The talking heads who represent some of hockey's intelligentsia were having the standard talk about big player signings, NHLPA stuff, etc. and then started discussing the fact that over the last week, both the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings have been so plagued by injuries and are so close to the salary cap that they were unable to dress the minimum required number of players for games as required by the NHL salary cap. They literally cannot afford to pay an extra player to suit up. So what do they do? Modify the CBA? Get the NHLPA (who has a vested interest in seeing the largest possible number of players in the league) to look the other way?
No, one media guy said. Why not simply eliminate the fourth lines on every team?
If you're a Columbus Blue Jackets fan who just watched Game 4 of the 2010-11 CBJ season, you have every right to panic. Or toss a brick through your favorite CBC-watching friend's television set.
You see, last night wasn't a night where the top line guys showed up and showed off. Last night was a night where the hungry guys, the ones scratching and clawing for NHL jobs (as opposed to playing for significantly less in front of 2,400 people in Springfield), to shine.
|Sorry, FSO, this was too rich not to post. "Timberworlves"?|
- First line (Nash, Vermette, Huselius): Nada
- Second line (Filatov, Brassard, Voracek): 2 assists
- Third line (Umberger, Pahlsson, Moreau): 1 goal
- Fourth line (Clark, MacKenzie, Dorsett): 2 goals, 2 assists
- Defense: 2 assists
Folks, that fourth line bailed the Blue Jackets out last night. That's not to say that there wasn't effort on the other lines and defensive pairings; there was plenty of effort (and even more ragged play as the team tries to figure out the Scott Arniel system) but little payoff. And in a game where style points only matter when your goal is reviewed by the War Room in Toronto - oh yeah, we actually WON on a War Room review - you have to give credit to the guys who put pucks in the backs of nets. Last night, that was the bottom half of the roster. Rick Nash should sign his game check over to those guys.
Beyond that, the other notable was the insertion of Mathieu Garon in goal. Garon stopped 21 of 23 shots, a .913 save percentage against a struggling Minnesota team. Garon also was very well composed in the chaotic final minute of the game where Minnesota threw everything outside of Wild coach Todd Richards' mother-in-law at Garon in the hopes of sneaking one through. Garon was good, very good, but let's not think that a good performance at Minnesota is sufficient to replace Steve Mason, who stopped 35 of 40 against the defending Stanley Cup champs. It's apples and oranges. Mason, to me, still is the better of the two goalies.
All in all, my major comfort from this game was that the Columbus Blue Jackets went on the road, played a team that they could reasonably be expected to beat and closed the deal. If the Jackets are to have any hope of making the playoffs this year, they will need to win the vast majority of these types of games. The Chicago's of the world made that abundantly clear the other night.
The Blue Jackets did what they had to do, relying on the most unlikely of heroes and returned home early this morning with a 2-2 record and 4 of a possible 8 points. Not great, but not horrible. Anaheim visits Nationwide on Wednesday.