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Drop the gloves during the playoffs with SI.com's writers in the NHL Cup Blog, a daily journal of hockey commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
1:15 AM ET, 6/15/06

Staal's up and down game

Posted by Yi-Wyn Yen
This was supposed to be Eric Staal's celebration. One win shy from clinching the Stanley Cup, the Carolina Hurricanes had hoped to end the series at the RBC Center. Instead of spraying champagne on his teammates, Staal stood in the locker room with his arms crossed and a glum expression as he talked about how the night "sucked."

It certainly didn't start that way. The 21-year-old center got off to a promising start when he scored Carolina's first goal early in the first period. Punching his fists into the plexiglass and hugging his teammates, Staal looked poised to win his first Stanley Cup. After taking some heat for being noticeably absent in the first three games of the series against Edmonton, Staal made a big splash in the first 60 minutes of Game 5 by scoring twice and assisting on all three of the Carolina Hurricanes' goals. Then overtime came.

Three and a half minutes into sudden death, Staal missed a pass from Cory Stillman and turned over the winning goal to the NHL's leading playoff scorer Fernando Pisani (tied with Rod Brind'Amour at 12 goals). Though Stillman admitted he made a "soft pass," Staal took the blame for allowing Pisani to score the first-ever overtime, shorthanded goal in Cup history. "I didn't really see him coming till the last second," said Staal. "It's my fault as well. I have got to make a better play than they did."

Despite scoring two goals in a playoff game for the first time, the 4-3 loss will give Staal plenty of time to think about all the things that went wrong on that long flight back to Edmonton for Game 6. This was only the second time the Hurricanes have allowed a shorthanded goal in the playoffs. After converting three goals on seven power-play opportunities, Carolina seemed to get a lucky break when Oilers' defenseman Steve Staios got thrown into the penalty box for tripping.

Instead, Pisani's breakaway gave the Oilers its third shorthanded goal for the postseason. "It hurts. We're in overtime. We have a chance to end this thing and we didn't," said Hurricanes center Kevyn Adams. "But we're up 3-2. We got to pull together in this locker room. ... We're going to have to go in there and play the game of our lives. Bottom line."

Comments:

Posted: 2:50 AM   by Anonymous
you have to believe one of the reasons the Canes lost that game was because they finally dealt with some hurt players on the backline.

wesley has been hurting a little for a couple series now, and then aaron ward went down on what seemed like a harmless body check. until ward came back in the middle of the third, the Canes looked listless, tired, and even beaten.

the Canes, clearly the better team in the series, should have had this game in the bag, it should never have gone to OT. i guess Carolina just isn't the type of team that handles that kind of adversity very well. they'll gladly take credit for beating a team with so many injuries (in seven games, no less), but once they feel the heat from their own injured backline, they crumbled.
Posted: 10:20 AM   by Anonymous
Is Staal turning into a Dick Tarnstrom - a power play specialist. Why did Staal' 2nd goal count? Puck was under the goalie and could not be seen from any TV angle, yet Staal kept digging. Referee did not allow a Edmonton goal in game 3 when the puck was between the goalie's legs - but in open view, because the ref could not see the puck. What is the standard - keep digging or ???
Posted: 11:17 AM   by Anonymous
typical american hockey coverage...you can't score two out of three of your team's goals AND assist on all three goals...
Posted: 11:40 AM   by mcghockey
Kevyn Adams? Refining his thoughts on the bench is he?
Posted: 12:48 PM   by Anonymous
Wow, I think it's the first loss the Canes haven't whined about...I'm sure they'll find something to complain about...
Posted: 3:51 PM   by Anonymous
We love you Pisani!!!
Posted: 4:04 PM   by Anonymous
You've backed down from your original title of this post - "Staal's breakout game wasted" - is that because you went back and actually watched him all game?

I'm a 'Canes fan, and I think he'll be a star for a long time, but his game was horrible last night. He scored two goals, but they were garbage goals. [Not that I would give them back, I'll take a garbage goal any day.] His only real bright spot was the heads up play on the assist. Well, I guess you could call it a bright spot that he kept playing hard.

Throughout the game, though, he was so sloppy it hurt. His passes were off, he didn't even receive passes well [all game, not just that last one], and he was offsides or dumped the puck up late to result in offsides more times than I could count.

Ms. Yen, I'm glad you backed down from your "blinded by scoring" stance with that first title. Two goals does not a "breakout" game make when they are garbage goals. Admire his conviction to stick with it, his guts to take and give hits last night, but don't say the kid played well. He didn't.
Posted: 8:12 PM   by Anonymous
4:04 anonymous isnt fooling anyone when they claim to be a "canes fan." Why would any REAL FAN argue with someone who was defending their teams' players? Why would he take shots at the Carolina's best player who was the only reason Carolina even made it to overtime?
Posted: 12:19 AM   by Anonymous
Because I am a real fan, so I was watching the whole game wanting my team to win, and seeing one of their stars have a bad game. Every commentator was worried that "young Cam Ward" would feel the pressure of playing for the Cup too much, but it was Staal who played an uncharacteristically sloppy game. I admire him for playing hard all night, I admire him for taking responsibility for the bad play that ended the game in OT, but I'm not going to make excuses for him.

He's a great player, and as I said before, I believe he will be a great player for many, many years to come. Great players have bad games sometimes, though - even Rod Brind'Amour or even Ronnie Franchise.

Sometimes, your team loses, as mine (and apparently yours, and I'm glad for every fan the team has even if I question your hockey savvy, since you think Staal's game was so great) did last night. Pardon me for thinking like a coach and looking for things that went wrong and wanting them fixed, rather than crying about how they should've just handed the Cup to my guys before the first puck of the playoff drops.

Constructive criticism - I think it is important. Sorry you disagree, but don't question my loyalties. The good news is this - though Staal has had bad games before *gasp*, all season he bounced back with great games. A truly great game out of him without the rushed mistakes would've won the Cup in Raleigh, and it will win the Cup in Edmonton.
Posted: 3:49 PM   by Anonymous
I didnt say Staal played great, but if you had taken him off the ice, you might as well take off at least 2 goals for carolina. The only reason he scored twice was a matter of being in the right place at the right time, but a goal is a goal.
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