Thursday, April 25, 2019

Canes series clincher had familiar feel

By Adam Gold
April 25, 2019

McGinn #23 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates after scoring the game winning goal in the second overtime period against the Washington Capitals in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena on April 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. The Hurricanes defeated the Capitals 4-3 in the second overtime period to move on to Round Two of the Stanley Cup playoffs. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

If you wanted to show someone unfamiliar with how the Hurricanes ended a 9-year post season drought, just dial up Game 7.
Brock McGinn tapped in a Justin Williams pass 11:05 into the second overtime and the season will continue, starting in Brooklyn on Friday against the New York Islanders. Final score, Hurricanes 4, Capitals 3, in double overtime. For what it’s worth, Carolina has never lost a Game 7 — ever. They’re 5-0, with the last three of those wins coming on the road.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Hurricanes were pretty well awful for the first 30 minutes and trailed 2-0. It could have actually been worse, but for a couple of big saves by Petr Mrazek and a little bit of good fortune. Then Sebastian Aho picked up his own rebound and feathered in a shorthanded goal and the Hurricanes had their legs at the midway point of the second.

Sebastian Aho #20 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates his short-handed goal at 9:51 of the second period against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Capital One Arena on April 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Yeah, that’s right. The Capitals’ power play, which had been smoking along at a nearly 30% clip including five out of 12 on home ice, ended up being outscored in the series clincher. The Caps were 0-for-3 with the man advantage for the night. The Canes didn’t score on their first try but did on the Caps’ second.
Even though the Capitals would respond with a Evgeny Kuznetsov goal to make it 3-1, Carolina had broken the ice and their game was rounding into form. Teuvo Teravainen picked up a loose puck in the slot, wound and whipped it inside the right post for a 3-2 score and the comeback was on.
From that point, just like when the calendar turned to January, Carolina was skating downhill. Jordan Staal tied the game early in the 3rd and the game was played on the Hurricanes’ terms the rest of the way. Not that the Capitals didn’t have their chances, I mean the Canes did have their hiccups in the closing weeks of the season, remember? But, Lucas Wallmark tied up Jakub Vrana’s stick negating an easy goal and McGinn swept away the puck as it was creeping towards the goal line late in the 3rd and helped Carolina extend the game into extra innings.
That’s the story of this season. Rough first half, great turnaround, everyone contributes.
Remember when people tried to tell you that the Canes were better without Jordan Staal? Remember that nonsense? Well, in the season’s final 21 games, Staal piled up 17 points (6g11a) and was a +17. Then in Game 6, it was his goal in the early stages of the 3rd period that put the Hurricanes ahead to stay.
Jordan Staal #11 of the Carolina Hurricanes scores at 2:56 of the third period against the Washington Capitals in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Capital One Arena on April 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Wednesday night in Washington, Staal did it again. Trailing by a goal entering the 3rd, he took a pass from Jaccob Slavin at the blue line skated down the right wing and sniped a wrist shot just inside the far post for a 3-3 game and the rest of the night was played Carolina’s way. Staal finished the first round with three goals and three assists and clearly was the Hurricanes’ best forward.
What do you say about the captian? Justin Williams, who’s now 8-1 with 15 points in his career in Game 7’s, won a face off, lost the puck but chased down Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen, delivered a hit that caused a turnover and then retreated to the other side of the ice. That’s where Slavin sent the puck and when Williams retrieved it, he threw it at the net where McGinn tapped it through Braden Holtby for the series ending goal.
Yes, the same Brock McGinn who saved the game in the 3rd won it in the 5th.
It was the best game of the series for Teravainen who has quietly built a strong early post season resume for the Hurricanes. Three goals in the series, all huge on the scoreboard and for the psyche. Game 4, right before the end of the 2nd, his goal restored the Canes to the lead they’d never relinquish. Game 6, early second period, Teravainen — again — streaking down the slot where Aho feeds him for a 2-2 game and the Hurricanes were headed for a 5-2 win.
Slavin had three assists On Wednesday night. He had nine in the series. He assisted on the Aho shorthanded goal. It was his pass to Staal that freed him for the tying goal and then Slavin placed the puck in the corner allowing Williams time to retrieve it and finish off the Capitals.
Petr Mrazek #34 of the Carolina Hurricanes pauses after a shot by Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals knocks off his mask during the first overtime in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Capital One Arena on April 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

So many plays, so many contributors, and Petr Mrazek just battled his way through it all. He made some wonderful saves, including one that appeared to have drilled him in the mask off the stick of Ovechkin in the 3rd period to keep the game even.
The Carolina Hurricanes of 2019 are building a culture of character and resiliency. They displayed that individually and as a team throughout Game 7 and the entirety of the series against the defending champs. Down 2-0 in games, the Canes won 4 of the next 5, getting incredible contributions up and down the line up.
Just like we saw them do all year long.
I’m beginning to notice a pattern. This, boys and girls, is why there’s no such thing as house money in the NHL playoffs. You stay at the hop until someone taps you on the shoulder.
The Carolina Hurricanes are still dancing. And this season will continue for another couple of weeks, at least.

The Hurricanes Are Still Here, And We're All Better For It

By Lauren Thiesen
April 25, 2019

Brock McGinn #23 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates with his teammates after scoring the game winning goal in the second overtime period against the Washington Capitals in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena on April 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. The Hurricanes defeated the Capitals 4-3 in the second overtime period to move on to Round Two of the Stanley Cup playoffs. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Carolina Hurricanes pulled off the last in a string of crazy first-round playoff series upsets on Wednesday night, disrespecting the far more experienced Capitals by wearing them down over two overtimes for a 4-3 win. It was going to be extremely tough for the ’Canes and the Caps to match the hijinks of the Knights-Sharks battle that went down less than 24 hours prior, but after slipping down 2-0 early, and 3-1 later, Justin Williams and the ’Canes found a way to stay alive in unforgettable fashion and move on.

And so the Hurricanes advance to what should be a strange but awesome second-round series against the Islanders, continuing a season that’s been incredible to watch for either a curious neutral or a formerly apathetic Carolinian. In just one year, a team that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2009 made a 16-point jump from ignored and unpopular to an extremely fun team that went up against the defending champions and lived to tell the tale, and god do I hope they stay this way.

The enduring image of the Hurricanes’ regular season was, strangely, not any specific goal or win, but what came after the victories at home. As the Hurricanes evolved from an oddity to a truly competitive team, their postgame Storm Surge celebrations evolved in their choreography from basic—“skate towards the boards”—to exceptionally advanced—“bring out a basketball hoop and run a play so Trevor van Riemsdyk can dunk on skates.” Masterminded by the beloved three-time Cup winner Williams, the celebrations not only pissed off old farts like Don Cherry, but added excitement and unpredictability to the team’s home games. Suddenly, when those “Bunch of Jerks” won, you had to notice.

But the celebrations would have been few and far between if this team didn’t have talent, which they certainly do. Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen are the offensive duo of the present and the future, as the 21-year-old Aho led the team with a career-high 83 points in his third NHL season, with the 24-year-old Teravainen right behind him with 76. Both of them scored in Game 7. Nino Niederreiter, who’s locked up long-term, notched 30 points in 36 games with the team after arriving midseason from Minnesota. Defensively, their core guys are still in their mid-20s but already allowed just the third-fewest shots per game of any team in the league this year. And Andrei Svechnikov, a 19-year-old with the dumb guts to fight Alex Ovechkin, scored 20 goals in his rookie campaign, while on the other end of the spectrum, 37-year-old captain Justin Williams—the Robert Horry of hockey—has seen just about everything a player can see throughout his career.

The Hurricanes also have a lucky pig. His name is Hamilton.

Brock McGinn #23 of the Carolina Hurricanes scores the game winning goal against Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals at 11:05 of the second overime period in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Capital One Arena on April 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. The Hurricanes defeated the Capitals 4-3 in the second overtime period to move on to Round Two of the Stanley Cup playoffs. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

This sounds ridiculous to say about a team that just beat the Capitals, but the actual most impressive thing ’Canes is that they should be even better, because analytically, they are spectacular. The team ranked a mere 16th in goals scored this year, but in expected goals scored, they were third. In goals against, they were seventh best in the league, but in expected goals against, they were second. What does this tell you? Even with as much success as they’ve had, they’ve been very, very unlucky. If that bad luck regresses, they’re an elite team.

Still-young goaltender Petr Mrazek has had some hiccups that have disrupted his promising career, but in this recent stretch he’s been very solid, and might just now be entering his prime. He’ll be a free agent after this year, but assuming the Hurricanes keep Mrazek or get a different good goalie and ink the RFA Aho to a big extension this summer, they’ll still have some cap space to play with to either bring back Micheal Ferland or improve their skating corps in other ways.

In a wide-open Stanley Cup Playoffs, this could very well be the ’Canes’ time to shine already. But even if it’s not, they still have plenty of promising seasons ahead of them. If you got into the Hurricanes this year after a decade of apathy, great for you. And if you haven’t quite caught on yet, stop dragging your feet and watch them take on the Islanders! Nothing is certain in hockey—just ask the Oilers—but as long as the universe is feeling charitable, and GM Don Waddell stays logical, these ’Canes are going to become a familiar sight in Aprils and Mays to come.

Mueller Investigation Was Driven by Pious Hypocrisy

April 24, 2019

Image result for mueller report

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year, $30 million, 448-page report did not find collusion between Donald Trump and Russia.

Despite compiling private allegations of loud and obnoxious Trump behavior, Mueller also concluded that there was not any actionable case of obstruction of justice by the president. It would have been hard in any case to find that Trump obstructed Mueller’s investigation of an alleged crime.
One, there was never a crime of collusion. Mueller early on in his endeavors must have realized that truth, but he pressed ahead anyway. It is almost impossible to prove obstruction of nothing.
Two, Trump cooperated with the investigation. He waived executive privilege. He turned over more than 1 million pages of administrative documents. He allowed then-White House counsel Don McGahn to submit to over 30 hours of questioning by Mueller’s lawyers.
Three, anyone targeted by a massive investigation who knows he is innocent of an alleged crime is bound to become frustrated over a seemingly never-ending inquisition.
Trump’s reported periodic rages at the Muller investigation are regrettable but not unnatural, given that Mueller expended a huge amount of government resources to confirm what many knew at the outset: that there was never any collusion with the Russian government to warp the 2016 election.
Yet Mueller’s team went down every blind alley relating to its investigation—except where Obama-era officials were likely culpable for relevant unethical or illegal behavior.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants were integral to Mueller’s investigations. But there is no mention of how the FISA court was deceived by not being told that the chief evidence used to obtain the warrants was an unverified dossier paid for in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Some of the collusion narrative Muller examined was based on FBI informants’ unverified stories. Yet strangely, the Mueller team did not investigate whether it was legal in the first place for the FBI, possibly with CIA help, to use informants to spy on a presidential campaign.
Former FBI Director James Comey figures into the Mueller report. But there is no curiosity about whether he broke the law in leaking what may well have been four classified memos of private presidential conversations to the press for the purpose of forcing an appointment of a special counsel.
The Christopher Steele dossier likewise makes an appearance in the Mueller report. But for a team investigating the alleged collusion of foreigners in a U.S. election, there is silence about the salient fact that Steele, a foreign national, enlisted other foreign nationals to dig up dirt on Trump to weaken his election chances—with part of the funding for this research provided by the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
What bothers many Americans about the collusion hoax is the accompanying sanctimony of the so-called investigators. The Mueller team could have helped itself had it just noted that much of the evidence it looked at was a product of Obama-era officials’ unethical or illegal behavior.
Comey wrote a memoir, “A Higher Loyalty.” Its eponymous themes are Comey’s own ethics and principles. But Comey may well have misled the FISA court and possibly lied under oath to a House committee. He was not candid with federal investigators and leaked confidential and classified government memos.
Former FBI Director Andrew McCabe also wrote a memoir, “The Threat.” Its argument is that FBI kingpins such as McCabe protect America from dangers such as Donald Trump. But McCabe himself is under criminal referral for lying to federal investigators. His sworn congressional testimony cannot be reconciled with Comey’s. McCabe also likely misled the FISA court. And he apparently contemplated staging a near-coup to remove an elected president through the deliberate misuse of the 25th Amendment.
Former CIA Director John Brennan is a paid analyst for MSNBC who often railed about Trump’s “treason” and predicted his indictment. Yet Brennan himself has lied under oath to Congress on two occasions. He likely misled Congress about his role in trafficking in the Steele dossiers. And Brennan’s CIA may well have helped the FBI use informants abroad to entrap Trump campaign aides in efforts to find dirt on Trump.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is a CNN analyst who often predicted that a supposedly treasonous Trump would be indicted. Clapper, too, has lied to Congress under oath. He once denied and then admitted to leaking confidential documents.
The problem with the Muller investigation, and with former intelligence officials such as Brennan, Clapper, Comey and McCabe, is pious hypocrisy. Those who have lectured America on Trump’s unproven crimes have written books and appeared on TV to publicize their own superior virtue. Yet they themselves have engaged in all sorts of unethical and illegal behavior.
The only mystery left is whether our elite investigators actually believe their own delusions. Or were they constantly broadcasting their virtue as a preventive defense against growing evidence of their own moral lapses?

04/24/19 First Round, Gm7: Hurricanes @ Capitals

'If they score, it's done.' Capitals' missed opportunities end up costing series

By Matthew Paras
April 25, 2019

Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (11) celebrates his goal with right wing Nino Niederreiter, right, left wing Teuvo Teravainen (86), of Finland, and defenseman Jaccob Slavin (74) during the third period of Game 7 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals, Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in Washington.

Justin Williams and Alex Ovechkin shake hands after the Hurricanes/ 2OT 4-3 win in Washington D.C. on Wednesday night. (AP)

Nearly two minutes into the double overtime of Game 7, the Washington Capitals got the opportunity they desperately needed.
For the majority of the first extra period, the defending Stanley Cup champions were in their own defensive zone, barely clinging onto their postseason hopes. But when Carolina’s Saku Maenalnen flipped the puck out of play and drew a delay of game penalty, the Capital One Arena crowd had sprung back to life.
If Washington could take advantage, they would win the series.
Instead, the Capitals failed to to even get a shot on goal.
The blown power play was just one of Washington’s various missed opportunities throughout the team’s 4-3 double overtime loss. It was the perfect encapsulation of the entire series: When the Capitalshad a chance to put the Hurricanes away, they couldn’t.
“Every opportunity missed is you know devastating, really,” defenseman John Carlson said. “You only get to do this for so long and I’ve been fortunate to be on great teams and when you don’t do well, it is more than just we were up in the series or the game.
“It is everything. It hurts.”
The Capitals could have avoided overtime entirely, however, if they were able to capitalize on the power play earlier. After rushing out to a 2-0 lead, the Capitals drew another power play in the second period.
But not only did Carolina kill the penalty, winger Sebastian Aho also knocked in his own rebound for the shorthanded goal.
Until that point, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said his team had played “ugly.” The goal, he added, gave his team a jolt and reminded them they were still in the game.
“If they score, it’s done,” Brind’Amour said.

Jordan Staal #11 of the Carolina Hurricanes attempts to stop a shot by Lars Eller #20 of the Washington Capitals during the first overtime in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Capital One Arena on April 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The Capitals allowed Carolina to hang around, even when Washington took a 3-1 lead off a goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov. As the game progressed, the Capitals gradually slowed down. Shots missed their mark. Pucks failed to clear the defensive zone.
When Carolina’s Brock McGinn finally tipped in the game-winning goal past goaltender Braden Holtby, the Capitals remained still for a moment.
They watched as the Hurricanes started celebrating, still in disbelief that their playoff run was over.
After all, the Capitals were the defending champions. They had been pushed like this before, proving last year they could overcome it. Washington even led this series 3-2 after a dominant Game 5 victory.
Carolina goaltender Petr Mrazek, too, finished the first round with a .899 save percentage — hardly fitting the narrative that a “hot” goalie can be the difference.
“It was obviously there to take,” Holtby said. “Myself and our group, we just weren’t good enough.”

The Capitals always have last year, but this time around, the Stanley Cup won’t be theirs

April 24, 2019
Carolina Hurricanes left wing Brock McGinn, left, celebrates his game-winning goal during double overtime of Game 7 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series against Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby (70) and right wing Tom Wilson (43), Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in Washington. The Hurricanes won 4-3 in double overtime.(Nick Wass/AP)

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Washington always will have Alex Ovechkin, loopy with happiness, diving into that fountain in his droopy drawers.
D.C. will always keep its memories of the Save by Braden Holtby in the Stanley Cup finals against Vegas, and T.J. Oshie chugging a brew through his jersey.
Most of all, every Capitals fan, from the newest to the “Suffering Since 1974” crowd, will have those massive, citywide bonding moments, gazing last June at a mall jammed into the distance with rejoicing fans, with the Stanley Cup shining.
What Washington will not have is back-to-back titles. That dream is dead after a crushing — and far too Old Caps — 4-3, double-overtime loss in Game 7 to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs Wednesday night at roaring, then utterly despondent Capital One Arena. The season-slaughtering goal was scored by Brock McGinn at 11:05 of the second overtime period.
After the Capitals had squandered a 3-1 lead, after they had allowed a shorthanded goal, after they had put their fans through paroxysms of Game 7 hope and agony, through one overtime and into a second, the bitter end finally came.
Justin Williams, the man known as “Mr. Game 7,” became “Mr. Season Over” as far as the Capitals are concerned. He tossed the puck toward the net, where McGinn redirected it past Holtby.
As the teams shook hands afterward, Williams and Ovechkin stopped for a talk, with the Great Eight pounding Williams on his shoulder pads in respect. In 2015-16 and 2016-17, Williams was a Capital. Back then, the three-time Stanley Cup champ provided no magic for Washington.
In a season that seemed promising but was never quite as energized, focused or desperate-when-needed as the previous glorious one, the patient finally flatlined at just past 11:30 p.m. Rock the Red time.
"It always comes down to the details. It always does. We take pride in it," said Hurricanes rookie coach Rod Brind'Amour, whose team executed better than the more creative, less disciplined Caps."Those players will remember that game forever."
The Caps won’t forget it soon, either, especially because they knew the powerhouse Tampa Bay Lightning, their nemesis Pittsburgh Penguins and the Calgary Flames, the top seed in the West, had already been knocked out.
“We didn’t execute [on the add-on-goal chances]. Then we gave up the shorthanded goal,” added Reirden, drawn and drained. “That started to send things in the opposite direction. . . . We had some chances to put this one away early, just like we had a chance to put this series away early. . . . The execution in this series was not as good as I would have hoped. . . . Our guys fought till the end. It took a puck that was hit out of the air to get rid of us.”
The Caps were not supposed to be gotten rid of — at all — by the Hurricanes, a franchise that had not been to the playoffs in a decade, although the Caps only had five more points in the regular season.

Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals looks upward following a first overtime save by Petr Mrazek #34 of the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Capital One Arena on April 24, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Even though this final game was even statistically, the Hurricanes either matched the Caps or got the better of the play throughout this series, with the exception of a Game 5 blowout. Wednesday’s final goal, in a scrum in front of Holtby where hardly anyone in the stay-till-the-end sellout crowd could actually see what happened, ended the Caps’ year with a groan. That Caps fan’s sign — “Hurricane Season Is Over” — had it backward.
The dour present, with the Caps downcast, their elbows on the bench half-wall as the Hurricanes celebrated, does not erase, or even dim, a glorious recent past. But instead of a doubt-free offseason of celebration, the Caps will face months of hard questioning, from within and outside.
“That one’s going to take some time to go through — double overtime in Game 7,” Reirden said. “It’ll take time to figure out different things we could have done.”
Could Barry Trotz have done better? That’s the big, ugly question, covered with warts. The Caps’ title-winning coach of last season — the veteran leader with presence and universal NHL respect who finally led the Caps past their stunning history of failure a year ago — will lead his Islanders to face the Hurricanes in the second round, not the Caps.
From the moment owner Ted Leonsis made it clear that he wouldn’t open the vault to pay Trotz a market-value contract as a reward for the Caps’ first title in their 44 years, my stomach’s official position was, “Bad karma.”
The Caps didn’t do it. Reirden, a calm, smart pro’s pro but also a rookie in stark juxtaposition to Trotz’s 20 years as a head man behind an NHL bench, will be under a microscope. In particular, how could a team with the Caps’ star talent look befuddled by the Hurricanes’ heavy forechecking pressure for much of the series without Reirden’s staff finding answers?
The Capitals join the 128-point Lightning, swept by Columbus, and the Flames, knocked out in just five games, in this NHL spring of surprises. And on F Street, there’s bitter disappointment after a postseason that few thought would end in just one round.  
In the Caps’ dressing room, Holtby answered questions in his usual low, philosophical voice. When he was finished, it turned out that two 20-something fans had gotten into the press scrum around the goalie.
“Shake it off, champ!” the pair started calling as they applauded.
A stunned Caps executive took about a second to yell, “Security!” And they were thrown out.
Just like the Caps.