|Minnesota 3 - Columbus 2|
2-4-1, 5th in Central Division, 12th in Western Conference
Why does Hockey Jobu hate me so? Why does he give Gallos and Morgan such fascinating, storyline-filled games and stick me with a game where the only noteworthy action was coming from the fourth line? What have I done to deserve this? I am pained, my friends. Pained!
|Hockey Jobu is a harsh taskmaster, and|
DBJ clearly has to atone for something. But what?
1a. Mark Letestu - The fourth liner, a favorite of my ticket package partner Chris, couldn't find his way to the ice for the first few games. When finally inserted, however, all he did was score goals in his limited minutes. Such was the case tonight when "The Test Tube" was in the right place at the right time to jam one in past Niklas Backstrom. And he got Big Boy minutes, logging 14:59 time on ice. Goes to show you: You score, you play. Coffee is for closers.
1b. Jack Johnson - Hey, a power play goal! Johnson's dump-in from the blue line...not necessarily a booming shot, not in the least...is proof positive that if you shoot the puck at the goal, you might get it in. Johnson did, and good for him. Share your cold one with Letestu, Jack.
2. Team speed - The Wild roamed...wild...when the Blue Jackets couldn't jam up the ice, and it appeared to give the CBJ fits. The Blue Jackets have a couple horses who can run with guys like these - Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen come to mind - but largely lack the top gear. File this under "Longer-term projects," Mr. Davidson, and let me pour you a pint of a real potent stout while you mull over how to solve this one.
3. Penalty kill - Once again, the penalty kill was perfect on the night. If I understand correctly, the brewskie goes to assistant coach "Tough Actin'" Keith Acton, who's a bit of a PK coaching expert, and assistant coach "Dan" Dan Hinote. I love seeing the guys in proper position, sprawling to the ice to block lanes where necessary, keeping the sticks on the ice and clearing puck after puck after puck. It just seems like the PK fundamentals have taken hold with the club, and that's a good thing.
4. The Minnesota thoroughbreds - Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Zach Parise are one awesome line, with each registering a +2 on the night. I spent a little of the early evening catching the Rangers-Flyers game, and I'd be tempted to take the Wild's top line over the well-hyped Rangers line of Richards, Gaborik and Nash. (Side note: Ryan Suter isn't worth the same amount of money to me as Zach Parise, at least right now.) One cold can for the boys from the other side in a show of nothing but respect for world-class skill.
5. Jared Boll and Colton Gillies - I really don't care for fighting in hockey when it's as pointless as it looks when Boll drops the gloves, but this game all too often felt like the back end of a back-to-back...and the two guys won their fights. So split your can, gents.
6. Todd Richards - I like the coach. I think that's clear. He appears to have a decent grasp of X's and O's (unlike, say, his predecessor) and speaks truth to power. So when posed the question of whether the team needs to bring up a forward or two (presumably Springfield's Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, the AHL All-Star scoring machine), he doesn't discount the notion. THEN he goes to the next step and calls out his supposed playmaking forwards. You know them, they're the ones not making plays. Richards wraps up with something to the extent of, "I hope that they're not waiting on me to motivate them." You go, coach. Drink a tall boy, maybe with Davidson as you two work through the speed/skill gaps.
I know the coach has one helluva bag skate in his toolkit and hope that he does not have to pull it out. Hopefully the legend is enough for the players. There's too little time in this condensed season to wear out the players and recover in time to play competitively. Beyond that, it's clear that this team is neck-deep in rebuilding...and bag-skating them only ensures that you won't be the coach when things get rosier.
But jeez, Richards had a little snarl in his postgame scrum. It was enough to remind me of what he's capable of doing. And not that the top 9 forwards don't deserve a bag skate...
WERE THE BLUE JACKETS OUTWORKED TONIGHT: Yuppers. In my humble opinion, Minnesota wanted this one more...and played like it. For more on this, refer to cold ones number two and number six (above).
NEXT UP: The day trip to Minnesota finished, the Blue Jackets return to Nationwide Arena for a 7PM Thursday night tilt against former CBJ coach Ken Hitchcock and his powerful St. Louis Blues squad. I hear that the Vegas bookies are taking bets on whether CBJ president of hockey operations John Davidson (former Blues president for six seasons) will break down in uncontrollable weeping at seeing his old team and what he spent so many years building.
A PARTING THOUGHT: Didn't you used to be R.J. Umberger?