Friday, February 24, 2012

DBJ's 5 Thoughts on Game 61: Colorado

Colorado 5 - Columbus 0
18-36-7, 5th in Central Division, 11 points out of 29th in the NHL
The host Columbus Blue Jackets, in what could arguably be called the first preseason game of the 2012-13 season, lost to the visiting Colorado Avalanche, 5-0, in regulation.

1. COLORADO GIVES COLUMBUS FITS - Since Scott Arniel took over as coach of the Blue Jackets, Colorado is 5-1 against the CBJ.  They play a speed game (Note: A discernible identity!) that, for whatever reason, the Jackets just can't beat.  What's even more impressive about it is that Colorado has been able to rotate a few players in - such as super-rookie Gabriel Landeskog or trade deadline acquisition Steve Downie - who, because they fit the Colorado skill profile, just plug in and go.  What I'd give for a setup like that.

2. THE MASON BOOK, ONE OF THE SHORTEST TOMES EVER - "Glove side high".  That's it.  Blow the puck up high on the glove side, and Mason can't stop you.  And he didn't.  It's a shame, the kid has so many talents as a goaltender.  Take this acrobatic save (Sure, it was because he was out of position, but it was a great save nonetheless...):

(The irony of that save, of course, is that he made the save with his glove, going as high as he could while sprawling out.)

After stuff like that, to see him worn down by a team that smartly plays to his Achilles Heel...It's crushed his confidence.

Time for the happy dance - I get to pull my favorite
Cam Atkinson training camp photo out of mothballs!
3. ROMPER ROOM - Cam Atkinson, called up from the AHL Springfield Falcons, played on the second line with Mark Letestu and Vinny Prospal.  Ryan Johansen, playing at least in part because Scott Howson keeps trading away veteran forwards, played on the fourth line with Derek Mackenzie and Colton Gillies.  Atkinson had 14:41 time on ice, 1:06 of which was on the power play, with 2 shots and a -1 rating.  Johansen had 15:48 time on ice (that's a lot for a fourth line), of which 4:02 was on the power play.  The Johan had 1 shot and a -2 rating.

It's finally time to give the kids their chance.  Let's hope they apply what they've learned and use the last 21 games to their benefit for the upcoming season...because this team's going to need them to play well and score a lot.

Speaking of scoring...

4. SCORERS WANTED - At the first intermission cannon-side Tweetup in Tuesday's San Jose game, I cracked, "So Carter gets two goals.  Watch him get a hat trick, and then Howson will trade him."  Which, of course, Howson did.  And thus left the team's second leading scorer (15 goals, 10 assists), on a team that is third-to-last in the league in goals scored thus far this season.  Another 8 goals and 19 assists left with Antoine Vermette.

This team needs a scoring punch badly, and I daresay it not wise to rely upon Atkinson and Johansen to fill the holes presented by the trade deadline departures.  If Howson really isn't going to go after a goaltender by the deadline (the top priority, without a doubt, right now), I sure hope he gets a few players with noses for the net.

5. IS THIS THE END? - There's an odd symmetry to Rick Nash, number 61, playing perhaps his last home game as a Blue Jacket in game 61.  He left the bench for a little while in the third period, supposedly because he was sick.  I half wonder if he was getting choked up.  I can't imagine the stress that he's been carrying this season, what with expectations so high and outcomes so dismal.

As for the  game itself, I wish it would have been more memorable for Columbus' most prolific Blue Jacket.  He had a stretch where he couldn't smash the puck through the crease, but that was about it.  16:27 time on ice, 3 shots, a -1 rating.  Somewhat...pedestrian, like all too many games this season.

At least Jeff Carter left us with a hat trick.

OK, I promise to to use Johnson's college photos again.
And I hope that the media doesn't wear out
the "Michigan Wolverine playing in Columbus" card.
BONUS NUMBER 6 - JACK JOHNSON IN THE HOUSE - The newest Blue Jacket (I gather he passed his physical) literally got off the plane and drove straight to Nationwide Arena, just in time to be interviewed by Jeff Rimer in the second intermission and then Natalie Taylor after the game.  (Because so much happened between the first and second interview.)  He also apparently received an ovation when introduced to the Nationwide crowd.  Anyway, he seems to be a likeable guy, a positive guy, a guy who at least doesn't look at playing out the six remaining years of his contract in Columbus as a de facto exile to the NHL's Siberia.  After the whispers about Jeff Carter (which were somewhat validated by the Dispatch today), this is refreshing and could be a positive in the locker room.

At the same time, I'm not going to go overboard with praise for Johnson.  I looked back at the last game the Blue Jackets played against the Kings (the infamous "clock-gate" game), and Johnson was slotted by Dan at The Cannon (presumably based on more than a hunch) as a second pair blueliner.  That's somewhat surprising considering that he is making over $4 million a year; for that type of money, I'd think he would be a top-liner.

And then there's this.

So I'm not going to jump for joy at his arrival (Well, perhaps at his arrival insofar as it puts Aaron Johnson up in the press box...), nor am I going to jump off Columbus' sweet pedestrian bridge.

I'll just take the Missouri position.  SHOW ME.

NEXT UP: The Jackets have one more game before the trade deadline, on Sunday at 1PM in Pittsburgh against the ever-potent Penguins.

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