Monday, October 26, 2009

10 Thoughts about Game 10: Los Angeles

1. I think I've calmed down enough to offer 10 rational thoughts.  Let's do the quickie recap: After falling behind to the Los Angeles Kings early in the game, the wheels came off the Columbus Blue Jackets toward the end of the first period when Jason Chimera was subjected to his second cheap shot of the season.  They lost, 6-2.  Here are the "highlights":

2. According to Puck-Rakers, three forwards and one defenseman were banged up last night...yet only Marc Methot was out of the lineup that coach Ken Hitchcock fielded for Anaheim.  The television announcers have said on a couple occasions that Methot is fighting the flu.  Thus, the CBJ put their walking wounded into the game.  I learned from what appears to be a reliable source on Twitter that one of the three is captain Rick Nash.  Every team gets dinged during the season, granted, but one wonders if this had a greater impact than we can appreciate.

2a. Anton Stralman may have become another member of the walking wounded when he took a blazing puck off the inside of his knee - an area that we viewers learned has little to no padding.  I can imagine that such a sore knee would hurt mobility and the ability to plant your leg for a shot - two attributes that would be useful for an offensively-minded defenseman.

3. Steve Mason needs to sit.  Readers of this blog know that I've been ambivalent on Mase since he stunk up the San Jose game, but last night's "2 shots - 2 goals" start and then proceeding to let 4 more goals in on 23 shots was just plain bad.

3a. The online game commentary was skewering him for poor positioning and rebound control, and I'll presume that's correct as I'm no master of goalkeeping skills.  Personally, I sense lethargy.  He doesn't seem to be playing with that tinge of fear that puts a spring in the step.

3b. The now-dog-eared book on Mase has everyone looking to shoot glove-side high.  And the shots are getting through.

3c. The new goaltending coach had best start earning  his pay, or this season will take a dive quickly.

3d. Mathieu Garon is not necessarily the answer (fixing the defense is the real answer), but he's good enough to give Mase some time for reflection and fine-tuning.

4. On the bright side, Antoine Vermette nabbed another goal.  Kristian Huselius snuck a power play goal past Jon Quick.  That Voracek-Vermette-Huselius line combination seems to be working real well.  Voracek and Huselius were -1's, and Vermette had a +/- of zero.  Considering the carnage that we witnessed, that's not horrible.

5. Rusty Klesla was the only Blue Jackets with a positive +/- (+1).  Hitch was totally on track when he pointed out that the defense is porous, letting in over 20 goals during the 4-game West Coast swing.

5a.  Psssst - The Penguins are coming to town on Friday night.  You guys think you might tighten up the defense by then?  Could come in handy.

6. The new 4th line of Blunden-Brassard-Filatov didn't have a lot of time on the ice, but they got a few shots off and appeared to be hustling.  Note also that all three had a +/- of zero.  I like this "kids table" approach to maturing the young players, especially if they don't let anything bad - like giving up goals - happen on their watch.

7. This team needs about 5 Jake Voraceks.  Points or no points, his motor never stops running.  He even got 2 minutes in the bin for "elbowing" Drew Doughty in the garbage time after the Chimera hit.

8.  The Fox Sports Ohio coverage has been, in general, lousy.  The sole bright star is rink-side host John Michael, whose professionalism is helping me overlook the loss of Jim Day.  Jeff Rimer is lifeless, Bill Davidge largely can't stop coach-speaking and Ray Crawford tries hard but needs a LOT more seasoning.

8a. The one time that Davidge stepped aside from his repetive cycle of "compete"-"effort"-"toughness"-"high expectations" and stated the obvious - that the Jackets REALLY miss Jan Hejda on defense - Rimer slapped him down. As I said on Twitter, it was like we were in Bizarro World.

8b. Jim Day may have done something to tick off the Jackets, and Danny Gare was a goofball who couldn't run a telestrator, but both guys had a genuinely good time calling games.  When things got exciting, they got really excited.  When things were craptastic, they (politely) said so.  They were the viewer's tour guide through the course of the game.  I get none of that feeling from the current TV announcers, with the exception of John Michael on occasion.  To prove my point, take a look at this clip (and note how Rimer even raised his game in the presence of Gare...):

8c. John Michael has to stop interviewing the opposing players on the Fox Sports Ohio feed.  I couldn't give two craps how the other guys felt.  This is the Jackets' coverage for Fox Sports Ohio watchers, not a nationally-televised game - give us BLUE JACKETS!

8d. On the flip side, what I've heard from the radio team of George Matthews and Bob McElligott has been great.  If the satellite transmission was better synched with the radio, I'd just turn down the tv and listen to those guys. McElligott in particular was an awesome add.

9. Chimera.  Yeah, I waited to write this.  Let's start with the hit itself and discuss.  (And please pardon the LA Kings announcers excuses for Scuderi.  They are, in my estimation, full of crap.)

First, I gather that the hit could potentially be construed as legal under the NHL rules.  If that's the case - that a player can get up-ended on a shot to the knees, skid on his face for a few feet, bend his neck back on itself and stay down in obvious pain - with no penalty to the perpetrator, then the rules need to be changed.  Jason Chimera could have broken his neck, or died, on the ice last night.  I am not exaggerating.  Watch the video or look at these photos and tell me that it couldn't have happened.


9a. Aaron Portzline called for the CBJ to put an enforcer on the roster to curb the rash of cheap shots against the Jackets, something I heartily endorse.  The skill players are sitting ducks out there with noone to put the fear of God into the other team.  A commenter suggested bringing Jon Mirasty up from Syracuse, and that seems like a perfectly acceptable solution, at least in the interim.

9b. It should be noted that R.J. Umberger challenged Scuderi to drop the gloves in the third period.  Scuderi showed himself to be a gutless wonder by refusing to fight.  Kudos to R.J. for attempting to stick up for Chimera.  Derek Dorsett, too, who took advantage of the shift change to confront Scuderi almost immediately after the hit.

9c. I ask, only half-jokingly, "Does the NHL have some perverse deathwish against Jason Chimera?"  Let's not forget that Chimera has already been brutalized once this season.  (No, Mr. Bolanger, we still haven't forgotten that one.)   How many more bone-jarring hits does he have to take for someone in the NHL league office to notice?

9d. I don't understand the "instigator rule", but - again - the ability of a perpetrator to pull crap like that and walk away with no penalty or retaliation on the only enables the cheap shot artist.  The league might want to cut down on fighting to improve it's image, but how does a weekend filled with dirty hits make the league look any better? (And thanks to Puck Daddy for re-looking at the severity of the Chimera hit.  The first analysis did NOT sit well.)

9e. I want to see a fighting policy in the NHL that penalizes the people whose actions lead to and provoke fighting...and one that recognizes necessary on-ice self-policing by not crucifying those defend themselves and their teammates.  Simply put, I want to see rules that embody the spirit of, "I won't be the one to start a fight, but I'll be the one to end a fight."

9f. Let's hope that Jason uses his new position as Blue Jackets delegate to the NHL Players Association board to work constructively on this matter.  He's the perfect guy for the job.  I could see the NHLPA doing a lot of good for the game by addressing cheap shots and fighting.

10. Having watched nearly all of every game so far this season, I think I'm in a position to offer this overarching thought:  With the exception of the San Jose loss, the Blue Jackets have not been beaten by a superior team.  They have beaten themselves through poor execution, sloppy play and loss of composure, but they have the talent to beat just about anyone in the NHL.  The question is whether they have it in them.  For that, I refer to one of my first posts on this blog (I figured that would come in handy...)

Next up, Wednesday night at home against Phoenix.  The team can use a couple days to regroup, heal, calm down, and refocus on the Hitchcock system.  Let's hope they come out ready and firing!

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