Thursday, May 10, 2012

Relevance in Raleigh

Rod Brind'Amour hoists the cup.
In 2006 the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers met in the Stanley Cup Finals. Hardly a match up that the NHL drooled over but this series gave the City of Raleigh franchise its first Stanley Cup Championship. Since that fateful playoff series the Hurricanes have struggled to be relevant in the NHL and have only returned to the playoffs once. The common thread I have seen in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs has been goaltending. Looking at the teams left in the playoffs, you have the Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, New Jersey Devils, and the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers, whose series endures a Game 7 Saturday night. All of these teams have been led by outstanding goaltending throughout the playoffs so far. The LA Kings have been led by Veinza finalist Jonathan Quick who is 8-1 and boasts a 1.55 GAA through two playoffs series. The Coyotes have been led by Mike Smith. Smith has flown under the radar and showed his true worth in a showdown opposite the ice of the Predators Pekka Rinne. Smith's 8-3 playoff record and 1.77 GAA have shown that he too deserves mention beside the Rinne and Quick's of the world. In the Eastern Conference there are 3 goaltenders left. The Devils Martin Brodeur, Rangers Henrik Lundqvist, and Capitals Braden Holtby. Brodeur, who turned 40 on Sunday, has not displayed the prettiest stats but has accomplished what every veteran goaltender is expected to do, win. Brodeur has the Devils into the conference finals for the first time since 2003 and awaits the winner of New York and Washington. The Rangers have arguably the best goaltender in the league in Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist boasted a 1.97 GAA during the regular season and led them to a #1 seed in this years playoffs. However, Lundqvist will participate in his 2nd game seven this postseason and looks to stave off elimination for the second straight series. The major reason for King Henrik's headache this series, Braden Holtby. Holtby, the 22 year old goalie, appeared out of nowhere at the end of the Capitals regular season. He only appeared in 7 games, 6 starts, but quickly grabbed the confidence of the coaching staff, teammates, and fans. His 1.95 GAA is not as impressive as the previously mention keepers but like Brodeur, he is winning.

So, you might be wondering where I am going with this. Well it all boils down to this, the key to this year's playoffs, like many other years, is goaltending. The goalkeepers have kept their teams competitive and won them many games. So, if the hometown Hurricanes hope to be relevant goaltending is where a change in needed. I know everyone loves Cam Ward because he won us a cup. But that was 6 years ago and we've only appeared in the playoffs once since! Raleigh is a town full of Caniacs and sport adoring fans. But it is simple, the Canes need to make moves. The hurricanes have a great crop of young players and will be led by veteran talents such as Eric Staal and Tim Gleason. You might be asking, "Well where do you suggest we get a better goalie?" Hmm, how about Vancouver! Yeah, I said Vancouver. The Canucks currently have goalies Roberto Luongo and Corey Schneider. Luongo on their team with Schneider becoming a Restricted Free Agent following the completion of the playoffs. With a cap hit of around $5 million for Luongo, keeping both netminders seems a little farfetched there in the northwest. So you have to think that the Canucks will look to move one of the goalies. That is why I believe it is the perfect time for the Hurricanes to shake things up a bit and look to acquire a new man between the posts. Like I said earlier, Raleigh is a city that loves their sports and their teams. The Hurricanes are loved here and all fans only hope for relevance in the near future.

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