Wednesday, December 2, 2009

10 Thoughts about Game 27: Chicago

1. The Columbus Blue Jackets, on the back end of back-to-back nights of hockey, skated into the United Center in Chicago and took the Central Division-leading Blackhawks to the limit and beyond.  After 11 rounds of overtime-induced shootouts, Chicago's Brent Seabrook put one past Columbus' Steve Mason for the Chicago win, 4-3.

1a.  Here are your highlights:

1b. With 1 point taken from the game, the Jackets slipped back into the 8th place in the West with 31 points, making them playoff-eligible if the Stanley Cup playoffs were held today.  They aren't, of course, but readers of this blog know that I tend to keep a pretty close eye on the standings...

2. Let's start first at the end of the game.  The shootout, lasting ELEVEN rounds, was crazy.  According to Puck-Rakers, only 5 shootouts have ever gone longer...EVER.  This made for some terrific excitement.

2a.  I'll be man enough to admit it (and my trail of Twitterings will betray me as a liar if I don't), I dreaded the idea of another shootout.  Steve Mason was 0-4 in shootouts going into the game.

2b.  Mase, as opposed to prior shootouts, stepped up tremendously.  He's clearly been working on this in practice.  Fox Sports Ohio's Ray Crawford perhaps had the most insightful comment on the changes in Mason's approach in Tweeting, "looks like mason has taken some lessons from garon.. coming way out of the net to meet the skater and gauge speed."  Mase was way out of the net to start the shootouts, slowly drawing back into the crease to minimize the shooting lanes.  Let's face it, stopping 9 of 11 (Marian Hossa got one through, too) is NOTHING to be ashamed of.

2c. The shooters, on the other hand, hopefully were gassed from a long, tough game against the Blackhawks. Otherwise, they have not rational excuse for the pathetic showing on the shooting end of the skills competition. Only Jake Voracek scored for Columbus, meaning that Huselius, Nash, Brassard, Vemette, Tyutin, Umberger, Torres, Pahlsson, Russell and Chimera all were turned away by that brick wall known as Cristobol Huet.  (Huet, in case you didn't know, is not a good starting goalie.)  That 10 of 11 of our shooters couldn't put it past that joker in a 1 on 1 situation speaks volumes to our lack of killer instinct.  I'd suggest it was more about our ability to score goals, but the CBJ seem to be able to do that this year when they want to.

2d. Mase blew his top after the Seabrook shootout winner:

And why shouldn't he? He just turned away 9 penalty shots from arguably the second or third best team in the NHL and wasn't given the offensive support to bring the win home. Personally, I like to see a goalie get frustrated when stuff like this happens. Goalies are an odd lot, and the competitive fire is what keeps them sharp. When Mase starts to hang his head and get depressed, then I'll be worried. Until then, break all of the sticks you want.  Maybe your teammates will get the message.

3. The rest of the game was a classic CBJ road game.  Hit hard, hit harder, grab a goal if you can, hit some more and hope to be in the mix at the end.  Actually, the Jackets held the lead for a fair bit of the game, but Toews' power play goal in the third period tied it up with 15-plus minutes left.  At that point, the Jackets seemed to be playing for the overtime and the standings point.

3b. I see no shame in leaving the United Center with 1 point.  Frustration at going so deep into overtime and a shootout without the second point, sure.  But Chicago is one tough band of hombres, made even tougher with the addition of Hossa to the lineup.  They're physical, they can score when they need it, and they have enough talent to cover up for the fact that their goalie - well - stinks.  It must be nice to be a salary cap team and not a budget team...

3c.  I maintained last night that the Jackets won't be able to keep up with the Blackhawks (in the standings) this year, and I'll stick by that.  They're Stanley Cup contenders of the highest order.  We're Stanley Cup playoff caliber - this year.  As the young Jackets mature over the next year or two, we'll be legit finals contenders.  But not now.

4. So Rick Nash gets 23 minutes of ice time and is a +2 on the night but only has 3 shots, no goals and no assists?  A lousy shootout shot?  On one of only two national TV appearances for the CBJ this year?  There goes my theory that Nash rises to the occasion in big games.  Seriously, where was he when it counted?  ARGH!

5. In the "Thank God they stepped up" department, how Antoine Vermette, R.J. Umberger and Kris Russell?   Those three, together, comprised the goal and assist combinations for 2 of the 3 regulation goals.  It's an unusual scoring trio, especially when you note that Russell had one of the goals as opposed to passing it up from the back end to facilitate a goal, but who am I to complain?

6. Kristian Huselius, a part-time whipping boy on this blog, had an assist last night but also threw his body into the mix on a couple of occasions with the Chicago tough guys.  His performance wasn't out-of-this-world outstanding, but it was good...and what we need from him every night.

7. The fact that I have DirecTV and hence no Versus for the national broadcast of the game made for an adventure in viewing.  Luckily, CBJ-fan Twitterer DamonChristen forwarded me a link that let me watch the game on Fox Sports 1, a cable/satellite channel from Australia.

7a.  Mrs. DBJ offered a salient comment about the state of technology today when she reminded me that the feed from Chicago was sent by satellite to New York, then by satellite to Australia, where it was streamed through the internet back through God-knows-how-many nodes and web waystations until it hit my desk.  Pretty freaking amazing.

7b. The picture quality pretty much stunk (Mrs. DBJ said it was like watching a recording of an NHL game from the 1970's), but at least I could watch the game.

7c. The connection cut out on about half a dozen occasions.  Of course, half of those had to be during the shootout.  I panicked.

7d.  Aussie ad commentary: Who knew that Cricket was so fierce? (And in a tournament sponsored by Kentucky Fried Chicken, no less?)  That rugby was so big?  And that I don't recall seeing a single beer ad?  Shame that apparently the Aussie Rules Football season was over...

7e. I underestimate the cultural impact of the NFL (a uniquely American game) until I see foreign tv.  Then it's hard to miss.  And that's a shame, as the world must think we're a bunch of conservative nitwits from the commentary offered by the FOX announcers.

7f. With the late start, I caught the beginning of the Leafs-Canadiens game at the Bell Centre and was lucky enough to catch this pre-game introduction of the Canadian Football League Grey Cup (their Super Bowl) champions, the Montreal Alouettes.  And what a reception they received! (Sorry for the crappy quality of the video - it's all I could find...)

7g. For all I gripe about Fox Sports Ohio's broadcasts, they are light years better than Versus.  Those announcers clearly hadn't done any homework on the Blue Jackets beyond "Rick Nash is good" - and they even got that wrong when they classified Nash as an Olympic "hopeful."  Sorry, gents, Nasher is a stone cold, lead pipe lock.  Probably will be on the 1st line, for that matter.  I know the Jackets don't get a lot of national coverage, but give them a little respect..

8. I love Anton Stralman's shot from the point, but I don't love the fact that he was sent to the sin bin for a combined 6 minutes.  If I had to guess, he was a little overwhelmed out there with the rough and tumble Chicago/Central Division style.  Better get used to it, Anton...

9. Mike Commodore still isn't "right" after his illness/injury-plagued start.  Jan Hejda's rounding into form, though, which is a positive.

9a. At least we have the youngsters, Russell and Roy (and sometimes Methot, though he's a lot more inconsistent than last year), to help carry the load on defense.

10.  There are no moral victories.  Mase demonstrated that with his reaction to losing in the shootout.  (In the NHL's standings formula, however, there are half-victories...)  But let's take the long view.  Since the Detroit debacle, the Jackets have played progressively better and better.  They don't look like Stanley Cup contenders, but they weren't projected as such from the outset.  No fooling.  But they've played at a level which makes them look less and less like pretenders for a playoff seed.  If I see a little more of this, and if the first line can get it in gear, I think that it will be a fun spring in Columbus for reasons other than spring football in Buckeye-land.

NEXT UP: The Toronto Maple Leafs make a rare appearance in town on Thursday night.  After a crap-bag start, the arrival of Phil Kessel as a scoring threat/playmaker and the emergence of Jonas "The Monster" Gustafson as a netminder has made the Leafs a team to be reckoned with (but not exactly feared just yet).  Gustafson left last night's shutout of Montreal with an elevated heartbeat; who knows if he'll start or not.

On a personal note, it'll be my first CBJ game of the year in person.  Lord, how I've waited for this day!

Photos from Yahoo! NHL.

1 comment:

  1. Not sure why you think Huet is a bad goalie. He's been strong all year, putting up solid #s with a save% over 90%, GAA just a shade north of 2.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.