Ron Francis: Hurricanes' Quest for the Cup

Ron Francis, whose jersey was retired by the Hurricanes earlier this year after a 23-year hockey career, will blog exclusively for WRAL.com about the 'Canes bid for the Stanley Cup.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

CANES WIN!!!

Great Job! It was a great job by the Canes to come back and play the type of game that made them so successful all year. It was a great job by all of you to make that building as loud as it was and give the guys a huge lift. Before I go any farther, I want to say great job by the Oilers, what a great series they played, and to their fans, what a class act. I hope the Oiler fans and the Canes fans have started a new tradition of singing both countries National Anthems, man was that beautiful to watch. To all of you that stuck with the team even when it looked like the ship was starting to go down, congrats, you were rewarded for your loyalty tonight. For those of you that jumped off, its okay, we'll throw you a rope so you can get back on board. I was extremely disappointed when we didn't win in 2002 for 2 reasons. One, I really wanted the Cup to come to Raleigh and its great fans. And, two, I never got to tailgate with any of you outside the rink. Well, I am happy to say that after tonight, I got to spend some time in the parking lot with y'all and also watch the Cup come to Raleigh. What a great night! Great for the Hurricane organization. Great for city of Raleigh. Great for all the players and staff to be able to accomplish a dream. Great for all of you to experience what I think is the greatest trophy presentation in professional sports. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end at some point. This is my last blog. I can honestly tell you that when I was asked to do the blog, I wasn't quit sure what a blog was. For a guy who hunts and pecks on the keyboard, it was at sometimes difficult, but overall I really enjoyed you letting me express my thoughts and views on the games. I also enjoyed reading a lot of your responses and from all different parts of the world. To Ken in Iraq, thanks again for all you and your comrades are doing to keep our country safe, and to the rest of you bloggers out there, THANK YOU for letting me be a part of the fun.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Odds Still Good

I know what y'all are thinking. How can the Canes possibly win game 7 after how they played tonight? Yes, Edmonton skated better, their special teams were better and overall, they totally outplayed the Canes. Yes, Edmonton looked fresher and with a long trip across the country 2morrow, it will be tough for the Canes to reverse that perception. Yes, it's hard to win when your not getting a lot of shots on net. However, last time I checked, the Oilers didn't win the Cup tonight. They still have to win 1 more game, and that game is Monday night, in Raleigh. The Canes worked hard all season just in case a series came down to a game seven, that they would be able to have that game 7 in Raleigh. On Monday, they will get the opportunity to win a agme 7 at home for the Stanley Cup. Let's stop and think for a second. If I said to you last Sept. that the Canes would have a chance to win the Cup in a game 7 in Raleigh, everyone of you would have jumped at the chance. Well, the Canes have that chance. Everything that has happened to this point means nothing. All that matters is Monday night. Anything can happen in a game 7. A bad bounce, a bad call, a hot goaltender, etc., can determine the outcome of the game. The best team doesn't always win a game 7. There is a 50/50 chance the Canes will win the Cup on Monday, I'm excited about that, and so should you be. Do your part, be loud, show this team how much you have appreciated the season they gave you to this point. Believe it or not you can make a difference, and the players will be able to sense your level of belief by the amount of noise in the building on Monday. Now is not the time for doubt.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

One More Twist

Ouch, that hurts. You always here that the 4th game is the hardest to win in a series, but I, like you, thought that they were going to do it tonight, especially when they got the PP in OT. The PP had been so effective all night, that I think everyone felt that when Edmonton took the penalty in OT, the game and the Cup were well within reach. That is why this one hurts, nobody saw it coming. Give the Oilers credit, they came on the road and played a real good game. They started off the game as good as you can with the goal in the first shift. But when the Canes, who I thought also played a good game, came back to take a 2-1 lead, I thought Edmonton was in a lot of trouble. A huge moment in this game was in the 3rd with the score tied 3-3, Ray Whitney took a pass from behind the net and had Markannen beat only to hear it ring loudly of the post. If that goes in game over. So the bottom line is the Canes did play well enough to win but didn't; the Oilers played well enough to win and did. That happens in sports. Now the Canes have to go back on the road to try and win it in Edmonton. Will it be easy, no, but then again, you don't expect something this important to come easily. I know everyone is disapointed the Canes didn't win the Cup tonight at home, especially the players, but as a player you prepare yourself for a 7 game series, and they are still in control of the series, so I believe their state of mind is still very positive. We talked early in the playoffs about this being one hec of a roller coaster ride and I'm sure that you will agree when I say this was like a corkscrew in the dark, a part of the ride you didn't see coming, but keep the faith. The building was electric tonight and it was a real pleasure for me to experience it from the seats instead of the bench, y'all were great. However, don't take it personally when I say I hope I don't get to experience it again this season

PS.-Just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading the comments expressed by both Edmonton fans and Carolina fans in my previous blog. It is great to see when fans can root passionately for their own team without having to slam the opposing fans and players. As a player who always appreciated good sportsmanship, I commend all of you on yours.

Monday, June 12, 2006

One More!

Well as I start to write this blog, the 2nd period has just ended with the Canes up 2-1 and in a real good position to take a 3-1 lead in the series. Tonights game is a lot different for the Canes compared to Game 3. In this game the Canes are skating much better than they did in the last game and have had numerous good scoring chances to take a big lead. They have been nothing short of outstanding on the PK and once again did an excellent job of killing a 5 on 3. Their PP has done a great job of moving the puck and creating good scoring chances. The PP goal immediately after Edmonton had scored was a huge turning point in the game. We talked before about the PP needing to score at important parts of the game and Stillman's goal could not have come at a more important time. The 3rd period is about to start so I'll be back to recap the outcome in a bit, but I must say I have a real good feeling about this one.
Defense! Defense! Defense! Much has been made of the Canes offense and for good reason, but the 3rd period was another great example of why defense wins championships. The Canes turned in a perfect 3rd period with the lead and honestly, I never felt the were in any trouble of losing their lead. Now the tough part. They say the 4th win is always the hardest. The Canes get to come home to Raleigh and their fans with what every hockey player dreams of from the time they are little boys, a chance to win the Stanley Cup. I have to believe that the RBC will be louder than it ever has been before. Everything you work for as a player all year long is now just 1 win away. Once again, I am getting that good feeling.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Something Not Right

Well I guess we all kind of knew it wasn't going to be easy. We've talked before about playing on the road in the playoffs. You know the home team is going to come out hard, you know the fans will be loud and you want to make sure you get through the first part of the game in a manner that gives you a chance to win. Obviously giving up a goal early is not what the Canes wanted to do, but at the end of the first period, they were only down by that 1 goal. To me, it just seemed like something wasn't right for the Canes from the start. Maybe it was the long flight, maybe the nerves that come with being this close, or maybe the hostile environment. For whatever reason, they didn't seem to be skating like they can and although the ice wasn't totally tilted in one direction, the Oilers could have been up by a larger # at the end of the 2nd if not for the play of Cam Ward. The Canes seemed to start to play better the last 5 minutes of the 2nd and when they came out in the 3rd period and started to play more and more like themselves, I felt it was only a matter of time before they found a way to win the game. I, like you I'm sure, felt that when Roddy scored it was now a game for the Canes to take. On the road, scored tied 1-1 and around 10 minutes to play with the momentum on your side is a good place for the road team to be. Unfortunately, this time it didn't turn out the way the Canes had hoped it would. Ryan Smyth scored a typical Ryan Smyth goal to win it for the Oilers in a period that I thought the Canes played their best. The Canes did a good job of keeping the Oilers to the outside for the majority of the period and skated more like themselves in the 3rd, only to have the game taken away from them late. In some ways, this game resembled game 1 with the 3rd period rally we have all come to expect and enjoy, falling a little short. The good news is that the Canes are still up in the series and still have a chance to put the Oilers in a deep hole with a win on Mon. night. On Mon., I would expect to see more of the way the Canes played the last 25 minutes of this game and less of how they played in the first 35. If that is the case, we will all be anticipating a visit from Stanley to Raleigh next week.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

'Canes Take Control In Game 2

That's more like it! With all the talk surrounding the Oiler goalie
situation, it was important that the Canes not give them any life in
this game. From the Canes standpoint, their game was much better than
in game 1 in all areas. They skated better tonight and as a result were
able to put a lot more pressure on Edmonton and as the game progressed
that showed, as Edmonton became more and more frustrated, taking bad
penalties and giving up odd man rushes. The special teams have played a
key part in these playoffs and tonight was no exception. For me the key
part of the game was in the 2nd period when the Canes had a 1-0 lead
and a 5 on 3 PP. Edmonton was able to kill it off and should have
gained some momentum from this but instead they took another penalty
and the Canes were able to score a very important PP goal to take
control of the game. Any time you score 3 PP goals, chances are good
you will win the game and that was the case tonight. As good as the
Canes looked tonight, they must refocus on the next game in Edmonton.
It's tough when you know your opposition has to win 4 of the next 5 to
beat you, and it's tough when your mind starts to entertain thoughts of
just how close you are to attaining your dream, but Edmonton will give
everything they have in game 3 and the Canes must be ready. Lose it,
and you let a team that is on the verge of being down and out back into
the series with momentum; win it and you will be able to hear the fat
lady warming up. I hope to hear some music Saturday!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Where Do I Start?

I really struggled with where to start tonight. What were the turning points of the game? What were the keys? Certainly the Canes killing the 5 on 3 in the first period was huge. I thought the Oilers decision to sit back and trap when they got the 3 goal lead in the 2nd period was big also. I felt it let the Canes start to find their legs a little since it gave them more room to skate out of their end.

I thought Whitney's goal early in the 3rd gave the home crowd and the Canes the spark they had been missing for the first 40 minutes. Once again the PP scored a big goal at a big time in the hockey game. Anytime you score a short-handed goal it is a huge momentum swing, and Williams goal did just that.

Let's not forget the save Ward made on Horcroft when Horcroft had a wide open net in the 3rd period( like you were going to forget that save), and the save at the end of the game again on Horcroft. Certainly the miscue by Conklin and Smith that resulted in the game winning goal by Roddy was also a huge part of this game.

But, having thought about all the above, the biggest turning point in this game and most likely the series was when Ladd was knocked into Roloson, and from all indications so far, that has knocked Roloson out of this series. That leaves a huge hole for Edmonton to fill. Conklin has to be a little shaky after how the game ended, so I would not be surprised to see Markkanen be the starter for game 2.

Either way, Edmonton will have a tough time being the same team they were throughout the playoffs without Roloson in the pipes. I must give the Oilers credit. They were faster than I thought they were and played a lot better than I thought they would coming off a 9-day break. I really thought they played well enough to win the game but the Canes once again, found a way to win(a good sign).

The Oilers fired 38 shots at Ward and a lot of those shots were not easy saves. Cam Ward should have been a star tonight! In game 2 I expect the Canes to be better. They need to skate for 60 minutes like they did the last 20 minutes.

In game 2, however all the questions will be with the Oilers and whether or not they will be able to overcome the loss of Roloson. The last thing a team wants in the Cup finals is a question mark surrounding their goaltending, and right now, that is exactly what the Oilers have.