Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mason for Mayor?

Steve Mason earned his second straight shut out in a 2-0 road victory in Los Angeles. Kris Russell's second goal of the season was enough for the win as Mason stopped all 24 shots. Rick Nash added an empty netter to ice the game. With Mason playing so well the rumors about Lecalire getting traded at the trade deadline are already surfacing. I am not ready to trade Leclaire given the position is so important and subject to injury. The Jackets will also need to do some confdence rebuilding for Pacal who showed last year that he can be a solid goalie at the NHL level.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Yep, you read right. This matchup was the early feature (read: free) game on Yahoo Sports this week. An interesting experience to see another struggling team (Islanders) playing a better team (Sabres). A classic scenario that is all too familiar to Columbus fans: the team carries the play through large stretches yet does not convert scoring chances. The Islanders seemed on pace to again squander a solid effort from MacDonald who had several great saves, including a magnificent kick save on a wide-open Vanek opportunity from inside the face-off circle. Ryan Miller was his solid self, but the Islanders imply failed to cash in opportunities that they earned through hard work. Sounds sickenly familiar, eh? However the story has an unexpected ending: the Islanders pull the goalie during a late power play to gain a two-man advantage. The trick pays off as they score. With two seconds left, Campoli wrists one top-shelf to send the game to overtime.

Love the anti-shootout comment by New York play-by-play man Howie Rose at the end of overtime. "After a vigouros game of hockey, it's time for Homerun Derby!" Miller stones the Islanders in the shootout, but New York escpaes with a point.


Note to Safari and Firefox users: if you try to watch games at Yahoo and find the player stalls, then be sure to click the small link under the video box that says "Optimize your Hockey Night video experience here." Much better! After that small adjustment, the video worked great. If only the CBC site would stream better for me, I'd be thrilled.


Luckily the Jackets did not follow the Islanders formula this night as they convincingly beat the Flyers 3-0 in Columbus. Despite their lackluster play as of late including that ugly shutout loss to Los Angeles, luckily they continue to play well at home. Goals by Hejda, Murray and Malhotra power a shuout by super rookie Mason, who earns another shutout (his third) by stopping all 20 Philadelpia shots. Best crowd of the season (18,402).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Coal in the Stocking

Bad news for Derick Brassard. His shoulder injury will cause him to miss the remainder of the season. Leading all rookies in scoring and shaping up to be a good story, the Jackets rookie will now be a bystander. Tough break as the Jackets had a nice core developing with rookies Brassard and Mason playing well. Couple this news with Chimera's extended stay on the IR and the Christmas stocking is filled with only coal. Rusty Klesla was activated to take Brassard's place on the roster.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Big Win Against Sharks

R.J. Umberger scored in overtime to defeat the San Jose Sharks at Nationwide Arena. The goal was a beautifully run 2-on-1 as Umberger got nicely fed by Kristian Huselius. Steve Mason solidified his status as one of the top young NHL goalies, stopping 46 of 47 shots from a very tough opponent. Mason kept the Jackets in the game while being constantly peppered with shots. Michael Peca had the other goal for Columbus, a nice wrister from the faceoff circle.

A big win against a good opponent that showed a focused Columbus team can play with anyone... as long as the goalie stands on his head. As always, more scoring is needed but the defense is playing solidly in front of their rising rookie.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Up and Down

The team is once again battling uneven play. The tough 2-1 shoot out win at home against rival Nashville will go for naught without a follow-up win against the Islanders. If they really want to be considered a rising team, they need to beat teams like the lowly Uniondalers. Hard to imagine that truly great players like Trottier, Bossy, Potvin and Smith were a part of the franchise given its current condition.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Tough Week Ends with a Perfect Win

Yesterday Ken Hitchcock was thankful for a complete victory by the Jackets on home ice against the Capitals. In front of a big crowd, Rick Nash had two goals and rookie goalie Steve Mason earned his second shutout in the last two weeks. It's always a tough task keeping down both star Semen and superstar Ovechkin, and Mason was up to the task, turning away all 26 shots by Washington. Mike Commodore keeps paying dividends as a signed free agent this year. He almost always leads the team in ice time and, more importantly, he brings the veteran leadership that the team needs at the blue line.

The game was important for a few reasons. First, Thanksgiving weekend against a good opponent provided a large crowd. Not a lot of large crowds in Columbus these days for the Blue Jackets, so it was great to see the team play well for them (or is that, in part, because of them?) The years of poor play have worn down the Columbus faithful, so it is heartening to see a good crowd get rewarded. The victory was also important after the heart-breaking way the team lost their last two games (Detroit and Phoenix) by late errors. Lastly the team has shown that they can win without Pascal Leclaire. Mason has played well enough to push into the goalie rotation. Leclaire deserves to play again, but Norrena might be working elsewhere soon enough.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Expected Win over Atlanta

If the Jackets expect to be playoff contenders, they need to expect to win games against teams like the foundering Thrashers. Nash led as he is paid to do, scoring the first goal and assisting on Umberger's empty netter that clinched the game. A good team defensive effort against Atlanta, who only mustered 15 shots on goal for the entire game.

Steve Mason earned his first shutout while spelling Leclaire, who needed some relief after the blistering in Edmonton earlier in the week. Recap of that game: Oilers crush the Jackets then leave town. Turnabout being fair play, the Jackets did teh same to Atlanta. Civil War buffs: insert your own (Ohioan) Sherman marches to Atlanta joke here. I apologize to the Shelby Foote estate for even invoking such a joke.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Mason for Mayor

Perhaps I have gotten caught up in the political season with the headline, but after wins against Edmonton, Montreal and Calgary rookie Steve Mason has made more than a few fans in Columbus. Saturday night's clash against the Flames was the kind of solid all-around game that Hitchcock is seeking to coax out of his young team every night. 12 of 18 Blue Jackets had a +1 or better rating. Brassard and Chimera keep playing like world-beaters and Malhotra's energy has been a godsend. History tells us this roll will end, but it's fun while it lasts. Hard to believe stat: Columbus is 16-12-1 all-time against the Flames.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Malhotra’s goal gives Mason win in Jackets debut

With Star goalie Pascal Leclaire on IR and Norrena hurting his groin during thw morning skate, Steve Mason got a chance to show us his stuff. He made some solid saves, but he looked like what he is: a good prospect not ready for full time work just yet.
With 1:09 left in the third period Manny Malhotra knocked in a rebound giving Mason a win in his NHL debut and leading Columbus to a 5-4 victory over the Edmonton.

It was gratifying to see hard-working Torres play so well against his old team. It was his shot that Malhotra, another Oiler alum, poked in for the game-winner.

Goals: Malhotra, Kristian Huselius, Derek Brassard, R.J. Umberger and Fredrik Modin. Mike Commodore, Jake Voracek, Rick Nash and Torres each had two assists. After not scoring in his first 9 games as a Jacket, Umberger has 4 goals in the last 3 games.

“At the stoppage of play I looked up and saw there was 1:09 on the board and that was probably the longest 1:09 of my life.” - Steve Mason

Monday, October 27, 2008

Leclaire on IR

Goalie Pascal Leclaire was placed on injured reserve with a sprained ankle. He is expected to miss at least a week. Vital to the hopes of making the playoffs, it is better to be conservative on bringing him back. It's always rough to lose your stopper, but at least Columbus was able to activate Jared Boll. Norrena's ability, or lack thereof, to carry the team will be critical. This stretch will be a good (albeit unwanted) test of the backup goaltender.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Offense Lacking

Looks like the offense needs a shot in the arm to get itself going. In consecutive game losses to the Rangers and Wild, the Jackets managed to tally only one goal in each game. Zherdev had his best game as a Ranger in his first game against his old team, scoring two goals and an assist.

Line tinkering season is upon us. Umberger was dropped to third line and Malhotra was paired with Nash and Huselius to seee if they could create a spark. Nash's potential game-tieing goal was disallowed due to touching with a high stick. The video review by replay seemed too close to overturn in my opinion. Earlier Backstron stopped Nash on a breakaway. The team's leader needs to break out of his unlucky streak as no one else has stepped up aside from Chimera and Huselius. Last night Leclaire sprained an ankle in the second period and was replaced by Norrena.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Solid Effort

Simply put, the Jackets outplayed the Canucks and won the game. I describe it this way because similar games against Vancouver have the tendency to go their way because of Roberto Luongo. In the game Leclaire bettered the opposing goalie and let the offense carry the day. Back after missing one game with a hand injury, it is clear that a healthy Leclaire is the most important part of attempt to make the playoffs.

Misc: Goals - Chimera, Huselius (power play), Dorsett and Nash. Malhotra made his first on ice appearance of the regular season because Modin was placed on the injured list.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Big Home Opening Win

The game was an early important game. First, early wins helps fan interest after the years of losing. Second, it was Nashville. The Predators owned the Jackets last year, winning all games against Columbus, and gaining early confidence against a prime rival is key for a good start.

The play went according to a dream script: goals from Nash (2), Chimera and rookies Jake Voracek and Nikita Filatov. Leclaire did leave the game with a "bruised thumb." He is doubtful for Saturday's re-match in Nashville.

Misc: Two power play goals (Nash, Chimera). Tyutin led in ice time (25:48). The league office cut Peca's 10 game suspension to 5. Before the game, the Blue Jackets raised to the rafters a banner with the name of team founder and principal owner John H. McConnell, who died last spring.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Filatov Gets His Chance

Tough forward Jared Boll was placed on injured reservebecause of a head injury and Nikita Filatov was recalled from AHL's Syracuse. Boll is expected to be sidelined seven to 10 days. Apparently Boll has been injured since his fight with Barch in Dallas on opening night. The 18 year old Filatov, this year's first round pick and No. 6 overall, scored each of the first two games at Syracuse.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Coyotes 3 Jackets1

I expected a let down and got one. Columbus committed an unbelievable 8 penalties in the first period to hand Phoenix two power play goals. brassard scores on a power play early in the seond period, but Nash missed on two breakaways to seal their fate.

The NHL explained the game misconduct penalty that seemed mysterious during the season opener. Peca was suspended indefinitely for making contact with the referee when pleading his case about the apparent tripping peanlty that was missed by the officials. I admit to not seeing it during the broadcast and the Dallas anouncers seemed as surprised as I was. The Jackets need his leadership and solid defensive play so hopefully the suspension will not be too long.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Jackets Win Opener in Dallas
The Blue Jackets earned their first ever road win on a season opener by beating Dallas in overtime 5-4 via a Rick Nash 45' blast from the off-wing. The game had a strange but entertaining ocean wave feel ot it. There were times when the Blue Jackets clearly outplayed the Stars and then there was the second period. In that brutal period dallas looked like they were wearing rocket-powered skates and the jackets are wearing anvils on their backs. Outshot 15-2 in the period, Leclaire the only reason why they were down by 2 goals and not 10. It was discouraging to say the least.

Whatever Hitchcock said in the lockerroom worked as the third period mostly went the Blue Jackets way. Goals by Huselius, Murray and Brassard allin a five minute span seemingly put the game away. However with 3 minutes left a bank shot off of a defenseman then off of Richards shin pad somehow found the net. That fluke was followed by a more standard goal (though Leclaire seemingly did not see the shot with traffic in front of him) less than 30 seconds later allowed Dallas to tie. turco made a couple of great saves late, sliding across to stop a Chmera one-timer comes to mind.

In overtime Turco again looked like he was going to singlehandedly keep Dallas in the game, make three spectacular saves from uncovered player right in front of the goal. Nash and Umberger looked like a tough pairing for Dallas during the 4-on-4 session. Chimera's drop pass to Nash then beautifully placed top shelf shot from beyond the top of the circle put it away.

Many players played well. Brassard (+2) and Chimera (+3) looked solid throughout the game and Russell (+2) was solid at the blue line. An exciting opener tto watch. Hopefully the team can get some rest before tomorrow night's game in Phoenix.

Goals: Voracek, Huseius, Murray, Brassard, and Nash.

NHL Gamecenter is in its free weekend. Delays logging in caused me to miss the first period. I understand they will be swamped by demand during this free weekend, but I still was not happy missing game play. Live scores weren't updating regularly and my flat panel isn't big enough to see the play-by-play area so I turned all the "extras" off: the weird "lights" feature, live score & clock, live scoreboard, and play-by-play. As far as I can tell "lights" only changes the background of the informational areas. Handy for someone I guess. It was nice to be able to shift from game to game (when bandwidth was cooperating). it was not good for the live game scores feature to lag and not present correct scores. A decent start but I am not sure that I will drop the sale price of $150 down when they offer only "selected" playoff games. Only in Bettman logic has a season pass not covering the whole season.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Drop of the Puck

A few thoughts as the Jackets' season begins tonight.

I was surprised when the Blue Jackets left Nikita Filatov, the No. 6 pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, off the roster and shipped him to Syracuse of the AHL. I realize the position is one of the few slots of strength (with Nash, Picard, Murray and Modin), but the rookie looks to have star potential. I don't imagine we will have to wait long to see him in Ohio. Bummer to see Malhotra injured again. Injuries to Manny and Torres out of the gate change the feel of the team. At Dallas for the opener will be a tough matchup. I will be trying the free preview of NHL Gamecenter, the league's Internet push for the year. At $150 for the season it is tempting though I wasn't too happy to see the addition of "selected" playoff games.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

On Season's Cusp, Torres Injured

Veteran free agent signee Raffi Torres separated his shoulder during a fight in his first game back from knee surgery early this year. I was looking forward to seeing the potential monster grinding line of Torres and Jared Boll around center Michael Peca, but we'll have to wait for that line. With luck and quick healing, Torres will miss 15 games. Not an auspicious start to the year for someone seeking to bounce back after a serious injury.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Expected

Plain and simple, Pascal Leclaire is the basis of the team's future. Correspondingly, the Jackets signed their goalie to a three year contract. They had to do it, and they did. Nice how that worked out. If only the rest of the team could fall into place so easily...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sealing the Deal

Howson closed three deals this week that should show fans that he means business: re-signing veteran center Michael Peca, inking the expected deal with R.J. Umberger and extending Coach Hitchcock through the 2012 season.

After trading for Umberger, it was apparent that a deal would get done with the possible restricted free agent. Howson would have been ridden out of town if he had not signed Umberger after trading away players for his rights. The Canadian Press reported that Umberger received a 4 year, $15 million contract. A hard-nosed player who can provide some scoring, Umberger will be a fun player to watch assuming he stays out of the path of Brian Campbell. Go to YouTube and search for Umberger if you don't know what I mean. Yikes...

Last season Peca provided leadership, good faceoff skills and steady defensive play. Despite the decline in his offensive numbers, Peca was a valuable signing as he often had tough defensive assignments.

Hitchcock had the team playing well for much of the season and, despite a late season swoon, the team ended the year with its best record to date: 80 points and 34-36-12. Hopefully he can push them into the playoffs so we can finally never again read "Columbus: the only NHL team to never make the playoffs."

Friday, July 04, 2008

Getting Defensive

A flurry of activity has shaken up the Jackets roster and seen a young exciting player, Nikolai Zherdev, get traded. The moves demonstrate Howson's determination to bolster the team's blue line and build around rising star goalie Pascal Leclaire.

The trade: Blue Jackets send Nikolai Zherdev and center Dan Fritsche to the New York Rangers for defensemen Christian Backman and Fedor Tyutin. Though Zherdev, the biggest name in the deal, does lack defensive skills, he was exciting on the ice and possessed that old Denis Savard knack of instantly creating a spectacular play, though without Savard's consistent conversion of those plays into goals. The Rangers will be thrilled if they get 50% of Savard performance out of Zherdev. Fritsche, a native Ohioan, was a tough but low-scoring center. Hopefully he can flourish with the right players around him. Good luck to Nikolai and Danny.

Tyutin is a defenseman with good puck-handling skills who should find a home on the power play. At 6'4", Backman will provide needed size on the blue line. Add the signing of defenseman Mike Commodore, who stands at 6'5" and brings a Stanley Cup winner's experience, and the defense looks much improved. Well, super-sized anyway.

On Tuesday, the Jackets obtained winger Raffi Torres from Edmonton for former #1 (6th overall) pick Gilbert Brule. Torres adds another physically tough veteran who has playoff experience, going to the finals when an Oiler. It should be noted that Torres is coming off an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his right knee. Brule never made a splash in Columbus, but hopefully he will find success back home in Edmonton.

Next Howson signed Kristian Huselius $19 million contract over four years. Last season Huselius had 25 goals and 66 points in 81 games for the Calgary Flames. After a season in the dog house of head dog Mike Keenan, we will have to wait-and-see how he fares under coach Hitchcock. Possessing excellent passing and stick-handling skills, he will have to play defense as well as score.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Blue Jackets Gamble at Draft

Nikita Filatov, a left winger from Russia, was taken sixth overall by Columbus. Quick, shifty with a scorer's touch, Filatov's size (6'0" 170 pounds) is the only question about his NHL potential. Highly regarded by scouts, Filatov has said that he wants to play in the NHL, an important point considering there is no player transfer agreement with the IIHF.

GM Howson traded the team's 19th overall and third round draft picks for possible restricted free agent winger R.J. Umberger. A former Oho State Buckeye, Umberger just completed his best season as a pro, scoring 50 points and playing well in the playoffs for the Flyers.

Undoubtedly a solid player, Howson gambles as he needs to sign Umberger before his free agent status begins July 1. One would hope that we will hear an announcement about a contract in the coming week. The Jackets have cap space and need to act aggressively to improve the team this summer. Howson has made two risky moves. Let's hope his gamble proves golden.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Freefall at Season's End

Perhaps during the off-season the improvement of the team will be appreciated. However right now the Jackets have lost four of five games and injuries abound. Despite being 34-34-12 they are tied with Phoenix for the fifth worst record in the league. A home-and-home series with St. Louis on Saturday and Sunday will mercifully end the season.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Final Nail?

A disappointing 4-1 loss to Detroit in Columbus just may be the final nail in the coffin of the season for the Blue Jackets. Detroit outplayed the Jackets en route to their 50th win of the season. Nash scored early in the third period after two first period power play goals had the Wings up 2-0. Hasek outperforms Norrena on this night though he only faced 12 shots for the whole game. Detroit has moved their game up a notch in preparation for the playoffs, and that notch is one level higher than the Blue Jackets can play.

With Fritche, Boll and Russell out, the team looked tired and outmatched. They sorely miss Foote's leadership and blue-line play. It has been a long season and Nashville comes to town on Tuesday. It would be a morale booster to shut down the Predators, their chief nemesis, and hurt Nashville's playoff chances. Looks like spoiler is the final role for the team this year.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Tease

The Jackets win another home game. This time Norrena gets a shutout and Manny Malhotra scores two goals to power the team to an impressive 3-0 win in Calgary. The anticipated battle lived up to (Columbus) expectations and further clouded the playoff picture. Tempers flared at a few points due in no small part to a slash to the back of the knee of Boll in the last game. Late in the third period Boll and Craig Conroy squared off and the guys really pounded each other. Norrena was again in goal for a concussed Leclaire, and again he came up big. On Sunday he made 43 saves en route to a 4-3 win against Detroit.

With the team now seven points out of the last playoff spot, playoff chances are slim. The tease is seeing them play so spiritedly at season's end. It is clear now that the long lull after the all star break was the season-killer. Certainly I hope they can slip into the playoffs, but given the number of teams to pass that reality is unlikely. How big was that loss last week to Chicago? They cannot afford such indiscretions again.

Monday, March 10, 2008


These days when Tampa Bay comes to town, you should expect a win. The Blue Jackets played a hard-nosed game on home ice and put away a game Lightning squad. Hard to dismiss a team with St. Louis and Lecavalier, but the former league champs are a shadow of their former selves. Two third period goals clinched the game and Novotny sealed the deal with an empty netter.

No crowing over this victory. With only 60 points, Tampa Bay staggers to the end of the season, hoping for a good draft pick. The Jackets hover just above the good draft slot and just below playoff level. Like all fans I see the utility of a high pick. However I do not like seeing the guys not try and, to their credit, they have not given up.

Misc: The Jackets finally got the monkey off their back by scoring a power play goal. Vyborny and Chimera had PP goals. Klesla was +4 for the game. The team needs one point to tie their franchise best of 74.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Another Tough Loss to the Oilers

The Blue Jackets lost in overtime 2-1 to Edmonton. Another exciting game with Columbus looking great at times. The Jackets end the game out-shooting 31-17.

The life of a pro example #236. Dan Fritche runs the gamut from hero to goat game in a few minutes. First, he scores the tying goal with one second left in the game to force overtime. Two minutes into the extra period, he turns over the puck in the Jackets zone and Cogliano sneaks a 5 hole shot past Leclaire.

The Jackets horrid streak on the power play continues. The team has not scored in its last 30 tries. Edmonton went 1-2 on the power play.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Calgary 1 Columbus 0

Exciting game on the road against Calgary. Battle of the goalies: Leclaire versus Kiprusoff. Weak blocker side goal on a broken play gives the Flames the first goal of the game, netted early in the third period. Kippy played spectacularly, capping off the night by stoning Hainsey right in front of the net with just a minute left to cap a great evening. More scoring chances for Columbus than Calgary, but the one goal stood up. Hard not to like the Flames and their hard-nosed style.

Hard not to like Andrew Murray: a hard-playing scrapper with good energy. Murray, Chimera, Fritche and Boll make it a chore to play the Jackets.

The league worrying abut scoring should have seen this game: spirited and physical play. No goals did not mean a dull game. But what do I know? I just like hockey. Why cater to me?

The Jackets have now gone 0-26 in 8 games on the power play. You won't win many games on the road with that stat.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Big Road Win in Vancouver

The Blue Jackets capped a late rally to beat the Canucks 3-2 on an overtime winner by Jason Chimera. Dick Tarnstrom had two assists as third period goals by Andrew Murray and Rick Nash forced overtime. Leclaire out-duels Luongo in an exciting game that looked grim after two periods as the Jackets were down 2-0.

With Foote's departure, we are seeing Jan Hejda step into the role of blue line stalwart. Howson's gambit to bank on his mix at defense makes it vital to get steady play and big minutes for the 30 year old Czech. He seems up to the task for now. Seeing Kris Russell take a step up next season is as vital as the need for Hejda to rise. Both turns upward are conditions precedent to the Jackets making that push into the playoff ranks.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Seller Once More

The trade of Sergei Federov did not surprise or even hurt. Chalk up his signing to a chance to see if he had gas in the tank. He didn't. Hopefully he can pace himself through the end of the season and make a difference in the playoffs. I like Sergei and it is not his fault that he is past his prime. At the peak of his powers Federov was a top-notch player who struck fear into defenses. He had excellent hands and was a center of good size (6'2") who was a scoring force... just not in Columbus.

The surrender flag was officially raised when Howson traded Adam Foote to his former championship team, the Colorado Avalanche. Foote was the best defender on a seemingly improving defensive team. He logged 25+ minutes on a typical night and was a player of high character on and off the ice. Good luck, Adam. Thanks for the professional attitude and for giving the team (indeed the city) a chance.

The team made a legitimate run at the playoffs and looked very good during stretches. Hitchcock and Howson deserve credit for the improvement. With Foote gone and veterans like Peca unsigned after this season, the future is unclear. With many teams above them in the playoff hunt, the deal perhaps makes sense. However no one can argue that the Jackets are better today than yesterday.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Up and Down and Up Again

With the trade deadline looming just two days away, the Jackets have strung together two victories to push the team to within five points of a playoff berth. This victory comes on the back of a 3-2 shootout win over Ottawa and an inexplicable 3-1 loss to an equally erratic Toronto squad.

Despite going up and down, this latest victory was an impressive one: a 3-0 win over the Canadiens in Montreal. Pascal Leclaire, the non- All Star, eanred yet another shutout (his 10th). Nash, Murray and Malhotra provided the goals.


The Canadiens started the night with a celebration honoring their GM Bob Gainey’s remarkable playing career. Gainey was a stalwart on the 1980s Montreal teams that had great success.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Helter Skelter

So which team will it be tonight? The Bad Jackets, losers of 6 of 7 and skidding during a playoff run, or the Good Jackets? Well tonight it was the latter as the team pummeled the Detroit Red Wings 5-1. To add to the shock of that final score is that the game was in Detroit. A road win in Detroit? Hardly imaginable considering the protracted slump that had gripped the Blue Jackets.

Buyers or sellers? What will Howson do as the trade deadline nears? Keep Foote, add a player and try to get into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history? Or will he try to fleece a team looking to advance deep into the playoffs who could use a tough veteran front-liner like Michael Peca or a top notch blue line stalwart like Foote? It's a tough call, but that's why they pay him the big bucks. I know that the Columbus fans hunger to see a playoff game. At the same time is it in the best long-term interest of the team to keep Foote when his contract will expire at season's end?

I imagine Toronto fans are thinking the same things about their star Mats Sundin. Hard to imagine either team going far into the playoffs. Sundin's lack of interest to move and the failure of the Maple Leafs to move up in the standings might remove their problem, but Howson's conundrum remains.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Jackets Flounder After Break

The pre-All Star run momentum crashed and died over the extended weekend. The Jackets drop four out of five and look to be lost at times. I have been ill with a bad flu so I have missed several games. With the team playing so poorly I guess it is a good time to miss games.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Good Ending to First Half

Ken Hitchcock could not have drawn up a better eding to the season's first half; two hard-fought road wins: a 4-2 victory over Dallas and last night's 1-0 victory in Chicago. Pascal Leclaire, the famous non-all star who leads the league in shut outs, earned his 8th of the season by stopping all 30 shots from a game Chicago team making Jared Boll's redirection second period goal hold up. Khabibulin was spectacular at times, keeping Chicago in the contest with some outstanding saves. Not to be out-done, Leclaire had a few great cross-crease saves, especially a sprawling skate save late in the third period. The Blackhawks have some scary quick young players. It will be good for the league to see a rejuvenated Chicago franchise in the next few years.

The team is playing hard in all phases of the game. Remarkably the penalty killing unit has climbed to #2 in the league. Solid play from veterans has inspired the young guys to raise their game up a level or two. One cannot underestimate the influence of veteran additions like Michael Peca or Jan Hejda in the off-season. With Foote's contract ending after this season, the improved play of the team is the only hedge they have in trying to keep him here. A game after seeing Kris Russell notch his first two NHL goals, it is imperative to keep Foote and let the defense solidify under his proven veteran leadership.

- - -

Listened to Bettman's radio show via podcast the other day. Strange that they leave long periods of silence in the podcast, but not as strange as using as the theme song one that was used for a movie about a male gigolo.

Friday, January 18, 2008


I was at a Winking Lizard with friends. Just letting you know where I was when I saw Rick Nash's goal to beat Phoenix 4-3 for the road win. The goal was that good. Simply a jaw-dropping play that will be on Nash's career highlight reel forever. I loved how Gare just kept laughing as they talked about the goal in the post-game show.

The Goal capped a night that had the Jackets take a lead only to see the Coyotes come back and tie. In fact the last Phoenix goal came on a power play after a high sticking penalty on Nash. Zherdev earlier had given the Jackets a 3-2 lead with his own highlight reel goal. Hitchcock said it best at the post-game interview: "Our two best players did what we needed them to do. They scored goals." Two goals and an assist for Nash and a goal and an assist for Zherdev.

Leclaire got the win, but Tellqvist outplayed him, making spectacular saves early in the game to keep Columbus off the scoreboard.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Home Cooking

The Blue Jackets won their sixth home game in a row and third overall. If only Hitchcock could get the boys to play the same on the road, he would have something cooking. Hainsey (power play), Zherdev (power play) and Chimera had the goals for Columbus. Former Jacket Kris Beech (recently waived by Howson) had one for Vancouver. The victory pushes Columbus into a tie with St. Louis, though the Blues had two games in hand.

In the matchup of top goalies, Leclaire outdueled Luongo. Perhaps it is just me, but I still find it hard to understand how a goalie who is leading the league in shutouts and is second is goals against does not make the all-star team. Hard to overcome the negative stereotype of the hapless Blue Jackets I guess. Only Rick Nash has managed to escape the cloud. Zherdev's play deserves recognition as well.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Shoot Out Win Against Nashville

Fun game to watch with spans of domination by each team. Late give-and-go goal by Klesla from Zherdev tied the game. Leclaire stones Nashville in the shootout for the win. First shot goal by Zherdev proves to be the game-winner.

Plenty of opportunities, but either the goalies came up big or the shooters misfired. Symptomatic of the spell that Nashville has over the Jackets: in the second period the Jackets have a 3-on-1 and Zherdev has the puck. The goalie is set up and Nick goes too high when aiming for top shelf glove-side. The puck careens to Nashville and they convert (interestingly perhaps only to me: Radaulov goes top shelf glove-side against Leclaire).

Signs of assimilation to our culture: mastery of the language. Tollefson replying to Danny Gare's question about how it feels to be on the injured list: "It sucks to be out."
Columbus 6 St. Louis 4

A solid home ice victory earned by a third period in which the Jackets scored three goals. Zherdev had two goals including a power play goal and one on a breakaway after a beautiful long pass by Vyborny. Foote and Vyborny had three assists each.

The victory pulled Columbus within 3 points of second place (and final playoff slot team) St. Louis. Success against divisional opponents will be key in the unlikely drive to a playoff berth. Big game Saturday at home against their nemesis Nashville.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


6-1 losses on the road happen, but that reality does not make it any easier to digest. A lone goal by Nash is sandwiched by a spate of goals by the Blues. Very interesting stat in the storm: Foote and Hejda each were +1 on the game. Everyone else... well not so good. Problems on defense you say? Correct you are.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Jackets 4 Kings 3

I finally got a chance to see this one from tape (well, from hard drive but you know what I mean). A solid road victory for the scrappy Blue Jackets. I have to give the Kings some credit for playing hard and laying some hard hits. Despite its top players being silent, the muckers earned this victory for Columbus. Michael Peca had two goals, Boll and Hejda had two assists each and Lindstrom had a goal and an assist. It was great to see Boll and Chimera grind out those two goals and Federov getting a classic Sergie snapper from teh slot off a quick pass by Lindstrom.

Despite all of this hard work, it came down to goalies. Simply put, Norrena had to make more saves than opponent and he did. The Kings swarmed at times but could never grab a lead because Norrena made the big stops when it was crunch time.

Where would the Jackets be without Jan Hejda? Wow, he has been a great addition to the team. A solid blue-liner who has made a real difference. Give GM Howson some credit for giving a two year deal last summer to this young defenseman.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Ending the Year in Style

On New Year's Eve Columbus beats Edmonton 4-2 in Ohio. Rick Nash finishes off 2007 with a hat trick and the Jackets close the year after winning three of four. Jan Novotny and Nickolai Zherdev continue their strong play.

Some new year's resolutions for 2008. Fewer injuries: Michael Peca and Manny Malhotra begin the year on the injured reserve list, newly tonsil-less Gil Brule is still not back and David Vyborny (he of the Ranger rumors) left last night's game with a groin injury. Finishing games: I would love to see the Blue Jackets finish off opponents in the third period, especially on the road. More scoring: getting a hat trick on New Year's Eve hopefully will propel Rick into a streak. Zherdev has been playing spiritedly so if they both can finish off opportunities then the offense will get the needed jolt.

Happy 2008.