Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Committing to Reality

The day after the Blue Jackets defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit squad in an exciting overtime game, I cannot help but feel tempted to forgo the present and think about the unknowable future. Isn't that like a paranoid fan? What brought this notion?

The 12 year contract signed by Red Wing star Henrik Zetterberg today is worth a cool $73 million deal. I look at Zetterberg and see a excellent player who is clearly a star that deserves the money Detroit was willing to give him. I also look at Zetterberg in comparison to Rick Nash, and I would rather Nash. Yes, Nash got a hat trick yesterday, but this evaluation is not just about one game. With the specter of a contract year next year, it begs the question of whether Jacket management can afford to keep their popular star. With a group of young rising stars (Mason, Huselius, Brassard), will the team be hard-pressed by salary demands? Today it seems unthinkable that they would allow Nash to leave, but the fan speculates about the future, the next game or next season.

The Jackets beat the Red Wings. Good. Baby steps, Dr. Marvin.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

All Star Break for Mason

After the major snub of not picking the league leader in goals-against and shutouts for the main event, the team has wisely decided to rest their young goalie and hold Steve Mason out of the Young Stars game scheduled for All Star weekend. It's hard to understand the logic behind criticism of this decision since the team announced this week that Pascal Leclaire is out for the rest of the season after ankle surgery. It appears to be sound judgment to rest the rookie goalie who is now forced to carry the team for the rest of the year given that he has had some back issues in the first half.

Last week the Jackets picked up goalie Wade Dubielewicz off waivers. With the backup now a cast-off from the New York Islanders, I think Mason should enjoy the All Star game from his couch. He has earned the rest.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Good Week

Even a tough 2-1 loss at home to the Devils on Friday cannot color this week in a poor way. The team is playing solidly in all phases of the game. The cynic in me worries that the fade that began last year around this time will happen again, but we'll see what Hitchcock has up his sleeve. Riding a hot goalie can be fun, as we saw last year with a healthy Pascal in net. Young Mason has been fun to watch for Columbus fans hungry for a playoff appearance.

Another good crowd saw the controversial loss to New Jersey, almost 18000 fans were at Nationwide. I won't rehash the Madden goal, but for those who missed it: Mason had the puck covered for a few seconds, the puck eased out and after the net was dislodged the puck was pushed in by the scrappy Devil (I can't hate Madden; he plays hockey the right way: scrappy, intelligent and hard).

Earlier in the week the Jackets had a very impressive victory against Colorado, winning 4-3 via three third period goals. Huselius has shaken off his concussion by now and led the Nash-less team with three points. Do not dismiss this mini-run and solid play by Michael Peca as coincidental. The veteran has been terrific this season. Jared Boll and Manny Malhotra have recently earned more ice time and been solid as well. Torres is back and once he rounds into shape it should be a welcome jolt of energy. I cannot wait until Chimera comes back. Exciting times in Columbus for once.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hat Trick

At Nationwide Arena, Nikita Filatov scored his first NHL hat trick to power the Blue Jackets to a 4-2 win over Minnesota. Filatov is back with the Jackets after representing Russia at the world junior championships, and his scoring punch is needed with their top scorer Nash out. Voracek had three assists and Peca added another two. Derek Dorsett added a third period goal. Mason was again solid in goal facing only 23 shots.

The Jackets have won seven of their last eight home games. Count me as one who is dying for Jason Chimera's return. His explosiveness had him on course to make this year his break-through season. Hopefully he'll return in the next week or two. Good crowd on a wintry night (16605).

This week brought shutout scores of 3-0: a loss and a win. Both games were against good teams, Detroit and Washington. While the Jackets scored enough against the capitals, it was clear that Mason won the game. Facing 45 shots from the talented Capitals' squad, the rookie fought off back pain that nearly kept him out of the game. Talk about whether it is the system or the goalie (see Puck Daddy's article on this argument) cannot ignore that the rookie's skills are high, as are those of the injured Leclaire.

Hindered by injuries all season, the Jackets are in a tough spot. They need to give Leclaire reps to get his game back on track and increase his possible value. They also need to pursue every victory possible as the playoffs seems to be in reach. I think Howson sees that making the playoffs is not optional at this point. In a down market the long-suffering Columbus faithful need a shot in the arm.


Shame on the NHL for ignoring the cross-check to Huselius' face and subsequent concussion. Reviewing the hit, the player took strides and raised his stick. Not a hockey move, the play had the intent to injure. One can only wonder why the league punishes comments about girlfriends with suspensions and then allow head shots to go unpunished. A horrible precedent to set that leaves one wondering what the reaction would have been if the victim had been a star (i.e. Ovechkin). Count me as one who feels the talk of banning fighting should be far lower on the long list of the things the NHL should focus on. Players using the stick to inflict head injuries should be at the top. Sorry, perhaps third on the list behind punishing free speech and propping up franchises in non-hockey markets.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ugly Loss in St. Louis

The Blues blistered the Columbus penalty killing unit, scoring four goals with the man advantage, and added a short-handed goal en route to a 5-2 win in St. Louis. After a long stretch of dominant play, Mason looked a bit shaky on a few goals. Klesla made a great play in the first period to save a goal. A shot squeezed through Mason and was slowly sliding in when Klesla flicked the puck as it was partially across the goal line. The young netminder may be a bit tired after this road trip, but the Jackets should be thrilled with the overall play from the rookie. A tough loss since the Blues have played so poorly this season. Goals by Comodore and Modin. Nash assisted on both goals. Boll is day-to-day with an upper body injury and did not play. Howson recalled winger Maksim Mayorov from AHL Syracuse on Saturday.

We'll see what the league does to Blues forward David Backes who cross-checked Huselius in the face leading to a brawl and later a game misconduct for Backes. Tyutin drew a game misconduct when he instigated a fight with Backes.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


Steve Mason allows an opening period goal then the Blue Jackets make like their opponents and avalanche the Avalanche, burying them 6-1 in a rare road barrage of goals. Goals by Huselius (2), Nash (who also had 3 assists), Commodore, Voracek and Umberger. Nash's goal came on a penalty shot as he went low glove side. The Sakic-less Avs are a ghost of their former champion selves (insert your own snow blower joke here; I cannot do it since I can sympathize with poor Joe - a classy hockey guy who deserved a better final season). Playing in St. Louis tonight should be seen as a must-win. If the new year will bring playoffs, they need to beat teams like the injury-ravaged Blues.

I was tempted to title this entry "Mason Allows Goal, Sent To Minors," but I figured the idiot reporting methods out there would not bother to read the text below noting the joke. After 199 minutes, 19 seconds Mason finally allowed a goal breaking his shutout game streak at three.