Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Game 56: Duck Hunting

That was a big one!  The Columbus Blue Jackets beat the best team in the NHL tonight, prevailing on the road against the Anaheim Ducks 4-2.  Two HUGE points on the road.  The CBJ got a goal in each of the first and the second periods and then answered a Ducks goal in the third.  With the score 3-1, the Ducks had a melt down moment, collecting a high stick, a cross check, and a delay of game penalty simultaneously.  On the ensuing 5 on 3, the CBJ finally converted to make it 4-1, and for all intents and purposes putting the game away.  That is not to say that there weren't some sphincter clenching moments down the stretch, but the CBJ finished off with the 4-2 win.

The CBJ have now matched the point total that teams making the 3 game Death Valley swing have achieved.   Anything else that they achieve on this trip is gravy.  Philly beats San Jose to set a new Death Valley standard of winning two games.  The Jackets have more work to do out West if they want to keep pace.  Fending off other Metro challengers for another night, the CBJ retain their third place playoff position spot.  Now two days off to rest, which may change that.  But a really good effort by the boys on a western road swing.
1.  Tonight's first, ice cold CBJ beer goes to Sergei Bobrovsky.  Bob was extremely sharp tonight, and made some GREAT saves to maintain the Jackets' early 1 goal lead.  Very good stuff.  In a game that was characterized by effort throughout the lineup, Bob was working very hard, never giving up.  He made an amazing second effort glove save on Winnik who couldn't believe he didn't score.  The difference between an average team and a playoff team is the goal tender making those saves that you would normally categorize as 'well, he had no chance..".  Bob is doing that now.

2. My second, ice cold, sumptuous CBJ beer goes to the Jenner, Johansen, and Horton line.  Umm.  Wow.  The first goal came on a really sick play.  Horton dishes the puck up to Jenner coming down the wing.  He keeps his feet moving on a 'give an go'.  Jenner likewise keeps his feet moving to set up the second 'give and go', and Horton has the puck on his stick looking at a wide open Jenner crashing the net.   With alarm bells ringing in their heads, the Anaheim defense collapses to Jenner's challenge.  The best part is that the third player on that line was keeping his feet moving as well, and is trailing Jenner.  Horton dishes the puck to the trailer for the one-timer, and Johansen has his 23rd goal of the season.  Smart hockey, dripping 'hockey sense'.  Nice work by this line, which is causing real match-up problems so far for other teams.  Richie just singled Boone Jenner out in his post game presser, and I agree.  Jenner is a freakin' rookie, but he plays so hard, and so smart.  We had good organizational discipline in leaving him in Juniors his full time which gave him an opportunity to be dominant offensively.  His stick has been way better than I thought it would be with him, and I think that is the fruit of that discipline.
Umbeak love!!

3.  I'm gonna send this third CBJ beer over to RJ Umberger, for playing a solid hockey game.  His assist to Foligno for the critical third goal was born of hard work and determination.  RJ still has the manos de piedra, but darn it, he is really working hard, and getting results.  His 'goal' a deflection of a Wisniewski shot from the point with his skate didn't require RJ to use his hands.  He was going hard to the net, in difficult traffic, and tips the puck in with the end of his skate.  RJ is having the 'bounce-back' season he needed to have this year.  Good on him.  Nice effort tonight RJ!

4.  I have to BOOOONNNNNEEEE!!  Boone Jenner just showed up on the NHL network arena cam interview after the game.  Good for him!!  <cough>  Sorry.  I think I was saying I was going to give this ice cold, winning CBJ beer to Nick Foligno.  I'm not saying anything, but the team has been on fire ever since I bought my Foligno jersey.  But after going something like 10 games without a goal, Nick has 3 in 2 nights with the 2 he scored tonight.  The first of his goals was off the Umberger assist, and he was at the crease to pick up the rebound after the Umberger shot.  This was a huge goal, in that it restored the two goal lead in the third period, to keep thoughts of  'Carolina leads lost' at bay.  The fourth goal was equally important, as it meant cashing in on the power play (see beer 6).  Cam Atkinson found time and space in a 5 on 3, held the puck and then threaded the puck 5 hole on Anderson, the Ducks goalie, to where he knew Foligno was waiting to tap it in.  Cam got it to Foligno the only way possible, and Nick didn't let him down.

5.  My fifth cold, delicious, CBJ beer goes to the defensive pairing of Jack Johnson and Fedor Tyutin.  Over the last 12-15 games this pairing has started to emerge as a big time shut down pair.    First off, I believe this is because of the leadership Fedor Tyutin provides, in his own quiet way.  Both Jack and Tyutin have their detractors, but this was the pairing the Richie was putting on the ice to counter Getzlaf and Perry.  Jack Johnson has typically been a fancy stats horror story, but I think he is playing a more disciplined and physical defensive game.  I wonder if his fancy stats from the last 15 games depart from his long term average?  Matt?  At any rate, this pairing has started to turn in some very good shifts against some very powerful opponents.  Very nice work tonight against a very good hockey club.

6.  I'm too much of a fan boy to give away beers to the opposition.  Sorry.  It's a character flaw that I've been nursing.  But I'd like to give this sixth, ice cold, savory, victorious CBJ beer to the Anaheim Ducks, for having a team melt down after Foligno scored the third goal.  This probably ultimately reflects a strength of the Anaheim on a bad night when they have 3 different players each take a penalty simultaneously.  A high sticking penalty, a cross check, and then 3 seconds later a delay of game, which had to wait for the other 2 penalties to be served before it could even start.  It got Beauchemin off the ice for 4 minutes in the last half of the third period.    Anyway, the Anaheim penalty killers did a good job, and it almost took the CBJ the full 2 minutes of 5 on 3 to score that last critical goal to keep the game out of reach.  Nice work boys!  It was a brain fart of cataclysmic proportions, but unlikely to be a long term problem for this hockey team.  But we don't have to play them anymore!

The good news from this game is that we canceled out an earlier home loss to this team, plus at a critical time in the season, and in the hot chase in the Metro and Eastern Conference.  The CBJ keep pace with Philly and Detroit tonight, as Philly becomes one of the first teams to record two wins in Death Valley.  (Now I have to go up and edit that first comment.  Sigh.

Here's a scary thing.  I listened to Nathan Horton give a post game interview.  He had the air of a man who was having his personal judgment of the situation ratified by his teammates.  He was pleased and confident that they had played a good game against a really good opponent.  But he didn't act like it was a fluke.  One of the great things about Horton is he doesn't have any of the considerable baggage of your average Blue Jackets fan.  He doesn't know about it, and doesn't care, he thinks they have a team that is capable of competing.  His expectations are different than your average CBJ fan, they are a lot higher.  This guy could be gold down the stretch.

Excellent effort tonight by the good guys.  A good team win by the CBJ!


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