Saturday, April 6, 2013

DBJ's six-pack for Game 38: St. Louis

St. Louis 3 - Columbus 1
16-15-7, 4th in Central Division, 10th in Western Conference
13th overall draft pick (plus 17th and 24th!)
With every game critical in this playoff stretch run, the Columbus Blue Jackets flew into St. Louis trailing the host Blues by a single standings point.  The Blue Jackets ran into a Hitchcockian buzz-saw and lost, 3-1, in regulation 

This was a big one, no doubt about it.  A regulation win would have had the CBJ leading the Blues by one standings point.  Instead, the regulation loss has Columbus three behind St. Louis.  St. Louis now owns eighth place with 42 points.  Edmonton and the CBJ are in 9th/10th with 39. (Edmonton has a game in hand.)

It's going to be a dogfight all the way to the finish if this team is to get to The Dance for the second time in its history.  The odds are not with us (9% chance to make it?), but this team has a strange habit of defying expectations just enough to stay in the conversation.

With 10 games left, it looks like the Blue Jackets will need 15 points to have a reasonable shot at the playoffs.  Are they up to the challenge, especially considering that so many games are on the road?

If it's St. Louis, do we have
to ask for our 6-pack of Bud Light
in French now?  Budweiser being
part of InBev now...
1. Beer number one goes to Ken Hitchcock.  If there is anyone who can coach his team to sit on a one-goal lead for an entire period as if it was a four-goal lead, it's Hitch.  The Blue Jackets were skating in mud for most of the night (I'll presume that there were some tired legs from playing the night before, too, but St. Louis was in the same boat), and I'm guessing that it drove the team crazy.

I know that Hitch Hockey drives a lot of people nuts, but facts are facts: In this NHL, Hitch Hockey is winning hockey.  Didn't Mike Priest say something like that way back when?

2. The second brew goes to Matt Calvert - presuming he's old enough to drink it down here in the States.  The kid who was supposed to be an AHL-NHL tweener hasn't let up on his motor since coming out of training camp and arguably has been the most consistently dynamic player on the squad this season.  I love me some Calvert and hope his drive is (continues to be?) contagious.

But there's a catch: He can't catch a break with Toronto.  I think tonight was the third goal this season that was either overturned by Toronto or waved off by the refs because of something he did.  Tonight, he got sandwiched between a defender and Blues rookie goalie Jake Allen (See: Mason, Steve, 2013 edition) and apparently did just enough of something to have been deemed an interferer with Allen.  Unlike the overturned goal on Calvert's incredible flying kick play of a few games back, this apparently was a legit call.

Keep your head up, Matt.  The goals will come.

3. Artem Anisimov gets the third can of liquid gold, for he snuck the only Blue Jackets goal in past a very tough Allen.  (I'd post video, but the Blue Jackets haven't uploaded anything yet.)  Note that assists went to Vinny Prospal and Marian Gaborik, the "Union Blueshirts" line.  This is as good a place as any to compliment coach Todd Richards for applying the common sense of lining up three guys who all played in New York together in the past as a way to ease the transition for Gaborik.  It's as close to instant chemistry as one can get.

4. The Blues' Patrick Berglund gets one for his empty net goal at 19:59 of the 3rd, but only because I don't think I've ever seen a regulation walk-off goal before.  I don't think they even bothered to do a faceoff after that goal. Who knew?

5. I'm pouring a beer over newcomer Marian Gaborik's head tonight as a gentle reminder that while he did get an assist against St. Louis and has 3 points in 2 games for Columbus....he only had two shots on goal tonight.  Jeesh.  I know he had some tough defensive matchups, but he's supposed to be an elite talent deserving of his $7.5 million paycheck.  Hey Gabby: You were brought in to shoot the puck and score goals.  You can't do the latter without the former.  The team needs the offense, badly!

6. The final beer goes to the DBJ Graphics Vault, for the Hitchcock Blues went totally out of character and regressed to pre-Hitchian tendencies and started picking fights when things weren't going their way.  (Surely, this rediscovered aggressiveness was helped by the fact that Jared Boll wasn't playing.)  Anyway, this is a graphics win because I got to dust off this oldie but goodie:

It was totally appropo.

WERE THE BLUE JACKETS OUTWORKED?  I'm going to say YES only because Gaborik got two shots off.  Such is the power of the star player when it comes to judging an entire team's performance.  It gets lonely at the top.

NEXT UP: The last home stand of the season kicks off on Sunday at 6PM against the Minnesota Wild.  Columbus' expansion cousins are in 6th place in the Western Conference with 44 points and also are working on integrating top-line talent on the fly with the trade deadline acquisition of Jason Pominville.

The Wild also have Ryan Suter, who has the misfortune of resembling a pylon every time I watch him play.  I don't watch the Wild much, but he always seems to rise to the occasion for me.  Like this one from last week:

That's a 13-year, $98 million contract in action, my friends.  Whoosh.

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