Like so much in this "dead man walking" period of the season, there are two very distinct perspectives that one can take on this game. I'll try to be fair to both.
Let's start with the negative. Florida is the number 14 team in the woeful Eastern Conference. They have a whopping 70 points after picking up the loser point last night. This was not a good team, and the CBJ should have beaten them. Thank God that they did.
But enough of that. Everyone wants to hear good things about their favorite team, and there actually are a couple good things to report out of the game.
First, the win. This team badly, badly needed a win and finally broke through. It was even better that it happened on home ice, for the ticket-buying public of Central Ohio had been forced to watch the prior three home losses by a combined score of 9-1. A win is a win is a win, but a win at home really is better for community morale.
Second, the shootout. When this game went to the shootout, I think that most of the Blue Jackets City-State (too small of a group to be called a "nation," but we'll get there...) sunk into their chairs and cringed at the horror show to come. Instead, we were treated to Steve Mason making three very decent saves and AHL'er Max Mayorov - who clearly didn't know that, as a Blue Jacket, he was NOT supposed to score in the shootout - blasting one past Florida's Scott Clemmensen for the win. The win itself is good for the community, but the shootout win is huge for the devoted fanbase that pays attention to the finer aspects of the team.
Third, Mason. He stopped 23 of 24 and only briefly let his guard down mentally. That kid is decent when he stays "up" - problem is, those damned early goals just crush him. He didn't give one up tonight and - guess what? - he gets the win with a nice shootout performance to boot.
CBJ goals went to:
- Scottie Upshall - A decent trade deadline pickup with an eye for the net...but I wonder if he's going to test the unrestricted free agent waters this summer
- Antoine Vermette - While not playing as well as he did last season, he appears to be genuinely trying his hardest out there. While we don't give out ribbons for effort here at the DBJ blog, it does make celebrating his goal all the more sweet.
I also note that Marc Methot and Fedor Tyutin were on the ice for both Columbus goals. Amazing what an even halfway competent blue line can do for an offense.
Lastly, a general observation about last night's game. Florida is a bad team, granted. But their stench comes from what seems to be a lack of talent. They actually played a pretty disciplined game - keeping guys in position, following up on rebounds, etc. The Blue Jackets on the other hand, oozed talent by comparison, but it often looked like Romper Room out there. I know that Scott Arniel has a vision for the team's "system" of puck possession, fast breaks, et al, but I just don't think it's taken root with this cast of characters. We see something approaching team cohesion for brief spurts, then it looks more like a big boy version of pond hockey. I'm not sure I would have expected this at Game 76.
NEXT UP: Tomorrow night, the Blue Jackets get the national TV spotlight with a game in Washington against the Capitals on Versus. This rare national appearance reminds me of my NFL team, the Detroit Lions, getting to show their wares once a season on Thanksgiving. The Lions may have stunk it up all season long, but they knew when the cameras were rolling and did their best to put on a show for the folks. Sometimes they even won. Let's hope that the CBJ recognize the opportunity to make a late-season impression against what some consider the weakest of the Eastern Conference playoff qualifiers.