Thursday, December 12, 2013

Game 32: CBJ v NYR - A Tale of Three Periods

Columbus Blue Jackets 4 - New York Rangers 2

Tonight's Blue Jackets game against the New York Rangers had more story lines than a football program under NCAA investigation.  Lots of things swirling around this game:  Rick Nash's first game against the CBJ, Dubinky's return to MSG, and Derek Brassard's butt hurt.  In today's needlessly emotional climate of who wins and who loses, who's right and who's wrong - this game carried lots of weight with fans over who "won" the trade.  Seriously, who wins trades?  Is that another advanced stat?  To me, this game was about the cancer that once was in the Blue Jackets dressing room lead by Scott Arniel now doing their thing in Madison Square Garden.  It was also a night for a NYR fan favorite to return to the Big Apple.  And there was a needless amount of talk about the newly renovated MSG.  A hundred gajillion zillion dollar renovation and I'm sure the 34th street subway terminal right around the corner still smells like a dirty urinal that someone vomited in. Speaking of 34th Street, if you ever get a chance to see a game in NYC, get off the E (maybe it's the F...) at 34th and stop over at B&H Photo first.  It's an awesome place, but I digress.

Even with all the story lines, tonight's game was really a tale of three periods.  Three different periods in form and function.  The first period saw the Jackets strike early and take advantage of a sloppy NY Rangers team.  While seeing the Jackets scoring three goals early in the first period is nice, it was encouraging to actually see that the CBJ could smell blood and pounced on their opportunities.  The outburst from the CBJ and the (eerily familar) slop turned in by the Rangers was enough to chase King Henrik and he shiny new contract from the net.  The Rangers were able to eek out a goal late in the first, but it was clearly "Advantage CBJ" in the first period.  Matty Hustle sets the pace 38 seconds into the game.

The second period brought yet another story line to this game.  As expected, both teams came out in the second playing a tighter checking game and it looked like both teams were going to settle in for a chess match the rest of the night.  But starting Goaltender Curtis McElhinney tweeks something in his lower body and is unable to take the ice in the for the second period.  Enter the Back Up's Back Up, Jarmo-signed Mike McKenna who got to see his first NHL action in 3 years.  Suddenly, the Rangers seemed to have a little pep in their strides with a goalie who hasn't seen NHL shooters in a couple years between the pipes.  McKenna impressed me and gave me some concern both at the same time.  McKenna kept it simple, didn't over play the puck, and for the most part was positionally sound.  The Jackets wasted no time in clearing loose pucks to the boards and collapsing to the red zone when things got squirely.  The Jackets kept the speed going in the second and the blunders that tended to happen early in the second period seem to be behind the team now.  Dubinsky takes two reckless penalties that really don't help your third string goalie calm his nerves, but nonetheless the Jackets weather those two penalties and escape the second with the score still at 3-1.  Those were both penalties and those were both careless.

Four goalies enter, two goalies leave!

The third period had it's drama as well.  To be honest, McKenna came out in the third looking like he's played minor league hockey the last three years.  He likes to play the puck and get it to his defensemen quickly. That style of play is not for the faint of heart, especially in the trapezoid-era.   He swam a little bit in the crease, and got a little ambitious trying to make the first breakout pass off his leg pads, but the CBJ Dmen were able to scoop up the puck and get it out of the zone efficiently.  The Jackets had chances early in the third: Calvert hits a post, Mackenzie rips a tap-in 4 feet wide, and Johansen looked destined to score at some point in the third.  But the ice slowly started tilting the Rangers way and Girardi makes it 3-2 halfway through the 3rd.  But even this cynic wasn't scared that the lead was going to be blown.  The Jackets were playing smart in front of McKenna, they were still generating chances, and whether it was poise or wink-and-a-nod arrogance, McKenna looked capable in the crease.

And in the closing moments of the game, Ryan Johansen, who kept his head about him while all around him everyone else was losing theirs, sneaks a puck through Talbot to ice the game at 4-2.  Clearly Johansen was a target of the Ranger's all night.  He was checked, chirped, and he kept his cool.  No stupid penalties, no seeing a man feeding off his reckless emotions. He was just a man letting his stick do the talking, and it spoke loudly at the right time.  I wonder how much longer before we see "RyJo for captain" tweets.  I digress again...  I almost forgot Anisimov was on the Blue Jackets.  Does he score most of his goals in losses, how does he have 8 goals?  Good to see he gets up for big games. As far as the ex-patroit CBJers, I don't hate on other players, but I didn't notice Nash much, except when he dumped the puck at the blue line and lumbered to the bench.

The game was an emotional one for players and the fans.  And while we gush over the Jackets triumphant defeat of the New York Rangers and let Mike McKenna bask in this evening's victory, let's hope McElhinney's injury is superficial and he's on the ice for the next practice.  McKenna is a feel good story tonight, but having a 30 year old who's only played in a handful of NHL games as your starter for the next game is not a solid foundation for success.  Yes, you expect guys to step up and fill roles when injuries happen - but it's fair to say that most NHL teams only plan on having their third string goalie called up for a couple days a year.

The Jackets play host to the St Louis Blue Notes on Friday Saturday night (duh) at Nationwide Arena.  And while the Jackets are the second highest draw in road attendance in the league, they are dead last in the league for home attendance as a percent of capacity.  More on that later, but for now - Tonight was a satisfying win for the CBJ.  Friday night's game will likely still have the grit of a Western Conference rivalry, those things don't go quietly into the night.  Looking back, getting 4 out of 6 points from division rivals in the past 3 games is stellar, and they had a chance to take all 6 points.  The team is scoring goals and it's a better brand of hockey to watch than dumping four bodies in the neutral zone and hoping to win 2-1 every night.  I like what I'm seeing from this team, and if it remains constant and consistent....  who knows.  But I sure I hope this chemistry doesn't disappear when Gaborik returns and Horton makes his debut.  I am still sad to see Rick Nash in another sweater, but I can honestly say that I don't know that this team is where it's at now if Nash is still here. 

GO JACKETS  (and yes @BlueJacketsNHL, we were ready for battle too)

1 comment:

  1. You had me at Thunderdome. Awesome reference.

    And yes, I too am concerned about the looming roster shakeup. One would think that a talent injection would help, but...this is the Columbus Blue Jackets we are talking about. Sometimes I think chemistry and mindset trump talent with this crowd.

    My haiku, prodded by seeing Scott Arniel scowling next to Alain Vigneault:

    I've seen this before
    Yet from the other point of view
    Through The Looking Glass