Thursday, December 27, 2007

Part of the Plan

Two games demonstrate this season for the Blue Jackets: a beautiful 2-0 victory over Atlanta followed by a 4-3 loss to Nashville. The team shows the hard-checking ferocity one night then get outplayed by their bitter rival. Nashville has their number, it is clear.

To watch the team scramble in fear of Heatley and play every shift with importance was fabulous television. I reveled in seeing Chimera and Boll provide the only goals and Leclaire claim his 7th shut out. The commentators groaned about following such a gritty game with a trip to Nashville the next day. They were prescient.

Two third period Predator goals carried them to victory. The Jackets seemed tired and could not hold off the pesky Nashville squad on their home ice. Mason outplayed Norrena as Leclaire was wisely held out from playing back-to-back nights. With the unbalanced schedule, the Jackets cannot improve unless they start winning games against Nashville. It is simple as that.

Nashville has now beaten the Jackets 112 games in a row. 12! Goals by Beech (power play), Vyborny (power play) and Novotny. Nash was out again due to his throat problem.

Dan Fogelberg RIP.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Nashville 3 Columbus 1

Another game given away late by defensive breakdowns. Two goals in the last minute gives away at least one point to chief rival Nashville. Norrena stops 29 of 31 shots and they still lose. The bottom line is that they simply are not getting enough production. Coach Ken Hitchock speaking about offense: "We're not generating enough to give ourselves a chance to win." Amen.

How can the team win when their third leaing scorer has 17 points in 35 games? Evne worse is the fact that this -6 +/- player is the formerly formidable Sergei Federov. Injuries have slowed David Vyborny, but that does not explain 10 points in 28 games. Is the answer that the increased defensive responsibility imposed by Hitchcock has shown the weakness of the players? Simply not enough good two-way hockey players are on the roster and that fact is even more annoying considering that the goalies have a combined goals against average of 2.12 that ranks them 4th in the league.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Playing through a funk

After losing two games in a row, the Blue Jackets suck it up and defeat the Kings in Columbus 2-1. Zherdev gets his reward (goal and an assist on Novotny's second period goal) for his spirited play as of late. It was nice to see the team play hard through the third period, getting 15 shots on goal in the final period. Troubling to see the Kings get 7 power play attempts though they only had one goal with the man-advantage; Columbus went 0-2. Norrena started in goal as Leclaire should be held back until his hamstring is completely healthy. During his start against Calgary Lecalire looked a bit shaky in the 3-1 loss. Why rush him back? It's along season.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Strong Like Boll - Blue Jackets 4 Avalanche 1

Great energy game from the Jackets in Columbus. The fans were revved up in a game against a team that has some excellent players but not as much depth as one would like. Good early spirited shifts from the team (even Shelley had a few nice shifts). Good to see the defense give Smith a run after a laate poke at Norrena. In general the Blue Jackets took the body, especially Boll. A big welcome back to Novotny and Malhotra. What a difference their presence makes. In the first period Dan Fritsche mucked the puck off the boards and set up Manny for 1-0 lead.

Zherdev was playing on a different plane than everyone else. He and linemates need to step up and finish off the deal, but it is good to see him playing hard. In the second Boll blasted one low glove-side to regain the lead. Good to see his hard work rewarded. His shot was the first one in second period for Columbus - it took 11 minutes to get. Wow.

A huge save by Norrena near the end of a penalty kill at the end of the 2nd period after a late penalty on Hainsey. The Jackets look tired, but they got out of the period leading 2-1. That Smith-Stasny line looks electric at times.

Beautiful big Beech goal! He hustled after the puck then beat Theodore with a sweet backhand, assist to Novotny. At the end of the game a Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon-like half-ice looping backhand empty-netter for Federov.

Not many shots on goal this game: only 16 for each team. The teams went a combined 0-5 on the power play. Colorado won the faceoff battle 27-18. Norrena was very solid in goal against not many shots, clearly outplaying Theodore.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Giguere the Difference

A hard fought 4-3 overtime win for the Ducks in Columbus was a tough loss. Anaheim goalie Giguere made the big saves in the third period to send the game into overtime. That toe save on Zherdev's leaping shot was a killer. Later a penalty in the overtime period led to Chris Pronger's game-winner.

This one was hard to swallow as at times the Jackets played great hockey. Zherdev was flying all over the ice and played his best game of the season. Scoring a goal and assisting on Beech's goal, Zherdev was impossible not to watch - he was the best player on the ice or either team. If we see that kind of effort every night, then the team will succeed. Anaheim showed why they were champions lat year - good goaltending, solid checking and tough defensemen.

Columbus out shot (35-28) and won the faceoff battle (35-23), but they gave up three power play goals. In the third period the Ducks got a power play goal when Peca broke his stick while killing a penalty. Near the end of the kill if Peca had his stick there was a chance for an easy clear, but the Ducks were able to capitalize on the unlucky break. Power play effectiveness: Ducks 3-6 and Columbus 2-9. Another Jody special: 5 minute fighting major in 3:18 of ice time.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Another Home Loss

In a game that had several good indicators, the Jackets lost to Minnesota in Columbus. That fact alone should be a sign of a slump since the Wild have not won here in five years. The credit lies with goaltending. As good as Leclaire has been, he was outplayed by Backstrom. Withstanding a third period flurry of shots by Columbus, Backstrom held fast for the road win.

Good things: Zherdev scored in his fourth game in a row and his 11th goal means that he now has more goals than he had in all of last year.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

OT Win in Calgary

Strange game with a good ending. Norrena is tough in goal and Curtis Glencross scores two goals including the game-winner in overtime off a neat pass in front by Beech. Not a bad night for a kid playing with friends and family in the crowd.

The Jackets look like nails after the first period, jumping to a 2-0 lead on goals by Zherdev and Glencross. In mid-second period Nash got hauled down in front of the net and a penalty was called. The station goes to commercial, but when they come back the Flames have a power play: PENALTY ON NASH. Huh? A minute later the game is 2-1. The second ends with the game tied and Calgary looking as good as Columbus did at the end of the first.

Beech gets a goal off the stick of a Calgary defenseman and literally seconds later the game is tied when a shot deflects off of Foote past Norrena. Vicious elbow to Tollefson's head by Nolan draws only a 2 minute penalty. Is this the commitment to protecting players that the league has previously touted?

Columbus wins the faceoff battle 35-28. Good example of why faceoffs matter in the first period. Peca wins a draw in the Calgary zone, Nash nudges it to Zherdev who wrists it by Kiprusoff's shaky looking glove.

Weird night as college football takes center stage. West Virginia loses to Pitt and Oklahoma blasts a Missouri team that looked invincible against Kansas last week. Ohio state seemed out of title contention. Will they now be in the championship game? Somehow it seems likely.

The game was the late game on Hockey Night in Canada. The chippy nature of the game must have made Don Cherry happy (though I expect he was at the Toronto home game for HNIC). If you haven't seen the CBC coverage, do yourself a favor and visit the web site.. When I lived in Buffalo we picked up CBC and HNIC was a weekly treat. Sadly you just don't see such thorough coverage here in the U.S.