Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Game 8/Philadelphia: My Take

In front of just under 12,000 boisterous Nationwide Arena fans on a Monday night, the Columbus Blue Jackets took it to the Stanley Cup finalist Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1, in regulation.

With 8 games under their belts, the CBJ have 10 points and are sitting in 8th place in the Western Conference standings.  That's right, if the playoffs started today, the Blue Jackets would be dancing.  Not that you care, but the first round matchup if the playoffs started today would be against the first-place Nashville Predators.  Imagine that: CBJ-Preds in best 4 of 7.  Talk about epic.  (And just watch heads explode across the entire National Hockey League.)

Anyway, the game.  Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I finally was able to watch an entire game with relatively minimal intrusion from the Dark Blue Toddler, but I think I actually saw the Blue Jackets playing a distinct system of offense and defense last night:

  • The forwards were hell-bent on fast breaks off of defensive rebounds.  
  • The blue liners were swatting pucks off to the sides if they couldn't find a forward for the breakaway.  
  • The penalty kill stayed reasonably disciplined (and it helped that the CBJ only had three penalties all game long).  
  • The power play started to once again look like what we saw in the preseason.  And I defy you to show me a prettier power play goal than Derick Brassard's:

So our young-ish team in this young season is finally starting to get it together.  Perhaps most impressive was that the Flyers, who pretty much let the CBJ have their way with them in the first two periods (and gave Flyers coach Peter Laviolette the excuse to go off on his team), started to put their game back together in the third period - but still couldn't get past the Blue Jackets.  In fact, if R.J. Umberger had better aim from center ice, it would have been 3-1 on an empty netter.

It's so encouraging to see the Blue Jackets weather a couple crap-tastic games to accumulate 10 points in the first 8 games.  They've weathered two significant tests of confidence and shown the fans that there is some intestinal fortitude on this squad.  

We've also learned that the coaches aren't afraid to confront problems and get results.  They'll play the guys who perform and sit the guys who won't.  Heck, they'll reshuffle the entire roster deck if necessary.

Eight games in, this is good to know.  

But do we have to play games on Fridays?  (The only losses that the CBJ have suffered this season have come on Fridays, you know...)

Next up: The Edmonton Oilers and their wunderkind trio of Hall, Eberle and Paajarvi (plus former CBJ first rounder Gilbert "Creme" Brule) invade Nationwide on Thursday.  7PM.  Edmonton's having a predicably rough year so far - happens when you give a full dose of minutes to eighteen-year-old kids - but it'll be fun to see how the youngsters perform so early in their careers.  

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