Sunday, December 5, 2010

Game 25/Pittsburgh: My Take

The Columbus Blue Jackets slump extended to five games with a loss to the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins, 7-2, in front of the second-largest crowd in Nationwide history.

While there clearly was a huge story in the overwhelming presence of Penguins fans - and their having swiped CBJ season ticket holder presale codes to snatch up hundreds if not thousands of game tickets at season ticket holder discount prices, not to mention the effect on the supposed home ice advantage that the CBJ should have enjoyed - I'm not going to talk any more about the Penguins in this post.  This is a Blue Jackets blog, and I've got better things to do than waste energy discussing how the visiting team's fans caused a massive CBJ marketing fail.

No, I told my Pens-loving friend (who was gently baiting me in the spirit of healthy competition) that the recent matters involving the game made this game not about the Penguins to CBJ fans but instead about the CBJ themselves.  They've been in a slide, and they had to get out of it.  In my mind, I didn't care whether it was the Penguins or the Panthers visiting Columbus.  Sorry, that's how I felt and still feel.
A quick overview of the game itself:
  1. Steve Mason got run after the fourth goal in the first period (on 13 shots, giving him a .692 GAA).  The dribbling pucks wiggling their way through his five-hole and past the goal line will haunt me.  I think I scared the Dark Blue Toddler when I shouted "NOOOOO!!!!!" after the second goal.  Whoops.  
  2. Matthieu Garon stopped 19 of 22 (.864 GAA), nothing stellar.
  3. The 2 CBJ goals came from Chris Clark and Sammy Pahlsson.  So it looks like we're back to bottom-two liners carrying the offense.  Not a good thing.
Now for the repercussions:

Watch coach Scott Arniel's press conference.  It's very telling.

Now, let's dispel the silliness.  The 3rd jersey "jinx" (the CBJ haven't won a game in them yet) is cute and funny, but it's crap. What's not crap is the Twitter comment that Ben Berry made:
When #cbj realized they aren't as a good yet as the wings, they stopped thinking they were good enough to beat everyone else.
I think that this comment is much more salient to the discussion. The Red Wings dissected the CBJ over the course of two games and, in the process, appeared to crush the growing but still-fragile sense of team confidence in Columbus.  That the team folded so quickly and so completely in going into this tailspin (with a minor arching of their backs in the shootout loss to Nashville), that's what scares me. In the end, that also brings me to some harsh realizations about the club.

The Dispatch's Tom Reed offered my same thoughts in a humorous light:
#CBJ general manager Scott Howson probably working the phones like a telemarketer. After 2 periods: #Pens 7, CBJ 1.
I'm not joking when I say that I hope Howson is doing just that - picking up the phone and talking to other teams.  You see, I'm growing more and more convinced that there's something in the DNA of that locker room that simply is not conducive to building a winning team.  Scott Arniel astutely owned up in the post-game presser to the role that I outlined in last night's recap, that of hockey psychologist:
I'm not going to be as dumb to suggest that Scott Howson will fire Scott Arniel, but I will suggest that this is probably the moment that Arniel was hired for. (It's also the moment that Ethan Moreau was claimed for, but I'll stick with Arniel for this post.) Surely Howson discussed this confounding attribute of his team with every coaching candidate over the offseason. Now, it's Arniel's job to pull the team out of that "safe place" - or, better yet, to facilitate an environment when they pull themselves out.
After the disaster that was tonight's game, I'm not sure that's enough.  I think that Howson and Arniel need to have a serious heart-to-heart talk, or series of such conversations, dissect the problem and agree on what they need to do...or whom they need to get that team on the right track for the long haul.  I know that Howson has said that he has the right roster, but that's not being demonstrated on the ice.

And it's not just the recent slump.  It's the propensity of this team not just to lose but lose big.  I thought that they had turned the corner with their wins early in the season, but the recent evidence proves otherwise.  This team might achieve some success, and it might actually get in the playoffs, but I'm increasingly dubious that they have the fortitude to go deep.  And I'd really like to avoid another 1st round sweep like we had in 2009.

There's a time and place to name names, to suggest who should stay and who should go, and now's not the time.  But I'll leave you with this: Everyone, EVERYONE on this roster should be in play.  It takes giving up assets (or picks or prospects) to get assets.

That's enough for now.  It's been very hard not to blog in anger, and I don't want to say anything that I'll regret later.  So let's call it and circle around later, OK?


  1. I hate Pittsburgh fans. Not just because if they didn't have Crosby there wouldn't be any, but because they are mostly the scumbags you just don't like. There were Pens fans that were arrested for spitting on a Jackets fan. Classy. Screaming during the national anthem. Super classy. Coming out and gloating like the team was always good; amazingly classy.

    That's that. I stopped paying attention somewhere around the 4th goal, which was unbearable. I can't believe I was wearing a Mason sweater around today. Ugh. We need to get out of this slump soon, or well be in 15th you can bat an eyelash.

    Just an unacceptable loss. I don't usually feel like the franchise owes me something for paying for that garbage, but I do now.

  2. Just to clarify. The losing streak is five games, not six.

  3. Corrected, Rick. I guess the beatdowns that we've taken over the past two games were so sound that they FELT like three games.

  4. Thoughtful post DBJ -
    ya, I'm gonna have to revise my opinion of the Redwings fans. If I think they are toads, then the Penguins fans are...well, this is a family blog. I left at about the 5 minute mark in the third, something I don't usually do, in order to avoid trouble. I think these last two games have REALLY exposed our defensive deficiencies. Any time on of our D-men has the puck on the point, the other team attacks them, or traps them, and they either unload the puck into space, or cough it up. I hope those young D-men in Springfield understand that they better be getting their mojo strapped on, because they might be up here sooner than they think.

    As much as I love Wilson and D-Mac, the bottom line is they both have two way contracts, and if we need defensemen that can get themselves out of trouble, that's how we can get them. And the time is now.

  5. It's hard to explain how I felt last night. I've always tried to be the passionate, but level headed fan, not getting too excited after a big win, not thinking it's the end of the world after a big loss. I watched and re-watched hours and hours of bad games looking for a highlight or a hit or something to use in a video. Heck, I even made the video "Born To Lead" when the team was 29th in the league...

    But something just sort of snapped in me last night. Maybe it was being completely surrounded by Pens fans and taunted by them in our own building. Maybe it was being sick with the flu (hopefully some of those Pens fans took it home with them.) Maybe it was the 2 hour drive, or maybe it was not looking forward to the 2 hour drive home. Maybe it was watching Game Ops put 2 fans in Pens jerseys on Zamboni's and listening to the chants of "Lets Go Pens" that it started. Maybe it was watching more Pens fans win the improved seats. Maybe it was seeing Boomer and the 3rds in person, and losing faith in a front office that could think they were a good idea. Maybe it was hearing the building be louder when the wrong team scored. Maybe it was listening to a band called "Moving to Boise" and wondering what that said about Central Ohio Pride. Maybe it was watching the same lame game ops games, that even I who only attends a few games a year am sick of. Maybe it was watching the game and what happened on the ice. Maybe it was watching so many Pens fans get into cars with Ohio plates and realize the Blue Jackets have squandered their chance to win fans throughout the state. Maybe it was looking at my tickets for my remaining games and wonder why I paid for this experience.

    I'm not sure what the solution is, but what's more worrisome, I'm not sure I care anymore. The losing is fine, it happens to every team. It's all the things that happened around the loss that made it that much worse for me.

  6. Agree with what everyone said so far, especially with what Skraut said about the off-ice experience of last night.
    As for on the ice these are my thoughts:

    1.Mason can’t be our starting goaltender anymore. He’s not right (which I believe is due in part to the pressure he’s feeling now). His rookie year there were NO expectations, he got here because Leclarie and Norrena were hurt and they said “Hey Kid, we know you’re new, play as well as you can and we’ll work our butts off in front of you”. Well those days are gone, they expect Mase to be a #1 goalie and you can tell he just can’t handle it. The team plays nervous in front of him, like they are just waiting for him to make a mistake. Send him to the minors (I believe he can go because he’s still in his rookie deal) and let him see if he can gain some confidence back.

    2.We can’t seem to win a crucial face-off to save our lives. We’ve never recovered from letting Maholtra walk.

    3.What was the point of resigning Stralman? We already had 6 d-men without him and now he has played his way to a healthy scratch. Scratching a 1.95 mil player a night really isn’t a great idea.

    Please CBJ do not let Mason play "out of his funk" like you did last year, that only killed any chance of a good season just like it will this year!

  7. Hey Skraut -
    I know how you feel about the game experience. It was a bad one. I will have a pretty direct conversation with my ticket rep about what fraud means, and what the club should do to protect itself from people posing as season ticket holders. But that's for next year. At the end of the day though, its just one game. A bad beat down, yes. Terrible for the fans, yes. And, low and behold, we find that our team is not perfect (see rant above). 3 of these 5 losses were against teams that nobody can make bleed right now(see Hitchcock, Ken). We just need to survive this period, and our good start allows for that. Of the teams we really had a chance against in the last 5 games we got 1 point from a below par game against Nashville, and got sandbagged by a team that had a week to prepare for us. So that's nota really too bad of a result if you look at it realistically. There is a long way to go in this season yet. As my friend Bill said it 'you're never as bad as you think you are when you are losing, and you are never as good as you think you are when you're winning.

    From a statistical standpoint, what we are looking at is an adjustment that had to happen. The CBJ hung up some pretty gaudy numbers in the first 20 games. That had to come to earth sometime, and we are in that period of adjustment now. Team record, road record, especially the road record were going to equalize a bit. Arniel recognizes they need to win a hockey game, and boy is he right.

    But as far as I know, no other opponent posted the presale ticket code on a blog, so this shouldn't happen again. We will have games full of Detroit fans, and the finale against Buffalo will have a lot of Buffalo fans in town. But the games are actually pretty fun when the 9,266 faithful are the only ones in the building. At least you can get a beer at intermission. So, I think you will find that you see some stinkers with the tickets you have remaing, but you'll also see some really good games.

  8. I can't wait to go the Stars game on the 18th so I can neglect the emptiness I feel attending these bandwagon games. I didn't feel like it was a home game, as the asshole next to me kept say, "I feel sorry for you".

    Look on the bright side, guys; we can still beat the Montreal Canadiens.

    (Also we ended their away PK streak)


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