Archive for December, 2010

31
Dec
10

Game 38 – OTTAWA SENATORS

After posting two-straight wins, the Blue Jackets look to end 2010 with some serious, and much-needed, momentum heading into a tough 4-game road trip and the second half of the 2010-2011 season.

While not a huge win last night in Toronto, a statement was made, and that is that even when the Jackets play a below-average game, they can find a way to win. Now, can they keep up the gritty, clutch play, against another lowly Eastern Conference opponent?

7:00pm EST, Nationwide Arena

Fox Sports Ohio, High Definition

Still one of my all-time favorite Blue Jackets moments:

New Year’s Eve in Nationwide always seems to be a special night, regardless of how the team is performing up to that point in the season. Of course a bad loss tonight, as has been this team’s calling card on Friday nights, would serve to undermine all the recent successes of the team. Aaron Portzline points out that during the last month of wins, the quality of those wins is certainly in question.

Don’t kid yourself though, a win is a win, and two points in the standings, is two points no matter who you beat.

One would assume that on the second night of a back-to-back that Mathieu Garon will get the start…. and oh yeah, he holds a 10-3-4 record in Nationwide Arena. The Senators will surely try to test him after getting shutout at home 4-0 on Wednesday, but tonight and for the next 4 weeks, the Sens are without the “King of Trade Rumors”, Center, Jason Spezza.

If you aren’t going to the game tonight, get there, with $10 Huntington Green Seats, and $15 Student Rush Tickets, there is really no excuse to not be a part of one big New Year’s Eve party in Nationwide Arena.

Enjoy the remaining hours of 2010, let’s ring in 2011 with a bang tonight.

Go Jackets.

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30
Dec
10

Game 37 – TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

Were the Blue Jackets we watched on Monday the exception or the norm? With this team, there is almost no way to tell what to expect, but against another lowly opponent, we all know which team needs to show up.

7:00pm EST, Air Canada Centre

Fox Sports Ohio, High Definition

After yesterday’s surprise re-assignment of Tom Sestito to minor-league Springfield, where will the grit and attitude, that disappear from this line-up all too easily, come from?

Portzline has already shared with us that Jake Voracek will again be a healthy scratch, making that 2 games straight for the young winger. Many will certainly question the move by Arniel, but with the expectations of Voracek, he has not come close to impressing or even being serviceable this season. We should all hope this is a wake-up call to young Jake and he comes back and never leaves the CBJ line-up again.

Not to be overlooked, but the Jackets are currently 5-2 against the Eastern Conference and should look to get back to taking much-needed points from the Leafs who are only 3-4 against the West.

The momentum from Monday MUST continue tonight, Steve Mason faces “The Monster”, and Rick Nash returns to the hometown team he “snubbed” two summers ago.

Tonight needs to be a statement game.

Go Jackets.

28
Dec
10

Turning Point – JACKETS WIN

The monkey may finally be off the back of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Not only did they manage to gain their first victory in the 3rd jersey’s, that have gone 0-5 to this point, but they did it behind outstanding goaltending, and clutch scoring.

Maybe the scratches of Jake Voracek, Rusty Klesla, and Derek Dorsett motivated the right people, or maybe the guys who got into the line-up decided to make the most of it, either way, it was a winning combination last night.

It wasn’t always pretty, like the above pictured moment where Mikko Koivu put the Wild in-front of the Jackets 2-1 in the waning seconds of the 2nd period. The defensive coverage was spotty at times, but came through in a big way from time-to-time. The Jackets were credited with blocking 17 shots, and were perfect on the penalty kill, including a 5-minute boarding major on defenseman Mike Commodore.

I want to look back on last night’s game and be able to say that the 5-minute penalty kill turned the 2010-2011 season for the hometown team.

It was as if everyone in the building realized how important a successful kill, on a potential “score-buffet” major penalty, would be for the Blue Jackets. In the waning seconds the energy from the building built and built, and was released when Derick Brassard tied the game at one a piece. The fans were in the game, and didn’t let the previously mentioned Koivu goal deflate them too much. Neither did the team. Everyone was joined together celebrating goals like winning a playoff game, fans were attached and lived and died with every moment of the game.

During the 3rd period, Tom Sestito put the beat down on Brad Staubitz. Staubitz was a bit of a pest all night, but whatever, that’s his job. The fight was enough to create the energy for the Jackets to score two quick goals to roar past the Wild 3-2.

Give credit to the Minnesota Wild though, they too were on the 2nd night of a back-to-back, and found the energy to tie the game at 3-a-piece with barely 8 minutes remaining.

The overtime saw few chances for the Jackets, but all that matters is they didn’t give up a goal and survived to face Jose Theodore in the shootout.

Nash, Wilson, and Juice were all money in the shootout, and Steve Mason made the one save that was truly necessary.

Game, blouses.

I haven’t been this excited for a win it seems in forever. The Jackets have given fans too little to cheer for since December of 2009, and finally, just maybe there is a hint of life to this team. Whether losing so much lately made the win so much sweeter, or the fact that there is still time to get the wins flowing and make a playoff run had everyone who cheers for the Jackets amped-up.

Let’s see what happens Thursday and Friday…

27
Dec
10

Game 36 – MINNESOTA WILD… Patience

Another day another game, and I hate to say it, but with the current direction of the team, it’s hard to expect anything more than another loss… which is a sad, but true, admission.

7:30pm EST, Nationwide Arena

Versus (National Television), High Definition

Normally there would be excitement about finally playing a nationally televised game on the NHL’s flagship cable network, Versus. With the season officially spiraling out of control (winning only 3 of the last 12 games), Coach Arniel seems to be searching for answers, and it’s hard to not feel bad for the guy.

What has been most frustrating over the last year of Blue Jacket hockey for fans and all involved, is the presence of talent and the inability (or lack of desire) to play to those talents. Since the 08-09 season, players have come and gone, and honestly how can you not look back on players that have left versus those that have come in, and not feel better about the Blue Jackets?

Gone are Michael Peca, Manny Malhotra, Jason Chimera, Raffi Torres… here now are Ethan Moreau, Sammy Pahlsson, Antoine Vermette, Chris Clark.

While some are only marginally better than their predecessors, Pahlsson and Vermette are significant upgrades over anyone who has departed Columbus, in my opinion.

Even now while we sit here amongst this “death spiral” as I (and others) prefer to call it, far too many want to second guess every move, or non-move that General Manager Scott Howson has made…

If we want to gripe about not having a “true” top-line center, please explain to me when we had a chance at landing one either via free agency or a trade that wouldn’t gut the current roster?

If we’re going to rehash all the struggles of Steve Mason, then explain to me how he was so good the last 20-ish games of 2009-2010, and the first 20-ish games of 2010-2011.

Or if we prefer to go on and on about either a shutdown defenseman with grit or a powerful slapshot, or even a defenseman with true offensive abilities, when have we had a legitimate chance as acquiring those players?

I don’t say any of this in defense of Howson, because the next shoe to fall (if things don’t show improvement) will be on him, but I say all this merely to point out that you can’t keep swapping players in and out, up and down, etc., and expect to build a team with chemistry that has any shot at winning.

Patience is not a word ANYONE wants to here more of. Patience is quickly becoming a 4-letter word in these parts. But for a fan base and group that is so used to the losing ways, what other options do we have at this point?

This post wasn’t really meant to rant on patience, etc., but there it is. The Minnesota Wild are coming off of a bad loss themselves last night (4-1 at home versus Detroit) and will be looking to make amends.

Speaking of making up for past failures? As expected, Steve Mason gets the start tonight.

The Jackets need to give all of us a gift for Christmas: something to believe in and cheer for.

Go Jackets.

26
Dec
10

Game 35 – CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Off to the Windy City and the Jackets are searching for some answers and a bit of momentum into another big week for the boys in Union Blue.

7:00pm EST, United Center

Fox Sports Ohio, High Definition

After a severe calling out by Scott Arniel, the Jackets have no choice but to start showing up. Scott Howson’s hands are freed tonight at midnight and should the Jackets lose another ugly game, I would not be surprised to see a move made.

At this point SOMETHING has to happen… a healthy scratch of a top 6 forward plus the call-up of someone from Springfield would be a nice, minor-shake-up. Or maybe there’s a trade ready to be made, God only knows who is being shopped at this point, or who would be brought in for that matter.

The Blackhawks are without Patrick Kane tonight according to Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune. The Jackets will catch another break, in that starting goaltender Corey Crawford is ill and will not play tonight either… although Marian Hossa is back *gulp*

The Dispatch points out that Mathieu Garon is the “player to watch” tonight, and I couldn’t agree more. After 5 solid appearances/starts, Garon had a rough outing on Thursday night, but can hardly be blamed for all the goals the Jackets gave up that night.

Regardless of tonight’s performance by Garon, I believe that Mason get’s his first start in over a week, tomorrow night at home against the Wild… but time will tell.

Go Jackets.

23
Dec
10

Game 34 – VANCOUVER CANUCKS

The Jackets try to prove that Tuesday night’s victory wasn’t a fluke, but will have much stiffer competition tonight from the Vancouver Canucks.

7:00pm EST, Nationwide Arena

Fox Sports Ohio, High Definition

Last week, Ohio State product Ryan Kesler decimated the Blue Jackets in a dominating effort by the near-American-hero.

The Jackets will aim to not only shutdown the bizarro Sedin twins, but find a way to neutralize Kesler this time around.

It’s projected for Roberto Luongo’s backup, Cory Schneider, to get the start tonight against the Jackets, and once again, the Jackets have to find a way to get wins against back-up netminders.

In other news, here’s a little news story that everyone is flipping out over today:

When the Vancouver Canucks get to Columbus Thursday they’ll almost certainly find Mathieu Garon in goal, as he was in their game last week.

Normally that spot would be filled by Steve Mason, but right now this kid’s career is in a precarious position.

Unless he finds some confidence and restores his technique to the level it was in his rookie season, he could easily be the next one year-wonder, Andrew Raycroft-style.

If he gets it back, of course, he could still be the one guy with a chance to break many of Marty Brodeur’s records — shutouts, at least, if not Stanley Cups.

……

‘‘I still feel I’m not far off getting it back and putting together a number of really good seasons in this league,’’ Mason said Wednesday.

“I don’t know about catching Marty, those records are amazing, they speak for themselves. But basically a lot has been made of my last two games lately which weren’t good, and I don’t think that’s right.’’

In a way, perhaps he’s still in denial a little bit. For him to think he’s still going well when he’s losing his job to Garon is perhaps his ego getting the better of him.

And after that first successful year, it’s pretty clear a knife and a fork weren’t his friends as he put on a lot of weight, estimates of up to 30 pounds, in the summer of 2009.

As a result of this, last year was a disaster which essentially cost Ken Hitchcock and his staff their jobs.

But, again, Mason claims weight gain had nothing to do with his poor season, rather just a simple lack of confidence born of high expectations.

But even before that weight gain 16 months back, there were signs Mason was getting a little too full of himself.

When then-goaltending consultant Perry Elderbroom, of Parksville, was his mentor, he had a system which worked. But Mason never fully accepted it.

He was convinced his old hockey guru Dave Rook back in Kitchener and himself were solely responsible for that first season’s mountain of success — and Elderbroom was window dressing.

In fact, in discussions with Mason on Wednesday, not even Rook was a factor.

‘‘It was just me, with the help of a few calls back to Dave, playing on adrenalin and playing in the moment, and that’s what I have to get back to.’’

When Elderbroom was there in the first year there were a couple of less-than-harmonious meetings with Mason, and the then- goalie consultant told GM Scott Howson he’d better get a grip on this kid and that, for lots of different reasons, he was choosing not to return to the Jackets.

The club brought in Rook last season, but obviously things didn’t go well.

The weight was a problem with a goalie who plays as much as Mason tries to, no matter what he says.

When he came back in much better shape it was felt he’d resume the path of stardom.

He has some tremendous natural skills to go with his size, but so far it’s just not happening.

Elderbroom is watching from afar and feels badly because he didn’t return after that one good season and feels he could have helped last year.

‘‘I didn’t teach Steve to play goal, Dave did, but I think I taught him to play his best,’’ said Elderbroom. ‘‘I look at a goalie at any level, size up his strengths and then try to design a system I think will work best for him, and that’s what I did with Steve. But a lot has changed since then.’’

You’d think the Jackets would be keen to get Elderbroom back but his phone hasn’t been ringing. Mason is the reason why.

‘‘I didn’t really work with Perry,’’ he said flatly, which is odd given the guy was the goaltending consultant for the team during his successful season.

Where this ends up remains to be seen.

…….

Yeah…. not sure what to say, except that none of what comes out of his mouth at this point is really a surprise.

Mason obviously has the talents to be an outstanding goaltender, but the mind is the worry. The ego that comes through there and through other media sources is a bit of a worry, it’s just finding the right buttons to push to get him seeing straight.

Can’t let this kind of thing get in the way of a gameday!

Go Jackets.

21
Dec
10

Game 33 – CALGARY FLAMES

Again the Jackets are desperate to right the ship but at least it’s free food night for season ticket holders tonight…

7:00pm EST, Nationwide Arena

NO TELEVISION

Check some of the links found here.

There is some good news, this from Tom Reed of The Dispatch:

What’s more unacceptable than a game not being on local television? The NHL defending its own wrong calls… (h/t to The Dark Blue Jacket)

If Saturday’s game against Dallas doesn’t make your blood boil, just a little, then you probably aren’t a fan of the Blue Jackets or sports contests being won fair-and-square anyways.

The million dollar question is this: How will the team handle its current slide in conjunction with points practically being stolen right out from under them?

We can continue down this current path of a win here, a few losses there, an overtime loss there, heading for another draft lottery or the Jackets can turn it around when they desperately need to. Rob of “The Sentry” (one of the new CBJ blogs by my count) rams home the point that this really is a MASSIVE week for the Blue Jackets.

It will be very interesting to see how Mathieu Garon plays in his 2nd consecutive start tonight, and if he struggles, where do the Jackets go from here?

Aaron Portzline reports that Flames back-up goalie Henrik Karlsson will get the start tonight.

To me, this says: “Win or else” for the CBJ.

Go Jackets.




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