Archive for October, 2009

30
Oct
09

Game 12 – PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

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We all know about the recent woes of the Blue Jackets. Everyone is harping on it. The Dispatch is all over it, every fan who owns a computer, you name it. Tonight the Blue Jackets face their toughest test at the most important part of the young season so far.

nationwide-arena

7:00pm EST Fox Sports Ohio (Standard Definition)

editor’s note: Blue Jackets website said SD while my DirecTV Guide says HD FWIW

It may take a herculean effort from the Blue Jackets, based on what we’ve seen lately. Or it could take a game to get back to Ken Hitchcock Hockey. Columbus has gotten away from checking and minimizing turnovers.

There are a lot of Veterans on this team who have disappeared during the recent stretch, tonight is for them to step up. After a super strong start Rick Nash has faded into the background of the NHL. Tonight is when Nash, Huselius, Umberger, Vermette, Filatov and all the defensemen step up. It all falls back to one man though, Steve Mason.

Mase is the backbone for this team. Last season when he was forced to make up for sloppy defensive play he would step up.  So far this season, Mason has not stepped up when called upon. He has to, starting tonight.

Statistical Comparison:

Columbus Power Play 22.7% (12th) vs. Pittsburgh Penalty Kill 81.1% (11th)

Pittsburgh Power Play 20.4% (17th) vs. Columbus Penalty Kill 77.1% (21st)

The Penguins are a team I have had a love/hate relationship with over the last two years. I cannot stand bandwagon fans and teams that win championships are easy prey for these type of people. Do I blame the Pens for their success? Heck no. But much like the Red Wings they have been managed to a huge amount of success recently. In the early going of being a hockey fan I started following the Pittsburgh Penguins Blog, The Pensblog.

If I was giving a list of top 3 hockey blogs here’s what I’d say:

1. Puck Daddy

2. James Mirtle (From the Rink)

3. The Pensblog

These guys are die-hard fans with an attitude. I followed their blog for almost a year before finally taking the plunge myself, much of the reason I did take the plunge myself is because in my opinion no Blue Jackets blog had near the attitude The Pensblog provided. Do I compare myself to them? In my dreams. They’ve inspired a lot of what I try to do, but I try to put my own spin on their awesome ideas. They’re cocky bastards, and its extremely enjoyable.

It would be a pleasure for the Jackets to beat the Penguins again this season, and I certainly have high hopes for that to happen tonight. Someday I hope it will develop into some sort of rivalry or at least a more regular match-up.

Editor’s Note: Out this afternoon, Puck-Daddy’s Chat with RJ Umberger

29
Oct
09

No Horror this Halloween

brassard nash klesla dallas ot goal

It’s business time for the hometown team. They started hot, racing out to a 5-1 record and everyone thought they were on to finish the season 81-1 or something ridiculous of that nature. Since reaching that mark the Jackets have began to show chinks in the armor and lack of chemistry among the forwards and have now trailed off to a 6-5 record winning only 1 of the last 5 games.

If you’re pessimistic this early in the season stop reading now because this isn’t about trashing the team or the coaches or the front office. That’s better left to the “professionals”.

mason save bruins

I know there are many fans who believe that what we’ve seen in the last 6-ish games is a surefire indication of a sophomore slump for Steve Mason. While on the surface it is relatively obvious that the Jackets, as a team, are giving up a lot of goals. But I took a look back at 2008-2009 season just prior to and the early parts of the Jackets’ season and Mason’s beginnings:

Early 2008-09 Season

Screen shot 2009-10-29 at 9.32.20 PM

Early 2009-10 Season

Screen shot 2009-10-29 at 9.33.35 PM

Surprisingly we have been almost as inconsistent in both season’s early going. Through Mase’s first 4 starts in ’08 he yielded 13 goals versus the first 4 starts in ’09 in which he yielded 11 goals. There are some very reasonable explanations for each seasons early inconsistencies. In 2008 he was fresh off a knee injury and had barely played in the minors, next thing Mase knows, he’s playing in front 14-17,000 people every night in the NHL. Now here we are in 2009, Mason is no longer just temporary relief for then franchise goaltender Pascal Leclaire, he won the Calder Trophy and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy… and oh yeah he helped lead the Jackets to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This does not take into account the lack of health and consistency we have had from the defensive corps in front of him. The Jackets have not had their top pair from 2008 play on the ice together, and the Mike Commodore we have seen in 3 games is still not 100%, but it could and should be soon.

Overall, the franchise and team have changed for the better, THERE ARE EXPECTATIONS NOW. We are experiencing growing pains that should have experienced in the first 3-6 years of the franchise, but it is well documented with our old management and coaching carousel no consistency was kept and therefore expectations have sky-rocketed in a short time.

I hope I’m not too scatter-brained with my thoughts on this subject. But there are so many variables going into what’s happening with this team, and I’m no hockey genius. I firmly believe we are in for a great wild ride this season but patience is one of the most difficult virtues to keep. I trust in Hitch and the players in the room this season. This could be a truly special year for Columbus and the Blue Jackets.

One quick news tidbit:

Mason, who made 38 saves in a 4-3 shootout win at home over the Penguins on March 12, will start for Columbus on Friday. Pittsburgh will give Marc-Andre Fleury a night off in favor of backup Brent Johnson, who’s 9-2-2 with a 2.03 GAA against the Blue Jackets.

CBS Sportsline

Looks like a chance against another back-up, certainly the Jackets can’t afford to lost two straight to back-up goalies.

29
Oct
09

Sloppy Seconds – JACKETS LOSE

PHX 4 – CBJ 1

Another ugly ugly loss to a team the Blue Jackets should not be losing to. At this point I really don’t know where to start looking for answers. One answer I do know, is that my lack of explanation is why I’m glad to not be in Ken Hitchcock’s shoes at the moment.

i

The lone bright spot

After the opening period went by relatively quickly, the Jackets ended up on a 4 minute power play courtesy of Scottie Upshall acting an idiot on the ice. The Jackets knew they needed to get one here, and they took care of business. The good times were ready to come back to Nationwide and the small energetic crowd was glad to see Mason and the defense playing a sound game after the first period.

From there it was a complete collapse. Turnover’s here, missed passes there, blown assignments, brain farts, dumb penalties, routine saves… an all around collapse. Most of the collapse was on the Penalty Kill as they continued the tailspin into the abyss giving up 3 power play goals. If the PK had been even remotely effective this game could’ve been 2-1 in the waning minutes… but if “If’s and But’s were candy and nuts…”

I’ve got plenty more to rant about, and plan on it later today… especially those out there pushing the panic button, or others who consider themselves “professionals” serving as a megaphone for negative fans and overall alarmists.

28
Oct
09

Game 11 – PHOENIX COYOTES

pheonix-coyotes-playoff-tickets

In what will be the second of four meetings this season the Blue Jackets look to get back to sound defensive hockey in the friendly confines of Nationwide Arena.

nationwide-arena

7:00pm EST Fox Sports Ohio (Standard Definition)

The last time these two met, the Jackets were coming off of their first big loss of the season in San Jose, they look to right some wrongs tonight just like they did over two weeks ago in Glendale. I for one don’t expect a shutout or something crazy like that, but a game where the CBJ play outstanding D and check the heck out of the Yotes would be nice to see.

Statistical Match-up:

Blue Jackets Power play 23.7% (11th) vs. Phoenix Penalty Kill 75.6% (23rd)

Phoenix Power play 19.6% (15th) vs. Blue Jackets Penalty Kill 81.0% (13th)

What to watch:

The end result tonight will be big in determining which Jacket team we will be getting at home this season. If the defensive woes of the last 4 road games continues, we could see some big names scratched in the near future. Thankfully the reintroduction of Mike Commodore should begin to rear its “ugly” head soon, as well as the imminent return of Jan Hejda.

Not that it matters on October 28, but the Jackets and Yotes sit at a tie for 8th place in the Western Conference with the Vancouver Canucks. At this point in the season, it’s wildly important to get every little point you can to make it as easy as possible come March and April. A win tonight will also help the Jackets keep pace with the Blackhawks in the Central Division.

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CARRY THE FLAG!!!!

26
Oct
09

Not so Quick – JACKETS LOSE

CBJ 2 – LAK 6

While the season is now only 10 games old, it has already hit what feels like rock bottom. The reality check is that the Jackets are 6-4, ten games through the season and have obviously not played their best hockey. I for one don’t think that the Jackets have gotten worse as each game has gone by mostly because the problems that existed on the first road trip still exist today, and are now being exploited.

Over the 4 game roadie the Jackets gave up 22 goals and so far this season are giving up an average of 4.43 Goals/game on the road versus an average of 1.00 Goals/game when playing in the friendly confines of Nationwide Arena. These ghastly differences speak to the play of the goaltenders who, minus Garon’s performance in Phoenix, has been average or just plain bad.

hejda

What’s going wrong besides the goaltending? Well one point to blame can be the Penalty Kill. It could be argued that they have been overplayed but really? 4 kills is too much? The Kings went 2 for 4 on the power play a night after the Jackets gave up 2 for 3 to the Anaheim Ducks. The one constant that is missing is Mr. Jan Hejda. While I am not “all-in” blaming the PK’s woes on the absence of Hejda, where else can the blame go besides his absence and maybe the less-than-solid goaltending.

Without rehashing last night’s pain too much, here’s the one other thing I’ve got to mention:

Not only was this a dirty hit, but there was, in my opinion an attempt to injure Jason Chimera. The most bizarre part of the whole exchange was that the Jackets ended up down a man for a Kings power play. I’m not going to waste internet space by re-hashing why this hit is a big deal, or why the NHL is quickly becoming a joke when it comes to protecting its players from classless, dirty, awful hits like this one on Chimera.

Puck daddy has done a great job keeping up with the news and issues surrounding this hit and others from the weekend.

Video and some analysis

Comparison to other dirty hits from the weekend

More tomorrow on a much-needed day’s rest.

25
Oct
09

Game 10 – LOS ANGELES KINGS

lak

The Blue Jackets 4-game Western trip comes to an end tonight in Los Angeles. Columbus looks to even the road record on this trip after a disappointing start to the outing.

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9:00pm EST Fox Sports Ohio, High Definition!

It has been reported that there are a few injured forwards, but there has been little news coming out of the Left Coast with any more info. The Kings are without Right Winger Justin Williams tonight, putting a serious dent in their top line. It will be important to stick to the typical game plan of checking and getting pucks deep, especially after it paid off so well for the Jackets last night.

This is the first back-to-back of the season for the Jackets and will prove an interesting test. The Kings have reeled off 3 straight wins since losing to Columbus last Saturday night and have scored no less than 4 goals each game in that stretch. The Jackets will also look to get the Penalty Kill back on track after giving up PPG’s in each of the last 2 games.

Blue Jackets Power Play 23.5% (9th) vs. Kings Penalty Kill 71.7% (29th)

Kings Power Play 24.1% (8th) vs. Blue Jackets Penalty Kill 84.2% (7th)

Stretching the record to 7-3 would surely prove as a huge confidence boost and would cement the Jackets as real contenders in the West this season.

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25
Oct
09

Hold on Tight – JACKETS WIN

CBJ 6 – ANA 4

As mentioned by the commentators last night, it felt like the beginning of a playoff series. It’s okay to say that now, because there’s actually some frame of reference with our own team.

cbj ana celebration

It looked like another road loss with a blown lead late, but on what has to be considered the biggest goalie gaffe against the CBJ this season, Fedor Tyutin gave the CBJ the lead with less than 4 minutes remaining, and they wouldn’t blow this one.

The first period saw the Jackets surrender the opening goal for what felt like 100th time this season. There were giveaway’s galore and just plain sloppy play by the CBJ who looked like they had left their minds at the beaches of SoCal. After the Anaheim goal by Joffrey Lupul there was some semblance of order, and the Jackets made it to the intermission down 1-0.

The early going in the 2nd period saw much of the same as the close of the 1st. At one point, there was an exchange that made me exclaim that the Jackets weren’t going to crack JS Giguere… thankfully I was wrong. Antoine Vermette got the rally going scoring the first of 4 CBJ Goals in the 2nd period. Scott Niedermayer answered the CBJ’s first goal, but Rick Nash and two beauties from Nash Jr. (Jake Voracek) put the Jackets ahead 4-2 at the end of two.

With the recent struggles in the 3rd period for the Jackets, only an idiot expected this lead to hold. And indeed, it did not, first Lupul then Selanne on the power play even the game at four a piece with over 12 minutes remaining. It didn’t look pretty. But the boys in Blue kept pushing and got back to the basics of what got them the lead in the first place.

Then Fedor Tyutin struck

tyutin ana goal

5-4 Jackets (Everybody watching was just as surprised as Tyutin)

The final four minutes was typical Jackets shutdown defense and the Captain was able to ice it with his second of the night and 200th Career goal in 450 Career NHL Games Played.

Overall the Jackets looked pretty solid. The blowing of a lead seems to have become a regularly occurring problem now, but Hitchcock will surely find a way to shore up the D. The new lines were okay overall. Obviously the best line recently has been Juice-Vermette-Voracek without question. Jake Voracek seems to have been woke up with last Saturday night’s empty net goal against the Kings. Voracek now has 4 goals in 9 games posting 4-4-8 so far this season. Last season Voracek was able to post 9-29-38 in 80 games played and now he is on pace to surprise many teams across the NHL.

The unsung hero last night was Steve Mason. When needed, Mason was able to stand tall and made a huge difference for the Jackets. Until his performance last night he could be considered not always on top of his game so far but was a game changer when called upon against the Ducks.

Stat of the game: The Blue Jackets are 3-0 on Saturday Nights




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