I know that those who read this blog are probably pretty firmly committed to catching the Columbus Blue Jackets at any and every opportunity. And I don't make a practice of offering game preview blog posts. That being said, please don't let me insult your intelligence by stating the obvious:
Tonight's game against San Jose is very, very big for the CBJ and even bigger for (interim) head coach Claude Noel.
The Jackets have played two games since releasing Ken Hitchcock from his head coaching duties. They beat a Dallas team that apparently is cashing in its chips by trading for a new goalie (strange, as they're only 3 points out of the playoffs right now). They beat a Buffalo team that is suffering through a 5-game losing streak and holding closed door team meetings to try to get everyone's heads on straight. In both games, the Jackets' defense and goaltending has been very good. The offense is still looking to get fully on track. And this was against two not-so-great teams.
Tonight, however, the Jackets take on the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are the top team in the Western Conference, leading second-place Chicago by 4 points. This is one awesome team, and it's the same team that blitzed us back in Game 3 of the season - winning 6-3 in San Jose. They set the stage for the our less-than-stellar showing this year by picking up on Detroit's efforts in last season's Stanley Cup playoffs and exposing our defense and goaltending for all to see.
Thus, tonight could be a similar turning point. If the Jackets win - heck, if they hang in there and keep it real close - the team's performance could be the springboard to future success over the balance of the season. The team could see that (interim) coach Noel's program (which I'm still trying to identify, by the way) is working and build confidence from the effort. It would be a terrific lead-in to the Olympic break - even better with strong performances against Chicago and Vancouver - and set the stage for a strong post-Olympic run. And if they lose big...well, let's not go there other than to say that (interim) coach Claude might not want to refinance his house for any extended term.
This is a measuring stick game against the big boys of the NHL. It definitely means more to us than to San Jose. We can only hope that the Boys in Union Blue bring it, and in a big way, tonight.
Scrounge for tickets. Set your DVR's. This is a very big night.