Tuesday, December 15, 2009

10 Thoughts about Game 33: Nashville

1. After everyone in the Columbus Blue Jackets' locker room piped in with comments about the "serious," "critical" and "urgent" nature of tonight's game, the Jackets proceeded to play the exact same type of game that they've been playing recently in losing to the Nashville Predators, 5-3.

1a. The Jackets have lost 11 of their last 13 and currently sport a record of 14-13-6 (34 points).

1b. Here are your highlights:

2. To focus (momentarily) on positive things: The Umberger-Voracek combination is something to behold on the second line.  The classic lunchpail guy in Umberger and the young gun (who gets it) in Voracek.  Both had a goal and an assist on the night, but the one-two punch was most evident on Voracek's goal:

3. Ken Hitchcock's effort to shake things up on the first line - moving Kristian Huselius down to the second line and promoting Jason Chimera to the first - had mixed results.

3a. Antoine Vermette netted a goal on the power play, so I'm not sure it counts in a discussion of the first line.

3b.Rick Nash got 5 shots off but seemed to want to play sniper instead of drive to the net.  He does seem to be pressing hard to make plays...I think he's feeling the stress of being the Captain on a team whose fortunes aren't looking up in the immediate future.

3c. Rick Nash is getting grabbed.  A LOT.

3d. Jason Chimera somehow got 4 shots off in between offsides calls.

3e. Kristian Huselius, the odd man out on the first line, had 3 shots and a downright dismal defensive performance.

4. I thought Hitch hockey involved a forechecking component.

4b. Eric Smith at HockeyBuzz questions whether the team has it in them to play Ken Hitchcock's system.  My take is that Hitch could do a lot worse than chucking his philosophy and trying the "wide open" approach for a game or two.  If they play well, maybe that would be something to build upon.  If they flop, then Hitch has more ammunition to promote Hitch hockey.  The lingering question is whether the Jackets - a "Hitch hockey team" by design - have the right personnel up and down the roster to pull it off credibly.

5. Nashville's Steve Sullivan had a hat trick on the night.  I'm happy for him.  Anyone who sits out an entire season with a back injury and returns with enough spunk to win the Masterson Trophy deserves a good break or two in life.

5a. I think Barry Trotz may be a better coach than Ken Hitchcock.

5b. I still don't hate Nashville.  I envy Nashville something fierce, though.

6. Are the Jackets not allowed to pass the puck to each other without retreating into the defensive zone first?

7. Marc Methot was in a world of existential pain tonight.  His lousy defensive play was directly responsible for the first two Nashville goals. He "led" the team with a -3 rating on the night.

7a. Fox Sports Ohio's Bill Davidge was especially brutal on the analysis of the first goal, showing how Methot's last second repositioning away from the puck cost Columbus the goal.  Had Marc stayed straight-on, he would have blocked the shot.  (I believe that Davidge's comments, in a veiled manner, questioned Methot's toughness.  As I said to Mrs. DBJ at the time, "I think Bill Davidge called Marc Methot a pussy.")

7b. Methot picked the wrong day to be dismal; Carolina put defenseman Aaron Ward on waivers today.

7c. Ward or no Ward, I would not argue with Methot making a swing through Syracuse.  (I say this not thinking through the waiver implications - all I'm saying is that he needs some time to work on his game.)

8. Fox Sports Ohio clearly has been reading the blogs and Puck Rakers comments.  Their announcers had a much more pointed commentary on the Blue Jackets' performance - both in-game and in reflecting on the last dozen or so games.  The in-game analysis picked up considerably (starting with Methot's "OlĂ©" move).  This was good.

8a. Not once that I recall did Bill Davidge celebrate a "goal scorer's goal."  This was better.

8b. Light The Lamp informs us that FSO's CBJ broadcast ratings are up 38% over last year.  This is better yet.

9. The defensive play - and not just the play of the defensemen - is mind-boggling. I wouldn't even know where to start trying to untie that knot.

9a. Odd stat of the night: Only 1 player on the CBJ roster - Anton Stralman - had a positive plus-minus rating on the night.  Congrats, Anton, you were a +1.

10. Hitch is ticked and apparently misses Rusty Klesla something fierce:

NEXT UP: Not that you'll be able to watch it, but the Jackets will be playing tomorrow night in Minnesota against the slowly improving Minnesota Wild (15-14-3, 33 points, $57.591MM salary cap hit, Financial Acuity Index score: -15).  That team has undergone a massive culture shift away from "boring" defense-first hockey toward a more "wide open" style, and the team is just now starting to get it.  As a Jackets fan, I'll be looking for the CBJ defense to lock the Wild down.  As a fan of hockey truculence, I hope that Derek Boogaard drops the gloves.

Photos from Yahoo NHL.

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