Sunday, November 22, 2009

10 Thoughts about Game 21: Nashville

1. The Columbus Blue Jackets, jumped out to an early lead against the Nashville Predators in the first period but seemed to be swimming in molasses for the rest of the night, collecting penalties like they were this year's hot Christmas gift and eventually losing in the shootout, 4-3.  Here are the highlights:

1a.  With 27 points, the Jackets sit in the 6th seed in the NHL's Western Conference and only 3 points behind the division leading (and #2 seed) Chicago Blackhawks.  

2. The story of the night was the incredible number of penalties that the Jackets took in the 3rd period.  And they were perfectly spaced, too....2:34, 5:39, 9:48, 12:38.  To the Jackets' credit, they killed all 4 penalties.  However, they were losing their legs by the time that the second of the penalties was killed off.  It was just a matter of holding on for dear life through the rest of the game - with a little lift on a game-ending power play to keep it interesting.

2a. Penalty --> fatigue --> sloppiness --> penalty.  Rinse, repeat.  It isn't rocket science.

2b. Considering the fatigue factor - probably the worst I remember seeing out of the CBJ - the Jackets were fortunate to get a point.  Nashville could have very easily pounced on them, scored on a power play or two and ended it.  That didn't happen, which speaks to the grit and character of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

3. The positive story of the night was the performance of Steve Mason.  When his defensive support failed him (and the penalties forced the team to play short-handed), he came up with save after save...and some of the very impressive kind.  45 saves on 48 shots is a LONG night, and Mase held up.

3a. I'm not ready to say that he has his groove back - I've more or less resigned myself that he's going to have a yo-yo type of year - but, for one evening, he was darned close to dominant.

3b. I'll take it a step further. Mase stole the point for us last night, one the CBJ really didn't deserve to get.

4. R.J. Umberger got two goals on the night, both in the 1st period, including this wild stickball shot:

4a. R.J. is perhaps THE unsung hero on this team.  He is selfless and versatile, meaning that Hitchcock plugs him into every situation on nearly every night.  Center the first line?  Sure.  Winger on the checking line?  No problem.  Sit in the crease and take a pounding on the power play?  Okey dokey.  And he never complains (at least publicly), just goes where he's asked and does a bang-up job wherever he lands.  I was thrilled that he got the two goals last night and only wished he could've pulled out a hat trick as reward for his contributions.

4b.  Does the fact that the Jackets "won" the day with the Neal suspension and the Umberger goal mean that we've turned a corner in the minds of the folks in Toronto?

5. Mad props to Derick Brassard, who worked his tail off, got two assists and didn't give up all night long.  He's a talent, I tell ya...

6. I love Anton Stralman's shot from the point....

7. Where in the world was the first line? Especially Rick Nash.

8. Poor Jared Boll got speared in between the legs.

8a. Male hockey fans across Ohio curled over in sympathy.

8b. The witty wordsmiths amongst us got to play with Jared getting it in the "Bolls." Sigh.

9. Strangely I don't hate Nashville. I don't like 'em, sure. But I respect the hell out of 'em. They always give the Jackets a tough, tough game.

9a. I think that my respect in the Preds is rooted in the fact that I think that Barry Trotz is an incredible coach. To do what he's done over the life of that franchise is nothing less than miraculous. Does he have his boys ready to play or not?

10. I'll be crossing my fingers that the Jackets can regroup and rest up to finish the road trip. Such a long night, with all of those penalty kills, can take a little while from which to recover. Let's hope Hitch gives them adequate rest.  If we're rested and ready, we can definitely get three if not more points from the Rangers, Habs and Sens.

Next Up: Monday night in Madison Square Garden.  Maybe Nash was resting up for his command performance on Broadway...?

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