Thursday, December 17, 2009

10 Thoughts about Game 35: Phoenix

1. The Columbus Blue Jackets welcomed a somewhat winded (having just bushwacked the Toronto Maple Leafs the prior evening) Phoenix Coyotes to Nationwide Arena.  The two teams largely played defensive hockey, and the game went to a shootout tied 1-1.  Phoenix won the shootout, leaving Columbus with the loser point on the night.

1a. The Jackets are now 14-14-7 and have 35 points.  They're sitting in 12th place in the West, having lost 13 of their last 15.  The playoff qualifying bar currently is at 41 points.

1b.  Here are the highlights:

2. To their credit, the Jackets played a much more....invested game.  They still have much work to do on defense, turnovers, passing and goal conversion, but they clearly ate their Wheaties this morning.  Or maybe during the 1st intermission, as the 1st period was a little slow.

3. Full disclosure: I watched a fair bit of the game but was distracted for a couple long-ish points.  So if you think, "That DBJ idiot missed _______________," you're probably right.

4. The scoring-based star of the night was the only Blue Jacket to find the back of the net: Rick Nash.  Nash had a power play goal in regulation and a successful shootout shot as well.

4a. There was mention in the Dispatch a day or two ago that Nash was trying to go it alone too much recently, and you could see that he was trying to get his teammates more involved tonight.

5. The all-out-effort star of the night was Jake Voracek.  This is a classic situation where the boxscore doesn't do the player justice.  14:19 time on ice, a -1 rating?   Oh, yeah, 7 shots to lead the team.  Jake was driving to the net at every available opportunity.

5a. The Umberger-Brassard-Voracek line played with some spunk.  Voracek just does his thing, regardless of who he plays with, but R.J. Umberger seems to have a calming influence on his jumpier linemates (like Brassard).

6. Mathieu Garon had a strong outing, turning aside 26 of 27.  And I didn't break out into hives every time the puck went behind the net.

6a. It's a shame that Garon came up short on the shootout - would have been nice to see him start another shootout dominance streak.

7. I can't overlook that, while the Jackets were bashing their collective heads against the wall in trying to get a shot through, Fox Sports Ohio's Bill Davidge called one shot, "A goal-scorer's shot."  This is not to be confused with "A goal-scorer's goal."  And, no, I have no idea what either are.

7a. We have a Hitchionary - Maybe we need a Davidgionary?

8. Fedor Tyutin is getting beaten like a rented mule.  Good lord - 26:39 time on ice?  Stralman was at 24:51, no small task either.  For all the Hitchcock talks up the pairing of Hejda and Commodore, the minutes don't lie - Tyutin and Stralman are carrying the water for the defense right now.

8a. Stralman took a shot in the leg (ankle?) during the game and limped off.  Fortunately, he returned.  I bet there was a big old ice pack with his name on it waiting in the locker room for him.

9. Dark Blue Onesie laughed hysterically during Jared Boll's fight.  The kid's 7 months old.  I've trained him well.

9a. Here's the fight, courtesy of

10. Reviewing this game recap, I note that the commentary is a little half-hearted.  In part, it's because I'm watching a team that is trying really hard, perhaps too hard, and getting nothing.  And this has been going on for a while now.  Is it Murphy's Law, or is it the limits of what we can expect from the Jackets right now?

10a. I noticed, especially in the 1st and 2nd period, that the players were pressing hard.  Chimera and Huselius' unsportmanlike calls can serve as evidence.  This led me to think that while the team's performance was ragged in spots, it at least had some passion behind it.  You can't say that with every recent game.  Perhaps a glimmer of hope for the fans?

10b. This is a team that really needs practice time, no matter what Tom Reed says.  They need to work on timing, positioning...the things that build chemistry and cohesiveness.  Sticking with some set lines would help,  too.  If Scott Howson isn't going to make any roster changes, then the players "in the room" need to figure out how to play with each other - and at a high level.

10c. The team's playing harder, sometimes even playing better, but still not getting it done.  The 13 losses in 15 games is brutal.  The Jackets have picked up 5 of a possible 18 points in December.  The team MUST start hitting on all cylinders for 60 minutes to get back into playoff position.

NEXT UP: Saturday night in Denver against the Avalanche (19-11-6, 44 pts, $52.166 million salary cap hit, +18 Financial Acuity Index score).  Why is it that you always hear about the thin air during Broncos home games but never during Avalanche hone games?  Could hockey players be in better condition?

Photos from Yahoo! NHL.

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