Tuesday, November 17, 2009

10 Thoughts about Game 19: Edmonton

1. In a strange, strange game where each period had a distinct theme, the Columbus Blue Jackets literally fought the Edmonton Oilers to a draw in the 1st, ruled the second, rallied back in the third and won in the shootout, 3-2, with Jake Voracek putting the CBJ over the top.  Your highlights:

1a. With 2 points from the win, the Jackets jumped ahead of Detroit into 6th place in the Western Conference.

2. Where did all of this truculence come from?  It was like both teams were just itching to pound on someone last night.  Is there bad blood from the last game?  Did Edmonton realize that their smaller, faster lineup wasn't going to get past the big boys in Ohio, so they tried to fight their way out?  Odd, odd stuff.

2a. Blunden-Stortini - Not so good.

2b. Sestito-Strudwick - Much better. The Game Ops staff even got into it, offering a little "Spirit of Radio" by Rush in the background.

3. On the Game Ops front, did anyone notice that Canadian rock bands got some serious airplay last night?  Triumph ("Fight the Good Fight")?  Rush ("Spirit of Radio")?  And these were pretty old songs.  Perhaps Game Ops trying to make our Canadian visitors feel welcome?

4. I still really like Stralman's shot.  (He scored last night.)

4a. On the subject of Stralman, hats off to him and the CBJ management for quick thinking to get Anton's girlfriend, and their children, through immigration.  I'm not sure I would want to get married in my apartment, let alone have CBJ staff as my best man and maid of honor, but you do whatcha gotta do.  (Neat article, too.)

5. Matthieu Garon was solid in net, giving CBJ fans (and players) a wonderful sense of security as Steve Mason goes through his growing pains...and back pains...

5a. Someone Twittered to me last night that Mase's back might be this year's version of the mono situation of 2008-09.  Mase tries to gut it out, can't and goes on the shelf for a while.  Makes sense.  (Wish I could attribute that theory...)

5b. Give Garon massive props for his handling of the shootout.  That performance tells me we have 2 starting quality goaltenders.

5c.  Calder Cup be damned, go with the hot hand and start Garon on Thursday night.  Let Mase heal his body, get some Dave Rook coaching and just relax a little.  This platooning goalie thing could be good for the youngster's development while impressing upon the veteran how much we need him.

6. CBJ TV color guy Bill Davidge was remarkably restrained last night.  Not feeling well?

6a. The imp in me enjoys Bill's periodic needling of Jeff Rimer.  At the conclusion of the game, the mention of Rimer's wedding anniversary was well-meaning and classy.  

6b. Broken record: If Fox Sports Ohio wants to see how to do NHL hockey right, they should watch NESN (Boston Bruins) and Comcast SportsNet Chicago (Blackhawks)...and take copious notes.  

7. Syracuse Cruncher gets 4:58 of ice time and 5 minutes of penalties...and Hitch says, "Tommy played well tonight.  I was happy with Tommy."  Ummm...what gives?  He was OK in limited action, but not comment-worthy.

8. Antoine Vermette was a great acquisition by Scott Howson.  He's a great center - a playmaker, a scorer and a tough guy who can play Hitch hockey.  And he got a goal last night as well!  

9. Filatov.  Woo boy.  Not sure what to say about this one.  I thought it seemed odd that Tommy Sestito got the call-up from Syracuse without a precipitating injury to a CBJ player (Torres, maybe, but....), even going as far as to start thinking along the lines of trading Filatov.  (That was not well received.)  Regardless, this rough patch has apparently turned ugly and will require some shrewd thinking by Howson.

9a. First, we need to establish that the CBJ own Filly's NHL rights through 2012.  That means if he wants to play in the NHL any time soon, and he has said so, it'll be because the CBJ got what they wanted.

9b. Second, we need to consider that he's potentially going back to play in the KHL for a team in Moscow.  (They have like 23 teams in Moscow, so I don't care what the name is.)  That means that Moscow has more to do for a 19-year-old than Syracuse, and that the KHL is filling an equivalent role to the AHL for Filatov's pre-NHL hockey development purposes.

9c. Howson has to look at this situation as it is.  Hitch clearly doesn't like Filatov's play, age, deodorant, or something else.   The kid isn't playing Hitch hockey like Hitch wants.  So he won't get playing time in Columbus, but Filatov won't play in Syracuse.  What to do?  Risk sending Filatov to the KHL and maybe never seeing him again?  (With no formal agreements between the KHL and NHL, Filatov could just sign a big - and tax-free - contract in Russia and ignore his NHL contract.  It won't get him to the NHL but could scratch his hockey itch quite well.)  It's not like he hasn't been approached before.  Jeesh - scary stuff for a GM who used a top draft pick on the kid.

9d. Considering the bad fit for Filatov in the world of Hitch-hockey, and considering that Hitchcock doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon, I suggest that it is worth exploring the possibility of giving Filatov the Gilbert Brule treatment and let him get a fresh start with another team while stockpiling with more conducive talent or draft picks before losing him - potentially forever - to the KHL.  Might scoring-scarce Boston be willing to part with one or both of the draft picks from the Phil Kessel trade to Toronto, for example?

9e. To be clear, Hitch and Howson have been largely on the same page regarding talent acquisition for the CBJ.  This is one of the only times where we really have a case of square pegs and round holes.  Let's not make a mountain out of a molehill and suggest that there are deep divisions in the Columbus Blue Jackets hierarchy, but let's also hope that the two gentlemen make the Filatov experiment a learning lesson for how they need to stay on the same page.  

9f. Still, who wouldn't pay a couple of bucks to be a fly on the wall when those two are talking about Filatov?  

10.  I really liked how the defense played last night.  They bent a little bit but pretty much dismantled the Edmonton fast break, forcing Edmonton to play their game.  That's powerful stuff.  

Next up: The big road trip starts in Dallas on Thursday night.  The Stars have quietly put together a decent season, currently sitting in the 8th slot in the Western Conference - only 2 points behind the Jackets.  Should be a good one.  

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