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 about the 'Canes bid for the Stanley Cup.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

It's Far From Over

That was just what the doctor ordered! In a game the Canes could not afford to lose, they showed a lot of heart and character in finding a way to win a game that was not easy to win. The Canadiens did not make it easy for the Canes, but the Canes never quit and in the end were rewarded for perserveering. What can you say about the performance turned in by Cam Ward? Earlier today I said I wasn't sure he was ready for the test but that the future looked bright. Well, the future showed up in the Bell center tonight and it was impressive. He looked totally at ease right from the start of the game. He went from being part of the questions, to making an exclamation point. At no time did he look like a 22 year old kid who was playing in the biggest game of his young hockey career. Great job!!! As for the rest of the troops, I thought once again Roddie was impressive. He has clearly been the best player for the Canes so far in the series and his effort on the 1st goal tonight was nothing short of remarkable. Congrats to Staller on what will always be a very memorable 1st playoff goal. This game has now changed the dynamics of this series. Instead of being down 3-0, and fighting for their playoff lives, the series is now 2-1 and the Canes, although still down in the series must feel much better about themselves and their game. The Canadiens now will have more pressure on them to win game 4 because if they don't, the series becomes a best 2 out of 3 with the Canes having home ice again. Cam Ward has also put an interesting twist into this series. The Canes go from having a problem in net to giving the Canadiens a problem to try and solve. Ahh, you have to love the emotional ride the SC Playoffs take you on.
On a seperate note, as a player, I had a serious eye injury in my first year. Every time I see someone get cut in that area I cringe. Having had the opporunity to get to know Saku over the years I can tell you there are no guys in the league who have had to deal with the issues he has had to deal with, and very few guys in the league who exhibit the kind of class he does both on and off the ice. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I hope his injury is not serious and he is back out there soon. The NHL is a much better place with him out there.


  • At 4/27/2006 6:17 AM, Blogger Mikeyusmc said…

    Hey hey whatta ya say.......Great effort showed by the Canes. I am not going to critique, only praise. Now all they have to do is keep this level of play going.


  • At 4/27/2006 7:00 AM, Anonymous HurricanesAngel said…

    The 'Canes looked GREAT last night! I was so wrong in hoping they started Gerber. Cam Ward played exceptionally well. I think this win will boost their confidence and feed their hunger. Eric Staahl came thru again in a clutch play for the 'Canes! Go 'Canes!

  • At 4/27/2006 7:45 AM, Anonymous Jen said…

    It's great to see the Canes back on track! Cam Ward was amazing with all those saves! Same here, praise only! Go Canes!

  • At 4/27/2006 7:53 AM, Blogger nchurricane1 said…

    Wardo was nothing but amazing!!! I'm hoping last night was the spark to ignite the team into the next round!!!

  • At 4/27/2006 7:59 AM, Blogger 26rocks said…

    I thought the team, as a whole, played pretty poorly. It seems they have their days when every pass is just behind or ahead of each other.. and their days when they are a well oiled machine. To still win does say something about Hedican, Ward, Wesley and the other defensemen.. and of course Cam Ward. Maybe Friday night will have them on an "on" night and now with a goalie, should really pressure the Habs.

  • At 4/27/2006 8:10 AM, Anonymous Michelle said…

    All I can can say is "WOO HOO!!" The Ale House erupted last night (not to mention erupting with Brindy's and Staal's goals...High Fives everywhere!) when we saw Wardo starting in the net! The entire bar was behind Wardo last night, and I hope he knows it! He was stellar in his start. I have nothing but major CUDOS again for Wardo!! Kaberle helped Wardo out with that awesome save as well, which got us going!

    I will admit I was getting concerned around the third period when we hadn't scored, but Brindy put everything to rest when he tied the game! He's been great through the playoffs for us! Then the game winning goal by Staal, great game!

    The Ale House wasn't as packed as I have seen it before, but people were jumping up and down with that winning goal by Staal!

    Bring on the rest of games, we have shown the Habs that we are not leaving anytime soon! Bring on games 4, 5 and 6! GO CANES!

  • At 4/27/2006 8:14 AM, Blogger JEFF CATES said…



  • At 4/27/2006 8:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    A good performance and full of character but the team must still play better as a unit and prevent the Candadiens rushes. They cannot rely on the goalie to stand on his head every game.

  • At 4/27/2006 8:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    WOOOOO HOOOOOO! What a game! I was getting a little concerned with the passing and at times wondering "whose power play is this?" BUT we did our magic and pulled it off. Cudos to Ward, Roddie & Stahl...AND to Big Joe for keeping the feet going and getting us that power play! The icing on the cake - the faces in the stands. You can call the arena anything you want, it's not going to change how the Canes can dig in and get the job done!

  • At 4/27/2006 8:52 AM, Anonymous janet rudderham said…

    Is it just me or are playoff games hard on the nerves ? And this is just the opening round !! And HNIC's own Don Cherry picked Staal
    to pop the overtime goal ! Way to go ! The Canes have some fans up here in eastern Canada(at least one ) ,where hockey sweaters only come in two colors -Hab red and Leaf blue !
    Hang tough ,guys -the fun has just begun !

  • At 4/27/2006 9:25 AM, Anonymous Michelle said…

    I did forget to mention our very own camera star, Ray Whitney! It's great to see he's back and up to his old shenanigans with the camera! It's hard to pay attention to the interview Tripp is doing with Ray making his lovely and hilarious cameo appearances. All I can ask is "WHERE'S RAY?" =)

    Go get 'em Ray, you make us all laugh!!!!

  • At 4/27/2006 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    A great "gutsy" effort by the Canes and a fantastic, calming effort by Cam. Just what the team needed to feel good about themselves again. Important to continue to take it one shift at a time! We still have some work to do defensively. We have to do a better job of taking away the blue line. The Habs are still entering our zone to easily and with to much speed. Cam "stole" one for us last night...we need to make his job a little easier in game 4. Go Canes!!!

  • At 4/27/2006 10:20 AM, Anonymous Apex Fan said…

    Very proud of Cam Ward. What a great win not only for now but for the future of this organization.

    Let's hope for a lot of years where Cam Ward and Eric Staal are stars of the game many times.

    Looking forward to game 4 - if we continue to get good goaltending, lookout!

    Ron, thanks for all you've done for hockey in this area and for your continued presence here. You will always be "The Man" around here.

  • At 4/27/2006 10:33 AM, Blogger Chris said…

    Cam Ward bailed this team out in a huge way and each player on the team should each buy him dinner if we come back and win this series.

    The passing was horrible and it seems to me that Montreal players were constantly beating our guys to loose pucks and winning the majority of one-on-one battles (and face-offs).

    We need to play a lot better than this. Where was the effort from Game 2? If we played like that in game 3, we would have won this in regulation. This did not look like a team that was desperate for a win.

    Still, the pressure is on Montreal now because they do not want to head back to Raleigh with the series tied and having lost two straight.

    We need to get back to what worked for this team early in the year - puck pressure and skating.

  • At 4/27/2006 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    they set there mind to it and made it happen instead of being down 3 games they are 1 game away to tie the series cam ward staal and brind'amour set the tone it will heat up in the series

  • At 4/27/2006 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    nobudy thought we were gonna make it to the playoffs they were wrong we are for real and the 2006 stanly cup wiil sit in the RBC Center

  • At 4/27/2006 12:13 PM, Blogger Stormbringer said…

    2-1 > 3-0, even I can understand that math. :D

    Game Three was EASILY the Canes' best playoff game to date...but they still had a woe or two. Namely, their power plays...the one *really* coming to mind being the four minute PP near the end of the third period. There had to have been some kind of record set for allowing the most short-handed chances. And that is what is keeping me from saying Game Three was a great game. A good game certainly, but not a great game.

    Though, speaking of having a great game, Cam Ward certainly did that. And he absolutely deserved the First not get that would have been blasphemous, IMHO. As others have noted, he is certainly proving his worth as one of the cogs in the machine that is the future of the Canes franchise.

    Can't believe nobody else has chimed in on the following...I was completely devastated when I saw Saku Koivu's eye injury last night. My respect for him as a player AND person has done nothing but grow over the last few years ever since I heard and read about his bout with cancer. It would break my heart to see such a great comeback story come to a screeching yes, my prayers and thoughts go out to Koivu and a hopefully good recovery for the man.

    Speaking of great stories...

    On a seperate note, as a player, I had a serious eye injury in my first year.

    I remember reading about that in an article not super long ago...and I bet that was one of the scariest weeks in your entire life, Ronnie. O_O I simply cannot fathom what it was like to be in a hospital bed for such a long amount of time, being bandaged up to the point of being blindfolded, and not knowing if you would ever see again. My god, it makes my eyes hurt to simply type that. To say it was a harrowing experience I bet is putting it quite mildly.

    And that said, that makes me feel even more for Koivu. :(

  • At 4/27/2006 1:17 PM, Blogger MikeL said…

    Great to see the win. I had faith in them in the third period and then Rod scored. What a game for Cam. Stahl must be riding high today with that first playoff goal to win the game.
    Now that we have a net minder lookout.
    Bring it on.

  • At 4/27/2006 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ronnie, once again you show us your class for your words of praise for Saku Koivu. We're all behind the Hurricanes but I agree with you wholehearedly- nobody wants to see anybody get a serious eye injury. And Koivu has shown so much just being back on the ice after battling cancer.

    I'm with you- I hope Koivu's OK and he'll be out there. I also hope he's at home lpaying golf soon :)

  • At 4/27/2006 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    WAY TO GO CANES!!! I was at the Ale House last night too and that place went crazy when Staal scored the winning goal. Kudos to Brind'Amour, Staal and of course Cam Ward! That was a GREAT game! Kinda of tense, but they brought it on in the 3rd period! Looking forward to the rest of the series! Hoping to see the team that we saw during the regular season! Cmon, cmon, cmon Let's go Canes!!!

  • At 4/27/2006 2:40 PM, Blogger The Missing Link said…

    What a game, After watching how strong the Canadian Teams have been in the playoff first round I had my doubts. Kudos Cam Ward what a show and to be cool as cucumber as Trip says. From Hope Mills NC we are pulling for you Canes lets get tied up Friday and bring it back home

  • At 4/27/2006 2:46 PM, Blogger Sam said…

    ESPN reported that Saku is out indefinitely -- they cannot even determine the extent of the injury for a few days while the swelling goes down. Really a tragic thing to happen to such a class act, and hopefully he can completely and fully recover from the injury.

  • At 4/27/2006 3:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I want to start by saying to Ronnie that I have enjoyed reading your blogs. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and comments. Your analysis and insight is always appreciated and respected. Your comment at the end about Koivu is just another example of what makes you one of the classiest guys ever to grace the NHL. I agree that the Canes got lucky several times without getting called for penalties, (not just the no-call on Justin Williams). There are times when the officiating is tipped unfairly, recently against the Canes, but that is part of the game and you have to move on. Officials are human too. It was just nice to see the Canes able to capitalize when it is to their advantage.

    I am very proud of not just the win, but what the Canes did on the ice last night. They looked like a TEAM again. It was far from perfect, but an enormous improvement from the past month. I actually started to see some of the assertiveness, the determination, and most importantly the PASSION from the team that was once present in every game. Perhaps it was the pressure of “being behind the 8 ball” and feeling the urgency of needing to win this game. Whatever the reason, with this game behind them I can already see their confidence rising. I believe that they need to continue to take the game one shift at a time, one period at a time (as Ronnie stated in the pre-game interview). Of course I want the Hurricanes to go all the way; of course I want them to be the Stanley Cup Champs of 2006; but above all, regardless of the final outcome, I want the Hurricanes to be able to hold their heads high and know they tried their hardest and gave everything they had. I want them to be proud of their work at the end of the day and proud of what they have accomplished throughout the entire season. I know I am. And I am proud to be a Caniac!

    Go CANES!!!

  • At 4/27/2006 3:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great job for the Canes all around. I must say that I was a little worried! The expression on Staal's face in the pictures are priceless. What a memorable experience for your first NHL Playoffs. Cam looked great and I am so glad that he was able to ignite the team and get them working for him.

    Hope that Gerbs is feeling better as we all know we would not be where we are without him!

    On the Saku high stick, it looked painful painful...eesh and all I can say is that I hope and pray for the best. We know what it is like to be without an important member of the team.

  • At 4/27/2006 4:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    For those of us that have seen Cam Ward stand on his head many times to win important games with the Red Deer Rebels, we knew he had it in him! Nothing against Gerber, becuase his play was crucial in the team getting this far, but I just don't understand why they didn't play ward in the last few games of the regular season to give Gerber a rest. He's obviously not on his A game. It takes a lot to win 16 games, and we'll need them both to get there! Go Canes!

  • At 4/27/2006 5:35 PM, Anonymous Pakkfan said…

    Well congrats to Cam Ward. I was worried about how the youngster would do and he came through wonderfully!!! Now will he be solid the next game? Or will the seasons issues of inconsisitency pop back up?

    Also -
    The way I see it: The hurricanes have now won 5 of the last 8 periods. Despite the fact they have not clicked on all cylnders yet.

    I look for a blowout coming. Lets just hope its in game 4. Coming to Raleigh 2 and 2 would be huge imo.

    Ronnie excellent work on the blogs, your a natural.

  • At 4/27/2006 7:47 PM, Anonymous Barbara said…

    What a great win for the Hurricanes last night. I am very proud of all the players and the effort put forth to win this win. Cam was just awesome! GO CANES!

  • At 4/27/2006 11:51 PM, Anonymous kim said…

    It's great that we won (we had to have that game) but I think the Canes still have MANY areas they need to improve upon. Hopefully the win and the improved goaltending will give us our confidence back and we can put together an all-around great effort for 60 minutes to take Game 4. In my opinion, we still haven't come close to that.

    I hope Koivu is alright- eye injuries are so scary!

    Mr. Francis (if you are reading this), I know you were great in the faceoff circle. Were you always successful at this, or was it a skill that improved for you over time? What could guys like Staal do, other than repetition, to get better at it? Thanks.

  • At 4/28/2006 9:02 AM, Anonymous Rick said…

    It was great playoff hockey. When the Habs received the penalty in overtime I was mad because it was deserved. They have been calling these penalties throughout the playoffs. When Souray broke his stick I knew it was over. You cannot play two shorthanded in overtime and win,which basically what it was. Ward played an outstanding game to keep the Canes in it. Their best game to date. Tonight the Habs play for Saku. My call, Canadiens 3 Hurricanes 1. Only because I am a Habs fan.

  • At 4/28/2006 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I hope J Williams makes a call to Koivu. It appears to be incidental, but it did happen. I hope he shows class and makes the call. The shot on Cole was cheap and appeared intentional - not the same.

    Canes are a class act and they will make a go of it tonight in Canada.

  • At 4/28/2006 11:11 AM, Blogger Ron Francis said…

    Here are my thoughts/concerns on tonights tilt. How will the Habs handle the huge loss of Koivu? Will they rally around his absence or let it affect them? Can Cam Ward raise his game to the same level again? Can the Canes put together 60 minutes of solid hockey? I agree with a lot of you when you say they haven't played their best yet. I think their best offensive period was the 2nd period of game 2 when they showed their speed in all areas of the ice. It created a lot of problems for the Canadiens D and resulted in many chances and PP's. Their best defensive period I thought was period 3 of game 3. Other than the fluke breakaway given to Boullion when he came out of the box, I thought the Canes did a much better job of keeping the Habs to the perimeter and not giving them quality scoring chances. The good news is they haven't played their best and their only down 2-1. The bad news is they are down 2-1. If they can put together 60 minutes of solid Cane type hockey, I like their chances. Buckle up, the ride begins again in less than 8 hours. As for the face off question, some of being a good face off guy is learning the tendencies of your opponent and being able to understand what he is trying to do and how you can beat him. Some is simply getting older and stronger, and some is learning different ways of taking the draws. I think Staal is better now than he was 2 years ago and I think he will continue to improve. Enjoy the game!

  • At 4/28/2006 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree with Mr. Francis. I'm hoping that they can pull it together tonight and play the Hurricanes hockey I'm used to seeing. As he said, if they do, the game will be great.

    I read that Williams did in fact get the number from Recchi and did attempt to get in touch with Koivu. I think it said that he left a message for him. It's terrible to see anyone get hurt, so hopefully all will be okay and he'll bounce back.

  • At 4/28/2006 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've posted enough of my comments in regards to the games...I just wanted to thank you Ron for making yourself available and discussing your playoff thoughts! It was a sheer joy watching you on the ice and like a lot of others, I wasn't ready to accept your retirement so this added BLOG feature is a definite bonus for a lot of your fans. Thanks for making such terrific hockey memories for so many and thank you WRAL for asking Ron to be a part of it all once more. JC

  • At 4/28/2006 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Very few injuries in professional hockey are similar.. So comparing one with the other is somewhat fruitless..
    Having said that, Saku Koivu's injury and subsequent news is bothering me more than the win by my beloved 'Canes...
    From all the fans of hockey down south, here's hoping Saku gets better and will be able to play in these playoffs soon.
    Let's not blame the refs. Accidents happen. I am pretty sure if the refs called the penalty on Williams, we would have been okay despite us not liking the call..So I can understand why Habs' fans are upset.. As they should be. Koivu is not just a player — he's the heart.
    It is almost a guarantee something will happen tonight that will upset either 'Canes or Habs fan.
    Let's hope no one gets seriously hurt..
    the downside of professional sports — can be tough at times.

  • At 4/28/2006 4:59 PM, Blogger Stormbringer said…

    It *will* be very interesting to see how the Habs react to Koivu not being there. That AND how the Canes decide to play tonight will make this upcoming game quite possibly the most interesting of the series. If both teams come to play, this could be a veeeeeery tight scoring game...not to mention low scoring if whoever in net brings their A game too.

    Staal has gotten better with his face-offs. But, with all due respect to the kid AND Lavy, I have to question the latter's constantly wanting to put the former in the face-off circle instead of Brindy, who's been the Canes' face-off king for the season once again. Don't get me wrong, I think Staalsy's been great in winning his face-offs and I realize he needs the practice/experience. But, letting Brindy take a few more face-offs, especially during power plays or OT, would be nice AND quite possibly make a slight difference in play.

    Here's to a great game tonight AND a hearty "Go Canes!!".


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