Thursday, December 16, 2010

Game 30/Vancouver: My Take

In a strange scheduling move that had the Columbus Blue Jackets leaving Alberta (Calgary) to play in Vancouver only to return to Alberta (Edmonton) the following night, the Columbus Blue Jackets played an overall solid game against one of the top teams in the National Hockey League's Western Conference before falling to the Vancouver Canucks, 3-2 in overtime at The Arena That Likely Will Be Renamed Within Six Months.

Regretfully, the game being played in Vancouver meant a 10PM Eastern start - and I was out of caffeinated products (No, I was not going to brew a pot of coffee for the CBJ.  A man's gotta set limits.).  I struggled mightily yet still fell asleep after the hard-fought first period and awoke with about 4:30 left in regulation.  Hence, my recap is incomplete.

I was able to watch the game on NHL's GameCenter Live service (Thank you, CBJ, for lifting the local blackout as Fox Sports Ohio inexplicably chose not to broadcast the game.  82 in 10, baby!), so I "rewound" the game to check out the Sestito and Brassard goals.  Both were solid and deserve mention.

Sestito's goal was a tried and true classic.  Tommy positioned himself at the top of the crease, the initial shot missed, and he potted the rebound.  It's great to see the CBJ demonstrate that ability; I mean, how many times has Tomas Holmstrom done that to the CBJ?  And Sestito, with four solid AHL seasons under his belt while only 23, is showing the maturity and determination that comes from getting the proper amount of seasoning in the minors.  While not as gifted as some of the CBJ's first rounders, his size and seasoning lead me to think that he could possibly turn out better than some of the top prospects in the end.  (His one NHL goal already is better than former CBJ first rounder Alexander Picard.  Just saying.)

Brassard's goal was interesting and perhaps a demonstration of growth on his part.  He and Rick Nash were driving down the ice (Brass had the puck) and, rather than respectfully dish to The Captain, Derick instead let Nash play the decoy role to grab Roberto Luongo's attention while grabbing the goal for himself.  That goal, to me, looked like a light going off in his head: "I can grab this one!"  More power to Brass, and I'm sure Nash wouldn't mind playing this role more and more over time.

I suppose I must mention that "former Buckeye" Ryan Kesler (who played a whopping one season in Columbus before skipping town) got the hat trick on Mathieu Garon.  Good for Kesler, who is transforming himself from a trash-talker into a real professional player.  At the same time, I don't have the warm feelings for him as a "former Buckeye".  I know college hockey is a different beast than, say, college football, but one season and out doesn't scream loyalty to me.  (As a counterpoint, take R.J. Umberger, who also left early but came back to Columbus as a pro at least in part to finish his degree.  Class act, and wise man!)

Also, it's worth noting that Kesler benefited from the on-ice presence of The Flying Sedin Twins on his overtime winner in much the same way that Derick Brassard benefited from having Rick Nash on the wing last night. It's good to have friends like that, don't you think?

Otherwise, what I saw of the game was largely pretty solid from the CBJ.  They attacked where they could and, in neutralizing the Sedins, gambled that a Kesler (or Torres or some other 'nuck) would beat them.  (And they did.  I still like the gamble, however.)  Unlike the Calgary game, I didn't see minute after minute fly by while never getting the puck out of the defensive zone.  The boys pushed hard and got rewarded with a half-a-win against a very talented team.

I think, mentally, I'm back to the whole "should win/must win" issue, because I don't feel all that bad about grabbing a Loser Point against the 'nucks.  On the flip side, I'm still a tad disappointed that the CBJ got the same Loser Point against the Flames.

Griping aside, the Blue Jackets have taken their two Loser Points (only in hockey can two losses equal a win in the standings) and jumped back into 8th place - playoff qualifying - in the West.  A win tonight in Edmonton would be invaluable in toward cementing or even improving that position, never mind the psychological benefit of emerging from the recent post-Detroit/third jersey/phallic mascot slump.

NEXT UP: As mentioned, the Blue Jackets flew back to Alberta last night to play tonight against Edmonton (only a 9PM start...ugh. At least it's on TV tonight.) - one of the teams in the NHL that is indisputably younger than the CBJ, at least with the core players.  Surely in part due to that youth, Edmonton is at the bottom of the Western Conference barrel right now and represents a "should win" in my book - just like Calgary was.  A win and the two standings points equals 4 points out of a possible 6 on this road trip, and I'll definitely take that.

[Now is the part where I admit to not having read the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement...]

DBJ reader David shared this nugget in the comments from yesterday's post about how to properly build a franchise:
Steve Mason would have to clear waivers and would surely be claimed. Though he is on his entry level deal, having already passed the 60 game threshold for a 22 year old, hes waiver-eligible. No way CBJ takes that risk.
I had no idea about this 60-game rule but agree 100% with his assessment.  As such, I am forced to make a 180-degree turn in my attitude toward how coaching and management deals with our young goaltender.

Besides meaning a triple dose of Tums for yours truly, it also means that Mase has to gut it out and find his game in the NHL.  And there's no better team for Mase do that against than a conference cellar-dweller.  Hence, I'd put Mason back in goal against the Oilers if I was Scott Arniel...and figure out how my defense can keep those Edmonton kids (Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi) at bay.

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