|Nashville 6 - Columbus 5|
9-21-4, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
1. You can't discuss the magnitude of the disappointment over this loss without celebrating the incredible first period. After a scoreless first 12 minutes, Carrie Underwood's beau scored on Curtis Sanford and unwittingly opened the Columbus floodgates. Jeff Carter dropped a first period hat trick on the Preds in just over 3 minutes of play. A natural hat trick was interrupted by a choice Ryan Johansen goal. The CBJ skated off the ice at the end of the period with a 4-1 lead. That 8 minute span may have been the best such period of time in a hockey game I can ever remember seeing. I'm not kidding - it was THAT good.
2. Then there's the rest of the game. Johansen got his second goal in the second period (He had only 9:19 of total ice time on the evening...wouldn't want to ride the hot hand, that would only make sense...), but Nashville dropped three on Sanford to draw closer...5-4 at the end of the period. It's like the Blue Jackets actually thought they were good after the first period, a grave mistake considering this nightmare of a season, and Nashville took advantage of the CBJ self-congratulatory attitude. Meanwhile, stomach knots were tightening across CBJ Village...with this squad, there's zero confidence that they can protect a lead. They had to keep attacking, and Nashville wouldn't let them.
3. The third period was...well, expected. The CBJ held (reasonably) firm for the first 16-ish minutes, then Nashville tied it up on a power play goal - one of six scored between the two teams tonight. The Jackets didn't respond, leading me to say to Mrs. DBJ, "They're playing for overtime. This can't end well." Then, Martin Erat took a sweet outlet pass and blasted past a stunned/sluggish/lackadaisical James Wisniewski, Jeff Carter and Derek Dorsett (along with a trailing Fedor Tyutin) to score on a breakaway goal with less than 10 seconds left. The collapse was complete.
4. Curtis Sanford played a...pedestrian-to-poor game (seeing 38 shots on goal and only stopping 32 of them, an .842 save percentage), apparently aggravating his back late-ish in the third - something like less than 10 minutes left in the game. Coach Scott Arniel chose to stick with Sanford rather than replace him with a cold Steve Mason (who curiously looked like he was counting the lights in the arena ceiling when the camera cut to him during the game). I'm not going to hang Arniel on the decision - Mason has not been great, and Arniel has faith in Sanford - but I'm not sure there was a good choice to make.
That's all I have to give tonight. I want to make thought number 5 a rant about the epic mess that is today's Columbus Blue Jackets hockey. About how the Captain just doesn't play like he gives a damn and how that attitude trickles down to the rest of the team. About how Derrick Brassard keeps screwing up his career with every chance that he is given. About how the Blue Jackets are hyping the World Junior Championships almost as a way to distract their fans from what they see at the NHL level. About how an AHL goaltender isn't going to win a game for this team by himself. About how replacing the entire hockey operations group - management, coaches and roster - with an expansion team sounds like a preferable alternative to what we have right here, right now.
But I won't, because it's the Christmas season. God bless us, everyone. Especially the fans who are sticking with this embarrassment of a team.