The idea of tanking this season has been completely removed from my mind. A new coach, a new lease on the year, and a 3-0-0 start. It would be hard to ask more of the Jackets, who have beaten Dallas, Buffalo, and San Jose to bring their record to 25-27-9. With each strong win, they edge closer to the playoff spot, which now sits 8 points ahead of them.
Tonight was a breath of fresh air for me. I attended with an open mind, as Dany Heatley has always been my favourite NHLer. He also plays for one of the more potent offenses in the league, who have been known to dismantle defenses on a nightly basis.
The first period started with a bit of a chess game. It seemed like neither team wanted to make too much of a splash in the offensive one in fear of allowing an odd man rush the other way. That being said, a neat pass by Huselius (who was otherwise worthless tonight) to Nash for a quick tip brought the Jackets ahead 1-0. I would argue that period two was Columbus’ best of the night, although there was no question they were more potent at even strength as opposed to the powerplay. A tremendous pass by Brassard to Voracek, who snuck the puck through the five hole to raise the lead to 2-0.
After that, it seemed as though the Jackets were satisfied and not hungry for more. It was all San Jose for the rest of the second period and most of the third, however, Steve Mason was tremendous, making two or three ridiculous glove saves to preserve the shutout. A hard working goal for Vermette sealed the victory, and got a pretty solid crowd on their feet for the final minute.
While most will talk about beating San Jose tomorrow, I am going to be talking about beating the monkeys. There have been players who are noticeably better without Hitchcock in the dressing room, including Mason (.989 save percentage, 0.33 gaa) and Brassard (0g 2a +3). It has been exciting to watch them play, with the upside I have been shouting for over a year now.
I will be in attendance again on Friday. The Jackets will have yet another heavy test on their hands against Vancouver, and I expect a strong effort from all. I am curious as to whether Garon gets the start considering the game Sunday against Chicago, but time will tell.
Carry the Flag!