Tuesday, December 1, 2009

10 Thoughts about Game 26: St. Louis

1. The Columbus Blue Jackets got off the schneid with an inspired start to the game that was matched by an equally inspirational end to the game against the St. Louis Blues, winning 5-3.

1a. Here are your highlights:

2. First and foremost, let's focus on the extremely positive.  R.J. Umberger, a lunchpail guy for Ken Hitchcock if there ever was one ("R.J., we need you to play center.  R.J., we need you to play wing.  R.J., we need you to tutor the young'uns.  R.J., go sit in the crease and get pounded on."), got a hat trick with seconds remaining in the game. And the hats rained down on a guy who deserves the party like few others:

2a. The Dispatch jumped in with this great montage of interviews and still photos to commemorate the hat trick:

3. Kris Russell, our diminutive, speedy defenseman who signed a 3-year extension and then camped out in the press box for 5 of the last 6 games as a healthy scratch, returned in glorious style.  A shot, a goal, an assist, a +3 rating, and 23:06 time on ice while pushing the puck out of the defensive zone time after time after time.  If that's not a "I deserve to be on the ice" performance, I don't know what is.  And the timing was great, seeing as...

4. Rusty Klesla took what appeared to be a tough but reasonable hit on the ice, apparently heard something pop, screamed loud enough that the tv cameras picked it up, and had to be carried from the ice.  Word is that he has a torn groin muscle and will be out a minimum 4-6 weeks if he doesn't choose to take the surgical repair option - which I presume would require an even longer recovery.

4a. I hate seeing the good guys go down in such excruciating pain.  Rusty's given his all to the Blue Jackets, retooling his game on at least one occasion (the arrival of Ken Hitchcock) for the good of the team.  And the team recognizes his contribution, giving him a contract extension on Day 1 of this season.  He'll get better, for sure, but it still makes you wince when you see one of your true warriors go down so hard.

4b. The Blue Jackets defense is in a tizzy.  Hejda and Commodore are still getting back into game shape after injuries and illness.  Fedor Tyutin has been worked harder than the average plowhorse.  Anton Stralman's picking up Hitch-hockey on the fly, but he's really a sniper as opposed to a stay-at-home type.  Marc Methot is...ummm...trying hard.  And Kris Russell can't stick in the starting lineup for whatever reason.  Klesla, along with Tyutin, were the healthy warhorses this year, and now Klesla is down.  Word is that Matthieu Roy is coming back to Columbus (it was a crying shame that he was sent down in the first place), and it's even possible that Scott Howson may have to make a trade for another d-man.  Let's hope the defensemen can continue to hang tough in this tough season.

5. Derick Brassard might, just might, be picking up this NHL game after all.  Check out this assist on R.J.'s second goal:

5a. By the way, the line of R.J. Umberger, Brassard and Jake Voracek is kicking butt.  And R.J. is on record saying that he's having a great time playing with the two young'uns.  A reincarnation of the Chimera-Brassard, Voracek "goat line" of last season (1 old goat and 2 kids)?

6. Steve Mason did not play a bad game, turning aside 25 of 27 shots.  He wasn't "stand on your head" spectacular, either, which is OK as long as he plays smartly...and good enough for the team to win.

6a. Mase did step his game up when St. Louis pulled their (Chris the mountain man) Mason for an extra shooter at the end of the game.  I don't want to make light of our Mason's performance in that stretch...there were a couple clutch saves there.

6b. Mason won, Mason lost.  (Sorry, I had to!)

7. I'm somewhat numb to the Fox Sports Ohio game broadcasts but need to note that both blog articles and Puck Rakers comments seem to have an uptick in criticism of the broadcast coverage.  To me, Rimer is Rimer, Davidge is Davidge.  John Michael will always be looking up to every interview he has (except Li'l Russ).  It's not the best broadcast team I've seen thus far (by far, especially having had a chance to sample that which other teams enjoy via NHL Center Ice).  It is what it is for this season, however.  Let's hope that FSO and the CBJ make plans for an upgrade next season.  

8. Gosh, it was nice to see Ken Hitchcock get through a postgame press conference without swallowing half of his words.

9. Keith Tkachuck, the noted Jacket-killer?  How'd he do against the Boys in Union Blue?  Nothing other than 11 minutes of ice time and a -1 rating.  No shots, no assists, no goals.  As we like it.

9a.  While nobody smacked T.J. Oshie around (and that is indeed regrettable), the Jackets did limit him to 1 shot, 1 assist and a -1 rating as well during his 20 minutes on the ice.  Ah well, there's always next game.

10.  Let's close out these 10 Thoughts by savoring the team's plus-minus ratings...something we haven't been able to do too often recently:

  • Stralman -1
  • Hejda +2
  • Russell +3
  • Blunden 0
  • Torres +1
  • Brassard +1
  • Umberger +4
  • Huselius -1
  • Commodore +4  (WOW!!)
  • MacKenzie +1
  • Chimera 0
  • Pahlsson 0
  • Boll +1
  • Vermette +2
  • Tyutin 0
  • Nash +2
  • Vorace +1
  • Klesla 0
NEXT UP: Tonight, in Chicago for the Blackhawks home debut of Marian Hossa and the debut of the 'hawks' "Gosh, they look a lot like the Winter Classic sweaters" 3rd jerseys.  Their head coach is going for something like 500 wins.  And, wouldn't you know, it's on Versus - which means that I can't watch the game on TV as I have DirecTV.  I guess it's Matthews and McElligott on CD101, or maybe I can find a feed online...

Photos from Yahoo! NHL

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