Monthly Archives: March 2009

What is Left for the Jackets?

Posted by Canadan82 on March 31, 2009
Team Discussion / 3 Comments

I felt that I should give myself a day after that weekend home and home sweep at the hands of St Louis.  I do not know if I can truly project my disappointment towards their ineptitude in regards to beating St Louis or at least retaining their comfortable position in the standings, so we will get started here and see where it goes.

First off, regarding the games…  The were disappointing.  They could not capitalize on a St Louis team skating on their heels in game one, and foolish mistakes by Huselius and Williams in the shootout likely cost them that point.  Moving on to Sunday, the effort was clearly not there from the opening draw.  With horrible mistakes defensively leading to countless turnovers, odd man rushes, and breakaways, Mason was hung out to dry and given no real chance to have a competitive game himself, which he did not.
But the point here is as flat and simple as it gets.  Win enough to get in the playoffs, or deal with a truly unsatisfied, angry, and upset fan base that will inevitably feel like they were violated.  Columbus is now expected to make the post-season.  They are no longer playoff underdogs.  Prior to the week, their statistical lead from 9th place was enough to have a multitude of media outlets suggest that it was a sealed deal.  Was that their mistake?  Of course not.  They were playing great hockey, winning games while staring adversity in the face, and proving their worth.
Hard to say the same thing about this weekend.
I am ready to expect a strong effort in their next six games.  I do not expect them to win them all, but if I am forced to witness another lackluster effort, this blog will be a lot more hostile towards them.  I have personally been called a homer, and a prude regarding the teams I favor heavily.  This year, I have been told that my negativity towards the team is frustrating and confusing.  I have been told to lighten up and enjoy what the team is doing.  Well, it is at this point I sit back and remind myself why I was upset they squandered those points.  It reminds me why I was so angry they lost 7-2 to Edmonton months ago.  It was me carrying the flag then, and it is me telling you to do the same now..
So Jackets fans… Carry the Flag!

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Nation-wow Arena..

Posted by Canadan82 on March 27, 2009
Game Discussion / 3 Comments

It is hard to collect all my thoughts on a game that ended so well for the Jackets.  While I think they could not have done any better on the scoresheet, I still think there are some serious issues with either the team of the league referees.

But let’s start without the conspiracy.  After squandering a free game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Jackets came out like a powerhouse last night, scoring two goals in the first and never looking back.  They controlled many aspects of the game, most notably the faceoff circle.  The final faceoff total was 44 to 24 in favor of the Jackets, with Antoine Vermette winning 20 draws and only losing 6.  That kind of statistic is extremely valuable to a team, because gaining possession off the draw can lead to a lot of opportunity.
The second thing I want to point out is the powerplay.  They went 2 for 5, and scored a goal two seconds after a penalty expired, so I am comfortable suggesting that their powerplay scored or caused 3 of their 5 goals.  That is 60%.  That is 47% better than their current average over the span of this year.  It certainly gives the fans an idea of what a game looks like when their hometown team knows what to do with the puck.  I am ready to couple that with the efficiency of  the top line tonight as well, which is my final point.
Huselius had 4 assists.  For a guy who has been under my gun for the last month on account of turnovers and terrible passes, I think it is time to give him a game or two break from my bad books.  Having a hand in four of five goals is a very big deal, and I am ready to give him plenty of credit for last night’s game.  The same can be said (and expected anymore) from our captain Rick Nash.  Also getting 4 asssists last night, Nash has now eclipsed his previous point record of 69.  Steve Mason continues to impress with his league leading 10th shutout of the year, and is building his case for rookie of the year.
I will only briefly touch on this supposed conspiracy.  For the last few games, I have kept an eye on the officiating, and it truly does seem as though Columbus has been getting the shorter end of the straw.  It started with the horrible call on Jared Boll for diving against the Blackhawks, and continued into last night with calls that seemed to favor Calgary each time.  While I do not believe it is fair, it is what the Jackets will have to continue to overcome if they want to make the playoffs and beyond.  They will need to understand that some teams are simply given more respect by the officiating crew.
Expect my standings update soon.   Columbus now stands 6 points ahead of 9th place, and the Jackets can not look back!
Carry the Flag!

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TB Game Recap

Posted by Canadan82 on March 24, 2009
Game Discussion / 1 Comment

There was a lot to be impressed about with tonight’s game in Tampa Bay.  There was also a lot that I need to discuss to negate all the good, so bear with me, because I am seriously displeased.

First, the good….
The Jackets badly outshot the Lightning, and dominated most of the game.  Their offensive presence was strong, and their passing seemed to be good when the correct players were on the ice.  It was evident that their attention to Hitch after two periods of play was high, as I am assuming he told them to take more shots, and they absolutely came out firing in the third period, getting almost 10 shots in the first 4 minutes.
Unfortunately, that is all the good I can muster.
Now, the bad….
First off, let’s get right to the thick of it.  Coaching.  I have a few examples, so again bear with me, as Hitchcock is clearly a fan favorite in Columbus.  He is simply putting the wrong players on the ice at the wrong time.  Huselius had an absolutely horrific game, failing on pass after pass, and putting very little effort into his game, and yet he found himself out on both the powerplay, AND the overtime.  Same goes for Tyutin, who spent the entire overtime on the ice, which spanned around three minutes.  That is simply not strong coaching.
Secondly, I have a bone to pick with one of our ‘best’ players.  Huselius was considered a highly sought after scorer when we picked him up, and he has done nothing but let me down this year.  He is playing with easily one of the most dynamic players in the league, and yet somehow he has been lackluster and lazy on the ice.  His turnover ratio is getting more than absurd, and his attitude on the ice makes it seem like he is simply going through the motions.
Bottom line here, is that games are not one by individuals, they are won by an entire team working as a cohesive unit.  Bombing on the powerplay, and watching top players cough up the puck time and time again without any sort of repercussion can only work against the production of this unit.  I would like to see some accountability by line one after tonight.  I want to see Hitch call them out and call himself out by suggesting that no one really brought their appropriate game tonight.  Sure, they dominated for most of the game, but does that really benefit the result?  No, it absolutely does not.
Their next game is at home on Thursday against a big team.  I am ready to see a rejuvenated team, and I hope you are as well fans!
Carry the Flag.

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Carrying the Flag into this Weekend..

Posted by Canadan82 on March 20, 2009
Player Injuries / 1 Comment

It looks as though Howson has made a ruling on center Derick Brassard, who had surgery in late 2008.  While the center is recovering famously, playing him before May is extremely unlikely, which would basically put him out until the second round of the playoffs.

Now personally, I am not much of an advocate of bringing anyone back unless they are more than healed, but in this case, I might be able to bite my tongue.  Because they are not pushing to get him back, maybe the May timetable is completely reasonable.  Regardless, Brassard is not being rushed, and that is a very good thing.
This weekend the Jackets play the Florida Panthers, who are fighting for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.  Both with similar styles, the game will certainly draw interest from the attending crowd.  A win would bring Columbus within two points of Chicago, who fell to the 5th spot last night for the first time in probably a couple months.
One other point of interest I would like to get out there is their away record.  While the Jackets have had tremendous success at home this year, their record away remains below .500 at 14-17-4.  I think winning 5 of their last 6 away games would be a serious statement for the team heading into the post season, and I do not think it is all that hard to do.
Their final away games are against Florida, Tampa Bay, St Louis(2), Nashville, and Chicago.  Interesting how 4 of those six are against division rivals, and winning them would definitely put the dagger in the heart of any divisional team trying to get past them in the standings.  Here is hoping they treat the next 11 games as though they are all playoffs games.
Carry the Flag!

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Winning With a “B’ Game

Posted by Canadan82 on March 19, 2009
Game Discussion / 2 Comments

While the Jackets have been boasting a tremendous 7-3-0 record over their last ten games, it does not really provide a good explanation of how they got there.  The game against the Chicago Blackhawks last night is fairly indicative of their windy road.

It kind of read like this, and I am bulleting only because of the randomness…
  • Quick weak goal on Mason..
  • Line 1a gets a great tip to tie..
  • Crazy ricochet off the boards from a Methot point shot buried by Dorsett for the 2-1 lead..
  • Blown coverage leads to a nice goal by Kane..
  • Period ends.
  • Hedja falls asleep while Toews capitalizes for the 3-2 lead..
  • Nash scores on a lazy wrister that beats a lazier Huet…
  • Period ends.
  • Refs fail miserably calling Boll for getting tripped by a stick..
  • Refs fail miserably to the point of 15,000 people booing every time the powerplay (aka Chicago) touches the puck..
  • Klesla gets called for being physical..
  • Period ends.
Now, I can not really say I sat throughout the game quietly appreciating the lackluster effort by the officials, and I chose a few words that got a snicker from the small peanut gallery that happened to be in the vicinity.  What I saw tonight though, was resilience that was deeply rooted in an entire fan bases distaste for what they saw being done to their hometown team.
Moving past that, the Jackets were able to score ugly goals (which is a rarity) and they finished the game with a heads up 2 on 1 that was completed by Vermette, who some are calling the savior of the Jackets.  I like to call him my diamond in the rough.
Three very quick points… The Jackets outhit the Hawks 28-18.  They also outshot them, but only by one.  Finally, the ‘power line’ of Nash-Malhotra-Huselius were the only Jackets in the negative in terms of +/-…..  Makes you wonder why there is no discussion about splitting that pairing up and letting some of the younger guys get a crack at playing with Nash.
Oh, and did I mention the Jackets now have the same number of wins as the Hawks?  And also that they only sit 4 points back?  Hitting the 80 point mark ties a franchise record and there are still 11 games remaining on the schedule.
Carry the Flag!

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Standings Update.. March 17th

Posted by Canadan82 on March 17, 2009
Standings / No Comments

It is that time again, after a dramatic week of hockey and a dominant performance from the Blue Jackets.  Time to see where they stand with only a small number of games remaining in the season on this fine St. Patrick’s Day afternoon…
The Jackets remain in 6th place, with 3 points separating them from 7th place Nashville, and 3 points separating them from 5th place Vancouver.  Now, based on the week they had, optimism would have hoped for a better result, however, Nashville and Vancouver are both playing strong hockey, and will likely remain above the red bar by years end.  Both have 7-2-1 records in their last ten games, which is only slightly better than Columbus’ 6-4-0.
But let’s make it interesting.  Chicago was considered practically untouchable in the early stages of the season, remaining unquestionably in 4th only because of how well Detroit has played.  But now on a 3-6-1 slide, and a game against Columbus the coming weekend, the Jackets have a chance to really gain some ground to try and finish second in the division.  This could be huge for not only the teams optimism, but the fans as well.
Finally, the random tidbit.  St Louis has also been on a tear recently(7-3-0), and are currently making a strong bid for the post season as well.  Could this be the first time in Columbus’ history not only they make the playoffs, but their entire division makes it?  It would certainly make for some interesting articles and discussion from the round tables, and one very rival filled post season in the West.
Carry the Flag (and wear green)!

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Unfamiliar Territory..

Posted by Canadan82 on March 16, 2009
Team Discussion / 3 Comments

There are a couple of things I would like to discuss today considering the Jackets past week.

First, I would like to put a bit of perspective on what they accomplished, to assure that fans do not take to heart the 4-0 beating yesterday.  They beat some of the best teams in the league in Boston and Detroit, and punished the Blackhawks and Penguins for not preparing themselves.  They took 8 of 10 points in a week that basically spelled potential disaster towards their playoff hopes, and it will most definitely go into the local record books as one of the best weeks in their history.
Now, to my second point of optimism..  The last time they played this dominant, it was rebounded with three or four very poor efforts, which leads me to believe they got over confident in their abilities and did not show up for games.  I would like to think that the embarrassing effort against the Red Wings yesterday will be enough to make sure they do not take their next opponent lightly.
Finally, the last wishy washy ‘love my team’ point.  They have already become the best Jackets team on paper, with their overall record.  Everything they do from here is rewriting their statistical best, and if they are the team I think they are, it will be rewritten a couple times within the next 2-3 years.  They are now playing for the fans, not for the expectations from management, because they have already gone above and beyond what most thought they would this year.
With only two games this week, against an always potent Chicago, and a playoff contending Florida, the points will again come at a price.  The Jackets will need to stay focused on a number (hopefully one in the 90s) and aim for it prior to the year ending.  Expect a standings update very soon!
Carry the Flag!

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Rounding Out the Week..

Posted by Canadan82 on March 15, 2009
Game Discussion / 1 Comment

Tonight, the Jackets finish one of their biggest statement weeks of the year against the Detroit Red Wings, who they beat 8-2 last weekend.  Confidence will not be of short order, as both teams are coming off wins.

That being said, the Jackets had better acknowledge what they did to Detroit last weekend rarely ever happens to them, and they will most likely take offense to the drubbing.  Hitchcock has stated that Mason will make the start tonight, and there are some mistakes to point out.
Aaron Rome is scratched in favour of Christian Backman, who is arguably one of the worst defenders to suit up for the Jackets.  Backman is the cause of many turnovers, and for whatever reason, Hitchcock likes to put him on the ice during pressure situations.  With a team like Detroit playing in town, there are four lines that will take advantage of a defensive breakdown when the opportunity is there.
Andrew Murray is replacing Derek Dorsett in the lineup.  Murray is a neutral player who rarely adds anything to the lineup, but usually takes nothing away.  When you think about depth, Murray is the last guy you think of, and by taking out a guy like Dorsett, who plays with an edge, you have to consider it digression.
There is also the potential for Jiri Novotny to replace Chris Gratton in the lineup.  Consider this the trifecta of things I would most certainly not do against a team like Detroit.  Hopefully these players are not a huge detriment on the ice, but it certainly does not provoke optimism in this fan.
Carry the Flag!

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Jackets Avoid Upset..

Posted by Canadan82 on March 13, 2009
Game Discussion / 2 Comments

For two periods of play tonight, the Blue Jackets continued their unstoppable play.  Consistent with their effort against both Detroit and Boston, Columbus came out of the gate with the desire to win, and gained a three goal advantage.

I must give credit to Marc-Andre Fleury, who made some of the best saves I have seen all year, specifically his glove save on a driving Umberger who claimed a rebound and tried to push it home.  Not only did the entire crowd expect the goal (including me, who sat on my couch not-so quietly screaming to go to the war room) to count, the players on the ice could not believe what they had just witnessed.
While three goal advantages are exciting, they do not allow for any error, and teams who obtain them can not sit back and give away any momentum.  Unfortunately, a goal was scored on the man advantage, giving Pittsburgh and their fans (I can not believe how many Pens fans acquired tickets) back into the game.  Two bad mistakes later – ahem Commodore and Novotny – found Columbus tied and going into overtime.
Before I go any further, I have to talk about Mason’s answer to Fleury’s incredible save.  A solid pass across the slot was one timed towards the goal late in the game, and again much to the surprise of the crowd, it was saved, this time by Mason.  It was one of those saves you never really expect your goalie to make, but seeing it getting saved makes you jump out of your chair.
Overime was rather relaxed, with few great chances, and the shootout was not all that special, although I would like to credit Huselius for scoring the goal I did not think he could, and kudos to Mason for saving all three shots he faced.  Hopefully what was said in the dressing room during the post game will remind the boys that giving up on a game with a big lead in the “new” NHL rarely bodes well for anyone.
Some quick notes…
  • Vermette scored his first goal as a Blue Jacket, and his 10th goal of the season.  He also got an assist on the Williams goal, which was one of the better plays of the game
  • The Jackets are 3-0 with Vermette in uniform
  • They have tied their franchise best in wins at 35, and expect to shatter that record before the season ends
  • Mark Methot suffered a blow to the head during the game, and a concussion has not been ruled out
  • The crowd was also a record at 19,167 aka 105.7% full
Carry the Flag!

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Welcome Back Klesla

Posted by Canadan82 on March 11, 2009
Roster Talk / 4 Comments

A familiar face returned to the Jackets lineup recently. Marred by injury this season, Rusty Klesla is finally off IR and making a difference on the ice. I personally was on the train that pegged Klesla as good deadline trade bait, but it is time for me to digress and appreciate his talent.

While the Columbus defensive corps are full of promise and potential, there is always room for a player like Klesla, who has the size advantage, and a lot of the time a hockey sense advantage over many of the other d-men on our depth chart. With Tollefson on IR with an injury, the need for physicality will be filled perfectly by either Mark Methot or Rusty Klesla, which leads me to wonder.. Who are the odd ones out?

I would be fairly comfortable in assuming Commodore and Hejda will be safe on the roster for the remainder of the season. Both are playing strong defensive games, and have been known to step it up against the opposition’s best lines. Tyutin and Russell are staples on the powerplay, and seem to have earned their spot on Hitchcock’s depth chart.

That leaves a recovering Klesla, injured Tollefson, Christian Backman, Aaron Rome, and Mark Methot in limbo. Based on any kind of consistency, Klesla will outplay every one of them, (unless something unexplainable happened to his abilities) and OKT will be recovering, which would leave the remaining four players competing for a single roster spot. Now, the fact that Hitch has had the common sense to sit Backman through multiple games gives me some confidence. I know his contract is robust for what he can (and clearly can not) do on the ice, which leads me to believe that when push comes to shove, the position will not go to him.

The concern I have is whether or not Hitchcock will be willing to sit Aaron Rome. He would have to clear waivers to return to Syracuse, and from what I have heard and read, the organization really likes what he can do, meaning that Methot will flat out have to be brilliant to obtain a position that in reality should be his.

What are your thoughts Jackets fans? Will Rome take the spot by default, or will Mehtot get a fair crack at the roster down the stretch?

Carry the Flag!

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