward and could possibly face a suspension from the league. Several small (and large) fights occurred over the last period and a half as the games got rougher and the losing team tried to defend its dignity, and Scott Walker took of his glove and decked former ‘Cane Ward in the face. It was without warning, or at least I imagine it was – maybe Walker announced, “I’m going to hit you!” right before he slid off his glove and punched Ward, but Ward made no attempt to defend himself, so probably not. The Boston defenseman looked fine, but that was just a dumb move that could have ramifications, and that is not the kind of play the ‘Canes are known for. There’s a line between defending your honor and being the gritty guy your team looks to and losing your temper and acting stupid, and Walker crossed the line. Ward didn’t appear to do anything too awful (maybe he insulted Walker's mom on Mother's Day? For shame!) and Walker never played with Ward during his time in Carolina so he doesn’t know what a stand-up guy he is. We’ll await word on whether the league will take action. It’s possible that they’ll look aside. Carolina’s squeaky-clean record over the past few years could work for the team or against it, as a means of evening things out.

On a side note, Ryan Bayda was scratched for the second game in a row with the flu and Conboy scrapped twice in his stead. Blake Wheeler, the Boston rookie that Claude Julien didn’t want to talk about after Game 4, was a healthy scratch.

So, no reason to panic. The ‘Canes were not mentally sharp in this one, probably partially due to the wear and tear of a long year. As long as Carolina puts this game firmly behind it and readies for Game 6 at home, the series should follow its predetermined course. However, the Bruins showed the same life that allowed them to manhandle the ‘Canes in Game 4, and if they are allowed to play that sort of game, things could get interesting. One team – Washington – has already erased a 3-1 deficit in the playoffs, utilizing its 2/3 games of home ice advantage. Although it seems unlikely that that would happen twice, if anyone can make it happen, it’s Boston.

Game 6 will be on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., in the RBC Center. Don’t forget your cowbells.

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