As you’re probably aware by now, the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association were unable to come to an understanding for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement by September 15th. The inability to come to an agreement has led the owners, headed by NHL commish Gary Bettman (public enemy #1), to enforce a “work stoppage” (LOCKOUT) until the owner’s get everything they want issue is resolved. With that being said, “work stoppages” don’t affect Xbox, and since NHL 13 owners don’t bitch about hockey related revenue (whatever that is), the Carolina Hurricanes will be playing every game of their 2012-13 campaign. I bring you NHL hockey in all its virtual glory.
This preseason schedule is crazy. The Hurricanes are slated for 5 games in 5 days, leaving no time to think, reflect, watch tape, or sleep. It’s almost as if the NHL doesn’t want teams to take the preseason seriously. Almost like the points don’t matter or these games can’t affect regular season standings. Oh well. It is what it is, and the Hurricanes had a second consecutive road game vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning, who feature some of the best goal scorers in the league. Following the debacle that occurred in Columbus, the Hurricanes determined that they needed to tighten down defensively, clear out the trash from in front of the net, and back check a little better. Unfortunately for the fans, head coach Kirk Muller didn’t want any part of two games in two nights, so he pulled his team off of the ice during the pregame skate. Instead, the Charlotte Checkers squad was forced to make the flight down to Tampa, don the big boy sweaters, and play a meaningful preseason game vs. a division rival.
Guy Boucher, the head coach of the Lightning, had his grade “A” players in suits before the warm-ups. Upon the arrival of the wide-eyed Checkers, Boucher leapt into action, and suited up the A team. (No, not THAT A team. We’re talking Stamkos, St. Louis, and Lecavalier.) Kirk Muller, coaching a bunch of kids with limited NHL experience, attempted to pep his team up before the game with Herb’s famous speech from the 1980 Miracle on Ice. The kids seemed pumped, and they took to the ice brimming with confidence, camaraderie, and the poise of a veteran NHL team. Awesome to see.
Then the puck dropped.
Canes goalie Mike Murphy must have made a special trip from his new KHL club, Sparak Moscow, because he started in net for the Checke….errr…Canes. The opening faceoff was won by my hero, Zac Daple, and the game was under way. The scoring opened early for Tampa, as big defender and aircraft carrier Victor Hedman scored off of a blistering slapshot from the point. 30 seconds in. Next came a barrage of shots from Tampa, which saw Martin St. Louis score his first of the night. 2 minutes in. Not to be outdone…by himself…St. Louis scored immediately again off the faceoff, giving him a pair for the night, and Tampa a 3 goal cushion 3 minutes into the game. At this moment, Guy Boucher decided to drop back and play a more defensive-oriented game to save the legs of his superstar players…*hysterical laughter.* Wow, wouldn’t THAT be something. Goal scoring champ Steven Stamkos added a goal 2 minutes after the third was scored. OK! 4-0 is enough, right? Wrong. St. Louis completed his 4 minute hat trick by scoring on a breakaway, and pushing the lead to 5 at the 15:00 mark of the first period. Mike Murphy decided that this was hard, silently applauded his decision to go to the KHL, and left the ice. The goal tending responsibilities would fall on a relatively unknown goalie, some guy named Holt. Yeah, no idea. Anyway, the goal tending changed sparked some life in the Checkers, as defender Rasmus Rissanen scored on a slap shot that deflected off of a defender in front. New life! The Checkers could actually start chipping away and making this comeback! No. Teddy Purcell of the Lightning scored immediately following the goal, Victor Hedman scored off of another slap shot, and Stamkos added another goal to end the period at 8-1. Wow. That was…interesting.
I’ll be honest with you all. At this point, I left. It was late, I was hungry, and stadium food sucks. So I got out of the arena and forgot about the rest of the game. However, using extrapolation, I can almost positively guarantee that I know what happened. The Tampa Bay Lightning won the game by a final score of 24-3, outshooting the “Hurricanes” 99-54. Marty St. Louis had 9 goals, Stamkos had 6, and Rissanen finished the game with a hat trick. The bright spot of this game for the Hurricanes came in the 3rd period, as the regular players, who weren’t dressed for the game, decided to pit Chad LaRose and a squirrel against each other in the locker room. Needless to say, Chad came out a little worse for the wear.
The Hurricanes (0-2) have gotten off to a rough start. They have a home-and-home series with the Nashville Predators in the next couple of days, and it’ll be interesting to see who plays, and who doesn’t. Stay tuned, as all the hard-hitting action of Xbox hockey unfolds.