Archive for March, 2010

30
Mar
10

.500! – JACKETS WIN

TBL 2 – CBJ 3

It looked like a repeat performance of Saturday night’s Blue Jackets but somebody lit a fire during the 2nd intermission sparking the Jackets to a 3-2 comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Talk about boring hockey. I was ready to fall asleep, apparently so was the rest of Nationwide Arena after two periods. The Jackets were trailing, action was few and far between, but thankfully hair caught fire in the 3rd period. Fedor Tyutin tied the game at 2-all 6 minutes into the final period and Rick Nash scored the eventual game-winner barely a minute later on the power play. A delightful surprise. The power play was absolutely atrocious through 3 attempts, as it has tended to be recently. Thankfully the “clutch-ness” of the power play was there tonight, refreshing to see.

Mega-props go out tonight to Tomas Kana who made his NHL debut on the 4th line of the Blue Jackets. Kana was noticeable for the right reasons tonight, and was credited with 3 hits, which were all fairly solid. Really the entire 4th line did a great job tonight, Mike Blunden was involved in a scrap with former CBJ-er Zenon Konopka and Trevor Frischmon was good gaining 3 hits and going 2-0 in the face-off circle. There wasn’t a point where these guys seemed out of place and they did a great job energizing the rest of the team.

Season finale series update:

Jackets @ Chicago, 4-2 W

Jackets vs. Tampa Bay, 3-2 W

Jackets @ Detroit

Jackets vs. Washington

Jackets @ St. Louis

Jackets @ Detroit

Jackets vs. Detroit

As they say in real playoff series, until somebody wins on the road the series doesn’t get serious. Well the Jackets were able to start the right way winning in Chicago, but also avoided the let-down at home against a lesser team. Now the real test begins. Detroit has won 9 of their last 10 games, gaining points in all 10 games, including 6 straight victories. It’s safe to say that the Red Wings are in prime shape for the playoffs. Speaking of the Wings, take a look at what our own “Wing-Killer” has done lately. Rick Nash has posted 3-3-6 in his last 4 games, maybe sending notice to the Red Wings to “be ready”.

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30
Mar
10

Game 77 – TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Only 3 home games remaining, including tonight’s tilt against a Southeastern Division opponent, where the Jackets have found a lot of success in recent years.

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

In the preview/recap for the last game against the Blackhawks I neglected to mention my take on these final 7 games of the season. As mentioned before I have done a 180 on this issue, and firmly believe that the Jackets need to win as many of the remaining games as possible. While it would be great to ‘tank’ for a top 3 draft pick, losing is one thing this team can do right. With such a young team who all look to be part of our bright future, instilling and furthering the losing culture of the franchise could not be a good thing.

Look at the final 7 games, this is a tough stretch challenging for playoffs or not:

Jackets @ Chicago, 4-2 W

Jackets vs. Tampa Bay

Jackets @ Detroit

Jackets vs. Washington

Jackets @ St. Louis

Jackets @ Detroit

Jackets vs. Detroit

3 home games, 4 away, and the Jackets already did one of the toughest things to do in the league, win on the road to start this “mini-series”. If the Jackets can win this series it says a lot about not only the coaching of Claude Noel, but also about the desire of the uninjured players on the roster. 5 of the 6 games yet to be played are VERY loseable as the Red Wings are firing on all cylinders, the Capitals are a great team (although Ovie has never scored on Mase), and the Jackets rarely do well in St. Louis.

Goalie wise, I would expect to see Mason get all the starts against the Wings as well as probably against the Capitals. It has been announced already that he is starting tonight against Tampa Bay, so in my opinion, that leaves only the game in St. Louis for Garon to make his final appearance of the 2009-2010 season.

The Lightning are coming off of a disappointing season as well, many believed they would find a way into the top 8 in the East, but hopes have all but evaporated. Tampa has won 2 of their last 3 games, but they are coming off of a bad loss against the Sabres (7-1). The Jackets might be riding high and come out flat much like they did against the Islanders, where a slow start doomed them.

Puck previews:

Go Jackets

29
Mar
10

Surprise! – JACKETS WIN

CBJ 4 – CHI 2

Raise your hand if you thought the Jackets would leave the Windy City with a win on Sunday night… seems that RJ Umberger was certain of it, Marc Methot was the uncertain kid in the back of the classroom, and Mike Commodore said “Okay… I’ll take it!”

It was one of those nights where weird things happen at the United Center. Much like last year’s playoff-clinching victory, the Jackets were down early and in an odd way. Everybody remember Rick Nash diving to stop the puck and instead carrying it into the Blue Jackets own net last year? Last night’s “own goal” by Antoine Vermette distinctly reminded me of Nash’s gaffe, but fortunately the Jackets showed the same resiliency they did last season against the Hawks.

Giving up the early goal has caused problems for the Jackets, but they battled back to score three straight before allowing a Patrick Sharp shorty with under 5 to go in the 3rd period… here come the Hawks. The Jackets survived a late rush and Jake Voracek sealed the victory with 7 seconds remaining, a 4-2 surprise victory.

What does it all mean? I think there’s a lot of good to take from this win. The Blue Jackets youth was outstanding and the 2009-2010 version of the goat line has come together great in the last few games. Derick Brassard has posted 4 assists over the last 4 games bringing his totals to 8-27-35. He’s managing to put together a solid end to an otherwise disappointing season. While Brass had improved, Jake Voracek has been the real story. While posting 13 points in the last 10 games he has raised his season totals dramatically to 16-33-49, far surpassing last year’s totals, a bright spot on a failed team.

Finally, Steve Mason was again outstanding. He has been solid in 4 of his last 5 starts, with his one bad outing coming against New Jersey where he got little of no help from the guys in front. Interestingly enough he has faced 30 or more shots in 10 of his last 11 starts, which certainly has a lot to do with his improvement. I don’t consider myself a goalie expert or anything, but last night there were a few instances where Mason was down in the butterfly extremely early. It has seemed to happen more often than not this season, but it could just be a skewed view after the up and down season he has had.

While gaining points in the last 3 games the Blue Jackets have put distance between themselves in 24th place with 75 points and the Islanders in 25th with 72 points. I’ve said this multiple times recently that losing is the best way to help this team for the future, but this blog post got me thinking that winning is what this team needs for the coming season and hopeful improvement from the youth of this team. (h/t to @rickgethin for the link)

28
Mar
10

Blue Jackets vs. Blackhawks Live Blog

1st Period

Ready to Rock and Roll. Let me say this, I don’t mind the National Anthem tradition of the Blackhawks, it’s pretty neat, especially in person, but their singer is BEYOND dramatic and not that great of a singer.

18:19 Voracek continues flying all over the ice. He has been noticeable on the ice for all the right reasons lately.

17:28 Hey there, the ice is slippery Rick Nash. Niemi is getting early looks at easy shots, not the way to crack a good goaltender.

16:51 Marc Methot takes down Pat Kane with a high-stick and the Hawks are on the power-play.

15:09 Inability to clear the zone… always a problem for this team

14:09 How about that group on the ice? Stralman-Clitsome with Umberger-Brassard-Voracek. Really surprised to see the 3rd d-pair on the ice with a weaker forward group.

13:05 Hawks get a nice rush but the Jackets all cover the right guys, encouraging to see

11:08 Mason makes another awkward angle save. That’s good to see especially after what we witnessed from Huet’s (lack of) goaltending abilities.

11:04 Ouch, Vermette buries it in the Blue Jackets net… 1-0 Hawks. If Vermette wasn’t one of the few bright spots of this lost season I’d be ripping him right now.

9:16 JACKET SCORE!!!! Andrew Murray makes it 1-1 Right after the referee raises his arm for the delayed penalty Murray scores through a huge pileup in the crease. HUGE goal

6:50 Frischmon tries to feed Murray who was waiting on the goalmouth, doesn’t quite connect

5:13 Mason gets back in position just in time as the point shot ricochet’s off the end boards giving the Hawks a scoring chance.

3:11 Jackets going on the power-play, hooking the call, a goal here would send a big message.

2:34 Nash gets tripped in the neutral zone, 5 on 3 coming up for 1:23

1:41 This is an embarrassment to power-plays all over the hockey world

:26 Mason gets a nice save after the Hawks come in fast and hard

End of the first period. Embarrassing display of power-play effort there. For the most part the period was even but to not even generate pressure with the 2-man advantage is bad. The end of the period came at just the right time as the Hawks were building some major momentum off the big penalty kill.

2nd Period

18:53 Derek Dorsett gets tossed off the puck like a rag doll by “Big Buff”. Upon further review, Dorse is lucky to not be hurt after that hit.

17:27 Blunden gets a couple nice chances but Niemi is with him the whole way.

16:59 Hawks going on the power-play

16:29 Mason makes a good save, but is down WAAAYYYY too early

14:51 Good kill by the Jackets, have to find a way to manufacture some goals to support Mason.

12:04 Vermette is ready to atone for his early gaffe, looking strong on the forecheck

11:43 Mason comes up with a good save while everybody and their grandma is whacking away at the puck.

10:52 Chris Clark goes down, definitely laboring to get to the bench

10:04 Just because somebody plays defense against one of your all-stars doesn’t mean that the Jackets deserve a penalty.

6:34 JACKETS SCORE!!! Just as I was about to point out the lack of shots this period. Voracek makes it 2-1!!!!

4:13 Jake gives it away but the Hawks can’t convert, *sigh of relief*

2:05 It wouldn’t be a CBJ game without Juice over-handling the puck.

1:32 Mason continues to play strong but does not seem secure

:06 JACKETS SCORE!!! Mike Commodore’s “blast to the net and hope for a rebound” finds twine! Wow, huge momentum swing.

2 periods down, and once again the Jackets are in control over the Blackhawks. This is not what I expected to this point, but as I always like to point out, nobody blows 3rd period leads like the Columbus Blue Jackets.

3rd Period

19:17 Puck bounces high and narrowly misses crossing the line before the net becomes dislodged. Play was under review, shouldn’t be a goal.

18:17 Mason makes a good glove save

15:28 I’d rather be lucky than good, Mason continues to look good

12:08 Jackets are controlling the play and the Hawks don’t look motivated enough to change that

11:01 CBJ going on the power-play as Jake Voracek draws the tripping penalty

10:05 Jackets pinned in their own zone on the power play, the special teams are just plain nauseating

9:04 Mason playing with a lot of confidence, coming out to glove the puck and play it the other direction, good to see

7:48 Jackets take a stupid penalty and now the Hawks get a crucial power play. The CBJ PK must come through here

6:51 Mason just made me gasp as he came out to play the puck with 2 Blackhawks streaking in on him, no turnover thank goodness

5:33 Penalty killed, Jackets need to hold on tight for the final flurry

4:31 Patrick Kane goes off for “unsportsmanlike conduct”, Blue Jackets Power Play!

3:57 Rimer mentions how “This is not how you want to go into the playoffs”, much like what the CBJ did in the 5-10 games immediately preceding last year’s opening round defeat.

3:09 Jackets give up a shorty to Patrick Sharp, 3-2 Jackets still ahead

1:32 The much awaited storm has arrived, hold on tight…

:34 Jackets ice the puck, timeout coming…

:07 JACKETS SCORE! Voracek puts it in the empty net and ices it for the Jackets!

Game over, Jackets win, and they continue to play themselves out of a top 3 draft pick. Has to feel good for these players after such a lousy season.

Question of the night to consider, how badly do the Jackets need a Top 4 Defender if Kris Russell continues to improve like he has all season?

GO JACKETS!

28
Mar
10

Game 76 – CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Steve Mason gets the start tonight as the Blue Jackets look to face a surly Blackhawks squad out for some revenge.

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

The Blue Jackets once again recalled Center Trevor Frischmon, tonight he will get to play as Utility-man Nathan Paetsch comes out of the line-up. In 71 games this season with Syracuse, Frischmon has posted 6-18-25 and a respectable -3 (on a bad team). For all of your info, Frischmon is also a pending UFA at season’s end, so this will be a good barometer if there is a place for him in the line-up in the future, or if he will serve as a depth player for the CBJ’s future.

The Blackhawks have not played since Thursday night’s dismantling at the hands of the hometown boys, who set a franchise record with 8 goals scored at home. As you’ll recall, the last time the Blue Jackets dominated a team so badly was merely last March when the Jackets put the smack-down on Detroit in Hockeytown 8-2.

The offensive prowess of the ‘Hawks gives one reason for concern, especially if Chicago is able to duplicate Detroit’s dominance of Columbus since the 8-2 drubbing. Including playoffs, since the March 7, 2009 CBJ victory, the Wings have outscored the Jackets by a combined score of 33-10, allowing the Jackets to win only one game in that span.

The ‘Hawks are arguably a better club offensively than the Red Wings, but what they have on the front-end doesn’t account for the short-comings on the back-end. With the questions surrounding goaltender Cristobal Huet and injuries to Brian Campbell and Kim Johnsson, the ‘Hawks tonight look to Goalie Antti Niemi to stem the tide of goals given up by their porous defense. If the Blue Jackets can continue to play the more “wide-open” style they should be able to hang with the Hawks as they have done for most of the season, except while the games have been close, they have only found themselves on the winning side of the coin once all season.

Puck previews:

GO JACKETS

28
Mar
10

Roll with the punches – JACKETS LOSE

NYI 4 – CBJ 3 OT

Not any huge reasons to be upset with this loss. There was a rough start, giving up 2 ugly goals in the first period that Mathieu Garon had very little chance on, one coming due to a d-man out of position and another off of an odd deflection in front. Digging a 2-0 hole is rarely overcome, especially by this team and especially this season.

The Jackets put a dent in the Islanders lead in the second period, on the power play no less, when RJ Umberger redirected a Rick Nash point shot. The words “Why is Nash playing the point?” were barely out of my mouth when he shot the puck and Umberger scored. Umberger has transformed into the CBJ’s own version of Tomas Holmstrom, as much as we all hate the wings (and rightly so) Holmstrom is the type of player the Blue Jackets have lacked for too long. The grit, determination and skill put forward by Umberger is un-matched by many players on the team, and it showed last night.

The third period was a wild affair where the Jackets seized the lead on goals from Nash and Grant “G-spot” Clitsome scored his first career NHL goal. In typical CBJ fashion, the lead was blown and we were on to overtime. Here’s Puck-rakers on the Islanders game-winning goal:

In overtime, Commodore went deep into the Islanders’ zone and tried to make a play when none was there to be made. He had the puck stripped by defenseman Mark Streit, who led a smart Isles’ counter resulting in Josh Bailey’s winner at 2:58 of OT.

…..

“The overtime goal for me was (pause) I didn’t like it,” Noel said. “There are a couple things I didn’t like, first of all you got a defenseman playing way up front, and I understand he’s trying to score a goal . . . but that’s certainly not the way we want to play.”

Here is Commodore on his decision to join the play deep:

“I had the puck in the corner, I should’ve put the puck behind the net and I just lost it. The guy (Streit) made a good play but yeah, I tried something maybe I shouldn’t have.”

An unfortunate end to an otherwise exciting night, a couple interesting facts:

  • With last night’s attendance of 16,972 the Blue Jackets are averaging 15,286 fans through 38 home games. Not bad especially when you look at last season through 38 games: 15,469, only 183 fans ahead of where the Jackets are now.
  • The Jackets sit 24th in the league with a 30-32-13 record and 73 points. Of the clubs below them in the standings 4 of them are very close to taking over the Jackets, Islanders 72 points, Tampa Bay 72 points, Florida 71 points, and Carolina 71 points. Below those 4 teams are Toronto with 68 points and Edmonton with 55 who have done everything within their power to lock up the 1st overall pick.
  • The Blue Jackets did not have a single “+” player last night, surprising really with 3 goals scored. Sammy Pahlsson was the worst on the night posting a -2.
  • With only a handful of games remaining, the Jackets record this year ranks right up there with the “dark ages” of this franchise only having more wins than the first 4 seasons of existence.

Preview for tonight’s Chicago game will be posted a little later on. Go Jackets.

27
Mar
10

Game 75 – NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Being a big fan makes for an interesting end to the season where “tanking” would actually pay higher dividends. The problem the Jackets have always had is when they suck, they haven’t quite sucked enough, drafting only once in the top 3 (2002 Rick Nash), this has led to mid-value 1st round picks which if the Jackets keep up what they did against Chicago, will again be the case for the 2010 1st round pick.

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

As pointed out by The Dark Blue Jacket, “it” officially ended last night, “it” being mathematical elimination from qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Once the season is over we’ll go back and take a look at where the season really ended because while math and history may show it was March 26, 2010, it was certainly long, long ago. (For what it’s worth, I say “it” ended November 26, 2009, more on that later).

Tonight the Blue Jackets face a desperate New York Islanders club who has the slimmest of hopes to make the postseason. I for one am looking forward to watching John Tavares in person. The Jackets and Islanders are in a race for a top 3 draft pick this season and while losing to the Isles would do nothing but help that cause, I won’t stoop to the level of rooting for the opposing team, especially not in my home arena.

If the CBJ come out on the short end tonight look at it as hopes for a brighter future not another one in the “L” column. There are ways to feel good about the team even in losing efforts. Interim Head Coach Claude Noel is fighting for his job and will spin every little thing he can into a positive for the team. Interestingly enough, the Jackets are 2 wins away from reaching a .500 record (first time since…. December 17, 2009).

And oh yeah, Mathieu Garon is in net tonight.

Puck Previews:

Enjoy it while it lasts, Go Jackets




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