Sunday, January 24, 2010

Game 54/Minnesota: My Take

[I had a bit of an epiphany on vacation.  Most of my "10 Thoughts" posts started looking the same.  You know, "Mason/Garon need to get their act together," "Nash needs to be a better captain while putting a puck or twelve in the net," "Huselius drives me crazy," "Something ain't right with Commodore," "Kris Russell is looking better and better."  It's like a broken record.  

So I'm going to stop the insanity.  No more "10 Thoughts".  Now, I'm just going to offer my take on the game.  If it takes 10 words, I'll offer 10.  If it takes 1,000, I'll offer 1,000.  No more artificial constraints.  Hope you like this new approach.]

I returned home from vacation as the puck dropped in Minnesota.  Candidly, I had to help unpack and reacclimate the Dark Blue Onesie to his my attention was rather divided.  Not that it mattered, as it looked like the Columbus Blue Jackets were bound and determined to play the finest neutral zone possession game that the NHL has ever seen.  The Boys in Union Blue barely made Wild goalie Backstrom work for his paycheck.

Problem was, the Wild of 2009-2010 are not the Wild of years past.  New coach Todd Richards has the Boys in Cream (and I HATE cream on hockey jerseys) playing a more uptempo game, enduring a painful early-season transition from longtime coach Jacques Lemaire's plodding, defensive approach to start approaching .500 hockey in January.  (Actually, the Wild are now 25-23-4.)

So the Wild kept blitzing the offensive zone in the shaky, unsure fashion of a team that's not playing great but not terrible either.  Lucky for Richards & Co., the Blue Jackets' defense is at least as shaky and unsure.  Mikko Koivu (one of the Flying Koivu Brothers) slipped one past Steve Mason in the beginning of the 1st period - another early-game goal - and then again in the front end of the 2nd.  And the CBJ were playing in their own zone for most of the game.

Mason then slept through an Eric "I almost killed Jason Chimera but am really a good guy - really, I am" Belanger's shot in the 2nd period, and it was over.  Sure, Rick Nash and Antoine Vermette both got the puck past Backstrom in the final minute of the game.  I will never criticize players who fight up to the end, so good on them.  Shame they couldn't put it together faster.

But all that doesn't matter.  What matters is that Derek Boogaard played.  The Boogey Man is arguably the finest enforcer in the NHL.  His fights are legendary.  And, strangely, Richards even had him playing hockey - positioning Boogey in the CBJ crease (and not doing anything meaningful - I mean, it's not like he's a hockey player...).

In the 2nd period, though, we finally had a reason to watch this game.  Jared Boll fought Derek Boogaard.

Boll isn't a particularly good fighter.  He's certainly not an enforcer.  His fights tend to make me recall great circus clown acts that I have seen.  But to take on the Boogey Man, on Boogey's home ice...that takes guts.

So, for that, I'll lift a glass.  It almost made the game worthwhile.

And the Jackets fall to 20-25-9, having gone 5-5-0 over the last ten, and holding 49 points in the standings.  That makes the Jackets the 4th worst team in the NHL.  Hope the scouts are doing their legwork; it's shaping up to be another great pick.

POSTSCRIPT:  If you haven't noticed, I've been eagerly waiting for Rick Nash to show a little spunk.  His "I lead by my example on the ice" shtick clearly hasn't instilled a sense of fire in the team.  He's the captain; he needs to get the team moving.  Whatever it takes.

He dropped the gloves last night, too.  He took on Nick Schultz - whoever that is, it's just great to see that Nash has the passion.

So two fights make up the sum total of the excitement in the game.  Let's hope the Jackets get the more productive elements of the game of hockey going as well as the fighting.  


  1. it's too bad that the nash fight turned into a hug-fest, but i am glad to see nash with some fight in him lately.

    that whole game was so painful to sit through, though. seeing boll take on boogaard certainly was special... boll has more courage than prolly everyone i know combined for that!

    glad to have you back!

  2. Note that Nasher dropped the gloves and threw the punches first. That's the sign of an angry captain, something I didn't think we'd see.

    Nash's season is tanking, and he's ticked. Let's hope the Boys in Union Blue get the message.


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