Saturday, December 17, 2011

DBJ's 5 thoughts on Game 32: Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay 3 - Columbus 2
9-19-4, 5th in Central Division, 15th in Western Conference
The Columbus Blue Jackets' almost-but-not-quite coach, Guy Boucher, brought his Tampa Bay Lightning in to Nationwide Arena and left with the regulation win over the host Blue Jackets, 3-2.

1. Congratulations, Vinny Prospal - The most enjoyable part of the evening was the pregame ceremony for Vinny Prospal, who played his 1,000th NHL game earlier in the season.  At 36, Prospal is the team's leading point scorer - leading captain Rick Nash by four points.  Not only is he productive, but he's a leader in fact if not in jersey letter.  In fact, Derek Dorsett went out of his way a few games back in the radio postgame show to single out Prospal as a player that he's learning from and modeling himself after.  A terrific guy to have around, indeed.

Vinny Prospal - A leader in both
word and deed
The ceremony can't be overlooked for the message it sends to Prospal: "We appreciate you."  After playing for six other teams in his long career and hitting the playoffs nine times, this season (and perhaps this club) has to be a tremendous disappointment.  While so much has gone wrong, Prospal has spoken truth to power and demonstrated genuine effort when on the ice.

I honestly doubt that Prospal, who is under contract to the CBJ only this season, will come back to Columbus barring a serious change in circumstances.  Heck, I doubt he'll even make it past the trade deadline.  But let's be clear - we need Vinny Prospal in Columbus.  Badly.  And we need a half-dozen more Vinny Prospals.  So perhaps tonight's ceremony might have been more than celebrating one of the NHL's iron men...perhaps it was the opening salvo in trying to retain a surprisingly valuable free agent.  

2. The wisdom of veterans - Speaking of Prospal, he raised an interesting point in the post-game interview: The Jackets have had a devil of a time getting goals from in close - the greasy goals, if you will.  He's so right.  Again.  Which makes R.J. Umberger's (Yes, Umberger!) wraparound goal so surprising:

3. Goalie watch - Steve Mason made 25 saves on 28 shots.  Not great, not TERRIBLE...but probably not enough to stake a claim for the starter's job.  At least coach Scott Arniel gave Mason another chance to prove himself...even if the back-to-back schedule of Tampa tonight and St. Louis tomorrow meant that Arniel's hand was forced. 

What an incredible comeback for Derek Dorsett.
4. Chuck Norris?  Tim Tebow?  Nope, just Derek Dorsett - Derek Dorsett, returned to game action one week to the day after having his ankle touch his knee (or something like that) against the Boston Bruins.  Word was that Dorsett had a high ankle sprain or even a broken ankle.  Not so fast, my friends...he was back with over 16 minutes of time on the ice.  The guy is incredible.  

5. That sinking feeling - I swear, few things are worse than being down by one with five minutes left and watching the opponent lock down on defense and thinking, "It isn't going to happen tonight."  And then it doesn't happen because the Blue Jackets are incapable of breaking through to make a late goal and at least push the game into overtime.  Of course, if the Jackets are up by one with five minutes left, I presume that the team will give up two goals and lose in regulation.  Which is another feeling altogether.  

NEXT UP: The Blue Jackets travel to St. Louis to take on Ken Hitchcock and his Blues at 7PM Eastern on Sunday (tomorrow).  Hitch is only 12-2-3 since taking over in that other Arch City.  

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