Friday, February 27, 2009

Big Win in Edmonton

After being handled by the Flames earlier in the week, the Jackets stared at a trip to play the Oilers with two losses in a row on their minds. With so few games left, the team needed to turn it around. Fast. They used the yeoman's work from rookie Steve Mason in goal and earned a tough 1-0 win. A hard fought game with some spectacular saes by both goalies. I can still see that sliding pad-stack save across the crease by Roloson. The game definitely had a playoff atmosphere.

The game's lone goal came from that unfamiliar scoring combination of Boll and Torres. Boll and Torres? We'll take it! After receiving the one-handed clear by Tyutin, Boll hit Torres with a great cross-ice pass from the right wing boards just iinside of the Columbus defensive zone. Torres, who earlier had a scrap with Strudwick, beat Roloson with a shifty move to slip the puck between the goalie's legs. Great to see Torres be the first star back in Edmonton. If he can hit his stride and stay healthy during the playoff drive, the team's chances should drastically improve.

Misc: Another tight game from the defense as they only allowed 19 shots on Mason. Nice to see Methot rack up the ice time. Hard to dislike the Oilers. They play a tough, entertaining brand of hockey.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

4 /13

The Ducks defeat the Jackets in Columbus and one curious statistic says it all: the Ducks score 4 times on 13 shots. 13 shots for the whole game! And 5 for the last two periods. It's hard to fathom that few shots on goal.. and winning. To make the matter more curious, the league's worst power play scores two goals (Nash and Huseilus). Simply a bad game all around for Columbus against a team in the thick of the race for the playoffs and who now climbs to within 3 points of the Jackets. Big crowd (18,628) goes home disappointed.

The Jackets placed defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen on injured reserve, claimed center Chris Gratton off waivers from Tampa and recalled defenseman Aaron Rome from their AHL affiliate in Syracuse.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Shootout Win in Toronto

Mason versus Pogge in a nice young goalie matchup ends for the Jackets due to a fluke goal during the shootout. Call him clever like Inspector Clouseau, in the shootout Jason Williams tried to deke the young Toronto goalie. A good plan, but Williams fanned on the puck. Luckily for the Jackets, the missed puck went five hole. Regulation goals by the guys who are shaping up as the team money players: Umberger, Nash (also found the net in the shootout) and Huselius.

Two goals from Maple Leaf winger Nik Antropov who was called out by GM Brian Burke last week. Was he trying to impress potential trade deadline suitors in Columbus?
Coasting to a Win

Weird game. A win, but weird and nerve-racking. The Jackets beat the Blues 4-3 in Columbus in a game that saw them jump to a 4-1 lead by dominating play then barely hang on as St. Louis outplayed them in the third period. More relief than joy at the game's end. In the battle of the Masons, Steve outplayed Chris and made a late game-saving stop.

With the four goals the Jackets pulled to 159-161 goals for vs. goals against. For comparison see Detroit: 221-170. 221! The win puts the Blue Jackets six games over .500. The last time they were at such a level? Never before. Yes, it has been a long seven years.

Misc: Goals by Tyutin (power play), Malhotra, Nash and Murray. The Jackets dropped Modin back on the IR. Been a tough year for him given all the injuries. Torres was scratched due to the flu.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Making the Case

The Jackets finished the week with two impressive wins against teams who are in the playoff race: a home 3-2 win against the defending Cup champion Red Wings and an efficient 5-1 road win against Carolina. The team now has won four games in a row and has jumped into the thick of the race for the Western Conference playoff seeding, up to #6. Though Dallas sits at #5 with the same umber of points (61), the four slot belongs to Chicago with 70 points. Anaheim at 7 also has 61 points. And it continues. It is clear that barring any strange occurrences the playoffs will not be set until the season finale. The old agade of "Every game counts" is as appropriate as ever. Eyes off the standings and just play hard hockey.

The team is winning through hard work, outstanding goaltending and dedication to the Hitchcockian plan of defense, defense, defense. A good D and a hot goalie can carry a team that lacks offense like the Blue Jackets. If the team can more efficiently convert its power play chances, it will become a tough team to play. Columbus has one goal all season with a 5-on-3 advantage and is last in the league in power play goal percentage. Detroit has more than double the power play goals scored by the Jackets (65-29). Improvement in this area is a must.

The Columbus faithful have been given a rare treat: a legitimaate run at the playoffs. In the game against Dettroit the Nationwide crowd was the largest ever announced at the arean at 18,802. The team has a long way to go to seal a spot in the post-season, but they have provided a real opportunity for excitement for their more-than-patient fans who crave a home playoff game.

It's been fun, and it has been a while since that feeling was in the arena every night.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Sub's Sub

With a 3-0 win in Columbus, Dan LaCosta earned his first career shutout in his second NHL start to help Columbus complete an unlikely sweep of the season series (4 games) against the Avalanche.

LaCosta was sharp all night and made a clutch stop with seconds remaining to preserve the shutout. It is reported that Mason may be ready later in the week. Hopefully he is fully recovered. With the team playing well, it is not time to rush him back. Let's err on teh side of caution.

Goals: Andrew Murray, Jason Williams and Fredrik Modin. The Blue Jackets have won six of seven. Great to see Chimera increasing ice time (12+ minutes).

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Big Win

Christian Backman scored the game winner against San Jose in the overtime period to give the Jackets a 3-2 home ice win. Yes, Christian Backman! Dan LaCosta got the start in goal after Wade Dubielewicz looked shaky in a 4-1 loss to the Oilers earlier in the week. Nabakov nearly stole this game for San Jose and was his usual tough self. He somehow made a stop while laying belly-down on the ice against Modin in the third period to keep them alive for overtime.

Loved the first Columbus goal, by Jason Williams a neat top shelfer over Nabby's glove hand. Nice pass by Huselius to hit Nash in stride for a goal that put them up 2-0. Backman's unlikely game winner came as he joined in an odd man rush in overtime. teh goal was of the clean up rebound variety, but they all count.

The obligatory Boll-Shelley bout came in the second period. A spirited affair that really was for the fans. Shelly's a good guy so I wish him well in San Jose. However the game was good enough that the seemingly stock fight was not needed to fire anyone up. You would not have seen this scrap in the playoffs.

Misc: Backman was +3 for the game. Mason sat out again in his recovery from mono. Give him the rest he needs. Commodore was out with foo poisoning. Another good crowd at home: 18,144. 9 points separates #5 (Ducks) from last (Blues) in the Western Conference. The Jackets, Wild and Oilers sit in slots 8-10, all with 55 points.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Dose of Reality

Pulling rookie Mason after allowing three Dallas goals in eight shots was the wise move. What remains to be seen is how the rookie handles adversity even if it is one bad game (following a shutout the day before). The team released news that he has been suffering from mono for three to four weeks, but only was diagnosed last week.

Hmm. Rookie goalie carrying the team on his back has mono and they decide to play him in back-to-back games? Sounds a little like they fear the backup. Wade Dubielewicz, Mall Cop? Nope, backup to Mayor Mason. We'll see what he has to offer. I'm missing Leclaire already.

Good news: Today the Jackets reactivated Rusty Klesla from IR.