There was little to be excited about in last night's game, so let's get the really good stuff out of the way: In his second game back, Kristian Huselius got a hat trick. Yup, he alone scored all 3 CBJ goals. One of them even was on the power play, where Juice took up residence on Nikita Filatov's dot and played sniper. And wasn't it a beauty:
For a guy playing through a very painful high ankle sprain, to drop 3 goals in represents an incredible passion for the game and injection of pure scoring skill that is sorely needed. Welcome back, Juice!
The Jackets also had 23 shots on goal in the first period. It was ridiculous. The CBJ kept peppering Nikolai Khabibulin and got two through. (It was a real shame that we ended the first down 3-2, though...)
Now the rest of the story.
I'll get the nitpick out of the way. Juice was a -1 on the night. That means that he if was a +2 for his two even strength goals, he would have had to be on the ice for 3 Edmonton goals. Is it safe to say that, at least as long as his ankle hurts, he's going to be a defensive liability? I still believe that the badly-needed offensive upside is more than worth the defensive downside, but it's something that Scott Arniel and Brad Berry will need to account for in their scheme.
And now for the rough stuff. I've been trying to put it off, but the clear story of the night was the implosion of goalie Steve Mason. In two periods of play (Mathieu Garon came out to play the third), Mase gave up all 6 goals. He made 21 saves on 27 shots - an odious .778 goals against average. Folks, I hate to gloat over someone's (or my favorite team's, for that matter) misfortune, but I told you so. Mase has so clearly lost his mojo. Nothing more needs to be said. It's gone.
There was a lively Twitter dialogue last night about whether Mason could/should be shipped down to Springfield for emotional rehab (or traded/cut/"accidentally" left in Canada/etc.). Which of course led to the issue that I've been on the periphery of trying to understand - that of whether Mason could be shipped to Springfield without having to clear waivers.
The Dispatch's Tom Reed is pretty adamant that waivers would not apply to Mason. Twitterer KennyMartsolf, however, offered a link that suggests that Mase's combination of age (22) and number of games played (138, well over 60) means that he would be exposed.
I'm no labor lawyer, so I'm not going to pick a side in this interpretation. I will say, however, that Scott Howson had better have Blue Jackets One gassed up and ready to parachute Mase into Western Massachusetts if Reed's assertion that waivers wouldn't apply is actually correct. It's one thing to be sliced and diced by the Red Wings or Penguins, but it's another altogether when you're getting the same treatment from the last-place team in the West - and I don't care if they're a bunch of Major Junior All-Stars and YouTube Highlight Heroes.
Even if Mase is forced to stick around due to waiver rules, I'm not sure at this point that I wouldn't test the gumption of the other 29 NHL teams...Mase is a relatively cheap date this year at $905,000, but he then has a two-year deal following at $2.9 million per year for 2011-12 and 2012-13 (per CapGeek). As much of a basket case as he is right now, you would have to one extremely confident (or desperate) team to pick up such an expensive risk.
From the CBJ point of view, what is to be gained by keeping Mason in Columbus right now? He's lost his edge and needs to get it back. The team needs points more than emotional wellness for their young goalies because the West is such a logjam, so that means that Garon must get the majority of the starts until Mason is proven ready. Yet, because Garon gets those starts, Mase sits and stews in his toxic feelings. It's a vicious cycle.
A couple related thoughts:
- Matt Wagner at The Cannon raises some valid questions about Mase's hand-picked goaltending coach, Dave Rook. Matt has a point.
- I'm sure it won't happen for a host of reasons, but is it not enticing to see KHL refugee (and former San Jose Shark) Evgeni Nabokov floating around the NHL free agency market right now? The CBJ have $5.6 million in cap space, you know, and I believe would get another $750,000 or so back if Mason went to Springfield. Wouldn't a scenario where Mase goes to Springfield while Nabby is paired with Garon be just fantastic? Sure, I'd like to see any extra money go toward another legitimate scorer or top-tier defensive help, but last night's game proved to me that you can take all the shots you want...but if your goalie is a sieve, it doesn't matter.
In the end, no points last night means a relatively disappointing 2 of 6 possible points on this road trip...and the CBJ slipped back into 11th in the West. The team (sans Mase) is showing signs of emerging from their slump, however, as they've been reasonably competitive in their games when not let down by their goaltending. I'm still thinking that the defense has too many square pegs in round holes for this scheme, but we'll probably have to live with that at least until the trade deadline if not the offseason.
NEXT UP: The Dallas Stars (currently 2nd in the West, but only 4 points ahead of 11th place Columbus - it's THAT tight) are back in town on Saturday night, with free 10th Anniversary winter caps for all ticketholders and an Alumni Night with Espen Knutsen as well. For those watching at home, Fox Sports Ohio tells me that it's another "All Access Night" - which tells me Garon will get the start in goal because Arniel won't want to be interviewed throughout the game about Mason. My friends at SeatGeek say that tickets are starting at $20, not a bad way to spend an evening out - presuming Garon gets the start.