Archive for November, 2010

28
Nov
10

Game 22 – DETROIT RED WINGS

To put in perspective the domination of the Red Wings over the Blue Jackets, you have to go back to March 7, 2009 to uncover the last time the CBJ have emerged victorious from Joe Louis Arena.

Ouch.

5:00pm EST, Joe Louis Arena

Fox Sports Ohio, High Definition

Going back even further, the last win before March of 2009’s victory in Detroit came on February 15, 2008. While playing in San Jose is typically referred to as the “house of horrors” for the Jackets, I think the Joe has surely earned the “House of Horrors East” nickname.

After Friday’s loss there are plenty of reasons to remain optimistic about what the Jackets have accomplished so far this season. Their record sits at 14-7-0, 28 points, good for 4th place in the Western Conference and 2nd in the Central Division.

While amassing this record, the Jackets have solidified their goaltending, shown versatility on defense and offense, and are improving in pretty much every facet of the game.

What’s troubling so far? The Power play and Nikita Filatov. Maybe there’s a connection there, I don’t have the answer. Arniel has a little more credibility with the young players than Hitchcock did, so I feel that while Arny has begun to call out Filatov, it shouldn’t have the same negative effect that it did from the previous coach.

Here’s to a keeping the road winning streak alive, and following up losses with wins. This will be a tough one.

Go Jackets.

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26
Nov
10

Game 21 – DETROIT RED WINGS

It’s Friday, November 26 and the Blue Jackets face the Red Wings for at least two days of Western Conference and Central Division supremacy.

7:00pm EST, Nationwide Arena

Fox Sports Ohio, High Definition

20 games in and the Columbus Blue Jackets are about to be locked in a dog fight with their perennial nemesis, the Detroit Red Wings.

The real question tonight is, how will the Jackets handle a game against a great team when the pressure is on? The game is sold out for all intents and purposes, the Red Wings are a DEEP team with loads of talent down the center, on the wings, and on the back-end, and the Jackets may or may not realize that they’re a pretty good team.

For the Jackets to continue to be successful, Arniel must keep pushing the right buttons, maybe the healthy scratch of Nikita Filatov will be a wake-up call for the young winger? The Jackets’ second line MUST get going if they have any hope of hanging with the wings and their depth. The likes of Dan Cleary, Johan Franzen, and everybody’s favorite Todd Bertuzzi have been huge so far this season, and can make life painful if they are ignored.

Expect a hard fought game, both on the ice and in the stands as the holiday weekend will surely allow many a turncoat Blue Jacket fan to travel into town with their Winged Wheel on their chest.

And of course… the on-ice debut of the newly released 3rd jersey is tonight.

Go Jackets.

25
Nov
10

First Quarter Musings…

20 games in and I think it’s time to pass some judgment and form some opinions.

First let’s take a look at the team as a whole:

The Jackets are sitting here on Thanksgiving night having played 20 games, winning 14, losing 6, good for 28 points. There’s no doubt this is the hottest start in franchise history, but 2 things should impress beyond simply looking at the overall record. While being a 14-6 team, the Jackets have posted an impressive 8-1 record on the road so far this season, good for best road win percentage in the NHL. Also impressive is the goal differential this early in the season. The Jackets +12 is good for 2nd best in the West, and 5th best in the entire NHL. The differential is obviously an indicator of winning by a lot, but also CONSISTENTLY winning games. In order for teams to be successful they need to out score their opponents by a good margin, not just squeaking by night-in-and-night-out.

The Good:

Early Season MVP: Derick Brassard, Center

Why? Brass has posted 5-12-17 in 20 games played and has tallied points in 13 of the last 14 games. That’s a ridiculous pace if you didn’t know. He may not be Steven Stamkos, but Derick Brassard has returned to the form that was evident during the 2008-09 season, but hopefully this season will see Brass on the ice for all 82+ games. I almost forgot to mention, his faceoff percentage, while not always great there has been significant improvement and usage of Brass in all situations, not just offensive zone faceoffs.

Runners-up: Rusty Klesla, Marc Methot, Rick Nash

Both Rusty and Marc have been outstanding on the back-end so far this season. Klesla must avoid injury so we can finally see what the “original” Blue Jacket can do for this team. Early last year we caught glimpses of what Rusty could be, but injury cut a promising season short. Methot has been almost inspiring. Whatever task Marc has been charged with, he has seemingly completed it nearly flawless, and unnoticed, quite the unsung hero of the blue line.

The Bad:

Early Season LVP (Least Valuable Player): Nikita Filatov, Left Wing

Granted I’m writing this as Filatov is coming off a healthy, disciplinary scratch, Filatov has been a MASSIVE disappointment so far this year. Yeah, yeah, Hitch’s message wore on last year’s team and Hitch also took all the blame for Filatov’s Prima Donna attitude, maybe we’re starting to see not as much of that was Hitchcock’s fault? Filatov has tallied 0-7-7 in 19 games so far this season and sometimes seems lifeless on the ice. I remain optimistic that Filatov can break out of his slump and show the skill he has flashed before on a more consistent basis.

Runners-up: Antoine Vermette, Anton Stralman

Before anyone jumps me for putting down Vermette, please understand my reasoning. The only reason Vermette is being labeled on of my “LVP”‘s is because of the heightened level of expectations placed on him. Right now Vermette is on pace for 17-21-38 (give or take)… that’s not bad, but compare that to the last three seasons: 09-10 – 27-38-65 and 08-09 – 16-25-41 and 07-08 – 24-29-53. The direction he’s going is not what anyone would like to see, and I’m sure he realizes it too. Let’s all just hope he’s going to turn it up in the remaining 62 games.

Anton Stralman, oh ye of near-arbitration fame. On pace for a whopping 20 points… just one season after posting 6-28-34 and bringing the Blue Jackets power play to life. He has improved defensively (+1 rating this year, -17 last year) but the offense has trailed off a bit. Like Vermette, there is plenty of time for Stralman to get things going, and I think he could, but part of me thinks the best season (statistically) is in the past for Stralman. With a cap hit of $1,950,000… he has to improve.

The Surprises:

Came out of nowhere: Chris Clark, Right Wing

If you expected Chris Clark to be a beast for the Jackets this season, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog, you should be a coach in the NHL or part of the CBJ Scouting Department. Many expected Clark to be buried in the minors or as a healthy scratch this season, or even put on unconditional waivers… whatever was expected, there’s no way it was in the fans plans to see Clark piling up the points, now with 4-7-11 in 18 games. It is a contract year… I don’t know how else to explain what Clark has done, but how awesome would it be to see it continue all season long?

Overall, we’ve been blessed so far to avoid major injuries, have no major off-ice distractions, and no losing streaks. The biggest test that awaits is how this team will respond when adversity strikes.

As for now, enjoy it, cheer your butts off, and Go Jackets.

25
Nov
10

Escape from Long Island – JACKETS WIN

CBJ 4 – NYI 3 (OT)

In what many deemed to be a trap game, the Jackets were able to persevere while coming back twice from single-goal deficits.

Eventually the Blue Jackets would prevail in overtime and claim two points on the night. Antoine Vermette contributed on 5-on-3 power play, while Chris Clark and RJ Umberger added even strength goals. During the overtime period Kris Russel drove the net, got off a shot and DiPietro threw up a pretty rebound to the crashing Jake Voracek.

Game.

During the course of the game, Jared Boll “fought” Islanders enforcer Trevor Gillies… wow. This might have been one of the most epic beat-downs in Jared Boll’s young career. Sometimes there are those one or two punch fights and the loser is down and out, but this fight went on, and on, and on, and Boll took one hell of a beating. While Boll has been a much better player all-around so far, this is an area he has to improve in. The energy and momentum definitely swung to the Islanders as they scored their first goal of the game not even a minute later.

Mathieu Garon was average throughout the game, but came up with key saves at important junctures. There was the massive glove save about halfway through the 3rd period, then there was the ridiculous save on Frans Nielsen to help keep the Jackets going in overtime. What was a bit disconcerting were the two “What the heck?” goals. The opening Islanders goal by Trent Hunter off a pop-fly puck and John Tavares’ flip in off the wall were both very odd. Thinking back to last season, there was Jeff Carter’s shot on the face-off, seems that Matty is a bit susceptible to the random, unexpected, unfocused goals.

Garon got the win, and that’s what counts in the end, but his performance last night should be enough to stop the clamoring for Garon to start regularly instead of Steve Mason. I mean, what more do you need to see from Mason? After the ridiculous performance against Anaheim and then the Predators, he’s obviously playing very well right now. Garon’s job is to spell Mase when necessary, not to split starts just because the fan who thinks they know more says so, but to best help the team and Mason all season long.

5 straight wins have vaulted the Jackets into a virtual tie for first in the Central Division, and more importantly, first place in the freaking WESTERN CONFERENCE!!! Friday night against Detroit could be the biggest game the Jackets have ever played in November.

 

24
Nov
10

Game 20 – NEW YORK ISLANDERS

The Jackets travel to Long Island this Thanksgiving eve while many will gather with family, others will gather to see the new 3rd jersey being unveiled tonight by the Blue Jackets.

7:00pm EST, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Fox Sports Ohio, High Definition

Between the game tonight, the jersey unveiling, and tomorrow’s AMAZING holiday, time hasn’t been as plentiful as one would hope, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.

I’m really looking forward to how the team responds to playing a lesser opponent, but remember in pro sports that just because the records are vastly different doesn’t mean the talent is. Garon will probably start tonight against the Isles as Rick DiPietro gets the start for them.

As for the jersey, it should be said, and hasn’t been enough, THANK YOU BLUE JACKETS for not allowing pictures to leak early! It makes it so much more meaningful to fans and others around the NHL when something new doesn’t get revealed early. Just my .02, but I cannot wait to see the new duds in a couple of hours!

If the Jackets can sneak out a win tonight I can certainly tolerate a split this weekend with the Wings who currently lead the Central Division and Western Conference… shouldn’t be too difficult to get up mentally for that game will it?

Go Jackets.

22
Nov
10

Game 19 – NASHVILLE PREDATORS

The Blue Jackets return home from the West Coast to the “friendly” confines of Nationwide Arena where the always-pain-in-the-butt Predators await.

7:00pm EST, Nationwide Arena

Fox Sports Ohio, High Definition

After a shocking sweep of California, the Blue Jackets look to keep the momentum going against a perennial problem team. The Jackets haven’t fared well against the Preds… pretty much ever. But you know you what, as the trip just showed many, this team is doing some surprising things. There is no reason to expect anything less than a competitive, hard-fought game between the Jackets and whoever they are taking on.

Puck-rakers reported that both David Legwand and Ryan Suter are out of the line up tonight for the Preds, which could ensure that this week’s #1 Star in the NHL, Rick Nash, continues his torrid pace of goal scoring.

Regardless of who’s in, and who’s out, tonight’s first match-up between Central Division rivals should be a dandy.

Go Jackets.

20
Nov
10

Game 18 – SAN JOSE SHARKS

Coming to you live from Iowa City, Iowa… Tonight the Jackets aim for something that has never been accomplished by the Blue Jackets… the California Sweep.

10:30pm EST, HP Pavilion

Fox Sports Ohio, High Definition

After another huge win, the Jackets go for 3 straight wins in California, but it has to come in the house of horrors that is the HP Pavilion.

Frankly, I don’t know what to say after the Blue Jackets were able to win in Anaheim last night. 5-1 on the road is just plain shocking.

The Jackets are playing sloppy sometimes, perfectly other times, and it just doesn’t seem to matter, they keep piling up the W’s.

I’m hoping to watch the game tonight via Gamecenter Live because I was fortunate enough to attend the OSU-Iowa NCAA Football game today… what a game.

Bad officiating is annoying regardless of sport, and regardless of which team I’m cheering for. I don’t want to win a game because of bad officiating, but I sure as hell don’t want to lose because of it either.

Tonight could be very special for the Jackets and Scott Arniel, they have the talent to win, but do they have the motivation?

Go Jackets.




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