Archive for November, 2009

30
Nov
09

Game 26 – St. Louis Blues

Another game and potentially another blown lead awaits. I have faith in Howson and Hitch to fix the problem and get this team going the right way, and soon…

7:00pm EST, Fox Sports Ohio, High-Def

 

The Jackets will try once again to get off the schnide as they have lost 5 in a row in very winnable games. The Blues come in winning 4 of the last 6 games, getting points in 5 of the past 6. The Jackets come in losing 5 straight getting points in only two of those games. I am nearly at a loss for what is going on with this team. Just when you think they’re going to get over the hump, they blow another lead. Saturday was relatively mind-boggling as they played 54-minutes of hockey and blew it in the waning moments.

The power play is working, the penalty kill is getting a little better (up to 78.8% good for 19th in the NHL), but 5-on-5 play has been bad especially in the 3rd period. The killer instinct just seems to be missing from this team right now, and one would hope a member of the “leadership core” would step up to make the difference. The upcoming stretch will say a lot as the CBJ play tonight against St. Louis, Tuesday in Chicago, Thursday vs. Toronto, and Saturday against Colorado before getting a brief break. A 3-1 record this week would bring much more optimism to the fans and certainly management. It is still far too early to make any drastic moves or give up on the team.

GO JACKETS!!!

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28
Nov
09

Game 25 – Calgary Flames

The Jackets return home from a rough road trip to battle against the Flames, who are coming in on the 2nd night of a back-to-back against the Red Wings.

7:00pm EST, Fox Sports Ohio, Standard Definition

Another Broadcast Note, this one from Aaron Portzline:

Saturday’s game will be on Hockey Night In Canada, aired to the Western half of Canada, a huge reach. This show is the equivalent of Monday Night Football in the United States, a big, big deal with a dang-long post-game show. They have a feature of Rick Nash ready to role, I’m told. It’s a big game for the players, especially the ones from out West. A good night for the fans of the Blue Jackets to represent, too.

It’s a white out, you get a free shirt, that means WEAR IT. If you’re not wearing the white shirt, you better be wearing something else white-themed.

The Jackets desperately need a win here to stop the skid and to end November on a positive note. One year ago tonight the Jackets shutout the Washington Capitals prior to a rough Western road trip. Hopefully the Jackets can get the win to spur some momentum for what will be a very big week for the CBJ.

If nothing else hopefully the Jackets can win one for my birthday! (actually tomorrow, but close enough!)

CARRY THE FLAG!!!

26
Nov
09

Game 24 – OTTAWA SENATORS

It’s Thanksgiving, the Blue Jackets are finishing their season-long 5-game road trip. This was supposed to be the first time the CBJ have faced former goaltender Pascal Leclaire, but alas, he continues to have the worst luck ever getting smashed in the face with a puck while on the bench the other night. The Jackets really need to win to make this a tolerable road trip with an interesting stretch of games looming ahead.

Enjoy being with family, enjoy your favorite sports, enjoy the time off. Go Jackets.

25
Nov
09

Pick up the Pieces – JACKETS LOSE

CBJ 3 – Montreal 5

Pretty much sums up the night. Garon was not good and the boys in front didn’t play a full 60 minutes of hockey. Certainly a recipie for disaster in what is supposed to be a defensive minded system. From games like the last two, to the game against Dallas, the Blue Jackets have become the poster children for schizophrenia. There have been very few complete efforts in the first quarter of the year, yet the CBJ still find themselves at 12-8-3 with 27 points and at 8th place in the Western Conference.

TSN.ca has a nice write-up chronicling the early struggles of Steve Mason and the team as a whole:

“We are winning but we aren’t playing as well as we are going to have to play,” Hitchcock said. “I don’t know why. We are winning because we are very resilient. We’re not winning because we are playing great hockey.”

Seems like a perfect statement for what we have all seen recently. After last night’s blown game in Montreal it was very difficult to pinpoint the primary issue at hand. Being on the second night of a back-to-back comes to mind when the Jackets let the Habs tie the game and couldn’t respond the right way. Mental toughness, or lack thereof, of a young team is always an issue. Inappropriate adjustments could have been made that Montreal was able to exploit.

The number one issue in my book is the horrible play in front of the goaltenders. Whether its a turnover or a bad deflection, or not sustaining pressure in the offensive zone, the Blue Jackets are not giving the goalies much chance to save the day. What makes the play in front magnified is the lack of clutch goaltending. By that I mean coming up with a big save when necessary to keep the Jackets in the game or to give that spark when necessary.

It reminds me of the struggles with the power play last season. While the defense was great, the Blue Jackets couldn’t get a clutch goal to spark a comeback when it was needed. Speaking of the power play, check this out:

Anyways, the drastically improved power play makes one wonder where the team could go if the defense turned the corner.

 

24
Nov
09

Game 23 – MONTREAL CANADIENS

The Blue Jackets look once again to get back to the basics tonight against the Montreal Canadiens. Mathieu Garon is between the pipes in a planned, and now necessary start.

7:30pm EST Fox Sports Ohio, High-Def

After taking a 2-0 lead last night in New York the CBJ went to sleep. They awoke from the slumber down 7-2 and searching for answers. Some answers were found in the final 30 minutes of the blowout as the Jackets were able to make last nights 7-4 loss look much better on paper.

The last time the Jackets were humbled they turned around and have won 3 straight games and gained points in 4 straight until last night. Much has been made of Steve Mason’s struggles, but speaking of struggling, Tom Reed of Puck-rakers has this to point out:

The coach said again how his top players could not be big-time minus players. Take captain Rick Nash, for instance. He ranks 11th in NHL scoring with 25 points, but is a minus-11. He is the only one among the top-17 scorers who’s a minus player.Nash not only carries the team’s worst plus-minus, but only three other NHL players — Robert Nilsson (-11), Martin Havlat (-12) and Rod Brind’Amour have more unsightly totals.

Shocking stuff. Not shocking in the sense that the team has been woeful on defense so far this year, but that of all people, The Captain has struggled to play any defense. Hopefully we see a marked improvement from Nash here in the coming stretch of games.

While there are starting to be whispers where some suggest replacing Hitchcock, I’d like to point out that there is a huge pitfall if the Jackets were to make this rash move.

1.) It’s not going to happen: The President/GM is no longer on crack and no rash move like a coaching change would be made unless the CBJ finish out of the playoffs by a lot, and start 2010 in a very weak way.

2.) Coach speak: We all know how Hitch likes to talk. He uses terms like “weighty” and “heavy” or “light on the puck”, among a slew of others. As a graduate of Ohio State, it was apparent in players like Troy Smith speaking and acting just as the buttoned-up-sweater-vest would speak and act. Rusty Klesla provides a perfect example from last night’s loss:

“We stopped playing,” defenseman Rostislav Klesla said. “We were light on the puck and they kept coming after us.”

To me, when players speak like their coaches, they are as bought in as possible. Do all the players talk just like Hitch? No, but the message is usually very similar to what needs to be said by the team.

3.) Notoriety: Hitch instantly brought with him some semblance of identity to a team which had none. Hitch is in the 500+ wins club and the 1,000+ games coached club and will be in the Hockey Hall of Fame some day in the future. Will he retire in Columbus? I think its possible. The Blue Jackets and he will eventually have to move on from each other. Based on what he has done for Rick Nash and the franchise as a whole, there are many more years of the marriage between the CBJ and Hitch with much more success on the horizon.

CARRY THE FLAG!!!!

23
Nov
09

Game 22 – NEW YORK RANGERS

The Jackets travel to the Big Apple to take on the struggling New York Rangers at historic Madison Square Garden.

7:00pm EST Fox Sports Ohio, High Def

After winning three straight the Jackets win streak came to a halt Saturday in Nashville in a game which saw goaltender Steve Mason stand on his head for many portions of the night. The CBJ were lucky to escape the Music City with a point against a very hot Predators team and now travel to the Eastern Conference for the final 3 games of the road trip.

The Rangers have struggled as of late, losing 4 of the last 5, but are missing key players. Goaltender Steve Mason gets his 3rd consecutive start after getting some time off in lieu of Mathieu Garon. Mason has been stellar in the last two starts posting a .946 save percentage in those games.

The Jackets will look to get an early lead and keep shifts short because this is the first game of a back-to-back with the second part coming tomorrow in Montreal.

CARRY THE FLAG!!!

17
Nov
09

Goodbye Filatov

Well it certainly seemed that things were going somewhat smoothly for the Jackets so far this year. Unfortunately that all came to an end late last night after the shootout victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Many eyebrows were raised on Sunday when it became apparent that Tom Sestito would be in Columbus for the game against the Oilers, but nothing seemed completely out of the ordinary when Sestito replaced Filatov in the line-up Monday night, especially after Filatov’s 3 turnovers on 1 single shift.

Anyways, during my drive home from the game this was posted on the Puck-Rakers Blog:

Rookie forward Nikita Filatov, who has struggled to remain in coach Ken Hitchcock’s lineup, might be headed back to Russia, perhaps as soon as this week, according to sources within and beyond the NHL.

Right there is enough to get the mind percolating and the blood brought to a little simmer. The post went on to the well documented “issues” between Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock and Little Nikky but had no confirmed rumors in them. Of course the comments section turned into a freak show and panic mode was in full force.

The issue all came to a head relatively fast with this post also from the Puck-rakers:

By mid-morning, Nikita Filatov’s locker in the Blue Jackets dressing room was empty. By noon, his nameplate above the stall was removed. By Wednesday morning, the rookie left winger will be on a plane back to Russia.

The Blue Jackets today reached agreement to transfer Filatov’s rights to CSKA Moscow of the KHL on a one-year loan agreement. All parties insist that Filatov’s days as an NHL player — and as a Blue Jacket — are not finished, but simply on hold.

In the end there will be a one year loan to CSKA with full expectation by all parties involved that Filatov will be in training camp in Columbus come next fall.

This all sounds like a relatively amicable move for the parties involved especially with the limited ice time that Filatov has received so far. Many have been quick to criticize Hitchcock given his unfair reputation of “destroying talented rookies” and such, but those people are the same who forgot about the likes of Jake Voracek, Derick Brassard, Steve Mason and other not quite as big names.

Is Hitch guilt free in this situation?, surely not. Filatov was rarely given the chance to play with the best players but was able to score two goals in very limited action. Defensively he was being blown off the puck when pressured and was very turnover prone in later weeks. Puck Daddy’s Dmitry Chesnokov has some of Filatov’s candid comments:

Q. When did you start talking to the CBJ management about going back to Russia?

FILATOV: It was a few days ago. At the end of last week I told them that I want to come back.

When did you tell your agent of your plans?

I told him after about four games into the season. He told me that I shouldn’t rush, and that I should wait to play in at least 10 games. As he told me, this is because anything could happen and change.

The timetable is an interesting note especially considering Filatov played those first 4 games, even scoring the GWG against Vancouver. But his average ice time was down around 7 minutes per game in that span. The interview goes on:

Do you still think you will make it in the NHL with Columbus?

Of course! I don’t even doubt that everything will be alright. I actually think that I have already made it because I started the season here. And, even it was very little, but I still played. It’s just, of course, I wanted to spend more time on the ice. That’s what I will try to achieve next season.

What did the coach and the GM tell you before you left?

They wished me luck and told me that they count on seeing me in camp next year.

While it is certainly nice to hear Nikita say the right things, I have a hard time remaining optimistic given his nearly very “me first” attitude about this situation. I may be the only one with this opinion, but to me it seems that Filatov, as a member of a team, should stick it out regardless of the issue at hand. Yes he is a free man and such, but when you sign a contract with a team, you’re agreeing to do as told, learn when directed, and plan how they want you to.

Yes, Ken Hitchcock runs a rigid defense first system, but No it hasn’t stymied the success of Rick Nash who has scored just about 112 goals since Hitch came to Columbus in late November of the 06-07 season. To me it really seems that Filatov is not giving the learning process a chance and wants instant success in what he does. Honestly, that seems to be a problem with immature athletes across the board (look at the steroid users looking for instant success and fame).

While I’m putting down Filatov’s attitude, I do say that I think this move could be beneficial for him in the long run. If he goes back to Russia, matures as a player, both mentally and physically, and sticks to his word, the Blue Jackets could be in great shape come next fall. But if there is a freak injury, a change of heart about playing in the NHL, or otherwise, it could be a complete loss of a 1st round draft pick.

 

Best of luck…

 

 




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