This was a pretty simple game to break down. When both teams had their legs, the CBJ were skating stride for stride with the Sharks. The Jackets even played a tad better than the Sharks in the 1st, leading to a 2-0 intermission lead. Then the Boys in Union Blue got complacent/tired in the second and third and let the lead slip away despite dropping a whopping 44 shots on goal and solid special teams (the two CBJ goals were on power plays).
Both teams were on their second game in two days (with travel in-between), so it's not like the CBJ can fall back on the "We were tired" excuse because the Sharks were in the same boat. But dare we dredge up the conditioning question again? Is there a good reason why the Sharks had their legs in the 3rd and the CBJ didn't?
Regardless, I'm not panicking over losing this game. As I was reminded tonight, the Blue Jackets "only" need to win two games for every one that they lose down the stretch to have a reasonable shot at the playoffs. They weren't going to win them all. That being said, a home win against a good team would have been very exciting. Ah well. The CBJ still have a
On other matters:
I got my first taste of the Arch City Army tonight. The Army, for those who are unaware, are spearheaded by some folks who want to take the fun-loving soccer hooliganism of the Columbus Crew MLS games and bring it to Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets ticket office apparently is playing along as the Army was seated together in the top of Section 227. If my rough estimates were correct, we're talking about something under 100 people...a nice showing, but nothing near overwhelming in the nearly 20,000 seat Nationwide Arena. This is surely understandable as it was only their second group outing.
From my vantage point in Section 207, my impressions were mixed. From what I heard them chanting, this group definitely loves Grant Clitsome. Or they just like saying "Clitsome." Beyond that, I couldn't make out much more by way of their cheering. Also, I think they need some temporary banner/signage to post on the back wall when they're in the arena to let the world know that they're the Army and not just a bunch of folks who refuse to sit down in their seats.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, this group might want to consider ways to engage the rest of the crowd. Let's face it, many folks are not going to leave their cherished PSL seats to join in the party in 227...but they could be enticed to play along. In fact, the fine gentleman sitting next to me tonight would have DEFINITELY played along if he knew how to do so.
I've seen some basketball fanatic groups post PDFs of cheering "instructions" for games online or hand out the same at the doors, giving standard cheers and pointing out the various mocking-worthy attributes of the opposition with appropriate tasteless cheers that get under the other guys' skin. You know, the opposition player emerging from rehab gets the obligatory "Just Say NO" cheer...that type of stuff. Think about it, the Army could have a ton of fun with the likes of Joe Thornton (the Houdini of the playoffs, or was that a choke artist?), Anti Niemi (dumped by Stanley Cup champs Chicago for "cough" Marty Turco) and especially Kyle Wellwood - whose problems with his girth are legendary in hockey circles. I can easily imagine a game where the Army shouts "Wellwood!" and the rest of the crowd shouts "Doughnut!" On the flip side, they could also coordinate cheers of praise for the Blue Jackets...doesn't have to be entirely negative. If I get this cheer section thing, it's about boosting the home team and making the arena a difficult place to play in for the opposition. So why not get the entire arena engaged?
Anyway, my early verdict is: Nice try, don't stop...but keep pushing to get those numbers growing sooner than later to make your presence REALLY felt.
The other big takeaway from tonight was reflected in my status as a guest of DBJ blog author Gallos. Mrs. Gallos had an obligation to attend to, so a ticket opened up and Gallos extended the ticket to yours truly. Much obliged. What was unexpected but very pleasant to learn is that Gallos and his neighboring season ticket holders, like so many people who have been coming to CBJ games for a few years, have built up a very real fan community family in his section. He and his group of friends all buy their tickets right next to each other, they know the guy who leads section cheers from ten rows back, they buy beer for each other. All that after gathering in advance at the R Bar for the pregame feast. They (generally, but not tonight) bring their spouses and everyone has a great time. Good folks. A tight-knit group who are knowledgeable and devoted to the CBJ.
That's the thing that made this particular Blue Jackets experience so fun to witness - That the shared joy of watching games with friends has made those bonds that much stronger...that wins are great, but a loss is tolerable when you're hanging with your compadres. And there are little groups like this in every section, all over the arena. It was a genuine pleasure to drop myself into this Section 207 group for a night and bear witness to the camaraderie.
NEXT UP: Friday night, 7PM, home against the Colorado Avalanche. Will the CBJ be the opening game of the Favre-like return of Foppa? (As in, will he just go away once and for all? Please?) We'll see...