Archive for January 2009

Columbus vs. Ottawa Pre-Game

After one of the best wins of the season, the Blue Jackets are going to have to put the first half of the season behind them, and again fight to stay above the red bar tonight against Ottawa.  While the Senators do not have a great record, their play of late is far from comparable.  With a convincing win last night in St Louis, and consecutive wins prior to the All-Star break, it appears Ottawa has turned a corner in their development, and the Jackets had best be prepared.

All signs point to a strong game tonight.  I have the opportunity of attending, and so will quite a few of the followers of this blog!  I am looking forward to providing a full report of the experience, along with photos of hopefully Mason.  I would be awfully angry if Hitchcock waited this long to play Wade, but we all know the rookie deserves a night or two off sometime soon, and I am sure they are looking at Ottawa’s record and assuming it is the ideal night.
One thing I want to point out is how unbelievably important this game is in regards to league standings.  If Columbus wins, they have the opportunity to be tied for 5th in the Western Conference.  If they lose, they could plummet to as low as 11th place.  Clearly, every point matters, none more than tonight.
So put all the conspiracy theories to bed for one night, let the competitive juices flow, and expect one of the loudest Columbus crowds of the year, as they battle for a spot in the big show!
Carry the Flag!

Dorsett’s Run In With Regehr

There are few times where I have truly been adamant about a suspension in the NHL, but I have added one to the list this week.  During what began as a harmless post-whistle badger between Derek Dorsett and Robyn Regehr turned nasty after Regeher took his stick in both hands and cross checked Dorsett in the temple.  Dorsey fell to the ice quickly, while teammates rushed in to go after Regehr, but all Jackets fans kept their eyes on Dorsett, who removed his hand from his head only to show frustration and a flow of blood coming from a nasty cut above his eye.  Angry at the ref, he sped off the ice to get medical attention, and later returned to finish the game.

Now, to some accounts, this is not a big deal.  To some, Regehr made a mistake, and hit him in a way he did not expect to.  To that, I say bogus.  This was a blatant and ugly play, and is currently being reviewed by the league to see if a suspension is necessary.  Regehr received a double minor for roughing, and Dorsett received a minor for roughing on the play, which only enhances how poorly the game was officiated.  How he could cross check someone in the face and not get ejected is beyond a ‘missed’ call.  This is a substantially unsafe play that should be well within the confines of the 5-10 game suspension range.

Fortunately, someone decided to throw it on youtube!

The hit reminded me of Jesse Boulerice when he used his stick in a comparable fashion after slashing a Vancouver player.  If memory serves me correctly, he was given a substantial suspension, and quickly released by the Flyers because of it.  That is the kind of reaction that this play deserves, especially in a game that already hosted a nasty check from behind (which resulted in an ejection) and a knife across the neck gesture, both of which will also be reviewed by the league.  These hits are categorized, along with the Chris Simon stick facial on Ryan Hollweg, and Marty McSorely baseball swing on Donald Brashear.  While this one may be the least disgusting of the bunch, it should still absolutely be dealt a hefty suspension.

Now, I do not expect the league to take a thoughtful stance on this, as they have shown their disinterest in the Jackets on multiple occasions this year already, but I do believe for the safety of the players, an example needs to be made.  Dorsett is extremely lucky this was only a cut to the forehead and not something worse (MRIs confirmed no fracturing), and is even more fortunate to be able to suit up again for the Jackets in their next game.  It could have easily resulted in something terrible, such a fractured skull or eye injury, which would case Dorsett to miss a serious amount of playing time.

Carry the Flag.

A Much Needed Rest

After a difficult road trip, the Blue Jackets are finally going to get a chance to rest their weary legs.  Beaten, battered, and riddled with injury, the boys will get the much deserved break they have sorely needed for weeks, while the all-stars meet in Montreal.

But I will not be settling for thoughtful digression here.  I am quite angry as a Jackets fan waiting for the team to float above the ‘red bar’ rather than below it, and frankly, I am not sure that my issues can be resolved by any one player or coach (or Injury Ninja).
Steve Mason made his fifteenth consecutive start yesterday, and showed clear signs of wear, comparable to what we saw in the Vancouver and Edmonton game.  You would think that seeing his stats flare above normal would be enough for Hitchcock to give their new (and very capable backup) a chance in at least one of the three games, but in a very non-hitchian way, we were forced to watch and feel sorry for the tired rookie.
Other notables on the trip were things like Modin and Tyutin on the powerplay, struggling to make the right play at the right time, and both forcing unnecessary shots on 5 on 3s that never saw pad or twine.  We saw Dorsett get hit with a stick to the face, in a move that in most cases warrants 5-10 games worth of suspension, but in this case, did not even merit a 5 minute major (and yes, I will be going more in depth later on this).  We saw RJ get hit from behind, and cut, only to come back and score the first two goals of the game, which will go down as one of his best games as a Jacket.
A finally, we saw a player take control when control was what we needed.  Kris Russell played his heart out in a game that needed a player to step up.  His constantly strong defense and great ability to move the puck into the offensive zone were tremendous help in netting four goals on Kipper.
It was a strange trip, and a lesson for the Jackets.  The playoffs are NOT going to be on a silver platter this year.
Carry the Flag!

Jason Williams Acquired From Atlanta


The Blue Jackets have acquired Jason Williams from the Atlanta Thrashers for defensemen Clay Wilson, and a 6th rounder.  This is a solid step for the Blue Jackets in regards to the depleted offense, and mediocre powerplay.

Williams is a right handed shot, and will be useful on the point in the powerplay.  Considering the Jackets have not had a good right handed shot yet this year while up a man, this should give them a better opportunity to get quick shots to the net.
Consider this a positive move for the Jackets, who are in desperate need of offensive help, and warm bodies will definitely be welcomed.
Carry the Flag!

Jackets Move to 8th Spot!


Tonight was a turning point in the season. Once again faced with a game where the winner moves up in the standings, the Blue Jackets squared off against the fo*teless (name modified for hate) Avalanche at Nationwide Arena.

Not only was the first period reasonably cautious for both teams, it paved the way for an even more cautious second, and a breakout third period. Both teams playing defense was not a surprise for a Blue Jackets fan post Injury era, but what was surprising, was the play of Steve Mason, so seemed more than penetrable this evening.
A weak goal by Svatos in the first that should have been covered by Mason had the fans not only confused, but somewhat demoralized of their hopes of seeing a Jackets victory. That was the story for almost another whole period of hockey, until Jakub Voracek took the Jackets back to a tie with a shot that seemed to come from behind the net and beat a sprawling and confused Raycroft.
As the second intermission passed, Jackets fans slowly mustered back their excitement, and made themselves heard in the third period, screaming and chanting, and for good reason. A fantastic pass from Russell allowed Umberger to pot his 15th goal of the season to take the Jackets to 2-1. Not only did this excite the crowd, it held them in there for the rest of the game, though a horrifically poor miss by Mason’s glove tying the game at 2, and another two goals by the Jackets veterans.
The satisfaction was clear on Coach Hitchcock’s face in the press conference after the game, citing the fans and players connecting as being a major factor, as well as excusing Mason for his ‘human’esque performance, one because of being under the weather, and two because it was about time the Jackets bailed out their netminder to win a game.
CARRY THE FLAG!

Adversity Mounts.. Nash on the IR


Concerns are once again running amok in Columbus with captain and leading scorer Rick Nash moving to the IR.  According to the Dispatch, his injury was not healing the way they anticipated, and I am left wondering whether they are simply not willing to create a bigger injury, or whether they are downplaying his leg injury to ease the minds of fans..

At any rate, MacKenzie has been recalled from the Crunch, which actually is not the worst thing.  He had tremendous hustle in training camp and in the pre-season, consistently being one of the names I would write down in regards to grit and effort on the ice.  While his time in Columbus has been minimum, he has appeared in 23 games for Syracuse, amassing 8 goals and 10 assists.  He should be the perfect fit on the third or fourth line playing with Boller and Dorsett.
This move also makes one question what it will take for Howson to pull the trigger on a trade, be it big name or mediocre name.  Blunden was clearly a minimal trade and really did not suit the needs of the Jackets, considering he has been in the AHL all season, and he is known for his injury woes.  Cory Murphy was waived by the Panthers today, who is a puck moving defensemen with a salary under one million.  Could it be possible that Howson makes a move for him to replace a guy like Russell, who has a great deal of trade value considering what he has brought to the Jackets over the last month or so?
I personally hope Russell stays around, as he is easily the most visible defensemen on the Jackets squad in terms of puck movement, and I think his removal would be a clear loss for them when it came to game time.
But stay positive and Carry the Flag.  The guys are playing well, and as a unit.  Here is hoping they can hang on until some of the major names can return from what Anna likes to call their “visit from the injury ninja.”

Minnesota vs. Columbus..

Tonight was yet another statement game for the Blue Jackets, pitted against the team sitting slightly above them in the standings in the Minnesota Wild, the winner of which would take over or retain the spot above the other.  Coming off a big win against Washington last night, the Jackets were expected to be tired and worn, but it certainly did not show.
Steve Mason once again got the start, with LaCosta watching from the bench.  Once again, that seemed to be the best decision, as Mason was once again fantastic, turning away shot after shot, and making it look rather simple.  He did not get another shutout tonight, but his focus and ‘injury recovery’ were wonderful signs for Jackets fans, looking forward to see their team return home after a tremendous road trip.
On the defense, Mike Commodore and Jan Hejda continue to impress me as a pairing.  With Commodore actually finishing his checks, and Hedja being a standout defensively against big names like Alex Ovechkin, this is one pairing that truly vaulted their efforts after the recent injury spree.  Add on young Kris Russell, who has been the Jackets best puck moving defensemen this year, and you find yourself watching a rather complete roster of players on the back end of this team.  Tonight was no different, and their defensive style of patience paid them heavy dividends.
Finally, to the offense, and what has me writing this tonight, rather than tomorrow morning.  Myself, along with 16,605 fans at Nationwide, along with almost the entire group of Columbus fans on the NHL Arena, as well as an entire nation of CBJ fans gripping their couches jumped for joy when Filatov scored his first goal of the game.  I looked up from my computer to watch him split the defense, and sneak the puck past Harding, and I jumped out of my chair with both hands in the air.  While this may seem like an overreaction to some, for me, it was the culmination of months of discussion about Filatov fitting into the Jackets roster.
It only took another two periods for Fily to find NHL goal number 3, which was scored as he sniped a wrister over Harding’s right shoulder, while looking pass the entire way.  It was the kind of goal you expect Ovechkin to score.  It was the kind of goal an NHLer scores.  So there I was, celebrating and laughing about how excited I was, and in true Hitchian style, out came the Voracek – Peca – Filatov line almost immediately after the goal, and it was clear Peca and Voracek told the young Russian to find an open spot in front of the net.  Not only did they get him one shot, they got him two, and that was all he needed to bury his third goal of the game, fourth as a Blue Jacket, and his first career NHL hattrick.
I will have much more on this soon.
Carry the Flag!!!!

Columbus aka Syracuse Prevails!


So many different things could be taken out of tonight’s MASSIVE victory in Washington. While I sat on the edge of my couch rooting like crazy for the Jackets, I had mixed emotions, as it was a game I came into thinking there would be an inevitable loss. But let’s break down why it was a win.

First and the most obvious foremost, Steve Mason. This kid, this boy, this ‘youngster’, this SUPERSTAR, was fantastic tonight. A shutout of the year for him, and while he received a few favorable cross-bars with the game winding down, he was absolutely stunning in net, saving 45 shots, and continuing his shutout streak of the Washington Capitals to 2 straight games. Not only will this boost the ever living heck out of his already fantastic numbers on the year, it will drive a stake into the brains of every Tom, Joe, and DICK who did not add him to the All-Star roster.
Next, I want to concentrate on the… wait for it… POWERPLAY! They actually had one tonight! That is right folks, the league’s worst powerplay scored two goals on its’ six chances, which works out to be 30%. For those of you who do not scour the NHL standings hourly, that is good enough for first place among teams in the NHL (if only for a night) when playing guys who are not typically even found on the second powerplay unit when all are healthy.
Third, I want to talk about shots. Yes, the Jackets were almost doubled in shots, but it did not seem like it. They chose their spots, respected the other teams talent, and found a way to create opportunities with what they had. None of the goals were crazy dekes or fancy spin-o-ramas, they were gritty, powerful statement goals from guys who do not often find the back of the net in Tyutin and Boll.
And speaking of Boll, after getting clocked in the face by Brashear with a cheapshot, he was fantastic in bouncing right back and scoring on the ensuing powerplay. Talk about a slap in the face for Brashear, who had to watch this from the penalty box in what most would consider ‘prime comeback time’ in the third period.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, tonight was all about a team playing a game they knew they could play, against a team they knew were better on paper, but they never gave up, and Steve Mason is still a monster.
Carry the Flag!

Leclaire Back on Injured Reserve

Carry the Flag would like to welcome Pascal Leclaire back to the injured reserve!  His nagging ankle once again proved too much for him to handle today, and the Jackets have placed him for the fourth time on the IR because of it.
Dan LaCosta will be the emergency recall from Syracuse, who will likely backup Steve Mason from now until forever.  This does not bode well for the team, considering Mason has not had a break in quite some time, although that may give him yet another strong opportunity to fight for rookie of the month in January.
To make things worse, Huselius spent only twenty minutes on the ice at practice, without participating in any of the physical drills.  Captain Nash probably will not see any time until next week, in what I am suspecting is precaution by Hitchcock, who is running horribly short on scoring forwards, and will have to rely on young guys like Voracek and Filatov to make their mark on the NHL early in their careers.
I hope to get a better update on Nash and Huselius within the next day.  Seems a shame that the entire Jackets nation just watched Leclaire’s trade value plummet.
Carry the Flag.

Could Trades be Slipping Through Columbus’ Hands?

It seems like the longer the Jackets wait this year, the more pessimistic speculators are becoming.  Leave it to the Blue Jackets to pave the way for a new style of media attention, where rather than trade talks building, they have actually begun to decline!
I personally think the trade is inevitable, and I do not think it will take a trade deadline to make something happen.  There are a couple things that will have an effect on it;
First off, the Jackets were given the go ahead to spend more money, and the fans know it!  While we, the fan base, have been mildly patient with the Jackets and their decision to delay spending to the cap until the team started to succeed, their clear efforts in remaining in the playoff hunt at mid season gives everyone reason to expect more.  Not to mention the management has openly given the green flag for more spending, if it does not happen, I expect to see an even bigger decline in fan purchasing, mainly in ticket sales.
Secondly, teams are getting desperate, and the Jackets are not one of them.  With an entire top line out with injuries right now, the Jackets have proven their confidence towards core players and some young call-ups from Syracuse like Mayorov, Dorsett, Russell, and hopefully Filatov.  This leads me to believe that they are willing to stall these trades as long as necessary to get the deal they want, at the price they want to pay, which would likely be draft picks.
I am not the kind of guy to get anxious about a team, and interestingly enough, I have already been anxious, begged for a trade, and been disappointed, but who wouldn’t?  This team has plowed through adversity with the injuries, embraced a young goaltender, and watched as their Calder favourite fell to a season ending injury…
…but patience is what is going to carry this flag into the post season.