|Columbus 4 - Florida 1|
26-45-7, 5th in Central Division, 30th in NHL
Well, I guess we've conclusively answered the question, "Is the worst team in the Central Division better than the best team in the Southeast Division?" - at least for one night. Man, Florida really is not very good. That emperor has no clothes. Must be great to play your hockey in a division filled with creampuffs. If the CBJ took Winnipeg's place in the Southeast, who knows how this season would have played out. Heck, maybe we'd even be congratulating Priest and Howson on their outstanding work this season...and Arniel would be a Jack Adams candidate. <brain explodes>
The Blue Jackets owned this game from start to finish. At no point did I really think that the Panthers were going to threaten to win it. In fact, I think I saw Todd Richards employing a "shut-down" approach in the third period. When was the last time you saw that out of the Blue Jackets?
- Nikita Nikitin - 2 goals. This guy has been a pleasant surprise of late. I figured his game was going to crumble once his linguistic crutch, Fedor Tyutin, was lost for the season. It took him a couple rough games to figure it out, but he is certainly on a roll right now. Did you note that his 5 shots were the highest on the team last night? "In Mother Russia, puck shoots YOU."
- R.J. Umberger - 2 goals, one being an empty netter. We're finally getting the Umberger that we thought we were going to get over the first 70 games of the season.
- Allen "Sergeant" York - Stopped 30 of 31 behind a defense featuring a pairing of Jack Johnson and Dalton Prout. Johnson, I'm not concerned about. Prout...eh? Luckily, Columbus was playing Florida. That's not to diminish the performance of the rookie, though. Kid played good. At the same time, he probably should be playing in Springfield next season as the NHL surely will get a book on him with these last 6-ish games where he's playing (see: Mason, Steve).
- Eric Gudbranson - The kid sent Jared Boll into next week with a well-timed push into the dasher board. If Boll does not have a concussion, I will be floored. I'm also surprised that no Blue Jackets cleaned Gudbranson's clock in return. (Yeah, yeah...end of the season, nobody on the roster gives a damn about each other, etc. etc. etc.)
- Kevin Dineen - If last night doesn't kill his weak hopes at a Jack Adams "coach of the year" trophy - especially in light of Ken Hitchcock, John Tortorella and Barry Trotz's masterful jobs this season - nothing will. Sir, your roster got owned by a bunch of non-motivated vets, waiver wire claims and AHL/ECHL callups. Enjoy your four games of playoff glory and go work on your shuffleboard game with the blue-hairs down there in South Florida.
NEXT UP: Tonight, 8PM, against Hitch's St. Louis Blues in that other Arch City. Bring your Big Boy Pants, Blue Jackets...this is no Florida Panthers matchup.