Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gallos' Six Pack for Game 20: Dallas Stars

Photo

On a snarky February night, the Columbus Blue Jackets hosted the Dallas Stars to fast paced, back and forth game before 11,523 fans, ultimately won by the Stars 5-4 in overtime.  Columbus struggled with Dallas' speed all night long, as well as struggling to generate offense, especially in the first period, which ended with Dallas leading 1-0 off a puck banked in off a skate.  The CBJ responded to tie the game twice in the second period, only to have Dallas score rebound and deflection goals to lead 3-2 at the end of the second period.  The CBJ came back to tie the game twice in the third period to force overtime.  As they had all night, Dallas' propensity to crash the net allowed them to beat the defense in overtime and score a gritty game winning goal.

Since I went off the grid early in February, its been an interesting turn of events for the CBJ.  Howson fired, Jarmo hired, changes to the scouting staff, and a pretty rough road trip.  I wanted to take this brief moment in time when I could safely get into a computer chair to take care of tonight's recap.  So without further ado, tonight's six pack:

Thanks to Morgan and Tom for
carrying the load in my absence!
1.) My first frosty cold beer of the night goes to George Matthews, the radio voice of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  George was honored tonight for his calling his 1000th Blue Jackets game.  George does a highly entertaining call of the game, and I frequently listen to them when I am down at the in-laws in Predators land, so their work is much appreciated.  But my favorite call of a game happened earlier this year when NHL hockey seemed like a distant dream.  So here's your cold frosty reward George!  Well done!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

DBJ's recap for game 19: Chicago

Chicago 1 - Columbus 0
First in our hearts (and the draft), last in everything else
The Six Game Road Trip From Hell wrapped up tonight in Chicago, where the host Blackhawks defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 1-0 in regulation.

Not much to say about tonight's game, other than the same old stuff.  The team tried hard, but they weren't as good.  The forwards were toothless and the defense was just porous enough, making a somewhat respectable goalie performance irrelevant.

Congrats to the Blackhawks on extending their impressive streak of a zillion consecutive games without a regulation loss.  The Blackhawks are a very good hockey team.

Morgan's Game 18 Six-Pack: St Louis Blues

Blue Jackets 1 - St Louis Blues 2
5-11-2  Last in Central, West, NHL and KHL

The Blue Jackets took to the ice tonight against the St Louis Blues in the first of back-to-back games against Central Division foes.  The Jackets are coming off an emotional win in Detroit where they dug themselves out of a 2 goal trough and fought back and won 3-2 in the closing moments of the game.  Tonight's battle against the Blues was expected to be a gritty affair fought and won in the trenches.  Past performance does not guarantee future results, but I can't help watching a contest between these two teams without thinking at some point the ice is going to turn into a yard sale in front 19.457 people.


That sounds good.  I'll have that.


1.  The first frosted mug of the night goes to Cam "MF" Atkinson.  You had me after your first shift.  It was a glorious first shift and you looked good on offense all night.  It has seemed like an eternity since I felt excitement when the puck got on the stick of a CBJ player, but tonight I couldn't wait to see you get the puck.  I felt like there was a chance you'd put the puck in the net every time you touched it.  It was tough watching you give the puck to Brassard and Umberger as they seemed to jam themselves all night.  But you were fun to watch tonight, thank you.

Friday, February 22, 2013

DBJ's six-pack for game 17: Detroit

Columbus 3 - Detroit 2
29th in NHL - 2nd overall draft pick (lottery notwithstanding)
After a couple days rest in between the Pacific Division and Central Division portions of their six-game road trip, the Columbus traveled up to Detroit tonight for game four of six.  The Blue Jackets gave up two early goals, settled down and came back to win, 3-2, with roughly 25 seconds left in regulation.

Both the Blue Jackets and Red Wings pale in comparison to their 2008-09 incarnations, but there was an undeniable intensity and excitement to the game that rekindled memories of the 2009 first-round playoff series between the two teams.  However, the Blue Jackets won this time.

We're going to whip through the six-pack pretty quickly, because there's a much larger issue that needs to be addressed tonight.


Put the coffee away -
We're back on Eastern Time!
1. Taking care of our own first, let's crack one open for longtime Dark Blue Jacket blog compadre Gallos, who surfaced today after being out for a while with a lower body injury.  So glad to hear from you again, my friend, and I hope you're feeling better soon!

2. R.J. Umberger got a first period goal, a rather greasy one from close range that seemed to settle the team down after the shaky start.  Give that man a cold one.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sweet 16 Game Six-Pack: Anaheim Ducks

Columbus Blue Jackets 2 - Anaheim Ducks 3
4-10-2 5th in the Central -  Position "A" in the West

The Blue Jackets jet set back to Southern California after a pit stop in Phoenix for a must win game against the hockey team formerly known as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.  The home crowd of 14,714 looks like it equaled the total attendance for the last three Florida Panther's home games.  Seriously Florida, get some blow  up dolls or let the folks from the cheap seats sit in the lower bowl after the first period.  Anyways, back to the Ducks v Blue Jackets.  The Blue Jackets are coming off of two losses that I watched from a hotel bar in Strongsville, OH this weekend.  Both were frustrating in their own unique way as the likelihood of the CBJ getting at least 5 points on this road trip fading fast.

I don't drink coffee, but I should probably start

1.  The first of these weird sized coffees goes to Vinny Prospal's chest.  But really, how freaking hard is it to use the words small, medium, and large to describe your portion sizes?  Cold Stone and Starbucks, it's much simpler to go with comfortable vernaculars than having to show me an English-to-Beatnick conversion table for my portion size.  Somehow you can't charge $7 bucks per serving if it's called "Medium?"  Where was I?  Oh yeah, Prospals chest.  Its nice to see that the Blue Jackets have finally started to game plan for when their shots hit players in the chest.  I am a little surprised the plan was to shoot a puck in off a teammates chest and not the goalies.  But, Letestu is an honorary member of the pond hockey weekend and we clearly heard him call "bank the puck off of a defenseman's skate, deflecting it into your wing's chest, and then he bangs it in the net"

2.  Wild Wing, you make me laugh so hard that I cry.  And you get a "Gotta Have It" sized second coffee drink latte thing.


3.  Remember way back to January 2013 when any sort of contact with the Goaltenders immediately canceled any scored goal?  That seems like it was an NHL rule de jour like 'Foot in the crease' 'sleufooting' and 'clutching and grabbing.'  Or maybe there's an exception to that rule if Corey Perry skates backwards into Bobrovsky and clips a leg pad with his right heel.  I don't typically like to whine about officiating, but come on.

4.  My fourth $8 dollar vanilla flavored laxative goes to the New York Islanders.  Have you seen their 3rd Jerseys?  My God they are hideous.  The only possible excuse for them is that Helen Keller designed them.  It looks like something my 11 year-old son designed on NHL 13.  Seriously Mr Wang, you're trying to showcase your under performing franchise in those jerseys?  Good Luck selling that team, maybe you can sell it to someone if they pay you one dollar a year for 135 million years, by which time Rick DiPietro will be eligible for salary arbitration.

5.  The Blue Jackets Powerplay - Here's a grande double shot of  "Show the F up."  I have opined on this blog and the DKM Hockey Podcast the importance of the Jackets power play as this team does not have the scoring depth to regularly score goals while 5-on-5.  So far on this road trip the PP is 0-for-the-trip.  Even a team with the offensive stature like the CBJ should be able to convert on power plays.  I have no idea where the CBJ power play is ranked, but I'm going to say 26th.

6.  As I looked through the 'new-look' Columbus Dispatch this evening, I noticed the goal scoring depth on the first three of the Ducks forwards lines.  That folks, is called depth when each member of your top three lines has at lest two goals.  Also, I was secretly rooting for Nick Foligno and Nick Bonino to have a fight so I could listen to George Mathews call it.

You can pretty much tell I wasn't really engaged in this game.  Were the Blue Jackets out worked?  Overall I will say no, but because the Ducks looked slow.  The Jackets were all over it the first period (except for those 21 seconds), and did what it needed the final two periods of the game.  Maybe this could be like a silver NO on that one blog.  The one thing that was neat tonight is I saw players like Teemu Selanne and Ryan Getzlaf make the same mistakes on the ice that my son's peewee travel team makes.  Teemu tries to dangle around someone rather than getting the puck deep and Getlaf over skates the goal with the puck a couple times.

The Blue Jackets next game in this six game road trip is against the central division rival 7-6-2 Detroit Red Wings.  Some will say the Wings are struggling, but secretly I wouldn't mind trying the Red Wings problems out for a season or two, even using the CBJ goalies.  Detroit is on a three game skid and will be looking to smack the taste out the Jacket's mouth Thursday Night the 18th.  Tom gets to cover that game, and have a pre-1am bed time.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Guest post: Jarmo the first

[Reader Gabriel offers his thoughts on the past week's goings-on...]


Some time during the miring heat of the 2012 summer, a conversation between two old friends took place.  I imagine it started with the usual how are the kids and grand kids, how’s the wife before the real reason for the call came into focus.  I was not part of that call, but at some point our own Jeff Rimer was able to say enough glowing things about Columbus Ohio to convince his good friend since high school John Davidson that the rebuilding of the Columbus Blue Jackets was a project he should undertake.  When that call ended the winds of change started to move and as of the firing and subsequent hiring of Jarmo Kekalainen, those same winds have become a gust which has sent a message not just to the NHL, but to the entire Hockey playing World that the future of NHL hockey is in Columbus Ohio.

The Genius of the new GM hiring did not come into focus until I saw an European article posted which showed a picture of our new GM’s face in the center of the NHL logo with the caption, “Jarmo the First!”  It was that moment which brought into sharp focus the fact that we North Americans are but a fraction of the sports obsessed population of the world.  And the proud people of Europe who love their hockey as much as we do, have NEVER had one of their own lead a team in the greatest hockey league on the planet.  They have never had the opportunity to show the world they are just as capable, just as good, no… they have never had a chance to show they world they are better than the rest!  Upon the shoulders of “Jarmo the first” are not the hopes and dreams of a man, a city, or even a country.  He represents the would be greatness of an entire continent.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Blue Jackets Community Spotlight

Youth hockey season is winding down in Columbus.  Most teams in town are finishing up their President’s Day tournaments and are preparing for the upcoming league playoffs.  It is also the time of the year where youth hockey associations accept nominations for open positions on their board of trustees for the following season.  It seems that most times parents submit nominations for trustee just to push an agenda or to try and advance the aspirations of their children.  It’s because of this stigma and associated politics that qualified volunteers who truly are assets to the community are often overlooked come election time.

CCYHA, or the Columbus Chill Youth Hockey Association, today announced the nominees running for 3 open trustee positions.  The CCYHA is an area youth hockey association that has an affiliation with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets.  The CCYHA has the honor of bestowing upon its travel teams the uniform, logo, and namesake of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  One of those nominees for the CCYHA board I’ve had the privilege of coaching with over the last two seasons, Albert Iosue.

Al is just not a great coach and role model for the kids, but he is the type of person every youth athletic association should feel lucky to have in their organization.  Al has spent his adult life volunteering throughout the community, not just in youth athletics.  Albert is an incumbent member of the Hilliard City council, is an active member of a very worthwhile charity, and a board member of too many other organizations to list.  If you are curious, you can check out his CCYHA trustee application here.

Sometimes I tease Al about his volunteer involvement throughout Columbus, but it is very humbling to see him with the desire and compassion to serve his community.  Al always has input how to better serve our kids on the team and keeps his focus on their best interests.  If you’ve taken the time to read his application, you should know that’s exactly how Albert presents himself to people every day.  It’s not just fodder for silly political commercials or charming words to get him elected to position of power.  If we had more people like Al involved in the community, not just youth athletics, I think the cynicism that exists in government today would quickly evaporate.  This is why I’m taking a little time to write a shameless plug for a person that I’ve had the pleasure of working with the past two years.

 Voting for the CCYHA board of Trustees will be held starting tomorrow Monday, February 18th and will conclude Wednesday, February 21st at the Dublin Chiller.  Voting tables will be set up during the evening practices all three nights.

If you have a child participating in the CCYHA, please take the time to vote. 

I will be voting and chanting - VOTE IOSUE!  VOTE IOSUE! 




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:



DBJ's Game 14 six-pack: Los Angeles

Los Angeles 2 - Columbus 1
30th in NHL - 1st overall draft pick (lottery notwithstanding)
The Columbus Blue Jackets opened up their six-game road trip in Los Angeles tonight and promptly forgot everything that made Games 12 (Edmonton) and 13 (San Jose) so exciting and positive.  Los Angeles won, 2-1, in regulation.

It's going to be a distinctly sleep-deprived six-pack tonight...

Sorry, LTL...these late starts call for caffeine.
1. We'll let the first cup 'o' joe go to Tim Erixson and Cody Goloubef.  Not too far removed from AHL Springfield, it could be argued that they played better than the only "regular" pairing on the ice tonight, Fedor Tyutin and Nikita Nikitin.  

Wait, that's not fair to Tyutin.  The kids played better than Nikitin, though, by a country mile.  Nikki 6's turnovers were directly responsible for L.A.'s goals tonight.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The morning after


It’s been kind of a surreal 18 hours as a Blue Jackets fan.  Last night as my son and I got into the car after hockey practice, I looked at my phone to check messages.  I had some texts from a couple hockey buddies – “Howson Gone”  “Howson Canned” and then some twitter mention in French about Howson – I think it was a Pornbot.  To be honest, my first reaction was shock.  The Jackets had made a move.  Personally, it was a much needed move.  Long have the Blue Jackets put people into positions where they wouldn’t be successful, and Howson was one of those people.  I am not calling Howson a bum, or a good-for-nothing, but Howson all-in-all was not the most effective General Manager for the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Not 12 hours later, the Blue Jackets announce Jarmo Kekalainen as the new GM.  Bloggers of the world scramble to update their spell check.
Howson had mostly missed on the draft, and has thus far traded his only first round pick that has turned into an everyday NHLer - Voracek.  The jury is still out on Johansen, but last year should be a guide book of how not to prepare a teenager for the NHL.  Howson has made some good trades, and Howson has made some bad trades.  The most glaring of those bad trades being the one that brought Jeff Carter to Columbus.  Everyone in the NHL knew he was damaged goods, and Howson brought him here anyways.  The doom of that trade revealed within the first 48 hours of it being announced.

How will I remember Scott Howson? The 2011-2012 season:  the attitudes in the dressing room, the lack of heart, and the coach who lost the room.  All those things were a direct result of actions that Scott Howson had taken or failed to address as VP of Hockey Operations and General Manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  To me those were not signs of ineptitude, but more a result of not being the most effective general manager.  Perhaps it was he who had lost the room?
As a fan who has a high measure of expectation for the Columbus Blue Jackets, I am most disappointed that the Blue Jackets were the brunt of most front office and dressing room jokes throughout the NHL.  The franchise is not taken seriously by its peers in the league.  The Blue Jackets are the team you didn’t want to be traded to.  The Blue Jackets are the team where it’s completely inexcusable to lose to them.   This is where I feel Howson and Priest collectively failed as the Executives in Hockey Ops.  When every team in the league chuckles and shakes their head at the franchise, you may not be accomplishing what you wish to achieve.

In comes John Davidson.  If anyone was surprised by Howson being relieved of his duties then I’m guessing you’ve largely disagreed with what I’ve written above, or were defending Howson while you read it.  Davidson has already said it, "The lifeblood of this franchise is going to be its drafting going forward. That's the game plan here, and how we're going to get to where we want to go."  Say what you will about Howson, he has not done well in the draft or developing talent.  The development has largely been rushed, with a three-balled fan base anxious to see high draft picks in the the line-up without fully understanding the road to the NHL.   It’s possible that the best thing that happened to the CBJ was them placing second in the NHL draft lottery last year.  Howson or not, I don’t see Yakupov being a good fit in Columbus.

Davidson’s decision to relieve Howson of GM duties was one that I am certain has been road-mapped since October 24th.  If nothing else, it’s a sign to the rest of the league that ownership is adamant about being taken seriously and is engaged in a top-down approach to changing the culture in Columbus.  While I am a little bit nervous that the announcement of Kekalainen means the position of GM with the Blue Jackets still requires no previous experience, Davidson has chosen a person he trusts, has worked with before, and who seems at first glance has the proven track record to build the team the way that Davidson envisions.
What am I looking forward to the most from the Davidson/Kekalainen era?  I’m looking forward to the time when I can visit friends from out of town and they greet me with “Wow, the Blue Jackets have really started to turn things around” instead of the usual “Why does your team suck?”  It’s a sad thought indeed when a few front office employees in the NHL squarely place the blame of the Blue Jackets misery upon my shoulders the last decade.  Hopefully Davidson can turn things around for me.  Getting trolled in Christmas cards each year is starting to get old.  My wife is a Wing’s fan, so she provides no solace.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

DBJ's thoughts on the Scott Howson firing

The Columbus Blue Jackets fired Scott Howson, who served as general manager for the Columbus Blue Jackets since June 2007, today.

And maybe, now, we might get it.
I don't know Scott Howson personally. I hear he's a nice guy, and that comes from people who I respect.  But unlike my friends in the media, with whom Howson surely had a chance to build relationships, I don't have the luxury of talking up the wife and kids.

My only direct interaction with Howson a little over a year ago at a ticket package holder event. I was allowed to ask a question of him in an open Q&A session. You can read all about it here.

I've had plenty of time to reflect upon that one question, his answer and the performance of the team since I heard what he had to say.  My conclusion is this:

Scott Howson never had an overarching vision for what he wanted the Columbus Blue Jackets to become.

And it's not about just that one interchange.  Howson never articulated a consistent vision that I could discern.  And he's had at least four prime chances to do so.

Think about it.  What is Detroit's vision?  "Puck possession "  What is Nashville's?  "Build from the back out."  Is it any surprise that the general managers of those teams - each successful by their own standards - have been in their jobs forever?  They both have a vision and built their entire organizations to fulfill that vision!

When you have no guiding vision, you don't do much more than fix problems because there's no end goal in sight.  You're always working in arrears, correcting the last mistake with the next move.  Your lack of vision is reflected in the patchwork nature of your work product.

The only time Scott Howson had a working vision to follow in Columbus, he was working with Ken Hitchcock. Hitch knew the types of players he needed, and Howson went out and got them. Not surprisingly, the team made the playoffs for the only time in its existence.

But Howson and Hitch went their separate ways, and Howson was left to fend for himself.  The results speak for themselves.

As a ticket package holder, one who has spent thousands of dollars paying for the privilege of watching this franchise over the past six-plus years, I am happy that Scott Howson was fired.

No, I am thrilled.



Moving forward, John Davidson articulated the beginnings of a working philosophy with his statement, "We'll never be outworked."  Considering the lackadaisical attitudes that we fans have witnessed on the ice in the past, that's low-hanging fruit.  Davidson surely had seen enough of the Blue Jackets from his time in St. Louis to know that the team hasn't necessarily had the fortitude to play for 60 minutes every night.

What we need now, though, is the next level of understanding.  By necessity, the Columbus Blue Jackets have become a team of workmen - each being relied upon to be overachieving contributors for there is no star player to fall back upon.  But with three first round picks in the forthcoming NHL draft and surely some players to be moved by the time the trade deadline passes, opportunities will present themselves to begin a true reshaping of the team into whatever Davidson and his new general manager choose.

But what will that vision be?  What will this team become?  That, my friends, is what we need to listen for over the days ahead.

Morgan's Game 13 Six-Pack: San Jose Sharks

Columbus Blue Jackets 6 - San Jose Sharks 2
4-7-2 Last in Central - 11th in Western Conference

Coming off their best effort in recent memory, which yielded another loss the night before, the Columbus Blue Jackets get right back at it against the visiting San Jose Sharks in front of a Nationwide Arena crowd of  10,838.  This marks the last home game before the team embarks on a lengthy six game road trip.  I usually don't like these long road trips because I must endure how better suited the Blue Jackets are playing the Penguins, Flyers, and Sabers six times a year, but I digress.  Without getting too far ahead of myself, tonight's game is an important morale booster for the Blue Jackets.  If the team can take the momentum from last night's game and carry it into tonight's tilt against the Sharks, it could be just the boost the team needs.  Folks, it turned out to be just that kind of game - a slump buster.




6 beers, 6 goals.  No coincidence.

1.  And beer number one goes to Cody Goloubef - Welcome to the NHL!  A career first NHL goal, I love seeing those.  All the hard work, all the sacrifice, all the breaks and you get a chance to score a goal in the NHL.  No heckling fan can ever take that away from you.  It was also nice to see Brandon Dubinsky get his first NHL goal tonight too.  Remember, he makes 5 times as much as you and has the same amount of goals this year.  Come to think of it, you have the same amount of goals as Dubinsky, Umberger, Tyutin, Foligno... come to think of it, only 5 guys on the Blue Jackets have more goals that you this year.  This is supposed to be a happy beer.  Moving on...

2.   The second beer goes to the Columbus Blue Jackets  for gooning it up - you may be last in the Central, but you're first in the league in Fighting majors.  If you can't beat 'em, then beat 'em.   Kidding aside, what a great team game tonight.  The team took advantage of a sleeping and uninspired San Jose Sharks team.  It was very rewarding to see the Blue Jackets capitalize on a team that may have been looking past this game.  Very pleasing indeed.

3.  Third beer goes to Adam Burish's helmet.  You took a beating from Derek Dorsett.



4.  It's not often an intanglible gets a beer from me, but puck possession, this Bud's for you..  You can work as hard as you want.  You can say you'll never be out worked.  You can clog the center of the ice all season long and make skilled players beat you to the outside.  But if you don't protect the puck after/during a battle, you can't score goals.  If you can't get the puck deep in your own end and keep it, you lose.  And tonight the Jackets protected the puck well. 

5.  And, as Chairman of the Mark Letestu Admiration Society, I am not surprised to see him take the lead in team goals.   Fifth beer for your fifth goal.  I am very happy that he is leading the team in scoring.  Hopefully those forwards making 3 and 4 million dollars a year will step it up and earn their money soon.  Letestu is making near the league minimum this season, $650k.  Dubinsky and Umberger are making over 4 million dollars each sitting on just one goal a piece.  Someone who only makes 3 times as much as Letestu, is Artem Anisimov.  Someone tell Anisimov he's supposed to take every other shift off, not every other game.

6.  The CBJ Power Play.  First, let me say that I'm happy you showed up tonight.  The 5-on-5 play we've seen the last two nights is not typical and something this fan is not ready to count on yet.  By that measure, it was nice to see some PPGs tonight instead of the 0-for-7 dirty undies that we saw last night.  Wisniewski had a smart power play goal.  Very nice. 

Now I'm going to call 'em like I see 'em.

Attendance = Poor.  Please, no more "Hockeytown" hashtags...

Prospal Goal = Beautiful.  Can Foligno get two assists just on that goal?  Nice Jeff Skinner move along the boards to set up Prospal.

The Blue Jackets had five players with more than two goals before tonight's game, the Blue Jackets still have 5 players with more than two goals afterwards.  Sigh...

Herr Greiss = turrible.  I'm not sure an NHL goaltender is supossed to allow goals like the ones Nikitin and Letestu got.  This guy has a 1.01 GAA coming into this game?

Jack N' Wiz = were each minus one.  To me +/- is a function of team play, not an individual stat.  For this top pair it does tell a story, especially when your team scored 4 even strength goals and allowed only one.  Jack N' Wiz looked as if they played a little better in their own end, but still Chaos.  Just Chaos, seldom controlled.  You two HAVE TO play better for this team to be viable and survive during 5-on-5 play in this coming road trip.

The Jackets have a couple days off before they start their six game road trip.  Considering this hasn't been as strong of a start as CBJ fans may have been lead to expect, this six game road trip is crucial because of it.  The season is not lost as of yet, but if the Blue Jackets are only able to get 5 points out of their next six games, it most likely is.  That's the hole they've dug for themselves with the first two games of the season being all that has kept them bordline respectible in the standings.  Before tonight's win, the CBJ only had 3 points in their previous five games, all of which were at home.  To be considered a playoff contender, you have to play good on the road.  Regardles of the start, 5 points out of the next six games is the minimum a fan should expect even if you are on the 'rebuild' set of fan expectations.

*Update* Were the Blue Jackets out worked?  Absolutely not! 
The Jackets first game of their six game tour is Friday night in Los Angeles.  Blue Jackets have four days off and I hope Richards makes them skate every day.  Make the travel day a "light" skate day, but make them skate.  The Kings are muttering through a Stanley Cup hangover, which is to be expected with Richards and Carter on the roster.  They haven't played very well since drubbing the Jackets.  That, and given the amount of rest the Blue Jackets will get before the game, I expect the CBJ to win a close game in regulation on Friday night.  It's a reasonable expectation even for an expansion team that's been in expansion mode for 13 seasons.  This next 6 games will define this team for the rest of this season.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

DBJ's six-pack for game 12: Edmonton

Edmonton 3 - Columbus 1
29th in the NHL - 2nd draft pick (lottery notwithstanding)
The Columbus Blue Jackets continued their six-game home stand with a 3-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in regulation at Nationwide Arena.  They played in front of an announced crowd of 14,364.

Let's call it like it is from a playoffs perspective.  At the quarter-pole of the 2013 season, the 2013-14 preseason has commenced.  Talk all you want about how the team has progressed or regressed...it will matter in October.  (Or on June 30 at the NHL draft...)

Here's to you, 2013 season!
1. Beer number one goes to the scheduling genius that decided to put tonight's game at 6:00.  Not 7:00, like the rest of the entire evening schedule less the 7:30 start for the NBC Sports Network game.  Not 1:00 or 2:00 like a true matinee.  Nope, it was 6:00 - which meant that I turned on the TV at 7:00...to see the last five minutes of the second period.  So this recap is hampered by the sad fact that I watched less than half of the game.

2. Beer number two goes to James Wisniewski.  Never mind that Wiz's play apparently was the leading cause of the first two Edmonton goals, never mind that his eggs were probably scrambled enough that he likely thought he was back playing for the Canadiens, never mind that his wife is expecting their (first?) child any minute now...he came back.  Concussions are terrible injuries with long-ranging consequences if not allowed to heal properly, so I'll let the medical staff live with their decisions and step aside so the fan-boys offer up the obligatory "Wiz is a warrior" platitudes.

3. Beer number three goes to he of the $4.6 million cap hit, R.J. Umberger, for letting an entire quarter of this abbreviated season go by before notching his first goal (and second point!) of the season.

Bravo!

Now, let's work on Mr. $4.2 million cap hit, Brandon Dubinsky (who, to his credit, has five assists to paper over his lack of goal scoring)...

4. Beer number four goes to the architect of the team defensive plan for the game.  Takes skill to hold a team of scoring-happy teenagers to 14 shots.  In fact, a slightly larger point: The CBJ defensive approach has been interesting in that it has taken teams that look pretty good in other games and occasionally made them look mediocre-to-poor.  Not every game, mind you (with some disastrous results), but occasionally.  Which is saying something when your team is 3-7-2.  Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I (Morgan?) can elaborate.

Anyhoo, I've enjoyed watching Edmonton running and gunning in other games, and the Blue Jackets made them look downright pedestrian - if not boring.

5. Beer number five goes to the Hockey Jobu, who deserves an equal amount of credit for taking a CBJ team with 40 shots on the night and holding them to a single goal.  That shrunken-headed totem has this team's shooting psyche in a vice grip.

6. Beer number six goes to the third jersies.  Eight-bit lettering and numbering aside, those are some great sweaters. They've really grown on me.

WERE THE BLUE JACKETS OUTWORKED?  They outshoot Edmonton 40-14 and you expect me to say "Yes"?  Hell NO...which, once again, proves that effort alone won't win you games.  Or get you out of your conference cellar.

NEXT UP: The 2013-14 preseason rolls on with a visit from the San Jose Sharks on Monday night at Nationwide Arena.  Lest anyone be confused by tonight's game, puck drops at 7:00PM.

THE LAST WORD: Let's give it to Fat Axl, who reminds us what this season is all about:

Friday, February 8, 2013

Morgan's Game 11 six-pack: The Atlanta Flames, er Calgary Flames


Columbus Blue Jackets 3 - Calgary Flames 4 in OT
5th in Central Division - !5th in Western Conference


The Columbus Blue Jackets held court for the visiting Calgary Flames.  Two national anthems were sung prior to tonight's game.  One which was written to the music of a popular British drinking song, the other wasn't formally recognized until 1980.  A crowd of 10,484 descended upon Nationwide Arena to witness a pride fight of sorts.  The loser would take sole possession of 15th place in the Western Conference.  I am curious if the Jackets use paid attendance or physical attendance in their numbers.  Either way, tonight's attendance is a startlingly low number. 

6 beers.  No Regrets. 
No Excuses.
 

1. My first beer goes to Vinny Prospal for his post game interview with George Matthews and BobbyMacSports.  He has expectations of his teammates.  And for the record, I found his goal celebration much more appropriate this game.

2.  My second beer goes to whatever knob asked Coach Richards in the post-game interview where Derek Brassard was during the last power play of the game.  Have the stones to do your job and ask direct questions.  "Why did you keep Brassard on the bench during that power play?" is what you should have asked.   Don't skirt a tough question because you don't want to  lose followers on twitter.  Have some expectations, media members. The change starts with you.

3.  My third delicious tasty brew goes to Matt Calvert.  Nice little toe-drag to snapper to beat Irving short side.  I liked that you chose to be a shooter and didn't deke yourself out of a goal.  Keep it up, you may just become as beloved as Derek Dorsett or Jody Shelley, and I mean that with all sincerity.  It was a timely goal indeed, and one to lift the team's spirits. 

4.  Mark Letestu, your beer is rich and smooth.  Premium.  High class.  You made the most out of your twelve minutes of ice time with a nice goal and a heads up drop pass to Prospal.  4 genos, 2 helpers, and +2 in nine games played.  You truly deserve a smooth and refined beer, this one is on me.

5.  OT Game winner.  Nice goal Tanguay.  If Nikita Nikitin continues to take away Iginla's access to the Red Zone, this goal never happens.  Nikitin had his stick in the passing lane and then turned sideways as if expecting Iginla to shoot.  As soon as Nitikin took his stick out of the passing lane, giving Iginla access to the Red Zone, Iginla fed the puck to a waiting Tanguay who finished off a killer 4-on-2.

6.  The sixth beer is Gallos.  Speedy recovery to you good sir.  And as a veteran of a couple surgeries myself, when you take your pain meds, don't forget the stool softener.  You can thank me later.

We're the Blue Jackets out worked?  Is a five pound sparrow fat?  Yes, they were outworked, but they were not lazy.  Despite an NHL caliber first period, the Jackets couldn't do the simplest and most fundamental element in the game of hockey in the second period, WIN YOUR BATTLE.  Calgary came away with the puck in almost every battle in the second period.  It only led to one goal, but they completely established dominance over the Blue Jackets in that second period.  Playing 60 minutes like they did the first 20, this team beats the surging Flames decisively.  Coach Richards said something in his post game that alarmed me.  It's quite possible I'm reading into this too much.  When asked one of the typical beachball questions from the fan friendly media about how he motivates the team, Richards responded with, "I tried not to pump their tires too much" after the first period.  This means he purposely didn't feed the dressing room's ego after a solid first period.  He wanted them to stay hungry.  This could be a subtle sign there is a serious issue in the dressing room with the players.  The last place Blue Jackets are satisfied with themselves after one period of NHL Caliber hockey?  It's the coach's observation is that left to their own devices the players would just rest on one period's laurels?  Yikes.

Which leads me to my closing thoughts.  When times are tough, your best players have to step up and play their best.  But who are the Blue Jackets best players?  Don't homer it up, ask yourself who delivers tangible results for the Columbus Blue Jackets when it matters most?  The dream line of 17-42-16 while not skating together was a collective minus 4, with one assist and 5 SOGs tonight.  I didn't notice Anisimov much in tonight's game until I saw him come coasting into frame after the OT goal. Mark Letestu is delivering results and getting valuable ice time from his coach, and good for him.  I love seeing that happen for any hockey player.  But if this team is going to depend on Prospal and Letestu to deliver results, this team stands the strong chance of still being eliminated form this post-season in February.  Dubinsky needs to start showing up on the scoreboard and Anisimov needs to stop disappearing for a couple games at a time.

The Jackets next game is Sunday night against the Edmonton Oilers, who have surprised many by actually winning something other than the draft lottery, they've won four games already this season.  I'm interested to see what the crowd size will be like Sunday night at the game.  The young, talented Oiler offense seems to out match our young, inexperienced defensive corp.  Hopefully Aucoin is back by then.  I'd say that Edmonton's defense is their soft spot, but they will be playing a Blue Jackets team with the lowest goals per game average in the league.  We'll have a six pack for you after the game, you may want to have one while you watch it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

And by boarding, you mean boarding?

My brother-in-law has lived his entire life as a resident of New York City his entire time, a product of the cake-eating Upper West Side.  He's a decorated film director, producer, and executive who gives the world some pretty funny stuff.  What really endears him to me is his perspective, perspective he gained from living his entire life in NYC (except those 4 years he attende the USC film school).  Recently we had a conversation about the current political climate and he made a small remark that has really with me, "I live in a city of 8 million people and every day my beliefs are openly challanged."  No place else is that more true, than execpt maybe on Twitter.  It's good to have one's beliefs challanged because if forces you to have an open mind, learn about different beliefs, and politely explain yours.

Where am I going with this on a CBJ blog?  I'm talking about Brandon Dubinsky's boarding penalty on Rob Scuderi and the subsequent discipline.  Twitter was booming in the Blue Jacket's hashtag that Dubinsky's hit wasn't a boarding call.  That Scuderi put himself in that situation.  Or, that since Dubinsky didn't mean to board him that the boarding call didn't apply.  The refs got the boarding call right, albeit there was no intent from Dubinsky to purposely board Scuderi.  The fan reaction was that Scuderi put himself in the situation that it wasn't Dubinsky's fault.  I feel compelled to challange this belief.  First, let's see what the NHL rule book says.

41.1 Boarding – A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently in the boards. The severity of the penalty, based upon the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.

There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the Referees. The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize the contact. However, in determining wheter such contact could have been avoided, the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check was unavoidable can be considered. This balance must be considered by the Referees when applying this rule.

Any unnecessary contact with a player playing the puck on an obvious “icing” or “off-side” play which results in that player hitting or impacting the boards is “boarding” and must be penalized as such. In other instances where there is no contact with the boards, it should be treated as “charging.

41.5 Game Misconduct Penalty - When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent, a game misconduct shall be imposed.

The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize the contact.  Let's look at some photos to see if Dubinsky met that criteria.



From this photo we see Scuderi is establishing body position to shield Dubinsky from the puck.  Scuderi's numbers are to Dubinsky and Dubinsky is skating towards his numbers.  They put a STOP sign above the name plate on youth hockey players jerseys the first year of checking so you are aware of the danger of hitting a guy in the numbers.  This is the point where Dubinsky needs to realize the opposing player is in a vulnerable position.  Scuderi is going to continue along the board and try to use the goal as a pick to shed he fore checking BDub.  Perhaps Dubinsky has misjudged the puck or his speed and is trying to pin Scuderi before he can swing the net.  Dubinsky is heading for the check mark in the verizon logo.


This is the frame after Dubinsky has stuck out his hand, where enablers will say Dubinsky tried to avoid contact.  What I see here is is an elbow and arm in the middle of an opposing players back while Dubinsky's momentum carries him on a path straight to the end boards.  Dubinsky has not altered his path or angle.  This is where any hockey player not trying to hurt another guy goes, "Oh Sh!t, I'm going to hurt this guy."


This is the photo from today's Puck Daddy Blog about the resulting fine.  At this point Dubinsky is trying to roll off of Scuderi, presumably because Dubinsky realizes that Scuderi leaves on a stretcher if he doesn't roll.  But Dubinsky's thigh, arm, and shoulder are on the same path as they have been since crossing the bottom of the faceoff dot.  It's the 10 feet before this impact where Dubinsky failed to ensure his opponent would not be in a defenseless position.  At this point, this is already a 5 minute major for boarding. 


Grainy images provided by Abraham Zapruder

It's the contact from image two that causes Scuderi to go head first into the boards, not necessarily the contact here.  To the casual fan, Dubinsky has avoided contact at the boards, hence no boarding call is deserved.  WRONG.  Scuderi's numbers were to Dubinsky the entire pursuit and the result is Scuderi's face is smashed into the boards.  Dubinsky never altered his path in what I judged to be a poorly timed pinch.  This is a five minute major penalty with zero INTENT to injure.  A violent game played at high speed requires discretion.  Discretion that was not exercised by a focused and hustling Dubinsky.  Dubinsky ran a red light hustling for the puck and plowed into Scuderi.  "Scuderi turned at the last minute" says Stillwell from A league of their own.  I mean because you have to draw 5 minute boarding majors in for any chance to beat the Blue Jackets, right?  I mean Scuderi has to expect that he's going to get blasted in the numbers  through the corner at high speed, right?  When Colton Gillies got boarded in the Dallas game no one said he put himself in that position did they?  This was the right call by the officials and an unfortunate, but avoidable, penalty by Dubinsky.  Fans don't like to hear that a player who chose a poor attack angle will have to give up a puck battle in lieu of putting an opponent in a halo brace.  Dubinsky by no means meant to board or hurt Scuderi, that is apparent. 

I feel the $10k fine might be a little excessive, but in the hearing room with Brendan Janneyhan, things are perceived differently.  The only reason I can see the fine was so high was because Dubinsky didn't alter his path as Scuderi's numbers were facing him during the entire puck pursuit.  I'm certainly not happy about the mark on my report card if I'm Dubinsky.

Am I the only blogger that calls him Janneyhan?  Maybe someone should challange my belief that stealing your center's wife is not ok...



Wednesday, February 6, 2013

DBJ's Davidson dialogue

[In light of the news that the Blue Jackets have sent forward Ryan Johansen back to Springfield (a discussion of the implications of said move to come at a later time/date), it's clear that John Davidson is beginning to make his presence felt on the team's personnel moves.  My DBJ compadres and I have spent the past week mulling over Davidson and, more specifically, how long of a honeymoon the man could/should get.  I thought you'd be interested in our "Davidson dialogue." - Tom/DBJ]

TOM: <passes around beverages of choice>  OK, gents.  Let’s get down to business.  How long of a honeymoon is John Davidson entitled to?  I’ll start with a few points and then throw my arms up in confusion.

The CBJ's new major domo is preaching patience,
but how much should he get from the fan base?
First, the St. Louis experience.  Davidson was team president for the Bloose from June 30, 2006 through October 9, 2012.  By my count, that makes six seasons.  In that time period, they made the playoffs twice - swept out in the first round in 2009 (Hey, it wasn’t just Columbus!) and losing to eventual Cup champs Los Angeles in the semifinals last season.

Second, his comment prior to getting hired, “That hockey club is better than the one we took over in St. Louis. That club was way, way down the ladder. But this Blue Jackets team is not that far away. There are some pieces there to work with, absolutely. They’ve got some real players there, boy.”  That tells me that Davidson thinks that we’ve got something to work with - and, presumably, won’t make us wait six seasons before the Columbus Blue Jackets make some noise in the playoffs.  I’ll let you guys try to sort out who he’s talking about.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

DBJ's six-pack for Game 10: Los Angeles

Los Angeles 4 - Columbus 2
5th in Central Division, 14th in Western Conference
Attendance: 11,019
With two days off since their impressive win over Detroit to open their six-game home stand, the Columbus Blue Jackets played 20 minutes of inspired hockey, called it a night (punctuated by being outshot 17-2 in the second period) and lost to the visiting Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings, 4-2 at Nationwide Arena.

This six-pack, slightly skunked after sitting on the radiator since the Detroit win, will be spread in all sorts of directions tonight.  That's in part because I was at the game and thus have a little more to work with than a traditional "DBJ on the couch" game...but also because the game - from a Columbus perspective - ground to a halt in the second period.

1. Gotta give the first one to my friend - you know, the one who had a quasi- run-in with Jeff Carter and then a spirited conversation in the elevator with Jarrett Stoll in the Hilton last night.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you're clearly not following the DBJ Facebook page (and shame on you).  Anyhoo, there is no better way to kick off the L.A. game in spirit if not in fact than by locals yukking it up with the opposing team.

2. The second cold one goes to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Central Ohio, who lent the Blue Jackets four players for the team's blue line: David Savard, Tim Erixson, Nick Holden and Cody Goloubef.  Yes, it was Take The Kids to Work Day for the two non-injured defensemen, Jack Johnson and Fedor Tyutin.  And you know what?  The kids did...OK...considering they were facing a team with vastly superior offensive firepower than the Blue Jackets.  Savard was the only one of the four with a negative (-2) plus/minus, Holden and Goloubef were even and Erixson was a +1!.  And while none of them came close to Johnson's "Just another day at the office" 34:13 TOI, only Holden (8:49) had less than 14 minutes on the ice.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gallos' Six-Pack for Game 9: The Detroit Red Wings

Photo

Sorry for the delay in this post folks.  I've been basking in the glow of the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.  Before a spirited crowd of 17,612, the CBJ gave up their customary first goal, but answered on the power play, and then took control of the game.  As we sat through the game, the commentary from our section went something like this: "Hmm, that first period might have been one of their best periods of the year", then "That second period was definitely their best period of the year, then BOOM!

Many a time over the years I have trudged out of Nationwide Arena surrounded by jubilant Red Wings fans, the home squad having succumbed to the powerful Red Wings.  That makes it very, very sweet to leave the building as the victor, and the post game celebration contributed to my tardiness on this post.  But I'm still basking in the glow, so this won't be a chore at all.  And now for our six-pack.

LTL is grinning today
1. My first frosty cold beverage goes to Artem Anisimov.  His two goals in the second period turned the game around.  Artie was all over the ice tonight, playing defense, but when he got his chances in the offensive zone he made them count. Pulling up on the rush, he scored his first goal with a top shelf sharp angle shot from the side that knocked Jimmy Howard's water bottle off the top of the net.  His second goal drew the obligatory 'now that's a goal scorer's goal' comment in our section, as he took a real nice feed from John Moore at the point, and walked in all alone on Howard.  He went backhand to forehand on the sprawling Howard for his second goal.  A big, big game from Artie.
Artem Anisimov

2. My second cold one goes to Steve Mason.  Mason looked sharp, and more importantly, assertive, all night long. His movements were quick, directed, and effective.  His tendency to overplay the net has been shut down.  I think that through his last few outings Mason has been gathering momentum towards an outing like this.  Now he will need to sustain or improve that type of performance.  I particularly liked the one time where the puck got away from everyone, and one of the Red Wings (I didn't catch the number) was obviously going to win the race to the puck.  Mase charged out of the net with authority to get to the puck first, and shut the play down.  

3. Ever notice how that third one seems to be really tasty?  Well this one is for James Wisniewski, for getting up and skating off the ice with the help of his teammates.  He got tangled in a mess of four players skating at top speed chasing the puck on a dump in, and crashed head first into the boards.  The following few minutes were very quiet in Nationwide Arena as Wiz lay on the ice.  The replay on the big board showed that he got turned enough to take the impact up high on his back in the shoulder blades region, but he'll be shut down for a bit with a possible concussion.  It was just a hockey play, though I really thought he was going to ride off the ice on the backboard.  It was really good to see him skate off.  The other part of this cold one is that Wiz's slap shot goal turned the tide in the game.  Scored late in the first period on the power play, it ensured a tie game at the end of the first period, and tilted the ice in the Blue Jackets favor.  This one's for you Wiz!  Get well soon!

4.  Getting deeper into my six-pack now, and feeling good.  This ones for Mark Letestu, for scoring a crucial short handed goal in the third period.  He had a couple of opportunities short handed, which is always huge, but cashing in on this one was a great effort.  Letestu sat out the first few games, but has been a big part of why our fourth line has been the best line on the ice many a night.  He is making the most of his opportunities, and MacKenzie and Letestu make a really good penalty killing pair so far.  With Detroit scoring with 27 seconds left in the third, that crucial 2 goal difference kept the Wings from thinking they could tie it up.  This bud's for you Mark!

JMFJ
5. My fifth CBJ Brew goes to Jack 'Mother's Favorite' Johnson. JMFJ was a real Mother's Favorite tonight, logging a team record 34 minutes and 59 seconds of ice time.  I think that Jack loves the big minutes, and that number 1 defenseman role.  I'm sure he would have liked to have won a cup in LA, but I think he's happier here.  He just wants the load, and he wasn't going to get that in LA.  Jack also assisted on Anisimov's second goal.  Well done Jack!  Its miller time! (editor's note: Hey, this is a family blog, ok?)

6. My sixth, cold, savory beverage goes to none other than Brandon Dubinsky.  While Dubinsky is still on the schneid for scoring his first goal as a Blue Jacket, he was all over the ice tonight, and I felt he played with a real edge to his game.  He got an assist on the Letestu goal, and had some good opportunities.  The goals will come eventually, but for the first time last night we really saw what they were looking at when they wanted him to come here.  Well done Dubi!  A very solid game!

Now we come to the big question.  Was the team outworked?  Most emphatically not!  In the first say 15 minutes of the game, it was obvious that the boys had come out with a purpose, but you also had the Red Wings being the Red Wings.  They have some pretty lethal players on that team.  But once Wiz tied it with the slapper, the CBJ just started gaining momentum, working harder, and harder.  I thought they played with a real edge last night.  The play Wiz got hurt on was an example.  They just sold out and went hard, no hesitancy, a four man race for the puck from the blue line on a dump in.  The CBJ played like that all over the ice tonight.  

JAM, welcome to the NHL.  You are still adjusting to the game, the size and the speed.  Jonathon Audy-Marchessault (JAM) drew a penalty and had a couple of opportunities near the net.  It will come.  It's a big deal playing those first few games in the NHL.  How about that Brunner?  The Red Wings rookie looks like he is going to develop into quite a player.  Note to CBJ.  Not a good idea to leave him alone in the slot after a face off.

Great game, great atmosphere at Nationwide, a big win, adds up to a real nice glow.  Next up the CBJ actually get to have their first practice since the abbreviated training camp, then the LA Kings come to town.

GO JACKETS!!!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

I was genuinely excited for last night's Columbus Blue Jackets-St. Louis Blues game.

It was supposed to be one of those nights.  The type of game that, in a lengthy season, a guy could get excited for.  Morgan covered the topics well in his recap - last night's game was supposed to be a blogger's paradise.  It was, as best as the Blue Jackets can get these days, an honest-to-goodness rivalry game.  Or at least the beginnings of a real rivalry.

Instead, it quickly became one of those nights.  We know them all too well as Blue Jackets fans.  Those nights are the ones where you go in with excitement and optimism only to see your team lay a colossal egg right before your eyes...and often before you can finish your first beverage.  This goes until the other team takes their foot off the gas and allows the Blue Jackets some semblance of a comeback...although we all know the hole is too deep to climb out of in the time remaining.

It was an all-too-familiar - and entirely unwelcome - feeling.  Which meant, of course, that Steve Mason had to have his best outing of the year.

I'll keep the improving Mason, but you can take the rest.



Happier times for Brandon Dubinsky
Speaking of all-too-familiar, Brandon Dubinsky went off after the loss:
We didn’t come out and play hard enough." ... “That’s been the theme the whole year so far. [Emphasis added]  We’ve got to come out with some fire, some passion. We didn’t do it again tonight.” ... “(The Blues have) some good players, no doubt about it, but they’re not good enough to make us look the way we did in the first period, I can tell you that much.” ... “We’ve got to come here tomorrow ready to work and find a way to get that passion and play the game you see in the last 30 minutes of these games. (That’s) the way we’re capable of playing. It’s got to be a start-to-finish effort though, that’s the only way we’re going to win hockey games.”

Morgan's Six-pack for Game 8: The Saint Louis Blues



Columbus Blue Jackets 1 - Saint Louis Blues 4
5th in the Central Division - 14th in the Western Conference


"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..." - Charles Dickens speaking about the Blue Jackets this morning.

The Blue Jackets played their the second bout of a six game home stand at Nationwide Arena in front of a modest crowd of 11,155 adoring fans hosting the division rival St Louis Blues.  The story lines leading up to this game were a blogger's dream.  Hitchcock vs Davidson (which is really an apples to oranges comparison), how would Davidson react to playing his former team, Johnathan Audy-Marchessault was called up from Springfield for his NHL debut with the Blue Jackets as was Tim Erixon.  Fans clamored at the opportunity for the team to bounce back after a unfufilling game in the Twin Cities.  There was so much swirling around the game that I thought it might be too much for just one blogger, or as I emailed by contemporaries prior to the game, hoped that it didn't turn into a 7-0 booty whoppin' for the CBJ. 

If these were a "C" nobody
would get one.

60 Minutes.  No Regrets.  No Excuses.  There is a reason 60 minutes is first.  Not because we miss Andy Rooney, but because you have to play all 60 minutes.  The game requires 60 minutes of RESULTS, not just effort.  The 60 minutes reference typically implies finishing strong and not giving up.  But in the case of the Blue Jackets, it's about starting strong.  Or possibly just starting. The first 10 minutes of the game zapped every ounce of hype, excitement, and pleasure out of this hockey game.

1.  Derrick Brassard - welcome to the party, I'm happy you made it, this one is for you.  Your "real" first goal was disallowed, but there was no mistaking this one.  What a satisfying way to get off the snide. Thank you for showing appropriate humility in your "down three goals" celebration.  It lets me know you're pleased with the result, but understand much more work is needed.  And yes, I did see Prospal take another shot from the corner again, just in case...

2.  The CBJ Power play - It's gone back to basics!!!  Earlier today I was asked how to describe the CBJ power play, here was my answer verbatim: There is talent on the CBJ and they can get more creative than they have been on the PP.   Their M.O. has been to set up for the one-timer from the point.  The cbj line up three forwards low, which means the PK can cover three attackers with only two killers.  At the point, the CBJ dmen start on their strong side on the face off, and then switch to their shooting side only after they have possession of the puck.  This leaves the top two Penalty killers with the only responsibility being to prevent the Dmen from getting on their shooting side.   So what did the Blue Jackets do differently tonight on their power play goal?  They Kept It Simple (Stupid) - create 3 on 2s in one half of the zone using the attack triangle to support the point men.  From the faceoff they kept "Jack N Wiz" or Wisniewski and Johnson on their strong side (lefty on left side, righty on right side) and they won the face off.  The puck goes back to Wisniewski, who makes a D to D pass to Johnson and the puck blows up on Johnson.  This draws one penalty killer to Johnson, who recovers the puck and tucks a pass to Dubinsky in the high slot.  Because Dubinksky is in the high slot and the strong side forward was drawn out by Johnson's bobble, the forward covering the other point has to account for Dubinsky in the high slot and leaves Wisniewski open in order to protect entry into the red zone.  Dubinsky feeds the puck to Wisniewski who, because he's not on his shooting side, takes a wrist shot!  Thank God!  A lucky hop puts the puck right to Dubinsky's stick in the high slot who immediately feeds the puck to a floating Brassard at the left dot.  Brassard has 10 feet of time and space inside the red zone and roofs the puck over a sprawling defender and goaltender.  This PP goal doesn't happen if "Jack N Wiz" start cranking off slappers and if the Jackets don't keep a man high and wide to form an attack triangle.  It's offense and power play 101 and look what happens 11 seconds into the power play - GOAL

3.  Steve Mason - thank you.  You came off the bench and pitched a shutout to win third star, and rightfully so.  And in case anyone is wondering, the book is out on Bobrovsky.  Lots of goals being scored on him the last couple games that include a play-by-play man saying "Bobrovsky never saw it."  From the Blues first goal it was evident they were purposely game planning to put traffic in front of him - not just playing percentages that putting traffic in front leads to goals.

4.  Tim Leroy - this bud (or piece of high-end golf equipment) is for you.  I have no idea how you and the equipment staff was able to put Audy-Marchessault in CBJ font on the back of a size 56 sweater in such 'short order', but you did it.  Kudos to you and the staff for stitching that together. 

4a. Oh, and Audy-Marchessault, good game kid but welcome to Club Tril - 1 game played followed by 12 zeros in stat columns equals club tril.  Jokes aside, you kept the game simple, in front of you, and put the team first.  Good game.  I'm looking forward to your first NHL goal, as I am for Brandon Dubinsky as well.  You carry the hopes and dreams of many small-statured early twenties right-hand shots who longed to have their name called during an NHL game.

5.  Derek Mackenzie and Jared Boll - two great heat-of-the-moment emotional fights from the fourth line.  It wasn't the snuggle fest that half visor wearing Foligno gave us earlier in the period.  YAWN.  I don't necessarily care for the staged "I'm bored, wanna go?" fights.  But the tussels you two got into were perfect.  Speaking of Foligno, if I was Jackman, I would have kept my glove on and punched that half-visor right back into Foligno's face.  Only because some over-ager did that to me once.

6.  Ken Hitchcock - The Jackets should have kept you longer than they did, congrats on what you've accomplished with the Blues.  This bud's for you.  Sins of our fathers, or Steel companies, something like that...  But, to be honest, how many times can the TV camera pan the Blues' bench and Hitchcock be the second chubbiest guy in frame?  There was some dude in a number 64 Blues jersey sitting right on the glass behind Hitchcock who was of exceptional girth and eclipsed the rotundness and extra chin-ness of Hitchcock.  Looking good out there tonight Hitch, looking good...

And now the part I know everyone is waiting for, did the Jackets get out worked?  60 minutes.  No Regrets.  No Excuses.  The Jackets got outworked in the first period, and that that's all the Blues needed.  So yes, despite signs of life in the last 30 minutes, the Blue Jackets were outworked when it mattered the most, early in the game.  The Blue looked flat late in the game more that the Jackets finished strong.  I look at the Blue Jackets so far like I look at my 11 year-old son when he comes home from school on Thursday and remembers for the first time he has a book report due at 8am the next morning.  Now he's read the book, and knows the material, but he's got a late start to complete the report with not much time remaining.  The little guy works his tail off to get that thing done, and I'm proud of him that he finally got to work with no complaints.  But alas, he has to sacrifice quality because he started so late.  When it comes time to turn in the report at 8am the next morning, the best he can hope for is a C minus given the short amount of time he's given himself.  And if his book report was about the Carolina Hurricanes, C minus probably gets you a win.  Against the central division, it gets you losses.  It also gets you grounded from the Xbox indefinitely.

The Jackets next game in their home stand is Saturday, February 2nd against the beloved Detroit Red Wings.  The loathed Wings are 3-2-1 and will be playing the second of back-to-back games, the first of which will be against the St Louis Blues.  If the Blue Jackets are able to show up for 60 minutes, the game presents itself as winnable.  If the "Late Blooming" Blue Jackets show up, it could be another 3-1 snooze-fest where the last twenty minutes shred your emotions in hopes of getting you to forget the first 20 minutes.