Saturday, March 5, 2011

Game 64/Calgary: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets wrapped up their Canadian tour of the NHL Western Conference's Northwest Division with a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames last night at the (some sponsor) Saddledome.

Craig Rivet, Antoine Vermette & Jan Hejda had goals.  All three were good news stories in their own right.  It was nice to see Rivet come out of a six-week game-playing hibernation dating back to his time in Buffalo and nail one home.  Vermette has been trying very, very hard recently (too hard?) and deserves the glory of a goal.  Hejda had his second goal in two games.  Gotta feel good about all of them.

In response to the disappointment of the prior night's Edmonton loss, Coach Scott Arniel juggled the forward lines quite hard.  Check this out (cobbled together from box scores and game summary notes - might be an error or two):
  • Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger, Scottie Upshall
  • Matt Calvert, Antoine Vermette, Jake Voracek
  • Derek Dorsett, Sammy Pahlsson, Chris Clark
  • Jared Boll, Derek Mackenzie, Ethan Moreau
Wow. Upshall, who wasn't on the team a week ago, was playing alongside Nash. Umberger, who hasn't played center in a while, was centering. Calvert pretty much has filled the Nikita Filatov-reserved slot in the top two lines.  Sadly, the shuffling didn't get the job done.  Nash's line was held scoreless, and Upshall's rather exciting two-game scoring streak ended.

On defense, Rivet slotted in for Grant Clitsome.  You can't argue that the Rivet start wasn't at least decent on balance - hey, the guy got a goal - but Clitsome's contribution to the team, especially on the 0-for-everything power play, can't go overlooked.  Sure, he got burned by the little waterbugs in Edmonton...but pretty much everyone did.  And Rivet was on the ice for two failed penalty kills plus the even-strength Iginla goal.  Was Clitsome a better choice?  Who knows?  I don't, but I won't be surprised to see Clitsome back.

Problem is, the Blue Jackets' playoff chances are dwindling.  MartiniHockey.net suggests a "magic number" of four.  The CBJ need fourteen wins to get to a playoff-caliber point total, which means that they can only afford four more losses.  That, after going 0-3-1 in the last four games.  If the Blue Jackets thread the needle, they're in.

Keep crossing your fingers.

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