3/24 CAROLINA 6, sharks 4
The Sharks lost last night, but they looked like a playoff team (at least in my eyes) while doing so. Sure, they went down 3-0 early, and that early deficit ended up costing them, but unlike the coast jobs (read = lazy, passionless play) that the Sharks have pulled a few times this year, the Sharks continued to fight, a frame of mind that will help them come playoff time.
After going down 3-0 following just one period of play, Bill Guerin  took a slapper off a pass from Captain Patrick Marleau on the powerplay (Marleau, Matt Carle). Eric Staal made it 4-1 shortly thereafter, but the Sharks kept fighting. The Sharks fought back and struck back on the scoreboard just 2:42 into the 3rd when Jonathan Cheechoo  collected a rebound and pushed it past Carolina goalie Cam Ward (Craig Rivet, Joe Thornton). The Sharks brought themselves within one goal when Steve Bernier  cut across the crease and collected a pass from the aforementioned Grier (Grier). With momentum in hand, things looked good until Guerin's stick accidentally climbed up the stick of Niclas Wallin and popped him in what appeared to be the mouth, earning Guerin a 4 minute double-minor for drawing blood with a high stick with just under 5 minutes remaining in the 3rd. Andrew Ladd then scored his second goal of the game to give the Hurricanes a 5-3 lead with 2:40 left. But, like all the other times, the Sharks kept fighting. Cheechoo stormed towards the net with the puck, but was held by defenseman Mike Commodore, drawing a penalty on the Ogie Oglethorpe look-alike. The Sharks promptly took advantage of the powerplay when, just six seconds in, Joe Thornton  ripped a one-timer past Ward to bring the Sharks back within one (Marleau, Rivet), but that was as close as the Sharks would get. Cory Stillman sealed the deal with an empty netter with just 4 seconds left to play. Both tenders made 7 saves, Evgeni Nabokov faced 10 shots in the 1st, and Vesa Toskala faced 9 shots in the latter 40 minutes.
This year, as you know, I have been attending each Sharks game, this one was road game #40 on the season, but, unlike the previous 39, this one was a bit different. Upon entering the RBC Center (a very nice building), I was approached by the producer of the Sharks TV, who was interested in putting me on TV. Being an amateur journalist and not even being able to dream of being on a live broadcast this year, I of course said yes and what happened at the intermission, of course, is history (including insulting a Sharks sponsor on live TV).
The RBC Center is a beautiful building located in the heart of a very large parking lot in rural Raleigh, North Carolina, right adjacent to Carter Finley Stadium, home of the NC State Wolfpack. The aforementioned parking lot is home to many a tailgater all the way up to game time, and plenty of tailgaters following the game as well. Cars and trucks are decorated with Hurricane car flags and stickers (not to mention big actual hurricane warning flags), people are decorated with Hurricane jerseys and sweatshirts and t-shirts and hats and every other piece of Carolina gear available.
Inside the arena is very nice. The lower concourse is super wide, allowing for easy maneuvering. Plenty of food stands and a good mix of available eats, with a couple mini stores around the concourse. The seating area is very nice as well. It is a pretty symmetrical bowl with bright red seats to match the rest of the attire in the stands.
Without a good place to mention it, the Canes also have a wicked loud goal horn, loud crowd when they score, a pig as a mascot ("ice hog", I've been told), Ric Flair the wrestler screaming "WOOOOOO", cheerleaders (ugh), and a sound system that, when they score, sounds like a rumblin earthquake type thing (I'm a Californian, apparently I know these things).
In all, I thoroughly enjoyed my hockey experience in Raleigh, and would suggest a game to anyone who wants to believe that hockey in NC doesn't have a fan base.
On a bit of a side note, I had the opportunity to ride in a cab Sunday morning with a big man. I shared a cab with a big guy, who had an Oilers duffle bag. I shared a cab with a guy who graciously paid for the cab for me. I shared a cab with Dave Semenko. So, in the span of 10 hours, I was in the presence of both Marty McSorley and Dave Semenko. And I wasn't even trying to get near Wayne Gretzky, either.
The Sharks return to California, where they will play their final 6 games of the regular season (only one on the road). The 3 game homestand begins Tuesday, with the third visit of the year by the Los Angeles Kings (7:30 pacific). The Sharks lead the season series with the Kings 4-2, winning 3 of 4 games played at the Staples Center while splitting the 2 games played in SJ. The Sharks currently sit tied with Dallas for second in the Pacific, 4 points back of the division leading Ducks, and, with a Vancouver win and a win of their own, will clinch a playoff spot tonight. A couple times this year, the Sharks have slacked a bit in the first home game after a long roadie, but they seem to be in playoff mode, so hopefully that'll be different tonight. Here's to celebrating a playoff spot at the end of the night.
Go Sharks (BEAT LA)
Sharks Magic Number Counter - 3 points
Next Avalanche game - 3/27 vs Vancouver 6:00 pacific
The RBC Center, off in the distance. Making the long trek across the parking lot.
Right outside the Sharks TV room, directly following my live TV debut.
The red and black eye of the storm sitting so calmly on the ice. (Some people refer to this logo as the glorified toilet bowl logo. By some people, I mean me. It is a wicked awesome logo though.)
Stormy the ice hog. Yes, you heard me.