Sunday, November 8, 2009

10 Thoughts about Game 16: Carolina

1. Somehow linked to playing one of the worst teams in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets "50 Minute Men" made a reprise reverse...last night, offering roughly 10 minutes of inspired play and still beating the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2.Your highlights:

1a. The win catapulted the Jackets back into first place in the NHL Western Conference's Central Division with 20 points. It's only a 2-point lead over Chicago, who plays the Kings on Monday night, so there's a likelihood that the CBJ will slip back out of contention.

1c. Despite their performance, I'm glad that Carolina came to town as I love their jerseys.

2. Steve Mason kept the Jackets in the game while the rest of the team decided whether to play last night. He stopped 24 of 26 and made at least one highlight reel save which was, fittingly, the Fox Sports Ohio-designated "Save of the Night." Mason credits his improved play to spending more time with goaltending coach Dave Rook (always a good thing to work with your coach) and CBJ goalie Mathieu Garon, and the practice is showing. I think it's safe to say that he's shaken off the slump that was evident in the second West Coast swing.

2a. Mase even got an assist on the Boll goal.  I love it when goalies get really know the machine is humming on all parts of the ice!

3. With only 7:26 of ice time to his name - though it sure seemed like more, Nikita Filatov got the CBJ's first score of the night and his second of the season.  Playing fourth line minutes with fourth line talent doesn't give you the best opportunity to shine, but Filatov is pushing through and getting noticed.  He won't ever be the Nash-like power forward that Ken Hitchcock clearly covets (going back to Mike Modano in Dallas), but he has the tools and spunk to be a goal-scoring step up from Kristian Huselius in the not-too-distant future.

4. Speaking of, did anyone really feel the absence of Huselius from the roster last night?  As in, "But for the Huselius injury, the game would have gone in a totally different direction?"  I didn't.  And Juice is worth $5 million against the CBJ's already-restricted salary cap.

4a.  If I was Scott Howson, I'd see if Hitchcock could push Filatov along a little more aggressively and market Juice as trade bait.  The CBJ could get some impressive talent at $5 million per year, talent that might be of bigger utility to playing Hitch-hockey.

4b. Is Freddy Modin planning on coming back?  Any time this season, perhaps?  And do the CBJ want him to come back?

5. On the subject of coming back, Mike Commodore returned after recovering sufficiently from what has to be the worst charley horse in human history.  At 14:26 of ice time, 3 shots and a -1 rating, he appears to have done OK for a recovery/rehab game.

5a. When I hear the term, "charley horse," I still think of a calf cramp caused by lack of potassium.  A banana or two fixed it in about an hour.  Clearly, Commie had something different, but I can't help but think, "Just eat a banana and get back on the ice!"

5b. Happy birthday, Mike.  It was your 30th yesterday, and your being one of the "older players" on the roster reinforced how old I really am.

5c. Mike's interviews on Fox Sports Ohio last night reinforce my thinking that that the man should have a job in the booth when he gets out.  Plain-spoken, clear-spoken and kinda fun to listen to.  You just want to hang out with Commie after listening to him.

6. Continuing the "Who is this person and what have you done with Jared Boll?" theme, last night spotlighted the "Boll the Sniper" persona (as opposed to the "Boll the Feared Pugilist" persona of the other night).  Taking a feeder pass from Stralman (via Mason), Boll skated virtually untouched down the ring, did a couple dekes that I'm still trying to master on NHL 10, and top-shelfed against the Carolina backup goalie.  Dang.  If he can do that consistently, put that man on the shootout crew!

7. In the DBJ  media critic section, let's start by giving the fine folks at Fox Sports Ohio a hearty applause for playing with their format and using a throwaway game (Carolina isn't setting the world on fire) to try out some different approaches to their broadcast.  I will never criticize those who say, "Why not?" and attempt to innovate.  You never know when something great will happen as a result.  We got some hits and misses, which I will catalog below:

7a. The opening of the "All Access" game broadcast put a camera in the locker room and followed the team out onto the ice.  It used an innovative angle to show the team taking the ice and gave the viewers the feeling of emotional investment through the entire sequence.  I LOVED IT and hope that this becomes a staple of all Blue Jackets broadcasts.

7b. The behind the scenes looks at the broadcast trailer and the booth shots were novelty, to be sure, but good for only one such display per season.

7c. If you're going to mike up a player, make sure you use more of his live commentary than, "Let's go, boys!"   one hundred times.

7d. The in-game interviews with Ken Hitchcock at the conclusion of the intermissions were gold.    Keep it if you can.

7e. The behind the scenes look at the game ops?  See my take from 7b.

7f. This is a philosophical discussion, so bear with me.  There appears to be two basic schools of thought on how to broadcast a sporting event.  One school suggests that one should broadcast it as a journalistic endeavor, reporting objectively on what happens on the ice and throughout the game.  The Columbus Dispatch takes that approach in their writing, for example, and the major broadcast networks do, too, in their tv broadcasts of sports of all types.  The other school of thought is that the broadcast is promotion of the event as entertainment, which reduces the journalism and plays up the glitz and glamour.  Both are reasonable arguments.  The "All Access" game clearly emphasized the latter over the former.  The problem was, the devastating Cam Ward injury warranted a shift on the fly to the journalistic mode.  Fox Sports should have had a camera following Ward down the tunnel to the locker room and on the ambulance pulling out of Nationwide.  They should have inserted a Cam Ward question into every interview of the night (in this case, making sure to interview Carolina players and coaches as well as CBJ'ers).  This was one of the biggest stories in the NHL last night, and Fox Sports was interviewing the organ player.

8. Anton Stralman is in a quiet groove, getting his 15:11 of ice time, grabbing an assist and not making a showing performance.  Is this a European thing - the quietly efficient, professional hockey outing?  Anyway, I miss seeing his authoritative control of the point and the slap shots on the power play.  But that's nit-picking...I'm just glad he's on the roster.

9. You can't talk about the game and not discuss the Cam Ward injury.

9a. I feel horrible for the guy - the injury might knock him out of the Olympics and - more importantly for his employer - keep the Hurricanes far away from viability for quite a while.  He's a talented goaltender regardless of his team's record, and he should be on the ice.

9b. The Rick Nash skate cutting his leg (knee?) was a fluke.  A really, really unfortunate fluke.  But as Mase mentioned, Ward doesn't wear knee guards under his big leg blockers.
Ward is one of the goaltenders who doesn't wear knee protectors under his padding, Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason said.
"We have the option to wear them, and he chooses not to," Mason said. "You hope everything is OK and it's not too serious, but there was a lot of blood. That's a pretty scary situation and it could happen to anybody, but that's why I wear the knee pads, and (Mathieu Garon) wears the knee pads."
Might want to rethink that, Cam.

9c. I've already mentioned how Fox Sports Ohio fell down on covering this, but it's a big enough point that I'll mention it one more time.

9d. Kudos to Twitterer "derdrache" for being the first to mention that Ward was being taken away in an ambulance.  You scooped the "real media" - a hard thing to do when the Dispatch does such a great job in covering the CBJ.

9e. I'm not sure I've ever seen so much blood on the ice, nor have I ever seen it take so long to get all of that blood off the ice.  That hockey, it can be a dangerous sport...

10.  This was a classic game in the "Only we can beat ourselves" mode.  The Hurricanes really didn't play that well.  The Jackets played to their level for 40-50 minutes and used the 3-minute, 3-goal spurt to push themselves over the top.  They won't get away with this type of play every night, so enjoy it while you can, guys.

Next up, a heavily wounded Red Wings club comes to Masonwide on Wednesday.  (Here's hoping Jason Williams gets better soon.  He was good to us as a Blue Jacket.)  Should be an interesting challenge - to see if the CBJ can play with some snarl against the team that swept them from last year's playoffs.

(Action images from Yahoo! NHL, Commodore image from SBNation)

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