Sunday, February 7, 2010

Game 60/Buffalo: My Take

Tonight's game involved two distinct stories - the pregame and the game itself.

First, the pregame.  Contrary to rumor, I don't live entirely under a rock, and I knew a few folks gathered at the R Bar in the Arena District before the game.  Little did I know that half the Columbus Blue Jackets Twitterverse was there.  I arrived early to meet up with The Hockey Writers' Rick Gethin, with whom I attended the game, and proceeded to meet Tweeters, bloggers and blog-readers alike throughout the late afternoon and early evening.  For a guy who doesn't get out a ton (the Dark Blue Onesie "keeps me grounded"), this was pretty much mind blowing.  To the many folks with whom I enjoyed the pregame festivities, it was a genuine pleasure to meet you!

Then throw in the entire R Bar atmosphere.  It really IS a hockey bar.  EVERYONE is talking hockey.  And they know what they're talking about.  I mean, I was having a normal conversation about the relative merits of keeping Nikita Filatov on the roster, CBJ General Manager Scott Howson's morning Q&A (confessional?) with season ticket holders and the societal ramifications of the "FREE MILAN" movement.  OK, the last one was a stretch, but not by far.  It's one boisterous, loud, fun place.  Even with a lot of Buffalo Sabres fans hanging out.  (Sabres fans appear to be largely harmless - they're more scared of you than you are of them.)

Now, to the game.  The Columbus Blue Jackets shut out the Buffalo Sabres, 4-0.  That means that Steve Mason had his first shutout since December 28, 2009 if my records check is correct.  And he played great, making some wonderful saves and challenging Buffalo's shooters with a little more moxie that I'm used to seeing in recent days.

The goals came from Raffi Torres, Rick Nash (whose falling down shot was slightly reminiscent of RJ Umberger's empty netter of the previous game), Anton Stralman and - get this - Milan Jurcina.  

Yeah, Milan Jurcina.  You know, Milan Jurcina of FREE MILAN fame.  The guy who couldn't get on the ice under Ken Hitchcock put up his first goal as a Blue Jacket.  And what a shot it was!


That, along with logging the most ice time (21:51) of any Blue Jacket tonight.  I know I'm belaboring Jurcina at the expense of so many other worthy players, but the change in status (and performance) is probably the most striking in the transition from the Hitchcock to Noel coaching regimes.  Whether Noel is playing Jurcina to show him off as trade bait, I don't know (but hope not!).  What I do know is that Kris Russell is playing with a boatload of confidence knowing that his bodyguard, Jurcina, has his back.

As I bury the "moral" of this story once again, the real takeaway from this game was the sense of overall control that the CBJ exerted over the entire game.  I'll grant that Buffalo played their fourth game in seven days (all losses, too - ouch), but that doesn't diminish the fact that there really wasn't a point in this game where Buffalo had the initiative.

Think about it - with the painful blowouts that we've endured, how many times can you recall where our team dominated from wire to wire?  Incredible, just incredible.


Where has this team been all season?

3 comments:

  1. Great post and you are dead on with the review of the R Bar. That place is Heaven.

    As for your comments on Milan, I couldn't agree more. First, you can't teach big, and he is a force on the blueline. He actually plays big, which is a problem we've had throughout the years with large defensemen. He doesn't seem to be struggling from a conditioning standpoint either. He flat-out moves people out of scoring position and he doesn't make many mistakes on his side of the redline. When you take his shot power and accuracy into account, I think he's really helped to make Tyutin more expendable and another asset that can be utilized in the off-season for a trade package. Last, Milan seems to have great natural chemistry with Russell and their styles of play really complement each other.

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  2. I'm not getting too excited about a win over the Miller-less Sabres. The next three games will really show what the CBJ are made of.

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  3. Nice Meeting you at the R bar. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we normally do.

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