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Facts and Superstitions

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
We’ve all got superstitions that we adhere to this time of year.


Paul Branecky
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Before each home game, the bloggers on this site take their beard update pictures in front of the Kids ‘N Community dasher that once drew the ire of Martin Brodeur. Personally, I’ve also been drinking a wonderful combination of ice cream, caramel syrup and coffee that Kyle Hanlin invented at the conclusion of each press meal. 

Until Tuesday’s Game 6, those had both worked pretty well. Where I went wrong was having a pregame bag of popcorn up in the press box, which I don’t think I’ve *ever* done in four years of working games. I was over halfway through it before I realized with horror what I had done. 

My bad, Caniacs.

Today, I was planning to throw on the same shirt I wore for Game 7 of the first round, only to find it at the very bottom of my hamper after a long, frantic search through my closet. It’s crumpled, I look a little ridiculous and I’m not sure how great it smells, but hey, I’m doing my part, and I needed to redeem myself from the aforementioned popcorn fiasco. Remember that if the Canes pull it out.

As little as such routines have to do with the actual outcome of the game (let us know your own), they make us feel better in tense situations where the outcome is 50/50, which I believe it to be tonight. That home ice advantage in Game 7 doesn’t seem all that it’s cracked up to be – just ask New Jersey and Washington.

It’s not exactly a superstition, but there is one thing that almost always guarantees a Hurricanes win – a goal by Eric Staal. He’s scored a goal in each of the team’s seven wins this postseason, but hasn’t found the net in any of their six losses. In the regular season, the Canes were 22-3-2 when he hit the back of the net and under .500 when he didn’t

I’ve gone back and forth on exactly what that means. On one hand it’s so obvious it’s almost meaningless, as you’ll always have better chance to win when your best player is scoring. One doesn’t need shiny stats to illustrate that point.

The case has been made that it means the team is relying too much on him to score, which is partially true as he’s accounted for nine of the team’s 21 postseason goals, even with players like Jussi Jokinen and Sergei Samsonov helping to shoulder some of the load in this series.

If that does put extra pressure on Staal, he’s still fine with that.

“I’m probably not the only one with stats like that,” said Staal, referring to other elite players around the league. “I look forward to the challenge, especially [tonight], and hopefully if I pot one we’ll get a good feeling in our room and we can get it done.”

“I think we should expect that of Eric,” said Coach Paul Maurice. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a lot of pressure on your key guys. They get paid for it, and there’s a reason for that, because from the time they were probably five years old to, for Eric Staal, winning a Stanley Cup, he’s risen to that level.”

Not that he’ll let the stat get into his head, but the key for Staal will be staying within his game and not trying too hard to get the goal at the expense of his positional play. That’s something Maurice has stressed to the entire team prior to tonight.

Since the Canes are also 5-0 when they score the first goal, the joke around the office has been that if Staal is the first player on tonight’s score sheet, the Bruins may as well just shake hands and wish the Canes well against Pittsburgh.

Of course, it’s not that black and white. Or maybe it is, depending on how superstitious you are.

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