Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Opener - Nashville 3, CBJ 2

Hopes for an Undefeated Season Crushed

Radek Martinek on the opening drape
What's that you say? No team has ever gone undefeated in the modern NHL?  Not even the Redwings, or the Penguins?  Oh.  Well that's not so bad then.

Ok, on a more serious note, on the the re-cap.  The Nashville Predators rolled into town with a solid team that went deep in the playoffs last year.  The Preds are built on solid defense and outstanding goal tending, and we saw a healthy dose of that last night as the Predators beat the Blue Jackets 3-2.

The game was really pretty equal in many respects.  The new look CBJ has really upgraded the forward position, but our defense without Wiz remains a work in progress.  The contrast between the teams was pretty stark.  The CBJ are still adjusting to all the new faces, which is normal.  The Preds looked like a team that was used to playing with one another.  On paper our forwards are better than theirs, but their defense is better than ours.  At the end of the day, the winning goal was scored on a defensive gaffe that allowed a Nashville shooter, Matt Halischuk fire an unchecked shot from the top of Steve Mason's crease with 39 seconds gone in the third period.  That ended up being the deciding goal.

The game operations folks did really well, coming up with a new and creative opening, with large 4 sided drape that had the players and coaches images projected on it.  Then it dropped, and the players were inside.  And then finally, after a long and exciting summer, the puck dropped on the 2011-12 season.

The first period, especially the first 10 minutes was exciting, as you could tell everyone was really pumped up.  Good back and forth hockey, but it was evident that the CBJ are not in sync yet.  This team is going to get better as the year progresses.  And there were some very good signs of things to come.

The scoring got going in the second period, assisted by a bad clear by Kris Russell that resulted in a delay of game penalty.  To make it worse Tyutin's stick broke, so Dorsett gave up his stick to the defenseman.  In the resulting 5 on 3.5 power play, the Preds controlled the puck, and did a good job of keeping up the pressure.  In the waning seconds of the power play, the puck came out to Dorestt who attempted to toss the puck down the ice, and he was whistled for 'closing his hand on the puck'.  Even though the first power play had ended, the CBJ penalty kill promptly folded, and gave up the first goal.  Mason had no chance on Ryan Suter's shot, and the score was 1-0 with 5:10 gone in the second.

About 10 minutes later, in the first of what looks to be a lot of goals this year, the CBJ first line of Vinny Prospal, Jeff Carter, and Rick Nash combined for Prospal's first goal as a BlueJacket to tie the score with 14:19 gone in the second period.  In a scene all too familiar to Jackets fans, the Preds ramped up the pressure on the next two shifts, and before 2 minutes had gone by, Nashville potted their second goal of the night.  Shea Weber walked down to just outside the face off circle, and launched an uncontested shot at Mason, who had the puck trickle through his pads.  As the puck lay in the crease, Craig Smith, a rookie in his first NHL game, walked around the back of the net unchecked, and tipped the puck in for his first NHL goal.    The second period ended with the Predators leading 2-1.

The third period started with the aforementioned gaffe and score, to give Nashville a 3-1 lead they would never surrender.  Vinny Prospal and Jeff Carter were treated to their first experience of Rick Nash, the Captain, taking his game to another level.  Nash was a monster in the 3rd period, and the CBJ scored their second goal with 10:19 gone in the third period.  In spite of a great deal of pressure, the CBJ were unable to solve Pekka Rinne, Nashville's outstanding goal tender.  The result was Nashville spoiled our party, and walked away with a 3-2 win.

As an overall assessment, our team is a ways from jelling, which is to be expected.  Our team is going to get better, and play better over time.  Our 3 rookies playing in their first NHL game did ok, but no more than that.  They have their feet wet now.  They will need to pick it up in Minnesota tonight.

Watching Jeff Carter take face offs is a hoot.  He is so good, it looks like he's not even trying.

Our guys are going to get better.  But this loss amps the pressure up a bit for tonight's game, Minnesota's opener.  It should be a tough game.  With Stanley Cup finalist Vancouver coming to town on Monday, the specter of an 0-3 start is a real possibility.  The CBJ need to get one of these two games, to give themselves some breathing room to jell.


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