Friday, January 13, 2012

DBJs 5 Thoughts on Game 43: Phoenix

Tonight, just over 14,000 braved the cold to see our Blue Jackets defeat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 for Todd Richards' first win as head coach and first win on home ice. For the Coyotes, it was their 5th loss in 6 games and for the Jackets, the game marked their 12th victory on the season.

With the Blue Jackets fielding a team made up of less than half of their original roster, due to injury, trade or trips to Springfield, many fans were unsure of what we'd get. It was great to see statistics hold true for just one night where Phoenix was the team who's behavior could be predicted by past performance in the early periods in the game and not us.

1. Its a great night to be named Derek. Or Derick. You get my point. With my obvious fandom of Derek Dorsett well documented, it was a fantastic sign of life from the team to see Derek Dorsett awarded the "A" for only the second time in his career. Dorse played a solid game, and, one thing that may have been omitted from the tv broadcast - it was Derek Dorsett who immediately went to the net to grab the puck after Ryan Russell's first career goal. That's cool. Later, Coach Richards would comment that Dorse "...(has) a winning attitude" and "...that's what we need...". For a team who's heart has been long questioned this season, it seemed to provide a spark to both the team and the fan base to see the A awarded to one of our most gritty and dedicated players.  (My bias acknowledged ;) ) Speaking of spark...

Derick Brassard returned to the first line, and exploded from his previous Arniel-imposed confinement. His skill was clearly on display - not only in the offensive zone with a beauty of a top shelf goal, but also with significant defensive efforts. We saw Brass often with 17:17 of TOI including the last minute of the game. It was Brass who laid flat on the ice to block one of the final desparation shots from the 'Yotes who had seemed to take over on momemtum. Brass was awarded the first star of the game and, as Coach Richards would say "What frames this game is the Derick Brassard block at the end." Great to see this player seemingly hint to a return to form. Let's hope his play, effort and leadership on the ice continue!

2. Its a great night to score your first NHL goal. (And be in a Blue Jackets sweater to boot!) Fans were witness to two first career goals for Tomas Kubalik and Ryan Russell. RyRuss had a great goal to start the second period taking the Jackets up 3-1 and providing crucial insurance later when the Yotes would threaten. Kubalik's goal was the first CBJ goal of the game and demonstrated that the Jackets weren't just going to roll over this time. Speaking of that guy...

3. Tomas Kubalik. Its always fun to have a player demand your attention by their play. Kubalik did that tonight. He consistently provided strong positioning in front of the net, made smart decisions with the puck and had that first CBJ goal of the game.  While much is made of x's and o's, for this team, to respond to being down early in the game was significant - again not only for the team but the fans. He also took a couple solid "welcome to the NHL" hits from the 'Yotes, dusted himself off, and kept on skating hard. [He was also conveniently the 'featured player' in tonight's program. ;) ] This kid is playing like he doesn't want to go back to Springfield. If he stays on the path he is on - I think that's one plane ticket we won't need to buy. Only issue I have? This isn't a name that exactly rolls off the tongue. My AHL friends tell me he goes by "Kuby". Forgive me if I end up giving "Rubik's Cube" a go or two...

4. Rick Nash. What may have been over looked in the joy of a victory and the performances already mentioned above was the play of Rick Nash. Whether its the wake up call of Arniel's firing, the omission from the All Star roster, or something else, this guy was all. over. the. ice. Tonight Nash was playing inspired, focused hockey. Key stops and passes were delivered from his stick time and time again. Rick has had a hard go of it this year - if we can get this Rick Nash for every game, I think many doubters will be silenced.

5. Puck Movement. Its simple really. Good puck movement creates open space which allows for better passes and better shots. Tonight we had that. Passes seemed more crisp, the transition game more effective and shots weren't the gritty 2nd and 3rd effort flops over the goalie stick, rather they were beauties shot from high on the point with nice placement. We had a lot of shots coming from our defensemen as well (now if only they wouldn't flutter high - get those boys some flatter sticks please). Also, the entire game was relatively clean - only two penalties and while a few dust-ups threatened everyone kept focused on the game.

All in all, it was a satisfying game and a just reward for the boys in Union Blue. I only get five points, so let's consider this last thing an editorial comment: much has been made of not getting a "full 60 minutes of effort", while tonight was definitely an improvement, the last 10 minutes of game time were excruciating hockey with Phoenix controlling the puck and the game. The final five minutes had the entire roster looking like they were running on empty. At one point, all five players were just standing there. We escaped with the victory, and Richards eluded to the fact that there were "many reasons" for the energy level (or lack thereof) in the final period. But it still gives me pause. This is how we look coming off a couple days of rest - we have another game tomorrow night - can we fight for all 60 then?

All in all, a solid 50 minutes of hockey and a graced final 10 have the Jackets celebrating tonight. Tomorrow, we see San Jose again. Should be interesting...

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