Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Game 67/Anaheim: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets came out swinging - literally and figuratively - in Orange County last night.  By the time the dust was cleared, the Boys in Union Blue spanked the Anaheim Ducks, 5-2.

Considering that the Blue Jackets were playing without Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius, and that they put both Derek MacKenzie and Maxim Mayorov into the lineup only a half-hour after the pair got off the cross-country flight from Syracuse, that the Jackets won at all is surprising.  That they took it to the Ducks like they did - with a physical, in your face style that would make former Ducks GM Brian "Truculence" Burke proud - is even more so.



I mean, look at this penalty summary - it's a freakin' who's who on both rosters:


And these weren't your garden-variety penalties, either.  SIX fighting majors?  Yow.  At a couple of points, the penalty boxes were so full that the Jackets and Ducks could have had competing Euchre tournaments in each sin bin.

As for the part of the game that determines wins and losses, the Jackets had 29 shots on goal.  Off that, they had 5 goals - Dorsett, Voracek, Tyutin, Vermette and Brassard.  Vermette, Voracek and Tyutin had three-point nights.  After the 11-shot performance in Los Angeles the prior night, it appears that the message of "No shot, no goal" was driven home.

This was the second straight night of ridiculously late starts for the Jackets.  I won't lie, I fell asleep in the third period and woke to learn that the Jackets won.  The third sounds like it was a blast, as Anaheim dropped 17 shots on the very proficient Mathieu Garon (to the Jackets' 4 - oh...maybe the "No shot, no goal" message needs some reinforcement) and grabbed two goals before the Jackets closed the door with two of their own.

A good game for the Jackets, and a VERY strong rebound against the humiliation that was the Los Angeles game.

Beyond the scoring and penalties, two big thoughts:

1. This was Rick Nash's first game missed all season.  I've often thought that Nash shoulders too much of the team burden, and that the team gladly lets him do it with middling-to-poor results.  Now that the team lost their security blanket and was forced to perform, you can see that there is some spunk and talent on the roster.  They played as a much more cohesive team last night.

I have to be very careful in how I say this because I really like watching Nash play and think that the Jackets don't promote him in this town like they should, but I wonder if the Jackets wouldn't be better off in the Nashville mode of having three or four really strong players rather than one superstar and a cast of extras.  Nash is so good that he just sucks the oxygen out of the room with the Jackets.  Perhaps part of his challenge as Captain - one I'm betting that he's identified already - is to pick his places to take over and also those places to lay low and let the rest of the team perform.  Quite a conundrum.

Or maybe it was just that Kristian Huselius didn't suit up.  Another very plausible answer.

2. As I Tweeted most of last night, I think the Mayorov call-up not only filled an empty forward slot but also served a larger purpose, that of sending a signal to Nikita Filatov that it's safe to come back to Columbus.

As we all know, Filatov is on a one-season loan to the KHL's CSKA Moscow (the old Red Army team) and while the Jackets own his rights, there's no "transfer agreement" between the NHL and KHL.  That means that Filatov can thumb his nose at the NHL and the CBJ, sign a KHL contract and play the rest of his career in Russia with no meaningful penalty.  Nikita's going to have to be 'sold' on the NHL again - and particularly the Jackets - in order to get him back over here.  Scott Howson 'sold' Rick Nash on the CBJ master plan last summer, and he's going to need to do the same for Filatov this summer.  I really think Mayorov is part of the plan.

Mayorov had an OK first game - didn't embarass himself and clearly has some talent but needs to finish better.  He's probably not NHL caliber right now but is not too far away -- and he's only 20 years old, so there's some upside to investing minutes in him now.  We'll take any goals he can provide, but I really think his presence on the roster is less about him and more about Filatov.  To that end, I won't be surprised to see Mayorov finish out the string in Columbus this season and take a 3rd/4th line role next season, giving Filatov a 'Russian buddy' in the locker room.

2 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more. After that miserable game against the kings, I couldn't stop celebrating up until the final minute. Mason's still my favorite, but I would be happy to see more of Garon; he did a fantastic job last night. I loved how many times he brought the roaring crowd to silence!

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  2. hey, we could get another russian buddy for nikki and mayorov... malkin! (lol. only kinda joking)

    it seems to me that nash makes our lines more inflexible... that it is hard, maybe, for people to play with him - as opposed to making the players around him better, like umberger seems to do, which was pretty noticeable to me the other day with murray on the 2nd line. to me. maybe i am wrong, but i was thinking about that last night/this morning.

    hopefully though we'll see brassard and voracek with nash soon. i like vermette as our second line center, and if they trade for a "true #1 center" i think vermette will need to go too as putting brass on third line is just horrible.

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