GDB LIV: What a difference a goalie makes!

Eight days ago tonight’s game looked like an epic battle for 30th place, but after four straight wins the Hurricanes are seven points ahead of the Oilers. Have the Canes being playing great hockey all of a sudden? Not really, but their goalie, Sherwood Park native Cam Ward sure is.

Ward has allowed five goals in the four game winning streak. The Canes have been out shot every game, but Ward has a ridiculous .962 SV% in those games. Meanwhile as a team, the Canes have a shooting percentage of 20 with 18 goals on only 91 shots. They won’t keep winning games if these numbers stay the same. Teams can have short stretches where everything they shoot goes in, or their goalie stops most shots, but eventually those bounces will cease.

I wrote on Friday that cheering for a win v. Calgary made sense because of pride, and of course we all saw that there didn’t seem to be much pride on the ice. So tonight, you watch the game knowing that a loss will tie the franchise record for the longest winless streak at 14 games.

Do you cheer for a record or as fans do you need to see your team win one game just to remind you how that feels?

Tough call!

With Sheldon Souray out until after the trade deadline, and possibly the rest of the season (would there be an reason to come back on March 15th) the Oilers attack becomes less potent by the day.

Alex Plante, 15th pick in 2007, will make his NHL debut tonight. Plante has been okay in Springfield according to the scouts and coaching staff. He’ll wear #48 tonight and be paired with Taylor Chorney.

They didn’t do any line rushes this morning, but at yesterday’s skate Marc Pouliot and J.F Jacques looked to be the extras. The top three lines were the same, while Mike Comrie and Zack Stortini skated with Andrew Cogliano. Jacques was invisible in Calgary and Pouliot hasn’t done much since returning from the injured list.

Sheldon Souray’s injury will force Tom Renney to make some changes on the backend. Visnovsky, Gilbert and Plante will play the right side while Strudwick, Chorney and Grebeshkov will play the left side. Strudwick will play with Alex Plante while Renney will put Chorney with Visnvosky and Gilbert back with Grebeshkov. This blueline corps definitely lacks a physical presence and we could see a few fire drills in their own zone tonight.

Jeff Deslauriers gets the start and is looking for his first win since December 30th.

CONSPIRACY THEORY?

I’m not a huge believer in conspiracy theories, although Mel Gibson was great as Jerry Fletcher in the 1997 flick especially when he bit part of Dr. Jonas’ nose off.

But many Oiler fans are concerned that the Count, aka Gary Bettman, will rig the lottery to ensure that the Hurricanes win it. Their basis to this theory is that fans in Edmonton and Boston don’t need the first overall pick to appease their fans, while Carolina needs help.

That’s not necessarily the case. Some wondered why the Canes drew a measly 6,896 fans with Chicago in town on Friday. The Hawks are one of the most exciting teams in the league, yet the Canes had their lowest crowd of the season. Prior to Friday’s game their lowest crowd was just over 12,000. It doesn’t make sense that with the Hawks in town and the Canes on a three-game winning streak that only 6,896 people show up.

It’s because they had six inches of snow. They actually sold 17,000 tickets and were expecting a sell out, but the weather forced many people to stay home. Even though they had 17,000 sold seats they announced the number of fans in the building. You wonder if down the stretch that will happen in Edmonton. Anyone who has been at Rexall Place knows the seats haven’t been full, and you wonder if all of those are paid seats that didn’t show up. I’d guess probably not.

I’d bet Kevin Lowe and Steve Tambellini will have a valid argument that they need the first overall pick more than Carolina does. Oiler fans have had four seasons without the playoffs, and the masses are pissed.

Also…

Interesting to note that Eric Staal spent lots of time at the end of practice working on his shot and joking around with his teammates. Great players put in the extra work and while some of you don’t think it is necessary for Ales Hemsky to be any better, I’d argue he does. I see too many of the elite players in the league staying late after practice or at morning skates, and that extra work definitely doesn’t hurt their game.

And it seems that TSN. ca jumped the gun on the Rangers/Flames trade. I remember back in the summer when Bob McKenzie and others on TSN were ripping the Edmonton media for jumping the gun on the Heatley story. I noticed he didn’t use the same choice of words when talking about how this deal is now on hold. We all make mistakes, and I laugh when those who have ripped on someone about a mistake or jumping the gun have the exact thing happen to them. The deal might still go through, but if it doesn’t I doubt they will be ripping their own site.