Saturday, February 16, 2013

DBJ's Game 15 six-pack: Phoenix

Phoenix 5 - Columbus 3
30th in NHL, 1st overall draft pick (lottery notwithstanding)
The second of six games on this road trip concluded with the Columbus Blue Jackets falling to the host Phoenix Coyotes, 5-3, in regulation.

Being the rocket scientist that I am, I thought that the puck dropped at 9PM local.  When I tuned in, the second period was half over - and the score was 3-2, Phoenix.

I hate West Coast trips.

Anyway, the Blue Jackets have three first round picks in June.

Just keep repeating that, folks.

Is the coffee necessary when the game's over before 11PM?

1. The first cup 'o' joe goes to the CBJ's radio play-by-play voice, George Matthews, who called his 1,000th Blue Jackets game tonight.  Sometimes unintelligible yet never lacking in enthusiasm, Matthews is one of the true Blue Jackets institutions.    From everything I've heard, he's also one heckuva guy.  Enjoy this profile of George from last year:



Oh, heck, let's do another:


2. The second - <cough> - cup of coffee goes to - <cough, cough> - Jared Boll for his goal and assist tonight.  By this team's offensive standard, he was <hack, cough, wheeze> a scoring machine... <passes out>

3. And while we're talking up Boll <grabs chest>, let's put a little extra creamer in the coffee for The Scrubs - Boll and Tim Erixson.  They both had +2's on the night.  Now look at the +1's: Calvert, Prospal, MacKenzie, Aucoin, Foligno.  So...the tweener long-timers (Boll/DMac) and a bunch of relatively fresh faces.  Who's missing? Perhaps...the longer tenured Blue Jackets in relatively safe roster positions?

I think it's time to strategically employ healthy scratches.  And the plural use of the word is intentional.

4. After having the night that he had (stopped 30 of 34) with nowhere near enough defensive support (I'm looking at you, Jack Johnson) on the one Phoenix goal that I did see and plenty of other times when he did make the save, I'm sliding a mug 'o' joe down the bar to a weary Steve Mason.  I'm no expert, but I'm growing more and more convinced that the problem lies in the supposed strength of this team - the blue line.  It could be the constant roster shuffling due to injuries, babies, scratches, etc., but the defensive corps is just porous enough to give the goaltenders zero margin for error.  Not like they're going to get any reliable goal support.

5. The Phoenix timekeeper gets some coffee for his amazing work with the clock over the first 18:28 of the third period...when the Blue Jackets had zero shots on goal.  ZERO.  Matt Calvert, Derrick Brassard and Erixson each got a shot in during the last 1:32 of the game, but I was totally slack-jawed from about 10:00 onward.  You know, that "I can't believe that Kobayashi is really going to eat all those hot dogs" feeling.  Were the Blue Jackets going to go a full period without a shot?  According to @CBJProspects, that hadn't happened since 2007.

Seriously.  This is $53 million in NHL salary running around on the ice, and they can't put a shot on goal for eighteen and a half minutes?  How?  Honestly, how can a hockey team do that?  I mean, the law of averages suggests that even with all the penalty kills (and there were a lot), the Blue Jackets could fling even a single wounded duck at Mike Smith.  Just one.  But they didn't, and I felt like I was watching history.

"Do you believe in miracles?  YES!"  (Well, almost.)

6. I'll wrap this up on a very positive note, so let's put a fresh pot on for the incredible ice sports culture of Columbus.  I've been tied up for a while with my twins, so today was the first day that I was able to get the Dark Blue Kiddo out to skate.  We hit the open skate at The Chiller Easton, and I was amazed at the crowd in the place. Rink one was packed with people of all ages (and colors!).  Families, teenagers, little kids birthday parties, girl scout troops, grownup dates...everything imaginable.  Rink two was non-stop youth and beer league hockey games, punctuated by kids dragging around gear bags that were bigger than they were.  Point being, there's an incredible current of enthusiasm for skating and hockey...and Columbus has embraced it at a mass level that I haven't appreciated.

If the Blue Jackets were ever good, the doors would blow off the ticket office in this town.

WERE THE BLUE JACKETS OUTWORKED TONIGHT?  Based on the third period alone, I have to say, "Yes."  That was atrocious.  It didn't help that Artem Anisimov and, in the second period, Brandon Dubinsky were out with injuries, but the rest of the team could still have worked hard.  If they did, it wasn't hard enough.

NEXT UP: Anaheim, in Anaheim.  The Ducks are quite good (2nd in the Western Conference and the entire NHL), coached by a "free of Alexander Ovechkin" Bruce Boudreau.  They have more than twice the standings points that Columbus has...in two less games. Hold on tight, crew.

Puck drops at 10PM EST.  I checked.

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