Friday, February 1, 2013

Morgan's Six-pack for Game 8: The Saint Louis Blues

Columbus Blue Jackets 1 - Saint Louis Blues 4
5th in the Central Division - 14th in the Western Conference

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..." - Charles Dickens speaking about the Blue Jackets this morning.

The Blue Jackets played their the second bout of a six game home stand at Nationwide Arena in front of a modest crowd of 11,155 adoring fans hosting the division rival St Louis Blues.  The story lines leading up to this game were a blogger's dream.  Hitchcock vs Davidson (which is really an apples to oranges comparison), how would Davidson react to playing his former team, Johnathan Audy-Marchessault was called up from Springfield for his NHL debut with the Blue Jackets as was Tim Erixon.  Fans clamored at the opportunity for the team to bounce back after a unfufilling game in the Twin Cities.  There was so much swirling around the game that I thought it might be too much for just one blogger, or as I emailed by contemporaries prior to the game, hoped that it didn't turn into a 7-0 booty whoppin' for the CBJ. 

If these were a "C" nobody
would get one.

60 Minutes.  No Regrets.  No Excuses.  There is a reason 60 minutes is first.  Not because we miss Andy Rooney, but because you have to play all 60 minutes.  The game requires 60 minutes of RESULTS, not just effort.  The 60 minutes reference typically implies finishing strong and not giving up.  But in the case of the Blue Jackets, it's about starting strong.  Or possibly just starting. The first 10 minutes of the game zapped every ounce of hype, excitement, and pleasure out of this hockey game.

1.  Derrick Brassard - welcome to the party, I'm happy you made it, this one is for you.  Your "real" first goal was disallowed, but there was no mistaking this one.  What a satisfying way to get off the snide. Thank you for showing appropriate humility in your "down three goals" celebration.  It lets me know you're pleased with the result, but understand much more work is needed.  And yes, I did see Prospal take another shot from the corner again, just in case...

2.  The CBJ Power play - It's gone back to basics!!!  Earlier today I was asked how to describe the CBJ power play, here was my answer verbatim: There is talent on the CBJ and they can get more creative than they have been on the PP.   Their M.O. has been to set up for the one-timer from the point.  The cbj line up three forwards low, which means the PK can cover three attackers with only two killers.  At the point, the CBJ dmen start on their strong side on the face off, and then switch to their shooting side only after they have possession of the puck.  This leaves the top two Penalty killers with the only responsibility being to prevent the Dmen from getting on their shooting side.   So what did the Blue Jackets do differently tonight on their power play goal?  They Kept It Simple (Stupid) - create 3 on 2s in one half of the zone using the attack triangle to support the point men.  From the faceoff they kept "Jack N Wiz" or Wisniewski and Johnson on their strong side (lefty on left side, righty on right side) and they won the face off.  The puck goes back to Wisniewski, who makes a D to D pass to Johnson and the puck blows up on Johnson.  This draws one penalty killer to Johnson, who recovers the puck and tucks a pass to Dubinsky in the high slot.  Because Dubinksky is in the high slot and the strong side forward was drawn out by Johnson's bobble, the forward covering the other point has to account for Dubinsky in the high slot and leaves Wisniewski open in order to protect entry into the red zone.  Dubinsky feeds the puck to Wisniewski who, because he's not on his shooting side, takes a wrist shot!  Thank God!  A lucky hop puts the puck right to Dubinsky's stick in the high slot who immediately feeds the puck to a floating Brassard at the left dot.  Brassard has 10 feet of time and space inside the red zone and roofs the puck over a sprawling defender and goaltender.  This PP goal doesn't happen if "Jack N Wiz" start cranking off slappers and if the Jackets don't keep a man high and wide to form an attack triangle.  It's offense and power play 101 and look what happens 11 seconds into the power play - GOAL

3.  Steve Mason - thank you.  You came off the bench and pitched a shutout to win third star, and rightfully so.  And in case anyone is wondering, the book is out on Bobrovsky.  Lots of goals being scored on him the last couple games that include a play-by-play man saying "Bobrovsky never saw it."  From the Blues first goal it was evident they were purposely game planning to put traffic in front of him - not just playing percentages that putting traffic in front leads to goals.

4.  Tim Leroy - this bud (or piece of high-end golf equipment) is for you.  I have no idea how you and the equipment staff was able to put Audy-Marchessault in CBJ font on the back of a size 56 sweater in such 'short order', but you did it.  Kudos to you and the staff for stitching that together. 

4a. Oh, and Audy-Marchessault, good game kid but welcome to Club Tril - 1 game played followed by 12 zeros in stat columns equals club tril.  Jokes aside, you kept the game simple, in front of you, and put the team first.  Good game.  I'm looking forward to your first NHL goal, as I am for Brandon Dubinsky as well.  You carry the hopes and dreams of many small-statured early twenties right-hand shots who longed to have their name called during an NHL game.

5.  Derek Mackenzie and Jared Boll - two great heat-of-the-moment emotional fights from the fourth line.  It wasn't the snuggle fest that half visor wearing Foligno gave us earlier in the period.  YAWN.  I don't necessarily care for the staged "I'm bored, wanna go?" fights.  But the tussels you two got into were perfect.  Speaking of Foligno, if I was Jackman, I would have kept my glove on and punched that half-visor right back into Foligno's face.  Only because some over-ager did that to me once.

6.  Ken Hitchcock - The Jackets should have kept you longer than they did, congrats on what you've accomplished with the Blues.  This bud's for you.  Sins of our fathers, or Steel companies, something like that...  But, to be honest, how many times can the TV camera pan the Blues' bench and Hitchcock be the second chubbiest guy in frame?  There was some dude in a number 64 Blues jersey sitting right on the glass behind Hitchcock who was of exceptional girth and eclipsed the rotundness and extra chin-ness of Hitchcock.  Looking good out there tonight Hitch, looking good...

And now the part I know everyone is waiting for, did the Jackets get out worked?  60 minutes.  No Regrets.  No Excuses.  The Jackets got outworked in the first period, and that that's all the Blues needed.  So yes, despite signs of life in the last 30 minutes, the Blue Jackets were outworked when it mattered the most, early in the game.  The Blue looked flat late in the game more that the Jackets finished strong.  I look at the Blue Jackets so far like I look at my 11 year-old son when he comes home from school on Thursday and remembers for the first time he has a book report due at 8am the next morning.  Now he's read the book, and knows the material, but he's got a late start to complete the report with not much time remaining.  The little guy works his tail off to get that thing done, and I'm proud of him that he finally got to work with no complaints.  But alas, he has to sacrifice quality because he started so late.  When it comes time to turn in the report at 8am the next morning, the best he can hope for is a C minus given the short amount of time he's given himself.  And if his book report was about the Carolina Hurricanes, C minus probably gets you a win.  Against the central division, it gets you losses.  It also gets you grounded from the Xbox indefinitely.

The Jackets next game in their home stand is Saturday, February 2nd against the beloved Detroit Red Wings.  The loathed Wings are 3-2-1 and will be playing the second of back-to-back games, the first of which will be against the St Louis Blues.  If the Blue Jackets are able to show up for 60 minutes, the game presents itself as winnable.  If the "Late Blooming" Blue Jackets show up, it could be another 3-1 snooze-fest where the last twenty minutes shred your emotions in hopes of getting you to forget the first 20 minutes.


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